HC Deb 06 November 1946 vol 428 cc1380-2
41. Mr. Skinnard

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is prepared to make a statement on the proposal to develop Cabinet government in Barbados; and whether he intends to extend this experiment to other West Indian islands.

Mr. Creech Jones

As the statement is rather long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

In Barbados, the Legislature consists of the Governor, a nominated Legislative Council, and an elected House of Assembly based on a liberal franchise. The main legislative power, apart from the Governor's veto, thus resides with the House of Assembly. The Governor has an Executive Committee of nine, including four members of the House of Assembly, but these have hitherto been chosen by the Governor, and do not represent any party in the House. They have had no collective responsibility, either for the framing of policy or for explaining and defending Government Measures in the House of Assembly. The result has been a tendency to deadlock between the Executive and the Legislature.

The Governor announced, in proroguing the Legislature on 1st October, that in the hope of resolving this deadlock, it is proposed after the impending elections to ask the leader of the party which secures a majority in the House of Assembly to recommend four members of the House for appointment to the Executive Committee. These members will be given charge of the general policy relating to particular Departments, for the purpose of dealing with the affairs of those Departments in the Executive Committee and the House of Assembly. The Executive Committee will thus, it is hoped become an effective organ of Government, accepting collective responsibility for policy, instead of being merely a group of personal advisers to the Governor. This change in practice involves no formal modification of the constitution.

With regard to the second part of the Question, the experimental step described above could not be applied without some modification in the other West Indian Colonies, where the constitutions differ generally from that of Barbados. In Jamaica, the Executive Council, which includes members elected from the House of Representatives, is already the principal instrument of policy. The question of constitutional development in all these Colonies is kept constantly under review.