HC Deb 05 December 1967 vol 755 cc1124-5
15. Sir F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will now announce the date of a referendum in British Honduras to enable the inhabitants freely to decide their own political future.

31. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the constitutional future of British Honduras.

Mr. George Thomson

The position on constitutional development remains as stated by my hon. Friend the then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Adjournment debate on 12th August, 1966.—[Vol. 733, c. 2056.]

The political future of British Honduras is not in dispute locally and there is no occasion to consider a referendum on that point. As regards the dispute with Guatemala, we have undertaken that the wishes of British Honduras will be consulted when the mediator has presented his proposals. We shall then ask the Government of British Honduras how they wish this consultation to be carried out.

Sir F. Bennett

Will the right hon. Gentleman today confirm the universality of his dedication to the principles of self-determination by reaffirming positively that the wishes of the people of British Honduras will be respected when this question does arise, as consultation by itself is not of decisive importance to this House?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir, the wishes of British Honduras, after consultations have taken place, will be respected by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Leaving aside the question whether there ought to be mediation at all, will the right hon. Gentleman say that it is the people as distinct from the Government of British Honduras whose wishes will be consulted and that their worries about the possibility of a sell-out to Guatemala will be dissipated as fast as possible?

Mr. Thomson

The form of consultation is something one would need to look at at the time it takes place; but British Honduras, in common with other dependent British territories, has a democratically elected Government and it is appropriate, therefore, that consultation in the first instance should be through that Government.

Mr. Henig

Is my right hon. Friend giving the House an absolute assurance that, in the event of any arrangements whatever being made which give Guatemala any rights and powers over British Honduras policy in any field there will first be consultation with all parties and all opinions in British Honduras?

Mr. Thomson

My hon. Friends asks a wide range of hypothetical questions. I repeat to him Her Majesty's Government's position, that the wishes of British Honduras will be consulted when the mediator presents his proposals.

Mr. Braine

Is not the right hon. Gentleman seized of the deep anxiety felt on both sides of the House? He refers to the wishes of British Honduras or to the Government there when he talks of consultations. Is he not seized of the desire on both sides to be assured that the people of this territory will be consulted about their future?

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir, I understand that; but I imagine that the hon. Gentleman would greatly resent it if, in any community in which he was an elected representative, the Government of that community were by-passed. Surely, the democratic Government of a community is the right avenue for making arrangements for consultation.