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Northern Rhodesia

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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Constitution

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that the alterations now proposed in the constitution of Northern Rhodesia conflict with the undertakings given to the Federal Government at the time of the referendum in Southern Rhodesia; and whether he will make a statement.

No, Sir. I have nothing to add to the reply I made in response to a supplementary question from my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on the occasion of my statement of 28th February. I made it clear then that there had been no departure from any undertaking by Her Majesty's Government.

Will my right hon. Friend clarify that earlier answer? Is he denying that the undertaking was given on 25th June to the Federal Prime Minister, or is he suggesting that the changes he announced on 28th February were not a sufficient departure to constitute a breach of the undertaking? Is he aware that on 6th March the Federal Prime Minister described the answer to which my right hon. Friend has referred as misleading in part and incorrect wholly?

It is for the House to judge the value of my Answers. In June we put forward certain proposals which we hoped would be definitive. Subsequently, in September, it was made clear that we were prepared to receive representations over a limited area of dispute. In view of our responsibilities to the people of Northern Rhodesia, we were prepared to do so.

Even if my right hon. Friend is correct, is he not aware that these charges of bad faith and sharp practice are being made from Salisbury? Is that not very damaging to Anglo-Rhodesian relations? What are Her Majesty's Government going to do about restoring good relations between the two Governments?

We are obviously anxious that the relations between the two Governments should be as cordial and as close as possible. For that reason nothing has been hidden by me from the Prime Minister of the Federation. I do not think we could get any further by bandying charges against one another.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to preserve law and order in Northern Rhodesia in view of the decision of the United Federal Party to resist the proposed new Constitution by unconstitutional means.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman seen the minutes of the emergency congress of the United Federal Party's officials at Broken Hill last September at which Mr. Julian Greenfield, the Federal Minister of Law, said that he would be prepared to use unconstitutional means in order to stop the June proposals being implemented? Is not this subversive attitude of mind among Federal leaders most dangerous, and will not the right hon. Gentleman take steps to make sure, therefore, that no Federal troops are ever allowed inside Northern Rhodesia?

I have seen Press reports of what is supposed to be a document which emerged from a party meeting, but it is not for me to comment on the authenticity or otherwise of that document. In any case, I know of no decision by the United Federal Party to resist the proposed new Constitution I have recently announced.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, in view of the declaration by the United National Independence Party that the new constitution for Northern Rhodesia is unworkable, he will prepare new plans for that country.

May I ask the Minister whether, if he is contemplating any further legislation, he will bear in mind that many of my hon. Friends and myself believe that the paramount need is the preservation of the Federation?

United Nations Convention (Education)

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent the principles of the United Nations Convention against discrimination in education have already been applied to those parts of the educational system in Northern Rhodesia for which Her Majesty's Government are responsible; and how many multi-racial schools exist in the territory.

As the responsibility of the Northern Rhodesia Government for education is confined to African education other than higher education, the question of racial discrimination in the Government schools does not arise. The aim of that Government is universal primary education as resources permit. All tuition is free. There is one private multi-racial school.

Will the Colonial Secretary enter into consultations with the Governor of Northern Rhodesia with a view to seeing that a multi-racial policy in education is carried out in Northern Rhodesia? In view of the fact that his responsibilities are limited, will he consult with other education authorities responsible for other sections of education in Northern Rhodesia to try to negotiate an agreement for a multiracial policy?

I think the hon. Member has forgotten the drift of my original reply, which was that the Northern Rhodesian Government are responsible for the African education. Therefore, the point about multi-racialism does not arise.

Precisely because of that, will the right hon. Gentleman negotiate with both the Northern Rhodesian and the Federal Government to try to arrive at an agreement for a non-discriminatory policy in education in Northern Rhodesia?

I think that raises much wider questions than the general policies of the Federal and territorial Governments.

Is not the situation in which European education is the responsibility of the Federal Government and African education is the responsibility of the territorial Government discriminatory and an offence against this Convention?

I am not so sure on that point. I think that if one examines the facts one finds that African education has been extremely well advanced in these territories.

Elections

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.