HC Deb 19 December 1961 vol 651 cc1118-9
19. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps he is taking to increase financial assistance to West Indies Territories in view of their economic difficulties.

Mr. Maudling

We are already contributing to the needs of the West Indies for economic assistance at the rate of about £5 million a year in Colonial Development and Welfare and grant-in-aid. I regret that I see no possibility at present of increasing this level of assistance.

Mr. Thomson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the most useful ways in which we have given economic aid to the West Indies in the past has been by helping to absorb its surplus population? Is he aware that the effect of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill will be greatly to increase the economic difficulties of those islands? Will he not, therefore, ensure that some of the damage of that Bill is offset by giving more generous aid to these West Indian Territories?

Mr. Maudling

I do not think that we can assess the effect of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill until we see how it works in practice. The Question referred to financial assistance and, in view of our current financial circumstances and balance of payments position, it is clear that we cannot increase the amount of financial assistance which we are giving.

Sir C. Osborne

As the income per capita in the West Indies is at least five times greater than that of India and Pakistan, will my right hon. Friend see that the West Indies do not get an advantage over other members of the Commonwealth? Will he also bear in mind that there is a limit to what this country can do for overseas Territories?

Mr. Maudling

Average figures of that kind can be a little misleading. One has to look at the exact situation in every Territory. The aid we are providing now is on a commendable scale. We all wish that it would be more, but in present circumstances an increase would not be justified.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the West Indies as a whole buys about £60 million worth of British goods a year, and will he do everything he can to assist these splendid people and give them all the encouragement possible?