HL Deb 13 December 1955 vol 195 cc3-4

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the improved situation in British Guiana, they will consult the Government of the territory about the possibility of holding elections for the early restoration of a representative Legislature.]


My Lords, it is the firm policy of Her Majesty's Government to do everything possible to fit British Guiana for a return to representative government. The Governor, Sir Patrick Renison, made it clear in his Address to the Legislative Council on his arrival in the Colony that he regarded this as his primary task, and, as was foreshadowed in reply to a recent Question in another place, he made an announcement on December 11, relaxing restrictions on public meetings. When he has had an opportunity of assessing the situation following the relaxation of the restrictions we shall certainly have consultations with him on the prospects of making further progress in the political field, but it would be premature for me to make any prediction about the time when it may be possible to hold elections.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply, which is reassuring, but may I ask him two questions on matters arising out of his statement? The first is this. Will it be possible for British Guiana to adhere to the Federation of the British West Indies before or until it has a representative Legislature? The second question is: If these restrictions have already been relaxed—which is an indication that there has been no disorder or violence in the colony for a considerable period of time—is the noble Lord really convinced that there is a case for retaining the emergency powers, which I am sure he will agree should be terminated at the earliest possible moment?


My Lords, as regards the first of the noble Earl's supplementary questions, I think that clearly it would not be proper or possible for a Government which is not representative to commit British Guiana to federation at the present stage. As regards the noble Earl's second supplementary question, I think we ought to proceed steadily but slowly in these matters, and I should like to see how the situation develops. I am bearing the noble Earl's point in mind, but I think we should do one thing at a time.