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The cabinet committee system and the development of British Colonial Policy, 1951-1964

By John M. Finlayson


This thesis has a dual focus: the British Cabinet committee system and British colonial policy. Its primary interest is the functioning of the Cabinet committee system and in order to investigate this colonial policy will be analysed. This policy area has been chosen both for its intrinsic interest and because it provides an ideal vehicle for a full analysis of the workings of the committee system and the impact it had on policy development.\ud \ud Chapter One provides a critique of studies of British government and an outline of the main debates in the literature on colonial policy. It then outlines the nature, aims, hypotheses and aims of this study and the topics that will be studied.\ud \ud The second chapter provides an account of the development and workings of the Cabinet committee system. A brief account of the period up to the end of the Second World War is followed by a more detailed account of the elaboration and consolidation of the system under Attlee and then by an account of how the system fared under the Conservatives.\ud \ud Chapter Three examines the interrelationship between colonial policy and external policy. It first examines the various policy studies of the period and then examines three case studies: the Southern Cameroons, Malaysia and Aden. It concludes that sometimes colonial policy was\ud entirely determined by strategic considerations, that the many external policy studies had little influence on the development of policy and that the committee system functioned erratically, had a conservative influence on policy-making and was poor at getting to grips with the big\ud issues such as decline.\ud \ud The fourth chapter deals with colonial constitutional development. An analysis of the various long-term timetables for constitutional development precedes a brief account of the committee structure for this subject. Two geographical areas are then analysed, the Caribbean\ud and Africa. This chapter concludes that the timetables for independence were of little value, highlights the difficulty Britain had in relinquishing control of the smaller colonies, and concludes that there was no coordinated policy for Africa and that there was no planned process of decolonization.\ud \ud The penultimate chapter deals with all aspects of policy for Malta, including its attempt to become part of the United Kingdom, and serves as a recapitulation of the various themes of this study and highlights the extent to which various policy areas were inextricably intertwined. It\ud demonstrates the problems of constitutional advance in a strategically valuable colony and argues that the committee system did little to provide policy alternatives.\ud \ud This study concludes that the Cabinet committee system was anything but a neutral piece of government machinery. It had a significant impact on policy, but that was because of its many failings, not least its failure to coordinate policy. What was designed to give cohesion and control frequently produced confusion and incoherence. Overall a flawed policy process produced a flawed outcome

Publisher: School of History (Leeds)
Year: 2002
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.whiterose.ac.uk:774

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