HC Deb 18 July 1958 vol 591 cc131-3W
Sir R. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will now inform the House of the results of his talks with the British Guiana delegation.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Yes. During the last few weeks I have, with my colleagues and with officials of my Department, discussed development finance with a delegation from British Guiana consisting of the Governor, the Financial Secretary, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Minister of Trade and Industry and Mr. Edward Beharry, Minister of Natural Resources.

The encouraging progress of the 1956–60 Development Programme has again been reviewed in detail. The plan relies heavily on loan funds. On the basis of the latest revised figures it is now estimated that expenditure on the plan up to the end of 1959 might amount to £16¼ million, of which £9.8 million, including repayment of short-term borrowing, would be required in 1958 and 1959. It is expected that £3.9 million of this can be met from British Guiana's existing Colonial Development and Welfare allocation (£1.7 million) and local resources (£2.2 million) leaving £5.9 million to be raised in the form of external loans.

In the view of Her Majesty's Government it is not likely that British Guiana would be able to raise this amount in external loans on the London market or elsewhere in 1958 and 1959. Accordingly, Her Majesty's Government have agreed, subject to provision of funds by Parliament, to lend to British Guiana up to a maximum of £5.5 million during this period. Her Majesty's Government believe that with the full use of local resources this will be sufficient to meet practically the whole of the expenditure which proves to be needed for the present plan up to the end of 1959.

It was agreed that the last year of the present plan, 1960, should be merged in the next plan of development, to run from the end of 1959. It was agreed that this should be discussed in London in the middle of next year by which time it is hoped that there will be a new Colonial Development and Welfare Act.

In addition, Her Majesty's Government are examining with the British Guiana Government as a matter of urgency the possibility of obtaining funds meanwhile from external sources for some of the most pressing development projects.

Preliminary discussions took place with the delegation about the contents of the next plan. It is the intention of the Government of British Guiana to arrange for a survey by visiting economic experts in the coming months. Thereafter, the plan will be finalised and it, and its financing will be the subject of further discussion during the 1959 meeting.

In the course of the discussions I informed the delegation that I had taken note of the recent resolution of the Legislative Council of British Guiana requesting me to receive a representative delegation from the Legislative Council to discuss proposals for constitutional advance. I have learnt with approval that all political thinking in the territory was agreed that any new constitutional instruments for British Guiana should contain safeguards of the Western democratic freedoms which are the basis of the life of the British Commonwealth.

I am, therefore, asking the Governor to set up a Constitutional Committee in British Guiana representing wide interests in the territory to recommend what form constitutional advance from the present interim arrangements should take. I hope that thereafter I shall be able to arrange to receive a representative delegation to discuss the recommendations. When I have approved the proposals in principle, new constitutional instruments would be drafted to take effect in time for the general elections which would normally follow the four-year term of office of the present Legislative Council of British Guiana. In that period the determination of new electoral boundaries and the preparation of comprehensive electoral rolls would also be carried out. In the meantime, as soon as the agreed recommendations of the Committee are known I hope and believe that the flexibilities of the present constitution would allow preparations for the statutory advances which were to come.

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