HC Deb 08 December 1953 vol 521 cc1809-10
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)

I have agreed, at the request of the Elected Members of the Legislative Council, to advance the date of my visit to Northern Rhodesia, and I now propose to arrive there early in January to discuss the Constitutional position with Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council. During my visit I shall also meet Members of the African Representative Council and have discussions with them.

In agreeing to pay this early visit I have explained that, whatever may be the outcome of my discussions with the Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council and with Members of the African Representative Council during my visit, there will be no variation in the constitutional changes which are set out in Part II of my announcement of 23rd September.

I have also confirmed that the reference to the franchise in Part III of that announcement related to future political development, and that I do not contemplate introducing any changes in the franchise to become effective during the life of the next Legislative Council—which I see no reason to suppose will be less than the normal five years—unless all parties are agreed in desiring such changes during that period and Her Majesty's Government are prepared to accept them.

In these circumstances the Elected Members have decided to withdraw, with effect from 9th December, their resignation from Government Boards and Committees, and Mr. G. B. Beckett and Lieut.-Colonel E. M. Wilson have decided to withdraw their resignations from the Executive Council with effect from the same date.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I gather from the statement that the Secretary of State is standing by the decision made the other day, and not altering it. May I ask him about the franchise? What franchise was this that he said he would not discuss except by agreement?

Mr. Lyttelton

I made the general statement that the matter of franchise should be discussed in the long future. It is obviously impracticable for the moment to raise any question of franchise with regard to the next election which takes place in February. My statement says that I intend to discuss the matter of franchise, and it will not apply to the next election.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

Is the right hon. Gentleman really asking the House to endorse the view that in the next five years there should be no more representation of the African population than four out of 27 Members of the Legislative Council?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. Member's figures are, of course, inaccurate. They very often are. I was dealing with franchise, and the difficulty of dealing with franchise is that special representation is reserved to Africans outside the franchise at this moment. That is one of the difficulties.

Mr. J. Johnson

Is it the intention of the Secretary of State to widen the basis of his talks and perhaps to see the African Mineworkers' Union, the European Mineworkers' Union and also the industrial chiefs themselves to discuss the implementation of the findings of the Dalgleish Committee?

Mr. Lyttelton

That hardly arises on the statement I have just made, which concerns constitutional matters and the composition of the Legislative Council.

Mr. Emrys Hnghes

In the Minister's absence, who is authorised to sack kings and suspend constitutions?