HC Deb 27 November 1957 vol 578 cc1159-62

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:


To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the discussions with the delegation from British Honduras.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now answer Question No. 83.

The delegation, which had come from British Honduras to discuss the Colony's financial needs and the question of future constitutional advance, had begun official discussions. Early in their visit the four unofficial delegates were invited to a luncheon by the Guatemalan Minister in London. A plan was then put forward which involved severing the connection of British Honduras with the British Crown and associating it in some form with the Guatemalan Republic. When, ten days later, I asked the delegation about this lunch, it emerged that Mr. Price was still considering this most improper offer and had not, so he told me, even then made up his mind.

In the course of my meetings with the delegation it also came out that in addition to this incident Mr. Price had been engaged in discussions on his own with the Guatemalan Minister in London. These private discussions he attempted to conceal not only from the Governor and myself, but also from at least two of his three unofficial colleagues. With such a lack of good faith on Mr. Price's part, I have felt it impossible to continue negotiations with him. I have told him so this morning. Though I would gladly have continued discussions with the rest of the delegation, I felt, and the Governor agreed, that the right thing was for the whole delegation to return to British Honduras and deal with the consequences of this breakdown in the negotiations.

I look forward to a resumption of the talks with a reconstituted delegation as soon as possible in an atmosphere of mutual trust in which the attitude of Her Majesty's Government will be unaffected by this unhappy episode.

Mr. Beresford Craddock

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply and say that I find the information which he has given rather disturbing? May I ask him two short questions? First, can he say how many of the delegates took part, or was there only one who took part, in these private discussions? Secondly—I think he will agree that this is much more important—how does this affect the future financial position of British Honduras? I am led to believe that British Honduras is framing its Budget proposals. Can my right hon. Friend say whether he can reach a decision about this matter before those Budget proposals are finalised?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

All the delegates lunched with the Guatemalan Minister, but this was not one of the private meetings to which I referred in my Answer.

I shall be agreeing a provisional figure to enable the administration of the Colony to continue for what I hope will be the short interval before a delegation can return to continue the talks with me.

Mr. Creech Jones

I am sure that we all deplore the conduct of Mr. Price. Has any protest been made to the Guatemalan Government about this intrigue? It is common knowledge to the House that the British Government have, over a number of years, pressed the Guatemalan Government to take their case to the International Court at The Hague if they feel that they have any claim to British Honduras, and this they have consistently refused to do.

May I ask what the Secretary of State means by "a reconstituted delegation," and whether he will, in any case, press on with the development needs of British Honduras and also assist the Colony on the financial side?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The attitude of the British Government has always been made clearly known to the Government of the Guatemalan Republic, but any detailed questions about the conduct of the Minister or anything else should be addressed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary.

With regard to what I meant by a "reconstituted delegation," that will have to be for the Governor and the Executive Council to discuss when the Governor returns home, as he will do tomorrow. With regard to the third part of the supplementary question, I am exceedingly anxious that we should be able to take practical steps still further to forward the economic development of a territory which, I recognise, needs it as much as anywhere else in the Commonwealth.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Are not the members of the unofficial delegation elected members? Consequently, when the right hon. Gentleman says that he will receive a "reconstituted delegation," does that mean that he will not receive Mr. Price again, as this is likely to lead to a good deal of controversy and perhaps a very serious situation in British Honduras?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I cannot promise an absence of controversy, but I ant certain that I have taken the only proper line. Of the delegation, three members were elected members and one was a nominated member. As to who would constitute any future delegation, that must, as I have said, be left to the Governor and the Executive Council to decide.

Mr. Nicholson

I wish to address a question to the Foreign Secretary. Has he informed the Guatemalan Government that the Minister in London is no longer persona grata?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member ought to give notice of that question.