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Volume 649: debated on Thursday 23 November 1961

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what statements he has received from representatives of the political parties in Malta on his constitutional proposals for that territory.

Since the promulgation of the new constitution I have received the views of the leader of the Progressive Constitutional Party. At an earlier stage, comments on the Constitutional Commission's recommendations were received from that party and from the Democratic Nationalist Party, the Democratic Christian Party and the Christian Workers Party.

Has the Minister seen today the declaration of view of the different parties? Is he aware that only one insignificant party, which did not elect a single representative to the last Parliament, has endorsed these proposals and said that it will participate in the election? Will the Minister do something, even at this late hour, to liberalise a Constitution which restricts the powers of the Maltese people more than in the case of any other Colony which has self-government?

No, Sir. The proposals, or the Constitution which we have introduced, represent a great advance. The important thing now is to get on with elections. Once there have been elections and there is a Government, we can have further consultations.

Would it not be wise to make it clear now that once the island is viable there is no reason why she should not be a sovereign independent member of the Commonwealth?

The important thing is to concentrate on the next step, which is the elections under the new Constitution. We have made it clear that this is not, in our view, the final step in Malta's progress.

Does not the Minister realise that part of the successful prospect for these elections lies in making it clear that this is only an interim Constitution and that there will be further movement towards self-government in the near future? To make a success of these elections, will not the Minister make a considered statement along these lines?

My predecessor and I have said on more than one occasion that we do not regard the present situation as the final stage in Malta's progress. It should be a perfectly adequate basis upon which to hold an election and to get an elected Government in power.

Is it not a fact that, in the meantime, the new Constitution contains powers that are so far-reaching that the actual and crucial control of finance will be vested in the elected Government of Malta, when it is known who that will be after the elections have taken place?

If properly studied, these proposals will be seen to be very far-reaching, progressive proposals indeed.

Is the Colonial Secretary aware that except for one copy in the Library, the new Constitution is not available in the House of Commons? Will he look into this to ensure that hon. Members may have access to it should it be needed for debate?