Colonial Affairs.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 4th August 1942.

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Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Stockton-on-Tees

On imports, our position is very simple. Anyone who can get an import licence can import into West Africa. Import licences are given by the local government, and the local government is supposed to decide whether an import licence is to be given and whether the commodity is to be imported. As the war has gone on, that method has become too loose, because more import licences are given, or because there is a long delay between the giving of a licence and the sailing of a ship with no guarantee that when the ship is ready the machinery will be ready too. Therefore, we are proposing to substitute for the system of import licences a complete freight control. That is the answer—because we cannot afford to waste any tonnage which is available. How we shall run that import or freight control, I am not quite certain, but we are now working on the mechanism. The first thing is to get the mechanism; then we have to decide the agency. We shall run it either through the Colonial Office or through an agency. I can assure the hon. Member that we shall run it fairly and squarely, but, no doubt, as in all these things, there may be some ill effects on private interests. I am not, however, so interested in private interests; they have to suffer. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend defends that system.

As regards exports, there is only one monopoly. I am the monopoly. The West African Produce Control Board controls all the exports from West Africa. I have set up a complete socialistic control. The only people from whom I might have expected criticisms would have been Members who. do not wish to see the Government go in for complete control.