HC Deb 02 April 1962 vol 657 cc145-8
Mr. Healey

I beg to move, in page 4, line 44, at the end to insert: Provided that no Order in Council under this section shall be made or shall have effect so as to impair, limit or otherwise diminish any element of representation or self-government in the constitution of a colony to which the Order relates. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that when the Bill was first published a wave of anger and indignation swept the West Indies. That is not too strong a way of describing the reaction. No doubt a good deal of it was based on what the Government intended. In particular, it was felt in all the islands concerned, even in those on the verge of total independence, like Trinidad, that Her Majesty's Government envisaged some sort of return to direct Colonial Office rule, or Crown Colony status. That feeling was expressed in many angry editorials and speeches.

This apprehension and misunderstanding were reduced, first, by the statement in another place by the Minister of State and, secondly, by the undertaking given by the Colonial Secretary himself a week ago, when he said: … it is not our intention in any way to derogate or reduce the powers of the territories already enjoying full internal self-government …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1962: Vol. 656, c. 855.] We have put down the Amendment simply to clear up precisely what is intended for the territories which are not now enjoying full internal self-government and to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us precisely which territories are not covered by his assurance and precisely what the Government intend for them.

On Second Reading, the right hon. Gentleman made a good deal of the intention to use the Clause to ensure that grant aid to the Colonies, which is at present controlled through powers in relation to the Federal Government, should still be effectively controlled. I do not think that anybody would want to prevent effective control from being carried out, but I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us precisely which territories in the Federation are not covered by this assurance. Secondly, can he assure us that any financial powers which are exercised under the Clause will not go beyond those which were exercised under the Federal constitution? In other words, can it be taken that no country will lose any degree of self-government which it is now enjoying through the operation of the Clause?

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Maudling

There are, as I think I explained earlier, one or two points which we have in mind in this Clause, such as the written Constitution for Barbados and paving the way for the Jamaica Bill, but the point which the Committee has no doubt in mind is the question of stricter financial control over certain territories. I confirm that we do not intend in any way to derogate from the powers of those territories which already have self-government. They are Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados, the fact is that there have been in some other territories—whose names I will not mention, if I may be excused—in one or two instances, examples of lax financial control. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) laughs—

Mr. Chapman

I merely laughed because I found the incidental arrangement of words amusing.

Mr. Maudling

I used the words deliberately.

I think it most important that when moneys are voted by this House for development, or for the support of the administration of these territories, those moneys should be properly applied. Until recently, and it will be so until the Federation is dissolved, there has been a degree of control by the Federal financial system. Frankly, I am not satisfied that this has been completely adequate. If it had been adequate these difficulties would not have arisen, but, even if it were adequate, it would disappear. All we want in the islands, apart from the three I have mentioned, is power to ensure that moneys voted by this Houses and provided by this country are properly applied.

I am afraid that in doing that it may be necessary in some cases to take back from some islands part of the degree of financial autonomy they now have. We shall do it only in cases where it is clear that the freedom they have had in financial matters has led them into financial difficulty. This is bound to lead—I do not disguise it—to a diminution of the financial freedom they have at the moment, but it is absolutely necessary to see that the moneys are properly used. If it is found that there is administrative difficulty in the eight islands it will be all subsumed in that, but in the interim period I think that we must have these powers to prevent difficulties arising.

Mr. Healey

Can the right hon. Gentleman go a little further and assure the Committee that any derogation of the existing degree of self-government involved in the application of this Clause will concern only the use of the moneys granted by Parliament here?

Mr. Maudling

That is all that I have in mind. I must say quite frankly that I have no other purpose in asking for

these powers than to ensure that the moneys granted by Parliament ace properly used.

Mr. Healey

In view of the assurance given by the Colonial Secretary, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.