HL Deb 07 July 1931 vol 81 cc646-8

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Passfield.)


My Lords, I do not rise to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill, but I should like to say one or two words before it passes. The Government naturally have not been able to take any other measure than is proposed under this Bill for the relief of the difficulties that have arisen as the result of the hurricane in Mauritius, but my feeling is that His Majesty's Government, in relation to our Colonies, always fly to the remedy of loans for assisting in any of the difficulties that may arise. I only wish to say that I think the contents of this Bill emphasise the necessity for His Majesty's Government to consider measures for more permanent relief for our Colonies, especially our sugar Colonies. We have debated this subject in this House on many occasions during the past year, and nothing which has been said by the noble Lord, or by any member of the Benches opposite, has in any way indicated that they have a real, definite and practical policy for dealing with these questions. I hope that the noble Lord opposite will after the Recess, or in the next Session, be able to present some measures of a practical nature to deal with these sugar Colonies.


My Lords, in answer to the noble Viscount, I may say it is perfectly true that in a measure for dealing with a hurricane His Majesty's Government do not propose any permanent measure. We do not know, I admit, how to prevent hurricanes, and when they occur, as they unfortunately do periodically occur in the Island of Mauritius, it seems to me that they must be dealt with ad hoc, I do not think any other measure than a measure of financial relief, which must either be by grant or by loan, would be relevant to the particular case now under consideration. It is perfectly true that the sugar producers of Mauritius, in common with producers all over the world, are not doing well, but I am glad to say that so far as we can learn the producers in Mauritius have been able to reduce their cost of production by several pounds per ton, as compared with what the cost was returned at eighteen months ago by Sir Francis Watts in his Report, and they have been able to carry on, no doubt without much profit and in some cases even at a loss, without any reduction of the area of cultivation.

However desirable it may be to come to the aid of sugar production all over the world, or at any rate all over the British Empire, that is not a matter which in the opinion of the present Government can be successfully done by any measure of fiscal Preference. The unprofitableness of producing sugar remains unprofitableness even if you give a subsidy to the producers, and at the present time the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not prepared to increase the heavy subsidy already given in the form of a Preference to sugar coming from parts of the Empire. I do not think that that arises on the present occasion, because not even the efficacy of Preference can be invoked as a means of dealing with hurricane havoc, and I do not think the noble Viscount will suggest that His Majesty's Government can deal with damage caused by hurricanes in any other way than that of which the Treasury have been glad to approve—namely, the guaranteeing of a loan.

I may mention that we have sent out to Mauritius a Commission to see that they take care to put their revenue and expenditure on a proper basis, so that they will be able to meet the interest on the loan without hardship to the producers or population. We have every confidence that that can be done, and the noble Viscount may rest assured that whatever else can be done for the sugar industry in Mauritius, and the producers elsewhere, the Government are doing, except attempting to put things right by fiscal means, which we cannot convince ourselves is the best and only way. I am able to tell your Lordships that all sorts of things are being done in the way of improvements in these sugar Colonies.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.

House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.