HC Deb 10 May 1938 vol 335 cc1388-90
8. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether, in view of the heavy subsidies to Newfoundland from this country, substantial social and economic progress is being made to warrant this cost and absence of democratic institutions; whether any steps are being taken to create some channels for expressing public opinion on the Island to the Commission of Government; and how soon will representative government be restored in this British Dominion?

Mr. M. MacDonald

As regards the first and third parts of the question, there is certainly no doubt as to the substantial social and economic progress which has been made in Newfoundland under the Commission of Government, but the process of recovery must necessarily be gradual and the Island cannot be expected to be self-supporting for some considerable time to come: in the circumstances there is no present prospect of restoration of the previous form of Constitution. As regards the second part of the question, It is the aim of the Commission to keep in close touch with local opinion both in day to day administration and on major questions of policy, and the best methods of securing this are constantly under review. A variety of contacts have already been developed for this purpose, both through standing bodies andad hocconferences, and through trade, labour and charitable organisations.

Mr. Creech Jones

Are we to understand from that reply that it will now be a principle of government that the test for the preservation of democratic institutions will be the ability of the Territory to balance its budget or to pay its way?

Mr. MacDonald

We are now considering the particular question of Newfoundland, and we are working in accordance with the wishes of the people of the Island as expressed at the time when this new form of government was established.

Mr. Creech Jones

Will the Minister consider setting up some advisory committee whereby the people of Newfoundland can express themselves to the Commission?

Mr. Lyons

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied from the representations he has had from the Island itself that this form of government is, in the circumstances, meeting the need of the people there?

Mr. MacDonald

I think the answer which I gave to the original question really covers that point. I think that, generally speaking, the good government which is being given by the Commission is appreciated throughout the Island. With regard to the question by the hon. Member opposite, as I have said, the question of the most appropriate form of consultation with the local population is constantly under review, and at present I am satisfied that the methods which are being adopted are the most satisfactory in all the circumstances. Certainly, I have not recently had any complaints on this point from the Island itself.