HC Deb 07 December 1961 vol 650 cc1513-4
14. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he is aware that official attempts to encourage industrialisation in Malta in the past three-and-a-half years have provided fewer than 600 workers with employment, but that the run-down in the defence departments continues and there are about 1,000 fewer jobs in the naval base and ship-repairing yards; why the conversion of the docks from naval to commercial purposes has been delayed, and how much public money has now been provided for Messrs. Bailey in this connection; and what practical plans he now has to safeguard the future of the Maltese economy.

Mr. H. Fraser

New industries take some time to reach their full employment capacity, but those already in operation, or which have been approved, are expected to provide employment for over 4,000 people. Delay in the conversion of the dockyard arose in the main from the need to consider and finance a revised and enlarged plan. The company has so far received loans of approximately £2.4 million from the British Government. As regards the last part of the Question, I would draw the hon. Member's attention to the Review of the Development Plan for the Maltese Islands 1959–64, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

Mr. Driberg

In view of the inevitable time-lag, which the hon. Gentleman has frankly admitted at the beginning of his Answer, may I ask him if he is satisfied that we shall be able to bridge the gap between the naval and commercial uses of the dockyard? In this connection, has he read the very startling Report by the Public Accounts Committee of this House, which shows that Messrs. Bailey have, to use no stronger word, misapplied over £1 million of £1,200,000 advanced to them for this purpose?

Mr. Fraser

I do not want to go into all the points mentioned in the Report, which has been debated by the House. What we are discussing here is the question of employment. In regard to the dockyard, I am happy to say that con- tracts will be let very shortly, and we hope that the contractors will start work about the end of this year.

Mr. Awbery

Is the Minister aware that it was the intention when the transfer took place four years ago that the men who became redundant in the dockyard should be transferred to the ship-repairing yard, and that the ship-repairing yard should be transferred to the commercial undertaking? Could he tell us if any dry docks in Malta have been completed by the commercial undertaking?

Mr. Fraser

There has been some delay here, but, in regard to the proportion of unemployment, the total has risen from 3,500 in December, 1958, to about 4,100. This is not unsatisfactory, considering that for the transitional stage this is a proportion of unemployment of less than 5 per cent.

Mr. Driberg

Although the hon. Gentleman brushes aside the Report of the Public Accounts Committee on Messrs. Bailey's misapplication of this money, surely the fact that they used over £1 million for other purposes, and not for the purpose of development in Malta for which it was advanced to them, must have some bearing on the delay?

Mr. Fraser

I do not seriously think so. It was a question of giving a grant for enlarging the size and scale of the operation.

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