§ 3.27 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR COLONIAL AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PERTH)
My Lords, I think it has already been announced that I was going to make a statement on the Sierra Leone Constitutional Conference. Constitutional talks have been held with an all-party delegation from Sierra Leone. They ended yesterday. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary agreed that Sierra Leone would become independent on April 27, 1961.
Before independence certain interim changes will be introduced. Most of these will be made within the next few weeks. Among the most important of them are that the Governor will hand over the Presidency of the Executive Council to the Premier who will become Prime Minister. Executive Public and Judicial Commissions will be set up and Ministers will be associated with the handling of defence, police and external affairs. Among other matters, the Conference agreed to the inclusion of provisions to safeguard fundamental human rights in the Constitution which comes into effect on independence and to the procedure for amending the Constitution and entrenching the basic constitutional provisions.
While the Conference was on, we held talks about defence and finance. It was agreed that the two Governments will negotiate an Agreement for mutual defence co-operation, to be signed after independence. On finance, Her Majesty's Government recognised that the initial burdens of independence, including defence and compensation for 437 overseas officers, would present some difficulty at a time when normal colonial-type assistance would cease. Her Majesty's Government therefore offered assistance totalling £7½ million, of which £3½ million will be Commonwealth Assistance Loans and the remainder grants and technical assistance. The compensation scheme will be designed to encourage officers to stay.
I am happy to say that the Conference was marked by great cordiality and good-will. At the end of our discussions the Conference reaffirmed the long tradition of friendship between Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom, and the representatives of both made it clear that it was their intention that their co-operation and friendship should continue. The Report of the Conference will be published as a White Paper as soon as possible.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, we are greatly obliged to the noble Earl for giving us the statement which is being made by the Secretary of State in another place and which I think your Lordships will agree Seems to be not only comprehensive but very satisfactory. We are glad of the particular heads which are noted in the statement and which have been agreed to by both sides, as to human rights, defence co-operation and the like. I hope that this will be the beginning of a real development in progress for the population of that territory, and without any interference with the growth of the commercial connections that this country has had, besides imperial connections, in the past. I hope that the growth of commercial connections there will continue, to the benefit of both sides.
My Lords, I should like to re-echo the words of the noble Viscount who has just spoken and say how pleased we all are that this matter has gone so well and how particularly pleasant it is to see that the Conference was marked throughout by great cordiality and goodwill. All that is left is to wish for a fair wind and that all will go prosperously and happily.