Clause 5. — (Short Title, Repeals, and Commencement.)

Colonial Development and Welfare Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th March 1959.

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11.0 p.m.

Mr. Creech Jones:

I beg to move, in page 5, line 17, to leave out "Colonial" and to insert "Commonwealth".

Photo of Mr John Arbuthnot Mr John Arbuthnot , Dover

It would, perhaps, be convenient to take, at the same time, the similar Amendment in line 20.

Mr. Creech Jones:

Yes, Mr. Arbuthnot.

A great deal of nonsense is talked about colonialism. One knows that there have been many vicious practices under that heading. We have now reached a stage in human history, however, when the word "Colony" signifies an anachronism which is no longer applicable to the life of the world as we would like it to be. Consequently, in the case of the British territories, we have got into the habit of talking of the Commonwealth, and because the word "Colony" is covered with opprobrium we prefer to think of what we call junior members of the Commonwealth or members of the Commonwealth not in full membership.

It is because we are thinking in new terms of association, of friendship, and not of tutelage or domination, that more and more we use the word "Commonwealth" in relation to British territories overseas, although we call them junior members or not quite full members of the Commonwealth.

What we suggest by the Amendment is that henceforth, however familiar we may be with the term "colonial development and welfare", we should refer to the funds and the Act, as the Bill will become, as "Commonwealth Development and Welfare". This is not a particularly revolutionary or radical suggestion. It will bring the funds into line with normal thought in this country, at least concerning the dependencies overseas. I hope sincerely that this modest Amendment will be accepted by the Government.

Photo of Mr Cuthbert Alport Mr Cuthbert Alport , Colchester

I am sure that the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) is proud of the contribution which he and the Government of which he was a member made to the development of what is now a large and historic body of legislation that goes under the title "colonial development and welfare legislation". It represents and signifies in our minds and, I think, in the minds of a great many people overseas in the dependent territories the contribution which the United Kingdom has made to the development of their conditions of life, their economic future, their resources and, indeed, the general improvement of their prospects. It has what is now a long and honourable record covering nearly twenty years. I am told—I am sure it is true—that at no time during that period has any dependent territory been reluctant to avail itself of C.D. and W. assistance because it is linked with the term "colonial". As far as my information goes, at present none of the territories feels any inhibitions on this score.

The word "colonial", in association with this title, is not only something to which we have become used, but it is also one which is accurate. Had it been decided to alter the Bill in the terms of an earlier Amendment, which was out of order, and had it been the decision of the Committee and the House to extend the operation of the Bill to the independent Commonwealth, I should have thought it would logically follow that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment should be accepted, but in the present circumstances, since the term "colonial development and welfare" has a long and honourable record and a very special significance in our relations with our dependent territories overseas, and since it is an accurate description of this piece of legislation, its objectives and purpose, I do not think that I could recommend the Committee to accept the right hon. Gentleman's proposal.

Amendment negatived.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

I beg to move, in page 5, line 18, after "Welfare", to insert "(Amendment)".

The object of the Amendment is purely procedural. It is to change the Title of the Bill to the Colonial Development and Welfare (Amendment) Act, 1959. The reason is that Parliamentary counsel are preparing a consolidation of all five Colonial Development and Welfare Acts together with this one. Following the usual custom, we propose to reserve the title "The Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1959" for the consolidated version. This means that any consequential amendments to Clause 4 (1) and (3) will be made automatically by the Bill Office and need not be enacted by Parliament. I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

I beg to move, in page 5, to leave out lines 25 and 26.

The purpose of the Amendment is procedural, to delete the provision by which the Bill was to have come into effect on 1st April, 1959. It is now obvious that it cannot be enacted by that date, and the provision, therefore, becomes meaningless.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported, with Amendments (changed to "Colonial Development and Welfare (Amendment) Bill"); as amended, considered.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

11.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

We have now reached the end of our consideration of the Bill. Alas, I cannot claim that the Opposition have had much influence upon the Government in Committee. None of our Amendments has been accepted. The Bill stands as it stood before it came here, with the exception of certain textual Amendments. Therefore, the Government have had their own way entirely.

Nevertheless, I should not like it thought that because our Amendments have been rejected we do not wish the Bill well. As the Under-Secretary has said, the Bill represents another instalment of a very great and imaginative conception and it is something which we on this side of the House give our total support. We are delighted that the Bill has reached this stage, although we should have liked to have seen some Amendments made to it.

In doing what is our duty in this matter we are contributing to an enlightened humanitarianism in international relations, and it is a duty to which, I hope, we can attach some credit to ourselves in what we are doing. We are also doing no less than our duty to those who have committed themselves or have been committed to our responsibility. I wish the Bill well. I hope that it will have an easy passage through its next stages and will soon become law, and that it will be possible to go ahead with the work.

I trust that the Under-Secretary will keep a close eye on its working and will ensure that the complaints which occasionally reach us about the machinery provisions will be overcome. Now and again, we are told that there seems to be a rather long period between the date on which proposals are put forward and the date on which they are agreed. I know that all the accountancy work must be got through, but the work is urgent and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will keep his eye on it to ensure that there is no undue delay.

11.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Blenkinsop Mr Arthur Blenkinsop , Newcastle upon Tyne East

On every possible occasion I have been raising in this context a problem about which many of us on both sides of the House have been much worried. A large sum of money is very rightly voted through these funds for the development of health services in the Colonial Territories. While it is no doubt true, as the Colonial Secretary has said in the past, that, broadly speaking, the problem today is no longer one of recruitment of personnel, but rather one of finance, that is not true of the medical services. As has been made clear in answer to Questions of mine and of other hon. Members in the House, there is a serious lack of senior personnel in the medical services in several of these territories.

I wish again to draw the attention of the Colonial Office to the serious situation that has arisen in some territories where we lack senior personnel to take charge of many of the valuable schemes which colonial development and welfare funds have been helping to initiate. I would draw the attention of the Colonial Office to correspondence that has appeared in The Times and elsewhere on this very matter. The question has been raised many times, but little progress seems to have been made. I seriously ask the Under-Secretary to take the matter to heart. Unless some agreement is reached on it, a great deal of the money which we are voting and spending may be, in some senses, wasted or, at any rate, not as valuably used as it could be. I believe that it is possible to get agreement for linking up our own Health Service with the health service we are anxious to develop in the Colonial Territories. I ask the Under-Secretary to note this point, and to try to take some action on it.

Photo of Mr John Tilney Mr John Tilney , Liverpool Wavertree

May I add one sentence to what the hon. Gentleman has just said about helping the medical appointments overseas? The Overseas Committee of the B.M.A. has discussed this matter in some detail, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will look into the matter of proleptic appointments.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Creech Jones:

I should like to add that, in my own personal experience, I have noted what a remarkable instrument the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts have been in the development of territories overseas. I think we should never forget the pioneer work arising out of the West Indies Royal Commission—the work of Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, Lord Hailey, Mr. Oliver Stanley and others, in securing and improving this remarkable measure. It has been of tremendous benefit in the life of the British territories overseas.

We have heard nothing today about the great central services operated under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. They are of vital importance. These services are concerned with higher education, and we see the testimony of that in the six or seven new university colleges in various parts of the Commonwealth; in respect to the remarkable research work which is done, the results of which have brought great benefit to vast areas; in the surveying of territories overseas to permit development work to go on; in the training of our administrative people and of technicians for the Colonial Service overseas; and in the provision of information, so that when democracy comes there will at least be a wider spread of enlightenment. In all these various respects, these central services have been of tremendous importance, not only in the use made of them in our work in London but also in improving standards and conditions in the territories. Therefore, I would like to say how, in my judgment, we have forged here an instrument of immense importance, and one hopes it will be administered with increasing generosity, and will bring even greater results than have been achieved up to now.

11.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

We go forward encouraged by the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), for he has great experience of these matters. We have had a full discussion, and the more these problems are ventilated the better it will be for the whole of our colonial policy, and for the crystallisation of views on both sides of the House.

I am sorry that my efforts to meet the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) on the first Amendment raised did not meet with success, but we did our best, and I am grateful for the good wishes he contributed. I have been doing some homework on the problem raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), so far without very encouraging results, but I may be able to write to them about it in due course.

I think that when historians come to write about the period in which we are now living, and see it in relation to the past, it will be held as one of the tragedies in British imperial and Commonwealth development that development grants on a large scale came so late into the evolution of the British Commonwealth and Empire. It has been my privilege to work as the biographer of Joseph Chamberlain, and I have seen from his letters the fearful struggles he had to extract for the West Indies a few tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds from a very reluctant Treasury.

I know what enormous difficulties my father had in the 'twenties in extracting £1 million for development and welfare, and it is probably a great tragedy that in no quarter of political opinion in those days was there a feeling that we could help out with great advantage not only to the Colonies concerned but to the whole Commonwealth structure and the free world, with a much greater proportion of our treasure. We might have averted the last war had we done so. However, these things are never too late, and I have no doubt that the kind of work which the Bill is promoting does good to the Colonies, helps this country and plays its part in making the British Commonwealth a strong, independent and vital force for good in the modern world.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.