HC Deb 08 February 1957 vol 564 cc771-4
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

As the House knows, Ghana is to attain independence within the Commonwealth on 6th March.

The new Constitution for Ghana must be made by Order in Council passed before the actual date of independence. It is therefore the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to advise Her Majesty as to its form. Considerable concern has been expressed in this House and in the Gold Coast on the question of future constitutional changes and on the need to provide proper safeguards for regional institutions and traditions. I was very anxious to do all that I could to help to resolve the difficulties that had arisen, and so I visited Ghana from 24th to 30th January. I hope my visit has achieved its purpose.

A White Paper is being published today and will be available when I sit down outlining the Constitution which it is now proposed to embody in an Order in Council to be laid before Her Majesty The Queen as soon as possible. The Constitution will provide, in addition to the National Assembly, for the setting up of Regional Assemblies in each of the existing five regions. These are to have effective powers in specified fields. A Commission will be appointed to determine the precise nature of these powers and the composition of the Assemblies.

Houses of Chiefs will also be set up in each Region with limited powers in matters of local custom and tradition. There will be a Public Service Commission and a Judicial Service Commission, with independent membership, to be responsible for appointments, promotions and discipline, in the public service and the judiciary respectively.

Any amendment of the Constitution will require a vote of two-thirds of the total membership of the National Assembly while on the most important clauses any amendment will also require the concurrence by a simple majority of two-thirds of the Regional Assemblies. Special provision has also been made to ensure the concurrence of the region concerned in matters involving its boundaries or the powers of its Regional Assembly.

As the result of my discussions in the Gold Coast and with two of the Gold Coast Ministers, Mr. Gbedemah and Mr. Botsio, whom I have had the pleasure of welcoming here this week. I have every hope that this Constitution will provide a basis on which Ghana will enter upon its independence with the whole-hearted concurrence of all the principal leaders in the country.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I am sure that the whole House will join with me in expressing our congratulations to the Secretary of State, and we say the same also to the Government and leaders of the other parties in the Gold Coast. We had all been rather anxious in the last day or two, and I am very glad indeed that the difficulties have been removed. I hope that the safeguards which we all desire to be embodied in the Constitution for the preservation within the democratic system of the traditions of the various peoples of the Gold Coast will now be accepted by all of them.

It will be the desire of all that, on the day of this announcement, we should send our very best wishes to all people in Ghana and say how much we look forward to welcoming the State of Ghana as an equal partner in the Commonwealth. I am sure also that the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), together with all of us, will wish to say on this day how much this country and the Commonwealth owe to the statesmanship of Sir Charles Arden Clarke; he ought specially to be mentioned for the services which he has rendered. We look forward to 6th March as a day upon which we, together with the people of Ghana, will rejoice.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his gracious words about myself, and I would entirely join with him in praise of the statesmanship which has been shown in Ghana and also of the splendid work of Sir Charles Arden Clarke.

Sir R. Robinson

We, too, on this side of the House, would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on his outstanding success in bringing about this settlement under what have been rather difficult circumstances. We should like also to pay our tribute to the spirit of tolerance and understanding which have enabled the peoples of Ashanti and the Northern Territories to come together with the people of the Colony in founding this new State.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether it is proposed to send suitable representatives of the Government and of this House to pay our tribute and to give our good wishes to the State of Ghana on its Independence Day?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's question, I very much hope that the White Paper will commend itself to responsible opinion in Ghana. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have the responsibility for drawing it up—it is our Paper. I cannot speak for other people, but I very much hope that it will commend itself to responsible opinion in Ghana. As for representation by Her Majesty's Government at the forthcoming celebrations, of course that is being arranged at a very high level.

Mr. Brockway

May I join, from the back benches on this side of the House, in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on the honour of being Secretary of State for the Colonies on this historic occasion, historic not only for Ghana but the whole of Africa and of the Commonwealth? May I also associate myself with the tribute which has been paid to Sir Charles Arden Clarke for the sympathy which he has always shown to the people of Ghana and for his very great wisdom; to the British civil servants, who during this last period have worked with such devotion for the future of Ghana; and mostly to the Prime Minister, Dr. Nkrumah, and his colleagues, and to the whole of the people there, including the Opposition, and our congratulations to Mr. Gbedemah and Mr. Botsio for their success in the negotiations?

I should like also to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), who, when Secretary of State for the Colonies, laid the foundation of the structure which has now resulted.

Mr. Creech Jones

May I, too, join in the congratulations to the Secretary of State and also express the hope that the Constitution will secure genuine national unity in the Gold Coast once it is brought into operation? This is probably the last occasion which we shall have of asking questions of the Secretary of State in regard to the Gold Coast, or Ghana, as it is now called; but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will keep in mind the new financial problems facing the Gold Coast. In particular, could he devise some method whereby the central services organised under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act—such as higher education, the surveys and research work—may still be available to the Gold Coast?

May I ask, further, whether some financial provision can be made to ease the programmes of development which will be launched in the Northern Territories, because those territories are our Protectorates, and we are now passing them over to the control and supervision of the central Government in Ghana. If I could have assurances on those two points, I should be extremely gratified.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I assure the right hon. Gentleman, whose life-long interest in this matter I willingly recognise, that we are very conscious of all those problems, and close study is being given to them. It is not only a question of money; it is a question of men. Here, I think, we will all join in any tributes that are paid to the men who over the generations have played such a splendid part in the development of the Gold Coast, and not least to those civil servants and others without whose sympathetic and generous work this consummation could never have been achieved.

Back to