HC Deb 10 April 1962 vol 657 cc1141-3

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

70. Mr. WALL

To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will now make a statement about the decisions of the constitutional conference on Kenya.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

With permission, I will now answer Question No. 70.

The conference ended on 6th April. With a few exceptions, all delegates, including the leaders of the main political parties, signed a document setting out the framework of a new Constitution. The details are to be worked out by the new Coalition Government now being formed.

A report on the proceedings of the conference was approved on 6th April and will be published shortly as a White Paper. We have now begun the process of co-operation by which alone Kenya's urgent political and economic problems can be tackled. The problems have not been solved, but the way to their solution has been pointed out.

Mr. Wall

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the satisfactory conclusion of this conference, which is a great tribute to his patience and tact. May I ask him how and when the regions are to be delimited? Can he say what form of timetable he has in mind for the constitutional developments in Kenya?

Mr. Maudling

The regions are to be delimited by an independent commission shortly to be established. I am hoping that the details of the situation may be worked out by the Coalition Government by 31st July. After that the next step will be the outlining of the constituency boundaries and a General Election for a new Government of a self-governing, but not independent, Constitution.

Mr. Healey

May I, first, congratulate the Colonial Secretary, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, for the skill which he has shown in avoiding a breakdown in this conference and producing at least a possible framework for agreement? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that his achievement will remain precarious unless the two great African parties succeed, in the course of co-operation in the Coalition Government, in developing more confidence in one another's intentions than they were able to show at Lancaster House?

Mr. Maudling

I entirely agree that the position remains very precarious. The primary responsibility remains with the African parties, but Her Majesty's Government also have a responsibility, from which they do not propose to resile in any way.

Mr. F. M. Bennett

As to the timetable, can my right hon. Friend say how soon the terms of reference will be reached for the various Commissions on which future progress largely depends?

Mr. Maudling

I cannot predict exactly. I do not think that it will take more than a very short time.

Mr. Brockway

May I also express appreciation of the result of the conference and the right hon. Gentleman's contribution to it? He spoke of the Government, after the election, being a Government of self-government. Can he tell the House what time he has in mind for the conclusion of independence following that?

Mr. Maudling

The question of a date for independence was not on the agenda of the recent conference. We made clear that it would be for the Government which was elected under the new Constitution to discuss the question of independence with Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Torton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that notwithstanding the very great advantage, arrived at largely by his skill and patience, there is great danger of a breakdown in the economy of Kenya? Will he take what steps he can to help the economy of Kenya by encouraging further land settlement and by making a suitable basis for land values in Kenya?

Mr. Maudling

I agree that the economic dangers are extremely grave. I hope that the result of the conference and the foundation of the new Coalition Government, together with the help of Her Majesty's Government, will make progress in that direction.

Sir G. Nicholson

May I ask whether my right hon. Friend can say anything about the future of the northern frontiers district?

Mr. Maudling

I intend, first, to appoint an independent commission to visit the area and find out by the best possible methods what are the real desires of the people in that area.

Forward to