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Minister Resident, West Africa

Volume 380: debated on Wednesday 17 June 1942

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asked the Prime Minister whether Lord Swinton is to be a member of the War Cabinet?


asked the Prime Minister what political duties will be assumed by Lord Swinton in West Africa; what authority he will exercise in relation to the governments in British West Africa; and whether he will exercise his responsibilities through the Secretary of State for the Colonies?

In reply to the first part of the Question, the Minister s duties are to ensure the effective co-operation in the prosecution of the war of all Services, Civil and Military. His appointment is thus administrative rather than political. As regards the second part of the Question, no constitutional change is entailed in the four Colonies, which will remain under their own Governors, who on all normal questions of Colonial administration will continue to act under the authority of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. With regard to the third part of the Question, and to the Question by my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) the Minister will be of Cabinet rank but will not be a member of the War Cabinet. He will work in close consultation with the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He will, of course, have the right to address any Minister direct, though when he does so his normal channel of communication will be through the Colonial Office.

Do I understand from that Reply that the position will be different from that of the Minister of State in Cairo, who is a member of the War Cabinet?

May I ask whether he will assume the duties of a kind of Governor-General? Will he have any overriding authority over the local Governments or over the Governors? Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that so far as the social and economic policies of the respected territories are concerned, they will be safeguarded in accordance with the programme and policy of the Colonial Office?

If the hon. Gentleman will study the Answer I have given, he will see, I think, that his point is fully covered. The Governors have their full responsibilities for the ordinary running of their Colonies. This is only for matters concerning the co-ordination of the war effort.

As the Minister has Cabinet rank, who will answer for him in this House?

I think the most convenient thing would be to put questions to the Colonial Secretary.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if at any time the Minister should make a report, this House would like to hear it?

Does not this appointment fall into a new category of Cabinet Ministers whose duties are administrative and not legislative, because apparently this Minister has no political responsibility to anyone?

I do not think so. I think the position is analagous to that of the Minister of State.