Oral Answers to Questions — Gold Coast (Constitution)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26 October 1949.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Daniel West Mr Daniel West , Pontypool 12:00, 26 October 1949

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he now has any statement to make on the Gold Coast Constitution.

Mr. Creech Jones:

Yes, Sir. I am issuing for publication this afternoon the Report of the Gold Coast Committee on Constitutional Reform, which, as hon. Members will remember, was appointed by the Governor at the end of last year. At the same time, I am publishing a despatch which I have sent to the Governor in order to help forward the examination of the Report in the Gold Coast; this sets out the views of His Majesty's Government on the more important recommendations of the Committee. Copies of both documents are being placed in the Library of the House.

I wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, of expressing my appreciation of the work which the chairman and members of the Committee have performed. I have stated in my dispatch that, subject to their observations in it, His Majesty's Government accept the proposals put forward in the Report as providing a workable plan within the framework of which constitutional development in the Gold Coast can now proceed.

The Committee has made comprehensive recommendations on the reform of local government, the building up of regional administrations, and the form of the central legislature and executive. I will not go into details, but in brief the proposals accepted by His Majesty's Government provide for an important step forward in the direction of representative and responsible government at all levels of the administration.

There will be a Legislative Assembly consisting almost entirely of members elected either directly or indirectly by popular vote. The Executive Council will consist of the Governor as chairman, three ex-officio members, and eight members drawn from the Legislative Assembly, six of whom will be Ministers with portfolio responsible for the administration of departments and two Ministers without portfolio. The Executive Council will be the principal instrument of policy, and decisions in it will be taken by a majority vote. The ultimate responsibility for the administration of the Territory will remain with the Governor, who will for this purpose have reserve powers in relation both to the Legislative Assembly and to the Executive Council.

Photo of Sir Edward Keeling Sir Edward Keeling , Twickenham

Surely the Government's views on such an important matter ought not merely to be put in the Library, but should be printed and put in the Vote Office, or else circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT; and would the Secretary of State consider that?

Mr. Creech Jones:

Both the Report and the despatch have been printed, and I think will be made available to hon. Members today.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Does this mean that the Governor will still possess the power of veto over all proposed legislation; and could my right hon. Friend indicate to what extent these proposals are proving acceptable to the indigenous political organisations of the Gold Coast?

Mr. Creech Jones:

The power and authority of the Governor are not diminished. The Report will, of course, be studied by the various organisations in the Gold Coast.

Photo of Captain Harry Crookshank Captain Harry Crookshank , Gainsborough

The right hon. Gentleman will realise that he read so much so fast that it is quite impossible for us to comment at this stage, and that we shall reserve any observations for the future?

Mr. Wilson Harris:

Has the right hon. Gentleman approved the recommendation the Commission made by 20 votes to 19, for the appointment of a senate as well as an assembly?

Mr. Creech Jones:

That particular recommendation for a bicameral system has not been accepted.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Will these proposals be debated by this House, and if so, approximately when?

Mr. Creech Jones:

I have no objection to a Debate, but application for a Debate will have to be made through the usual channels.

Photo of Major Guy Lloyd Major Guy Lloyd , Renfrewshire Eastern

In view of the very active subversive elements in this area, about which the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, may we have an assurance that the Government will give every possible support to the Governor if very drastic action has to be taken?

Mr. Creech Jones:

The powers of the Governor are not diminished in any way.