HL Deb 08 December 1953 vol 184 cc1029-32

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to interrupt proceedings for a few moments to make a statement similar to that which my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary is making in another place about constitutional changes in Northern Rhodesia. My right honourable friend has agreed, at the request of the Elected Members of the Legislative Council, to advance the date of his visit to Northern Rhodesia, and he now proposes to arrive there early in January, to discuss the constitutional position with Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council. During his stay he will also meet members of the African Representative Council and have discussions with them.

On Question, Whether the said new words shall be there inserted?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 10; Not-Contents, 51.

Huntingdon, E. Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and kincardine.) Moyne, L. [Teller.]
Pakenham, L. [Teller.]
FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Faringdon, L. Raglan, L.
Killearn, L. Sempill, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.) Goschen, V. Hare, L. (E. Listowel.)
Hudson, V. Hawke, L.
Wellington, D. Samuel, V. Hillingdon, L.
Swinton, V. Hindlip, L.
Bristol, M. Woolton, V. Jeffreys, L.
Reading, M. Kinnaird, L.
Bath and Wells, L. Bp. Lloyd, L.
Birkenhead, E. Mancroft, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Balfour of Inchrye, L. Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)
Belstead, L. Pethick-Lawrence, L.
Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Carrington, L. Rathcavan, L.
Ilchester, E. Clwyd, L. Rea, L.
Jowitt, E. Courthope, L. Rochdale, L.
Munster, E. De L'Isle and Dudley, L. Rockley, L.
Onslow, E. [Teller.] Digby, L. Saltoun, L.
Rothes, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L. Turnour, L. (E. Winterton.)
Selkirk, E. Freyberg, L. Waleran, L.
Gifford, L. Webb-Johnson, L.
Bledisloe, V. Grantchester, L. Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)
Furness, V.

Resolved in the Negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

In agreeing to pay this early visit, my right honourable friend has explained that, whatever may be the outcome of his discussions with the Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council and with members of the African Representative Council during his visit, there will be no variation in the constitutional changes which are set out in Part II of his announcement of September 23 last.

My right honourable friend has also confirmed that the reference to the franchise in Part III of that announcement related to future political development, and that he does not contemplate introducing any changes in the franchise to become effective during the life of the next Legislative Council (which he sees no reason to suppose will be less than the normal five years), unless all Parties are agreed in desiring such changes during that period and Her Majesty's Government are prepared to accept them.

In these circumstances, the Elected Members have decided to withdraw, with effect from December 9, their resignations from Government boards and committees, and Mr. G. B. Beckett and Lieutenant-Colonel E. M. Wilson have decided to withdraw their resignations from the Executive Council, with effect from the same date.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl warmly for the statement he has made, and to say how glad I am to hear that the Secretary of State has been able to fix a date for his visit to Northern Rhodesia, and also that the European Unofficial Members of the Legislative Council will now resume co-operation with the Government of the Territory. I should like to add one other comment. I feel sure that it would do a tremendous amount of good if the Secretary of State were able, during his time in Central Africa, to visit the adjoining Territory of Nyasaland. In view of the important changes that have taken place in Central Africa, I think it would be of great advantage to all the communities of the local population if they could have an opportunity of meeting the Secretary of State personally, and of expressing their views about local matters and about Central Africa generally.


I will certainly convey the views of the noble Earl to my right honourable friend.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl could enlighten me on this. Does this declaration mean that, in effect, the present provisions, under which British-protected persons have no vote in Northern Rhodesia, will hold good not only until after the next election but until the election after that? In other words, does it mean that if no alteration is introduced during the period of the new Legislature, the subsequent Legislature will still be elected on the extremely limited basis which is now operative?


My Lords, there will be no change in the franchise during the forthcoming election, which takes place in February; and, as I think I pointed out in the course of my remarks, the Secretary of State does not see any reason to believe that the new Legislative Council will not last its full period of five years. But there can be alterations in the franchise during the life of this coming Legislative Council if all the Parties are in agreement and if Her Majesty's Government approve.


My Lords, I do not think the noble Earl has quite taken my point. My point is this. Is the possibility completely written off that a new electoral roll, or a new electoral system, might be introduced within the five years but before the next election? Could the election—not the immediate next election, but that following—be on a different basis?


My Lords, the next election will be fought on the existing franchise. The future depends on whether the franchise is altered during the period of the next Legislative Council.