HC Deb 09 July 1963 vol 680 cc1021-2
10. Mr. F. M. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the continuing constitutional and political stalemate in British Guiana, he will now take steps to suspend the constitution and hold a referendum on the future electoral system desired by the majority of the adult inhabitants of all racial derivations.

Mr. Fisher

No. Sir.

Mr. Bennett

I am not quite sure whether my hon. Friend's reply of"No, Sir", applies to the whole of the Question or only to part of it. If the Minister finds it objectionable to suspend the Constitution, does he favour holding a referendum on what the majority of the people want, whether this be our system, proportional representation or the single transferable vote? What most of us find quite intolerable is a system continuing in which British bayonets support a Government in power and a Prime Minister supported by less than half of the electorate.

Mr. W. Hamilton

We have one here.

Mr. Fisher

The suspension of the Constitution is one possible course. The institution of proportional representation, as opposed to first past the post, is another. There are many courses we could follow in this very difficult situation, none of them at all attractive, but as my right hon. Friend is now on the way to British Guiana to study the position at first hand, I do not think the House would wish me, or expect me, to anticipate his policy decisions.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Would the Under-Secretary consider suggesting to his right hon. Friend that while he is there he should explore in advance the possibility of renewing constitutional talks in London in the hope that perhaps in a fresh setting there might be a more constructive approach by both sides?

Mr. Fisher

That is another idea, but the atmosphere was not very helpful when the British Guianese leaders were here last autumn, and until we can assume a more hopeful atmosphere it is, perhaps, better not to get them back to London for another conference.

Back to
Forward to