HC Deb 13 March 1956 vol 550 cc24-6W
88. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what proposals he has now made for constitutional change in Mauritius.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In a dispatch to the Governor I have informed him of the conclusions reached by Her Majesty's Government as a result of their consideration of the matter over the past year.

2. The principal changes proposed are:

(a) Executive Council

Membership will be increased from 9 to 12, of whom 7 will be unofficial members elected by the Legislative Council under the existing system of a single transferable vote, two will be unofficial members nominated by the Governor and three will be ex officio members. The elected element will therefore, for the first time, be in the majority and the retention of the present system of election from the Legislative Council should ensure that they are as truly representative as possible of the community as a whole. The Council will exercise collective executive responsibility (subject to the retention of the Governor's reserved powers), in contrast with the purely advisory functions of the existing Council. All members will be entitled "Minister." Six unofficial members will be assigned portfolios and will be responsible to the Governor in Executive Council for matters within their portfolios and for the conduct of Government business relating to them in the Legislative Council.

(b) Legislative Council

The number of elected members of Legislative Council will be increased from 19 to 25 and flexibility will be introduced in the determination of the number of nominated members by providing that it shall be a maximum of 12. The three ex officio members will be retained.

(c) Speaker

There will be a Speaker for the Legislative Council, the first holder of the office being appointed from outside the Colony.

(d) Constituencies

The present system of multi-member constituencies will be retained, with one modification in boundaries to provide for five constituencies each returning four members, and one returning five members.

(e) Electoral System

The present literacy qualification required for registration as a voter will be abolished and universal adult suffrage will be introduced at the 1958 General Election. The system of election by a majority vote in multi-member constituencies will be replaced by a system of proportional representation with a single transferable vote similar to that which already obtains in elections from Legislative Council to Executive Council. In the circumstances of Mauritius it is believed that this will produce a more precise reflection of public opinion.

3. So far as the timing of these changes is concerned it is proposed that:

  1. (a) the increase in the membership of Executive Council and the introduction of a Ministerial system should take effect in the autumn of 1956;
  2. (b) provision should be made for the appointment of a Speaker as soon as practicable;
  3. (c) the increase in the membership of Legislative Council should take place in 1958 on the basis of the new franchise and electoral system, which together constitute interdependent parts of an integrated plan.

4. Printed copies of my exchange of despatches with the Governor are being made available in the Library for the use of hon. Members.

5. These proposals are the outcome of many months of protracted discussions in the Colony and of most careful consideration by Her Majesty's Government in the light of the talks which I had with a representative delegation from Mauritius last July. I believe that, with the exercise of tolerance, patience and realisation of the need for mutual understanding by all communities, they will provide every opportunity for the orderly development of the consitutional life of the Colony.

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