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Colonial Empire

Volume 478: debated on Wednesday 25 October 1950

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Statutory Instrument No 1184


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will identify the statutory power under which S. I., 1950, No. 1184, has been given retrospective effect.

The Order in Council was made under the British Settlements Acts, 1887 and 1945. Although there is no statutory provision expressly providing for such orders to be given retrospective effect, I am advised that they may lawfully be made to operate retrospectively, and that the power to give similar retrospective operation to colonial constitutional instruments, which has from time to time been exercised, has hitherto not been called in question.

Has the Minister observed the provisions of the Treasury Circular of 21st June, 1946, in which the opinion of the Law Officers is stated, and which proceeds to instruct Departments to see that subordinate legislation is not made with retrospective effect unless there is clear authority so to make it under the Act under which it is made?

I can only say that I have gone into this matter very carefully with my legal advisers, and I am advised that what we have done is quite legal. I will, however, look into the point arising out of the document which has been raised by the hon. Member.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say where, according to the advice which he has received, the authority to make this Order retrospective is to be found?

I understand that it is founded largely upon precedent, and I think there is some evidence of several cases in the courts.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I could not hear what the right hon. Gentleman said. As the Question has been down on the Order Paper for at least a month should not the Minister be in a position to give us a carefully considered answer?

The answer I have given is that I am legally advised that what we have done is perfectly right.

Could the right hon. Gentleman place a copy of that opinion in the Library, so that hon. Members may consider it?

Jehovah's Witnesses


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what are the reasons for restraining the missionaries of Jehovah's Witnesses from entering or remaining in the Gold Coast, Kenya and other Colonial Territories?

I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Selkirk (Mr. Macdonald) on 19th July.

While having no particular or personal interest in this movement or sympathy with it, and not having ready access to the answer which the right hon. Gentleman has no doubt before him, may I ask him if he would also bear in mind that it would be rather unwise unduly to restrict freedom of conscience or belief in any particular society?

I appreciate that very fully, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will read the reply to which I have referred him I think he will find there are some reasons for adopting this course.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is alleged that this Watch Tower movement has been confused with another movement of the same name; and will he go very carefully into this question because it is an important one?

I received a very large number of letters from hon. Members on this subject, and I went into the matter very carefully indeed. I noted at the time the point raised by the hon. Member, but I am satisfied that what has been done by the Governors in these particular territories was justifiable.

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply given to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I wish to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Havana Charter


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps were taken by his predecessor to ascertain the probable effects in the Colonial Empire of the policy of non-discrimination laid down in the Havana Charter.

In the negotiations which led up to the Havana Charter the United Kingdom delegation included a representative of the Colonial Office and also advisers selected by Colonial Governments themselves.

What was the attitude of the advisers appointed by the Colonial Governments themselves? Did they issue any warning against the dangers of this policy?

The Governments have their advisers and it is for the Governments to decide whether they accept their advice or not.

Medical Service, East Africa


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will recruit Asian doctors to fill the European vacancies in East Africa as an alternative to raising the salaries of European doctors.

The East African Governments already employ Asian doctors, but I am satisfied that European doctors are also needed. The salaries of European doctors must bear some relation to remuneration in this country if we are to get the right kind of recruit.

Owing to the disturbance on the other side I could not hear my right hon. Friend's answer. Would he mind repeating it?

The East African Governments already employ Asian doctors but I am satisfied that European doctors are also needed. The salaries of European doctors must bear some relation to remuneration in this country if we are to get the right kind of recruit.

While appreciating the answer given by my right hon. Friend, may I ask if he would not agree that qualifications and experience should determine salaries and not the colour of the skin?

Welfare And Development Publicity


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the extent to which the operations of the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund are inadequately understood and deliberately misrepresented in West Africa; and if he will arrange that wherever any public works, such as schools, bridges, water supplies, etc., are financed by this fund, a plaque or some other permanent testimony shall be affixed to the building in question to the effect that the project is a gift from the British people.

Considerable publicity is given in West Africa to the objects and operations of the Act, and I. am not aware of any wide and deliberate misrepresentation of its purposes.

Why should not any building that has been erected out of the funds provided by this country bear a plaque saying that it is a gift of the British people, in view of the fact that the operations of this Fund are inadequately understood in West Africa, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say?

I believe that in all the Colonial territories the work that has been done under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act by the Colonial Development Corporation is fully understood. I do not think it would help anybody if we were to erect plaques saying: "This is a gift from the British people."

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a plaque of this sort would be resented considerably by people in this country as well as in the Colonies?

All these efforts are efforts of partnership, and we ought to emphasise this partnership between the various peoples concerned.