§ 32 and 33. Mr. SORENSEN
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) on what grounds the petition of the delegation headed by Nana Sir Ofori Atta and the petition of the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society, both asking 373 for a Parliamentary inquiry into the grievances and general administration of the Gold Coast, have been refused;
(2) whether the delegation headed by Nana Sir Ofori Atta, representing the paramount chiefs of the Gold Coast, was received as representing the views of Africans generally, and why no action was taken thereon?
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
The delegation from the Gold Coast and Ashanti which was headed by Sir Ofori Atta was received by my predecessor, the present Secretary of State for Air, as representing the views of the African community generally. For a record of the meeting with the delegation and the reply returned to their petition I would refer the hon. Member to Gold Coast Sessional Paper No. XI of 1934, of which a copy is being placed in the Library of the House. In the course of their petition Sir Ofori Atta's delegation asked that certain matters of administration should form the subject of inquiry, but it was felt that these were primarily matters for the local Government to consider. The other petitioners asked for a more general inquiry, but my predecessors decided that no circumstances had arisen to make such an inquiry desirable.
§ Mr. SORENSEN
Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to see again a deputation from the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society on matters which, it is considered, still need further investigaton?
Certainly, I shall always be ready to receive a deputation provided it is received in the usual way, and not given any encouragement to believe that any deputation from any Colony can merely override the decision of the Governor. After all, the Governor is responsible, and one must have regard to his responsibility.
§ Mr. SORENSEN
Does not the right hon. Gentleman admit that, although the Governor naturally has considerable authority, Parliament and himself also have considerable authority over the Governor, and whether he does not recognise that the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society has a long and honourable record and is thoroughly entitled to represent the grievances of the natives?
§ 42 and 43. Major MILNER
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether, in view of the importance of the constitutional, legal, and other matters contained in the petition of the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society and the serious allegations made therein, papers will be laid upon the Table or a White Paper published;
(2) whether a decision has yet been taken regarding the constitutional, legal, and other matters contained in a petition by the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society, and discussed with the society's delegates at the Colonial Office on 16th August, 1935; whether this decision has been conveyed to the delegates who have been in this country for over 21 months and are still here; and, if not, what is the reason for withholding the decision from them?
The reply to the society's petition to His late Majesty in Council was sent through the Governor of the Gold Coast in February, 1935, and the delegates had previously been informed of the substance of the reply through their solicitors in London. It was similarly made clear to the delegates in August, 1935, that the matters raised in their petition to this House which had been included in their previous petition could not be reconsidered. I do not think it necessary to publish a White Paper regarding the society's petitions, but I will consider what papers can suitably be laid in the Library of the House.
§ Major MILNER
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, may I ask if the House is to understand that the request contained in the petition has not been replied to in detail but merely been, in plain language, turned down?
§ Major MILNER
On what ground has the right hon. Gentleman declined to reply in a detailed and specific form to the request contained in the petition in respect of which African gentlemen have now been in this country for something over 21 months?
African gentlemen being in this country for 21 months only indicates what a good country it is. It is not true to suggest that a reply was 375 not conveyed to them, and my hon. and gallant Friend knows that is true; but if they feel there has been any discourtesy, I will undertake straightway to see that all the relevant facts are submitted.
§ Major MILNER
I am obliged. Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to let me have a copy of the reply?