HC Deb 07 July 1955 vol 543 cc1448-65

In considering whether to object, in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (2) of section three of Article III of the Agreement, to the financing of any enterprise within the United Kingdom, Her Majesty's Government shall have regard to all such considerations as to the nationality and situation of the registered office of the enterprise, fair wages clauses, employment of trade union labour and all other such conditions which are normally considered in relation to the selection and placing of Government contracts.—[Mr. Hale.]

Brought up and read the First time.

Mr. Hale

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think it would be convenient to consider, at the same time, the next new Clause [Fair conditions in Colonies], also in the name of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Hale

No, Sir Rhys. I welcome the opportunity of discussing them together. [Laughter.] I must have lost my sense of humour. I do not know what hon. Members are laughing at.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Harmar Nicholls)

I was wondering whether the hon. Member was welcoming the opportunity of discussing the new Clauses or the opportunity of discussing them together.

Mr. Hale

I welcome the opportunity of discussing them together. One raises a set of principles for the Government at home and the other a set of principles for the Government in the Colonies. They raise precisely the same issue, though, of course, obviously, the second is the more important, because one does not anticipate the possibility of unfair conditions in the United Kingdom today.

The first suggests that the Government shall …have regard to … nationality and situation … of the enterprise,… fair wages clauses, employment of trade union labour and all other such conditions which are normally considered in relation to the selection and placing of Government contracts. The only reason for that is this. If the Government are asked by the International Finance Corporation to agree to an enterprise directed to the development of private enterprise in the United Kingdom they ought to have regard to those matters—and to the nationalised industries, which constitute a main consideration to take into account.

I am not suggesting for a moment that anyone wants a closed shop here and would not welcome guests appearing as suitable enterprises. Of course, one must consider that. To take, for example, a fantastic suggestion, suppose there were a proposal to develop an arms company with German control. At this moment I would suggest that that would be a matter the Government might properly consider. Personally, I could wish that had been considered earlier, but I must not develop that matter now. Of course, the employment of trade union labour and other such conditions would be considered. All we say is that if private enterprise is to be financed with what are, in effect, Government guarantees, assurances of Government support, we are entitled, in these days, to demand fair conditions.

In the other new Clause concerning the Colonies we insist, and rightly, that the Government must be satisfied that … the enterprise is one which is in the general interest of the people of such territory and that suitable and satisfactory undertakings have been given by the enterprise concerned as to the payment of fair wages, the recognition of trade unions and the absence of colour discrimination amongst the employees of the enterprise. I often think that in colonial matters the United States have done very much better than we have—certainly in relation to the colour bar. The recent decision of the United States Supreme Court is an illustration of the humanity of the tremendously rapid progress the Americans have made since the days of Tennessee twenty years ago to the days of Tennessee today. But this is an international concern with international directors and varying points of view.

It seems to me that here is a simple opportunity for Her Majesty's advisers to say, "We are going to take a few steps to implement the Declaration of Human Rights in this matter." Here is an opportunity for them to say that if international finance is going to enter into our territories—and on suitable terms I should welcome it—we must have regard to one or two considerations. They are put in the proposed new Clause.

The first consideration is the interests of the inhabitants. Presumably, as far as a large part of Africa is concerned, the new Clause is completely in accord with the terms of the Devonshire Declaration, which has long been Government policy, and also with the interests of the inhabitants. It must be said that the bringing of large-scale industry or large-scale agriculture into a territory is by no means an unmixed blessing. Everyone knows that the construction of railways, which Africa so badly needs, is never by itself an unmixed blessing. Anyone who knows the history of the development of this country, or worse, the United States, or, worse still, Australia, will know that, unless there is considerable control, widespread evils may result.

The bringing to remote, poverty-stricken, depressed areas of large-scale industries—while it is one of the things which we want to welcome—by itself, without other balancing factors, can be a great evil indeed. One has to have regard to the effects of rapid inflation on a territory which is without consumer goods, to the destruction of the old agricultural life and, pre-eminently, to the effects which these enterprises, by their very nature, often have on the movements of population. Mining companies have to go where the mine is and where, very often, the people are not. Men have to travel vast distances from home and work and live in dormitory conditions away from their wives and families. In such cases, welfare considerations arise of the kind which a welfare officer with wide international experience might have in mind. A very great disaster can be created if these considerations are not borne in mind.

The interests of other inhabitants must also be considered over a wide area. We have in Africa, and, unfortunately, in too many countries which are regarded as individual, nationalistic units, vast areas which are not viable and which, for instance, have no access to the coast, except through other territories. Transport must be provided in a manner which is acceptable to those other territories.

There is also the social implication, which is overwhelming—that if we are to introduce more white people into Africa—miners, technicians and directors of companies—we must consider the social effect on the Africans. Will they always be hewers of wood and drawers of water to be compelled permanently to work as labourers and have no opportunity of acquiring skills? Are we to continue to have the situation which exists in Africa today, partly of necessity and partly not, in which the lower-grade worker and manual labourer is always an African, and the higher grade is almost always European? Or are we going to provide some technical facilities in connection with these provisions?

These are the considerations which we, on this side of the Committee, had in mind when we drew up the new Clause. I do not suppose that anyone wants to be vicious about it. We understand the difficulties which are inherent in enforcing the amendment of an agreement or seeking to impose it upon a statute. I hope to hear from the Economic Secretary—from whom, from what I have heard of him, I would expect a high regard for those standards, and a genuine desire to serve the sort of interests I have been discussing—that he is able to carry some of his fellow Members with him on these matters; and that he will be able to give an assurance that these matters will be kept in mind in the future finance developments in the Colonial Territories.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

Paragraph (II) of Section 3 of Article III states that if any member of the Corporation objects to the financing of a scheme, the Corporation shall not proceed. Advantage is taken of that paragraph by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) to urge upon the Government that when money is used for financing enterprises, both in Great Britain and in the Colonies, it shall be used only when there are fair conditions for those employed.

I need not emphasise that those conditions exist in the United Kingdom, where we have our fair wages clauses and conditions which have to be fulfilled when Government contracts are accepted. But this Bill will be concerned mainly with the devoting of finance to the Colonial Territories, and in that respect there is an overwhelming case for urging on the Government that, by the acceptance of this new Clause, conditions will be laid down which will not allow finance to be used to the detriment of the people of any territory.

Four conditions are proposed in the second of the proposed Clauses. The first is that the enterprise shall be in the general interest of the people of the territory. I acknowledge that it is unlikely today that money will be used for enterprises which will not be for the benefit of the people, but that has not always been the case. One can remember the opium war, when opium was forced on people against their will. But the case for priorities will develop, and it may be that profits can more easily be made from an enterprise which is not regarded as of the first priority by the people of the territory.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West has reminded the Committee of the Devonshire Declaration of 1923, and that we are pledged to conduct all our affairs in the Colonial Territories primarily in the interests of the indigenous peoples. If we are now to have the financing of enterprises in these territories, before endorsing a scheme, we should ask the representatives of those peoples whether it is the enterprise which they most desire and which is of the greatest benefit to their territory. I believe that if we begin to do that, we shall have some surprising results.

I recognise that the development of minerals, power stations, railways, are absolutely essential to the peoples of those territories; but I believe that if we asked them what were their first priorities they would say that they were enterprises very closely attached to their ordinary daily human needs. They would be what I have described as "hut-door needs." When people are hungry, when people are diseased, when people are ill-educated, they desire that finance which is to be put into their territory shall be doing first things first—and these are the first things.

10.45 p.m.

Therefore, I ask the Government, when they fulfil their duty under the Bill, to insist that in the Colonial Territories representatives of the colonial peoples themselves shall be asked whether they desire these enterprises and whether these enterprises are in the priority in which they desire.

The second point is the insistence upon the payment of fair wages in the Colonial Territories. In East, West and Central Africa, where undoubtedly a large part of this finance would be applied, the wages paid to the African population are just appalling. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and I went to Nairobi in 1952. I think we found the most dramatic illustration of conditions of life there in just one page of a Ministry of Labour report. That report analysed the income of the European, Asian and African community in Kenya.

The lowest grade wage among Europeans was under £600 a year. We found that there were between 2,000 and 3,000 Europeans receiving less than that figure in Kenya. The lowest grade among Asians was under £180 a year. We found there were between 3,000 and 4,000 Asians receiving less than that in Kenya. The lowest grade among Africans was under £24 a year, and we found there were over 46,000 African workers receiving less than that in Kenya.

I want to be fair. The Ministry of Labour figures themselves did not indicate that sometimes those wretched African wages were increased by rations and free housing accommodation. I think it very likely that they were. But even so, this Government ought not to be financing enterprises in Kenya, or any other territory, where the conditions of the workers are such that they are kept in a condition of continual destitution and hunger.

The third point is recognition of trade unions. This is held to be common policy on both sides of this House. I would merely say that one has only to visit a Colony to find that it is by no means an accepted policy by the European community. [Interruption.] I did not catch the intervention of the hon. Gentleman. I am sure it was a useful one.

Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)

It is not entirely accepted by the African either.

Mr. Brockway

I would only say—again, I give the illustration of Kenya—that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West and I were probably most horrified by the fact that in Kenya we could not find a representative of the European community on the unofficial side of the Legislature who was in favour of the development of trade unions among the African population.

In an early effort to find a common programme for the removal of the injustices which have been partly responsible for the violence of Mau Mau, we met in 1952, at a round-table conference, representatives of all the unofficial groups in the Legislature. The European group would not consider the retention in the document which was laid before the conference of the proposal for the extension of trade unions to the African community.

Again, I say that the Government ought to object to the expenditure of any finance under this system in any economic enterprise which will not recognise the right of the people, and particularly the indigenous people, to organise in their trade unions.

The last point under the Clause is to insist that there must be an absence of colour discrimination. I could illustrate that from many Colonial Territories. I will try to illustrate it in perhaps its most constructive aspect by the circumstances in Northern Rhodesia. For months now there have been negotiations in the copper industry to try to open up to the African workers the opportunity of entering trades and crafts. There have been negotiations with a view to lifting the standard of wages. I pay my tribute to the Miners' Federation of this country and to the Miners' International for their services in this respect.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

And to my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams).

Mr. Brockway

My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) and I often think in like terms. I was particularly going to add my tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) for the service which he has rendered in this respect.

The negotiations have reached a point where the employers in large numbers, and the African workers in their trade unions in large numbers, are in agreement. By whom is agreement held up? I have almost a sense of shame when I say that it is being held up by the European trade unions.

If the Bill can be used to say that no finance under it will be invested in any industry in Africa which practises racial discrimination, which recognises the colour bar, and which does not agree that every worker shall be paid the rate for the job whatever his colour is and that every worker shall be allowed the opportunity to develop and enter trades and skilled crafts, then the Government ought to object to the use of finance in such industries and should use the power given by paragraph II of Section 3 of Article III of the Agreement. The Economic Secretary nods his acquiescence of my general argument. I very much hope that he will not only gesture his consent, but that he will accept these two Clauses, so that these conditions may be provided.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

I want, for a few minutes, to follow the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) on the trade unions, because I think that the part that can be played by the trade unions is one of the most important contributions that can be made by them in helping with the work on the African side of the co-operatives.

I could not echo too much what has been said. I intervene merely to ask the Economic Secretary whether he will convey my few sentences to the Colonial Secretary, because this must be said. Under this Government one is moving into an old-fashioned economy of laissez-faire—I would not say back to Adam Smith, but almost back to Gladstone—and the Royal Commission on East Africa has taken its cue from this Government as a whole. That Commission is almost against any form of State marketing, State powers and public enterprise, and is particularly reactionary in the context of this Bill in the matter of trade unions, because it sets its face against trade unions, and is talking in terms of workers' councils.

If any of this money is invested in East Africa, where we have this tendency, I would absolutely oppose it. It is a thoroughly bad thing, in these days, to think of workers' councils in the Colonies. One needs to have virile, outspoken, articulate ventilation of the Africans' point of view, and not couched in "if-you-please" and cap-touching terms to the owners of industries in Africa—or in Malaya.

I am shocked to discover that in Nigeria, for example, the trade unions are not consulted about anything, even the cost-of-living index, and that they are even denied the right of assembly. The trade unions in Nigeria have to ask police permission before they can have a meeting. If the secretary of the Nigerian Trade Union Federation goes to Kaduna he needs to have a police permit before he can assemble his trades council. I hope that any firms which go to Africa will inherit trade union democracy and will set their faces against the tendencies which are now beginning to be brought into the Colonies. I hope that the Minister will convey my comments on the African scene to the Colonial Secretary.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

I want to add my appeal to the Economic Secretary, in no controversial spirit, to accept these Clauses or, at any rate, to add something to the Bill which has substantially the same effect. We are now on matters of substance and are, I hope, harmoniously in order.

I do not think it will be disputed that it is possible for the Government to write into this Bill some safeguards of this kind, without cutting across the Agreement which they have entered or are entering into. Paragraph II of Section 3 of the Articles of Agreement says that the Corporation shall not finance an enterprise in the territories of any member if the member objects to such financing. That means that the British Government have the right to object to any individual project going forward in a British Colony.

11.0 p.m.

Therefore, the British Parliament has the power to say on what conditions the British Government should or should not object to such a project. I would remind the Economic Secretary to the Treasury that there is a very excellent precedent for this method of proceeding in the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940. In that Act, 15 years ago, Parliament wrote in specific safeguards which the Government had to observe in encouraging enterprises in British colonies. I will quote a few words from that Act which might help the Economic Secretary. It said in Section 1, subsection (2): Before making any scheme under this section as respects any colony, the Secretary of State—

  1. (a) shall satisfy himself, in a case where the scheme provides for the payment for the whole or part of the cost of any works, that the law of the colony provides reasonable facilities for the establishment and activities of trade unions and that fair conditions of labour will be observed in the execution of the works and in particular—
    1. (i) that the wages paid will be at not less than the rates recognised by employers and trade unions in the area where the works are to be executed or, if there are no rates so recognised, at rates approved by the person for the time being administering the government of the colony; and
    2. 1458
    3. (ii) that no children under such ages as may be appropriate in the circumstances, but not in any case being less than fourteen years, will be employed on the works; and
  2. (b) shall take into account the desirability of securing so far as possible that the colony shall participate in any increase in values directly attributable to the scheme."
As long ago as 1940 Parliament saw fit to put those fairly precise conditions into the Act and they have been preserved in substance ever since. I cannot believe that the Economic Secretary or anybody in any part of the Committee would wish there to be lesser safeguards today, 15 years later in this new scheme. If I am right in supposing that it is in order that we should write them into this Bill, I hope that the Economic Secretary will be able to meet us on this important matter.

Sir E. Boyle

I can quite understand that the discussion during the last hour has been more to the taste of the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) than some of the discussions we had before. I cannot advise the Committee to agree to these two new Clauses, for reasons I will explain; but I think that, in the course of my remarks, I shall be able to go some way towards satisfying the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Fenner Brockway) and other hon. Members who have spoken. Hon. Members will, I think, agree that the first of these two new Clauses is the less important.

It is quite likely, in fact I would say most probable, that the International Finance Corporation will never make an investment in the United Kingdom itself. Certainly such investments will be quite exceptional and, if the International Finance Corporation proposes to invest in the United Kingdom, the Government will take into account all the considerations referred to in the new Clause in considering whether or not to object in accordance with the provisions of Section 3 subsection (ii) of Article III. I think it is unnecessary to complicate this Bill by adding a new Clause on this narrow point which is quite unlikely ever to arise and on a matter which can be dealt with effectively by administrative action.

Let me turn to the second of the new Clauses, which one may call the colonial Clause. This is a much more important matter. The right hon. Member pointed out that there are provisions referring to trade unions contained in the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. It is only fair to remember that in the case of that Act we have nothing comparable with this subsection. We have here the initial safeguard of this very important and powerful subsection (ii), which says that the Corporation shall not finance an enterprise in the territories of any member if that member objects. As was admitted by the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), there are difficulties about tacking a Clause of this kind on to a Bill of this sort. In any case, I would remind the Committee that all enterprises in the Colonial Territories are subject to the laws and regulations of the territory concerned, including those affecting labour. It seems at first sight to be a little difficult to impose special additional obligations simply on enterprises financed by the International Finance Corporation.

There are, however, certain other safeguards I would point out to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, whom we all respect for his sincerity and interest in these questions. The presence on the board of the Corporation of a director appointed by Her Majesty's Government will ensure that we are kept informed of all the prospective investments of the Corporation. We, in turn, will see to it, and I can give this undertaking without qualification, that full information on any proposed investment in any Colony is sent to the Government of the Colony concerned. If that Colonial Government is not satisfied as to the intentions of an enterprise, or feels that it would not be in the interest of the territory, or would be contrary to its general policy, it will be open to that Colonial Government to make its views known to Her Majesty's Government in this country. Her Majesty's Government would then exercise, in the interest of the Colonial Territory, the unqualified right of objection which we have in Article III.

Initial responsibility for considering whether an enterprise is open to objection must rest with the Colonial Government concerned rather than with the Colonial Secretary, but we shall keep in close touch on the matter. We shall see that the fullest information about proposed investments is sent to the Governments concerned, and if they have objections on the ground suggested by the hon. Member for Eton and Slough, it will be open to those Governments to make those views known to the United Kingdom Government, which can then exercise its unqualified right to object, which is contained in Article III.

I suggest to the Committee that it is unnecessary to include in the Bill a Clause on this subject, but as a matter of administration we shall take into account the points which have been put forward.

Mr. Jay

Can the Economic Secretary say why it is less necessary now to write these safeguards into the Bill than it was when the Colonial Development and Welfare Act was passed in 1940? Could not the arguments he is using now have been used then?

Sir E. Boyle

I tried to point out that so far as the Act of 1940 was concerned there was nothing analogous to these Articles of Agreement, and nothing analogous to the powerful subsection (ii). which I have just read.

Mr. Jay

All that amounts to, surely, is that it enables the British Government to object to any individual scheme. In 1940 the Act laid the obligation upon the British Government to object in certain conditions. We suggest the same thing here, that the British Government should be required to exercise discretion in a way laid down by Parliament.

Sir E. Boyle

I tried to meet that point by saying that objection must first lie with the Colonial Government concerned.

Mr. Brockway

We appreciate that the Economic Secretary has made some offer to meet the point of view which has been expressed on this side of the Committee, but I am sorry that he has not been prepared to accept the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). Surely, if we could have the matter dealt with in the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, there is no reason why similar provision should not be made here. He has said that these enterprises will be reported to the Colonial Government concerned before they are endorsed. I recognise that it is not the fault of his Department, but many of these Colonial Governments are not representative Governments; some have no representatives of the indigenous peoples. Could the Economic Secretary therefore extend his offer to this point: that not only should the Colonial Governments be informed but that it should be the duty also to inform the Legislatures in those territories, because in nearly all those Legislatures there are representatives of the indigenous peoples?

Sir E. Boyle

I cannot tonight go further than I have gone already. I think the point which the hon. Member makes is more for a representative of the Colonial Office and I will see that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is informed.

I would point out that the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940, did not enforce the recognition of trade unions. It provided only that the law of the Colony should give reasonable facilities for the establishment of trade unions. In other words, it did not go as far as the new Clause. I do not want to make too much of that, but I thought it fair to bring it to the notice of hon. Members, as reference has been made to the Act of 1940. Perhaps the hon. Member for Eton and Slough would take up the other point with the Colonial Office.

Mr. Warbey

It would be nice if we on this side of the Committee could accept the assurances given by the Economic Secretary because he made them in his usual gracious manner, but I do not think he has quite seized the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay).

The Government are saying "Trust the Government of the time. Trust the Colonial Secretary. Trust the Colonial Government." What the Labour Government did in the Colonial Development and Welfare Act was to allow Parliament to impose conditions upon the Minister and to lay them down precisely. It is not only a question of whether we in the Committee trust the Government. We are dealing with a matter which concerns perhaps 1,500 million people in the under-developed areas. They are watching everything we do pretty closely these days. When we talk about making provision for private investment in the under-developed areas, they wonder whether it will be the same old story of economic exploitation, and their attitude towards us is not encouraged by the Government's general policy, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) referred.

My hon. Friend spoke of the Report of the Royal Commission on East Africa, which is germane to the subject which we are discussing. The Government should have something to say about that Report. It cannot pass it over in silence, because the Report proposes the extension of market economies in Africa on the basis of private enterprise with private capital brought in from outside by people who are to settle in those areas and manage the enterprises themselves. That is the essence of it. That is opening the door to the old abuses, exploitations and political discriminations, which are causing a good deal of concern in some of our African territories. The people of Uganda and Kenya and of other East African territories are very anxious to know what the Government think of this Royal Commission Report and what——

The Chairman

I dare say they are, but we cannot deal with that under the Clause.

Mr. Warbey

They are anxious to know the conditions under which private enterprise is to be allowed to operate in the Colonial Territories for which the Government are responsible and of which the East African territories form a part. I do not want to enter into another long debate with the Economic Secretary, but he said he had studied both sides of the question of economic imperialism. I can recommend an additional document for his study to complete his view of the matter—the Report recently published by the United Nations on the scope and structure of money economies in tropical Africa. He will find some comments on the question of the continuing economic exploitation by private enterprise. He will see that in Northern Rhodesia, for example——

The Chairman

I have already asked the hon. Member to keep to the new Clause. This has nothing to do with it.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Warbey

But, Sir Charles, I do submit that this new Clause is concerned with ensuring that private enterprise, if established by the International Finance Corporation in the British Colonies, shall only be established, and allowed by the Government to be established, if in accordance with the general interests of the people of the territories concerned and in accordance with a policy of fair wages. I was going to show that from past experience, and very recent experience, mere assurances from the Government on this point are rather inadequate. I am surely entitled to do that.

We are asking for this new Clause to be put into the Bill, and we are saying that we are not satisfied with the Bill as it stands. Indeed, there are good reasons why we are not satisfied. One of the reasons we are not satisfied is that in fact under private enterprise there is a good deal of sheer exploitation still going on in the underdeveloped areas.

In the Report to which I have just referred—I see an hon. Member disagrees. I would just ask him to consider the fact as given in this United Nations Report, which states that in Northern Rhodesia about 60 per cent. of the total money income accrues in the form of corporate profits of the large mining companies. Nearly two-thirds of the total income in that territory are the profits of private companies. Is that exploitation, or is it not? And then we are told further that these profits are almost entirely accounted for by non-indigenous concerns. Moreover—and I am still referring to Northern Rhodesia —the income taken out of the country represents between 35 per cent. and 40 per cent. of the total money income of that territory.

In other words, these private companies are receiving in profits two-thirds of the total income and taking nearly two-thirds of these profits out of the country altogether. I say this is a form of scandalous, gross exploitation when you consider that alongside all that the average per capita income of the African population is about £10 per head per annum. One fact in the Royal Commission's Report on East Africa which sticks in my mind is that the wages of the unskilled African workers in Kenya are so low that their total wage could not pay for a daily bus fare for a four-mile journey to and from work.

Colonel Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)

The hon. Member said that the average wage in Northern Rhodesia was £10. Would he state what the average wage is in the copper industry in Northern Rhodesia compared with the rest of the country?

The Chairman

I do not think that should be pursued. That is quite beyond the scope of the Clause.

Mr. Warbey

I was referring to the African worker, and, after all, we are considering here the welfare of the indigenous population of the Colonial Territories. I want to make the point quite briefly.

It seems to me so obvious that this is the kind of situation which we ought to face, and, as we said on the Second Reading, show a conscience about. We ought not to try to excuse it or to pretend it does not exist. We ought to be doing something about it. We ought to be doing that something precisely and in our law, so that the 15 million people living on a standard which no one in this country can contemplate enduring may realise that in this country there is a conscience about it and that we intend to put the matter right.

Question, That the Clause be read a Second time, put and negatived.

Bill to be reported.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

11.21 p.m.

Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)

The discussions we have had have shown that the very best contribution the Bill can make to meeting the needs of under-developed territories is bound to be very small. I think that in all parts of the House it is understood that at the very best the Bill provides only a small part of the provisions that have to be made. We all realise, too, that the major needs of the underdeveloped territories are for rapid expansion of public works, particularly construction works, that the Bill can do very little to promote. The contribution which can be made by private finance, assisted possibly by contributions from the International Finance Corporation, can come only after there has been vast expansion of public works and public services.

Therefore, it is only right that before parting with the Bill we should ask the Government what their attitude is to the other major contributions that have to be made to the development of underdeveloped countries. The International Bank, in considering the sphere of activity of the Corporation, has made it clear that, in its view, the part it can play can be fruitful only if there is at the same time development of what are briefly called the S.U.N.F.E.D. proposals. We are awaiting an expression of the Government's view upon them.

I want once more to express the view from these benches that, before we can finally approve the Bill, we must know whether it can be made effective by the other larger contributions we expect the Government to offer. We know the matter is under consideration at the moment. Therefore, it is only proper that we should know whether or not the Bill can work at all, even on a small scale, with the larger support for public works and services which the S.U.N.F.E.D. proposals can offer. I ask the Economic Secretary at least to say once more that the Government recognise that the Bill can work—if at all—only with the other help the Government must make.

11.24 p.m.

Mt. Hale

I feel we cannot allow the discussion, which has taken some time, to conclude without expressing, as I know I can for all on this side of the House, our appreciation of the way in which the Economic Secretary has handled the debate, the very courteous explanation he has given of a very complicated matter, and the way in which he has handled the Bill from the commencement of its passage.

Sir E. Boyle

I thank the hon. Member very much for those kind words. I only want to add that I do not think that on Third Reading it would be proper for me to launch on a discussion of S.U.N.F.E.D.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.