HC Deb 19 May 1961 vol 640 cc1757-87

2.16 p.m.

Mr. William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)

When the question of integration with Malta was before the House I think that I played a prominent part in opposing it. Because of that I have since felt that it is encumbent on me, wherever possible, to try to help to bring any problem occurring in Malta before the House. If we are not to have Maltese Members of Parliament, those who were against that happening should do their level best to see that Malta has its case put properly, or, at any rate, put forward.

Shortly after integration with Malta was discussed in the House, a different crisis in Malta made it necessary for the Colonial Office to get rid of the Constitution and take over the administration. It is my information that it intended to do this for only a short period, but it has had to continue the administration of Malta for very much longer.

There were several people in Malta who were pleased when the Colonial Office took over, because they thought that after the Mintoff régime it would provide an opportunity to clear up things and reorganise the island and generally put things back on their feet. However, that has not happened. The government of the island by the Colonial Office has failed in many ways, and has met with considerable criticism in the island from people who are keen to maintain a close contact with this country.

One of the things which has become essential because of the sad change in the strategic position of the island is the development of fresh industries, and one of the most important in the minds of many is the tourist industry. As the Member for Brighton, Pavilion, I know a little about the tourist problem and about getting people to my constituency. I have also had many opportunities of going to Malta and studying the problems there. Getting people to go to Malta is very different from getting tourists to visit different parts of the United Kingdom.

The religious question in Malta presents a difficulty. There are certain things which shock the people of Malta. Certain things which tourists might like to do, or want to do, would shock the people of Malta, but would certainly not shock the people of Brighton. There are certain types of people who go from London to Brighton. We try to stop them, but it is difficult to do that. They could, however, be stopped from gong to Malta. It is essential that the people who run the tourist industry in Malta should be very much au fait with what goes on there, with the general background of the island, and, if possible, should belong to the religion of the island, or at least understand the people.

When the Malta Tourist Board was formed the Colonial Office appointed a Chairman. The Board was entirely Maltese with the exception of the Chairman. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will be able to tell us a little about this gentleman's background, and why he was appointed to Malta. I do not want to attack him more than he has already been attacked in public. It is not very fair to do so in this Chamber, and it is possible that the Colonial Office may have answers to the criticisms which have been made. But one reason why I have brought the matter up here is that in reply to two quite simple Questions which I put to the Colonial Secretary on this subject I received two very evasive answers—especially the second one.

I first asked my right hon. Friend when, and for how long, Mr. Barker Benfield was appointed Chairman of the Malta Tourist Board; how much money was allocated for the Board's expenditure over five years and how much of this was spent in the first two years; whether Mr. Barker Benfield is now in Malta; and what proposals Her Majesty's Government now have in view of the annual reports of the Director of Audit for 1958–59 and 1959–60."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c. 2–3.] In reply, my right hon. Friend said that this gentleman had been appointed in September, 1958, on a one-year contract; that this had been extended by mutual agreement for a further year, in September, 1959, and that Mr. Benfield had resigned his appointment in June, 1960, and had not been employed in Malta since then.

That sounds very nice and highly respectable, but, later, I shall point out that it is slightly contradictory to some information that I have had from Malta and also some that is given in the report of the Director of Audit. My right hon. Friend said that he had asked the Governor for the further information for which I was asking, and would write to me when he received it. I have never met the gentleman concerned, and I am not personally interested in the problem. I told my right hon. Friend afterwards that I would much prefer him to answer a further Question on this subject in the House, so that the facts could be known in Malta, which was the place where people were interested in it. My right hon. Friend promised me that he would do so as soon as he heard from the Governor.

It does not take a very long time to hear from the Governor, and as I put the Question on 11th April, and had heard nothing more by 4th May, I put down a further Question, to which my right hon. Friend replied, saying that he had now discovered that the capital expenditure on tourist development over the period of five years was to be £545,000; that £183,000 had been spent in the first two years and that recurrent expenditure borne on the Malta Budget was £168,000 in that time. Because of that, my right hon. Friend said that he saw no reason to do anything further. His Answer completely left out any information about the gentleman in question, and what had happened to him. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) asked a supplementary question, and my right hon. Friend eventually told us that he had practically no information from anybody in Malta that they were in the least worried about this matter.

I hate to inflict things on my right hon. Friend, but I have here a large dossier of Press cuttings on the subject from Malta, together with many questions which have been asked out there, and general criticisms. I feel that somebody in the Colonial Office at Valletta must have failed to give my right hon. Friend the fullest details of what is going on. I felt that my right hon. Friend's Answer was slightly evasive, since he kept away from the question of Mr. Benfield and made no mention of an inquiry, which was what he had been asked for.

I shall later discuss in more detail the Director of Audit's report on the whole position. My right hon. Friend can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that the Director of Audit in Malta is not in quite the same position as somebody dealing with civil servants' finances over here. Here, we have the Public Accounts Committee, and the people concerned would be answerable to this House, where the whole thing could be gone into in more detail. But unless my right hon. Friend chooses to set up some kind of inquiry there seems no possibility of anything like that happening in Malta.

It is because of this, and the fact that at the moment the average Maltese has no chance of being heard in this country—for he could get no further than the Palace at Valletta, where the Colonial Government are in complete control, and it is only if they choose to do so, that anything can be properly dealt with; and they do not seem to want to choose to have anything to do with this problem—that this matter should be dealt with by some form of independent inquiry. It cannot be dealt with merely by an Answer from the Colonial Office saying that the man is all right and that nothing went wrong. The Colonial Office appointed this gentleman, and it is not for that Office to say whether or not he was all right. It should be possible to discover the facts from what the Director of Audit has said. In Malta, people talk quite freely about this being a scandal.

I want to know something about this man's qualifications. The Director of Audit's report came out only last March, and one interesting point emerged from it. The Tourist Board Emergency Ordinance, 1958, required the publication of an annual report and statement of accounts, which were to be effective from November, 1958. Yet we did not get the first report from this body until March, 1961. All my information is to the effect that it was ready by the late summer of 1960, but that the whole thing was more or less hushed up, and finally came out at the same time as the Director of Audit's report.

From these two documents we find that there were many serious irregularities, and no accounting for a considerable amount of public expenditure. We also find that many cars and other articles were purchased and used by the Board without any tenders being called for. Much money was spent by the officials —far more than would have been allowed to any ordinary Government official. Further, much of the expenditure was without any form of approval—although my right hon. Friend said that it had all been approved. In fact it was publicly disowned by the Board, which asked for a public inquiry but did not get one, and then had a Press conference of its own, from which I shall quote shortly.

The Board also hit back at the Director of Audit, and I should like to know whether, especially under the new Constitution, he is not entitled to some form of protection. He has been rather violently attacked, and the Administration has in no way supported him. That seems wrong, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear it in mind in the development of the new Constitution.

Why has the Tourist Board not been allowed to have an inquiry? It has asked for one, but the Administration has not agreed to its request or even acknowledged it. Linked up with all this we find that from the public registers connected with these questions no less than 15 registers are missing. Someone has "pinched" them. They have gone. Now that we are all so interested in questions of security—and Malta comes very much into the security area—one asks oneself whether it would not be wise in the inquiries about to take place that security in Malta should be looked into with regard to these details, and, indeed, to others as well.

I do not want to go too much into the ordinary details of the development of tourism and the possibilities of it, because I know that some of my hon. Friends want to speak in the debate. However, I want to say that I was not at all happy, when the 1,900th anniversary of the landing of St. Paul in Malta was celebrated last year, that enough had been done by the Tourist Board not only to publicise the event, but to prepare villages to build where the people who were coming as pilgrims were to be lodged. There are other things, too, that I think could have been dealt with. One is rather apt to feel that this Chairman was hardly ever in Malta during the time that he was Chairman, so much so that in the end nothing could go on and a Deputy-Chairman had to be appointed. It appears that he was wandering round on wild goose chases which many of us feel have not brought forth the results which they should have achieved.

Another subject into which I should greatly have liked to have gone this afternoon, but will not because I am hoping to bring it up on another occasion, is with regard to flying to Malta. That, of course, very much affects tourism. Various attempts have been made recently to introduce a much cheaper rate for flying to Malta, which would be immensely helpful to tourism. But these attempts have not been discussed by the Tourist Board, and one is tempted to feel that the reason for that is, possibly, that on the Board are no less than two people who are either directly or indirectly the representatives of B.E.A. and who are presumably very much against the whole of competition.

I hope that I shall not bore the House too much if I just give a few quotations from the Director of Audit's report, because my right hon. Friend has said that he has no information about any unhappiness over these matters in Malta, and, therefore, I think that it would be good for him to know a little about them, if only from us. One of the things which the Director of Audit says is: From the accounts of the Commissioner General for Malta in London, it emerged that two advances of £40 and £90 were made to the Chairman of the Board in December, 1958, and February, 1959, respectively. In the Chairman's Statement to the Treasurer, £10 out of the first advance of £40 were not accounted for and receipts for the second advance of £90 were not submitted. On 25th November, 1958, a sum of £39 19s. 10d. (Voucher 17) was refunded to the Chairman for expenses incurred by him on the occasion of an official visit to Rome. Receipted bills were not produced. On 28th January, 1959, a sum of £196 (Voucher 78) was advanced to the Chairman for expenses in connection with a promotional visit to the United Kingdom and Italy. The Statement accounting for the expenditure and the supporting receipted bills were also in this case not submitted, notwithstanding the undertaking to do so given by the Chairman on the voucher. Then we get: Two further advances, one of £490 to the Chairman and the other of £364 to the Secretary were made on 27th February, 1959, in connection with a visit to the U.S.A., Canada and the United Kingdom, An amount of £350 13s. 6d. from the sum of £490 and £86 6s. 10d. from that of £364 were refunded but the balances expended were not accounted for. Again, on 28th February, 1959, an advance of 2,530 dollars (£900 7s. 5d.) was made jointly to the Chairman and the Secretary by a letter of credit on Barclays Bank in connection with the same visit. No statement of the expenses incurred and supporting bills were rendered to the Treasury. All such expenditure described from I to V were approved by the Board. Other expenditure was incurred without recourse to tenders or quotations—£474 10s. for purchase of Still Photo Equipment; £600 for the purchase of a new car; £666 2s. 3d. paid for wood-work at Luqa Information Office; £705 for purchase of packing material, large envelopes, hardboard tubes, etc.; £95 for the purchase of a duplicator; £98 17s. 6d. for the purchase of an Addressograph; £124 2s. 8d. for the purchase of an electric typewriter, and £118 16s. 5d. for the purchase of two typewriters. Then the Director of Audit says: One must assume that some saving could have been effected in the above expenditure if the normal procedure applicable to Government Departments had been followed. The hire of transport also calls for comment. A sum of £126 7s. for the hire of cars during the months of December, 1958. to February, 1959, and a further sum of £154 14s. 10d. in March, 1959, were paid to one garage owner. Other amounts totalling £117 were also paid to various other garage owners.… In addition. £1 per day was paid to another garage for the hire of a car for the use of the Chairman. in spite of the fact that a new car had already been bought as well. So one goes on. The Director of Audit further adds: During the financial year several sums of money were advanced to the Chairman, the Secretary and four members of the Board, in connection with promotional and publicity tours abroad. Appendix No. 1 shows the various sums advanced to the Chairman on 18 occasions of the total amount of £3,485 15s. Statements of the expenditure incurred by him and the supporting receipted bills were not produced. Many requests have since been made for them.

On the question of publicity, the Director of Audit says: The Board approved the engagement of the services of two publicity agents, Messrs. James Sutherland and Messrs. Ellington and Co. of New York. The procedure followed was that the Board examined the presentations of these firms and found them suitable for the Board's requirements. Both agents were informed by a letter of acceptance that they were appointed publicity agents to the Malta Government Tourist Board. During the financial year Messrs. Sutherland were paid a total of £55,650 7s. 10d. and Messrs. Ellington a total of £33,887 12s. 5d.…the greater part of the payments made to the two firms was in reimbursement for advertisements in newspapers, journals, reviews, etc. Another part was paid for the artwork and line blocks made by the agencies themselves. Space insertions for advertisements are payable in advance. Messrs. Sutherland forwarded to the Board invoices showing the amounts due to them accompanied by tear-sheets in support of their claims. The tear-sheets were checked with the invoices, but the amounts due obviously could not be verified because no receipted bills were submitted by the Agency in support of those amounts. In the case of Messrs. Ellington, neither tear-sheets nor receipted bills were submitted and, consequently, no verification either of the publication of the advertisements or of the amounts claimed in the firm's invoices could be made. These are quotations from the criticism of the Director of Audit, presumably a very well balanced and well thought out criticism.

Then came this Press conference. Since the Government, for some reason or other, would not allow any form of inquiry nor allow the Press to discuss the matter at the Palace, the Board itself decided to have the conference. I continue the quote: Pressing for a point, one Press representative made the observation that the lavishness of expenditure and hospitality extended to people abroad was a matter of opinion. 'But on a question of fact, not opinion, in both reports there is an assertion that no receipts exist for certain moneys spent.' The Board said it 'understood that Mr. Barker Benfield is now being pressed to render his accounts'. Later, it says: Mr. Barker Benfield had been 'appointed by the Government or the Secretary of State,' … 'and to this day we do not know on what terms or on what qualifications'. The Times of Malta reported: The Board were indignant at the manner in which, according to them, Mr. Barker Benfield went to higher authorities. And, 'the Government extended Mr. Barker Benfield's appointment for a further year without consulting the Board,' said Members. Will my right hon. Friend remember that in answer to me he said that the extension was "by mutual agreement?"

In reply to another question at the Press conference, the Press was told: We did not know on what terms he had been employed. Regarding the Director of Audit's comments, the statement was: The Audit Director should not point the finger at us but at the system which was going on then. Before the Press conference adjourned, it came to light that five year's allocation had been spent in two years— £545,000 is the figure allocated to tourism in Malta's development plan. That does not fit in with the figure which my right hon. Friend gave to me and I would like to find out who is right and who is wrong.

The Times of Malta report went on: … although the Board would not give a direct answer to the question: 'Does this mean that the previous Chairman spent five years' cash in two years and that the Board is now broke?' Mr. Pollacco put it this way 'Mr. Barker Benfield was given X pounds for a certain period, from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. A five-year sum has been spent in two years.' To what does the Board attribute Mr. Barker Benfield's influence in 'high places'? 'We wish we knew' came the answer. I think that that is a fair placing of the facts as I have read them. There are vastly more details and particulars which I do not propose to give at the moment.

I assure my right hon. Friend that there is strong feeling in Malta about what has happened. It is not enough for the Colonial Office to say that it is satisfied. We know that this gentleman did not stay very much in Malta and that a resolution was passed by the Board saying that he must not leave the country as his job was there, unless he had the agreement of the Board.

Not only did he pay absolutely no attention to that, but, half-way through the second year of his appointment, he went away completely and has never come back since. As my right hon. Friend rightly said, he has not been back to Malta since the middle of 1960, but my right hon. Friend has not said that everybody, Government officials and others, has been pressing him for receipts and figures which he has promised to give. My own personal information is that he is now living in France.

Why should one bring up this matter? Will it in any way help the Tourist Board? I think that it will help the tourist industry if people in Malta know that we in the House are keeping an eye on what is going on there, and that any money, especially Government money, which is being spent, as we want, on helping people to go to Malta, and on the development of tourism there, will not be wasted and that the people who are in charge of it do not have special interests which may not entirely help tourism generally.

2.43 p.m.

Mr. John Storehouse (Wednesbury)

I am sure that the whole House and the people of Malta are grateful to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) for raising a problem which, I can confirm, is disturbing the people in the island very much. I was in Malta three weeks ago and I met members of several political parties and they confirmed that this affair of the Chairman of the Malta Tourist Board was of great concern. I hope that today the Colonial Secretary will be able to throw some light on the disturbing facts which the hon. Member has presented.

However, it would be unfortunate if the House gave the Colonial Secretary the impression that this was the only matter affecting Malta about which hon. Members were concerned. There are many other questions about Malta which we should like to raise, although we appreciate that the Colonial Secretary may not be in a position to reply to all of them this afternoon.

However, I want to put it on record that some of us are gravely concerned that we have not had an opportunity to discuss the Report of the Blood Commission. The impression is being given in Malta that the House approves that Report and is accepting the Colonial Secretary's policy of foisting the Report's recommendations on the Maltese people. I hope that one of the things which we can make clear from this debate is that that is by no means the case. We have been asking for a debate on the Blood Report because there are aspects of it which are very disturbing, and we hope that there will be an opportunity for that debate before the Colonial Secretary makes up his mind about the constitution to be adopted for Malta.

There is another aspect of the constitutional problem which is disturbing. Last night I had a Written Answer from the Colonial Secretary in which he referred me to an Answer which he gave to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) on 18th April. I asked the Colonial Secretary whether he would meet the leaders of the political parties in Malta in order to discuss the future constitution with them. On 18th April the Colonial Secretary said: Of course I remain very willing to meet representatives of any or all the Maltese political parties, if they so wish, to discuss the reintroduction of elected government in Malta. I have told Mr. Mintoff this in reply to a recent approach by him. My statement of 8th March makes clear the basis on which such consultations could usefully take place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c. 84.] However, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, on 8th March the Colonial Secretary said that he recognised the force of the request of the right hon. Gentleman to have discussions with the political parties and added: It would be very helpful to have the help of these two particular parties. If they are willing to discuss the matter with me I will see how best that can be done. In reply to a further question he said: After all, if there are any disagreements in these matters they might well have been best resolved by Malta's Labour Party seeing me, which I invited it to do, and which it refused to do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c. 474–5.] The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion forthrightly referred to the evasions of the Colonial Secretary in his Answers to Questions about the Malta Tourist Board, but there have been evasions by the Colonial Secretary in his Answers about consultation with political parties, because the Malta Labour Party has been advised that the Colonial Secretary is prepared to meet its representatives only on the basis of their accepting the Blood Commission's proposals.

As is well known, both the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party in Malta not only do not accept the Blood Commission's Report, but had no part in the way in which the Blood Commission considered the issues at stake. It is remarkably evasive of the Colonial Secretary to give the impression that he is willing to talk to the leaders of those parties when in fact he is laying down preconditions which they are not prepared to accept.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

What on earth does the hon. Member find evasive? I made it absolutely clear from the beginning that I was perfectly willing to meet the leaders of the political parties in Malta on the basis of the constitution for the next stage of Malta's advance. Nothing could be clearer than that. The hon. Member may disagree with me for making that condition, but he is entirely wrong to suggest that there is anything evasive in that attitude.

Mr. Stonehouse

The impression has been given that the Colonial Secretary is willing to discuss matters of the constitution with the leaders of the political parties, but he still does not respond to the point that if they are unwilling to discuss these matters on the basis of the Blood Commission's proposals he would refuse to see them. I invite him now to say whether he is willing to discuss them without laying down as a precondition that the Blood Commission proposals must be accepted in their entirety.

Mr. Macleod

Of course not.

Mr. Stonehouse

I am very glad to have that assurance, because it will certainly clear the air and make it much easier for the political parties in Malta to have discussions with the Colonial Secretary.

Mr. Macleod

The hon. Member is, I think quite deliberately, twisting what I said. I said that the conditions I have laid down remain. I am not prepared to have talks except on the basis of the announcements which have been made in the House. The hon. Member must not take an Answer from me in exactly the reverse sense to that in which I gave it.

Mr. Stonehouse

This is an impossible situation. It is deplorable that the Colonial Secretary is laying down these sort of conditions to the Malta parties which, after all, obtained all the seats in the last Elective Assembly and which can certainly be taken as representing the overwhelming mass of opinion of the Maltese people. For the Colonial Secretary in this year of 1961 to treat the people of Malta in this way is disgraceful. I hope that he will soon take an opportunity to withdraw from the adamant position he has taken up.

I now wish to refer to the question of local elections on the island of Gozo. The Colonial Secretary has made arrangements for those elections to go ahead although he knows that there is no possibility, on the present basis of the conditions he has laid down, for general agreement to be reached on constitutional advance. The situation in Gozo is very serious because of the activities of the Catholic Church and the recent declarations it has made in relation particularly to the Labour Party.

I know that the Colonial Secretary cannot give me a reply on this matter this afternoon, but I ask him to consider whether it is wise to allow elections to go ahead in the situation which now exists. I have in my hand a copy of a circular which has been issued to Confessors of the Secular and Regular Clergy by the Bishop of Gozo. This makes clear that all confessors: are deprived of their power to grant absolution (except in case of death)

  1. a) to those who rent premises to serve as clubs which are against the Church;
  2. b) to those who become members of same;
  3. c) to those who frequent such clubs;
  4. d) to those who help and make propaganda in favour of such associations especially by selling and reading newspapers and periodicals which are offensive to the Clergy and to the authority of the Church."
This is directed at the Malta Labour Party. It may be that the Church in Malta is disturbed about some of the statements of the Malta Labour Party and some of its leaders, but it is disgraceful that the Church should issue a circular of this type and that the Colonial Secretary should be making arrangements for local elections when he knows that this situation exists between the Church and political parties.

Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)

Is the hon. Member aware that there are vast numbers of the Malta Labour Party who also support the Church and have now broken away and who now support Mr. Pellegrini? I very much doubt the statement he made that the Malta Labour Party has the overwhelming support of the people of Malta.

Mr. Storehouse

I was in Malta only a few weeks ago. My impression is that the Malta Labour Party still has overwhelming support, and that support given to Mr. Pellegrini is very small indeed. I agree with the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) that most of the members of the Malta Labour Party, if not all, are also members of the Church. This is a very difficult problem with this conflict between political loyalties on the one hand and religious ones on the other.

I hope that Malta can overcome this very difficult position. It is not being helped by the Colonial Secretary arranging for elections to go ahead in Gozo in these circumstances. I ask him to consider the precedent of thirty years ago when Her Majesty's Government prevented elections being held when Lord Strickland's party was under similar attack from the Church. I ask the Colonial Secretary to bear that precedent in mind.

I now wish to refer briefly to the statement made in the House yesterday about the grant to be made to Messrs. Bailey's.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

On the question of political parties, I think that the hon. Member is to be corrected in his impression that the Labour Party is by any means the only party in Malta. A large number of people in Malta would not support that view. They would support the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) that Mr. Pellegrini has a certain measure of support and that the other parties with him have a right to be considered.

Mr. Storehouse

I entirely agree that the only way in which this can be tested is by free elections without intimidation from any outside organisation, including the Church. I hope that we shall have it tested. My impression is not that of the hon. Member but I hope that there will soon be an opportunity for free ejections which will prove who is correct.

With reference to the question of Messrs. Bailey, we understand that £7¼ million of taxpayers' money is to be made available to this company and the total amount which will be spent will be £8 million. We ask the Colonial Secretary to give an idea of what governmental representation there will be in the boardroom of Messrs. Bailey's to secure proper supervision of the use of this public money. I hope that he will be able to give that indication at some stage.

I support what the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion said about the activities of the Chairman of the Malta Tourist Board. That Board was set up—I quote from the Report published on 3rd March—with the main objective of developing in Malta a tourist industry which will give direct and indirect employment to the industry in the Maltese Archipelago and encouraging the development and setting up of ancillary industries dependent on tourism.

The Board has so far failed in that objective. One must question the wisdom of the Government in appointing a Chairman who has not only not done his job, but has deserted his post without giving a full report of his activities. I refer to Appendix No. 1, to which the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion referred, showing the journeys which the Chairman made in 1959 and 1960. It is surprising that the Government, knowing of this Chairman's activities overseas during practically every month from May, 1959, to March, 1960, do not appear to have supervised him, particularly as it has become obvious that the Tourist Board even did not know what he was up to during these tours. I hope that, in the interests of British reputation in Malta, the Colonial Secretary will throw some light on what seems at the moment to be a very shady affair.

3.0 p.m.

Mr. Mark Woodnutt (Isle of Wight)

I dearly wish to follow what was said by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), because I disagree with most of what he said, but the Adjournment debate is on the Malta Tourist Board and I shall confine my remarks to that, except to say that there are two matters on which I agree with the hon. Member: first, the desirability of having a debate in the House soon on the whole subject of Malta, which I think is very much overdue and in which we ought to discuss the Sir Hilary Blood Report and the constitution; and, secondly, his remarks about the Malta Tourist Board.

The hon. Member asked what safeguards the Government have taken in watching their interests on the board of Bailey (Malta) Ltd. in view of the £7½ million which is being invested in the dockyard. He must have heard the Colonial Secretary's statement, just before Christmas, when he told the House that two additional directors—Sir Richard Yeabsley and Mr. Hanning Philipps—had been appointed to this board, not as Government directors but as directors acceptable to both the Government and the company. With the board reinforced by the appointment of those two well-respected men, I think that the future of the money invested in that company is secure.

My interest in Malta arises from the fact that most of its problems are very similar to the problems in my constituency, the Isle of Wight. It is true that we do not have the added problem of living under a Colonial Office administration. On the other hand, many of us on the island feel that it might be very advantageous if we came within the sphere of influence of the Commonwealth Office.

After I learned of the setting up of the Malta Tourist Board I visited the island, for two reasons. First, I wished to see whether there was anything which I could learn from what they were doing which would benefit my constituency and, secondly, I felt that in view of the very highly developed tourist trade on the Isle of Wight, I might be able to offer some advice.

I have always been aware of the importance of good public relations in all industries and particularly in tourism. I still have that view, and I think that it was right to set up the Malta Tourist Board. On my visits to Malta, however, I have learned three very important lessons, particularly after studying the report of the Malta Tourist Board and the report of the Director of Audits. The first lesson which I learned is how important it is, when one is spending a large amount of money on public relations and advertising, to ensure that it is spent at the right time to achieve the objectives. I am certain that in this case that has not been done.

The second lesson which I have learned, particularly from reading the Report of the Director of Audit, is that a very rigid control of expenditure should always be exercised. Public relations officers often have more extravagant ideas of what should be done than ordinary business people.

The third lesson which I have learned is that when appointing a public relations officer to the head of an organisation one must use extreme care in one's choice, however experienced the man might be.

My remarks do not apply to the firms of Sutherlands and Ellingtons which have done the outside public relations, although it is disturbing to read this passage in the Report: No receipted bills were submitted. No verification of publishing of advertisements or of the amounts claimed could be made in the case of Ellingtons of New York. The total sum expended in the year to 31st March, 1960, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling) said, was no less than £34,000. Nevertheless, it is a fair assumption that these two outside firms were carrying out the instructions given by the Malta Tourist Board.

My criticism is directed at the Board and, in particular, at its ex-Chairman, who has spent comparatively large sums of money with negligible results. I am sure that his programme was not thought out properly. He spent vast sums to attract tourists to the island, and at the moment there is not one new hotel there to house all the extra people who are supposed to be coming. Five or six weeks ago I was at Belfast Airport. I saw on one of the counters there a mass of literature on Malta. I agree that it was a most attractive brochure, but it was there in such fantastic numbers that people were picking the brochures up and using them for bookmarks and for scribbling on. It was wasted expenditure.

The United States magazine Travel Weekly contained this statement a short while ago: Malta is the most widely publicised of the world's new resorts. That is true, but where are the new hotels in which to put the tourists? The activities of the Tourist Board should clearly have been devoted to providing the accommodation before it set out to spend about £500,000, as it is now, on attracting visitors. All that has happened is that there have been two minor extensions to two hotels—the Golden Bay and the Phoenecia in Valletta. Yet the Report of the Board says that it is its intention to provide 2,400 new beds in the next two years. That is the Report as at 31st December, 1959.

The Board also says: It has not been and will not be possible to attract North American tourists for protracted stays before new hotels and other tourists' amenities envisaged in the Board's Development Plan starts operation. Yet the Board has spent £400,000—by now, nearly £500,000—and the hotels are not there. It is like entering a horse for the Derby, taking it up to the starting post, and suddenly realising that it has not got a jockey. It is like starting a national advertising campaign to sell sausages and then realising that one has no factory.

It is true that many more tourists visited Malta in 1960 than in 1959. In 12,500 tourists visited Malta. In it was 19,500. I remind my right hon. Friend that most of the visitors stayed for only a short time. It is very unlikely that the number of visitor nights spent in Malta was any more than in 1959. I do not see how it could be, because the hotels are filled to capacity during the high season and, as very little new hotel accommodation has been provided, although more people have gone, they have stayed for a shorter length of time.

I have read through the Report of the Board and some of it is quite fatuous and crazy. I shall quote one paragraph: The Board's advertising produced 83,870,149 'impressions' at a unit cost of 0.076d.". What on earth does that mean? What is an impression? I only know that it has caused an impression on the 330,000 inhabitants of the Islands of Malta and Gozo that very much money has been wasted by the Board. It would have been far better if that enormous sum had been spent to erect two good hotels.

I have had brought to my notice one hotel company, the St. George's Bay Hotels Ltd., which has acquired the greater part of a very pleasant bay. It is a beautiful site. It is sandy, sheltered, and the bathing is safe and it is a yachtman's paradise. The company wishes to develop the bay. There is a villa there that could be converted into a luxury hotel. The company applied on 30th September, 1960. The vice-president of the Sheraton Hotel Group of the United States, one of the largest groups in that country, came from San Francisco to visit Malta and he expressed the opinion that it was the best site on the island. He offered the hotel company that his company would furnish the hotel and would be prepared to manage it. Nothing has happened. This is Where the efforts of the Tourist Board should be directed.

I understand that in this case there is some argument about a road round the bay. The company wants to pull up a roadway which runs right round the bay in front of the hotel. There is also an argument about the licence. Under Maltese law, a person who transfers a licence to new owners must have the agreement of his neighbours. All the neighbours but one have agreed, and the one is a senior civil servant. Apart from anything else, that does not give a very good impression in Malta that the British Civil Service is trying to help the island. If the Board had pressed the case I have no doubt that the hotel would have been opened by now. I am told that if approval were given shortly, the company could start building in October and could have the hotel open sometime next season.

Malta is a delightful island with a delightful climate. The Maltese are charming people, and, in spite of what some people would lead us to believe, they are nearly all friends of Britain. Although it is true that the dockyard will always be the backbone of Malta's economy, nevertheless it is absolutely essential that tourism should be developed to the maximum to make the island economically viable. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that his Tourist Board should be instructed to concentrate on providing new hotel accommodation and the extension of existing hotels. Furthermore, its expenditure should be controlled in exactly the same way as expenditure is controlled in Government Departments.

Finally, there should be a competitive air service to Malta. I am informed that Eagle Airways applied a short time ago for permission to inaugurate a service between the United Kingdom and Malta. The fare which the company wished to charge was £19 compared with £33 for night flights and £50 for day flights charged by B.E.A. Why is the company not allowed to do this? This may not be the fault of the Malta Tourist Board, but the Board should have pressed for it because it is only by having competition of that nature and reducing fares that more people will be persuaded to go to the island.

I am sure that Malta has a great future and that its tourist industry has a great future, but it is essential that the Malta Tourist Board should do its job properly and that its expenditure should be watched in the interests not only of the British taxpayer, but also of the Maltese taxpayer.

3.15 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Clapham)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling), who introduced this subject for debate. It illustrates to the people of Malta that hon. Members are deeply concerned about their interests.

My right hon. Friend cannot deny that there is very grave concern in Malta over this matter. It is one which, unfortunately, we have not had a chance of debating, but I hope that the Minister will give a satisfactory reply today. My hon. Friends have gone into the details of the activities of the Board and I do not intend to bore the House by repeating them.

We all appreciate the setting up of the Tourist Board, the object of which was to overcome, to some extent, the unemployment problems in Malta. As we all know, the annual statistics given by the General Workers' Union do not, I am afraid, tally with the Government's statistics, and they are much greater than the Government's figures. It may be that the Government's statistics do not allow for the 5,000 school leavers each year. It was something to deal with unemployment, in the same way as the extra £1½ million, about which the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) disagrees, was given for the Bailey Docks.

The Government have a direct responsibility, because the Tourist Board was appointed when there was no representative Government in Malta. Therefore, the Governor is responsible, although it is no good saying that he alone is responsible—for the Minister must take responsibility, also. I wonder whether any references were taken up before Mr. Barker Benfield was offered this appointment? I hope that we shall get an answer to this question from the Minister. This question was also put by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion and is an extremely important one.

Why was there not proper supervision and why were the first accounts produced nearly two years after the Board began its work? This matter has been aired by the Director of Audit and we owe it to him, if to no one else, to illuminate, through an inquiry, all the relevant matters. The constant probes by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion into this subject may, perhaps, galvanise the Minister into action. If the Government and the Board have nothing to hide, the inquiry will serve as a means of clearing their names.

If, on the other hand, there are matters which should be aired, I consider that it is the duty of the Minister to establish an inquiry so that the people of Malta may know that, even if there is a scandal, we in this House are not prepared to hide it. Hon. Members, I am sure, wish this whole matter to be made public, and proper responsibility taken.

No one says that the Minister, personally, has made a mistake. How can he possibly judge every applicant for a job such as this? Nevertheless, it is his responsibility to make sure that these matters are attended to in the proper way.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt) said that no hotels have been built. May I draw the Minister's attention to one particular matter about which, I understand, he has the papers already in his hand. It is the question of Moses Feneck, who was gaoled for procuring. Subsequently, without the knowledge of the police, his licence was restored to him. Furthermore, this man received £11,000 from the Board to improve his hotel. There are many hotel owners who would welcome such a sum of money to improve their hotels. I want to know why £11,000 was given to a man who had been gaoled, and whether or not this matter will be made a subject of the inquiry, if it is established.

I know that the subject of the Blood Commission does not really come within the compass of this debate, but the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) made certain statements about it and allowed me to interrupt him. I should like to say that I think the people of Malta would welcome a debate in this House on the subject of the Blood Commission. There are many people in Malta who believe that the number of seats should be about 32, not 50, and disagree with various other points. I hope that we may have a chance to debate the Report.

Since this matter has led to a debate, surely it illustrates that, if possible, there should be a general fiscal inquiry into the methods by which we can improve the conditions of the people in Malta. The inquiry should not be confined to the docks and the Tourist Board; there should be a general review of the manner in which money put into Malta can best be employed. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that point.

An inquiry could do nothing but good. It would exonerate all those who have done right on the Board, and it would reveal those who have made mistakes, even criminal mistakes. If it is a question of criminal responsibility, I have no doubt that, provided that people can be apprehended, the proper prosecutions will take place. We owe it to the people of Malta who are deeply concerned and believe that a Government-sponsored organisation has misused public funds. I earnestly entreat my right hon. Friend to set up an inquiry with the greatest possible speed.

When the new elections take place, one of the most important things that we must hand over to the electorate is a clean bill. We must see not only that the docks are properly financed and that the tourist trade is put on its feet, but that every aspect of financial assistance to the people of Malta, for whom we in this House have a great affection, is attended to, so that when the elections occur, as I hope they will, in October, the people of Malta will be left ready to run their country in the most profitable way for themselves

3.23 p.m.

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

I join other hon. Members on both sides of the House who have congratulated the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling), who introduced this subject. I think he will agree that, although it was a subject which ought to be raised in the House, it was not a particularly pleasant one to have to raise.

The debate, as it has ranged very widely, has not been a very agreeable debate. In that sense it reflects one of the most melancholy political situations that we have anywhere in the Commonwealth. I do not think that the Government can be particularly happy about the way things have gone in Malta during the time that the present Secretary of State has had responsibility.

I do not wish to comment on the details of the case raised by the hon. Member except to say that I shall be interested to hear from the Secretary of State what his reply is to the charges that have been made of Government negligence, quite apart from the behaviour of the Chairman of the Tourist Board. The hon. Member said that the Government had a responsibility here which they had failed to fulfil. Without prejudging the issue, I await with interest what the Secretary of State has to say about that.

I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house) extended the debate to a wider consideration of some of the Maltese problems. I was glad that he raised the question of Bailey's Dockyard, because that is very closely linked with the question of tourism in Malta and with the fact that the economic problems of Malta are very much at the foundation of the very difficult political atmosphere.

I notice that in paragraph 42 of the Blood Report this very illuminating comment is made: It is difficult to illustrate in United Kingdom terms the '"nature and extent of the "shock" that the closure of the naval dockyard brought to the Maltese people.

The Report goes on: A possible parallel would be the effect on the Welsh people of a warning from the United Kingdom Government that the coal mining industry in Wales was to be gradually closed down. We believe that much, though not all, of the political ferment in Malta flows from a feeling of insecurity and apprehension about future employment prospects in the Islands. … I think that that is true. And, of course, the Government's record on the issue of the dockyard is not any happier than the way in which they have handled the allied economic problem of tourism. The Colonial Secretary will recall that the Minister of State visited Malta last July, and on leaving the island, on 5th July, said that no major problems existed between Messrs. Bailey's and the United Kingdom Government. Indeed, he added that it was not unsafe to say that the work of conversion of the dockyard would start in 1960 rather than in 1961.

It was only yesterday that the Minister of State, in another place, made his announcement about financial terms that had, apparently, been finally agreed with this company nearly twelve months after we had been told that no problems existed between the Government and the company. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury in his view of the nature of the arrangement that has been made. We welcome the strongest possible economic support to deal with Malta's problems which are at the foundation of the political difficulties, but to make a loan from the Government of £7¼ million for an £8 million project, and call that private enterprise, as the Minister of State did yesterday, is simply ludicrous.

We would like to see a much more direct Government responsibility in this company and in carrying out this vital work in Malta. If there is to be any commercial success, I see no reason why the British taxpayers should not have a share in that success by equity shareholding, as they are putting in so much money. We need more information about the terms of this loan and about the interest that is to be payable. Little information was given yesterday in another place.

This, of course, finks up with the constitutional problem. I have a certain amount of sympathy with the Secretary of State on the constitutional aspect. I think that Mr. Mintoff was wrong in the beginning in not talking to the right hon. Gentleman when he went out to Malta rather more than a year ago. If talks had taken place at that stage it might have been possible for a much more fruitful atmosphere to have been created. My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury, who has had the fortune to be in Malta in recent weeks, has given the House a clear indication of the strength of feeling there, not only in the Malta Labour Party, of which he spoke with great intimacy, but also in the Nationalist Party.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will approach this problem of getting around the table with the two sets of party leaders in the most flexible manner possible. I understand his difficulties, but no Constitution will work unless we can get the co-operation of the political parties. I hope that he will use his very considerable ingenuity and skill and gift for presenting things in the most persuasive manner to try to get the political leaders of Malta round the table with him, and so open a more hopeful chapter in Malta's political advancement.

3.30 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

With respect, I do not altogether share the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) for the widening of this subject by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) and I am afraid that my irritation showed in the intervention that I made. I am sure that the hon. Member will think it the only courteous way to deal with this debate if I say only a word or two about the matter he raised and then turn to the subject of our discussion. Although on this the hon. Member must bring pressure on his hon. Friends, because the Opposition have a considerable number of Supply Days at their disposal, I should be very ready to discuss the larger issue which he raised.

I will make three brief points. First, I regret very much that Mr. Mintoff and the Malta Labour Party did not talk to me when I went to Malta, nor did they talk to the Minister of State when he went there. Nor did they make their views known, at any rate openly: by that I mean not that there was no contact with the Commission, but that no official evidence was given to the Blood Commission. Whatever their views that was a mistake. Although I can understand people not agreeing with it, I am sure that my attitude—that any talks I now have would have to be on the next stage for Malta and in the light of the Government's statement on the Blood Commission, which I have said is acceptable to the Government—is the right attitude for me to take.

On the question of the announcement made yesterday, it is true that it took longer, as was said. But that does not mean that the statement of my noble Friend was wrong at the time. There were then no particular problems, but a considerable number have arisen since then. One of the matters to which I attach great importance, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Woodnutt), is the strengthening of the Board. Two people of national, indeed international, calibre, have been added to the Board, Sir Richard Yeabsley and Mr. Hanning Philipps. Also there was Mr. Lawrence Robson who again has an almost unrivalled position in his particular field. I am confident that matters in the future will be wisely guided.

Now to turn to the subject that was particularly raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Teeling). There are really two matters that come under that heading, the observation by the Malta Government Director of Audit in his report, and secondly, the question, which was very well put by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight, whether Malta really got value for this or not and whether it would have been wiser to have started on building hotels first and on the publicity second, although, with respect, I think that that is rather a "chicken and egg" argument.

What happened was that, when it became apparent that there was to be a decline in Service expenditure in Malta, it became all the more urgent to concentrate on finding other sources of strength for Malta's economy. The obvious one to look at was the question of tourism, because Malta's climate and scenery and her historic and religious associations are among her few natural assets, and obviously no opportunity should be lost to use them for the benefit of the people of Malta. But there was at the time no organisation in Malta which could do this effectively. It fell to the Governor, who was then Sir Robert Laycock, to consider what form of organisation could carry this out.

He thought that it would be best to follow the practice adopted in a number of other Colonial Territories and to set up an autonomous statutory board. That was the origin of the Tourist Board. I will come to the details of the Chairman in a moment. The idea was that the Board should consist of the Chairman and Secretary and not less than four members and that the Board should be composed of people with a knowledge of Malta, but that the Chairman should be somebody with other experience, particularly in this field.

This brings me directly to the point of the qualifications of Mr. Barker Benfield. Naturally, as Secretary of State, in the end all matters are my responsibility. Mr. Barker Benfield was not, in fact, appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, by my predecessor; he was interviewed and appointed by the Governor himself. He was appointed not to the Malta public service but, as I have said, to a statutory authority established by the Malta Government.

If I may, I will just very briefly enumerate his qualifications, putting stress on one in particular. He had a career first in the Foreign Service as Third. Second and First Secretary in different embassies, and in the last post as First Secretary, he was particularly in charge of information. From 1951 to 1958—this is the time of the appointment—he was in Jamaica. He was secretary to Sir Hugh Foot, at that time Governor of Jamaica, who, I am told, had a high opinion of him; but, more important, he became publicity officer to the Jamaica Tourist Board, and then Chief Executive of the Jamaica Tourist Board. So that there can, I think, be no doubt that he had special qualifications indeed in this field, and nobody who has been to Jamaica and has seen how the tourist industry has flourished there could, I think, deny that Mr. Barker Benfield certainly had qualifications to be appointed to the post which he then undertook.

This Board then started off as a Government Department, and I think that this in a way is what has lain behind the discussion in this debate, because, if I understood what one or two of my hon. Friends said about the need for stricter control, I frankly do not think we can apply the strict methods of Government accounting to such things as tourist boards; nor, I think, is it normal practice so to do. Certainly in this country we do not appear to put through what I may call the Parliamentary machine the various organs which look after tourism in this country. So, when it was decided that financial control applicable to all Government Departments was not wholly appropriate to this Board, it was in fact exempted from them by the two Ordinances of 1959 and 1960.

Here again, the Colonial Office was consulted. We recommended that the financial procedures governing the British Council would be a suitable model and the Jamaica Tourist Board law of 1954, which is the most modern example there is, was taken as the basis of Malta's legislation in this respect and, as I have told the House, Mr. Barker Benfield was director, and a very successful director indeed, and Chief Executive of the Jamaica Tourist Board.

So much, then, for the origin of the Board, and I think what I have said clears away some misunderstandings. I think that nobody could say that this man who was appointed had not admirable qualifications, and, although I agree that it is a matter of interpretation. I would ask my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite who perhaps may take a different view to see whether they really believe that we could do the sort of work which we need to do in relation to the promotion of the tourist industry under the strict accountancy systems which are applicable to Government Departments, because, of course, the vast part of the work which this Board has to do—and this, in my view, accounts for the journeys abroad: of course, it accounts for them—is not done inside Malta but outside Malta.

After all, we have to attract people if we want tourists to come. The picture of Malta inevitably is not at first sight necessarily one of a place for a holiday. People remember first its gallantry in war. They think of it as a fortress island, as, indeed, in a sense, it is, and it needed—I shall come to the individual points as to whether too much was done or not—a very great deal of selling and salesmanship through advertising agents and publicists in London and in the United States of America for this to be achieved. I am sure that this is so.

Dr. Alan Glyn

The point at issue is not so much the question of strict control, but the fact that, as far as one can see, two years passed without any proper control or audit.

Mr. Macleod

I understand that. The reason was that shortly after the formation of the Board, it became apparent to the Government of Malta and to the Board that these accounting procedures were not enabling it to function as it wished. Therefore, in the intervening period the Board was relieved of this duty and the enabling Ordinances were enacted by the Governor of Malta.

One of my hon. Friends said that an American travel journal referred to the island as the most highly publicised of all the new resorts. My hon. Friend seemed to think that that was right as a matter of fact, but that in some way there was something wrong that it should be so. On the contrary, I should have thought that if it is a matter of fact that on a small budget Malta is the most highly publicised of all the new resorts, far from being a series of wild goose chases the journeys of the Chairman of the Board seem to have been extremely profitable for Malta.

My hon. Friend went on to a valuable point, to which I referred earlier as the chicken and egg argument, about whether the Board should have concentrated on building hotels. It was only with the passing of the Ordinance in mid-1959 that the Tourist Board became charged with responsibility for attracting investment capital to Malta for the building of new hotels; and it has been engaged on that work.

The Paradise Bay project, a £1 million luxury hotel, to which my hon. Friend referred, is scheduled to start next month and negotiations are well advanced in connection with two other large-scale resort hotel projects on which construction is to start this year. Much is being done on that side. Quite apart from that, however, existing hotels have enjoyed far better business than ever before, and in 1960 there was a 47 per cent. increase over the corresponding period of 1959. These, again, are facts which clearly show that Malta has gained very much from the actions of the Board.

I turn now to what the Director of Audit said and to the question to which, above all others, I was asked to give a specific answer, as to whether there should be an inquiry. The main points to which the Director drew attention were, first, that the advances made to the Chairman and certain members of the Board were not properly accounted for, particularly in connection with some of the promotional tours abroad to which I have referred; and secondly, that the Board did not in general follow normal Government procedures in procuring supplies, in controlling expenditure and in other matters of administration.

I should like to concentrate most of my attention on the first point, because as regards the second point it was precisely for that reason that the Board—had it been tied to Government procedures, it would not have been able to operate as speedily and efficiently as was required—was set up as an autonomous body. As I have said, that follows precedent in most countries and I believe that it was wise.

On the question of whether the journeys abroad were adequately accounted for, I agree with my hon. Friends, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion, that this is a matter that we must look at closely. To reply to a small point raised by my hon. Friend, I am told, incidentally, that Mr. Barker Benfield is not in France, but is in London. On the point about the Pauline celebrations, that was the responsibility of the Church, but the Tourist Board contributed £5,000 to those celebrations besides assisting in a number of other directions.

On the questions about finance, if I might take them quickly, the position is that the recurrent budget of the Board comes to about £86,000, and it is the capital budget of £545,000 which is part of the five-year development plan. The money spent on advertising, to which reference has been made—about £180,000—was spent in the first two years. The money was spent on advertising—and this, again, I think is surely right—in the early period of the development plan to ensure that, by the time the hotels and restaurants were beginning to go up, Malta was well known and well sold to the world.

On the question of these matters of expense, it must not be thought that there is not the most careful examination by the auditors of the affairs of the Board. Indeed, the Board's own auditors produce a monthly report covering the transactions of the previous month. These monthly reports have not disclosed any irregularities at all. Nevertheless, as my hon. Friend says, it is right that a considerable number of vouchers, particularly for hotel expenditure, are missing, and the position is that the ex-Chairman and other members of the Board have been asked to produce hotel receipts supporting past expenditure, and this they have agreed to do.

I therefore feel that this is the position. I hope that I have shown to the satisfaction of the House that it is not true that this man had no qualifications for his job. I hope that I have shown that Malta gained real advantages from the existence of the Board. But I acknowledge from the report of the Director of Audit—it would be impossible to deny it—that one cannot be happy about the accounting methods used. Nevertheless, I am frankly doubtful whether an inquiry would reveal anything in particular.

Before the debate started, I intended to give a plain "No" to the question of an inquiry because I did not think that it would discover anything. However, there has been more anxiety than I realised, and I am ready to take notice of it. I should, therefore, like to amend what would have been my original answer and put it in this way. If one gets satisfactory receipts and answers to the questions raised, about hotel vouchers in particular, for past expenditure—and the Chairman and members of the Board have agreed to do this—I think that that would be satisfactory, and we should then rest on the position and allow this Board to get on with its job of helping new hotels and the tourist industry in Malta. If, after a reasonable time, I have not been satisfied on these matters, and the receipts are not available, I will consider the question of an inquiry for which my hon. Friend pressed.