HC Deb 02 August 1939 vol 350 cc2368-70
45. Sir Ralph Glyn

asked the Prime Minister whether a decision has been taken as to whether a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament should be set up to co-operate with the Secretary of State for the Colonies on certain aspects of matters concerning the Colonial Empire?

51. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Prime Minister whether he can now make a statement regarding the institution of a standing Parliamentary Committee for Colonial affairs?

52. Mr. De Chair

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the findings of the Report on Nutrition in the Colonial Empire, he will hasten his decision as to the advisability of setting up a permanent committee in both Houses of Parliament to consider the affairs of the Colonial Empire?

53. Mr. David Adams

asked the Prime Minister whether he has now decided to set up a Parliamentary Committee for the consideration of questions affecting the Colonial Empire?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. There is a special responsibility resting upon Parliament, acting through the Secretary of State, for the welfare and progress of the British Colonies and Dependencies. His Majesty's Government recognise that this matter has been engaging the special interest and attention of a number of hon. Members in various parts of the House for some time past and they appreciate their anxiety that opportunities should be afforded to the House of keeping in closer touch with Colonial problems. The particular proposal for a Parliamentary Committee, no doubt presents certain advantages, but it raises issues of Parliamentary procedure and constitutional practice of a far reaching character which require very careful consideration. The Government have given the question some preliminary thought but they have not yet arrived at any final decision and it is proposed to enter into consultation with other parties in this House upon this and other aspects of the matter. I do not want to go further than this to-day but I hope to be able to make a more definite statement as to the Government's intentions in the autumn.

Sir H. Williams

May I ask the Prime Minister whether he can give an assurance to some of us who do not wish to see introduced into this Parliament that system which prevails in the American and French Parliaments, whereby the responsibility of Ministers is diminished through the existence of Parliamentary Committees wth administrative powers?

The Prime Minister

That is one of the considerations which I have in mind.

Mr. De Chair

Is it not the case that the considerations which affect the Colonial Empire are somewhat different from those which the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) has just raised, because we are Members of Parliament for the Colonial Empire?

The Prime Minister

I have said in my answer that there is a special responsibility on Parliament for Colonial administration.

Mr. Garro Jones

Having regard to the far-reaching issues involved, does the right hon. Gentleman think that mere unofficial conversations through the usual channels are sufficient to deal with this matter; and would it not be more effective to set up a Select Committee to consider the question in all its aspects and report to the House?

The Prime Minister

I think not at this stage, at any rate. I think the best way is to begin with these unofficial communications which I have suggested.