HC Deb 01 August 1952 vol 504 cc1857-60
The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I wish to make a short statement on the subject of financial aid to Malta.

During the past two months, the Minister of State and I have discussed exhaustively with the Maltese Prime Minister and his colleagues his Government's request for financial assistance.

Her Majesty's Government have offered a substantial measure of financial aid to Malta, and have gone to the limit in an effort to conclude an agreement satisfactory to both Governments. I am sorry to have to tell the House that the Maltese Prime Minister has not found himself able to accept our proposals.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the details of the final offer which I made to the Maltese Prime Minister yesterday. The House will realise that this offer is quite distinct from the £31 million which Malta is receiving for the repair of war damage and reconstruction.

M. J. Griffiths

We shall study the detailed report. May I ask whether this grant will be in addition to any grant which Malta and other territories get under the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, and secondly, whether, in view of the difficulties of establishing new industries in Malta to absorb its increasing population the grant will be available to assist emigration?

Mr. Lyttelton

I am not quite clear about the first point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, but on the second there is a substantial grant for the next three or four years to assist the Maltese Government's emigration plan.

Mr. Griffiths

On the first point, I gather that the right hon. Gentleman has made an offer of financial aid. Will that be extra financial aid and not included in a grant under the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund?

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, Malta has £1½million in the original grant and we have given assurances that if further sums become available, the claims of Malta will be considered with those of other places.

Mr. T. Reid

Have all steps been taken to promote emigration from Malta, because, with the present rate of increase in population in Malta, it is obvious that that little island cannot support the teeming population?

Mr. Lyttelton

That is why I referred in particular to the sums Her Majesty's Government were willing to bear in addition to the sums spent by the Maltese Government to assist emigration which would amount to a maximum programme of about £300,000 a year.

Mr. Fenner Brockway

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate to us the reason the Prime Minister of Malta has declined this offer?

Mr. Lyttelton

No, I can only say, as I have indicated, that I will circulate the terms in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The Prime Minister of Malta has not been able to accept them.

Following is the statement:

  1. (1) Subject to the provision by Parliament of the necessary funds, Her Majesty's Government have agreed to give financial aid to Malta. The Maltese Government have agreed to make use of 1859 this financial aid in the manner seat out hereunder:
    1. (i) Her Majesty's Government will make available to Malta during the current financial year a sum of £500,000.
    2. (ii) The Maltese Government will allocate at least £100,000 to expenditure on emigration during the current year and will devote to additional expenditure on emigration either this year or in the future any part of the balance of the United Kingdom assistance not needed for expenditure on other recurrent services for which provision has been made in this year's draft estimates.
    3. (iii) Her Majesty's Government are prepared to meet for a period of four years, starting with the financial year 1953–54 two thirds of Malta's annual expenditure on an emigration programme to be agreed between the two Governments, up to a maximum contribution of £200,000 in any year.
    4. (iv) Her Majesty's Government will make available to the Maltese Government an annual grant equivalent to the net cost of the Imperial side of the Dyarchy in Malta.
    5. (v) Her Majesty's Government recognise that the Maltese Government have before them social equipment projects, accumulated over a period of years, involving the expenditure of over £5 million but which the Maltese Government propose to restrict to a programme of £3 million over a period of five years. Towards this programme Her Majesty's Government are making available £1,500,000 from Colonial Development and Welfare funds under the present Acts which expire in 1956. If Parliament by new legislation provides more funds and if conditions similar to those now obtaining continue to prevail at the time, Her Majesty's Government will ensure that Malta will have an appropriate share of those funds as further assistance in respect of the remainder of the programme.
  2. (2) It is the firm hope of both Governments that after providing for essential needs, Malta will be able to balance her future budgets without external assistance. But if it should be agreed that 1860 the same financial difficulties which have beset Malta and which have been accentuated during the last two years still persist and could not be overcome by her own unaided efforts, then Her Majesty's Government would in the same spirit of co-operation be ready to approach Parliament for further financial assistance.
  3. (3) It is agreed that a Consultative Committee shall be set up in order to provide regular means of consultation in future between the Maltese Government and Her Majesty's Government on all matters of common interest, and that it should meet at least once a year.