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Elections

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how long it will take to demarcate constituencies and prepare for a general election in Northern Rhodesia; and what political parties have indicated their intention of taking part.

Before constituencies can be delimited it is necessary for registration to be completed. This will be undertaken without delay, and I hope that all processes can be completed for an election this autumn. From reports which I have received, it would appear that the political parties generally propose to contest the elections, subject, in the case of the U.N.I.P., to certain conditions.

It is very satisfactory that all political parties intend so far as they can to contest the election, but, since it took over twelve months to work out the constituencies in Nyasaland, does not my right hon. Friend think that he may be a little optimistic about the date? In any case, is not nine months a long time when events in Central Africa will be moving very fast, and would it not be wiser to get on with the Federal Review as soon as possible, not waiting for the election?

The subject of the Federal Review is rather wide of this Question, I think. I may be optimistic in my estimate of dates. It is the best I can make, and I shall do my best to keep to it.

Is the Minister aware that most of us on this side of the House regard two years after the Monckton Report recommended that there should be an African majority Government in Northern Rhodesia as a very long time, and will he do what he can to shorten the period before the elections are held?

I will make it as short as I can, but there is a good deal of necessary work to be done before elections can be held.

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he is arranging the election in Northern Rhodesia; how he is delineating the constituencies; and what steps he is taking to ensure a fair election in view of threats of unconstitutional action by the United Federal Party.

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies when it is proposed to hold the elections in Northern Rhodesia.

As I have said, I hope that the elections will be held in the autumn. Delimitation of the constituencies will be a matter for an independent Commission. I am not aware of any threats of unconstitutional action, but I am satisfied that the Governor will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure a fair election.

Why do we have to wait until October for the election? Cannot it be speeded up, particularly in view of the fact that the Federal elections are now to be held within a few weeks? Are the major parties, like U.F.P., being consulted about the drawing-up of constituencies?

In reply to an earlier question, I think I said that before we can have an election we have to have constituencies and a register and that that will take a good deal of time.

Is it not the case that the proposal for an election, at least along those lines, has been published for six months or so and that the only question at issue has been the precise way in which the franchise will be distributed? In that case, why has there not been some preparation made for this? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he can have no discussions, as he himself admitted, on the future of the Federation until there has been an election in Northern Rhodesia? Is it not very urgent indeed to have this election, in view of the fact that Sir Roy Welensky intends to have what The Times called a "provocative and dangerous tribal war dance" in the Federation next month?

Before one can proceed with a register one must know who are the people to be qualified as electors and how many constituencies there are to be. None of these facts could have been settled until the announcement which I made recently. Therefore, it has not been possible to go ahead with the appointing of an independent commission.

In view of the angry noises made by the U.F.P., will the right hon. Gentleman give a guarantee that he will continue to be directly responsible for law and order between now and the time the elections take place?

I am not answerable for angry noises from any source, but Her Majesty's Government do not intend to dispose of any of their responsibilities in the Federation.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the U.F.P. has threatened violence unless the proceedings went the right way for them in Northern Rhodesia?

There have been far too many threats from far too many quarters in Rhodesia in recent years, and I hope that they can now cease.

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Government of Northern Rhodesia propose to alter the law under which persons who have served prison sentences are ineligible for election to the Legislative Council.

Does the Minister appreciate that under the present state of the law, anyone who serves a six months' sentence, even for political offences, is disqualified from elections for five years? Is not that quite indefensible in any case and at any time?

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind when he is considering this matter further, as he has promised, that if this disqualification were to apply elsewhere, then many of our Colonies might lose their Prime Ministers and that we in this House would lose some of our distinguished Members?

That is a very interesting speculation, but whether it is relevant or not I am not sure.