Orders of the Day — Malta Independence Bill
Mr John Mendelson (Penistone)
It has not been argued by an hon. Member opposite that the position is any different from that outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale. It was a careless phrase by which the right hon. Gentleman gave away his attitude. He has no right to treat the House of Commons in this manner.
This brings me to another point of even greater importance. There is tonight among the Maltese electorate no real way of assessing how hon. Members of this House might have looked on this Measure had they been given proper time to consider it. This is not a question of provoking hon. Members on either side; asking whether or not they have read all the documents carefully. What is at stake is something far more important. It was well known to the Secretary of State—and I am making this charge deliberately—that not only during the last two days, but for many weeks, there were considerable sectors of the electorate in Malta who suspected that he was going to rush the Bill through in the last few days of a dying Parliament.
Although the right hon. Gentleman will not wish me to quote detailed evidence, he is better aware than any other hon. Member that representations were made to him within the last eight weeks to this effect; and he cannot deny this. Those representations came to him through various sources from representative sections of the Maltese electorate and he was urged, not only from this but other quarters, not to rush this through in the last days of this Parliament and not to spring it on the House of Commons in such a manner.
I am selecting my words carefully because this is an important occasion. The Secretary of State disregarded all those representations. He knew the method by which this Measure would have to be rushed through the House; and I add to these remarks that it is very doubtful whether, by concluding the Measure in this fashion, he has not done a grave disservice to the best future, from the political and friendship towards this country points of view, of the people of Malta.
I say this because we are at one in. desiring a continuation of the closest possible connection between this country and Malta. My hon. Friends, as much as hon. Members opposite, believe that it is a good thing for us to be giving economic aid to Malta in future. I hope that there will be a majority of people in Malta who will wish to be on friendly relations with us and have arrangements with us, defence and otherwise. It is because I have these future relations at heart that I say again to the Secretary of State and the House that in matters of constitutional government, where a Constitution is being offered for acceptance, this is the wrong way to begin—and a simple, bare majority is not enough.
It has always been accepted constitutional doctrine in this House that when the Government want to pass a taxation law or Health Service legislation, a bare majority is sufficient, but that, when they want to pass a Constitution, the Government must get the broad agreement of more than three-quarters of the electorate. One must try to get a Constitution that is accept able and satisfactory to others—