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West Indies

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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Discussions

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, following the visit of the official delegation from the Federal Parliament of the West Indies, he will make a further statement with regard to the future of the West Indies.

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on his discussions with the Prime Minister of the Federation of the West Indies.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on his discussions with Sir Grantley Adams and others in respect of a future federation of the West Indies and of the smaller islands.

I received the Prime Minister of the Federation of The West Indies and the Parliamentary delegation. They expressed their disagreement with the policy of Her Majesty's Government but no new reason was advanced for varying the decision I announced to the House on 6th February, which itself was taken after consultation with the Federal Government.

Will my right hon. Friend indicate to the House if it is his policy to encourage the federation of the remaining eight islands of the Eastern Caribbean as they themselves apparently wish? If so, what financial assistance are Her Majesty's Government prepared to provide to help them? Could he also inform the House what his arrangements are for the Federal civil servants who have lost their employment prospects through no fault of their own?

On the first point, I am awaiting the report of a conference of the eight island Governments, which I expect to receive very soon, and then I shall go into it very urgently. On the second point, I think all concerned have a very serious responsibility to the Federal civil servants, and ways and means of meeting that are being considered.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say if he does not appreciate that there is a real demand for some kind of association or federation of what are called the "Little Eight"? Dr. Arthur Lewis has given a provisional estimate of the cost of making the area viable. If such an idea is not adopted, is the Minister contemplating the turning back of these Colonies to purely colonial status?

We regard this idea of the "Little Eight" as a promising development, but we are awaiting more detailed studies which are to be made. Professor Lewis is engaged on the financial implications.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the relations with the Federal Government: seem to have been muddled and mishandled in a way which is certain to give the impression of discourtesy? Was it not rather shabby to introduce the West Indies Bill to the House of Lords in the very week when the Federal Government delegation was here and in advance of an interview with the Federal Prime Minister? Is it conceivable that if Dr. Banda had wanted to secede from the Central African Federation the same treatment would have been accorded to Sir Roy Welensky? Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the official Federal delegation, apart from the secession of Jamaica, shall be given adequate time for consultation about alternative arrangements for the rest of the area?

I cannot accept that at all. When I was in Port of Spain I discussed with the Federal Government and explained in great detail what I proposed to do and the timing of it. Subsequently they decided to send a delegation to this country to express opposition to Her Majesty's Government, but that was not without having been forewarned of what we proposed to do and not without consultation.

Could my right hon. Friend confirm that the Federation broke down because Jamaica was not prepared to share its relative wealth with the poorer islands and that it had nothing to do with Her Majesty's Government here at home?

I do not want to go into the causes or to assign blame for this, but when I was in Port of Spain earlier this year every single island Government agreed that the existing Federation must be dissolved and new arrangements made.