HC Deb 16 November 1954 vol 533 cc219-22

3.34 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

With permission, I wish to make a statement on the situation in Buganda.

In recent months two new factors have emerged: One is the judgment in the case brought in the Uganda High Court to test the validity of the action taken last year by Her Majesty's Government with regard to Kabaka Mutesa II. The other is the agreement reached on constitutional changes at the conference presided over by Sir Keith Hancock, at the invitation of Lord Chandos.

This agreement is being presented today to the Great Lukiko. At the same time, the Governor is announcing certain proposed changes in the Executive and Legislative Councils of the Protectorate. Both the agreed recommendations and the Governor's proposals are acceptable to Her Majesty's Government.

A copy of the judgment was placed in the Library last week and the text of the agreed recommendations and of the Governor's proposals is published in a White Paper, of which copies are now available in the Vote Office. Hon. Members will, no doubt, wish to study it carefully.

In his judgment in the case of the Chief Justice, in refusing the declarations and injunctions sought by the plaintiffs, expressed the view that the conduct of the Kabaka last year was such as to justify action by Her Majesty's Government under the 1900 Agreement, but that the action which they did take—with the greatest reluctance, as the House will recall—was mistaken in that it was based on Article 6 of the Agreement.

This judgment and the constitutional proposals for Buganda—which, if accepted by the Lukiko, will settle satisfactorily the points of difference which arose last year—create a new situation in which there is both need and opportunity for a new approach to the question of the Kabaka.

Her Majesty's Government have, therefore, decided that, subject to certain conditions and after a suitable interval, the Lukiko should be given the opportunity to choose whether a new Kabaka should be elected or whether Kabaka Mutesa II should return as Native Ruler of Buganda.

These conditions are first, the agreed constitutional recommendations to be accepted as a whole by the Lukiko.

Secondly, Her Majesty's Government and the Lukiko should agree the terms of the solemn engagement recommended by the Constitutional Conference to be entered into by the Kabaka. The amendments to the 1900 Agreement to give effect to the recommendations to be formally executed by the Governor on behalf of Her Majesty's Government and by the Regents and representatives of the Lukiko on behalf of Buganda and brought into effect.

Thirdly, in order that the new arrangements may become well established before the Lukiko is called upon to make its decision in regard to the Kabaka, the choice of the Lukiko to be made nine months after the new arrangements have been brought into effect.

Her Majesty's Government will, however, be glad to shorten this period if they are convinced, before the end of it, that the constitutional arrangements have become well established and are working satisfactorily. Her Majesty's Government will make every effort to ensure that they are brought into effect by 31st March next year.

The Kabaka chosen by the Lukiko will be required to enter into the solemn engagement and to sign and thereby confirm the amending Agreement before he is recognised by Her Majesty's Government.

These decisions are today being communicated by the Governor to the Great Lukiko.

Mr. J. Griffiths

May I join in paying a sincere tribute to Sir Keith Hancock, to the Governor, and also to the representatives of the Lukiko, for the spirit in which they entered on these discussions and the co-operation they have shown in seeking to arrive at an agreement? I also welcome the new approach that has been made to the problem by the statement of the Secretary of State. But the statement itself, and the proposals emerging from the Hancock discussions—which, I understand, will be available to us later this evening—raise important issues which we shall want time to consider. As the matter has to be discussed by the Lukiko, and their agreement is essential to the future, I would make no comment at the moment, but my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself will consider the matter carefully and may return to it in due course.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the tribute he has paid to the spirit of statesmanship and co-operation shown by all who took part in the Constitutional Conference.

Mr. Clement Davies

Before I ask my question, may I add my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman; and I would also like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs. I am sure that this statement will be welcomed throughout this country, and I hope it will be welcomed throughout Uganda. Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm, in order to put it beyond doubt, that, subject to the new Constitution, subject to the time, the Lukiko will be free to choose whether they will have Kabaka Mutesa II or a new Kabaka and that the Government will accept that choice when it is made?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, it will be an absolutely free choice; and if the choice of the Lukiko is in favour of Kabaka Mutesa II, Her Majesty's Government will confirm it.

Mr. Alport

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in view of the very definite position taken up by his Excellency the Governor 12 months ago, this change of policy is fully acceptable to His Excellency, or whether any pressure was brought to bear on him by Her Majesty's Government to accept this change?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Frankly, I deprecate the phrase "change of policy." What has happened is that there has been a change of situation which has created both the opportunity and the need for a new approach. As to the attitude of His Excellency the Governor, when hon. Members get the White Paper they will see that the decision to which the Government of the United Kingdom has come has been taken after full consultation with the Governor.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

While waiting for the White Paper before making any comments, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all sides of the House will congratulate Sir Keith Hancock, and also the leaders of the Baganda people, on the dignified restraint with which they entered into these negotiations? May I remind the right hon. Gentleman, who has spoken of a new situation, that his predecessor said that the exclusion of the Kabaka was final? We congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the change of policy which has come about.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Once more, I must make it quite plain that when my noble Friend Lord Chandos was advised that no alternative decision was possible in the interests of good government and law and order in the circumstances prevailing at the time, he took the only possible action I think it ill becomes the hon. Gentleman to make that remark because, if he looks back to HANSARD of 23rd February, he will see that when he himself asked Lord Chandos whether, at the end of the discussions about the relationship of the Kabaka to the Baganda, it would be possible for the Lukiko to have a free choice of their Kabaka, my noble Friend replied: We must await the outcome of the discussions. I have frequently asked the hon. Member not to cast me for the rôle of a prophet."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February. 1954; Vol. 524, c. 215.] And we have done so.

Mr. Sorensen

While also joining in the appreciation of the genuine and encouraging developments which have now taken place, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this means that the Kabaka himself can go back to Buganda?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have nothing to add to the statement which I have made and to the White Paper, but, quite clearly, we are looking first to the proof that the new constitutional arrangements are going to work. As soon as they are brought into operation—and we shall do our best to do that by 31st March—and as soon after that as we have positive indications that they are working smoothly, and in any case not later than nine months after, it will be for the Great Lukiko to make their choice. Clearly, in the interval they must make their choice without the presence of the Kabaka in Buganda and arrive at it in their own absolutely unfettered discretion.

Mr. Assheton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House are delighted at the advantage which he has taken of the new situation and at the way in which he has handled it?