HC Deb 02 June 1954 vol 528 cc1271-3
35. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware of the present economic difficulties of Malta; and what further steps he proposes to relieve them.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton)

The Malta Government has balanced its budget for the past two years and is not faced with serious immediate financial difficulties. But there is a difficult long-term economic problem, due fundamentally to overpopulation. This can only be solved by emigration. The Maltese delegation when here last week presented a programme for increasing emigration this year and a scheme for the vocational training of future migrants in the skills required in receiving countries. It was agreed that additional financial aid would be required for these purposes. As the detailed statement of the proposed assistance is long, I will, with the hon. and learned Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hughes

While I thank the Minister for that answer, may I take it that he realises that Malta stands in a special position by reason not only of its geographical situation but also of its war service and that he will do everything possible to ameliorate its economic conditions?

Mr. Lyttelton

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that we made a considerable grant—£475,000, if my memory serves me correctly—to aid emigration and to assist the Maltese Government in the present situation.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer to allow the Government to join the Inter-Goevrnmental Committee on European Migration, which might do very much to help with the, emigration of Maltese at the present time?

Mr. Lyttelton

I will certainly bear the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion in mind.

Following is the statement:


Her Majesty's Government welcomed the general lines of Malta's revised scheme of emigration for 1954–55 to cost £640,000 as set out in the Memorandum submitted by the Minister of Emigration. Two hundred thousand pounds towards this total is already available as a contribution from Her Majesty's Government in the Colonial Services Vote this year. Provided Malta meets from her own resources at least one-third of the total (i.e., £213,000) Her Majesty's Government is prepared to agree that the balance (i.e., a maximum of £227,000) should be met from the £475,000 paid over to Malta for general financial aid in 1952–53 and not used for that purpose.

2. In order to satisfy the requirements of Parliament it will be necessary to seek Parliamentary authority for the issue of monies for the above purpose and for the Malta Government to refund to Her Majesty's Government a corresponding amount. The necessary supplementary estimate will be presented to Parliament in the very near future.

3. Such portion of the sum of £475,000 as has not been expended by 31st March, 1955, for the purpose referred to above will be kept by the Maltese Government in a suspense account and further discussions will be held between Her Majesty's Government and the Maltese Government on the use of this money for additional expenditure on emigration in future years.

4. Her Majesty's Government agrees in principle with the Malta Government's scheme for vocational training of prospective migrants as outlined in the Memorandum submitted by the Malta Government, and, subject to examination of the details of the proposal by I.L.O. or United Kingdom experts, Her Majesty's Government is prepared to provide up to £100,000 in approved capital expenditure for this scheme.

As regards the recurrent costs estimated at £50,000 a year, Parliament has already been informed in a statement of 24th June, 1953, of the intention to ask them to allow the expenditure of funds available under the current Colonial Development and Welfare Act after 31st March, 1956, and Colonial Governments have already been told that they may proceed on this assumption.

On this basis Her Majesty's Government agrees to provide up to £50,000 a year for the recurrent costs for the period until 31st March, 1960. For this scheme a supplementary allocation has been made to Malta of £400,000 under the present Colonial Development and Welfare Act.