HC Deb 07 December 1949 vol 470 cc1873-4
45. Mr. Harold Davies

asked the. Prime Minister if he is prepared to recommend that a Royal Commission be set up to investigate the problem of Colonial government, with a view to considering the advisability of establishing Colonial representation in the House of Commons from each of the Colonies.

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison): I

have been asked to reply. No, Sir.

Mr. Davies

Whilst thanking my right hon. Friend for that most explicit reply, may I ask him, as he is not prepared to set up a Royal Commission, whether he does not think the time has now arrived when this Parliament should reorganise its attitude to the system of Colonial Government in an industrial, twentieth-century world? Does he not believe that this would demonstrate to the Colonies that we really want to feel them at one with this House of Commons?

Mr. Morrison

I do not disagree with the excellent sentiment behind the question of my hon. Friend. The reason why we did not think this course was wise is that there are round about 50 Colonies and Dependencies which all have individualities and whose constitutions vary very much. It was thought that it was better to go on handling them in regard to their individual circumstances, encouraging development towards self-government, and so on, rather than set up a Royal Commission which we thought would get into great difficulties in view of the large variety of Colonial Territories.

Dr. Segal

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this policy has been carried out by France for a great many years, and is there any justifiable reason why this country should lag behind France in this respect?

Mr. Morrison

Different countries have different ways. My own impression is that although France has representation of its Colonial Empire in the Chamber, I doubt if there is the same degree of development of self-government which our Colonies possess.

Mr. W. Fletcher

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the French experience is not altogether a happy one in this respect?

Mr. T. Reid

Is it not a fact that there are 65 million people in the Colonies as against 50 million here, and that if they were all given votes and representation in Parliament in proportion to numbers, they would swamp this House? Is my right hon. Friend also aware that it would completely confuse the politics of this country, and that the Colonies themselves want self-government in their own countries and do not desire to share it with us?

Mr. Morrison

Those points coming at this time will. I am sure, be kept in mind by all of us.

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Whilst agreeing that the suggestion in the Question is not practicable, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a regime analogous to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. or even formal incorporation in the United Kingdom, might be the most satisfactory solution for the small territories such as the fortress Colonies?

Mr. Davies

This Question merely asks that some kind of committee be set up to investigate the problem, and I want to ask my right hon. Friend if he does not think it a little impolitic to give a bald "No" to a suspended question like this which might be misinterpreted in the Colonies?