HC Deb 21 October 1953 vol 518 c1950
32. Mrs. White

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action is being taken to meet the request of settlers in Northern Rhodesia that they should be granted the freehold of their land holdings.

Mr. Lyttelton

Before taking any decision in this matter, I propose to take independent advice. The request, of course, applies only to Crown Land. Nothing would be done to weaken existing safeguards of African land rights.

Mrs. White

While being very grateful for the Minister's reply, will he bear in mind that if Crown Land is turned into freehold for the European settlers it is bound to have a very serious psychological effect upon the Africans? Will he therefore endeavour not to give way to pressure on behalf of the European settlers, who already have reasonable tenure for their land?

Mr. Lyttelton

This is a highly technical question. Most of the land is held on 999-year leases. It would appear at first sight that not a very large question would be involved in changing these 999-year leases into freeholds, but there is the psychological effect which the hon. Lady mentioned. There are many other things, into which I could not go in the course of an answer, which would require to be examined by experts on these matters.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Would the Minister say whether there exists in that area registration of title both for coloured and white occupants of land? If he is not aware of that, will he include that in the inquiries he is about to make?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. and learned Member will know that titles are titles.