HC Deb 10 April 1957 vol 568 cc122-4W
89. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the decision of the newly-elected African members of the Kenya Legislative Council not to accept Ministerial posts and their official declaration that the Lyttelton Constitution is null and void.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The following is the reply which the Governor of Kenya, with my agreement, has returned to the request of the African members for additional seats in Legislative Council.I am directed by His Excellency the Governor to reply to your letter of 18th March on the subject of African representation in the Legislative Council. It is necessary first of all to make it clear that the present Constitution ofthe Colony, including composition of the Legislative Council, is based upon various documents which comprise what is usually known as the Lyttelton Plan. These documents include certain amendments to Letters Patent and Royal Instructions, the Secretary of State's despatches of 15th April, 1954, and the annexures to those despatches. The present Constitutional arrangements are in effect the outcome of an agreement between several parties. There is nothing to prevent their amendment in any way which is acceptable to all parties concerned. But agreement between the parties is essential before any change can be introduced and agreement cannot be achieved without prior discussion and negotiation between those parties. It is true that the African group in the Legislative Council did not in April, 1954, positively endorse new Constitutional arrangements. All the same two members of that group, with the concurrence of the remainder, participated in the Government then formed as a Minister and as a Parliamentary Secretary respectively. Further, all members of group subsequently adopted the position of parties to new Constitutional arrangements. They took part with Government and with other groups in the Legislative Council in subsequent negotiations for modification of the Constitution. The agreement which resulted took the form of a statement published by all groups in the Legislative Council. Following that agreement a seat in the Council of Ministers was provided for a second African Minister and two new seats were provided for Africans in the Legislative Council; indeed two of the present Members owe their seats to this 1956 Agreement. Moreover, among the Constitutional Agreements reached in 1954 was one for institution of an inquiry into the method of selecting Africans for the Legislative Council and it was as a result of this inquiry that the system of direct elections of Africans which has led to the return of the present African elected Members was adopted. For all these reasons the Government cannot accept the view that African group in the Legislative Council did not adopt or participate in the present Constitutional arrangements or that Africans have not benefited in those arrangements. The Government is responsible for interests of all communities in Kenya. Its policy is to encourage a common approach among members of these communities to problems of the country. The establishment of a Government in which all races can participate was an example of application of the idea of that common approach. The continuance of a government of this nature remains the settled policy. In these circumstances your decision not to participate in the Government is a matter of regret and in the opinion of the Government is not in the best interests of the African people, particularly at this moment when the Government will have to discuss important questions affecting Africans. The present agreed arrangements for the Government of the Colony will continue in spite of your decision to refrain from participation in the Government. Paragraph 8 of Command Paper which formed the annexure to Secretary of State's despatch 15th April. 1954, provided that if any of the Unofficial Members of the Council of Ministers resigned or otherwise vacated his office the Governor would nominate another person of the same race to take his place; and that if no such person considered suitable by the Governor were available it would be open for Governor to nominate an Official. It follows that in the circumstances created by your refusal to take part in the Government the Governor can make use of these provisions. The Government is prepared to enter into discussion at any time on proposals for Constitutional changes. The Government does not believe that Constitutional change is either impossible or undesirable. But it does consider that in any circumstances and whatever Constitutional arrangements might be it would be necessary to enter into full discussions with all groups jointly before any changes were made. In present circumstances a change made without agreement of all groups in the Legislative Council would be a breach of policy and therefore cannot be contemplated. The Government attaches great importance to agreements made with groups in the Legislative Council.