§ Mr. Greenwood
The report of the Constitutional Conference in September was published on 21st October as Cmnd. Paper No. 2797. The main proposal is that, if the conditions set out in the White Paper are met, Mauritius will achieve independence about the end of 1966. With permission, I will publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a summary of the proposals.
§ Mr. Wall
While congratulating the Secretary of State on the result of this conference, and particularly on the degree of safeguards there are for minorities, may I ask him to bear in mind that when a country changes from a monarchical to a republican constitution, these safeguards can be swept away? This has happened in other Commonwealth countries in the past. Will the right hon. Gentleman bear this in mind with regard to Mauritius?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am grateful to the hon. Member for his remarks. This Constitution is unique, I think, among constitutions in the number of safeguards it contains. We are satisfied that, as far as practicable, everything has been done to safeguard the basic freedoms. I know of nothing to suggest that any of the main political parties would wish in any way to depart from the spirit of the Constitution.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Is my right hon. Friend aware that all parties in the island want the electoral commission to go out as quickly as possible? Can he say when the commission will go, and what its composition will be?
§ Mr. Greenwood
If my hon. Friend will put down a Question at a later stage, I will tell him the membership of the 337 commission. I anticipate that it will include three Members, and I am already having discussions with a view to deciding exactly who those three representatives shall be.
Following is the summary of the proposals:The outline constitutional scheme includes provisions for the preservation of Human Rights; for securing the continued impartiality of the judicial system and the Commissions concerned with the Public Service, the Legal and Judicial Service and the Police; and for dealing with prosecutions and the exercise of the prerogative of mercy. For the first time in such a constitution provision is made for an Ombudsman.A Commission will be appointed to make recommendations on:
- (i) the electoral system, and the method of allocating seats in the Legislature, most appropriate for Mauritius; and
- (iii) the boundaries of electoral constituencies.The Commission will be guided by the following principles:—
- (a) The system should be based primarily on multi-member constituencies.
- (b) Voters should be registered on a common roll; there should be no communal electoral rolls.
- (c) The system should give the main sections of the population an opportunity of securing fair representation of their interests if necessary by the reservation of seats.
- (d) No encouragement should be afforded to the multiplication of small parties.
- (e) There should be no provision for the nomination of members to seats in the Legislature.
- (f) Provision should be made for the representation of Rodrigues.When the electoral Commission has reported, a date will be fixed for a general election under the new system, after which a new Government will be formed. In consultation with this Government, Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to fix a date and take the necessary steps to declare Mauritius independent, after a period of six months full internal self-government, if a resolution asking for this is passed by a simple majority of the new Assembly. Her Majesty's Government would expect that these processes could be completed before the end of 1966.In the course of the Conference, it became clear that all parties wanted Mauritius to continue her collaboration with Britain in matters of defence; and Her Majesty's Government agreed that they would be willing in principle to negotiate with the Mauritius Government, before independence, the terms of a defence agreement which would be signed and come into effect immediately after independence. Her Majesty's Government envisage that such an agreement might provide that, 338 in the event of an external threat to either country, the two governments would consult together to decide what action was necessary for mutual defence. There would also be joint consultation on any request from the Mauritius Government in the event of a threat to the internal security of Mauritius. Such an agreement would contain provisions under which on the one hand the British Government would undertake to assist in the provision of training for, and the secondment of trained personnel to, the Mauritius Police and Security forces; and on the other hand, the Mauritius Government would agree to the continued enjoyment by Britain of existing rights and facilities in H.M.S. "Mauritius" and at Plaisance Airfield.