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Relationship (Conference)

Volume 486: debated on Wednesday 18 April 1951

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if the discussions between officials representing Northern and Southern Rhodesia on the subject of the future relationship between those two countries have now been completed.

Yes, Sir. The conference, which concerned the question of the closer association of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, was concluded on 31st March. The members are submitting a joint report to their Governments.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the fullest possible publicity to this report in view of the extreme importance of the situation, both from the point of view of the natural apprehension of the African populations owing to events south of the Limpopo, and the demand, which has never yet been refused by this House, of Britons overseas to have a reasonable measure of self-government?

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that this is a report of officials to their governments, and that until it has been seen by all the governments concerned I cannot give any guarantee of publication.

While agreeing with some of what the noble Lord said in his supplementary, may I ask my right hon. Friend if he will give an assurance that there will not be any major constitutional changes until the interests and the suffrage of the African people are completely safeguarded?

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's reply to this Question—which is causing the most intense interest and is a matter of Imperial concern which goes far beyond even the interests of this House and affects the Commonwealth—that if the Government do not like the report they will not publish it?

I want to make quite clear that this is a report of officials of a number of governments, and that I cannot say without consultation with those governments whether they, as well as we, will agree to publication. If all agree to publication, no doubt the report will be published.

Can my hon. Friend say if the report which has been submitted to these three governments was unanimous?