HC Deb 24 March 1964 vol 692 cc222-4
5. Mr. Awbery

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on his recent interview with the Archbishop of Malta on the independence of the island; and if he will place in the Library a synopsis of the chief matters discussed both with the Prime Minister of Malta and the Leader of the Opposition.

9. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the preparations for Maltese independence; and whether it has now been agreed to include in the future constitution of Malta the necessary safeguards for human rights, including freedom of worship and freedom from ecclesiastical control or interference.

15. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement about financial aid to Malta.

Mr. Sandys

My meetings with the Prime Minister of Malta, and other political leaders and with the Archbishop were, of course, confidential.

I cannot take any decisions regarding Malta's constitution until after the referendum.

Talks on financial aid are proceeding.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that radical changes have taken place since I tabled the Question? Now that a referendum is to be held, will he take steps to ensure that there is not a repetition of the circumstances which arose during the General Election in Malta? Let the people of Malta be given an opportunity of freely expressing their opinion without any threats being made.

Mr. Sandys

That is what I hope will happen.

Mr. Driberg

While sympathising to some extent with the right hon. Gentleman's evident desire to dodge the most awkward central issue here, and realising that he cannot appear to interfere with ecclesiastical jurisdiction as such, may I ask him if he realises that there will be a real difficulty about getting a referendum which truly expresses the views of the people of Malta if in the weeks before that referendum, and during the taking of it, there is the same spiritual tyranny which was exercised at the time of the election?

Mr. Sandys

I do not think I want to express any opinions about that.

Mr. Wall

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be adequate long-term financial aid to Malta before a final decision is taken on the date of independence?

Mr. Sandys

As I explained in my Answer, financial talks are proceeding at the moment.

Mr. Bottomley

Is it not unusual for one political party to draft a constitution for a Colony? Does this not usually fall to the lot of the Secretary of State or to some independent body such as a Radcliffe Commission? Would the Secretary of State now issue instructions for a regulation saying that there will be a system of meetings and broadcasting for all parties concerned?

Mr. Sandys

The second part of the question relates to the substance of part of the controversy in regard to the Constitution. As to the first part, the decision to hold a referendum was taken by the Prime Minister of Malta. It is not for me to dictate to the Government of a self-governing Territory whether or not they shall hold a referendum to test opinion on a question of importance.

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