HC Deb 01 June 1937 vol 324 cc838-40
21. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that ignorance is one of the main causes of the high proportion of convictions of natives in Southern Rhodesia; and whether any steps are being taken to dissipate this ignorance and to make known to the natives, in some simple form in their own language, the main provisions of the Natives' Registration Act.

Mr. M. MacDonald

I am informed that the officials of the Native Affairs Department in all the native districts and sub-districts of Southern Rhodesia have been instructed to explain to the natives the provisions of the Natives' Registration Act. In addition the main provisions have been published in English and native languages in the newspapers with the largest circulation amongst native readers.

Mr. Creech Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to inform the South Rhodesian Government, in view of the fact that many natives drift into these colonies from other colonies and display ignorance, that it is very necessary that these new rules and regulations should continuously be brought to the notice of the natives?

Mr. MacDonald

I am certain that the South Rhodesian Government will take any steps that may be necessary to see that natives in the territory are made aware of the provisions of the Act.

22. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether his attention had been drawn to the publicly-expressed fears that the Natives' Registration Act of Southern Rhodesia will lead to a substantial increase in native convictions under the pass laws; whether, before his approval was given to this legislation, any estimate was made of the number of convictions likely to take place under the Act; and whether, seeing that the latest figure of 20,000 convictions is likely to be exceeded, he is satisfied that adequate prison accommodation has been, or will be, provided before the Act comes into operation.

Mr. MacDonald

I am informed that the Southern Rhodesia Government do not regard the fears referred to in the first part of the question as well-founded. The Southern Rhodesia Government have been seriously perturbed for some years by the number of natives who have been convicted for offences,and it is hoped that the new Act will help in reducing the number of such convictions which has been increased by a growing tendency among natives of undesirable character to crowd into the towns.

Mr. Creech Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman pass on to the South Rhodesian Government that the surest way to reduce convictions is by modifying the pass laws?

Mr. Paling

In view of the fact that the legislation creates new crimes, is it likely that convictions will be reduced? How long is it likely to be before all the natives are or have been in prison?

Mr. MacDonald

This legislation does not create any considerable number of new crimes. In the main it is a consolidation of existing legislation which has been in force for many years. Far from creating new crimes, it in some respects modifies old offences in a direction which should reduce convictions.

Mr. Lunn

Are we to take it that the right hon. Gentleman supports this policy?

Mr. MacDonald

I have answered that question before, and made the position of the Government quite clear.