HC Deb 15 June 1977 vol 933 cc379-80
22. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if, in the light of the recent Dominica constitutional conference, Her Majesty's Government will agree to the request for a referendum to be held before the island becomes an independent sovereign State.

Mr. Luard

The conference resulted in substantial agreement on an independence constitution for Dominica. The report will be published in due course.

We must now allow time for a public debate in Dominica, which I hope will result in agreement on the method of timing of a move to independence.

Mr. Hunt

May we be told where Her Majesty's Government stand on the specific issue of the referendum? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be helpful to have an up-to-date assessment of public opinion in Dominica on the subject of independence prior to that event? Will he give the House an indication of the Government's feelings and reaction to the request that has been made to this effect by substantial sections of opinion on the island?

Mr. Luard

The position is that if Her Majesty's Government were to recommend to Parliament that Dominica should proceed to independence, as we are able to do under Section 10 (2) of the West Indies Act, we would need to be assured that the demand for independence was widely shared amongst the population of Dominica. The principle of independence was not really at issue in the independence conference over which I presided only two or three weeks ago. Both the Government party and the Opposition party want independence. The difference between them is only one of timing. We are to have further consultations about this matter. But it seems to us at present that there is very little doubt that the view of most people in Dominica is that they should enjoy independence.

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