§ LORD FARINGDON asked His Majesty's Government, what is their policy in regard to constitutional progress and reform in the West Indies; and moved for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I feel that, first of all, some apology perhaps is due to your Lordships for the inordinate length of time that this particular Motion standing in my name has been on and off the Paper. The noble Viscount the Leader of the House will, I know, bear me out when I say that the repeated postponements have not been my fault. They have been due to a variety of causes, and I apologize, although I am not myself to blame for the postponements, for any inconvenience that may have been caused to members of your Lordships' House interested in the subject, who have come or been prepared to come on earlier occasions to discuss it. One of the reasons for the postponement of this Motion was a desire—and, if I may say so, a reasonable desire—on the part of His Majesty's Government to hold a preliminary discussion on the Colonial question as a whole. That discussion was held last month, when many of your Lordships no doubt were present and heard the extremely eloquent apologia for British Colonial policy which was made by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House.
§ I am not going into that wider view of the subject to-day; in fact I think that one of the things that emerged from the noble Viscount's speech was that in his view, and in the view of His Majesty's Government, it was not possible to treat all the Colonies as a whole, owing to the vast differences in their various stages of development and in their populations. It will therefore, I take it, be entirely consistent with the Government's views on this subject that I am to-day raising a part of the Colonial problem, and dealing with only one section of the Colonies. It would be useless, I think—and I do not suppose that His Majesty's Government even would try—to deny that a very considerable sense of disappointment has grown up, both here and in the West Indies, ever since the Moyne Commission reported. These islands are on the whole homogeneous. They have very considerable similarities of population, of climate, and of economic production of various kinds. This being so, it does seem most 777 particularly unfortunate that His Majesty's Government should not have thought fit to produce an all-embracing scheme for the West Indies as a whole. Unfortunately, this has not been done, and I therefore am forced to follow the example of His Majesty's Government and deal piecemeal with the problem. I repeat that it seems to me most unfortunate that these islands—islands and two pieces of mainland—whose problems and people are so similar, should not be treated as a whole. The differences in their Constitutions at the present moment are due to a series of historical accidents, and the results can only be described as historical curiosities.
§ As I say, I am bound, following the example of His Majesty's Government, to deal piecemeal with this subject, and I will begin by saying a few words about Jamaica, because it is about Jamaica that we have heard most in the last couple of years. In 1941 the Moyne Commission reported on the West Indies, and in particular made certain proposals for the reform and liberalization of the Constitution of Jamaica. Lord Moyne's proposals were submitted to the Jamaica Legislature. This Legislature rejected his proposals. It seems to me that that rejection was to be expected. In all these matters of Constitution for these islands it would appear to me that there are two fundamental questions: there is the question of franchise, and the question of the Constitution. To me it appears self-evident that the first of these questions should be taken first—that the question of franchise should be settled before the Constitutions are drawn up. His Majesty's Government have on various occasions stated that they wish to proceed with the consent of the people—a very right and proper sentiment, and one which I mysell fully endorse, as I am sure do all my friends on these Benches. But the consent of the peoples, unless you have adult suffrage, is perfectly impossible to ascertain. All you are ascertaining is the consent of an oligarchy, as in many Constitutions where you have a limited franchise, whose interest is to refuse their consent. This consent was in the case of Jamaica refused to the extremely moderate proposals of Lord Moyne. Lord Moyne took, in my view, the perfectly correct course and stated firmly that he could not accept this rejection on the part of the Legislature. He pointed out that, in his opinion, adult 778 suffrage was an essential foundation of any scheme of constitutional reform. That was in 1941, and it was ordered that the drawing up of a census should be proceeded with immediately.
In the last few days we have heard of some progress being made in the drawing up of this census, and we have also been informed that an organizer of local government has been sent out to Jamaica. I should like to say at once how enthusiastically I welcome this information, because, it is now nearly two years since it was proposed by the Royal Commission that these steps should be taken. As the result of the dilatoriness—due in some part, no doubt, to good reasons—of the Colonial Office, there has arisen in Jamaica a very considerable doubt as to the bona fides of His Majesty's Government in this matter. Indeed, I submit that the Jamaicans have some excuse for wondering whether, in fact, the policy of His Majesty's Government has changed, whether it is, in fact, still founded upon the Report of the Moyne Commission, because not only has a conspicuous lack of co-operation, to put it no more strongly, been shown by the Legislature, from whom such lack of enthusiasm for reform was to be expected, but also by the Governor. In October, according to the Jamaica Press, the Governor gave an interview in which he expressed himself in this way:
It has yet to be proved that the Jamaicans even want self-government. Only a small minority, which is extremely vocal, express such ideas. The great majority of Jamaicans do not want self-government.
If the Governor of Jamaica is to be permitted, without reproof from the Colonial Office, to make a declaration of this kind to the Press, clearly the Jamaicans are justified in wondering whether, in fact, this does express the policy of the Colonial Office. I am going to ask to-day that we should have an emphatic and clear answer on this point because it is scandalous, if this does not represent the policy of the Colonial Office, that a Governor should be allowed to make declarations of this kind and not even pay lip service to the policy of his chief.
§ The position in British Guiana and Trinidad is obscure. In Trinidad the new Constitution has been introduced, and we have been promised that a reformed Constitution along the lines proposed by the 779 Royal Commission will be introduced in British Guiana. But everything there again appears to be held up by His Majesty's Government's persistent tendency to put the cart of Constitution before the horse of franchise. Franchise in these two Colonies is held up by a complete mantle of silence which shrouds the meetings and the proceedings of the Franchise Commissions in these two Colonies. So far as we can make out, in British Guiana the last meeting of the Franchise Commission, which previously had found a difficulty in obtaining a quorum, was held on May 22, when it was adjourned sine die. Since then its proceedings, or its lack of proceedings, have been shrouded in the same silence, if not mystery, as those of the Franchise Commission in Trinidad. May I suggest that it is essential that adult suffrage should be introduced without allowing its introduction to be sabotaged by these Franchise Commissions?
§ Now I am coming to the thorniest problem of the West Indies—the Constitutions of what are known as the "Three B's," Bermuda, Barbados, and the Bahamas. I do not think your Lordships will suspect me of any totalitarian tendencies but, quite frankly, I should prefer the uncontrolled rule of the Governor—controlled, as he would be inevitably, by the Colonial Office here—to the oligarchic Constitutions which exist at present in these islands. I shall give your Lordships some details to show what the situation is. In Barbados, out of a population of 190,939, there are 6,424 voters. A very high (for the West Indies) property qualification is required to be a voter in Barbados. To be a member of the Legislature an even higher property qualification is required. In the circumstances, you have ruling, in these islands an oligarchy which is basically composed of the planter class, a class with whom, your Lordships may remember, we have had on other occasions to deal drastically. His Majesty's Government have said that they wish to proceed with the consent of the peoples. Again, I repeat, nothing could be more proper than that, but is it to be the consent of the three per cent. of voters in Barbados or the consent of the 190,000 inhabitants?
§ In the Bahamas the position is somewhat better as to the proportions. Out 780 of a population of 60,000 about one-sixth are voters, but the position in the Bahamas has had an unfavourable light cast upon it by recent rioting. About the rioting, since at the moment we are awaiting the report of a Commission sent out to inquire, I shall say nothing in detail; but I would point out to your Lordships that in the Bahamas there is no Income Tax and there is no labour legislation, as a result of which these islands are not entitled to the benefit of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. As a side light on the conditions of these islands I will point out that there is one doctor to 12,000 inhabitants. The Governor himself, when speaking after the rioting, pointed out that the situation in these islands was very largely due to the Constitution. Members of their Legislature are not only unpaid but they do not even receive travelling allowances. The result of this is that the outer islands, or what they call the out islands, have only twice recently been represented by an inhabitant of those islands.
§ New Providence, in which, as your Lordships are aware, is situated the considerable tourist centre of Nassau, tends to act inevitably in these circumstances as a magnet, and it receives the maximum of attention of the Government, which meets there. It also tends to draw all active men from the out islands. An unfortunate result of this is a considerable unemployment problem in New Providence, and an unfortunate position in the out islands which should, but do not, produce a very large amount of the foodstuffs required by the islands as a whole. There is, as perhaps you would expect in islands ruled by an oligarchy of this sort, no Income Tax. The revenue of the islands is drawn almost entirely from Customs; £208,000 of revenue comes from Customs, £18,000 from harbour dues and only £28,000 from other sources. Even Customs are levied on the needs of the people, on their food, on their clothing and on everything they need. This is a form of taxation of the poorest, and no economy, no Budget based on such a financial arrangement, can possibly be stable. Recently a matter of £12,000 has been voted to agriculture in the out islands. Your Lordships will forgive the use of a slang word if I say I cannot help feeling that £12,000 is a footling sum.
§ Then I would like to ask whether anything is being done for the Leeward and 781 Windward Islands. These islands have a very good record of municipal self-government and administration. Granada, for example, has an admirable record of constructive work. Must these islands wait whilst the more tangled problems of Trinidad and Jamaica and Barbados are unravelled and finally settled? If this thing is to be dealt with piecemeal I suggest that these islands might well have their admirable records recognized by constitutional progress. We have heard very little, and I myself confess I have very little information about British Honduras. I have had recently reports that lead me to suppose that constitutional reform in Honduras would be welcomed by the Legislature itself. I should be glad if His Majesty's Government could give us some indication of what their intentions in regard to this Colony may be. There are, as of course I realize, different and varying problems in British Honduras concerned with land ownership and the economic position there which do not come within the terms of my Motion to-day.
§ What I particularly ask His Majesty's Government is that they should cease tinkering with this West Indian problem. I wish that they would produce a total scheme, and this is a reason why I would urge upon His Majesty's Government the desirability of putting all these Colonies on an equal footing. If, as I hope it is, federation is to come as the final aim of these Colonies, then federation must be made very much more difficult if the Constitutions in the different Colonies differ from one island or group of islands to another. This question is a burning one. It has to some extent been made more urgent by recent concessions made by the Americans to the people of Porto Rico. The Governor of that American Colony has recently proposed, and his proposal has, I understand, been accepted, that in 1944 the Governor himself should be elected by the people.
§ There is, I believe, no wish, in spite of a strong economic pull, on the part of the inhabitants of the West Indies to transfer their allegiance from Great Britain to any other country; indeed I would say that in the West Indies we are reaping the just reward of our good deeds in the past. One hundred years or so ago we took a very considerable risk in the West Indies. We abolished slavery, and that risk has been repaid to us and is being repaid in 782 the loyalty and the affection of the West Indian people towards the Mother Country and towards British institutions. What the West Indies desire, I am convinced, is not transference to another Power; they wish to see their Constitution modelled on that of Canada, they wish to become a self-governing Dominion within the Empire. I believe that now is the time for another bold gesture, for taking the chance of another risk, a risk which I believe we can safely take and which, like the risk taken a hundred years ago, would repay us a thousandfold. I beg to move.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, the noble Lord's Motion is in itself an indication of the very widespread interest that is being taken in Colonial affairs—an interest which is to be cordially welcomed. We had a full and very valuable debate on Colonial matters no longer ago than last month and on that occasion the debate covered the whole ground of Colonial affairs. My noble relative, the Leader of the House, then laid down the general principles covering the Colonial policy of His Majesty's Government. He pointed out that that policy was directed towards the introduction of self-government in Colonial territories, but that the process must necessarily and inevitably be a gradual one, and that each territory must be treated separately. The greater contains the less and these principles of general application to the whole Colonial Empire would apply here as elsewhere.
The noble Lord's Motion deals more particularly with the West Indies and with his anxiety to see the progress of constitutional reform in those territories accelerated. Of course the pace at which constitutional reform should proceed is always likely to be a matter on which divergent views may be held, but I cannot help feeling that having regard to all the circumstances His Majesty's Government have been very far from dilatory. If I may, I should like to trace the recent history of these questions. It will be remembered that the West India Royal Commission under the Chairmanship of the late Leader of your Lordships' House, Lord Moyne, was set up in 1938. The Commission visited the West Indies in the winter of 1938–39 and engaged in a very careful and exhaustive examination of the problems with which 783 they had been appointed to deal. In December, 1939, they submitted a Report. The Commissioners were appointed to deal primarily with social and economic questions, but as those questions in Bermuda and the Bahamas took a very different shape those Colonies were not included in the Commission's terms of reference, nor indeed were constitutional questions specifically included. It was realized, however, that they were relevant to the inquiry and so the Commission had full discretion to deal with them as they thought fit. They did so and I think I may fairly say that their recommendations on these and other matters have led to action.
I can perhaps summarize the constitutional recommendations of the Moyne Commission. They made a series of recommendations and these are the main heads. Firstly, that all important sections and interests of the community should receive adequate representation in the Executive Council. Secondly, that the Committee system—the Committee of the Legislative Council on an advisory basis—should be adopted to give elected representatives an interest in the practical details of government. I think your Lordships will probably agree that is a very important feature in that, when you are making a very far-reaching step forward towards self-government, it is very important indeed that the people who are going to work self-government should have some knowledge of, and some training in, the subject. Thirdly, that official representation in the Council should be confined to the three principal Government officials. Fourthly, that the object of our policy should be to introduce universal suffrage. There was no agreement as to whether this should be done forthwith or by gradual changes. Fifthly, that the present margin between the qualifications for registration as a voter and those for membership of the Council should, where possible, be reduced. Sixthly, that a practical test of the advantages of federation should be made by combining the Leeward and Windward Islands in one federation on the lines of that existing in the former group.
All these recommendations—and I think your Lordships will agree that they are very considerable and far-reaching recommendations—were subject to the 784 proviso that the grant of immediate self-government, based on universal suffrage, was impossible if only because it would remove that measure of financial control which the Commission considered necessary if substantial assistance was to be afforded by His Majesty's Government. The Commission attached more importance to the truly representative character of Legislative Councils than to any drastic change in their functions.
If I now deal with the Colonies concerned one by one, I hope the noble Lord will not accuse me of dealing with the matter piecemeal. There can be no greater mistake than to suppose that because these Colonies are situated in the same part of the world their constitutional problems are all exactly similar. The noble Lord referred to their similarities. I could take up a great deal of time in talking about their dissimilarities. We are situated very close to France, geographically, but our problems are by no means the same as those of that country. It is a fact that these Colonies have very widely different problems. Each has its own Constitution, its own history and traditions, its own characteristics. The noble Lord is quite wrong in saying that the populations are the same. They are not. The extent to which His Majesty's Government are able to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission is governed, to a very large extent, by these factors, factors which are not within the control of His Majesty's Government.
Now, if I may, I should like to go through the Colonies separately in Trinidad, to which the noble Lord referred, official representation on the Council has now been reduced as recommended by the Commission and elected members form a half of the Legislative Council, the Governor having a casting vote. There are already elected members of the Legislative Council on the Executive Council. The question of franchise has been referred to a local Franchise Committee which at the present moment is still sitting. The Committee has been in being since the early summer of 1941, but as it is not an official body it is impossible to put a definite limit on its proceedings. The Governor has asked the chairman to expedite matters but I understand the Committee is still discussing the report of one of its sub-committees. 785 In British Guiana constitutional changes are governed by the British Guiana Act, which among other things lays down that any proposed Order of His Majesty in Council must be laid before both Houses for a prescribed period before being submitted to His Majesty in Council. Subject to that there are constitutional changes being put into effect.
As in the case of Trinidad, official representation is to be restricted to the three principal officials, the Colonial Secretary, the Treasurer and the Attorney-General. That was one of the recommendations, your Lordships will remember, of the Moyne Commission. The elected members will have in future a decisive majority on the Council. Membership of the Executive Council is to be confined to members of the Legislative Council, and there are already elected members of the Legislative Council on the Executive. The question of the franchise, as in Trinidad, has been referred to a Franchise Commission. Again as in Trinidad, this Commission began its work in the early summer of 1941, and has still not completed it. It is also not an official body, and it is not possible to put a time-limit on its proceedings. The Commission is at the moment contemplating a visit to the interior, before submitting its report. My right honourable friend and I share the noble Lord's hope that the Commission will do everything possible to expedite its report.
Could the noble Duke tell me when the last meeting of the Franchise Commission in British Guiana was held, and whether there has in fact been a meeting since May 22?
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
Without notice, I a m afraid that I cannot give the noble Lord that information; but I can tell him that efforts—"pressure" would be too strong a word—are being made to induce this body to expedite its work. It is contemplating, as I say, a visit to the interior.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
In British Honduras, where the problems are in many ways different, it will perhaps be sufficient if I say that care has been taken to see that all important sections 786 and interests of the community shall be represented on the Executive Council. In Jamaica a change has already been made in the Privy Council by the appointment thereto of two elected members of the Legislative Council. The course of events in Jamaica is not without interest. The proposals made by Lord Moyne as Secretary of State, which included universal adult suffrage, were turned down by the Legislative Council, and alternative proposals, which also include universal adult suffrage, have recently been put forward. These proposals were embodied in a memorandum signed not only by the fourteen elected members of the Legislative Council but also by three members of the Peoples' National Party, which is, I think rightly, regarded as the organization of those Jamaicans who hold national and democratic views, and by three members of the Federation of Citizens' Associations. The proposals differ from the Moyne proposal in that they envisage a bicameral system. Sir Arthur Richards, the Governor, is at this moment in England, and my right honourable friend is taking advantage of this circumstance to discuss these and other questions with him. Further than that I do not think that I can go at this moment.
In the Leeward Islands all the Presidencies, except the Virgin Islands, have Legislative Councils on which official representation is already confined as recommended by the Commission. Further, there are already elected members of the Legislative Council on the Executive Council. On the Federal Council there are equal numbers of official and unofficial members, including the Governor, who has a casting vote, as one of the officials. All the unofficial members are elected with the exception of the member for the Virgin Islands. The question of the franchise has been taken no further at the present moment, and is apparently tacitly in abeyance pending consideration of the question of federation, to which I shall refer later. In the Windward Islands, the position is broadly speaking the same as in the Leeward Islands. Since the beginning of 1937, official representation in the Legislative Council has been reduced as was later recommended by the Royal Commission, and the elected plus nominated unofficial members are in a majority. A General Election has been postponed for the dura- 787 tion of the war and for six months thereafter. Some of your Lordships may have noted that I have not said anything about the proposal of the Royal Commission to introduce the committee system of government, in which elected representatives would be associated with officials. Ways and means of bringing that about are still under consideration.
That is the position to-day, and I am bound to say that, in all the circumstances, I think that the remarkable thing is that, in the time, not so little but so much has been achieved. I do not want to over-emphasize the difficulties caused by the war, but it is a fact that during the whole of the time since the Moyne Report was received we have been engaged in a most desperate struggle for our very lives. I think it is very satisfactory that we should have been able to make such progress as we have made. The noble Lord, however, is not satisfied. He deplores the lack of a coherent policy for all the islands and regrets the piecemeal treatment to which he alleges they have been subjected. I do emphasize the fact that individual treatment of each of these territories is absolutely necessary and inevitable. It is quite impossible to lay down some form of sealed pattern of a Constitution and to suppose that it will be equally acceptable, or for that matter equally suitable, to all of them. That short review of the progress which has been made in these various Colonies in itself indicates the very considerable differences which exist in the various Colonies.
I think that the noble Lord must agree that the fact that His Majesty's Government have accepted the general recommendations of the Royal Commission is in itself an indication of some degree of coherence, though naturally the speed with which any reform can be carried out must depend upon the state of political advancement in the Colony concerned. I can say here and now, however, that it is the general desire of His Majesty's Government to encourage the local management of local affairs, with as little interference as may be necessary to secure what may be called the general interests of the British Empire as a whole. We are aiming, however, at realistic progress in the light of present conditions and potentialities. We do not want to lay down hard-and-fast rules, and very often 788 experience gained in one Colony may be a guide to us in another. Thus, we have experimented with the abolition of the official bloc, and, in the special case of the franchise, a part of Lord Moyne's proposal, it will be remembered, was the offer of universal suffrage in Jamaica. As I have said, the position in Jamaica is now under review, but, whatever may turn out to be the case there, that is not to say that the time has come to take this bold step in other Colonies. We have to consider these Colonies separately, according to their needs, their desires and their capacities, and that is why we have a Franchise Committee sitting in Trinidad and a Franchise Commission in British Guiana.
The noble Lord laid some emphasis on his belief that there might be an immediate extension of the franchise in advance, if necessary, of any constitutional changes, but there I think that the noble Lord really misses the point. Where constitutional changes are generally agreed upon, there is no reason why they should have to wait on such an extension; but the real trouble is that in some cases there may be a very large measure of agreement as to constitutional change, but no specific agreement as to the franchise. That is the case, for instance, in British Guiana, where we are awaiting the report of the Franchise Commission, and I see, and my right honourable friend sees, no reason, because there are differences or opinion about the franchise, to delay any desirable constitutional changes. And in fact they are being proceeded with in that Colony. My noble friend made a special point of inquiring into the progress of these Franchise Commissions and urged that they should be stimulated. Well, it is true that these Franchise Commissions have not been very expeditious—no one deplores that fact more than His Majesty's Government. But, if I understood the noble Lord correctly, he wanted pressure to be brought upon them, or even suggested that they might be re-formed or re-constituted. The mere fact that there has been this considerable delay does, I think, indicate the difficulty and complexity of their tasks, and I scarcely think that the noble Lord's object of speeding things up would be achieved by re-forming or re-constituting these Commissions and compelling them to start from scratch. And that is quite apart from the fact that these Commissions or Committees, as the 789 case may be, are not our Commissions: they belong to the Colonies concerned.
The noble Lord deplored the lack of plans for the federation of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. There there is a definite practical difficulty which it is no good ignoring. It is that of assuring administrative authority for the Executive, while the Federal Legislative Council is not in session. Owing to the very considerable distances between the islands and the poor communications between them, the Federal Legislature cannot be in constant session, and there must be substantial intervals during which the transaction of federal business would either have to be delayed or suspended, or the Governor took executive action subject to subsequent ratification by the Council. As the principle of an unofficial majority of elected and nominated members has been accepted, this question might lead to considerable difficulty. But, setting aside that practical difficulty, the attitude of the Government to federation is, in general, sympathetic. There are practical difficulties, and I do not say that they can be easily overcome, but we are definitely sympathetic towards the federation of these islands.
Then the noble Lord went on to ask whether a democratic franchise could not be introduced need in Bermuda, the Bahamas and Barbados. I think he indicated that these islands suffer from an oligarchy, and that the need of a universal franchise was particularly urgent because in his view these islands are unprogressive in labour matters. With all respect to the noble Lord, I do not think the position is as bad, or indeed nearly as bad, as he makes out. With regard to labour supervision, all three Colonies have set up Labour Advisory Boards on the lines recommended by the Secretary of State's Labour Adviser. The Bermuda Board includes United States representatives. Barbados appointed a frill-time Labour Officer in 1939, is now considering increasing his staff, and has placed the Government Employment Agency under his supervision. The Bahamas have appointed a Labour Officer.
With regard to legislation, Barbados has enacted four important Acts—Trade Unions, Trade Disputes, Minimum Wage, and Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children. They also have prepared a Workmen's Compensation Act, which has passed the House of 790 Assembly and is now under consideration by the Legislative Council. The Bahamas have passed minimum wage legislation, which has been used to regulate wages in the building industry, and employment of women, young persons and children legislation. It is true that the labour codes—that is, the laws governing the relations between employers and employed and contracts of service—of all three Colonies are of considerable antiquity. In the cases of Bermuda and Barbados the original laws have only been once amended and in the case of the Bahamas never amended.
But I think I have said enough to indicate that things are moving. A number of officials have been borrowed from the Ministry of Labour here to assist progress in labour matters in the West Indian Colonies and two trade union officials are employed by Governments in these Colonies to assist in labour matters.
I confess to a feeling of some surprise, and indeed some entertainment, that the noble Lord should have quarrelled with the policy of His Majesty's Government on this point. A very considerable portion of his speech was devoted to urging that a greater measure of responsible self-government should be conferred upon these Colonies. The noble Lord was inclined to be critical towards His Majesty's Government for withholding it or for not having gone fast enough in conferring it. But we are dealing—I do emphasize that fact—with the case of Colonies which have ancient Constitutions of their own and which already have a very wide measure of self-government. The noble Lord does not altogether like the results. Almost in the same breath as that in which he said that these Colonies should have a greater measure of self-government, he urges His Majesty's Government to take action to enforce the policy which he himself favoured. Surely that is rather illogical. The case of these three Colonies does underline the point to which I hope the noble Lord will pay due attention. What do he and his friends really want? Do they want local control or do they want administration up to the latest and most modern United Kingdom standards? It may well be that at the present stage of development some Colonies in various parts of the world cannot have both.
The policy of the Government is quite clearly defined. We want to see these 791 Colonies self-governed and we want to see them well governed, and we are seeking to promote that state of affairs, but there are facts which it is the merest folly not to recognize. It is a fact that we ourselves, with a constitutional history and Parliamentary institutions immensely older than those of these Colonies, only attained to full manhood suffrage well within the lifetime of most of us in this House to-day. It is a fact that too rash and hasty advance might lead to most disastrous results. It is a fact that no o matter how desirable the system of full democratic self-government may be, it is a system on which it is very rash to embark without going through a preliminary process of education. But within those limits it is the policy to foster the growth of democratic institutions and to go forward as fast as possible. The noble Lord is, I believe, a convinced Fabian and a very prominent member of the Fabian Society. I would urge him to study the character of his great leader, Fabius Cunctator. The chief characteristic, as I understand it, of that great man and the one to which his great successes were due was that he took action at the psychological moment but not before. That is the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to Colonial affairs, and I think it is one that the noble Lord should warmly approve and support.
My Lords, it is not my intention to follow the noble Duke throughout his long and clear, if not, in my view, satisfactory reply. I can only hope that British subjects in the West Indies may find the Government reply more comforting than I did. I confess that two years do not seem to me a vertiginous pace of progress. I quite appreciate that in war-time there are particular and peculiar difficulties. I was particularly disturbed by the noble Duke's repeated and apparently quite satisfied references to the Franchise Commissions in British Guiana and Trinidad. There is, at any rate, something amounting to very strong suspicion, if not more, that these Commissions, which he described as unofficial, and therefore not in a position to be coerced by the Colonial Office, are, in fact, sabotaging the work which they were set up to do. I have a number of cuttings which show that there is no lack of work for them to do, that there are literally thousands of people 792 desiring to give evidence before them, but that it is quite impossible, apparently, for them to procure a quorum. This seems to call for something not only as strong as pressure but considerably stronger.
I was a little disturbed also by the noble Duke's references to the proposed new Constitution for British Honduras in which, he said, all interests would be represented. There are certain interests which those who know British Honduras well recognize are perhaps over-powerful in the Colony, and I trust they will not be over-represented in the new Constitution. Finally, the noble Duke sang that well-known theme-song of the Colonial Office in B very flat, to the effect that where you have these Constitutions it is inconsistent to ask that they should be coerced or superseded in order that a more progressive policy may be followed. There is clearly all the difference in the world between a democratic Constitution, for whose deliberations and decisions one would have the respect one feels for our own Parliament, and a Parliament, as in Barbados, which, as I mentioned when speaking, represents only three per cent. of the population. That is not a democratic Constitution, nor do I consider myself inconsistent in asking to have it superseded, or, without its own consent, liberalized. I am sorry that the noble Duke has been unable to give, not a more encouraging picture of the past, because he drew a not uninteresting and optimistic view of the situation, but a more optimistic picture of progress in the future. Perhaps on some future occasion he will have something to add which will bring greater comfort to my noble friends and also to the people of the West Indies. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.