HC Deb 02 July 1963 vol 680 cc27-8W
49. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the postponement of the constitutional talks regarding federation proposals in the East Caribbean.

Mr. Sandys

The following is the statement I issued on 10th June which explains fully the reasons for the postponement of this Conference.

Following upon the break-up of the West Indies Federation and the decision to grant independence separately to Jamaica and Trinidad, a conference of the remaining eight West Indian colonies was held in London in June, 1962. At this conference the representatives of these territories agreed to form a federation. The main features of the proposed federation were set out in the conference report (Cmnd. 1746).

Shortly afterwards, there were elections in Grenada, which resulted in a change of government. The new government decided to seek association with Trinidad in preference to joining the proposed federation

In December, 1962, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Duncan Sandys, took the opportunity of his visit to the Caribbean to hold a joint meeting of the Chief Ministers of Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Kitts, St. Lucia and St.Vincent, in a statement issued after this meeting, the Ministers unanimously reaffirmed their conviction that federation offered the best prospects for the economic and political progress of their peoples; and it was agreed that a conference should be convened in London in June, 1963, to reach final decisions about the form of the federation.

In preparation for this conference, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Nigel Fisher, had discussions in Barbados with the Chief Ministers of the seven territories on 24th to 31st May. These discussions revealed a significant divergence of opinion between the governments concerned. Some of the differences arose from further reflection upon the original proposals, while others arose from consideration of recent expert studies of the administrative, fiscal and economic aspects of the problem.

At the final session of the conference on 31st May, the Chief Ministers presented to Mr. Fisher a statement suggesting a new procedure for establishing the federation. This statement had been agreed between the seven Ministers, subject to the reservations by three of them.

Since the suggestions in this statement involved radical changes in the proposals previously considered, and since time would clearly be required to study them, it was agreed that the Constitutional Conference in London would have to be postponed until later in the year.