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British Honduras Inquiry (Government Decision)

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1954

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50.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will now make a statement on the situation in British Honduras.

56, 57 and 58.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) if he will make a statement on the report of Sir Reginald Sharpe, Q.C., following his investigations in British Honduras;

(2) how it is intended to operate the new constitution in British Honduras if the People's United Party win the election or, alternatively, if the election is won by some other party or coalition;

(3) if the elections in British Honduras will take place as arranged on 23rd April.

As the House will be aware, an inquiry has been carried out in British Honduras by Sir Reginald Sharpe, Q.C., into allegations of contacts between the People's United Party in that Colony and the Government of Guatemala. Sir Reginald Sharpe's findings have been published. He finds that certain specified persons, who are leaders of the P.U.P., have on various occasions sought, and on one occasion received, financial assistance from the Guatemalan Government, and that they communicated with that Government on party policy. I propose to publish his report as a White Paper.

The constitutional changes which have been planned for British Honduras for some time fall into two stages, one affecting the Legislative Assembly and the other the Executive Council. The latter is the instrument of policy and under the new plan would be composed of the Governor, three officials and six members, two of whom would be nominated members, elected by the Legislative Assembly.

After careful consideration Her Majesty's Government have decided to proceed with the first stage of the scheme. Accordingly elections on the basis of universal adult suffrage for the Legislative Assembly will take place on 28th April. Her Majesty's Government will thereafter have to consider in consultation with the Governor whether to proceed to the second stage.

We shall study the document that the Secretary of State has promised to publish. I think we all welcome the decision he has arrived at. Can he say how long it is since Guatemala raised the question about the boundaries? Has Guatemala raised it recently?

In case this matter becomes one of comment or controversy, will the right hon. Gentleman reaffirm the policy that has been the policy of successive British Governments, that we are prepared to refer the matter to the International Court if Guatemala desires?

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one or two supplementary questions as I have asked three Questions? First of all, will he say why it is that observations have been able to be made about Sir Reginald Sharpe's report by the Press when that report has not been made available to hon. Members of this House? I made inquiries only yesterday and found it was not available, and yet we can see remarks about it in the Press.

One is very happy, after having visited the Colony, to find that the report the right hon. Gentleman now gives is so very satisfactory in comparison with the suspicions that he seemed to hold. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the People's United Party is not in any sense Communist, though it may be to some extent irresponsible? Is the right hon. Gentleman not agreeing that it is a good thing that the elections shall go on? What I am concerned about—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] It is difficult to put all this into the form of questions.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman's attitude on this matter up to now been one calculated to drive the people of British Honduras away from the Commonwealth rather than one to encourage British Honduras to remain in it?

It is a little difficult to deal with such a battery of questions. The answer to the last one is, "Certainly not." The answer to the first question is that Sir Reginald Sharpe, if I remember aright, read out a summary of his report from the steps of the building in which he conducted the inquiry, and, consequently, there were Press comments. The document I have referred to is the full report, that runs to 70 pages of typescript, and is now being printed. I am afraid I forget the other three or four questions.

Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that in circumstances such as these it is desirable that the commissioner, or whoever it may be, who is asked to make an inquiry should give a summary of his report to the public before the full report is published?

I think it was only a question of giving some information, and in the circumstances Sir Reginald Sharpe acted in a perfectly proper way, and one that we should support.