HC Deb 02 August 1957 vol 574 cc286-7W
Sir R. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a further statement on the financial assistance to be given by Her Majesty's Government to the West Indies after it becomes an independent member of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

The policy of Her Majesty's Government in this respect remains in accordance with the statement contained in my address to the 1956 Conference on British Caribbean Federation. The relevant passage from the Report of the Conference, Cmd. 9733, is as followsSelf-government meant something more than the formal relinquishment by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of constitutional powers of control. It meant that a country must be able to stand on its own feet economically and financially, that it could finance its own administration and was able and prepared to assume responsibility for its own defence, and its own international relations to the extent that either was involved at its geographical or international standing. On the other hand, in these days, no country was independent in the sense of being entirely self-contained and self-sufficient. Mutual help was one of the great principles of the Commonwealth, and there was no reason why one member or group of members should not help other members with their economic development, perhaps on the lines of the Colombo Plan. Nor would self-government preclude arrangements for intra-Commonwealth commerce, of which the Commonwealth sugar agreement was an example. Unlike the situation where a state relied for its existence on outside help, there was nothing derogatory to a country's dignity in accepting the help of other partners to improve its economic situation and develop its resources to the general advantage of the partnership. The Commonwealth was an association of free nations, each of which was independent in the sense outlined.

I regret that in addressing the House on the 26th July on the draft West Indies (Federation)Order in Council, I may have misled the House on the subject of Her Majesty's Government's financial undertaking towards Federation.

Under the British Caribbean Federation Act, 1956, I am enabled to make to the Federal Government the following:

  1. "(a)grants, of amounts not exceeding in the aggregate one million pounds, towards defraying the cost of establishing the seat of the Federal Government;
  2. (b)in respect of the period of twelve months beginning with the first day of January next after the establishment of the said federation and of each of the nine next succeeding periods of twelve months 287 beginning with the anniversary of that day, a grant of such amount as he may, with the approval of the Treasury, determine, for the purpose of enabling the Federal Government to make grants to the governments of colonies for the time being included in the said federation whose resources are, in the opinion of the Federal Government, insufficient to enable them to defray their administrative expenses".

It will be clear to Members that these payments are dependent on the present Act, which relates to a Federation still not fully independent and which will doubtless be superseded by another Act at the stage when it becomes an independent member of the Commonwealth. I am not in a position to commit Her Majesty's Government on what the provisions of that Act will be.