§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (LORD MOYNE)
My Lords, the purpose of this Bill is to guarantee schemes of insurance of commodities against war risks in Colonial Dependencies with insufficient financial resources to carry this liability unaided. Noble Lords will see, if they look at the Bill, that schemes must be on the same general lines as schemes under the War Risks Insurance Act, 1939, Parts II and III. Happily, very few Colonies have yet suffered heavily from enemy action, and obviously the risk's to our Colonial Empire vary very much from one place to another. In the more threatened Colonies it does seem very desirable that traders should be able to ensure their stock-in-trade in the same way as is open to traders in this country. Accordingly, last autumn, the late Lord Lloyd secured the agreement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the institution of schemes with the backing of His Majesty's Government. In each case Colonial funds will be set up. If in temporary deficit, the Treasury will make up the necessary funds, but at the end of the war surpluses will all be at the disposal of the Secretary of State with the approval of the Treasury. In this way it will be possible to spread the risks, and when the time comes to 886 decide how and from what sources, to repay any deficits which have accrued on the individual funds. This for various reasons is thought to be a much more practicable, satisfactory, and economic scheme than having a centrally operated fund.
Already there is a scheme in being in Kenya and Uganda. It has been in force since the beginning of the year. It was set up on the assurance of the then Secretary of State that this Bill would be passed. The backing of the Treasury has been promised for schemes in Palestine and Hong Kong, but they have not yet come into operation. I am glad to say that in Malaya, which is, of course, a district that might be affected, a scheme is under consideration, but they do not find it necessary to ask for Treasury backing. Schemes must be compulsory, as they are here, so as to ensure the widest possible spreading of risks. Rates of premium will be subject to approval by His Majesty's Government, and the schemes will be cheaply administered through the local insurance companies. I feel sure that the House will wish to extend to the Colonies this measure of assistance against aggressive enemy action seeing that the Colonies are sharing to the best of their ability in our war effort. It is, of course, impossible to forecast the financial results, but I trust the House will agree that it is right to accept this rather uncertain liability as part of the necessary costs of the war. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Moyne.)
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I rise only on a small question of form. It is, however, a not unimportant one from the constitutional point of view. The Secretary of State said he had informed the Colonies that these funds would be established on an assurance from the Government that this Bill would be passed. No Secretary of State can give an assurance that any Bill will be passed, and I submit that the assurance should have been that the Bill would be submitted to Parliament.
§ LORD MOYNE
My Lords, I stand corrected. I was not Secretary of State at the time the assurance was given, and I have no precise knowledge of the form in which it was given, but I am sure it 887 was given in the appropriate form, as suggested by the noble Viscount. The Government would certainly do their best to pass the Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.