HC Deb 15 July 1965 vol 716 cc762-4
14. Mr. Bagier

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the conference held in Oxford under his chairmanship between 8th and 12th July to discuss the future of the remaining Colonial territories.

21. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the conference of Governors held at Oxford.

Mr. Greenwood

The conference was convened to discuss various aspects of the future relationships between Britain and the smaller Colonial Territories. In addition to the officials who were present, I invited a number of Governors and Administrators, academics, businessmen and others who have taken a special interest in colonial problems. The discussions were of a general nature and did not relate to the specific problems of individual territories. The main topics which were considered included the organisation of government in small territories; safeguards for democracy, protection of minority rights and civil liberties; finance, development and the provision of staff; and future relations with Britain. The international aspects of these questions were also discussed.

The conference made a very helpful contribution to our thinking about these questions and I am most grateful to all those who took part.

Mr. Royle

When will the Government be ready to make public their proposals for the constitutional future of the many small territories throughout the world? Will the Minister give an assurance that no consideration is being given at the moment to altering the constitutional position in Hong Kong?

Mr. Greenwood

Certainly there is no question at the moment or in the foreseeable future of altering the constitutional position of Hong Kong. As for the constitutional position of the remaining smaller territories, I am sure that the hon. Member appreciates that the fact that they are still dependencies suggests that there are very special problems involved. Those are the problems to which we are giving active consideration, and in order to get advice about which we convened this conference. I think that it would be wrong to give any overall answer at this stage. I have found the advice which was tendered at the conference very helpful indeed.

Mr. James Johnson

Has my right hon. Friend thought of inviting back-bench Members on both sides of the House to a meeting of this nature, since it is not only governors and colonial officials, past, present and future, who are the people to advise him on the constitutions of Colonial Territories?

Mr. Greenwood

I hope that I have made it clear that it was not only governnors and colonial officials who attended but also a large number of other people who have taken a special interest in colonial problems. This is the first conference of its kind which has been held. My hon. Friend asked about a representation of back-bench Members. He will remember that eight back-bench Members, four from each side of the House, are going to some of the smaller Colonies in order to consider the special problems which they evoke.

Mr. Amery

Will the right hon. Gentleman publish a list, perhaps in answer to a written Question, in the OFFICIAL REPORT of those who were invited to the conference? On what basis, in particular, was Lord Brockway invited to take part?

Mr. Greenwood

I am perfectly willing to publish a list of those attending the conference. Lord Brockway was invited to take part because he has over a very long period taken a keen interest in colonial matters and represents a point of view which it would have been folly to ignore on an occasion of this kind. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that more conservative points of view were also represented at the conference.

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