HC Deb 04 November 1954 vol 532 cc82-4W
Mr. Alport

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to make a statement on his discussions with the British Honduras delegation.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

As the House will recall, when the new Constitution of the Colony came into force last spring representatives of the Unofficial Members of the Executive Council of British Honduras were invited by Her Majesty's Government to visit London for talks on the progress and development of the territory. Discussions with the delegation, which were also attended by the Governor, have now taken place. The discussions centred on the Colony's Development Plan for 1955–60, which was found to be, as a whole, sound and well-balanced.

As my predecessor informed the House on 24th June, 1953, Her Majesty's Government intend to ask Parliament, in the forthcoming Session, to extend the life of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts and to provide further funds under them for the next five years. I explained to the delegation that until Parliament has decided what money could be made available for the Colonies as a whole, I could not promise a particular Government a Colonial Development and Welfare allocation for the full period.

However, in view of Her Majesty's Government's long standing invitation to the delegation I felt that it would be only reasonable that they should have some assurance for planning purposes of the Colonial Development and Welfare assistance which they might expect in the immediate future. I have, therefore, told the delegation that, subject to Parliament agreeing to extend the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts and voting the necessary funds I would be prepared to make an initial allocation of £1.25 million for the next three years, to enable the territory to carry on, and if it can do so to improve on, the present rate of expenditure on development. The delegation welcomed this offer of assistance.

The territory would also have £300,000 carried over from the existing allocation. Progress made would be reviewed after two years. In addition the territory would of course be willing and indeed expected to make the maximum possible contribution from its own resources, including possible loans. This £1.25 million is an advance commitment additional to the £7 million mentioned in my predecessor's statement last year.

I also agreed that a further measure of constitutional advance was now justified by the energetic co-operation of the majority party in the processes of government. As from the 1st January, 1955, the Governor in his discretion will assign to Unofficial Members of his Executive Council the function of steering the business of certain Departments through the Legislative Assembly, and raising in the Executive Council questions relating to those Departments. There will be three Members, who will have these responsibilities for departments grouped as Natural Resources, Social Services, and Public Utilities. There will also be three Associate Members who will share these responsibilities. The position of the three Official Members of the Executive Council will not be affected.

The discussions were conducted throughout in the most friendly spirit, and I wish to pay tribute to the way in which the Unofficial Members of the Executive Council have tackled the problems which have confronted them during their first months of office. Her Majesty's Government feel that a new basis of understanding and confidence has been established.