HC Deb 24 March 1964 vol 692 cc233-4
14. Mr. Brockway

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the substantial agreement reached between Dr. Jagan and Mr. Forbes Burnham and the executives of their parties as a result of the intervention of the Ghana Goodwill Mission and of the continuing discussions between them on outstanding points, he will postpone the application of a new constitution for British Guiana in order to provide an opportunity for the acceptance of an agreed constitution.

24. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a further statement in respect of the political situation in British Guiana.

Mr. Sandys

I have nothing further to report to the House about the general political situation. I have made inquiries about the hon. Member's statement that agreement has been reached between the parties, but I have not been able to obtain any confirmation of this.

Mr. Brockway

Is it not the case that agreement has been reached on 10 of the 12 subjects under discussion? Is it not also the case that Dr. Jagan has now agreed to some introduction of proportional representation on the lines that there are in neighbouring Surinam in Dutch Guiana? In view of the terrible danger of racial clashes in British Guiana, will the right hon. Gentleman still seek to find a basis of agreement before the Privy Council meets on 26th March to endorse the Order in Council?

Mr. Sandys

No one would be happier than I if there were agreement between the parties, but I have done my best to check up on the hon. Gentleman's statement about agreement having been reached, and I cannot find any evidence to show that, on the basic issues, the differences have been resolved. As for the Order in Council, as I think the hon. Gentleman knows, any Order in Council of this kind will have to lie on the Table for 40 Parliamentary days before it can be given effect.

Mr. Sorensen

Can the right hon. Gentleman state, quite apart from the clash of personalities, what is the crucial point at issue between these two parties?

Mr. Sandys

There are a number. The most important are the questions of proportional representation and of elections before independence. The basic problem is the racial character of party politics in British Guiana.

Mr. Bottomley

Bearing in mind that some progress has been made in bringing the parties together, is there not something that the Secretary of State himself can do to bring about this result? Otherwise, the outlook for the future is rather grim.

Mr. Sandys

The outlook is not very rosy, but I do not think there is anything further that I can do at this stage.