HC Deb 21 June 1960 vol 625 cc195-7
14. Mr. Teeling

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what consideration he has given to the need for an all-party Parliamentary Commission of three or five Members to study the question of a constitution for Malta.

18. Mr. Callaghan

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is yet able to state in detail the steps he proposes to take to restore the right of representation and self-government to the people of Malta.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I have considered many possibilities in connection with a future constitution for Malta but I am of the opinion that an all-party Commission would not be appropriate in the present circumstances. My noble friend the Minister of State will be visiting Malta very shortly, and this will help me in the urgent consideration I am giving to Malta's problems. But I am not yet ready to put forward detailed proposals.

Mr. Teeling

Does my right hon. Friend realise that there is very little more information that he can get from Malta? Mr. Mintoff is not going to see Lord Perth. Dr. Borg Olivier has been here and has told by right hon. Friend everything he can, and so has Miss Strickland. From whom else can my right hon. Friend get information?

Mr. Macleod

That is precisely one of the difficulties, but nobody has succeeded in producing a constitution for Malta that has lasted more than a few years. It would be very sad indeed to have a conference that failed. Therefore, although I know that I have been asking the indulgence of the House for some little time on this, even if I take a little longer I think that it would be right to explore one or two possibilities before trying to bring people round the table.

Mr. Callaghan

How long is it since Malta has been without a constitution? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman told us more than the bromides which he has uttered this afternoon? If the political leaders will not see Lord Perth over there, why not invite them here? It need not be a formal conference. Why not have conversations here on this matter?

Mr. Macleod

When I went to Malta Mr. Mintoff refused to see me and therefore I am not sure that that is a way round. The answer to the first part of the supplementary question is that it is too long. I very much want to bring Governor's rule to an end but I want to find a satisfactory answer. When I replied to a similar Question from the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) some time ago I said that, first of all, I intended to move away from Governor's rule as soon as I could and that it would be a little time before I was ready with my proposals. Therefore, I have not changed my decision in that matter.

Sir P. Agnew

Can my right hon. Friend say whether when Lord Perth visits Malta he will also visit the dockyard and see for himself what progress is being made, at what speed the conversion of the dockyard to commercial use is going on, and whether Baileys at Malta are getting on with the job?

Mr. Macleod

I am sure that my noble Friend will do that. He has been most closely concerned with the consultations for a very long time.

Mr. Brockway

Is it not a fact that Malta has now been without any democratically elected Parliament for over two years? Would not the first step be to re-establish a Parliament elected by the Maltese people and then to consult representatives in that Parliament about a future constitution for the island?

Mr. Macleod

I do not think that I differ very much from the hon. Member. This is just a question of what is the best way of doing that. Of course, I want to see a Parliament elected by the Maltese people, but I am sure that there must be some prior agreement and understanding about what sort of constitution it will operate. The worst service that I could give to Malta would be to call a conference that failed. There has been a stream of these conferences in the past. Even if it takes a little longer and takes a little more patience, we must try to come together on this matter.

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