HC Deb 22 February 1978 vol 944 cc1423-4
6. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the Condominium Assembly in the New Hebrides.

Mr. Luard

Yes, Sir. Following uncontested elections on 29th November last year, the new Assembly met for the first time on 5th December and elected its Chairman and a Chief Minister. A Council of Ministers was appointed on 13th January following a visit by the British and French High Commissioners.

Mr. Price

Is my hon. Friend aware that this present Assembly is an unelected minority body, and that the British Government hold a grave responsibility for allowing a predominantly Francophobe Assembly to govern the country?

Is my hon. Friend aware that the urgent need now is to encourage all parties to participate in elections so that the country, when it becomes independent, will not be dominated by French economic interests from New Caledonia?

Mr. Luard

It is not the case that the present Assembly was not elected. There were elections, but the elections were not contested.

My hon. Friend knows quite well that the other major party, Vanuaaku Pati, made proposals at the very last moment for changing the arrangements for the election. The two metropolitan Powers are not necessarily against those proposals, but they came much too late to be considered; therefore, the election went ahead on the previous basis.

We have recently made proposals for the setting up of an ad hoc committee, in which all parties will be represented, to consider the reform of electoral law. I hope that Vanuaaku Pati will take part.

Mr. Speaker

I appeal to the House for shorter answers as well as shorter questions.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

When looking at the Assembly, will the Minister bear in mind that there is grave doubt as to the legality of the present judicial system in the country? It appears that His Majesty the King of Spain has a right of arbitration under treaties which have not been abrogated.

Mr. Luard

I know that there is a very complicated judicial system in the New Hebrides. I will take account of the hon. Gentleman's observation.

Mr. Dalyell

Why not hand the Scotland Bill to the New Hebrides?

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