§ 2.35 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is appreciated that, in connection with the decision to give the Malayan Federation independence with a new Constitution as from the 31st August, there is considerable disquiet amongst sections of the population of Malaya on account of their fear lest this new Constitution should put them at a disadvantage in regard to such important matters as religion, citizenship, franchise and official language; and whether in these circumstances an early statement can be made as to the procedure which is to be followed to ensure first, that the people of Malaya shall be given an adequate opportunity to consider the terms of the new Constitution before it is enacted, and secondly, that Parliament shall be given full scope to consider the implications of the draft Constitution.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COLONIAL AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PERTH)
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are aware of the differences of opinion that exist in the Federation of Malaya on such matters as religion, citizenship, franchise, and official language in regard to the future Constitution of the country. It is because of this that Her Majesty's Government have taken great care in consulting all shades of opinion in the Federation on these important questions.
Your Lordships will remember that the date of August 31 for independence was fixed at the Constitutional Conference held in London in January and 194 February, 1956. Subsequently, a Constitutional Commission, under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Reid, visited Malaya and heard representations from all points of view in the Federation before preparing a draft Constitution. The constitutional proposals have been discussed carefully with those in authority in Malaya, and they have been considered by representatives of their Highnesses the Rulers and the Government of the Federation, both in Malaya and, more recently, with Her Majesty's Government in London. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies hopes shortly to publish a White Paper setting out the agreements, which have now been reached, and a similar White Paper will be published in the Federation.
So far as the Constitution itself is concerned, it is subject to approval by the Federal and State Legislatures in the Federation, who will thus be given an adequate opportunity to consider it. Our Parliament here will equally, of course, have an opportunity to consider the constitutional arrangements as soon as the necessary legislation can be brought before it. I must warn your Lordships that, however hard we try, the timetable for debating the arrangements both here and in another place is likely to be tight, I should emphasise that this is owing to the time necessarily taken in consulting the various opinions in the Federation on the constitutional proposals.