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Colonial Territories (Self-Government)

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 28 April 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to establish a two-tier system in British Colonies.

I understand the hon. Member as meaning to suggest that there are, broadly, two kinds of Colonial Territory: those which can look forward to eventual independence either on their own account or in association with others, and those which for one reason or another must, so far as can be foreseen, continue to be in some measure dependent upon the United Kingdom. With this proposition my right hon. Friend, of course, agrees, but he does-not think it would be possible now to assign every Territory finally to one category or the other. There are too many differences in local circumstances, and too many uncertain factors.

Are the Government adhering to the former policy that those Colonies should be advanced gradually to self-government, and that no Colony will become a Dominion without consultation with the existing Dominions?

Yes, Sir. It is certainly our aim to promote every Territory to the fullest practical degree of self-government within the Commonwealth.

Following that answer from the Minister, may I make it clear that it has been laid down by successive Governments that the degree of self-government granted to Colonial Territories is a matter for Her Majesty's Government and for our Parliament? May I ask further whether it is still the policy—as I suppose it is—that when a Colony reaches Dominion status it will enjoy equal status with other members of the Commonwealth who have already reached Dominion status?

As regards the first part of the question, it is certainly our view that it is a decision for Her Majesty's Government and this Parliament as to the way in which Territories should progress towards self-government. When in due course the question of becoming a full member of the Common wealth arises, of course other members of the Commonwealth are concerned and have to be consulted.