chapter  5
4 Pages


It was typical of the bad luck that dogged MacDonald’s labours that the presentation of the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill coincided with Hitler’s push westwards and the ending of the ‘phoney war’. One result was the replacement of Chamberlain by Churchill as Prime Minister on 10 May 1940 and a consequent cabinet reshuffle which on 13 May took MacDonald from the Colonial Office to the Ministry of Health.108 At least MacDonald was given the satisfaction of piloting his bill through its second reading on 21 May. The bill was then to proceed steadily through the legislative hoops to receive the Royal

Assent on 17 July 1940, but the course of the war, and in particular the presence of German troops on the Channel coast from 20 May, gravely affected the Colonial Office’s ability to put the new act into operation. Some participants in the debate in the House of Commons mocked the measure as ‘still born’ at a time when all national resources would have to be devoted to waging war.109 With much of this the new Secretary of State, Lord Lloyd, concurred, and for a while he considered including a clause in the bill to suspend its operations until more favourable circumstances permitted. In the event the measure proceeded unaltered, but Hall, the new under-secretary, explained to the House of Commons that in view of the immediate needs of war there would be a lack of resources for extensive colonial development work and a lack of qualified people to man the proposed advisory committees. Likewise Lord Lloyd explained to the Lords that ‘much that we had hoped to do under this Bill when it became law must wait for happier times’.110 Lord Lloyd warned colonial governments of the limited circumstances in which Colonial Development and Welfare money could at present be employed, restrictions which were not eased until his successor took off some of the pressure in a further despatch in June 1941.111 Although annual expenditure on Colonial Development and Welfare schemes then rose from £177,802 in 1940-41 to £2,806,456 in 1944-45 and on Colonial Research from a first allocation of £6,670 in 1941-42 to £58,345 in 1944-45, these totals were, of course, far less than the maximum sums envisaged in the legislation. It is true that by March 1945 total commitments, including future expenditure, had reached £23,571,258 for Colonial Development and Welfare and £414,128 for Colonial Research, but most of these pledges were made only late in the war.112