Constitution

Oral Answers to Questions — Malta – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th January 1959.

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Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough 12:00 am, 20th January 1959

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many seats were held in the Malta Legislative Assembly between 1951 and 1953 by the Progressive Constitutional Party and by the Constitutional Party, respectively.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

It was the Constitutional Party, and not the Progressive Constitutional Party, that held four seats in the Maltese Legislative Assembly between 1951–1953;. The Progressive Constitutional Party was not formed until October, 1953, after the dissolution of the Assembly. I regret that I unintentionally misled the House in my reply to the hon. Member on 27th November, 1958, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me this opportunity of putting the matter right.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it is fully understood that it was a slip of the tongue and that his explanation is entirely satisfactory?

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what advice he has been given by the representatives of the Progressive Constitutional Party whom he invited to the talks which have been taking place in London on the future of Malta.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

The Progressive Constitutional Party has, since its return to Malta, publicised the views which it expressed to me at the Conference. I am arranging for a full record of these views to be sent to the hon. Member.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the political status of the Progressive Constitutional Party is and always has been negligible, and that by inviting this party he caused the talks to be abortive from the outset and has laid himself open to the possible accusation that he invited the members of the party as yes-men?

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not himself give currency to such a view. That was not the reason why the talks proved abortive. It was interesting to hear as much as I could of the differing views with regard to the future of Malta.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Were not the views known beforehand? They have been very voluble about their views for years, but failed to convince any Maltese about them.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

They were invited to give evidence before the body of which the right hon. Gentleman was himself a distinguished member.

Photo of Mr Aneurin Bevan Mr Aneurin Bevan , Ebbw Vale

Everyone who wanted to give evidence was invited to do so.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement about the constitutional future of Malta.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the new constitutional arrangements in Malta.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will now make a statement about the constitutional future of Malta.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

I invite attention to the statement issued from the Colonial Office on 5th January and to a broadcast made on the same day by the Governor of Malta to the Maltese people, copies of which I have had placed in the Library.

I have nothing to add at present, but I shall give the House further details on the Second Reading of the Bill referred to in the statement of 5th January.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that, despite recent events and present difficulties, it is the desire of the Maltese people and of the British people to remain together under the Crown?

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

Yes, I believe that to be quite true.

Photo of Mr Fenner Brockway Mr Fenner Brockway , Eton and Slough

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is now clear that no representative Maltese will serve on the proposed nominated council which he intends to set up? Does he wish Malta to become another Cyprus, which it would be but for the fact that the Maltese have adopted methods of non-violent resistance? Why should not they have in 1962 the independence that they claim?

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

If the hon. Gentleman read carefully the statement from my office and the Governor's broadcast, and will also await the speech that I shall make on the Second Reading of the Bill, he will find most of his questions answered.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

Since the Press announcement we have had indicates that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to bring legislation before the House by which the constitution of Malta which was suspended will, I presume, be ended and there will be established a Colonial Government with a council, and since it is clear already that no real representative of the Maltese people will join the Governor's council, we shall soon be back to emergency powers again, with all that that means in our relationships with Malta. Will he not now postpone, if not abandon, the proposal to bring forward a Bill of this kind, and try to introduce an interim constitution such as was discussed earlier, rather than create a situation in which emergency powers will again be introduced in Malta and relations with the Maltese badly damaged?

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

The right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to await my speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, when I shall deal with all those points. With regard to the Governor's council, I would point out that the public-spirited people in the country are not necessarily strong party partisans.

Photo of Mr James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli

In an island in which only two parties are represented in the Legislative Council, and since both parties have declared that they will not cooperate on the Governor's council, it is clear that the only representatives will be those who have never stood a chance of being elected to the Legislative Council at all.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what form of responsibility Her Majesty's Government proposed to retain for assuring the independence of the police and the public services and their protection from victimisation in the new constitution which he was prepared to discuss with the three Maltese political parties in London last November.

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

It had been intended to bring Malta into line with other advanced territories as regards safeguarding the independence of the police and the public service from political interference, by setting up a Public Service and Police Commission or Commissions.

The power to appoint, promote, transfer, dismiss and exercise disciplinary control over public officers and members of the police would have been vested in the representative of the Crown in Malta, who would have exercised it, with certain exceptions, on the recommendations of the Commission or Commissions.

In addition, for the time being constitutional responsibility for the police would have been vested in the Crown's representative and this would have been subject to review.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

Could not the police and public services have been safeguarded by simpler methods, such as obtaining undertakings from the parties concerned? Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that it would be impossible for any responsible political party in Malta to take office with even more powers reserved to the Crown?

Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

I very greatly wish that that had been possible, but if the hon. Gentleman casts his mind back to last April, he will remember some of the threats which were made against individual policemen. As a result of that, I felt it necessary to issue a statement about the protection of these officers and others from victimisation. I hoped that such a situation would not continue for a long period. As I say, the matter is subject to review, but in putting forward our proposals I felt it essential that the constitutional responsibility for the police should be vested in the Crown's representative for the time being.