HC Deb 24 March 1964 vol 692 cc235-7
18. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the unsatisfactory state of administration revealed by the recent inquiry into the conduct of the Public Works Department, he will order new elections in St. Vincent.

20. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what further action he proposes taking in connection with the findings of the recent Commission of Inquiry into financial irregularities in the Public Works Department in St. Vincent.

Mr. Sandys

Steps have been taken in St. Vincent to carry out the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry. The Administrator is considering whether any further action is necessary.

Mr. Chapman

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the extreme seriousness of the findings of this inquiry, namely, that Mrs. Joshua was accepting payment on behalf of people employed by the Public Works Depart- ment who had not done any work, and that fictitious names were on the payroll on occasions? Will he also bear in mind that the report speaks of widespread coercion and fear among the people giving evidence? Will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that this inquiry is not the sum total of the suspicion of maladministration in this island, that there are allegations about the wrongful sale of public land and so on? In the circumstances, would it not be much better to give the people of St. Vincent a chance, through new elections, to say whether they have confidence any longer in the existing Government of the island?

Mr. Sandys

I would prefer to leave the Administrator, who is a very capable person in whom I have confidence, to judge what is required to deal with this situation. He has the power to dissolve the Legislature after consultation with the Chief Minister. That is laid down in the Constitution.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is much more than a matter of ordinary Ministerial responsibility for blunders inside a Department? Is he further aware, as my hon. Friend has said, that the Minister concerned was found by the Commission to have engaged in financial irregularities outside her own Department? Is he further aware that the Commission showed that there were 240,000 dollars of unathorised expenditure in the Public Works Department in the year under question? Is there not something much more serious than can be met simply by persuading the Minister concerned to retreat from the Front Benches and become the solitary back bencher in the Legislative Council in St. Vincent? Is not the only way to clean up the situation to have an election and allow the people of St. Vincent to decide for themselves what they want to do about the Government?

Mr. Sandys

I agree with the hon. Member that the position is far from satisfactory, but I would prefer none the less to leave the Administrator some further time in which to consider what he thinks is the best course to adopt.

Mr. H. Hynd

Was the right hon. Gentleman able to see the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when they visited this country recently?

Mr. Sandys

They were seen by officials of my Department.

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