HC Deb 24 June 1953 vol 516 cc1897-900
Mr. Vaughan-Morgan

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will announce the intentions of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the renewal of the Commonwealth Development and Welfare Acts.

Mr. Braine

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in order to ensure continuity in Colonial development and welfare schemes, especially research schemes, he will make a statement concerning the future of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts.

Mr. Lyttelton

Yes, Sir. I am asking Colonial Governments and other authorities concerned to provide me with material on which this Government can approach Parliament for further funds for colonial development. I hope it will be possible to introduce the necessary legislation early in the 1954–55 Session.

Meanwhile, I am telling Colonial Governments that they may proceed on the assumption that the period in which the £140 million provided under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts of 1945 and 1950 may be spent will be extended by legislation beyond 31st March, 1956.

I am also telling them that, where necessary for essential development, they may enter into commitments extending beyond 1956 and over and above the £140 million already provided, on the understanding that Her Majesty's Government will in due course ask Parliament to vote the necessary moneys. Such advance commitments will be limited to a total of £7 million and will not be made without the concurrence of the Treasury.

There is a further matter of which I should inform the House. Because of the serious world rice shortage, we have thought it necessary to make funds available to a maximum of £3 million for promoting the production of rice in the Colonies. Expenditure on such schemes is proper to the existing Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, but we do not wish it to displace desirable developments in other directions. These special schemes for growing rice may therefore in due course involve allocations, and ultimately expenditure, in excess of the existing statutory limit of £140 million. The legislation to which I have referred will also, if necessary, provide cover for expenditure up to £3 million which may be incurred under these arrangements.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]

I should make it clear that there is no question of authorising in advance of the new legislation actual expenditure in excess of the existing statutory limits. But the House should be aware that Colonial Governments may in the interim be entering into commitments, to the extent which I have indicated, on the understanding that the necessary funds to meet these commitments will be provided by Her Majesty's Government under the new legislation.

Hon. Members


Miss Lee

On a point of order, which I address most respectfully to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Minister who is on his feet. It is difficult to follow such a long statement as the Minister is now making. Secondly, it is jeopardising the opportunity of hon. Members who have Questions later on the Order Paper. Could we have an extra few minutes at 3.30, or could not such statements be made at the end of Questions?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot allow more time than is allowed by Standing Orders.

Mr. Lyttelton

I apologise for the length of the answer, but I am trying to answer two Questions at once. Of course the answer will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The remainder of it is as follows:

I can see no other way of ensuring that the continuity of colonial development is not interrupted, and I feel confident that I have the full support of the House in the action I am now taking.

I would remind the House that the expenditure of Colonial development and welfare funds also opens up further fields for private investment.

Mr. Vaughan-Morgan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his statement, which will ensure the continuity of colonial development, will be widely welcomed throughout the Colonial Territories, and at least on this side of the House? Will there be an opportunity for this House to discuss, at the same time as they discuss the future of colonial development and welfare, the terms of reference of the Colonial Development Corporation, which are closely tied up with this matter?

Mr. Braine

Whilst warmly congratulating my right hon. Friend on the wise and timely decision to concentrate on rice development, which is of enormous importance, may I ask if he will give some indication of the information for which he is asking the Colonial Governments?

Mr. Lyttelton

The Colonial Governments and other authorities are being asked for an estimate of what help they want under these funds. Due allowance is being made for what they can contribute themselves.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The statement the right hon. Gentleman has made is important, and this is one of the most valuable agencies we have developed in assisting Colonial Territories. I hope it will be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to persuade the Leader of the House to give a day on which we can debate the matter.

Mr. Lyttelton

At the moment I am under some criticism for having made too full a statement.

At the end of Questions

Mr. Swingler

Mr. Speaker, I should like to refer to the point of order that was raised during Question time by my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee). I am sure the whole House is grateful to you for your generosity in allowing several supplementary questions at the end of Question time. But would you make an appeal to Ministers to keep their answers as brief as possible so that as many Private Members as possible are able to ask Questions, and to ensure that when they have long statements to make, as occurred at Question time today, they should ask your permission to make those statements after Questions instead of taking up the time of Members?

Mr. Speaker

I have frequently delivered injunctions to this House on the virtues of brevity, and these apply to Ministers as well as to Private Members.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)

May I be allowed to say that that is a rule which Ministers do try to follow, but today there was a misunderstanding about the long statement. I hope that the House will accept that explanation.

Mr. Speaker

I am sure from my experience that today's occurrence is quite exceptional.