HC Deb 07 February 1961 vol 634 cc185-9
Mr. Speaker

Mr. Biggs-Davison—Question No. 9.

Mr. Bowles

On a point of order. Before that Question is dealt with, Mr. Speaker—I have already raised the question of hon. Members going to the Federation of Central Africa, and if hon. Members who have been there at the expense of Sir Roy Welensky are asking Questions, is it not in order for them to disclose that fact?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair. It is the responsibility of the hon. Member concerned.

Mr. H. Hynd

Will my hon. Friend take it from me that I went to Hong Kong at my own expense?

9. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement about the Northern Rhodesia constitutional conference.

17. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the composition and proceedings of the meetings in London on constitutional changes in Northern Rhodesia.

20. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement about the progress of the talks on the Constitution for Northern Rhodesia.

Mr. Iain Macleod

The resumed Northern Rhodesia Conference began at Lancaster House on 30th January. The delegates of the United Federal Party and the Dominion Party have not so far attended. Two plenary meetings have been held, and in addition there have been continuous informal discussions with the Chiefs, the political parties and individual members.

Today the Conference has been discussing the questions of a House of Chiefs in plenary session.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is grave disquiet about this conference, which is proceeding in the absence of the leading party of Northern Rhodesia? Is he further aware of the growing mistrust of the Government's intentions, and will he give an assurance that no constitution will be imposed on Northern Rhodesia over the heads of those who stand for federation and partnership and against racialism and the break-up of the Federation?

Mr. Macleod

As to the last part of that supplementary question, the obligation of Her Majesty's Government is quite clear, and we have carried it out not only at this conference but, as far as I know, at every conference It is laid down in the 1953 White Paper. It is to consult, and naturally to consider representations that might be made by, the Federal Government. But that does not take away the final responsibility of Her Majesty's Government for decisions on these matters. As for the first part of the supplementary question, there have been many conferences which people have left, but it would be wholly wrong to stop a conference as important as this because the people of one party did not attend.

Mr. Brockway

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the representatives of the African parties and the Liberal Party have shown great patience in these proceedings When the U.F.P. and the Dominion Party have stayed away? Is he aware that, as distinct from the point of view put from the benches behind him, not only the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Rhodesia but the overwhelming majority of Members of this House and of the people of this country will support him in seeking to establish democracy in Northern Rhodesia?

Mr. Macleod

With respect, the problem is a good deal more complicated than that. My hon. Friend pointed out that it was unsatisfactory to have a conference in the absence of one of the leading parties. This is true, but it nevertheless seems right to go on with the conference, just as I would have done if, shall we say, one of the African parties had not attended. It would be far more satisfactory from everybody's point of view, and particularly from the point of view of Northern Rhodesia, if every seat round the conference table were filled.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is the Minister aware that there is some lack of frankness about this? Will he say frankly to what extent the Federal Prime Minister can influence the progress of these talks? Will he assure the House that he will not be dissuaded from establishing genuine representative institutions which will have the support of the overwhelming mass of the population? Finally, will he undertake that at an early opportunity he will advise the other delegations to the Northern Rhodesia talks of the contents of the secret negotiations which took place last weekend?

Mr. Macleod

I have no knowledge of any secret negotiations which took place last weekend, and so I should find great difficulty in informing the conference of their nature. The situation is absolutely clear, and I have made it quite clear before. In conferences of this sort there is an obligation which we have always carried out to the full to keep the Federal Government fully informed, to consult with them, and I say that, naturally, implicit in consultation is that we should take full account of their representations. That has been and is the present position.

Mr. Turton

In order to avoid misunderstanding, will my right hon. Friend make it quite clear that he still abides by the general principles laid down in the 1958 constitutional White Paper?

Mr. Macleod

I do not think that supplementary question is susceptible of an answer "Yes", or "No". The general principles I should not find at all difficult to accept, but some of the special applications have caused a great deal of trouble.

Mr. Callaghan

May I ask two supplementary questions? First, can the Secretary of State tell us what reason has been given by the United Federal Party for not coming to the conference? Why does not it sit down with the rest round the table in order to discuss whatever propositions are being put forward? My second question is this. Has the right hon. Gentleman looked up the records, and if so, will he remind Sir Roy Welensky that the firmest assurances were given in this House in 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 that the territorial advancement of the individual States would not be held up because of the representations made by the Federal Government; that the Federal Government had the right to be consulted but not to delay any territorial advance?

Mr. Macleod

With respect, the hon. Member is merely repeating—perhaps, if he likes, in better chosen words—what I have already said twice. The final decision remains with Her Majesty's Government. That is absolutely clear. It is also absolutely clear that we must consult, and equally clear that in consultation—otherwise consultation is worthless—we must consider representations that are made. Regarding the hon. Member's first supplementary question, I imagine, although I have not been given formal notice of this, that the reason was that the Federal Prime Minister found unsatisfactory the message he was sent from Her Majesty's Government some weeks ago.

Mr. Callaghan


Mr. Speaker

I am sorry but we are getting behind. Miss Vickers.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

On a point of order. I have never done this before, but, in the absence of an assurance, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment.