7 JULY 1950, Page 6

West Indian Federation

The larger West Indian territories have for some time been moving in the direction of self-government. The whole question of co-operation under the guidance of the Colonial Office is there- fore bound to become more complicated as time goes on. In a debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday Lord Listowel suggested that as a means of preserving common action it was desirable that all the territories should join in a federation, if possible before the movement towards self-government had gone much further. There are complications inherent in this suggestion. For example, just how would financial help under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act be applied to a federation, some of whose members would be self-governing and others not ? But in general all parties in this country are in favour of federation—provided the West Indians want it. That is the crux of the matter. There can be no question of attempting to hasten federation simply because it would be convenient from the British point of view. Nor is there any reason to believe that federation as such would cure the basic instability of the Caribbean economy. Transfers of aid between the richer and the poorer territories would not eliminate the need for outside assistance for many years to come. The aim must always be, of course, economic as well as political self-sufficiency and stability. But the aim is still far from being achieved. And in the meantime the British Government has the extremely delicate task of expressing its willingness to help while at the same time not making that help in any way a lever towards any particular kind of political association—or even allowing it to appear to be one.