HC Deb 07 December 1961 vol 650 cc1514-6
15. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what indications he has now received of the willingness or unwillingness of the main political parties in Malta to take part in a General Election in February; and if, in order to encourage such participation, he will now affirm that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that the people of Malta are entitled to exercise the right of self-determination, and that he will negotiate with the Maltese elected majority a date for the implementation of this right.

Mr. H. Fraser

I would refer the hon. Member to the replies given by my right hon. Friend on the 23rd November to the hon. Members for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery), to which I have nothing to add.

Mr. Driberg

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, those replies were rather negative in character. Why do the Government always say that ultimate self-government is "not excluded", or some phrase of that kind? Cannot they make a positive affirmation of the right of the Maltese people, in this George Cross island, to the self-determination to which the Government are committed in respect of every such territory?

Mr. Fraser

I feel quite certain that it would be only appropriate that I should restate what has been stated before—that the next step, and the essential step, is for us to get a representative Government in Malta. That is the next step, and, following that, I am perfectly prepared to discuss with those who are returned what the next step beyond that should be, but that is a matter for discussion with the elected Government after the forthcoming elections in Malta.

Mr. Healey

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the chance of getting an effective Government which is truly representative of the people of Malta depends very largely on the confidence of those who might participate that it is worth while to participate in the election, and that the functions they will have after the election are those which they wish to have? As both major parties are highly dissatisfied with the Constitution under which the elections are being held, will the Under-Secretary seriously consider at least accepting the principle of self-government for Malta before the election? Furthermore, in view of evidence that there is interference in the free conduct of elections, would he also consider sending out a Commission from this country to observe the elections from this moment on?

Mr. Fraser

In reply to the first point raised by the hon. Gentleman, I repeat that this next stage is not the final stage in Malta's constitutional development. We will discuss the next stage with those who are returned and who make up the new Maltese Government. As to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's sup- plementary question, I do not believe that at this stage, although there is some intimidation on both sides, the point has been reached when we should have a commission of inquiry.

Sir P. Agnew

Would it not be putting the cart before the horse to invite the people of Malta to exercise the right of self-determination before the new Constitution has been brought into operation, giving, as it does, internal responsible Government? Is not the first step, and an essential one, to attempt to restore the viability of the Maltese economy so that any Constitution which the island has can be broadly and surely based?

Mr. Fraser

I quite agree with my hon. Friend.

Back to
Forward to