HC Deb 11 July 1961 vol 644 cc28-32W
85. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on his recent talks with the leaders of political parties in Mauritius.

Mr. Iain Macleod


At the end of a series of talks held in the conference room, and held privately both with those parties represented at the Conference and those who came to London of their own accord to make their views known to me, I put forward proposals for constitutional advance in Mauritius. These are divided into two stages and rest upon the assumption that constitutional advance in Mauritius towards internal self-government is inevitable and desirable but that its extent and timing must take into account the heterogeneity of the population and include provisions for adequate safeguards for the liberties of individuals and the interests of various communities.

The first stage is to be brought into operation as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. The second stage presents the broad basis of the constitution for adoption after the next general election, if in the light of that election it is agreed by the Legislative Council and recommended to me by the Chief Minister. If all goes well, and if it seems generally desirable, Mauritius should be able in this second stage, to move towards full internal self-government.

It is not possible at this stage to suggest what should be the precise status of Mauritius after the attainment of full internal self-government. It is the general wish that Mauritius should remain within the Commonwealth, but whether this should be achieved as an 'independent State, or in some form of special association either with the United Kingdom or with other independent Commonwealth countries, are matters which should be considered during the next few years in the light of constitutional progress generally.

The changes proposed are:

First Stage

  1. (1) The Leader of the Majority Party in the Legislature would be given the title of Chief Minister.
  2. (2) The Governor would consult the Chief Minister on such matters as the appointment and removal of Ministers, the allocation of portfolios and the summoning, proroguing, and dissolution of the Council. It would be understood that in general he would not be bound to accept the Chief Minister's advice but that he would act on the advice of the Chief Minister in the appointment or removal of Ministers belonging to the Chief Minister's party.
  3. (3) An additional unofficial Ministerial post would he created. The new Ministry would have responsibility for Posts and Telegraphs, Telecommunications, the Central Office of Information and the Broadcasting Service.
  4. (4) The Colonial Secretary would be restyled "Chief Secretary".

Second Stage

(1) Executive Council

  1. (a) The Council would be called the Council of Ministers.
  2. (b) The Chief Minister would be given the title of Premier.
  3. (c) The Premier would be appointed by the Governor in accordance with the conventions obtaining in the United Kingdom; that is to say, the Premier would be the person who, in the opinion of the Governor, was most likely to be able to command the support of the majority of members of the Legislature.
  4. (d) The Council would not be a purely Majority Party government but as at present would include representatives of other parties or elements which accepted the invitation to join the Government and the principle of collective responsibility.
  5. (e) In appointing Ministers from groups other than the Premier's party, the Governor would act in his discretion but would consult with the Premier and such other persons as he deemed fit to consult.
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  7. (f) The Financial Secretary would cease to be a member of the Council.
  8. (g) Provision would be made for the post of Attorney-General to be filled by an Official or by an unofficial Minister. In the former case the holder would cease to be a member of the Council but would continue to be available to attend meetings as an Adviser. In the latter case it would be necessary to create a new official post of Director of Public Prosecutions who would be solely responsible in his discretion for the initiation, conduct and discontinuance of prosecutions and would in this respect be independent of the Attorney-General.
  9. (h) The Chief Secretary would continue to be a member of the Council and would become in addition to his substantive appointment Minister for Home Affairs.
  10. (i) An Unofficial Deputy Minister for Home Affairs would be appointed.

(2) Legislative Council

  1. (a) The Council would be re-named the Legislative Assembly.
  2. (b) The Assembly would contain 40 elected members. The maximum number of nominated members would be increased to 15. It is contemplated that two or three of these appointments should be held in reserve.
  3. (c) The Speaker would be elected by the Legislative Assembly from among its members but this provision would only become effective on the retirement of the present Speaker.
  4. (d) The Financial Secretary and (if the post were held by an Official) the Attorney-General would cease to be members of the Legislative Assembly.
  5. (e) The Governor in his discretion would summon, prorogue and dissolve the Assembly after consultation with the Premier.

(3) The Public Service, Police Service and Judiciary

  1. (a) The Public Service and Police Service Commissions and the proposed Judicial and Legal Service Commission would remain advisory to the Governor. The Governor would, however, be required to consult the Premier in respect of certain appointments, viz., Permanent Secretary (or by whatever title the senior administrative officer in a Ministry is described) and Heads of Departments.
  2. (b) The Chairman and members of the Commissions would continue to be appointed by the Governor in his discretion.
  3. (c) The membership and procedure of the Commissions, in the second stage, would so far as possible be conducive to the development of these bodies in such a way as to enable them to become fully executive.
  4. (d) During the life of the Legislative Assembly following the next General Election the Service Commissions would become executive. At this stage, while the Chairman and members of the Commission would continue to be appointed by the Governor in his discretion, he would be required to consult the Premier in respect of these appointments.
  5. (e) The appointment of the Chief Justice would remain as at present.

(4) External Affairs, Defence and Internal Security

  1. (a) These matters would remain within the responsibility of the Governor who would, however, consult with the Premier about these matters.
  2. (b) The operational control of the Police and Special Force would continue to be the responsibility of the Commissioner under authority of the Governor.

(5) Human Rights

The Constitution would include provision for the safeguarding of human rights and fundamental freedoms and for the redress of infringements of these rights and freedoms in the courts.

The Independent Forward Bloc and the Parti Mauricien, for reasons which they gave in full to the conference, were unable to accept my proposals.

The Mauritius Labour Party considered that the proposals did not provide the measure of advance which they were fully justified in claiming. They were, however, prepared to accept them, if reluctantly, as a compromise, on the recommendation of Her Majesty's Government, in the best interests of Mauritius.

The Muslim Committee of Action did not consider that the proposals adequately safeguarded the interests of the Muslim community. Reluctantly, however, and as a compromise, they too were prepared to accept them in the general interest of Mauritius as a whole.

The two independent members considered that it would not be wise in present circumstances to go beyond my proposals. They recognised that some measure of advance was inevitable and as the electorate would be given an opportunity of expressing its views before the second and more important stage was introduced, they too accepted them.

I informed the Conference that while it was clear that unanimous agreement could not be reached, in my view a sufficient measure of acceptance had been indicated to justify my recommending the adoption of my proposals.

Certain delegates proposed the creation of a "Council of State" or "high-powered Tribunal". The functions and composition of such a body would, however, present problems of some complexity and would need careful study. I propose to address a dispatch to the Governor giving my considered views on this, after consultation with Professor de Smith, the Constitutional Commis- sioner. I undertook at the same time to indicate the arrangements which could be made to ensure that the Information and Broadcasting Services should continue to operate on a non-partisan basis.

It was agreed that consideration should be given at a later stage to the question whether a visit to Mauritius by the Constitutional Commissioner, Professor de Smith, would be valuable in examining in greater detail the broad conclusions of the Conference and considering particular aspects which had not come within its scope.

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