Colonial Affairs.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 4th August 1942.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Benjamin Riley Mr Benjamin Riley , Dewsbury

I have been to Jamaica. I have done all those things which the hon. Member mentions. For the last six or seven years I have been closely associated with what is taking place in Jamaica, and have studied the situation on the spot. Therefore, I know what I am talking about. Lord Moyne, in his despatch of 5th January of this year, said that he was not prepared to concede responsible government. He was quite prepared to concede representative government, bat not responsible government. The question I put to the Under-Secretary of State is this: Is he seized of the new point of view which is developing during the course of the war, and of the change which is taking place, and may it not be in the best interests of this Imperial Parliament to give every opportunity to those Colonies which are ready for it, to exercise the responsibility of self-government, in their own interests as well as in the interests of the welfare of the Empire as a whole?

Those who represent the opposite point of view, those who want to damp down the reasonable demands and the aspirations of our advanced Colonial peoples to the right of self-government, should remember that we in this country have fought for this right for generations. I am not now including the backward Colonial territories in Africa and so on, I am thinking of Colonies such as Jamaica where there is a wide measure of education. In Jamaica, where no less than 30 per cent. of the population are highly educated, natives occupy most important posts in the professions and sit as magistrates in the courts. Not only is this the case in Jamaica. All around there are other Colonies, not British, but American, French and Dutch, where full self-government has been in operation for many years.

May I remind the Under-Secretary of a very striking example to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) has already referred? The right hon. Gentleman and the Government might well ponder over it in relation to our Colonial policy, particularly in the West Indies. How many of us noticed the significant statement which was reported in a leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" on Saturday. It refers to the case of the American colony of Porto Rico, which lies 300 miles west of Jamaica and is in the orbit of a large number of our West Indian Colonies—it is true that it has a larger population than Jamaica—and which has been in the possession of America for the last 50 years. It has not only had a properly elected Chamber and a Senate, with a Governor, appointed hitherto by the United States—