HC Deb 13 December 1937 vol 330 cc808-10
44. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what representations he has received alleging the unsatisfactory working of the constitution of Ceylon; whether there exists any considerable demand by the citizens of Ceylon for fundamental changes; and whether he is proposing to make any changes in the near future?

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)

I have received representations from a number of societies and individuals in Ceylon suggesting changes in various directions in the constitution. I gather that the desire for changes is fairly widespread, although there is at present no general agreement as to the nature of the amendments desired. I have asked the new Governor of Ceylon to report to me fully on the question when he has had time to make himself familiar with local conditions.

Mr. Creech Jones

Are we to take it from that that there is no intention at the present time of appointing a Royal Commission to examine this problem?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

As to what the procedure for examining all these many representations ought to be, I will await the recommendations of the new Governor.

Mr. Lunn

Will the right hon. Gentleman say that there is not any recommendation to do away with the constitution?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I have had representations about the committee system, about the representation of minorities and a variety of subjects arising out of the constitution.

Mr. Lunn

For amendment?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore


Sir H. Croft

Is the right hon. Member aware that four years ago, on a Motion by the hon. Member for Bournemouth in this House, it was decided by only a small majority not to send out a committee of inquiry at that time, and that matters have undoubtedly deteriorated since?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I cannot accept the last part of the hon. and gallant Member's question. I think there is a wide-spread desire for certain changes, but how far those changes are in the direction of what was represented by the hon. and gallant Member at that time I should not like to say.

Mr. T. Williams

Is it not the case that all the representations have been made by the Government, and none by the Opposition?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

Oh, no, it is the contrary.

Mr. de Rothschild

Will the report of the Governor be published?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I should not think so. It would be concerned largely with the question of whether a commission should be sent out from this country or what the character of the changes asked for by different sections of the people should be.

46. Sir A. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has considered the memorial from an influential committee in Ceylon asking for a Royal Commission to inquire into the workings of the constitution of Ceylon; and what action he proposes to take.

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

I would refer my hon. and gallant Friend to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) on 9th December.

Sir A. Knox

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that even the "Times" newspaper stated that this committee represented every interest in the community in Ceylon, and has not that committee stated that it is an absolute necessity to send out a Royal Commission owing to the colossal failure of the Constitution?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

No, Sir.

Mr. Thurtle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the word "influential" in this question is synonymous with the word "reactionary"?

Mr. Ormsby-Gore

No, I cannot accept that statement. Those who made the representations include the leader of the local bar, two former elected Ministers and like persons.