HC Deb 20 February 1940 vol 357 cc1164-6
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)

Sir, by your leave and with the permission of the House, I will make the following statement:

The recommendations of the West India Royal Commission are being published to-day, and also a White Paper containing a statement of His Majesty's Government's attitude to these recommendations and a statement of policy on development and welfare in the Colonial Empire generally. Both documents will be available in the Vote Office at 4 o'clock.

The House will expect me to say a few words about these two important Papers. The Government have decided not to publish at this time the full report of the West India Royal Commission, which is unanimous. But they will carry out the pledge which they gave when the Royal Commission was appointed that they would act without delay on the findings of the Commission, and the complete statement of the recommendations which is being published has been prepared by the Commission themselves and is issued with their authority. The comprehensive nature of those recommendations is the best tribute to the thoroughness and the constructive spirit in which the commissioners have performed their important task, and I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the Government's sincere gratitude to them.

In the White Paper which is being published the Government accept in principle the Commission's main recommendations for the creation of a special organisation under a comptroller to develop the social services throughout the West Indies, and for the provision by the United Kingdom Exchequer for this purpose of funds of the order of £1,000,000 a year. They also accept the recommendation for the appointment of an inspector-general of agriculture for the West Indies. The other recommendations, which are numerous and far-reaching, are under active consideration in consultation with the Governors, and the Government express their intention to act as early as possible in the spirit of the recommendations as a whole.

The Government's statement of policy covers a much wider field than the West Indies alone. It contains the conclusions from a close examination into Colonial problems which the Government had been conducting for some time before the war, and it provides for an important extension of their Colonial policy. In future greatly increased provision will be made for development and welfare throughout the Colonial Empire. As hon. Members will be aware, the Colonial Development Fund of maximum of £1,000,000 a year set up ten years ago has proved a very valuable instrument for Colonial development. But it is inadequate both in amount and in scope for the larger purposes which we have now in mind. The Government propose to introduce legislation providing for assistance from United Kingdom funds up to £5,000,000 a year for Colonial development and welfare, and, in addition, up to £500,000 a year to assist in the various fields of Colonial research.

A detailed statement of this extension of policy is contained in the White Paper, which I commend to the careful study of hon. Members. I would only add now that in spite of the demands of war, His Majesty's Government propose to proceed with this policy as far and as fast as the exigencies of the times permit. It should also be noted that the policy applies without distinction to Colonies, Protectorates and Mandated Territories.

Mr. Attlee

Will there be an early opportunity for discussing the White Paper and the reasons for not publishing the report in full?

The Prime Minister

Of course, we will consider that sympathetically through the usual channels.

Mr. Creech Jones

Is the Secretary of State aware of the considerable dissatisfaction which will be felt in the West Indies at the non-publication of the report, and is it not calculated to arouse suspicion, which will reflect on the administration of the Colonial Empire? Should not the House be put in possession, of the report here and now?

Mr. MacDonald

I think that there will be a great deal of satisfaction in the West Indies that, in spite of the demands of the war, the Government intend to go right ahead with action arising out of the report.

Mr. Creech Jones

May I have a reply, to my Question as to what are the reasons why His Majesty's Government at the moment do not propose to put the House in possession of the report?

Mr. MacDonald

This is a matter which could be touched upon in the Debate which will take place.

Mr. Sorensen

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has not replied to the perfectly plain question put to him, and, in view of the strong feelings entertained on this side in this connection, will he reconsider the unfortunate decision which apparently he has made?

Mr. MacDonald

I am afraid I cannot add anything to what I said in the original answer.