HC Deb 08 May 1957 vol 569 cc951-4
30. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps have been taken to call a conference of the three elected groups in the Kenya Legislative Council to discuss the demand of the African members for 15 additional African seats.

47. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will initiate discussions between representatives of the three races in Kenya on the revision of the Lyttelton constitution.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

An initiative on my part on the lines of that suggested by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) would hardly be consistent with the pledges given by my predecessor in paragraph 10 of Cmd. Paper 9103 of 1954. But the Kenya Government have made it clear that they are ready to do everything possible to facilitate all forms of discussion between the groups. Progress seems to depend on the readiness of all groups to enter such discussions without insisting on prior conditions.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that owing to the small number of African seats in the Kenya Legislative Council, the African elected representatives have an impossible task in trying adequately to represent their constituents? Which of the racial groups are refusing to take part in these perfectly voluntary discussions to try to meet the situation? Is it true, from what the right hon. Gentleman says, that only the Europeans are refusing?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, Sir, most certainly not. I have made it quite clear that I am prepared at any time, as are the Government of Kenya, to consider any proposals put forward if they have the consent of all the races. I have noticed with regret the attitude hitherto taken by the African elected members. I very much hope that they will see fit to change their minds. I do not have that meagre view of their talent which the hon. Lady apparently has in thinking that the relatively few that they are in number means that any representations must be ineffective.

Mr. Robinson

Does not the Secretary of State think that the present situation ought not to be allowed to drag on? Will he not reconsider his view and initiate a conference under the chairmanship, if necessary, of somebody from outside the Colony? The right hon. Gentleman has a responsibility in this matter, and if one of the racial groups is refusing to cooperate, it is up to him to do something about it.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

No, Sir, I see no reason for outside intervention in this matter. I am fully aware of our responsibilities and am also aware that last year, under the leadership of the Governor, who assisted in the discussions, there were agreed changes without any intervention on my part. If the people of Kenya are to be led forward in increasing measure to running their own affairs in the multi-racial society that is, and will remain, Kenya, it is much better that they should be left to work this out themselves.

Major Wall

Is it not quite clear that the existing allocation of seats in the Kenya Legislature is the only one that can command agreement at present between all three races?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes, Sir.

Mr. J. Griffiths

I realise that the right hon. Gentleman is pledged by his predecessor not to make changes until 1960, but 1960 will come. In the meantime, will he consider this suggestion? When I was Colonial Secretary, representatives of all the communities in Kenya agreed to sit in conference to find whether they could, by agreement, decide upon a constitutional future, and accepted the view that they would be helped by the appointment of a constitutional adviser by Her Majesty's Government. May not the time come— and very quickly— when some method of that kind might be the best way to handle the situation in Kenya?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Of course, if the various races got together, no one would be more pleased than I, but some of these supplementary questions seem to suggest that it is the Europeans or Asians who are making things difficult. The truth is that the African representative members have said that they are prepared to meet the Governor and his official advisers, but only those groups, and only then if the Government first decide that they are under-represented at present in the Legislative Council. What I must insist upon is that if there are to be any changes before 1960, they must be agreed between all the races.

Mr. J. Johnson

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the difficulties is that if the African members obtain two or more additional representatives the Europeans expect the same? Does he not think that unfair in that the Africans can never become more equal with the other side and will never, comparatively speaking, advance?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

There will be no stability in Kenya or anywhere else if agreements arrived at are broken, and the agreement arrived at is that there shall be no change, except by agreement, before 1960, and no amount of questioning in Parliament or agitation outside will shift me from that.

Mr. Dugdale

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that Tanganyika has set a very good example in this direction? Will he not advise the Government of Tanganyika that he, at any rate, approves the action that they have taken and suggest that the Governor of Kenya might follow in their steps?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am delighted to get that rather tardy recognition of the wisdom of the Government of Tanganyika, but there is no greater mistake than to assume that conditions are similar even in territories which are fairly contiguous.