§ 20. Mr. Marten
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the St. Vincent Constitutional Conference.
§ 45. Mr. Braine
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the implementation of the new Constitution of St. Vincent.
§ Mr. Mulley
I refer the hon. Members to the White Paper laid before the House on 18th July, which contains the Final Report of the Conference.
Subject to the Legislative Council's approval of the outline of the revised Constitution given in the White Paper, St. Vincent will become an Associated State on 27th October, 1969.
§ Mr. Marten
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some people question the wisdom of granting associated status before the holding of an election in the island? Will he tell the House why this was done and what consideration was given to it?
§ Mr. Mulley
The commitment to St. Vincent to have associated Statehood was made as long ago as 1966 and has been held up only by local difficulties. There have been differences—which are not unknown—between the Government party and the Opposition about the date of the election and also about the numbers and boundaries of constituencies. This has been a difficulty which, we hope, has now been resolved by the decision of Her Majesty's Government, which has been accepted by the Government party in St. Vincent though not by the Opposition. The position is that the election will be held at the usual date, that is, some time before 1972, and at that election there will be 13 constituencies.
§ Mr. Fisher
Does the right hon. Gentleman think it wise—I put this in a genuinely interrogative form, because I see the difficulties—to create a new associated State in view of the difficulties, revealed by Anguilla, in the existing status, which leaves Britain with residual responsibilities but no residual power? Is it not reinforcing failure to do this again?
§ Mr. Mulley
I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxieties, but St. Vincent was committed to having statehood in 1966, and the particular difficulties which arose 1225 in Anguilla are unlikely to happen in St. Vincent. However, there is a widespread demand in St. Vincent for associated Statehood. As we promised that in 1966, we feel that it is right to do it now. My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Shepherd visited the island and spent a considerable time testing all kinds of information. On his return, he reported very strongly that there was this desire, and we think it right to agree to it.