§ 3. Petty Officer Alan Herbert
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether he can make any statement on the political and economic future of Newfoundland.
§ 5. Major Sir Derrick Gunston
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs if he will be able to announce soon His Majesty's Government's proposals in regard to the economic and political future of Newfoundland.
§ 2. Mr. John Dugdale
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether any arrangements are in contemplation to enable the people of Newfoundland to express their views on the future constitution of their country.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Emrys-Evans)
As the reply is rather long I will, with the permission of the House, give it at the end of Questions.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
On the last occasion when the matter was raised in another place, my noble Friend, the Dominions Secretary, said that he hoped to make a further statement about Newfoundland in the near future. At that time, it was generally expected that the war with Germany might come to an end at an earlier date than now seems probable, and that we might be in a position, not only to establish, but to set in motion 1262 machinery during 1945 to enable Newfoundlanders to examine the future of the Island and to express their considered views as to the form of Government they desire having regard to the Island's financial and economic condition. The delay in achieving victory in Europe has unhappily affected the position adversely in two ways. First, it must inevitably postpone the setting in motion of the machinery for deciding the constitutional future of the Island, for that must await the end of the war in Germany; and, secondly, it equally precludes any immediate attempt to forecast the economic prospects of the Island after the war. In view of this new situation, which His Majesty's Government deeply regret, it is clearly necessary to readjust our timetable.
His Majesty's Government have always contemplated that the further statement which my noble Friend had to make to Parliament must be a balanced one, that is to say, that it should not be confined to matters of machinery, but should deal broadly with reconstruction needs, and afford at least a starting point from which Newfoundlanders might be able to arrive at some assessment of their economic prospects in the immediate post-war period. It has been the clearly expressed view of Parliament here, and is, I think, generally recognised in Newfoundland, that, when the Newfoundland people come to pronounce on the constitutional future, much must depend on the degree of confidence with which they will be able to count on the Island continuing to be self-supporting in normal peace-time conditions. It would be unfair to expect them to come to a decision on the constitional issue without full discussion of how they are likely to stand, financially and economically, when present war-time activities cease. Indeed, a clear understanding of their economic future must be, quite evidently, an essential factor in any decisions or discussions by Newfoundlanders as to their constitutional future. But many of the factors of which account will have to be taken by them in reaching any economic or financial assessment of the Island's future are still speculative and hypothetical.
His Majesty's Government have, therefore, come to the conclusion that the wiser course would be to recognise the realities of the war situation and to defer the pro- 1263 duction of detailed proposals until later in the year, when the situation should be clearer. My noble Friend will, in any case, aim at making a statement in good time before the moment comes for the setting up of machinery to enable Newfoundlanders to examine these questions for themselves.
Much as His Majesty's Government regret this inevitable postponement, I need hardly say that it will not interfere in the slightest degree with the progress of the Newfoundland Government's reconstruction plans for the immediate post-war period. These are now in an advanced stage and they will go forward in the normal way. The Newfoundland Government have ample funds for financing any schemes with which progress is likely to be possible in the near future, and there will be no question of any such schemes being held up while the Newfoundland people are coming to a decision on the constitutional issue. Indeed, a start has already been made with some schemes, notably those relating to fisheries development, and others are ready to be put into operation as soon as war condtions allow. Nor, of course, will the postponement of His Majesty's Government's detailed statement in any way affect their determination to proceed as early as circumstances permit with the constitutional policy they have already announced.
§ Petty Officer Herbert
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his statement will cause some disappointment? Have the reconstruction proposals of the Parliamentary mission been favourably considered in principle and, as far as possible, in detail?
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
Yes, Sir. I am well aware that the statement will cause some disappointment, but I can give the hon. and gallant Gentleman the assurance that all the proposals put forward by the mission have received very careful consideration. I would also point out, however, that this is only an interim statement.
§ Sir D. Gunston
While appreciating the Government's difficulty, may I ask if my hon. Friend will see that, through the Press and other means at the disposal of the Government, the people of Newfoundland should realise that this is only a postponement? Also have the Government considered in detail the recon- 1264 struction and economic proposals put forward by the Members of the Commission Government who visited this country last summer?
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I can give both assurances. Every effort will be made to inform the people of Newfoundland of the statement, and also that the Commission of Government were fully consulted and sent over three of their Commissioners last summer, when the whole question was very carefully gone into.