Colonies (Franchise and Education).

Oral Answers to Questions — West Indies. – in the House of Commons on 18th May 1938.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government that all literate Colonial citizens should be enfranchised; and, if so, what steps are being taken to implement this principle?

Mr. MacDonald:

The matter is not one on which any general policy can be laid down. Conditions differ widely in different Colonies, and the character of the franchise must necessarily vary according to local circumstances.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Will not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that as we profess the principles of democracy it would be wise to demonstrate these principles to the world by applying them as soon as possible to these particular areas?

Mr. MacDonald:

I would not take exception to that principle in any way.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman will do his utmost to apply that principle?

Mr. MacDonald:

The hon. Member said "as soon as possible."

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Colonial policy of His Majesty's Government includes the provision of universal free education for the Colonial population; and what is the approximate proportion of the natives in our African Colonies and Mandated Territories who are now receiving such education? inquiry going into the whole question at the present time.

Following is the figures:

Mr. MacDonald:

The policy of Colonial Governments aims at the provision of universal free education as soon as circumstances permit, but the House will realise that, in a large number of Colonies, many years must elapse before this object can be achieved. With regard to the second part of the question, the proportion naturally varies from territory to territory, but I understand that the average figure for all the territories is 12 per cent.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Considering that in some areas at least, not more than 5 per cent. of the population are receiving education, will not the Minister do something to expedite the development of education so as to demonstrate the sincerity of our democratic professions?

Mr. MacDonald:

I have already said that we aim at achieving that object as soon as circumstances permit.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Has the right hon. Gentleman any idea as to when circumstances will permit it?