HC Deb 08 July 1953 vol 517 cc1230-2
22. Captain Ryder

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what representations have been made to him regarding the constitutional and economic position of Malta; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Lyttelton

In a memorandum presented just before he left London recently, the Prime Minister of Malta suggested that responsibility for matters relating to that island should be transferred to the Commonwealth Relations Office. The memorandum did not mention the economic position but Dr. Borg Olivier intimated orally that his Government would have to ask for further financial assistance. I am not yet in a position to make a statement.

Captain Ryder

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a widespread feeling in this country that we should do all we can to help Malta achieve economic stability? Does he not think that this is a matter which might be discussed with the other countries of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Lyttelton

These are very important questions on which I do not wish to be drawn this afternoon. I would remind the House that, speaking from memory, more than £32 million has been given Malta since the war and that she is a State-aided Colony at the moment.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Is there not a much more general problem involved, that of countries in the Commonwealth which have reached the point of independence but are not big enough to be, in the full sense, nations in the world? Is not this an important matter which the Government should consider? I do not wish to hurry the right hon. Gentleman for an answer today.

Mr. Lyttelton

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that far wider questions than the amount of financial aid are raised, but I do not want to be drawn at the moment.

Mr. Driberg

While he is considering this very important matter, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to ensure that misunderstandings do not occur, such as that at Windsor the other day, following so soon on the other difficulty about the Coronation?

Mr. Lyttelton

It is very difficult to attempt to alter a constitutional matter like that through a ceremonial.

Mr. J. Amery

In considering Prime Minister Borg Olivier's request about transfer to the Commonwealth Relations Office, will my right hon. Friend also consider the possibility of Malta coming under the Home Office with a status similar to that of the Channel Islands?

Mr. Lyttelton

These are questions on which I do not wish to be drawn this afternoon.