HC Deb 07 July 1948 vol 453 cc360-1
25. Mr. Cooper

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is now able to state the extent of the concessions in land area and the nature of the main concessions covering any trading or other rights, and the dates on which these concessions were granted to the Belize Estate and Produce Company in British Honduras; what are the terms and the consideration given for the concessions granted; and what provisions are made for the protection of the interests of local labour and for reafforestation after the timber concessions have been worked.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)

The Belize Estate and Produce Company hold a freehold title, issued 100 years ago, to about one million acres in British Honduras. The Company also hold a licence to cut [...]ine on a tract of approximately 107,000 acres for a period of eight years from October, 1943. The terms of this licence are the payment of a royalty of 44 cents (2s. 2d.) a tree with a minimum of 1,000 dollars (approximately £250) annually. The interests of local labour are protected by legislation. There is no provision in the licence for reafforestation, which is normally a function of government, but the licensed area is subject to the Colony's forest legislation. A minimum girth limit for mahogany felled on private estates has been imposed by the Government.

Mr. Cooper

Does my hon. Friend understand that the company mentioned succeeded the British Honduras Company in 1878, which company was stated by one Governor to have improper occupancy of that territory, and that one governor was even recalled because of allocating territory indiscriminately in British Honduras? Will he look into the title of this company to see whether or not it is valid in law?

Mr. Rees-Williams

This company has a freehold title and certainly could not be dispossessed, even if we had a mind to do so, without reasonable and proper compensation.