HC Deb 29 July 1938 vol 338 cc3472-3
3. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he will be in a position to indicate proposals for the future government of Malta?

Mr. M. MacDonald

I apologise for the length of the Reply. His Majesty's Government have now reached certain conclusions regarding the new Constitution for Malta which it is proposed shortly to submit to His Majesty in the form of draft Letters Patent. This Constitution will afford the people of the Colony a considerable measure of participation in the conduct of their own affairs. There is no question of restoring responsible government, nor do His Majesty's Government consider that this will be practicable within any period which can at present be foreseen. But the new Constitution will provide for the establishment of a Legislature, in which the people will be associated through elected representatives with the government of the Colony.

The Legislature, to be known as the Council of Government, will be composed of eight official members, two unofficial members nominated by the Governor at his discretion, and 10 elected members. The Governor will preside over the council and will have a casting, but not an original, vote. Ministers of religion will not be eligible for election as members of the council. As in the case of similar Constitutions in other parts of the Empire, the powers of the Council of Government will be subject to certain limitations. For example, the Governor will have certain overriding powers of legislation and will be able to restrict discussion on defence matters whenever he considers it desirable in the public interest. Language questions will be excluded from discussion or control by the Council of Government. The provisions relating to the franchise will be in the first instance the same as those provided in the 1921 Constitution for elections for the Legislative Assembly. It will be understood that some considerable time must elapse before the new Constitution can be brought into effect. After the Letters Patent are passed, some months will be necessarily occupied in Malta in preparing for the elections, for which a new Register of Voters will have to be compiled.

Mr. Creech Jones

In view of the limitations on representative government in the Island, will the House have an opportunity of discussing the new Constitution before the Letters Patent are enacted, and will the right hon. Gentleman also say whether the Anglo-Italian Agreement provides for non-intervention by Mussolini or the Italian Government in the affairs of Malta?

Mr. MacDonald

With regard to the first part of the question, I cannot give any definite statement regarding the date when the Letters Patent will be completed and published. With regard to the second part, there is, of course, no question of Italian interference in the affairs of the Government of the Colony.

Mr. Robert Gibson

Are ministers of religion the only class to be excluded from the Assembly, and is membership of the Assembly to be open to all British subjects resident on the Island of Malta?

Mr. MacDonald

The only new class to be excluded are ministers of religion.

Mr. Day

Is it intended to publish His Majesty's Government's conclusions in detail?

Mr. MacDonald

The details will be published when the Letters Patent are published.