§ 41. Mr. Hector Hughes
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will now make a statement on the present constitutional position in the Gold Coast.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
At the request of the Gold Coast Government I arranged for Sir Frederick Bourne to act as adviser to that Government and those parties concerned who wished to avail themselves of his services, on the constitutional issues which divide the Gold Coast. I regret that the leaders of the 379 National Liberation Movement and of the Asanteman Council have refused to meet Sir Frederick.
I have had some sympathy with their position in the past; they have a relatively small representation in the present Legislature, and it has been only natural that they should hope that by a general election or some form of constituent assembly they might assure to themselves a larger say in the constitutional issues. But, as they should know from previous public statements, Her Majesty's Government will wish to be satisfied, before full self-government can be granted to the Gold Coast, that the Constitution would be generally acceptable throughout the country.
Whatever the exact result of a general election or however a constituent assembly was composed, it seems clear that there would still remain a substantial body of opinion behind each of the opposed views of the C.P.P. and the N.L.M. It might well be no easier then than now to reach agreement on a constitution acceptable to all. Accordingly, in my view, and I am sure the House will support me in this, the wisest course, and the one most likely to lead speedily to the conclusion that we all desire, is that the Ashanti leaders should co-operate with Sir Frederick Bourne, whose whole objective is to help the people of the Gold Coast to work out a generally acceptable plan.
§ Mr. Hughes
While thanking the Minister for that detailed reply, may I ask him whether he can specify what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to deal with the Gold Coast Government which, after all, has a majority in the Gold Coast? Can he say whether 380 he expects that the constitutional position will have developed sufficiently far to have it considered by next year's Commonwealth Conference with a view to enabling the Gold Coast then to achieve Dominion status within the Commonwealth?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman had better read carefully the long statement I made, which I composed with great care, on a matter of such great importance.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
We should like to study the statement, which is a most important one at a most important stage in the history of the Gold Coast. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will include in the appeal to the Northern leaders our appeal, too, that they should not boycott Sir Frederick Bourne but assist him in every way? May I ask for clarification on one point? Did I gather the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that he himself would look with favour upon the calling of a consultative assembly to discuss a new constitution when in fact there is already a Constitution, with their own Government and their own Prime Minister, elected by adult suffrage? Would it not be a precedent to have a consultative assembly in a country which has its own Parliament and Government elected by adult suffrage?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for associating himself with the plea I made that everyone should co-operate with Sir Frederick Bourne. Regarding the second part of his supplementary question, I would with respect ask him to consider the statement carefully, when he will see the paragraphs dealing with the constituent assembly, which again were very carefully worded.