HC Deb 07 November 1933 vol 281 cc31-3

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make on the present situation in Malta?


As the House will be aware from the official announcement issued during the Recess, His Majesty's Government have recently found it necessary to take action with regard to Malta. With their full approval the Governor on the 2nd of November discharged the Ministry, dissolved the Legislature, and again assumed the administration of the Island in virtue of a provision inherent in the Constitution by which, in the event of a local emergency, he is entitled to invoke his reserved powers. The House will remember that when responsible Government was restored in 1932 it was made subject to certain stipulations regarding the languages to be taught in the elementary schools. It was laid down that in these schools the children should be instructed in Maltese and English only, adequate provision being made for the teaching of Italian in the secondary schools. Both on the grounds of educational efficiency and of the practical interests of the children themselves these provisions were held to be amply justified. The policy of His Majesty's Government on this matter was confirmed by an Act which was passed unanimously through both Houses of Parliament; and hon. Members will, I am sure, recollect the importance which the House rightly attached to the language question.

The Maltese Ministers were well aware of the conditions upon which responsible Government was restored. Unfortunately, by a series of actions of which the cumulative effect is unmistakable, they have made it clear that the main object of their policy has been to frustrate the effective operation of these conditions. In addition to this, the general administration of the Island has presented features which His Majesty's Government were bound to view with grave concern. The estimates for the current year contemplated an expenditure. of £151,000 in excess of the revenue estimate of some £900,000, and further supplementary expenditure was proposed which threatened the Island with a virtual depletion of the reserve fund which stood to its credit when the Imperial authorities transferred the administration in 1932. The financial administration in other respects presented unsatisfactory features. Ministers were warned by the Governor of the inevitable consequences which must follow unless their policy were radically altered. They have disregarded these warnings and have persisted in a policy which is at variance with the spirit of the Constitution, which had undermined the finances of the Island, and which is clearly prejudicial to Maltese and British interests. In these circumstances His Majesty's Government were bound to act as they have done.


Is a further election in the early or distant future contemplated in Malta? Secondly, now that the right hon. Gentleman insists upon English being taught in all the Maltese schools, will he take steps to prevent Maltese men and women being prosecuted for high treason for reading books written by George Bernard Shaw?


I do not pretend to understand the point of the second question. The provisions about the language are not only provisions upon which I insisted but provisions upon which the whole House in every quarter most firmly insisted. It is perfectly plain, in the circumstances of Malta today, that this country must administer the government for the time being.

Brigadier General Sir HENRY CROFT

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will take steps to see that all these lessons in democratic experiments are conveyed to the Select Committee on Indian Reform?


May I ask my right hon. Friend whether the British Ambassador in Rome has been fully informed of the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to the Italian language in Malta, and is in a position, if need be, to make representations to, or to answer objections from, the Italian Government?


His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome has been kept in most complete and full touch and has had the fullest information throughout.