HL Deb 25 October 1960 vol 225 cc996-9

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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why, in view of the almost unanimous desire of the Buganda people for a Constitution separate from that of the rest of Uganda, the request has been refused.]


My Lords, the Lukiiko passed a resolution on September 24 in which it was stated that Buganda was determined to be a separate autonomous State. With the agreement of my right honourable friend, the Governor rejected this resolution because the demand for a separate Buganda is one to which Her Majesty's Government cannot accede without serious injustice, not only to the people of Buganda themselves but to the remaining 4½million people in the other parts of the Protectorate. During the period of British rule the economy, the communications system and many other services have been built up by Uganda as a whole and it is abundantly clear that Buganda and the other parts of the Protectorate are interdependent. Her Majesty's Government are opposed to any policy which would result in the disintegration of the country and a legacy of disarticulated Kingdoms, Provinces and Districts.

At the same time, however, Her Majesty's Government have always recognised the special position of Buganda, and this has been reflected in the special Constitution which now exists for that Kingdom. With that special position in mind, and, indeed, also that of the other three Kingdoms, my right honourable friend has, as your Lordships are aware, announced his intention to set up a Relationships Commission to advise on the future form of Government which will be suited to Uganda and on the question of the relationship between the central Government and the other authorities. And he has suggested that when this Commission's Report is available, which should be soon after the elections have taken place in February or March, a conference should be held, probably in the latter half of 1961, at which all parts of Uganda will be represented, so that a solution acceptable to all can be worked out.

My Lords, the resolution of the Lukiiko to which I have referred or, indeed, the memorandum which has subsequently been addressed to Her Majesty the Queen, should not be taken as representing the almost unanimous view of the people of Buganda. The fact is that these people have not so far had an opportunity to express their views. It is to be hoped that the forthcoming general election will provide such an opportunity. My right honourable friend believes that it is by sending elected members to a central Legislature that the peoples of Uganda can best tackle and solve their own problems. For this reason he cannot but deplore the decision of the Buganda Government not to co-operate in the elections and the statements they have made designed to prevent people from registering as electors. My right honourable friend trusts that even now wiser counsels will prevail and that the Buganda Government will see the folly of pursuing a negative course that can in no way protect or further the interests of their people.


My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for his full and interesting reply, and ask him this supplementary question? Will an opportunity be given to your Lordships' House and another place to discuss this very important question before an irrevocable decision is taken by Her Majesty's Government? And is he aware that Borne concern is felt by many of us at the way in which Constitutions are either promised or given to various parts of Africa without full consultation with Parliament?


My Lords, as my noble friend knows, it is always open to any noble Lord to put down a Motion for debate if he feels that the interests of the House are engaged, as I am sure they are in this case.


My Lords, while commending the Minister on the excellent reply he gave, may I ask him whether the Government will do everything in their power to persuade the people of Buganda to register in readiness for the forthcoming elections?


My Lords, I should rather like to have an answer to the question put by the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, as to whether there will be actual Parliamentary consultation before any decision is taken.


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Viscount would prefer me to answer that question. Of course, if it is the desire of the House that must be done; but perhaps the noble Viscount could pursue the matter through the channels of discussion, because until my noble friend spoke no such request had reached me.


My Lords, may I have an answer to my question: will the Government do everything in their power to persuade the people of Buganda to register, because, as he knows, at the present moment the Kabaka and his Government are dissuading them from registering—and pretty forcibly, too.


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are well aware of that, and, as the noble Lord may be aware, a law was passed recently through the legislative body enabling the Governor to take more action against any intimidation, against either registration or casting of votes. That law has not yet been brought into force, but should the scale of intimidation reach a point where it is rendered necessary, it will be. It is ready to be used.


My Lords, may I ask a further supplementary question? The noble Earl has dealt with great ability with a Colonial Office brief, and it may be difficult to add words to what he has said. Can he tell us how soon the Relationships Commission will be appointed, or how soon we shall know when it will be appointed, what its terms of reference will be, and who will sit on the Commission?


My Lords, I am afraid that that is too difficult for me. I can tell the noble Earl that the Relationships Commission is not yet complete, but it is hoped, particularly by my right honourable friend, that the membership will be completed as soon as possible so that it will be possible to announce it. Its terms of reference are rather more complicated than I can give him on this occasion, but I shall certainly be pleased to give them later.