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Inter-Governmental Conference, Trinidad

Volume 640: debated on Thursday 18 May 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what agreements have been reached at the inter-governmental talks in Trinidad about the future of the West Indies Federation; and whether he will make a statement.

The Inter-governmental Conference in Trinidad ended on Tuesday. I have not seen a full report of its conclusions, but I understand that agreement was reached on a wide range of matters. There are, however, certain outstanding questions which remain to be decided. I hope that the Constitutional Conference which opens at Lancaster House on 31st May will reach final agreement on all these questions and that it will be possible to agree a date for independence.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how delighted are all those of us who take an interest in the Caribbean that there now seems to be every prospect of a Federation with Jamaica taking part in it? Could he say with regard to these talks, which have reached so much agreement, to what extent it seems likely that the Federal Government will be less powerful than was perhaps originally envisaged, and also to what extent any special concessions have been made to meet Jamaica's particular difficulties?

The fundamental argument in these territories, as the hon. Gentleman knows very well, is between those who feel that there should be a very tight form of Federation and those who feel that there should be a much looser form. What I find encouraging about the Inter-governmental Conference, which was expected to be very difficult, is that it has, on the whole, reached a considerable range of agreement. There are some matters on freedom of movement and of allocation of revenues that we shall have to discuss in London, but it is too early to be precise on the forms that the decisions will take.