HC Deb 21 October 1953 vol 518 cc1948-50
10. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what subjects were discussed at his recent talks in September, 1953, in London, with the representatives of African interests in Northern Rhodesia; with what results; and if he will make a statement on this matter.

12. Mr. T. Reid

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement about the constitutional changes proposed for Northern Rhodesia.

Mr. Lyttelton

I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the text of the full statement made to the Press on 23rd September. Briefly, the changes in the Constitution which will be made in the light of the talks are as follows:

In the Legislative Council, the number of European Elected Members will be increased from 10 to 12, and of African Members from two to four. I shall also consider with the Governor, when the time comes, whether a fifth African should be appointed as one of the two unofficial members nominated to represent African interests. The number of officials will be reduced from nine to eight.

In the Executive Council, portfolios will be granted to the third European Elected Member, and to the Nominated Member representing African interests. The number of official members will be reduced from seven to five.

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to make any statement as to the effect which these matters will have on the peace of mind of Africans in the Central African Federation, with a view to making them more satisfied with the change in the constitutional status which is forced upon them?

Mr. Lyttelton

I think that the hon. and learned Member will know that this arbitrary award, if I may use the term, is designed to increase African representation and to give at this stage of the constitutional development of Northern Rhodesia a proper balance.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I ask the Minister, having regard to the fact that this is the setting up of a Constitution for Northern Rhodesia in the new context of federation, and since what remain in the Territory are in the main matters of interest particularly to Africans, whether this is not an occasion on which much more substantial support might be given to the Africans?

Mr. Lyttelton

We had to try to strike a golden mean in these matters.

Mr. Griffiths

Since it appears from reports that Africans will not be satisfied with these proposals, is it proposed to have further discussions with them?

Mr. Lyttelton

It was impossible to get a measure of agreement between the two parties and it will not surprise hon. Members opposite that both parties are dissatisfied with my award.

Mr. J. Johnson

What about the effect on the peace of mind of the white settlers? I gather that Sir Roy Welensky likes this as little as the Africans do.

Mr. Lyttelton

That is true. As I have said, the award—as very often happens with compromises—is unsatisfactory to both sides. That may or may not encourage one to think that it is the right settlement.

Following is the text of the statement: It is announced from the Colonial Office that the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton) has completed his discussions with the Northern Rhodesia delegates representing Africans and Europeans. In these talks it has not proved possible to reach agreement. It has therefore become necessary for Her Majesty's Government to make known their conclusions regarding the constitional development of Northern Rhodesia.
  1. I. Her Majesty's Government look to the day when the part played by racial consideration in the affairs of the territorial government will become negligible. It should then be possible to move from the present system of racial representation in the territorial legislature, towards a system based on a widened franchise with no separate representation for the races. Meanwhile it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that, on contentious issues, the balance can be fairly held by the official members.
  2. II. Her Majesty's Government have decided that, before the next election in Northern Rhodesia, the Constitution should be amended to provide for the following changes:
(a) The Legislative Council The number of (European) Elected Members will be increased from 10 to 12 and the number of African Members from two to four. When the time comes the Secretary of State will also consider, in consultation with the Governor, whether it would be desirable for a fifth African to be appointed as one of the two nominated unofficial members. It is likely that as the Federal Government takes up its responsibilities in the economic field the need for the post of Economic Secretary in the territorial Government will disappear. This will reduce the number of officials from nine to eight; their balancing position will not thereby be affected. (b) The Executive Council It seems desirable that all members of Executive Council should hold portfolios and form, so to speak, a Government front bench in the Legislature. This would involve allocating responsibility for a group of departments to the Member representing African interests and to the third European elected member. Moreover, Federation will reduce the number of subjects of concern to the Territorial Government. Accordingly, the number of official members will be reduced to five. III. During the course of the discussions the African delegates asked whether it would be possible for British-protected persons to be given the franchise on the same terms as British subjects. This raises the whole question whether future political development in Northern Rhodesia should lie along the lines of the present arrangements for separate representation of the races until the long-term objective described in section I is reached, or whether it will be possible and desirable at some earlier stage to adopt some form of common roll which would give the balance of representation appropriate at the time. This is a difficult problem which will require very careful consideration. The Secretary of State is hoping to visit Central Africa during the course of 1954 and he then intends to take the opportunity to look personally into this and other issues affecting future political development in Northern Rhodesia.
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