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Volume 640: debated on Thursday 11 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is yet in a position to announce the revised proposals for the Northern Rhodesian constitution.

Not yet, Sir. The discussions to which I referred in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 4th May are still continuing.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his constitutional proposals are now universally unpopular in Northern Rhodesia and regarded as being a departure from the non-racial principles of the 1958 constitution, being in conflict with the Treadgold Report on the franchise? Does he realise that delay over the announcement of their revision is undermining confidence in the Federation and playing into the hands of extremists on both sides?

I certainly do not agree with the first part of my right hon. Friend's statement, which is in entire contraction to the reports which I have had from the Governor and from other people. There has certainly been no delay in the announcement of these proposals. Regarding the reference to Southern Rhodesia, although the date of the referendum has not been announced, I can assure my right hon. Friend that the Northern Rhodesian discussions will be announced shortly.

Can the Secretary of State say what stage has been reached? Has every party accepted the Governor's proposals and has he put counter-proposals to them?

It is not quite in that sense. The Governor issued a memorandum explaining how the White Paper proposals would work out and possible ways in which they could be implemented. He has had meetings with the four political parties and chiefs and independents, and various meetings with people of different communities and so on, some of whom have put counterproposals. That is the situation.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that it is one thing to ensure the assent of the various parties in Northern Rhodesia to his proposals but quite another thing, in the interests of a continued Federation, to secure the assent of appropriate and smaller groups in Southern Rhodesia? Will he frame his proposals for Northern Rhodesia in such a manner as to keep the Federation in being?

The view of Her Majesty's Government has always been—as I am sure my noble Friend knows very well—that federation is the best and the right form of association for these parties. But, frankly, I do not think it possible to put it in the way in which my noble Friend puts it. This is a Northern Rhodesian constitution discussion and must be directed in the first instance to that territory.

Can my right hon. Friend say when he will be able to make some announcement as a result of the discussions now going on?

It is very difficult to give a precise time, but I should think something like three weeks.