HC Deb 08 February 1962 vol 653 cc601-3
29. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the importance of the forthcoming general election in Malta, he will arrange for a group of independent observers from all parties in this House to visit the island during the period of the election to note the methods and procedure and to make a report to him as the Minister responsible for the conduct of elections.

Mr. Maudling

No, Sir.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that the atmosphere in Malta has become explosive during the last few weeks? As the election is to take place on Monday week, will he do something now and not wait until the election is over and trouble has broken out? Will he send someone there to report to him if trouble arises in connection with the election?

Mr. Maudling

I am concerned about the election position in Malta, but I discussed this with the Governor, who has taken great precautions, and I think all possible precautions, to ensure peaceful and impartial elections. For my part, I do not think that a visit from a group of independent observers would help. In fact, it might give rise to incidents which otherwise would not occur.

Mr. Healey

Is the Minister aware that members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Malta are threatening Maltese citizens with utter damnation if they vote for the Labour Party? [Laughter.] I can understand hon. Gentlemen in this House regarding that as a comic remark, but I assure them that in Malta this is a matter of the gravest personal concern to any member of the Roman Catholic Church. In the circumstances, is the Minister satisfied that there is freedom in these elections?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir, I am, and I have given great thought to this. It is extremely important, and I think that every possible precaution has been taken to ensure fair and impartial elections.

Miss Lee

Is the Minister aware that it would be simple for him to send out several distinguished Catholic Members of the British Labour Party who could reassure the Maltese voters that they could vote Labour without incurring damnation?

Mr. Maudling

It may be simple to do, but I doubt whether it would help with the elections.

Mr. Wall

Is the Minister aware that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has taken action because of attacks by the Malta Labour Party on the Catholic way of life and Catholic spiritual beliefs?

Mr. Maudling

One deprecates the way in which the election is involving religious issues, and I think that the sooner the election is over and settled the better. I believe that the Governor has taken every possible precaution to ensure that it is fairly conducted.