HL Deb 24 June 1969 vol 303 cc112-5

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Extension of area of operation of Corporation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


On the Second Reading of the Bill I raised with the Minister a point concerning the extension of the area of activity of the Colonial Development Corporation, and suggested to the Minister that the word "may" in the Explanatory Memorandum did not impose upon the Minister the absolute duty of calling upon the C.D.C. to ask for his agreement before they extended beyond their existing territories. Further, I felt that it was necessary that Parliament should be informed if and when the boundaries which at present limit the C.D.C. are extended to areas outside the ones at present authorised, and I suggested that I might put down an Amendment on the Committee stage. At the same time, I said I should be perfectly content not to put down an Amendment if the House could have assurances on that dual point, the dual point being, first, that the C.D.C. should have an obligation to obtain the Minister's permission, and, secondly, if that were given, that the Minister should inform Parliament. The noble Baroness was good enough to communicate with me. I have not put down an Amendment and I understand she would now be willing to inform the House further on the particular points I raised.


If the noble Baroness would permit me. I should like to support my noble friend on this particular point. I, too, should have preferred to see the word "shall" substituted for the word "may" in Clause 2(2) of the Bill. But the noble Baroness having already given both my noble friend Lord Balfour and myself certain assurances on this point, I think I am quite happy about it, subject to whatever the noble Baroness may say now.


The noble Lord was rightly concerned about the extension of C.D.C. activities into new countries and that they should be subject to the approval of the Minister. The Minister had indicated in another place that he would give directions to C.D.C. under Clause 2(2) of the Bill, but I very much welcome this opportunity of underlining that and of saying further that on each occasion such approval is given the Minister intends to inform Parliament. I am extremely grateful for the courteous way in which the noble Lord raised these important issues. As he says, I wrote to him and gave him assurances from my right honourable friend. I think the House would like to have them written into the Record, and I hereby say that it is the intention of the Minister once the Bill is passed immediately to give directions requiring the Corporation to obtain his approval before performing functions in any new country; and I further give his assurance that he will inform Parliament. I should like to thank both noble Lords for the way in which they have dealt with this matter and to say that I am glad to have had the opportunity of making the Minister's intentions clear.


I am sure the Committee will accept the assurances of the noble Baroness on behalf of the Minister of Overseas Developments on these points. I thank the noble Baroness and, through her, the Minister of Overseas Development.


I do not want to bring an unhappy note into the friendly discussion that has been going on. I am certainly not in any way dissatisfied with what my noble friend has said, but I should just like to issue one note of warning, I hope in a delicate and tactful manner. The C.D.C. has operated admirably—I think all noble Lords and everybody else are agreed with that. They have behaved in a sensible way, in a responsible way, and in a business-like way. It would be a very great pity if now, with this further extension of their area which has been welcomed by everybody, they should be subjected in any way to an increased bureaucratic, as opposed to business, control of their activities.

As I have said, I have no objection at all—I think it is quite reasonable—to the fact that the Minister should be informed when they are intending to go into a foreign country as opposed to a Commonwealth country and that he should have the right of veto if necessary, but I hope that this will not be interpreted in such a way that all proposals for operating in foreign countries will have to be submitted and scrutinised by the officials of a Government Department which is not, in fact, the C.D.C. itself, and go through what is sometimes a fairly lengthy procedure before they eventually find their way on to the Minister's desk, which might mean that the very efficient activities of the C.D.C. will be held up. So I hope that the noble Baroness will give us a further assurance that this will not in any way be used as a means of stultifying or making less businesslike the activities of the C.D.C.


I can indeed give my noble friend the assurances for which he asks. I know that my right honourable friend considers the C.D.C. one of the best methods which he has of giving aid. In any case, he had intended to give directions that the C.D.C. should seek his approval before going into foreign countries. I do not think that this will in any way be a bureaucratic action and I do not think it will cause delay. thank my noble friend for his interest in this matter and for his approval of the C.D.C., but I can sincerely say that I think his fears will prove quite groundless.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment; Report received.