HC Deb 17 March 1955 vol 538 cc1431-3
1. Mrs. White

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what progress has been made with the proposed constitutional changes in Basutoland.

2. Mr. Fenner Brockway

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what action Her Majesty's Government proposes to take on the recommendations for administrative changes in Basutoland made by the official committee over which Sir Henry Moore has presided.

5. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he is aware of the dismay in Basutoland regarding the proposed administrative reforms of the Moore Committee; and whether he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker)

The Administrative Reforms Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Henry Moore reported in July, 1954. The Committee's Report has been presented to the Basuto in the district councils in all districts and will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the Basutoland National Council on 22nd March. Her Majesty's Government will then decide what action to take on its recommendations.

Mrs. White

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there has been considerable disquiet in Basutoland about these proposals, and that, in particular, there is unrest because the provision of a legislative council is desired by a number of people in Basutoland but is said to have been outside the terms of reference of this Committee? Could the hon. Gentleman make a statement on the attitude of the Government to that matter?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

It is outside the terms of reference of this Committee. It was laid down by the previous Government on 4th May, 1950, that it was … intended that the local authorities shall progressively acquire a more representative character, and as they gather strength and experience they will be given increasing responsibilities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 235.] It was in line with this policy, which the present Government have also followed, that the Moore Committee was established.

Mr. Brockway

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the difficulty that this Report proposes certain limitations on the powers of the chiefs but that the population will apparently be wary of such limitations until it has the rights provided by a legislative council? Will the hon. Gentleman look at that problem?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

All these points were taken most carefully into account by the Moore Committee when it was consulting with so many local bodies before it made these recommendations.

Mr. Wade

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that there is not only a strong but a very representative body of opinion in Basutoland in favour of the formation of a legislative council? As that is in accordance with the traditions of British policy, can he say whether it is still under consideration?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

That has nothing to do with the present proposals, about which Sir Henry Moore's Committee has made recommendations.