HC Deb 08 November 1949 vol 469 cc1173-90

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Wilkins.]

9.33 p.m.

Mr. Follick (Loughborough)

In presenting Malta's difficulties to the House I should like to explain what those difficulties are and how they have arisen. I have one proposal to make which would to some degree alleviate those difficulties. Malta is suffering today from—

Mr. Drayson (Skipton)

Socialist Government.

Mr. Follick

No, from overcrowding of the island. I have made a small analysis of the condition of the island, comparing it with that of the Isle of Wight and that of the Isle of Arran. Malta, one of a small group of islands, has 112 square miles and 300,000 inhabitants, who are 4.19 to the acre. The Isle of Wight has 114 square miles but only 93 people to the acre. The Isle of Arran, which is well under-inhabited, has 05 people to the acre. The Isle of Arran has 165 square miles and only 5,000 inhabitants.

Malta, with 112 square miles has 300,000 inhabitants and its population is increasing in number very rapidly. It has a balance of 8,000 a year births over deaths. That in itself is a great aggravation of the unemployment question. The actual unemployment in Malta is 1,840, but if the dockyards sackings take place in March there will be another 1,200 added to that, which will make over 3,000, and when the reconstruction finishes, another 1,000 will be added, making 4,000. If we add to that the 20,000 women of employable age who are not working, that makes 24,000, and on top of that the 8,000 a year surplus of births over deaths will in five years be 40,000, which will mean round about 64,000 to 65,000 unemployed in five years time. That is the essential difficulty from which Malta is suffering.

The second great difficulty is the scarcity of the sources of revenue. Apart from the lottery which is held in Malta, there do not seem to be great sources of revenue. The old Maltese industries of lace, filigree work, embroidered handkerchiefs and such like have practically dried up on account of the scarcity of tourists. Up to about 1924 or 1925 Malta used to have a "fishing fleet." That was not a fleet which went out fishing but a great Maltese season during which women went there fishing for husbands on their way to Egypt. That brought in a large income to Malta, but it has since closed down.

I want to make a proposal to the House for the alleviation of this distress—distress which, if not attended to, will make Malta a slum Colony. These valiant, courageous people stood by Britain from the very first day of the war, introduced conscription when we did so, and had 45,000 buildings destroyed on the island. When all is said and done, if Malta had not stood by us the war might have taken a different turn. They stood up to a three years' battering from the air—longer than we did. In 1942 they had continual, persistent air battering day and night, but the bravery of the Maltese stood firm for Britain. Even if Malta had given in and surrendered, nobody could have blamed her. Many nations gave in with a far lighter battering than Malta had, but Malta stood by Britain. It is true that we were very enthusiastic at the time and we awarded Malta the George Cross, but that is not enough. The award of a George Cross is a high honour but we have to do a little more than that for such a strong-hearted part of the Empire which showed her attachment to this country by giving lives and by deeds of great loyalty.

Since the end of the war we have given to Malta what we call in this country a grant of £22,775.000 and what we call a gift of £10 million, making together £32,775,000. Now the Maltese dislike those two words "grants" and "gifts." They say they are neither grants nor gifts. They were battered by the forces of Germany and Italy and they were entitled to reparations from those two countries. If the British Government has renounced to a certain extent reparations from Germany and Italy, there is no reason for Malta to be deprived of that money to repay her for what she has suffered. So the Maltese say that these were neither grants nor gifts but were payments for the battering and the loss through destruction that befell Malta in her great test when she stood by this country.

I have tried to sketch the difficulties of Malta. It is over-populated. Up to 1914, emigration from Malta kept the population more or less balanced but, like all other nations after the first World War, restraint was put upon emigration by the countries to which emigration should be directed, and this population has been accumulating in Malta. Curiously enough, this week an agreement has been reached by the Maltese Government to charter a ship to take 817 emigrants to Australia. Now the Australians have done wisely in accepting these emigrants because the Maltese are good craftsmen, willing, quiet and industrious workers. If Australia is wise this will be only the first trial of taking Maltese to that vast continent which is so thirsty for people—in fact, a token embarkation.

I should like to bring to the House a proposal that I made to the Governor when I was in Malta about 18 months or two years ago. He thought it so useful that we went together to see the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr. Boffa. Dr. Boffa called some of his own Cabinet Ministers together for me to repeat to them this proposal which, while it will not solve the difficulties of Malta, will certainly alleviate them; it could also help us in this country to a certain extent. This proposal has appeared already in print in this country, in "The Times" and in other papers. In fact, the Maltese Government sent a representative to see me here in London and I made him a promise that I would bring to the attention of the House this question and this proposal.

I beg the House, therefore, to listen with patience to this proposal. I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary is here, for he is a very good Colonial Secretary. I have been through more Colonies lately than most people in this House, and I speak of him with very high regard and esteem. He is much more highly regarded in the Colonies than I imagined prior to my visits. The suggestion is to inaugurate cruises similar to the "strength through joy" cruises established by Goebbels in Germany before the war.

Mr. Drayson


Mr. Follick

Not Gestapo, but "strength through joy." [Interruption.] This is a serious matter. We are discussing the difficulties of a Colony which has been very brave and loyal to us. We should put aside for a moment any irrelevant talk and see whether the proposals are worth the consideration of the Colonial Secretary.

The cruises will not be for people accustomed to standards of luxury but for young people aged between 18 and 30 who are prepared to take the rough with the smooth. Four obsolete aircraft carriers will be necessary and will be fitted to take about 500 passengers each, in bunks, without any luxury. The passengers themselves will do all the light work, the crew will do only the heavy work and the cooking. Because of the huge landing decks of the aircraft carriers, these ships will have the finest decks in the world for games, sports and dancing, and in the warm summer evenings the passengers can sleep on the decks.

It is calculated that to enable these cruises to continue throughout the year four aircraft carriers will be needed. Accountants and people who should know the workings of these matters, with whom I have discussed the proposal, say that it could be operated at £1 per day per person; 500 passengers, therefore, would yield £500 a day. Each cruise would extend over a period of three weeks: a week for the outward journey, a week on the island and a week for the journey back home.

The ships would call at Gibraltar on the way out and at a North African port on the homeward journey. They would pick up their food at the North African port, so that no food at all would be taken from this country. It is much cheaper to buy in North Africa and the passengers could obtain the benefit of tropical provisions.

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

What set of workmen does the hon. Member propose would spend £21 out of their hard-earned money, at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is asking us not to spend money, to make this fantastic trip to Malta in order to help that island?

Mr. Follick

The hon. Member was born in a Colony

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

He knows.

Mr. Follick

That Colony has been and still is, a slum Colony, yet the hon. Member is asking me not to help Malta.

Everybody who takes a holiday nowadays saves up for it and, even at Margate, Bournemouth or Blackpool, usually spends more than £1 a day. By this scheme we could stagger holidays properly—[Laughter.] This is not a joke. One hon. Member on the extreme Left and one hon. Member on the extreme Right who saw the proposal in "The Times" have come to me and said it is a very fine idea. This is not a laughing matter, but a matter which has been gone into very carefully, otherwise I would not be making this proposal here tonight. We could stagger holidays, because no one would mind taking a holiday in November, December, January, or February, if they knew that for most of the time they would have fine weather—

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

A nice trip across the Bay of Biscay.

Mr. Follick

This is not a laughing matter. I think the hon. Member, of all hon. Members, ought to know better. On the island itself a camp could be set up similar to Butlin's camps here. Holidaymakers would be able to have a much better holiday, with almost guaranteed fine weather, than they could possibly have here in summer time and they would be able to get it there all the year round.

When I mentioned the Butlin style of camp the Maltese were rather perturbed and sent a representative to me to ask me not to propose a Butlin's camp. I said that I was not proposing a Butlin's camp such as Butlin's enterprises in the Bahamas and in Bermuda because I had seen enough of them to know that that is the wrong sort of thing. The sort of thing which is wanted is the style of Butlin camp that we have in this country, which the Maltese themselves would run and out of which they would make a profit.

We reckon that in the first year, if this scheme were operated, about 20,000 holidaymakers could be carried to Malta and back during the whole year. They would have a chance of seeing two Colonies and of visiting a North African town. They would have plenty of boating, sailing, golf and tennis on the island. I know Malta well and I know that this is possible. They would have recreation at reasonable prices. They would be able to buy cigarettes at 50 for 2s. 9d., because there would be no duty payable on board the ship, and whisky at 8s. a bottle—if they could get whisky—free of duty.

This could be made a very pleasurable trip and it would bring money to Malta, because the old industries of lace making, filigree silver work and embroidered handkerchiefs could be revived and a good many of the women could be employed in those industries, as visitors to Malta would buy such articles as souvenirs to bring away. From our point of view we should be able to operate staggered holidays for British industry, which we have always tried to achieve. Instead of having holidays crowded into July and August, they could be spread over the whole year.

I want to emphasise that this is not a proposal for luxury travellers, but for young people from every walk of life who want to take the rough with the smooth. There would be a mixing of people from every strata of our society and they would get to know each other.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Is my hon. Friend proposing that these tourists should go on British ships, and if so would that not inure to the benefit of Britain rather than to the benefit of Malta? Will he suggest something that would help the industries of Malta and really help to solve the problem with which Malta is confronted?

Mr. Follick

If my hon. and learned Friend will give me time, I will explain all that. I have explained about the industries of Malta and how the incoming tourists themselves would be sufficient to revive those industries. The British Government will have to give to Malta these aircraft carriers, which would have to be converted. Malta has not got the money to purchase them. It is not a big repayment for all that Malta has done for us. If this scheme could be worked out and made profitable, producing an income for the Colony, it would be worth our while to encourage it to this extent. It would not be a great sacrifice on our part to give four obsolete aircraft carriers for the purpose.

The oil for these aircraft carriers could be brought in from the Near East, so that there would not be the great haul right to this country. If that were done, Malta would once more have a flow of tourists year in and year out which would provide an income for the country. Should the tourist traffic at any time not be sufficient to keep the four ships fully engaged, those that could be spared could be used for taking more Maltese emigrants to Australia or whatever part of the world would accept them. Something must be done to relieve Malta of that tremendous excess of population which it has at present. There is nothing which we in this country ought not to be prepared to do to reward the island for the great help which it gave us. What I am now proposing would cost this country very little indeed and might be a partial solution of some of Malta's difficulties.

Mr. Hector Hughes

My hon. Friend promised to say something before he sat down about assisting the industries of Malta; he has said nothing whatever about that. He has done nothing except envisage this fantastic tourist scheme. Will he say something about the industries of Malta?

Mr. Follick

I do not know what my hon. and learned Friend does with his ears; evidently he does not listen with them. I have already said that this intake of 20,000 tourists a year to Malta will be enough to revive the industries which Malta used to have and which used to be prosperous. I repeated that twice.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)

I am sure that the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) for once again turning our attention to the problem of a self-governing island within the British Commonwealth, the Island of Malta. No one would quarrel with the concluding words which he used that something must be done to get Malta out of her difficulties. He made two suggestions in the course of his most interesting speech. One was for a survey in anticipation of an unemployment problem in the next few years, which is by no means inevitable and which could most certainly be averted by wise stewardship. His other was a suggested solution of Malta's problem which I do not think anyone in the House would really think touches the fundamental problem. However, the hon. Member's intentions were good. If only one could say the same of all those who also sit on the benches opposite!

We welcome this return to a problem which must tax our joint statesmanship—the problem of the United Kingdom, the British Empire and the self-governing Colony of Malta. I agree with the hon. Member that all parties are anxious for her prosperity. It does not require the hon. Gentleman's command of, I believe, 10 different languages to stress that fact before the British House of Commons. We are awaiting a White Paper on the problems of Malta. Inquiry today at the Colonial Office elicited the fact that it is in draft, but not yet printed. We have no quarrel with the Government on this matter. They did not choose his Debate. It is a Private Member's Adjournment, and a very good subject to raise, but the Government did not choose this occasion. Apart from that, there are two Governments involved in the preparation of this White Paper, the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Malta. Naturally where two self-governing Governments—

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Collindridge.]

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Where two Governments are involved—although one Government is responsible for the White Paper, it involves the consideration of the attitude and actions of two Governments—it obviously takes a little longer than if His Majesty's Government were alone responsible for the contents of that White Paper. We shall await this with the greatest possible interest. It is to be hoped that some time will be found—it will have to be found by the Government because now, alas, all the Supply Days for this Session are exhausted and the Opposition cannot do it—for us to consider these various problems.

We are all of us proud of our historic association with Malta in war and peace. That brave, loyal and lovely island, like us, is an island fortress, and like us is also anxious to stand on her own feet. Anything we can do to help Malta now to stand on her own feet we shall certainly do; and to make of her self-government a reality within the British Commonwealth and Empire. No one can avoid the conclusion that, with the granting of self-government to Malta, she became, in all aspects of her domestic policy, master in her own house. There can be no house in the British Empire more important from our mutual point of view and of more historic interest than the Island of Malta. Neither they nor us can be fully independent if we depend on the aid of other people. This is a fact with which I think the Government, along with the Opposition, will wholly agree.

Various proposals have from time to time been advanced to help Malta in her difficulties. I do not seriously think that the creation on a large scale in the depth of winter of a revival of the German scheme of "strength through joy" trips will really get down to the basic problem with which Malta is faced; though I share with the hon. Gentleman the hope that with returning prosperity to that island it may be possible to grant an opportunity to her citizens to see other parts of the British Empire. When her economic problems are on the way to a proper solution, let us hope that she, like us, will be able to take prolonged and happy holidays. But at the moment our problems are far too severe.

I personally, from my own interest in aviation matters, have always hoped that we would honour the pledge given to Malta by the Coalition Government that she would for all foreseeable time remain a great air base. We have had an Adjournment Debate on that which I raised, and nothing has happened since to alter the view that we owe an obligation to Malta to do all we can to see that she remains an important air base in our Empire communications.

That by itself is not enough. We must also encourage in every way the Maltese industries. The hon. Member quite rightly mentioned the lace industry. The working of the British Purchase Tax on Maltese lace is a severe handicap to that industry. We ought to look again at the consequence of our own internal legislation on those parts of the Empire where they work harshly.

I hope that the Secretary of State for the Colonies will once more consult with the Treasury to see whether something can be done to help an industry which, though it needs the advantage of constant tourists, does not wholly depend on their physical presence in Malta. There are other local industries of great importance. I hope that we shall always give priority to them and that His Majesty's Government, at Geneva, Havana or elsewhere, will never sign any international undertaking which will preclude us from giving preferences to our Maltese fellow subjects in regard to their vital industries.

But, of course, as everybody realises, the main interests of the Maltese at the moment are in His Majesty's dockyards in the island. We must await the full White Paper which will give us all the facts which only the Government know. We do, however, know enough at the moment to realise that we had in 1938 in Malta 8,000 men and women—naturally I think most were men—working in His Majesty's dockyards. The figure in October, 1949, was 12,000. The number was largely swollen during the war. Malta responded readily and bravely to the needs of war, but no one seriously suggests that a particular increase of that kind in the number of dockyard workers ought for all time to be perpetuated, or that we are disloyal or ungrateful to Malta if we do not believe this to be possible.

A great many industries in the sister island here—the United Kingdom—were also largely increased during the war, and naturally the people could not be certain that they would be able to remain in those industries when the needs of the war were over. It would be no help to Malta if the United Kingdom, through the Admiralty Vote, should bankrupt itself and be quite incapable of fulfilling those obligations which still remain to our friends and fellow citizens in Malta. We must, however, see that any cuts in the Admiralty dockyards throughout the British Empire are fairly and evenly distributed, that they are certainly not concentrated on Malta, that Malta does not have to bear an unequal share of the burden.

I hope that when the White Paper is published we shall have facts which will clear our minds about this. At the moment we know the number of people who have been given dismissal orders in Malta. We know, on the other hand, that between 1st January of this year and the end of July some 2,000 vacancies in the British dockyards in the United Kingdom which had arisen in those six months have not been filled. That leads us to think that the United Kingdom dockyard workers are bearing a share of this inevitable cut; but we want fuller figures so that we can know how wisely this has been done. We shall await the White Paper, with that guide in it, with the utmost interest.

We must also do all that we can to see that the Maltese dockyards get an ever-increasing share of work. I am not sure of the legal position, but those dockyards are the main responsibility of the Government. Merchant ships from this country and from all over the world can well be guided there for necessary repairs. We were very much reassured by the statement made by one of the junior Ministers speaking for the Admiralty a few days ago that it was the policy of the British Government to give the Maltese dockyards all the possible merchant shipping repair work that they could. We wish Godspeed to that service which the Maltese are highly qualified to do and which we hope they will be given in ever-increasing quantities.

Then we must face the problem of emigration. No country likes to regard its economic future as being one of unloading proportions of its population on other parts of the world; but the history of the British Empire would be a very different one if that had been the prevailing view throughout the centuries. We can assure the Maltese that in so far as their citizens go to other parts of the Empire, that will never work to Malta's loss. What is the gain of Australia, for example, or any other part of the Empire, will never be to Malta's loss in the long run. Just as we ourselves may well have to face up to well-worked-out plans of emigration, involving not one section of the community but a whole variety of sections, so Malta must face up to that problem also. We will do all we can. The initiative must lie with the self-governing Government of Malta. But the British Government, I feel sure, and this will stand also for the Opposition, will give them all the help they can in their task.

The hon. Gentleman referred also to emigration to Australia, and suggested that it had just started. Actually, Lord Strickland, once an Australian Governor and for all time honourably associated through himself and his family with Malta, did a good deal to start it a third of a century ago. Anything that is done in future in Australia or any other part of the Empire we will certainly help—both Government and Opposition—because there is no quarrel between our parties as regards the future of Malta. We are deeply involved in her welfare and we agree on the broad lines by which it can be advanced. We would welcome any extension of the "Westward Ho" scheme for bringing people from Malta here and giving them a chance in those industries or professions, like nursing, in which we have need for new people. In anything that the Government can do to give priority to British citizens, including the Maltese, they will have the loyal support of the Opposition.

Lastly, comes the question of cash. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the aid given by the United Kingdom to Malta, in so far as it was an attempt to restore her war damage, must certainly never be painted as if it was represented as a generous gift by British taxpayers to people who have done nothing in return, and, in so far as it has been painted like that, it is very unfortunate. The food subsidies are in a different category, and no self-governing country could regard itself as independent if it had to accept foor subsidies from another part of the Empire. That problem must now be faced by the Governments.

As to the war damage contribution, that is a joint responsibility, and, if Malta had not been so gallant in the war, undoubtedly the war would have taken a very different turn, and the damage that came down upon that island, not only because of the attack upon institutions of freedom and liberty which they valued, but also because of their association with the United Kingdom and the Empire, is something for which we neither can nor wish to rid ourselves of our responsibility. We of the Opposition, at the time when the Malta Bill was before Parliament, made an attempt to separate by means of Amendments the war damage contribution and the reconstruction contribution, and we urged that these should not be finalised or lumped together. This is not the time for developing this argument, but, if it had been done, it might have been easier now to make plans and make progress more than we have in fact done.

That is the position, and we shall await the White Paper with interest. We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman who raised this Debate, and who never lacks zeal in raising vital problems in this House; and I hope that the Secretary of State will give us some indication of the important things that will be in the White Paper so that Parliament may know a little ahead what are the intentions of His Majesty's Government.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Before the hon. Gentleman finishes, has he any suggestions about the indigenous industries of Malta and the problem of how to deal with the surplus population?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I am content to leave that to anybody who reads HANSARD tomorrow and the account of my speech.

10.14 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)

The difficulty which faces this House in talking about Malta is that it is a self-governing Colony, except that, in a few matters, this Government has a responsibility, and it is scarcely possible for us to indicate to the Maltese Government how their economy should be planned or how their financial difficulties should be overcome. We have tried to maintain a jealous regard for the self-governing responsibilities of Malta, and therefore we can discuss this problem tonight only within very real limitations. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) has made it clear that the House will be in possession of a great deal of additional information in regard to Maltese problems in the course of a few weeks.

If I may do so without trespassing on the constitutional position of Malta, I should like to say a few words in regard to the difficulties confronting that territory at the present time. I welcome the opportunity given to us to look at some of these problems. I recognise that there is a basic problem in Malta that is almost insoluble, which faces the Maltese Government with a very considerable difficulty. Here is an island, as has been pointed out, with a fairly considerable and dense population and with an economy hopelessly insufficient and inadequate to meet the needs of that population, which is increasing rapidly year by year to such an extent that scarcely any emigration arrangements can prove adequate to cope with it. And so we have this dual problem, the insufficient economy to cope with the present population problem, and the problem of the rapidly increasing population.

It has been my responsibility in recent months to discuss many of the problems of Malta with the Prime Minister of that Colony. I have tried to observe the position as between the United Kingdom and Malta, and I have done nothing, I hope, which interferes with the integrity of that territory in the field of government. I have expressed to the Prime Minister my own alarm about the future position when the reconstruction work in Malta comes to an end. At the present time there is a very large unexpended sum which, in the field of rehabilition and reconstruction, may possibly meet the needs of Malta for a period of four or five years, but when that money is exhausted and the reconstruction work is done, a most real problem will be presented to Malta as to how it can sustain its unemployed and the increasing numbers who are being born in that territory.

It has been suggested that the finances of Malta are insufficient for certain of her major problems. On behalf of His Majesty's Government, I have made it clear that we have a continuing interest in the well-being of the island and the people there, and that we are anxious to be of what practical assistance we can in finding a way through the difficulties confronting Malta.

We have therefore suggested that the Maltese Government might take the initiative in examining the viability of the economy of Malta, in bringing to our notice what might be done in the reconstruction of her economy, extending her industries and meeting some of the difficulties confronting her at the moment. Likewise, in connection with the exploitation of her whole financial resources, we have suggested that she might have the assistance of someone of great experience from this country to guide her in tackling her financial problems. We now wait on the Maltese Government. The offer has been made that we would wish to assist her in such an examination. We recognise the very grave difficulties ahead, but until the Maltese Government themselves ask for our aid and suggest to us that such an examination should be made, we are quite unable, at our end, to deal with the problems which face her.

I have said, further, that His Majesty's Government would be prepared, in the light of the report of the expert, to sit down and examine the recommendations and see in what ways we can be of practical assistance. We are anxious that the economy of Malta should be viable and wish to do what we can to assist her, because we realise how grave are her difficulties. Meantime, at her request, we have been trying to be of assistance in a number of ways. We have, for instance, been trying to find new outlets for employment and to assist in regard to certain public works in Malta and in the matter of immigration.

I should like to assure the House that we are doing what we can, at the request of the Maltese Government, to be of some practical assistance, and that when the expert is appointed at the request of the Maltese Government and the report is to hand, we shall study it with great sympathy and understanding in the hope of being of some further practical assistance to Malta. It is quite unnecessary for me to state what financial assistance has been rendered to the Maltese people. That assistance has been considerable but, as I have said, so far as the future is concerned we shall study her problems with sympathy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) raised certain questions about tourism. However practical or unpractical the scheme may be, this matter is one for study by the Maltese Government themselves. The proposal is that the Maltese Government should be responsible for the running of the ships, for the building of the camp and for the general organising of the scheme. In the scheme put to us I see numerous practical difficulties. I have had considerable experience in this field myself; I have been responsible at times for organising cruises in the Mediterranean, and I should like to tell my hon. Friend that he ignores many of the practical problems involved in a project of this kind and that it is not quite so easy as he suggests. For instance, to carry on cruises throughout the whole year, across the Bay of Biscay, particularly in an aircraft carrier, is a proposition that calls for further examination.

I would only add that so far as tourism is concerned this is a matter for the Maltese Government themselves. There is an office in London which has tried to encourage British visitors to Malta. I agree that it is a country of infinite interest, which ought to be a very great holiday rendezvous and one would hope that the facilities for travel will increase, so that many more people from this country will go and see this extraordinarily interesting and historic territory. We as a Government will give all the help we can to Malta in trying to develop her tourist trade and I should like to thank the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) for his very helpful speech, which will be appreciated in Malta just now.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Marylebone)

Would the right hon. Gentleman indicate any plans which he has in mind to give any scientific help to Malta. He has mentioned various ways in which help could be given and I think another example is the development of hydroponics. If a scientific examination could be made of it it might be of great assistance to Malta. Aircraft services to Malta have been suggested, and the products from hydroponics could be flown from these islands and thus create an export trade for that island and help it increasingly in the provision of employment.

Mr. Creech Jones

I am not qualified to reply to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) except to say that we have made our own technical resources available to Malta in regard to any development plans. We hope that in the discussions which may follow on the report which the experts will present, suggestions of a practical nature may be put forward for examination in order that we may help things along. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough for bringing this matter forward tonight, and I hope the House will have very much fuller information in the course of a few weeks and be able to form a sounder judgment in regard to the state of affairs in Malta.

Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

I am sure that with much that the right hon. Gentleman has said the whole House will be in agreement, but there is one particular point about which I feel he was lukewarm. That was the question of emigration. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty gave us an assurance that the Admiralty would give facilities for the repair of ships in the shipyards at Malta including any ships which the Maltese have for the purpose of emigration and that was a very welcome assurance. I was hoping that the right hon. Gentleman tonight would follow it up, and see if the Admiralty and his Department together could attract work to the dockyards. This is a very important matter for the island inasmuch as it would help considerably in the employment of the Maltese. I hope he will give us a little more assurance on that.

Mr. Creech Jones

That is a matter for the Admiralty itself, but the Colonial Office have made the strongest representations to the Admiralty in respect of maintenance and repair work, suggesting that as much as possible should be diverted to Malta. As the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford pointed out, however, there is at the moment a falling off of employment in many ship-repairing yards, and the problem is very difficult. All that one can suggest is that Malta should not be treated worse than certain of the other overseas dockyards.

In regard to emigration, I can only assure the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) that we have tried to do everything in our power to obtain ships for emigration purposes and to create or add to the existing facilities, because we feel that this is one of the major ways of helping Maltese economy at the present time.

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Half-past Ten o'Clock.