HC Deb 28 January 1942 vol 377 cc699-701
19. Mr. Creech Jones

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent schemes under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act are being submitted by the Comptroller in the West Indies and Governors of British African territories and other parts of the Colonial Empire; to what extent these schemes have been encouraged by recent circulars of the Secretary of State; how these schemes are being handled in his Department; whether they will be considered by the Dufferin Committee; whether, in view of the full-time appointment of the Chairman in the Ministry of Information, he is satisfied that proper attention and adequate consideration will be given to the work he has been given in the Colonial Office; and whether this arrangement is to continue?

Mr. George Hall

As the reply is rather long and contains some figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Creech Jones

In view of the very great importance of the social and economic development of our Colonial Empire, and of the problems that are now arising and the schemes that are being forwarded to the Colonial Office, is it satisfactory that an official who has full-time employment elsewhere, with inadequate experience, should be the Chairman of this particular Committee, considering its vital effects on the future of the Empire?

Mr. Hall

I must take exception to the reference to the experience of the Chairman of the Committee. For some time he occupied the position which I now have the honour to occupy. My Noble Friend is satisfied that the Chairman is able to give proper attention and adequate consideration to all the applications that come in.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it possible that the Chairman can do this job as well as a full-time job at the Ministry of Information? Is it not too much for any man?

Mr. Hall

No, Sir, the time required for this job is about one hour a week. There is no difficulty.

Mr. Creech Jones

Surely, the direction of a Committee of this vital importance, with hundreds of schemes coming in from all parts of the Colonial Empire, involving the future social and economic development of these territories, calls for more than one hour a week? Is not that hopelessly inadequate for tackling this job?

Mr. Hall

I would ask my hon. Friend to await the reply which I am circulating.

Following is the reply:

As explained in my reply to my hon. Friend on 8th October, 1941, applications for assistance under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act are made to the Secretary of State either by the Comptroller for Development and Welfare in the West Indies or by the Colonial Governments concerned. The number of applications which have been received from the West Indies is wit; from East Africa 20; West Africa 16, and from the rest of the Empire 43—making a total of 180. Apart from the general encouragement given in the circular despatch of 5th June, 1941, which has been published in Command 6299, it has always been open to Colonial Governments to submit applications for assistance to enable them to carry out schemes of re al urgency and importance, and the Governments of certain Colonies (in particular the West Indies) which were in a position to proceed with schemes of development without detriment to the war effort, have been encouraged to do so. It will, however, be appreciated that, under war conditions, it is not easy for Colonial Governments to prepare either general programmes of development or even detailed plans for specific schemes.

Applications received from the Colonies are examined in the Colonial Office as part of the normal business of the Department and are then submitted to the Colonial Development and Welfare Advisory Committee with any explanations or further information which may be needed to assist the Committee. This preliminary examination greatly facilitates the work of the Committee, and my Noble Friend is satisfied that the Chairman is able to give proper attention and adequate consideration to the applications. The Committee is a useful piece of machinery for ensuring that sound principles are applied when considering applications received from different Colonies, and it is proposed that applications should continue to be referred to the Committee.