HC Deb 18 April 1956 vol 551 cc1009-11
50. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the application of the Nairobi District African Congress for registration has yet been approved.

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

No, Sir. The Kenya Government have examined a revised draft constitution submitted by the Congress and further amendments are necessary before it can be registered. The Congress is now considering these amendments.

Mrs. Castle

In view of the fact that the Congress has gone out of its way to meet all the initial objections to its constitution, could the Colonial Secretary tell the House specifically what the objections now are to this proposed Congress?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I think it is of the first importance that the various duties laid down should be strictly enforced and that there should not be, for example, a nation-wide organisation under the cover of this arrangement. The Emergency (Societies) Regulations made on 18th January forbid the registration of any African political association if the membership is not restricted to Africans living within prescribed limits, if the name does not indicate the particular area to which it is confined, and if the membership includes any Kikuyu, Embu or Meru who is not a registered voter. Until certain doubts along these lines have been cleared up the organisation cannot be registered, but these doubts may be cleared up, and I ask the hon. Lady to wait until the examination is completed.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

In view of the discussions which are now taking place about constitutional changes in Kenya, including the enfranchisement of some Africans, does not the right hon. Gentleman think it important that democratic political organisations of the Africans should be recognised at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In the light of the history of the last few years in Kenya, I think it is of the first importance that we should build on very carefully prepared local and district foundations. I am not prepared to go beyond the arrangement under which we start with district organisations, which can then be merged into a Convention of District Associations, and later the principle of the convention can be extended to provide for a Central Convention of Political Associations. Any other way would be a form of making haste which would be to the detriment of the Africans of Kenya.

Mr. Bevan

If the Africans are to be expected to respect the future constitution, would not that be more easily achieved if they had had a proper share in the shaping of the Constitution beforehand? Is it not therefore desirable to seek their co-operation on a wider basis at this stage?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

This House is filled with many illustrations of the fact that the best parliamentarians are those who have had the proper grounding in local administration.

Mr. Bevan

As we are speaking in terms of a national constitution and not merely of a local constitution, surely it is also necessary that they should have experience on a national basis. If local administration is necessary to exercise parliamentary gifts, many hon. Members ought not to be sitting here.