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Bahamas (Constitution)

Volume 414: debated on Wednesday 17 October 1945

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the difficulties in the Bahamas regarding constitutional changes and the secret ballot have yet been resolved, and whether legislation has been passed.

The Bahamas House of Assembly adopted in April a report recording the opinion that the system of voting by secret ballot ought, subject to certain safeguards, to be extended to the Out-Islands. The report also expressed the view that simultaneously with that extension certain constitutional changes should be effected. They were asked to frame and submit, with the minimum of delay, any proposals for constitutional reform which they decide to put forward, and it is understood that the House of Assembly will consider this matter during their next session, which will open in November.

Could my right hon. Friend tell us whether it is or is not true that on the basis of the present franchise in the Bahamas, only one-sixth of the population now enjoys any franchise rights at all?

Yes, Sir. I regret to say that the figure given by my hon. and gallant Friend is quite correct. We are endeavouring to improve it.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in January, leading politicians in the island gave me an assurance that they would make urgent proposals for dealing with this, and will he point out to them that there will be no sympathy in any part of the House for their dilatory tactics?

We have already anticipated what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said. We have pointed out to the Speaker of the Assembly and to the Government, that we shall expect the promise which was given to be implemented.

Could my right hon. Friend say whether the constitutional changes include the possibility of complete adult franchise?

Can my right hon. Friend say whether action will be taken to see that they do?