HC Deb 28 June 1963 vol 679 cc1891-912

1.15 p.m.

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

I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "as defined by that Act".

The Chairman (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

I understand that it would be convenient to the Committee to discuss with this Amendment the Amendment in page 1, line 11, leave out "11th February 1948" and insert "15th August 1947".

Mr. Thomson

Yes, Sir William. That will be for the convenience of the Committee as they deal with the same point.

As I think the Under-Secretary knows, the purpose of the Amendments, of which we gave warning on Second Reading, is to allow the very welcome operations of the Colonial Development Corporation in the independent Commonwealth to extend still further India, Pakistan and Ceylon, the Commonwealth countries which became independent in the post-war period but before the qualifying date of the parent Act and of the Bill. There was some discussion on this point on Second Reading. We gathered from the Government at that time that their initial reaction to this proposal was not a hopeful one. They have had some time to reconsider the matter. It is an important and valuable proposal.

The Colonial Development Corporation itself probably feels that the extension of its powers under the Bill is enough for it to be going on with in the immediate future. However, this is in many ways an enabling Bill. It will establish the structure of what will be the Commonwealth Development Corporation for a number of years ahead. We on this side do not suggest that the extra powers which would be given by the Amendment would immediately have to be operated by the new Commonwealth Development Corporation. We suggest that it is important that the Corporation should have the right to operate throughout the whole of the developing Commonwealth in the years immediately ahead, if it wishes to do so and if it is asked to do so. It is impossible to call it a Commonwealth Development Corporation—a change that we welcome—if it is to be debarred from effectively operating in three of the principal developing countries of the Commonwealth.

I do not see in logic how it is possible to call it a Commonwealth Development Corporation if it is enabled to operate in that great and populous country, Nigeria, but prevented from operating in that other great and populous country, India. I do not see how it can be called a Commonwealth Development Corporation if it is allowed to operate in an Asian and partly Moslem country like Malaya, but is prevented from operating in Pakistan. I do not see how we can properly call it a Commonwealth Development Corporation if it is enabled to operate in the newly independent islands of the Caribbean, but prevented from operating in the newly independent island of Ceylon.

Each of the three nations which would be incorporated by this Amendment could usefully take advantage of the capital and know-how provided uniquely by the C.D.C. Perhaps it might be argued that in India, where they already have very elaborate planning machinery, the need for the services and resources of the C.D.C. to be made available is less than in the other two countries. In Pakistan particularly, which I had the good fortune to visit recently the possibilities of the C.D.C. operating are very considerable.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) and I were there a few weeks ago we were able to have long talks with the two industrial development corporations which operate in East and West Pakistan, respectively. They are very impressive organisations. They already have a very good record of achievement behind them in industrialising a part of the sub-continent which started with very serious handicaps in this respect.

The interesting thing about these Pakistan development corporations is that their structure bears a remarkable resemblance to the structure of the C.D.C. They operate in the same way. They have the same aim of establishing new industry, building it up successfully, and then trying to persuade local entrepreneurs to take it over. The resemblance between the two bodies is a very close one.

I understand that the Pakistan industrial development corporations had close consultations with the C.D.C. over recent years. It may well be that the present structure in Pakistan owes something to those consultations. If so, that is a further contribution which the C.D.C. has made in a country in which it is not allowed at the moment to operate. The practical point is that I should have thought it possible to marry the operations of the C.D.C. with those of the Pakistan industrial corporations without too much difficulty. Any fear that the C.D.C. had that this would be a big extra drain on its trained manpower would be minimised in that particular situation.

In Pakistan, of which I have some personal knowledge, I should have thought the arguments for allowing the C.D.C. with its new powers to operate are very strong indeed. I am not so qualified to talk about the circumstances in Ceylon, Ceylon is a relatively small, yet tremendously important, developing nation in the Commonwealth. I should be extremely surprised, from the little I know of economic conditions there, if the C.D.C. could not make a very useful contribution. It is for these reasons that we have tabled this Amendment. We hope that the Under-Secretary will give it sympathetic consideration.

Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)

I wish to support the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson). I am sure that many have emphasised the significance of the transition from the Colonial Development Corporation to the Commonwealth Development Corporation, as it is named in the Bill. It is of very profound significance in that the colonial empire has largely disappeared and in its place has emerged the Commonwealth.

I can appreciate why up to now the Corporation has not covered India, Pakistan and Ceylon. They were never Colonies but were Crown possessions. I suppose that is one of the legal factors which were borne in mind by those who drafted the Bill. The mere fact that the Bill is called the Colonial Development Bill ignores distinctions of Crown possessions and Colonies. It seems that on that ground alone, if the intentions of the Bill are to be logically applied, India, Pakistan and Ceylon should not be left out of its beneficial provisions. I am glad that that has been emphasised by my hon. Friend.

I support this Amendment also on the broader grounds that this is one of the means by which we can still further implement the principle of Commonwealth. It has often been said that it is difficult to define the nature of the Commonwealth. In many respects there are differences and diversities in policy and economy. Apparently nothing binds the Commonwealth together except an emotional attachment, but here is a means, particularly if we include these other vaster territories of India, Pakistan and Ceylon, whereby we can help to give material substance to the whole concept of Commonwealth.

I know that because Commonwealth is so different in its significance from empire some are less enthusiastic about Commonwealth than they were about empire, but I do not share that lack of enthusiasm. On the contrary, I rejoice very much that the much nobler conception of Commonwealth, based as it is on voluntary co-operation compared with the imposition of alien will, has taken the place of the old conception. I hope that the Under-Secretary will accept this and that we may further integrate this very noble concept, which is a tremendous and inspiring example to the whole world.

I too have been in India this year, seeing my friends out there. I was much struck by two facts, first by the warmth of friendship which exists there for this country. There was always friendship, but it is warmer now than ever before. It has been particularly stimulated by the readiness with which we went to the aid of India when she was in crisis through the aggressive action of China in the early part of this year and the latter part of last year.

I believe we should continue not merely military aid but economic aid to assist India. Here is a way in which that can be done. It is essential that we should be at least as ready to extend economic aid to India as we were to extend military aid. Otherwise there might appear—although I think it would be fallacious—to be some substance in the contention in certain quarters that we wish to assist with military aid only for some ulterior purpose. I do not share that idea. We should be as eager to do all we can to extend economic aid as we were to extend military aid when India was in peril.

This is not to assume that a great deal has not been done. I know that both from our own resources and from external resources through the consortia of many nations very substantial aid has been extended to that country. There is no logical reason why we should not use this channel for the same purpose. Certainly India and Pakistan need all the aid we can possibly extend to them. I cannot understand why, as was suggested by my hon. Friend, the C.D.C. seems reluctant to accept this and to extend its responsibility. I should have thought that although it might place a very heavy burden on the Corporation and it might be entering wider fields than at one time it anticipated doing, it should eagerly grasp this opportunity.

1.30 p.m.

I am not sure whether this is in order, but by way of illustration I can tell the Committee that, although a great deal has been done by the Governments of India and Pakistan themselves and a great deal has been done by external aid, I have seen with my own eyes the tremendous need for all the aid there can possibly be. I was happy to be able to inform the people of ten villages in the southern part of India that my constituency had adopted these ten villages and raised a very substantial sum of money, through the initiative of out local mayors, supported by people of all parties, and would very shortly be sending out about £5,000 in order that they might sink wells. These wells will enable those people to have two crops a year instead of one, without which they would be consuming per head only half the calories which we consume in this country.

I put that as one illustration of the tremendous need which exists. In spite of great irrigation projects like the Bhakra-Nangal dam, in spite of the construction of steel plants and indus- trial plants, in spite of a great deal which has been done internally, we have to face the fact that, unfortunately, the third Indian five-year plan, based as it is very largely on the success of the first two five-year plans, will be grievously affected not only by what has happened recently in the conflict with China but by the circumstance that, owing to the cumulative beneficial effects of improved sanitation and improved medical and hospital services, the population of India is now growing alarmingly at the rate of 8 to 9 million a year. This population problem, of course, imposes its own strain on the country's economy.

Whatever may be done about the curtailment of population is another matter. We have before us now an excellent opportunity really to demonstrate and vindicate our appreciation of India. Only last week, we had with us that very great scholar, Dr. Radhakrishnan, the President of India, and we extended to him, rightly, a very warm welcome indeed. I had the opportunity of talking to him at some length when I was in India, and, on this occasion, more briefly. We could do a great deal to emphasise the sincerity of our welcome to him and our recognition that India, Pakistan and Ceylon are equals with us within the Commonwealth by extending the scope of the Bill in the way proposed.

I hope that the Minister, appreciating the pleas which we have made from this side and the fact that there is now this change and the availability of funds for ex-colonial territories, will not allow the circumstance that these other countries were not, strictly speaking, colonial territories to deter him from saying that the scope of the Bill should be extended to include them and do something really impressive to show the world that we believe in the principle of Commonwealth.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. John Tilney)

The Committee will have listened with much interest and sympathy to what the hon. Members for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) and for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) have said. I add my appreciation of the work of the President of India, whom I had the privilege of meeting in India last November and recently here in London. Both hon. Gentlemen are inclined to forget that the Corporation may already act in India, Pakistan and Ceylon as managing agent and perform advisory functions. We really come down to a question of further cash.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Is there any instance of the Corporation having been asked by an independent Commonwealth country to act as managing agent in that way?

Mr. Tilney

The Corporation has not taken such action so far, but it has the power so to do. It may be that, in the coming year, it will act as managing agent, but it has not so far done so.

Mr. Sorensen

I can understand how the Corporation could give advice, but it has no power to propose the advance of money, has it? That is where the difference lies.

Mr. Tilney

I agree that it has no power to produce money from the United Kingdom Treasury, but it has power to act as managing agent and perform advisory functions in any independent Commonwealth country under Section 7 of the Overseas Resources Development Act, 1959. We ought to bear that in mind. The question really comes down to one of another channel for extra cash for development.

I was much interested in what the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said on Second Reading: I do not say that India is a very suitable territory for the C.D.C. It has reached a stale of development in which it does its own planning and a great deal of its own technical assistance. The scale of the Indian economy is so large that it rather dwarfs the Corporation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1963; Vol. 579, c. 562.] Those were very wise words.

In fairness to the Corporation, I should tell the Committee that the deputy chairman and the managing director told me in conversation yesterday that, if given the opportunity, the C.D.C. would welcome the inclusion of India, Pakistan and Ceylon within its area of operations, although they would not expect, in the early stages, to be able to use any of the powers extensively. But I should also tell the Committee that the Corporation never put forward that suggestion in the conver- sations which we had with the Corporation during the past weeks, and I repeat that it has never as yet used its powers of management which it could have used in any of these three territories.

When I first heard the suggestion on Second Reading that these Commonwealth countries should be included, my first reaction was one of sympathy towards the idea, but I have since weighed further the arguments for and against. I feel that we should bear in mind that India, with nearly 450 million people, and Pakistan, with nearly another 100 million, represent far more than half the whole Commonwealth and would put the whole operations of the C.D.C. out of balance. As the right hon. Member for Dundee, West said, it is really a problem of scale.

We are already helping India very considerably. Our total aid commitment to India has amounted to nearly £179 million. To this should be added the £30 million recently committed in the Indian consortium, making a total of over £200 million. Our commitments to Pakistan amount to about £48 million, to which should be added the £8 million recently committed in the Pakistan consortium, making a total of £56 million. Thus, our total aid disbursements to the three countries have been, per annum, in three out of the last four years, £30 million, while our total aid disbursements to all under-developed countries have been about £150 million. Thus, our aid to these three territories in recent years has been between one-fifth and one-quarter of our total aid. This, I think answers to some extent the point made by the hon. Member for Leyton. We have certainly not forgotten the need to help India. To those figures, of course, should be added military aid as well.

Mr. Sorensen

I appreciate that, and I said that substantial aid had been given. However, in India it works out at less than 10s. per head. Surely, it is advisable not to confuse military aid, which, of course, is of a different order altogether, with economic aid.

Mr. Tilney

The figures I have mentioned are of economic aid. To them we should add aid from the Commonwealth Development and Finance Corporation, which has amounted to nearly £7 million to the three countries in the form of investment. But again it is fairly substantial.

Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)

Would it not be right to say also that direct investment in India is considerable. The figures given so far of economic aid under the Export Guarantees Act from 1949 and 1962 are all good. But would not it appear that the total of our aid to Pakistan has been even more considerable, compared with other nations in the Commonwealth?

Mr. Tilney

I have left out private investment from those figures. But I do not think that arises under this Bill.

I believe that were these territories included, there would be obvious pressure on the part of one, possibly of all, the Governments concerned sooner or later to raise the ceiling of aid above the £130 million provided by this Bill. I would again refer to what was said during the Second Reading debate by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West: It is for that reason that I proposed no raising of the ceiling".—[Official Report, 19th June, 1963; Vol. 679, c. 595.] It seems to me that the whole scale and balance of the operations of the C.D.C. would be put out if we included this vast sub-continent with all its huge needs. I accept what was said by the hon. Member for Leyton about the need to help in respect of the poverty per head of population. But the amount of money available to the C.D.C. is limited. I only wish we were richer and that we could afford more aid in every way. But I do not think that we are doing badly.

If we exclude India, obviously we must exclude Pakistan as well and so we are left with Ceylon. Already we have very substantial British private investment in Ceylon. As I said on Second Reading, it was the idea that when the countries became independent they should rely largely on private enterprise to produce the money for their development. That was changed at the Montreal Conference of 1958.Iam told that the City of London holds the view that the political and economic uncertainty in Ceylon has resulted in a virtual cessation of foreign investment, and that sufficient foreign investment is unlikely to be attracted because of the present restriction on remittances, profits, dividends and other income earned by foreign countries and by the continued extension of public ownership.

If the policies of the Government of Ceylon gave greater confidence, no doubt private investors would be ready to invest additional sums. It is potentially rich and a lovely island and it has a favourable balance of trade with this country. We all hope that Ceylon will overcome her present economic difficulties, and that private enterprise, in partnership with the people of Ceylon, will be able to increase the wealth and wellbeing of that very lovely island.

As I have said, I must advise the Committee that I believe that our present channels of aid to India are the best. I do not want to cramp the operations of the Corporation elsewhere by a demand to them, and by putting a pressure on them, to invest their limited funds in the sub-continent of India. I believe that the present channels are well suited especially to India's balance of payment problems. A line must be drawn somewhere and we have accepted the line which was drawn by the Labour Government in 1948. We believe that the Corporation has enough on its plate. There will be other overseas resources development legislation in future years. We are bound to have another CD. and W. Fund Bill by 1966 and possibly the sub-continent of India could have been added at that time. But I am sure that it would be wrong to add those three countries now. Having weighed up the arguments for and against, I must advise the Committee to reject the Amendment.

1.45 p.m.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

This is an extremely unsatisfactory and unimaginative response from the Minister. It is all the more unsatisfactory because he gave the extremely interesting information that once this matter was pressed by the Opposition during Second Reading, the C.D.C. told the Government that it would be willing to see these powers incorporated into the Bill. I should have thought that any Minister who told the Committee he was initially sympathetic to the proposals of the Opposition would have considered that this intervention by the C.D.C. tipped the balance.

The Minister's arguments do not seem to me very persuasive. The suggestion that there are existing powers in the Act for the Corporation to act as a managing agent in the Indian sub-continent is irrelevant because the experience since the Act was passed has been that this provision is a complete dead letter. One would expect that in the case of India, for all the reasons that the Minister has given, India does not need a management agency technique from a Government Corporation in this country. The unique value of the C.D.C. is that it combines capital assistance with experienced knowledge in developing the under-developed areas. It is that combination which I should have thought of interest to India despite the fact that India has considerable facilities of her own and, as the Minister said, the whole scale of Indian development—one of the greatest and most populous countries in the world—in a sense overshadows the operations of C.D.C.

That does not mean to say that the C.D.C. operation in India, even though it were small against the whole scale of the Indian economy, might not be immensely valuable in itself and helpful to India and to our relations with India. The Minister said, as an argument against this, that inevitably it would raise the total ceiling of aid to India. We are not arguing about the total volume of aid. We are proposing that a new technique should be offered to India and to other countries in the sub-continent. But in the Second Reading debate, not unreasonably, the Government took credit for the fact that it was proposed over the years to raise the total ceiling of overseas aid to something between £180 million and £220 million. So if the only argument against the proposal is that some years hence it is likely to mean that the total help to India will be greater, I cannot see that this presents much of an obstacle.

Most people would feel that we ought in the years ahead greatly to increase our aid to the countries of the subcontinent as well as to other developing countries in the world. I would put India very high in the list of priorities because in many ways the battle for democracy in a developing world will be won or lost in India. There is, I think, a strong case, for India—perhaps more than other countries—has the manpower and economic equipment to make the maximum use of any help given.

In moving the Amendment I emphasise that I thought an extension would be important to the three countries and particularly to Pakistan and Ceylon. I was somewhat startled by the Minister's rather bland argument that because he felt obliged to dismiss the proposal for India he must, automatically, apply the same argument to Pakistan and Ceylon. I cannot imagine that that argument, if it ever gets beyond the confines of this Chamber, is likely to improve relations between the countries on the Indian subcontinent.

In rejecting the Amendment the Government are creating two worlds within the developing Commonwealth. In some ways they will get the worst of both worlds. The independent Commonwealth countries of Africa and elsewhere which come within the scope of the Bill will wonder why they should get it while the slightly older developing Commonwealth countries should not. All the old suspicions about certain countries being nearer Commonwealth status will be stirred up by this unfortunate rejection.

Equally, the countries of the subcontinent are bound to wonder why, after all our protestations about the importance of aid to the area, this modest interesting and extremely useful device of giving capital aid accompanied by the know-how to use it should be denied to them. The Under-Secretary said that a line had to be drawn somewhere. I cannot think of a more illogical place to draw it than the one he prefers. The only justification for it is the fact that it was the line drawn by the Labour Government during the immediate post-war period. The hon. Gentleman used an illogical argument because the body set op at that time was a corporation confined to the boundaries of the dependent colonial territories for which we were responsible and, therefore, the independent Commonwealth countries of India, Pakistan and Ceylon were automatically excluded.

The whole situation has changed since then and, in the light of that change, the Under-Secretary should have accepted—especially since the C.D.C. has said that it would like it—our proposal to allow the C.D.C., in due course and when asked, to operate in the Indian sub-continent.

Mr. Tilney

If the Committee was discussing total aid I would have agreed with the hon. Member. But we are already giving massive aid to India and it is not true to say that the only justification I have put forward is the argument that India, Pakistan and Ceylon were never within the territory of the Corporation. We want to give help to India, but it is a problem of scale. Pakistan is a very large country—the second largest in the Commonwealt—and the same argument can apply in that case, but to a slightly less degree.

I repeat, our present channels of aid to India are well suited to that country. If we opened the territory up to the C.D.C., within a very short time there would be pressures to divert its existing funds from poor colonial territories or independent territories which may be just as poor as the Indian sub-continent, or else to raise the figure of £130 million. I must, therefore, urge the Committee to reject the Amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed: In page 1, line 11, to leave out "11th February 1948" and insert "15th August 1947"—(Mr. G. M. Thomson):—

Question, That "11th February 1948" stand part of the Clause, put and agreed to.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

I beg to move, in page 1, line 14, at the end to insert "(c) the Maldive Islands".

We have tabled the Amendment to find out from the Government what is the present status of the Maldive Islands in relation to our aid policy and whether they are not to be entitled to come within the operations of the C.D.C.

The Maldive Islands are by no means the least important of the areas of the world which come under our protection and for which we have a responsibility. I suppose that they are among the parts of the world about which hon. Members know the least. I cannot easily recall many occasions when their affairs have been discussed in Parliament. If, for no other reason, this may justify our having tabled the Amendment.

I recall that on one occasion I received a letter from Male, the capital of the Maldives, about the political difficulties existing between the Maldivian Government and this Government. I went to see the present Minister's predecessor at the Commonwealth Relations Office. He had himself recently returned, I gathered with some difficulty, from a visit there to try to improve relationships. We had a useful and interesting talk and then the question arose as to how my reply to my correspondent was to be delivered because I gather that there are no regular postal services to Male. He offered to arrange for my letter to be dropped by parachute into Male.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

The hon. Member may like to know that I have been in correspondence with people on the islands. They write to me and no postal difficulties have been experienced.

Mr. Thomson

In which case communications have improved since my experience. The problem of communications inside the area—between the southern group where our base is established and beyond the capital of Male in the north—may have caused the sense of remoteness which is associated with the area. Despite this, they are important islands and their friendship is important to us.

I understand that the R.A.F. staging post on the Addu Atoll, in the south, is now extremely important. I am told that in the first year of operation of the base more than 600 aircraft, 12,000 passengers and 1½ million tons of goods were handled. In our strategic interests, goodwill with the people of Maldive is extremely important. It is for this reason that my hon. Friends and I wanted to press that the Maldives should be included in the area of operation of the C.D.C.

The Bill already includes places like the New Hebrides and the Cameroon Republic, or part of it. The least we can do is to make available the facilities of the C.D.C. to the Maldive Islands. The Maldivians want those facilities and the appropriate projects that can be undertaken. We are merely asking that the Government should be empowered to operate in the area in this way if the situation seems to warrant it. One might find that the C.D.C. officials would find it easier to be useful ambassadors there than are the normal channels because there is this long and unfortunate history of dispute between ourselves and the Government of Maldive.

2.0 p.m

I should like this Amendment to enable us to form a better view of the case for extending the C.D.C. to the Maldives and to find out what the present position is with regard to our financial aid to these islands. I gather that under the Treaty of Friendship of February, 1960, we undertook in exchange for our staging posts in the south to provide the Maldivian Government with £850,000. I do not know for what period, although the stage post rights lasted for 50 years. £100,000 of that was to be direct grant. Immediately after that Treaty the dispute flared up again. I should be grateful to know from the Minister now, or by letter later, how much of this money has been handed over and what are the prospects for the immediate future.

Above all, I ask the Government to consider whether this Bill may not provide a modest opportunity to offer the Maldives the hand of friendship and improve relationships with them.

Mr. Sorensen

I assure the Minister that I have no ulterior political motives in supporting the Amendment of my hon. Friend, and I am sure that he will agree that any electoral advantages in regard to this Amendment will be of a very small nature indeed. I am certain that not one in a thousand in my constituency would know what I was talking about if I referred to the Maldive Islands. Quite frankly, I think that a good many of us in this House would not either.

I hope that the Minister will say a word about this interesting remnant of our imperial empire and why it has been left out. I have not been to the Maldive Islands. I am glad that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is apparently in close touch, and perhaps he might add interesting information by intervening in the debate. Meanwhile, I ask that we should have some explanation why it has been left out.

I can understand why the New Hebrides is put in a particular category. I understand the nature of that particular territory, but I cannot see why the Maldive Islands should not almost automatically have been included, because we are engaged now and shall be doing so in the months ahead in sweeping up all the little pieces left over from the Empire of the past. This is one of those little pieces. Whether they are or are not justifiably in some separate category, it seems to me that they should not be put at a loss because they are not in that strange category. Surely they can benefit as much as other islands recognised as ex-Colonial Territories. Why penalise them because they are apparently in some strange category? I should be glad to hear from the Minister why he does not favour our Amendment, bringing these Islands into the general orbit of the Bill.

Mr. Tilney

The Committee may like to know that a considerable amount of aid has been given to the Maldives: Traditional fishing equipment £50,000; dispensing ship £50,000; a power station at Male, £75,000; a boat-yard and engineering repair shop, £20,000; an Inter-Atoll ship £45,000 and, with miscellaneous provisions, a total of £260,000. That has been completed, and in hand are the following three items: £225,000 for harbour and oil storage; £145,000 for a hospital and £100,000 for marine engines, making in all £¾ million.

Mr. Thomson

We are most grateful to the Minister for giving these figures. Could he clarify one or two points about the authority under which they are given? Do these relate to the £850,000 under the 1960 Treaty of Friendship or does any of it come under CD. and W. Is some of it related to the base itself and does it come under our military and Air Force expenditure?

Mr. Tilney

I should like notice of that question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question later. I should like to confirm that the position of Her Majesty's Government remains as set out in the second paragraph of the letter from Lord Alport, or Mr. Alport as he then was on 4th February, 1960, where he reaffirms to the Prime Minister of the Maldive Islands the United Kingdom Government's desire and concern to promote an early reconciliation between the inhabitants of Addu Atoll and the Government of His Highness the Sultan. I accordingly give you a further assurance that the United Kingdom Government will do all that they can to bring about conditions which will enable the authority of His Highness the Sultan to be restored peacefully in the Atoll. I am advised that the insert of this Amendment is unnecessary since because in Clause 1(1,a) of the Bill the Maldive Islands are included as being an overseas country or territory within the Commonwealth.

Mr. Thomson

We are obliged to the Minister for giving us that very interesting information. Does this mean that the Maldive Islands will now qualify for consideration under CD. and W.?

Mr. Tilney

I understand that the aid of £¾million is under the Treaty, but it certainly qualifies for operation by the C.D.C. although I do not think that the C.D.C. at the moment has any possible project in the Maldives.

Mr. Thomson

In view of the very helpful and informative reply which the Minister has given us on this point, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, to leave out from "fit" to end of line 7.

This is an exploratory Amendment put down in order to obtain from the Minister an explanation of the meaning of this provision in relation to two points. We are a little puzzled why the important provision of the parent Act with regard to consultation with local inhabitants and employees should be left out in respect of the independent Commonwealth countries which will now qualify for the new C.D.C. projects. We assume that this is out of respect for the complete sovereignty of the independent Commonwealth countries, but we should like to have that matter cleared up quite definitely.

The main reason for the Amendment is to draw attention to the very grave importance in the non-independent territories that remain of the C.D.C. developing the closest possible association with the local peoples. The C.D.C. enjoys a well-deserved reputation for getting on well in the territories in which it is operating, but I do not think that anyone who has seen it operate in the field and who is, as all of us are on both sides of the Committee, a friend of the C.D.C. would feel that there was a good deal more that could be done.

The parent Act laid it down pretty definitely that local interests should be consulted. Indeed, it laid down rather clearly the form in which they should be consulted, and it said that the Corporation "shall" appoint committees. It was mandatory. I should be interested to know in how many cases the Corporation has appointed committees in many of the independent territories in which it operates. My guess is that it has been rarely, if ever. Why has it not been done?

I had the impression from a number of areas where the C.D.C. operates that this method of forming local advisory committees might be well worth trying out. There is often difficulty in persuading local people of the full purposes and the difficulties which the C.D.C. inevitably faces in many of its projects. It is vitally important, especially when most of these territories are coming increasingly nearer the full state of self-government or of independence, that the maximum explanation should be given. The C.D.C. could increasingly spend money on what might be called public relations. I am told that this varies from region to region, but in any case the Corporation could do more than it does.

The other point which I would press is that the C.D.C. should do everything it can in independent territories to encourage good trade union practices. I should have thought that there was a great deal to be said for the Corporation appointing some senior officers on its staff simply for the purpose of promoting good industrial relations. The Under-Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs, whom we are glad to see on the Government Front Bench, is spending a great deal of anxious time at the moment with the situation in British Guiana. This is an industrial situation which now has highly explosive political implications.

It is important that in all of these kinds of territories the best standards of trade unionism should be built up. The C.D.C, based on this country, can make a notable contribution in establishing good standards of employer and employee relationships, and in creating a more constructive climate of opinion in this respect. The Amendment was tabled partly to press on the Minister, and through him on the Corporation, that more attention might usefully be paid to this problem.

Mr. Sorensen

I am most impressed and enlightened by the amazing scope that is apparently implicit in the Amendment. I did not think that it could cover so many different subjects. I would emphasise one of the pleas made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), and that is that as far as possible everything should be done to bring the indigenous inhabitants into close co-operation in and understanding of the projects undertaken by the Corporation. The reason why in the past I have tried to perform some modest service in encouraging the freedom and independence of colonial territories has been that I am conscious of the fact that they are apt to blame the imperial Power for all the ills that they suffer.

If the inhabitants could be involved and made to realise that these problems are not necessarily due to Powers like ourselves but are inherent in the situation, it would be all to the good. Evasion of tax is among the failings of many people, including the inhabitants of the emerging territories. There should be co-operation between the activities of the Corporation and the local people so that the inhabitants might face the facts and realise that things are not always as easy as they think.

2.15 p.m.

Mr. Tilney

I can confirm that the latter part of Clause 1(3) which excludes Section 8 and Section 9(2,b) of the principal Act relating to independent Commonwealth countries, is there because it would not be suitable for the United Kingdom Parliament to legislate for independent countries. It is really for the Government of the independent countries concerned to consider the interests of the inhabitants. I said on Second Reading that my right hon. Friend would use his power to instruct the C.D.C. to consult him so that the United Kingdom Government can be sure that the Government of the independent country is also consulted before any operation of the C.D.C. starts in that country. If that is done, the Commonwealth Development Corporation obviously will comply with the local law.

I understood the main part of the hon. Member's argument, however, to be directed to the formation of committees in the colonial territories which are still governed from Whitehall. My advice is that no committee has been appointed, but in each case the Corporation has to satisfy the Colonial Office that the welfare of the indigenous people has been considered.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

The latter part of the argument is not wholly satisfactory. We were glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman that he would be pre pared to have talks with the C.D.C. about these matters. It seems strange to us that a Government who, in 1959, pressed this mandatory proposal on the C.D.C. of appointing committees should calmly say this afternoon, four years later, that not a single committee has been appointed and that there is nothing much that we ought to do about it.

I would recommend the hon. Gentleman to ask any visiting politician from some of the remaining colonial territories what he thinks about the operations of the C.D.C. in his territory. The first reaction generally is a rather blank one. The politician has no great knowledge of what exactly the Corporation is doing in the territory. If pressed and asked about some of the projects in his territory under C.D.C. auspices or administration, one hears grumbles about this and that. I should have thought that there was a good deal of scope for consultation and co-operation between the C.D.C. and local people. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look at this problem.

I should have thought also that there was scope for a good deal of co-operation and consultation in the field between the C.D.C. and the Colonial Office. One had the impression in several parts of the world that the C.D.C. operated quite separately from the local administration and that there could have been better liaison so that the work could be carried out successfully.

I should like to see the C.D.C. advertise itself more. I should like to see it put up big notices saying, "This is a C.D.C. operation" and add that it was being helped willingly by taxpayers in this country. I do not see why we should not blow our own trumpet more about this. Other people blow their own trumpets and we suffer in terns of good economic relations compared with other countries because we give a good deal of economic assistance in grants-in-aid for administration. One cannot put up a great notice board outside a local Treasury, but where there is a physical project, such as a dam or timber mill being built, we ought to tell the people what is being done and what part this country is playing in it.

Mr. Tilney

I do not object to anything which the hon. Gentleman has said, and the need for consultation may well be there. I have no doubt that the Corporation will take note of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I would point out to the Committee that committees of this kind are mandatory only when their appointment is considered by the C.D.C. to be needed and that the local Government are always consulted before operations start.

Mr. Thomson

I put down the Amendment for probing purposes. In view of the explanations I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

I should like to take this opportunity to explore a bit further the very interesting information which the Minister gave us about the Maldives coming directly under the terms of this Bill. The Maldives, as I understand it, are a State under our protection. If they come under this Bill and the C.D.C. is empowered to operate in the Maldives, then I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman to find out whether the C.D.C. is also able to operate, for instance, in the Persian Gulf States which come under our protection and which seem to me to be in exactly the same legal status as the Maldives. There is also the question of Tonga. Does Tonga come under the C.D.C? It also is a protected State.

Incidentally, I think the hon. Gentleman will find, in obtaining this information which I do not expect from him at the moment—that he will be in an inter-Department tangle, because I think he will find that although the Maldives for some reason come under his Department, Tonga comes under the Colonial Office, and the Persian Gulf States under the Foreign Office. However, they are all protected States, and I do not see any difference between them and the Maldives in this respect, and if the C.D.C. can give its valuable services and improve our relations and do a useful job in the Maldives I cannot see why the possibility cannot be considered of its operating in these other territories, too.

Mr. Tilney

I think the Committee would like to know that this is what I think the position to be, and that is that the Persian Gulf States have never been part of the Commonwealth, but the Maldives are part of the Commonwealth, as is Tonga.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.