HC Deb 11 March 1942 vol 378 cc1045-6
35. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will, in view of the relevant clauses in the Atlantic Charter, announce plans for the more rapid democratisation of West African institutions including the native authorities; whether he will frame proposals to establish adult franchise, to eliminate official majorities on legislative councils, to appoint at least six Africans to the Governor's Executive Council in each Colony and ensure that a majority on municipal councils should be Africans; and whether African democratic organisations and personalities will be consulted to this end?

Mr. Harold Macmillan

It continues to be the policy to introduce representative institutions in West Africa as the local populations become ready for them. But His Majesty's Government could not lend themselves to the pretence of framing proposals for establishing adult franchise in communities where that system can have no reality. In all the West African Dependencies the Legislative Councils contain African members nominated to represent the local communities, while in Nigeria, the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone, there are also African elected members. These persons are well qualified to advise the Governors on constitutional questions and their positions as Legislative Councillors affords them opportunities of doing so.

Mr. Sorensen

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that his reply will not give satisfaction to West Africans? The proposals in the Question have received the endorsement of representative Africans in this country and elsewhere, and does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that it is desirable that some great endeavour should be made to impress West Africans with our determination to assist their political progress?

Mr. Macmillan

The character of the hon. Member's Question shows that it is very difficult to deal with the matter by Question and answer. It requires much more general discussion of the large number of important problems which arise from the Question.

Captain McEwen

Is it not a fact that democracy is a form of government and not a universal panacea?

Mr. Creech Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to an overhaul of the legislative councils as well as of local government in the whole of West Africa? The time is long overdue for some such overhaul.

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, but I am afraid I must repeat that the character of the various Supplementary Questions shows how difficult it is to deal with this matter by Question and answer.