Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £95,494, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies."—[Note: £47,600 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I think I shall be expressing the general sentiment of the Committee if I offer our congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs on his proposed trip. Whatever criticism there may be levelled at what are called "world tours," I think it will be generally recognised that the more acquainted the Secretary of State becomes with those with whom he is so directly connected, the better for all concerned, and I offer in advance my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman, and I wish him a speedy and safe return. I might remind him that the advantages of his tour may be minimised by the disadvantages of his return. I well remember taking a similar trip, and congratulating myself on all the advantages and experiences I had gained, and finding myself, as the result of the trip, out of office when I came back. I hope that at least will be the fate of the right hon. Gentleman. If he enjoys the trip as well as I did, then he is in for a good time; if it he as advantageous to the Empire as I believe mine was, he will have equal satisfaction; and if the net result is an advantage to this country by substituting another Government, then, I think, we shall all be able to say that everybody is happy, and it will be altogether a very congenial and happy result.
The discussion on this Vote presents an opportunity to consider the extraordinary situation which exists in this 258 Parliament as compared with our Dominions. Only a few months ago the whole Press of this country was occupied in reporting and emphasising the advantages that were likely to accrue from the Imperial Conference. I have never hesitated to say that I not only believed in the Imperial Conference, that I not only believed that it would be good, but that an opportunity should be given to this House to discuss the advantages of holding that Conference and the possibility of the extension of its functions. Certainly, the first thing that this House ought to insist upon is to be given an opportunity of discussing the important questions raised at the Conference. When I read the close questioning, the examination and even the suspicions aroused in Canada, Australia, and South Africa with regard to the actions of their representatives, when I see the full and frank discussion that has taken place in the Chambers of those countries and all the good of it, showing the advantage of the Imperial Conference, and when I remember that this is the Mother of Parliaments, the centre of the Empire, the place where the Conference was held, I remember that as far as this House is concerned we know no more about the Imperial Conference and its decisions, how far it has been bound or how its ramifications extend, than does the ordinary man in the street. That is the wrong and a bad policy, and it must in the end defeat the very object of the Imperial Conference.
The Prime Minister of South Africa returned to South Africa and in response to criticism and inquiry he said that he was satisfied. Further, he said, quite frankly, and no one is more pleased about it than I am, that he has returned more convinced than ever, as the result of the Imperial Conference, as to the value and unity of the Empire. I am paraphrasing his statement. We were all delighted with that statement. I was very largely responsible for General Hertzog coming here. On behalf of the Labour Government I extended the invitation to him. There was grave suspicion when he left South Africa, there was doubt as to what would be the result, but the end, so far as he was concerned, was one which has been a pleasure to all of us. Whatever may have satisfied him, whatever may have justified him in his statement, whatever may have given 259 cause for gratification in the final result, it might have been the subject of review and debate in this House. The same broad general principle applies to the Prime Ministers of Canada and Australia. I hope that whenever an Imperial Conference is held and whenever important subjects such as were discussed on the last occasion are discussed, with happy results—I know of no one who is dissatisfied with the Conference—we, as a House of Commons, ought to have an opportunity not only of free and full discussion. It ought not to be left to the Opposition to raise the question, but the Government ought to have availed themselves of Parliamentary opportunity to see that the matter is discussed fully by all concerned. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear that in mind.
Just as we are entitled to feel satisfied with the results of the Imperial Conference, so far as we know them, I also congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on summoning the equally important conference of the Governors. That was an innovation; it was a bold step. There were probably many who were apprehensive of its results, but just as the Imperial Conference gave an opportunity for the exchange of views by the meeting together of people in a representative capacity, so, equally, it is a good thing for the Governors of the Colonies to meet to exchange their views and the results of their experience. But in saying that, and in welcoming that step, we on this side of the House feel that a very great and grave mistake was made in the discussion at that Conference and that the representations went outside what is called purely administrative questions. I hope that nothing I say this afternoon will be construed as a reflection upon the Governors or upon any individuals. No one knows better than I how difficult is their task and how hard it is to judge from this distance how good is the work they are doing and how much easier it is to criticise from a distance than to judge of the actual situation on the spot.
Whatever else may be said of the functions of a Governor, I lay it down that, as far as this House is concerned, their work and their function should be limited exclusively to the question of administration. I do so for this reason, that in 1923 when the Duke of Devonshire occupied 260 the position of Secretary of State for the Colonies, after considerable difficulty, with great fairness and foresight, there was issued in his name what was called a White Paper. That White Paper not only set down in black and white the policy of the Government but clearly set forth what we thought we could accept with responsibility in the nature of a trusteeship for the nation. I am summarising the phrase, but I do not think there will be any challenge of that definition. There was considerable controversy with regard to that White Paper. There were criticisms, and strong representations were made when a change of Government took place. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon our Government. Representations of all sorts were made to me to alter the situation. Having looked at the papers, having studied the situation as far as one could, I not only came to the conclusion that the views of the Duke of Devonshire, which were then expressing the views of the Government as set out in the White Paper, were sound, but that the policy was an unanswerable one, and on behalf of the Labour Government I made that statement with, I am sure, the acquiescence of the Opposition of that day. A very wise and necessary step was taken.
Whatever may be said about our domestic policy, whatever differences there may be with regard to political issues which arise from time to time, nothing but harm can accrue if it becomes known in our colonial administration that the policy which governs those huge territories and those millions of human lives, merely by political change from one party to another can not only be changed but the whole policy be thrown into the melting pot. I have no hesitation in saying that not only would such a position as that be bad but, in the end, it would be ruinous, because you can have no Governor, no administration acting with the confidence which is so essential for a difficult situation, and it would lead to inevitable chaos and disaster. Therefore, when we as a Government, having carefully reviewed the situation, having ascertained all the best opinion we could, and having reviewed the situation in the light of the circumstances I have enumerated, came to the conclusion that we would stand by the White Paper and all that the White Paper meant, we were not only saying that we 261 agreed to the policy but we were letting it be known to the world and all concerned that there was a possibility, at least, of a continuity of the policy which was so essential to all concerned.
Now, a new situation has developed; a situation that calls for serious consideration and as far as my colleagues on this side of the House are concerned, one which is very disturbing. We take the view that what we set out to achieve, and that for which the Government of the day were themselves responsible, is not only not likely to be achieved but has been deliberately upset by the changed policy which has been introduced. Let me remind the Committee exactly what the White Paper says:This paramount duty of trusteeship will continue as in the past to be carried out under the Secretary of State for the Colonies by the agents of the Imperial Government, and by them alone.I emphasise the words "by them alone." Further on, the White Paper said:They are unable to delegate or share this trust with anyone else.I ask the Committee to observe the significance of those words. That is a declaration not only as an instruction to those responsible for administration overseas but it is a sort of charter to the native population. In short, we say, "Here is a trust. We ourselves are the trustees, and we refuse absolutely to share this trust with anyone else."
§ Mr. THOMAS
"We" being the Government alone. The Colonial Secretary accepts my definition. I will read the words again:This paramount duty of trusteeship will continue as in the past to be carried out under the Secretary of State for the Colonies by the agents of the Imperial Government, and by them alone.That "alone" means—at least it is my interpretation of it—that the Secretary of State for the Colonies in this country is alone responsible. That trust is neither delegated to nor shared by anybody else. That is the policy laid down, and. if that be true, and if that be accepted, I feel bound to turn to the new White Paper, which is a summary of the conclusions, Command Paper No. 2904, "Future policy in regard to East Africa, July, 1927." I do not suppose there are many Members of this House who have yet seen this White Paper, but those who 262 have seen it, will, I am quite sure, appreciate the point I am about to make. It is the summarised result of the Conference I have already described. It is the Conference that I welcomed on the ground of considering the administrative position alone, and not general Imperial policy, which alone must be determined by the Government. I have already said what the trusteeship meant. I now turn to Page 5 of the White Paper, and I find these words:The growth of European and other settlements in the East African Dependencies raises the problem of the part which these communities must play in the political as well as in the economic life of the several territories. Their claim to share progressively in the responsibilities of government cannot be ignored.There never were words so innocent. Of course, I can quite understand the right hon. Gentleman and his friends getting up and saying, "Surely there is nothing to quarrel with in these words? Surely, there must come a time when these people and all their responsibilities must be considered?" Certainly, I do not hesitate to say that, if ever the question arises as to what part in government the native or the Indian can play, there will be no more enthusiastic supporters than my friends on these benches. But that is not what the people who are responsible for the agitation mean. No one knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman, because when I turn for some definition of what all this means and is intended to mean by those responsible for the agitation, I find in the "East African Standard" of 1st January that the situation is dealt with in this way:Only by grappling the mandated territories to the other British territories by political and economic co-ordination and by the provision of adequate transport links between north and south will there be any proper safeguard against the dangers that Tanganyika, despite the declarations of the present Privy Council"—that is the existing Privy Council—may once more be cut out from the group of territories, which, by all natural considerations, will eventually form a great East African Dominion or Federation of States. In the formation of that political and economic entity of the future, white settlement in Kenya must play a major part. We have in this country the only developed centre of Western civilisation in the territories, and, if the benefits of European civilisation are to be extended to East Africa as a whole, the centre of the group, the main control of policy, and all the 263 external influences upon European and native policy must radiate from Kenya, where the principles of development of the subject races through contact with Western ideals have long been established and tested.I ask the House to observe the significance of those words, and the words that follow. Here you have, in 1923, a declaration of policy, clearly and specifically laid down, and after I may say one of the most unpleasant incidents so far as correspondence is concerned that was within the experience of any Government. I do not want to refer to it except to say that I know there is no Secretary who has read these papers who would like to see that kind of controversy repeated again. But, notwithstanding all that took place, notwithstanding the strong attitude of the Government, the words I have originally given, the Government, and they alone, would be responsible for the policy set out by this Government in 1923 and endorsed by our Government when they took office. Now you find the change that I have already enumerated, and this change is dealt with in another paragraph which is equally significant. In the "East African Standard," of 20th February, the Hon. J. E. Coney, speaking to a meeting of settlers, defended the proposed expenditure of £80,000 from public revenue for the building of Government House. He said:Should the Federation of the East African Colonies come to pass, Kenya should be the headquarters, and they, in their programme, must look ahead and make provision therefor. You will never solve the labour problem until you have control of the country. When you have that, you will immediately solve the problem. The policy of the Government should be that every native of the colony must work.Asking the meeting to define to him how that policy could be enforced, the speaker said all that the Government could say was this:'You must work—either in the reserves or on the farms, but work you must.' If that policy were to be applied, they would have the politicians at home determined to 'do us in.' There was no solution except to get control of the colony in our own hands.It may be said that, as far as the Government are concerned, they are not only not responsible for, but they will repudiate these sentiments. I do not know whether that will be stated, 264 but the difficulty we are in—and the criticism we make and the apprehension we feel—is that when these statements are made and we find the so-called policy of 1923 now being investigated, and a change contemplated, we can only conclude that it is this kind of speech and this agitation which are responsible for the changes that are made. Therefore, what I put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: Is it wise to have changes, having regard to that clear declaration that I have mentioned, and the endorsement of that policy by the Opposition which has given that continuity that everyone appears to be agreed upon is desired? What are the new peculiar circumstances why we should have a change of this sort? That, I think, is the question that needs to be answered for two reasons, not only because of the effect on the native himself, but because of the possible agitation that must arise in connection with the Indian both in Kenya and in other places. No one welcomes more than the right hon. Gentleman and the Government as well as ourselves the settlement of the Indian trouble in Kenya. Nobody welcomes more than the Members on these benches the possible happy solution of the Indian difficulty in South Africa. Here, again, continuity of policy is not only justified but I see satisfaction expressed at the happy turn of events in South Africa. Incidentally, it seems to be forgotten that it was our Government which made a suggestion for a round-table conference in South Africa. We are delighted to know it succeeded. What we are afraid of, both in regard to natives and Indians in Kenya, is that the reopening of this problem, so happily solved, may stir up enmity and all that has been accomplished may be lost.
I think the right hon. Gentleman should make the position perfectly clear to the Committee. He should tell us what is the composition of the new Commission. I do not know whether he is in the position to announce it. We ought to know what the terms of reference will be, and he should state clearly and specifically that, although recommendations may be made that need not involve legislation before any departure of any sort or kind is made from the 1923 White Paper this House will have the opportunity of discussing the whole situation, so that at least a considered and full judgment can be brought to 265 bear and no change will be made until that takes place. I am sure the Committee will recognise we are not raising this question in any party spirit. We have given evidence of our desire to keep this question out of mere party politics, but we are entitled, having regard to the appointment of this Commission and the changes I have already indicated, to make it clear and definite that, as far as we are concerned, we will not be parties to, or accept, or be responsible in any way for, any departure unless Parliament itself has a free and full opportunity of discussing the whole situation.
§ Sir SYDNEY HENN
I will leave to the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary the appropriate reply to the points put by the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), but I think it is due to the Committee that I should tell them that during the early months of this year, when I visited in turn each of these African territories, I did not find any indication on the part of the white settlers in Kenya or elsewhere that in asking for an unofficial majority in the Legislative Council either in Kenya or in other territories they were claiming thereby to acquire complete control over native policy and native interests. On the contrary, I say quite specifically that in discussing this very question with some of the principal protagonists in the East African drama—names that are perfectly well known to this Committee—it was admitted to me that native interests must, for many years, remain the special care of the British Government and be excluded from party play in the political life of these new countries.
Having made that general statement, I should like, for a moment, to come down to a few specific matters that are referred to in the White Paper that has been recently published. No one is better placed than I am to appreciate the importance, or, indeed, the true worth, of this White Paper, because I am so familiar with most of the details that are referred to therein. Therefore, I hope the Committee will believe that in accepting the Paper as it stands, in a general way, I am acting up to the belief that has been created in my mind by very careful study of at least five years 266 of all these East African problems. The White Paper concludes by making a number of specific recommendations. I wish to extract from those recommendations three special points to bring before the Committee, because I think they are very well worth the consideration of hon. Members. The first point is the question of the administration of the Customs throughout East Africa. That is an old subject in East Africa and, for the benefit of those hon. Members who are not familiar with it, I may explain that as between Kenya and Uganda there has been in existence for many years a single Customs administration, with a division of the income thereby derived between the two Territories, upon the basis of an agreement arrived at some years ago. As explained in the White Paper, in the Territory of Tanganyika, which has now come into the most intimate contact both with Kenya on the coast side, and with Uganda on the interior side, there is at present existing an arrangement whereby, while the Customs tariffs are identical with some small exceptions, the administrations are completely separate.
Take the first case. While I was in Uganda, many complaints were made to me as to the ineffective operation of the agreement between Kenya and Uganda, and the fact was that, while the Customs were collected at the coast, an account was taken at the boundary between Kenya and Uganda—that is to say, at the lake ports—of the goods that passed into the territory of Uganda, and eventually a balance was struck of the goods that were supposed to find their way into Uganda. What has happened for the last two or three years? The spread in the use of motor-cars has brought about the creation, not only of main roads but of innumerable minor roads, with the result that goods are, in many cases, finding their way into Uganda over the boundary, and not through the lake ports where expensive machinery is maintained to keep an account of those goods. The goods go over the innumerable roads that lead from one country to the other, with the very natural result that the people of Uganda are claiming that they do not get their fair share of the Customs revenue. That is the position as between Kenya and Uganda.
267 Turn for a moment to the position as between Kenya and Tanganyika. Those hon. Members who are familiar with the geography of East Africa know that the main port of Kenya, Mombasa, is really very close to the boundary of Tanganyika and within the last year or two, certainly within the last few months, roads that existed on paper have in fact become practical roads between Mombasa and the very well-developed area of Tanga at the north end of the Tanganyika coast. The result is that the trade of Tanga to-day is being very largely served by roads from Mombasa. In addition to that, there is a railway line from Tanga to the Kilimanjaro area, and the bulk of the coffee and other produce grown in that area goes down, not to Tanga, with which it is in direct communication by railway, but over the branch line, known as the Voi-Taveta line, to the port of Mombasa, because the distance is either shorter or just about as short, and the advantages of the larger port attract the traffic that way. Let the Committee consider all the complications that exist when you have two separate Customs administrations in two territories that are so closely related. Be it said that the Tanga province has no direct communication at present with Dar-es-Salem.
The Committee will appreciate how very much out of date the system is that maintains two separate Customs administrations which operate over such a boundary when I assure them that I have tried very hard but in vain to see the boundary for myself, and in the end took a photograph of the spot in order to make quite sure that I had some record of what was supposed to be the colonial boundary between these countries. I feel cure the Committee will agree with me when I say that that antiquated arrangement should be put an end to, and that a more modern system should be applied. Not only should there be one single Customs administration, but there should be no machinery of any sort connected with the Customs in the interior of this block of territory consisting of three separate Colonies and Protectorates. Tariff administrations should exist only at those ports—either marine ports, lake ports, or land ports—where the goods cross the international boundary 268 and come into the country. It may be said, and it is believed by many people in those countries, that it would be impossible to arrive at a fair distribution of the revenue derived from the tariffs. It seems to me, however, that it would be a very simple matter to arrive at an agreement whereby the collection should be done by a single administration, and the proceeds divided on the basis of an agreement which could be revised at a period of, say, from three to five years, just as might be found suitable. The agreement should be based, not upon territorial considerations, but on considerations of population or of the existing condition of affairs in those countries.
The next point to which I should like to refer is a comparatively minor one, but is one which, in my opinion, is of very great importance. Up to date, in the protectorate and colony of Kenya, there is a single telegraph service, that of the State. For a long time past, efforts have been made to introduce into that country the service of the Eastern Telegraph Company. I merely mention the name of a particular company—it does not matter what company it may be—because that is the only submarine cable telegraph company available for that place. Yet, up to date, owing to administrative objections, not on the part of the Government of Kenya so much as on the part of the departmental chiefs, who are defending their revenue, Kenya has been and and is still deprived of what every civilised country ought to have, that is, instant cable communication with every part of the world during the 24 hours of the day and night. The main objection that I have heard put forward is a potential loss of £1,500 in the service that would pass to the other company instead of to the Sate line, but what would that mean, in comparison with the gain to its traders, especially to those interested in the cotton business in which the markets of the world are open just at the very time that the Kenya telegraphs are shut, if the cable service was maintained as it is in every civilised country, so far as my experience goes? What would be the gain to the community, and what could possibly be the loss to the Kenya Government? More particularly if it is a fact, as I have 269 quite recently seen it stated in the papers, that last year the postal and telegraph service of that country left a profit of £50,000.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the question of the East African Guaranteed Loan. I was unfortunate in not being here when the Act was passed by this House, but there are two points in connection with the Loan which I should like to raise. First, I think it is a great pity that at this stage in the development of East African railways, and indeed of African railways in general, that the recommendations of the Ronaldshay Report, which are well known to have been the recommendations of the late Sir William Acworth, than whom there never existed a greater authority on railway finance, have not been given a fair trial; namely, that not only should the railway budget be separated from the budget of the colony or colonies, as the case may be, but that private enterprise should be associated with the construction and administration of those railroads on the lines suggested by Sir William Acworth.
The Government should figure for its loans and advances as shareholders or holders of stock, or even debenture if necessary, and they should be represented on the Boards of Management of the Corporation and they should control it, just as they do in the case of the Anglo-Persian Company, but the acts of administration should be left in the hands of experts and technical men who understand the construction and management of railways. This would have several advantages. I am not here to argue in favour of private enterprise, because, after all, no one realises better than I do that it would be necessary in such a case to restrict and limit what private enterprise, in the form of subscribed capital, should draw from the enterprise, but I think it would have a very good effect upon the general Budgets of all those Colonies that the question of railway finance should be completely taken out of the general budget, because I think in that case each of the Colonies would be able to raise finance for those other social expenditures which they have been, in my opinion, neglecting to a certain extent in order to find the money through such 270 credit as they possess for building railways and ports. Take the case of Kenya in particular. I quote it because that it is a Colony which in many respects is by far the most advanced, yet the capital of Kenya to-day has not got suitable public buildings of any description, and the whole country is short of those necessary public buildings, especially of the nature of schools, and other structures of that description which any country that wishes to progress must provide for the general advancement of all its citizens, whoever they may be.
The other point in connection with the East African Guaranteed Loan to which I would like to call attention is this. It is my considered opinion that the most important railway to be constructed to-day in the whole of Africa is the railway which will connect the territory of Kenya or Tanganyika with the territories lying to the south. I visited, in addition to those larger territories of which I have been speaking, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, and nothing affected me more than to see the want of resources for developing Northern Rhodesia, which must be in time to come one of the finest countries in the whole of Africa. It is perfectly hopeless to expect that under the conditions of the East African Guaranteed Loan, namely, that the Government of Northern Rhodesia shall guarantee the payment to the Treasury of the interest and the necessary Sinking Fund.
The situation is very much the same as it was 30 years ago when in this House, after several Debates, this country determined to find the money to construct the Uganda Railway. In those days, I was reading quite recently, one of the so-called authorities, when discussing the possibilities of the future Uganda Railway, put forward the view that, so far as he could see, the railway through that territory, which he had studied carefully, would never produce more than £80,000 worth of produce to carry. Last year that railway carried £8,000,000 worth. I say to those who put forward the view that it took 25 years to make the Uganda Railway a paying proposition and that even yet it has not been settled in what form the cost of that railway is to be returned to those who found the money, that it will not take 25 years nowadays to make a railway of that description a paying proposition. 271 The Uganda Railway was built from a coastline which was sparsely inhabited by white people, who did comparatively little trade of an international character, and it led out at that time into an unknown country. The railway that I refer to, the railway that should connect the central railway in Tanganyika, whatever its route may be is a matter of indifference to me, with the main line linking up the territories of Rhodesia with the Katanga province of the Congo may cost £10,000,000 to construct; that I could not say, but I do say that within five years it would pay its way. With those few points I commend to the Committee this White Paper. I have studied it very carefully in the light of the progressive steps that have been taken during the last four or five years to advance the interest of Central and East Africa. I could criticise it in detail but I am in agreement with the main lines upon which it is laid out. In regard to the matters which were touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who I am afraid has not read it very carefully, I think there is nothing contrary to the views which were contained in the previous White Paper.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
The hon. Member who has just sat down is perhaps better equipped than anybody in this House to deal with the matters to which he has directed attention, cable communications and railway finance, all of them matters which call for immediate attention in the territories which we have under consideration. I wish to offer a few remarks with regard to the more general question of policy which is included in the White Paper. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), I think, stressed a qualification that has been made in the White Paper of 1923. I admit that I had hoped, when the White Paper was issued in 1923, that the question would not have been reopened so soon, but we have to face events, and events have moved quickly. We all realised, when that White Paper was issued, that the time had to come, sooner or later, when the policy therein laid down would have to be looked at again. Some of us thought that that would not happen for 10 or 15 or 20 years. As a matter of fact, it has been brought 272 up again within four years. We cannot control events such as the opening up of new countries, the inflow of capital, and the increase of colonisation. Those are things which largely move independently of our immediate control. What the Government laid down in the White Paper of 1923 was that this House, and the Government in Great Britain, should be responsible for the administration of native affairs in the countries with which we are concerned at the present time, and that we should act as trustees for the natives. I think it is appropriate that we should consider how much, and to what extent, the policy laid down is altered by the present White Paper. I am very glad that the White Paper which we are now considering contains not only a reference to but a reprint of a very important part of the White Paper of 1923. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby referred to it, but I would like to refer particularly to a passage on page 3 which is as follows:Hasty action is to be strongly deprecated, and it will be necessary to see how matters develop, especially in regard to African representation, before proposals for so fundamental a change in the constitution of the colony can be entertained. Meanwhile, the administration of the colony will follow the British traditions and principles which have been successful in other colonies, and progress towards self-government must be left to take the lines which the passage of time and the growth of experience may indicate as being best for the country.That is very important, and in my opinion it should be kept before the eyes of the whole country. The whole country is responsible for the policy which we are laying down in East Africa, and it is reiterated again and again in this White Paper that we are to remain as the trustees for the people of the countries with which we are dealing. As long as that prime issue of policy is kept before us, I do not think we can go very far wring. Where this present White Paper differs from the older one is in this respect, that it envisages the association with us of people of our race who are living in East Africa. That is a very different matter from handing over entirely to the settlers and the colonists of any particular Colony the complete control of native affairs. That we must keep very clearly, before us, and, at the same time, we must remember that history has shown 273 us over and over again that when the people of our own race settle in different parts of the world they are determined, as far as they can, to control their own destinies. We have seen that over and over again, and we shall see it as long as our people go and colonize.
How much better it is that those people, who are determined as far as possible to control their own destinies, should have the responsibility put upon them of being associated with us in the great work of trusteeship, rather than that they should be for all time, or for a time to which we can put no limit, kept outside, in the country where they are living and where all their hopes for the future lie, any possibility of controlling the most important thing in their country. How much better that they should be associated in the great policy which this House is determined to keep to, that of trusteeship with regard to the natives. I regret to some extent that events have led to this question being reopened so soon, but, since it has been reopened, I must say that I, and I think a great many others, were very apprehensive that some hasty step might have been taken which would have made things very difficult.
I am very glad to see that hasty steps have been avoided, and I think the Secretary of State has taken a wise course in deciding to appoint a Commission to consider these questions on the spot. The task of the men who will compose that Commission calls for the very highest qualities, and the work that lies before them is one of supreme difficulty, but, at the same time, it is one of supreme importance to the future of our Empire in Africa, and I sincerely trust the Secretary of State will be able to find people with well-balanced minds, and wise and statesmanlike views, who will be able to consider the questions they will have placed before them, not with a view to the immediate future, free from any pressure that may be brought to hear upon them in these districts, but with a view to the long distant future and the ages in front of us by which our occupation of Africa will be tested by history in time to come.
We are working in Africa on a different line now from what we have ever worked there before. The country is expanding with a rapidity with which it has never 274 expanded before. New events and new problems keep crowding on us every day and it is most marked that the successful conference of Governors which has just been held, and which I hope will be repeated in future years, when there has been so much interchange of ideas and opinions and where the groundwork has been laid for so much combination and co-ordination of effort which in the past has so often been lost—there one of the most striking things that stand out is the Report of the Committee of Colonial Scientific Research. It is fascinating to read the summary of what that Committee dealt with as showing the different lines on which we are tackling the economic and social problems before us in that country from the way in which those matters were tackled so recently as 20 years ago. We are approaching the Whole future on a different line, and not only an an economic and social line, but it is realised in this White Paper that we have to approach the matter on a different political line from what we have done before. I should like to call attention to the terms of reference, and particularly to No. 4, which is:To suggest how the dual policy recommended by the Conference of East African Governors, that is, the complementary development of native and non-native communities, can best be progressively applied in the political as well as the economic sphere.That, to my mind, is a very important term of reference. We have to see that the development of the dual policy cannot be confined to any one section of the whole Colony. It must be applied to the social, economic and political as evenly as may be. It is very unfortunate that, owing to the operation of the Parliamentary programme, things were sprung upon us in the very rapid way they were at midnight last night, but it is of advantage that that we should have been able to say a few words with regard to this new White Paper at an early opportunity and before the Session can come to a close. I have always had the firmest belief in the future of these countries. I believe there is a wonderful future before East Africa, a future which is beyond anything that is imagined at present. When you see what has happened in the past 20 years, the expansion, the development, the possibilities that are opening all round us, I believe if we 275 were alive 50 years hence, we should be astounded at what we should see. Our task now is to guide those developments on the right line, and the right line can only be the one to which I have referred. If we are to improve and develop those territories with mutual honour and advantage to ourselves and to the people under our care, it must be by a persistent and unceasing devotion to the idea that the weaker peoples in our charge must be treated with the same absolute fairness and justice and equality that we demand for ourselves.
§ Mr. THURTLE
On a point of Order. When may we expect to hear from the Government Front Bench a statement in regard to their policy? I know this is a Supply day, but it is very unsatisfactory from the Opposition point of view if this discussion is to go on until towards the end without a statement from the Front Bench. In that event, we shall not have any opportunities of correcting any fallacious arguments or making any comment upon statements which appear to us to need comment. I submit that we have a right to expect a statement from the Government Bench at an early stage of the Debate.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Amery)
I hope the White Paper will supply a sufficient statement of the general lines of policy we have in view, and then I could deal with additional points which have been raised in reply, and in the very short time at our disposal save hon. Members the inconvenience of having two Members of the Government Front Bench occupying an unnecessarily large part of the time.
§ Mr. SNELL
It is extraordinarily difficult to follow the two hon. Members who have just spoken. Both of them have so close and intimate acquaintance with East Africa that anything they say commands the strictest respect from all of us. They will forgive me if, without their knowledge, I hesitate to accept their optimistic outlook in regard to this proposed change of policy. The hon. Member for Blackburn (Sir S. Henn) said that during his recent visit 276 to East Africa he did not find the settlers in their minds had any intention or desire to dominate over other sections of the East African territory, and I can well believe that they have no such conscious intention. But, unfortunately, results do not always spring from direct intention, and there are questions such as social gravity, the natural ability of the people placed there, their financial strength and administrative qualities, which must have an almost dominating influence over other territories where those abilities are less at their disposal. I should like to ask the Committee to think of the sudden change in policy which this new White Paper announces, and I hope the Secretary of State will not regard our criticisms of this Paper as displaying hostility to the general intention. These Supply days are the only opportunities we possess of extracting, if we can, additional information from the Department concerned, and the criticism offered is in a great measure aimed at that end. Only three years have passed since the East African Commission, of which the Under-Secretary was the Chairman, reported dead against federation, and one wonders what the changes have been in the last three years which have necessitated this change. I should like to quote one paragraph from that Report:We found little, if any, support in East Africa for the idea of immediate federation, and in some quarters we found definite hostility. We received a memorial against federation from the King and native Government of Buganda, and discussions which had taken place in parts of Kenya immediately prior to our arrival revealed that the suggestion was viewed with more than a little suspicion by all sections of European opinion in Kenya. All shades of opinion in Zanzibar are hostile to federation, and we also received representations against federation from various Indian associations throughout the three Northern territories. But, apart altogether from these expressions of opinion, we came definitely to the conclusion that any attempt at federation would be premature.I submit that an opinion so expressed by people who had given very careful attention to the matter cannot have been entirely removed in the short space of three years, and it would be interesting and helpful to us if the right hon. Gentleman could state what are the reasons why this change in policy is deemed to be necessary. We cannot help feeling, in the absence of such a statement, and 277 in spite of the remarks of the hon. Member for Blackburn, that this new policy appears to go back on what we call the Devonshire policy as outlined in that despatch. It appears to us to involve a change of policy. We on this side who have taken an interest in East African affairs have felt on the whole very secure under the general undertaking of the Devonshire despatch, and we cannot help feeling a sense of uneasiness and insecurity if that despatch is to be varied in the direction proposed. One of the terms of reference to the proposed Commission, No. 3, is:To associate more closely in the responsibilities and trusteeship of government the immigrant communities domiciled in the country.It is quite certain that people living in that country have as much right as other people there to take a part in the government of the country. We are not questioning that but we should like to feel that, if this change is made the supreme power will remain in the hands of the Secretary of State and that he will be able, as hitherto, to act on behalf of this House as the guardian and trustee for the native people. One would view with great alarm, in the present development of the population in East Africa, the transference of the native population entirely to the control of the white people living in those areas. In saying that I am not suggesting for a moment, and I do not wish to give even the suspicion of suggesting, that the people living there whom we call settlers are any worse than we are in this House or will do less than what they consider to be their very best. Nothing of that kind is in our minds, but still these people are placed in a very peculiar position. They are faced with very great temptations. There is always the difficulty of the impact of vigorous white races upon native races, and that impact cannot take place without serious discomforts happening to both sides. It seems to us, without the special information which the hon. Members who have spoken possess, that it is necessary that we should continue as long as we can under the security of the trusteeship of the Colonial Office and until such time as the natives in this area are able in a greater degree than they are at present to take care of themselves and to pull their weight in any legislative boat that may be launched. That, really, is our 278 whole criticism upon that matter. The Secretary of State should have final control.
As there are a good many Members who desire to speak in this Debate, I will refrain from going into the question of the economic development of East Africa and the old questions of taxation and transport which we have urged so often in these Debates. I would only say, in passing, that in our judgment the very greatest care should be taken not to detach the native from his home cultivation, and that if possible every aid should be given so that what he produces on his own land should be made available for the market. In reality, in our minds, the African problem is this, whether East Africa shall develop along the lines which have been so successful in West Africa, or whether it shall drift into a huge plantation system which would produce a new set of problems. I will not, however, further develop that point.
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, what is his intention in regard to one particular matter. We on this side of the Committee are rather unhappy about the imprisonment of a native who was found in the possession of a newspaper. In the South African Union territories he could have retained possession of it without any disadvantage to himself. But the mere possession of this newspaper has resulted in his receiving a long and, we think, a dangerous sentence of imprisonment. I do not know the whole of the circumstances, but it would be a very great security to us if the right hon. Gentleman could look into that matter and see whether it is not possible to alleviate in some way or other the imprisonment which has been passed upon this native.
I only desire, in closing, to say that in our discussions in this House on African affairs we have always tried as much as possible—and I think, on the whole, we have succeeded—in keeping them apart from what we may call party warfare and controversy, and our argument this afternoon is merely that we are afraid that this new policy which is indicated in the White Paper may carry us further—may seem to pledge us on this side to a policy which we view at present with some suspicion. I hope, therefore, the right hon. 279 Gentleman the Secretary of State will be able to assure us that in the future, as in the past, he will have supreme control, and that nothing will happen which will weaken that trusteeship on behalf of the natives which he has hitherto held on behalf of this House.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
I do not want to follow at all in the field explored by the previous speakers in discussing the wider question of policy raised by the White Paper, but to raise one point only, and that is the development of the principle of compulsory service in the Colony of Kenya. The Committee will remember that for many years Kenya has enjoyed a voluntary system of military service just as has the Mother country. There have been many attempts to try to establish the principle of compulsion for Europeans only living in that Colony. The Secretary of State for the Colonies gave his consent in principle to the ultimate passing of a Bill which would carry with it the right of compulsion for military service of all Europeans living in Kenya. It is that principle of compulsion to which I want to draw the attention of the Committee, and to ask one or two questions of the Secretary of State. Bills of this kind have been discussed for a number of years now, and I gather that at the beginning of this year an amended Bill was introduced into the Legislature, and, as far as we can see, that Bill is likely at a very early date—if it is not already—to become law.
I wish to raise two objections to this Bill. The first is upon local grounds. As far as I can understand, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he gave his consent in principle to this Bill, did so on the understanding that the whole of the European population in Kenya was in favour of the Bill. It is manifestly clear that that is not the case. As far as I can ascertain, the Colonial Governor, Sir Edward Grigg, did, about a year ago, give a more or less definite undertaking that a Bill of this kind should not become law unless there was a general measure of consent on behalf of the Europeans themselves. This year the Europeans living in Kenya have organised for themselves an anti-conscription committee, and in the course of a few weeks they have been able to obtain no less than 1,500 signatures against the 280 passage of this compulsory Bill into law. I want to remind the members of the Committee that 1,500 out of 8,000 Europeans is a very considerable number. According to one calculation, a petition of 1,500 of the present European population is equivalent to something like a petition of 6,000,000 adults in this country against the passage of any particular Bill. I think the mere fact that so large a number of signatures has been obtained is very clear and tangible evidence that there is a wide disparity of opinion among the Europeans themselves with regard to the passage of this particular Bill. I should like to ask the Colonial Secretary, therefore, whether in view of this large amount of European opposition to the passage of the Bill, he will not consider delaying, at all events, his final consent to this Bill, and give at least some opportunity for that very large minority opinion to make itself heard in a representative way before this matter is finally determined by the Government of this country?
I should like to mention the wider idea of the principle. We in this country have always been proud that we have never found it necessary, except on very rare occasions, to burden ourselves with the inception of conscription for military service. It has always been one of our proud boasts as a country that we stand out in the commonwealth of nations in regard to the freedom we have enjoyed in the matter of military service. Those of us who are thinking about wider questions would like to see the example of the Mother country followed by all other nations. I believe it would be the last thought of members of this Committee that we as a commonwealth of nations should ever have it laid against us as a charge that we were setting the example of conscription to other countries in the world. I would, therefore, like to raise this wide issue of principle. I do not think I can do better than quote the actual words drawn up by the anti-conscription Committee in Kenya itself. Those Europeans in Kenya are the most concerned in preserving, if they can, the principle of voluntaryism in that colony. The Anti-conscription Committee have said this with regard to the question of principle as it applies to the Colony of Kenya.We believe that the great tradition of free service offered to the State is inter- 281 woven with the texture of our national character, and that to this we largely owe our greatness among the nations of the earth. This Colony earned distinction among the distinguished in the late War for the number of its men who flocked to the Colours as volunteers. We are fighting to maintain this ideal of free service to one's fellows; it dies under compulsion.We feel that once the principle of compulsion creeps into this Colony we shall tread ground which henceforth will cease 'to be for ever England,' and that the ideals of free service, which men died in thousands to save, will have been conquered and abandoned to the enemy.I cannot help thinking that when they use the word "enemy" here, they have definitely in mind the late enemy in the world War, and they mean, too, that it was at our instance that conscription was abandoned and given up by the late enemy in 1919.In the times through which we are now passing there is a tendency to treat tradition and principle as of light account, but we regard each breach with those traditions and principles that made our Motherland great, as if it were the tolling of a knell to mark the passing of the soul of a great race—our own.I have ventured to raise this matter, which is the only point I wanted to raise this afternoon, because I felt it was one of great importance. If we are to allow the principle of conscription to apply to Europeans, it will raise the great question of compulsion in regard to Indians in Kenya. If we are going to allow this Bill to pass in Kenya, there is no reason why other colonies should not be quick to seize on this example. I want to appeal to the Minister, not only on the grounds of the very powerful objection raised among the inhabitants themselves, but on the wider ground. I want to ask him at this late hour to reconsider the consent he has given in principle, and, at least, to delay the matter until he has had an opportunity of consulting with the representatives of the Anti-Conscription Committee before he finally gives consent to a Measure which will give no pleasure in any part of this Committee, but which will damage the great tradition of freedom which has been one of the proudest boasts of the Mother country to which we belong.
§ Captain RONALD HENDERSON
After the remarks that have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Sir S. Henn), and the hon. 282 Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), one feels a certain amount of diffidence in referring to the White Paper. But I was one of the few members of the Committee who knew British East Africa before it had a railway, and for that reason I should like to endorse every word that has been said—though, possibly, it might seem rather too optimistic—by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, with regard to railway construction. There are vast tracts of British East Africa and the other Colonial dependencies which are simply awaiting railway communications to bring them from periods of occasional prosperity and occasional famine to one of an even level of prosperity.
I wish to bring one suggestion to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I feel sure that suggestions made by the members of the Committee invariably raise in his mind a doubt whether they will not involve the question of spending money, but in this case, I think, I can assure him in advance that this will not be so. In the first paragraph of the Terms of Reference of this Commission, it says that they shall direct their attention to scientific research. It is a very wide and a very general reference, and I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would be good enough to direct their attention to one very small but important matter. I refer to the research which is taking place in regard to leprosy in Uganda. This does not involve a large sum of money owing to the advance of medical knowledge and medical research. This disease has been very effectively attacked, and if the Colonial Secretary could direct attention to the very useful work which is being done in this connection in Uganda to-day, it might be the means of fixing public attention upon it, and this would tend to expedite a piece of extremely useful and humane work which is now being carried out in Uganda.
I hope the Commission which has been set up will have its attention drawn to the co-ordination of East and West Africa in regard to all the forms of work and research in connection with the tsetse fly. At the present time we have no vaccine or innoculation to deal with this scourge. A great deal of useful work is being done in this connection, and if on this occasion 283 the right hon. Gentleman could focus the attention of the Commission to the work now being done in South Africa on the subject of the tsetse fly it might give a stimulus to this good work. On this queshangs a great deal of the prosperity of agriculture. If the Colonial Secretary will direct the attention of the Commission to the leprosy question in Uganda I feel sure that he will be earning the thanks not only of the community generally but also of some very hardworking scientists who are to-day conducting some most useful investigations on these lines in Uganda.
§ Mr. CECIL WILSON
I would like to know if the right hon. Gentleman could say something upon the question of child labour in the Colonies, which is causing some of us a good deal of anxiety. If we are correctly informed, a Bill has been produced which provides for the indenturing of children under 14 years of age. While that is so, it does not appear that there is any limit downwards from 14 years. Here is an extract from some remarks made by the Attorney-General when he was referring to the draft Bill. He said:I doubt whether it is right to legislate at all for such young children.I believe the Attorney-General was then speaking of children younger than eight or nine years. I do not know whether those words are taken too much out of the context, but, if not, it would certainly appear that the statement meant that it is difficult to legislate at all for such young children. Further, I would like to ask, should these children be summarily whipped for disobeying any order of the officials, without an inquiry taking place, or anything in the nature of a trial, to ascertain what was the cause of the disobedience or whether there was any justification for the children being treated in that way? There does not seem to be what we should regard in this country as a right arrangement in regard to whipping, because there is no provision for medical inspection to ascertain whether a child is really fit to undergo the whipping. As for the position in which some of these children are placed, it certainly seems from the remarks made in the Debate on the Bill that there was something very nearly approaching 284 slavery on the part of these children. On this subject Mr. Eaton said:I will only instance the case of the mica fields. That particular industry, as hon. Members may be aware, is almost entirely run by piccanins. On one of the mines in the mica fields quite 50 per cent. of the native labour is juvenile, and the mine-owner find it absolutely necessary to keep that staff of piccanins on his mines. He has to issue what is known as Mothers so that he may keep the mothers on the mine, and every day the women in the compound are issued this ration in order to keep their piccanins there.It would almost appear that the bread and butter of the mother can only be obtained by keeping her children at work. Further, it seems that in Rhodesia——
The particular question which the hon. Member is raising cannot be discussed on this Vote, because it comes on the Dominions Vote.
§ Mr. AMERY
I feel that the chance which made this discussion possible this afternoon was a most fortunate one, because it has given us an opportunity of dealing with the White Paper relating to East Africa. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas), whose criticisms were, in every sense, desirable, suggested that this particular White Paper was the outcome of the Colonial Office conference, and he maintained that in his opinion it was not advisable for that conference to go beyond the sphere of administration. I ought perhaps just to make that point clear before dealing with the actual speech. The White Paper is in no sense the outcome of the Colonial Office conference, which devoted itself entirely to administration and other matters affecting the whole Colonial Empire. It is true that I did take advantage of the presence in this country of several Governors and senior officials from the East African Colonies to discuss with them very fully matters of administration and policy on which I have had correspondence and communications with them for some considerable time past.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The right hon. Gentleman says he took advantage of the presence of these Governors to meet them; I know they were equally pleased to avail themselves of the opportunity of meeting the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. AMERY
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby must not be under the impression that this is a matter which was taken up on the initiative of the Government out there rather than on the initiative of the Secretary of State. I have been for many years concerned with this problem in East Africa, and I have consulted the Governors as to the lines upon which that problem could best be dealt with. The Colonial Office conference is only one indication of the desire which exists in the Colonies to promote better co-operation in and co-ordination of the territories in East Africa. It is true that our discussion raised issues both of policy and administration, and that is the reason why I decided that there should be a Cabinet decision instead of simply settling matters with the Governors concerned.
In the first place, the primary clement in our deliberations was the administrative policy of considering the inefficiency and waste which inevitably occur where you have a number of Governments set up with no natural boundaries in a territory which is a unit of itself not only geographically but in all its essential characteristics. The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) said he hoped that we should follow in East Africa the policy of West Africa rather than the policy of South Africa. I think that point was brought out most effectively by the Chairman of the East African Commission, my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. East Africa is neither West Africa nor South Africa, and it has characteristics entirely of its own. It can never remain a purely black man's country, and it is never going to become a white man's country even in the sense that South Africa has become a white man's country. It is a country in which the native races will always form the dominant element of the population, and their interests will be paramount. But over considerable tracts of land the white man will stay for a number of years where he can settle and bring up his family, and thus acquire a real patriotism for his country, and in course of time become responsible for the conduct of affairs.
From every point of view the case for maintaining the present arbitrary divisions—divisions 286 which sprang up in the scramble for territory in the 'eighties of last century—is a weak one. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Sir S. Henn) clearly demonstrated out, from the point of view of customs, telegraphs, railways, ports and so on, the country can only be efficiently developed if it is treated as one. The more it is developed, the more naturally the ports of one territory will tend to serve the interior of another. Nothing can be more inefficient than working in watertight compartments, with each Government looking only at its own revenues, looking only at bringing trade to its own harbours, and embarking on a course of railway competition with its neighbours. If we are to utilise the vast resources of East Africa, if we are to utilise the help of British capital, which this House pledged itself to give through the Loan Bill which I had the privilege of conducting through the House a few months ago, obviously we ought to use those resources in the most economical and effective manner.
Again, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Henley (Captain R. Henderson) has reminded us that perhaps the greatest problem of all, in East Africa, is the problem of research. We are coping, in conjunction with the League of Nations, with the dominating problem of the tsetse fly, and we mean, when the League of Nations' investigation is finished, to carry that on further with the co-operation of the Governments concerned. We are making progress in dealing with the other plague to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, namely, that of leprosy in Uganda. On medical questions, on agricultural questions, on veterinary questions, there is an immense field for the development of research; and research is obviously better carried on if it is co-ordinated than if it is carried on in small divisions. The problems of disease, as well as those of agricultural and veterinary research, are common to all these territories, and it is absurd that they should be carried on inefficiently in half-a-dozen territories when by co-operation they can be carried on in one centre or another for the good of all.
From all of those points of view, His Majesty's Government are convinced that the time has come when the problem of 287 some form of better co-operation, whether it be federation or whether it be some looser system of co-ordination, ought to be seriously studied and a decision come to upon it. The hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) asked, very fairly, how it was that, within three years of Parliament receiving a Report from my right hon. Friend who said that federation met with very little support, and had active opponents in more than one quarter, we should now be dealing with that problem. I would say that in those three years events have moved very rapidly and one of the very first things that caused them to move was that Report itself, signed by Members of all parties in this House, setting forth in so lucid and practical a manner the essential unity of East Africa. While that Report regarded federation as premature, it did in fact itself contribute a powerful impulse towards a movement which has grown increasingly in the minds both of the official world and, even more, of the unofficial world since that date.
Conferences unofficially assembled together, first in Tanganyika and then in Northern Rhodesia, realised, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. J. H. Thomas) knows so well, that, when people meet round a table, they become more conscious of the greater unity to which they all belong, and less obsessed by the narrower local outlook which often makes them reject schemes or ideas from their own capitals. The whole development of motor traffic up and down East Africa has drawn things together in an amazing way during the last few years, and there is now an entirely different outlook. The East African Loan, again, has had its effect on East Africa as a unit for transportation purposes, and, short though the period has been, it has witnessed a profound transformation in the whole atmosphere as well as in the practical conditions of East African administration. I venture to suggest, therefore, that in sending out a Commission whose studies, naturally, must take some time, and will be submitted in the shape of a Report to the Government in the first instance—and, of course, I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby that the Report will be available for Parliamentary criticism before 288 we take final action upon it; obviously I readily accept that suggestion——
§ Mr. THOMAS
So much can be done entirely by administrative action in this connection, that we have had to safeguard the position by asking that any recommendations from that Commission, even of an administrative kind as distinguished from fresh legislation, should first be the subject of Parliamentary debate.
§ Mr. AMERY
Yes, I quite realise the point. It may, of course, be possible that some legislation may be required in this House, but it may also very well be possible for these matters to be dealt with entirely administratively or by Order in Council; but, in the latter case also, I quite agree that there ought to be discussion in this House before any final action is taken. I suggest, therefore, that there is nothing premature in sending out at this stage a Commission whose final conclusions cannot be put into action for, at any rate, a period of something like 18 months or two years. But if the Commission is sent out, it obviously cannot confine itself to the purely administrative aspects of union. Federation, or whatever form of closer union is adopted, will have its consequential effect upon the constitutional arrangements in the different Colonies and territories.
If the recommendation is that those territories should be unified, obviously some single legislative council at the centre will take the place of the existing councils. If there is federation, there must be some division of powers and functions between the central legislature and the provincial councils. If, on the other hand, there is only co-ordination between the existing councils, there must be some new central co-ordinating body. Whichever course is recommended as regards federation, it will bring certain consequential rearrangements of the legislative machine in its train. If these are to be considered, I think it is only right that any Commission which goes out to consider them should consider them, not only from the mere mechanical and formal aspect of the division of powers but also from the point of view of the whole future development of constitutional government in those territories, native and European.
Let me take the native aspect of the question first. None of the discussions 289 at our Colonial Office Conference recently were more interesting or, to me, more stimulating than those which showed how, in one part and another of Africa, East and West, we are building up the foundations of a true system of responsible Government among the natives. One of the great dangers with which we are faced everywhere in different forms in our Colonial Empire, is when our Western institutions, fully developed, without having to pass through all the long stages through which we ourselves have passed in the centuries, are suddenly placed before people who have never had any sense of responsibility for administration whatever—legislators who know nothing of the responsibilities of self-government, seeking the suffrages of electors who know still less. That danger is bound to come in East Africa one of these days, and the only way to meet it is to be forearmed, to begin gradually to build up a true sense of responsibility locally in the native population.
In West Africa, through what is known as indirect government, and in East Africa through similar methods, we are to-day creating the beginnings of native self-government in small areas, coupled with responsibility for their own finance—responsibility for raising it, responsibility for transmitting, in many cases, part of it to the central Exchequer, and responsibility also for spending either the whole or a part of it, and realising that money spent for one purpose is not afterwards available for another. You get a true building-up of responsibility, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) very well said, Clause 4 of the Instructions to the Commission will be certainly not the least important part of the work of the Commission, namely, to consider how progressively in the future this foundation of native responsibility for their own lives, in the political as well as in the economic sphere, is to be dealt with on a higher plane, and, at some higher point—whether in the provincial or whether in the central legislature—linked up more closely with the existing element of representation and responsibility for the government among immigrant races.
As regards the Indians, I should like to say in a word that nothing that is under consideration is to affect in any way the position or the rights of the 290 Indian community as laid down in the Duke of Devonshire's dispatch. One member, at any rate, of the Commission will be selected by the Secretary of State for India in order that that point may be kept in mind. That brings me to the position of the white settlers, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby said very truly that in the long run that you can never prevent any community of our own people from claiming the right to have a say in the management of their own affairs, especially when they become settled and feel that they are a permanent element in the community, and that officials from home know less of their problems than they do themselves. The question is as to how that problem can best be dealt with. The White Paper of 1923 was in the main negative in its character. It said that responsible government was not in sight, and, of course, responsible self-government is not in question in this White Paper either. It also rejected the idea of linking, as it were, a responsible Government within a limited scope by white men over their own affairs, and reserving the whole control of everything which affects the native for the home government. That, I am afraid, is not an attractive form of diarchy in a country like East. Africa, where white and black live indissolubly bound together, where there is no problem, nor any aspect of self-government which affects the white man without touching at every moment upon his relationship with the black. While we have adopted and carried on the principle laid down in the White Paper of 1923, that White Paper certainly did not exclude progress towards self-government, and laid down clearly that progress in that direction would be left to take the line that the passage of time and local experience might indicate as best for the country.
All that is laid down in this White Paper, and all that constitutes any modification of the underlying principle of the White Paper of 1923, is that we there explicitly reject the idea of white and black diarchy and affirm that progress towards self-government on the part of the white community does mean, must mean, and ought to mean, an association with the Government in the sense of trusteeship to the weaker and more numerous part of the population. I entirely agree with the hon. Member opposite 291 that we cannot surrender our trusteeship to anyone else; and there is no question of doing so. It is a question that while we retain our trusteeship and control we associate them with us in that trusteeship, bring them into responsibility; and I believe that when you bring responsibility you bring also a wider outlook and a truer understanding. One of the great mistakes made in the early history of South Africa was that the Imperial Government regarded itself as the one and only champion of the native races and alienated and thrust on one side the white community, which was often mistaken perhaps, but was sometimes right. The result was to breed in the white settlers not only hostility towards the Government which denied them a share in the control of their own affairs but hostility towards the ideals with which that Government was associated. This fosters in the white community the idea that their only responsibility is a white responsibility, that the black man is not their affair because the British Government will look after him. That is a very shortsighted conception of responsibility. The day will come, unless indeed the growth of white settlement comes to a stop within the next generation, when with the growth of a large settled community, no Government in this House can ultimately resist the demand for self-government. When it does come you want the men to whom you transfer your trusteeship to have the spirit of trusteeship. You do not want to hand over people who have trusted you for generations to men who have never shared any sense of responsibility. If, on the other hand, you bring that community, a community of a very fine type of men inspired by British traditions, earlier into a share of responsibility; if you make them see something of the work of government and the responsibility of government from the inside, you will breed a race of men to whom in the fullness of time this House may be able to hand over its trusteeship without any fear that it will be dishonoured.
I feel that in this matter we all realise the case from the same point of view. What we want to see is the right result. The essence of the dual policy, which has commended itself not only to the Government and the great majority of public 292 opinion here but also to the great majority of the settled community in East Africa, is the idea that the interests of white and black in East Africa are not conflicting and hostile but, on the contrary, that the two races can and ought to be complementary to each other; the idea that the initiative of the white man, with all that he can contribute in economic devolopment, in scientific research, in the sphere of government and the development of political consciousness can be brought into play in such a way as to benefit and not injure the black man. What we want to do is to make sure that the white settlers are conscious of the destiny of East Africa as a great country which they are called upon to lead and inspire; that they should be equally conscious of their responsibility towards other communities and should desire to bring these communities, in fullness of time, into association with themselves in every matter affecting the development of the country.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I should like to ask a specific question on this point. Is the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech relating to the question of self-government any part of the Commission's terms of reference? Have they the power under the terms of reference, implied or otherwise, to investigate that aspect of the question; and, if so, is not that a direct violation of the White Paper?
§ Mr. AMERY
I have said that the question of responsible self-government was not implied in this White Paper any more than it was implied in the White Paper of 1923. I have allowed myself to go ahead into a remoter field in order to justify my earnest belief that this Commission, whatever it recommends in the way of some association of the settled community with the Government—and, of course, a measure of association already exists—should have in view the ultimate destiny of the black and the white man and the need for their mutual co-operation. Certainly we are not going to proceed by hurried steps in this matter. We have built up slowly and we are building up surely. We have to effect, in the first place, a closer union and a more effective co-ordination of East Africa whether as a whole block, or as regards certain parts which could be taken together, and then 293 so establish the foundations of progressive development towards self-government on the part of both black and white that they may fit in with each other so that when the day comes—and I admit that as far as the circumstances and conditions of East Africa are concerned it can only come after progressive and continued development over a considerable period of years—it will come under conditions which will make every party in this House feel satisfied that such a change will then be possible. That is a question of a relatively distant future.
The question to-day is the practical one of providing a better administrative and economic organisation in East Africa as a whole and laying the foundations upon which progress in the political as well as in the economic sphere can continue soundly, surely and steadily, on the part of both races and not on the part of one race alone. That is the whole position I wish to lay before the House to-day. It in no sense implies throwing over the essential principles of the Devonshire Report, but only gives a more constructive and positive interpretation to them justified by the rapid development of the last few years and the prospective development of the future. I have been asked a question with regard to the composition of the Commission. I have not yet been able to make all the arrangements, and therefore I cannot give the names. The idea in my mind is to keep it as small as possible and to appoint men directly able to deal with the special financial and administrative problems. I hope to have one representative of the India Office, who will be able to give us his experience not merely of Indian matters but on the federal problem which arises; and also to have someone representing the point of view of those who are specially concerned with the welfare of the natives.
§ Mr. AMERY
I think, under present conditions, that could hardly lead to good results. The day may come when the natives of East Africa may well be qualified to take part in a Commission, not only in regard to East Africa, but wherever the services of the Empire may call them. But we have to take things as they are, and I do not think 294 the presence of a native of East Africa to deal with problems entirely beyond the scope of his experience and training would be any help to the natives or to the Commission itself.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
It has been stated in a book written lately by an expert, a German who was in East Africa, that from the point of view of agriculture it has been discovered that the Westerner, the European, can teach the native nothing in regard to the proper management of his land.
§ Mr. AMERY
I do not think the two things are inconsistent. It may well be that the native working man knows exactly what suits his own patch of land, and it may be that an impatient Westerner may spoil his land by ploughing too deeply, or in other ways, but it is also true that, on the whole, Western science is going to mean an immense improvement in agricultural conditions. I think I have dealt sufficiently, from the general point of view, with the East African problem. Perhaps I ought to say a word in answer to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith) on what he calls conscription, but what I prefer to call liability to compulsory training. Under the old Militia Acts that liability existed in this country until 1911. It exists still in the Channel Islands and in more than one British Dominion. This is a matter where it certainly is not my idea to intervene in order to impose any form of compulsory training for any territory within the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office. In this particular case the subject has been before the community for several years. It has been discussed in all its aspects by the community and the measure proposed is a very moderate one, for registration and, if required, for a small amount of territorial training. Obviously when you are dealing with such a scattered population the conditions for securing a moderate amount of training on voluntary lines are not so good as they are in a densely populated country like ours where you can always get a volunteer unit in one of the great cities. There is, on the merits of the case, a call for some form of compulsory registration and some form of training. Whatever the merits may be it is not a measure that I should desire to impose on any community 295 unless that community had expressed a view in its favour. A measure of that sort has been under discussion for a long time before the last election, and I think in every case Members who were in favour of it were returned. The matter was brought before the local Legislative Council which, with the exception of one vote, were in favour of it and that vote was the vote of one of the Indian members who voted against the measure because he approved of compulsory training and complained that it was not extended to the Indian community. I think one of the two Nairobi members left the matter to a referendum of his constituents which showed a substantial majority in favour of it. Apart from the unanimity of the Legislative Council, I might add that the petition against the ratification of the measure was signed by, I think, some 1,300 persons of whom only 238 were voters.
In these circumstances I do not feel that there is any reason for the Secretary of State to veto what is now a clear expression of the opinion of the community. If any evils should arise in the administration of it, if it should be felt to be irksome, I have no doubt that the community would very readily introduce amending or reversive legislation and then I would not intervene. I entirely share the feeling of the hon. Member for Penistone that we do not wish to give a lead to the world in militarism; but I venture to suggest that all we have done since the Great War in the reduction of our armies, all we are doing at Geneva to-day, and the general easing-off in every direction of our armaments to the narrowest police limits give the lie to anyone who charges us with giving a lead in militarism. Nor do I think this very moderate measure of compulsory training, which is parallel with and indeed milder than the measures existing in more than one Dominion, to deal with the particular conditions of a scattered population and to economise in the maintenance of a permanent force, can be considered in any way to contravene our general principles in this matter. I thank the Committee for the courtesy with which they have listened to my reply, and I repeat that I am very glad that I can go off on my tour of the Dominions with the feeling that this 296 important subject has been ventilated in the House of Commons and that we are not open to the charge of neglecting matters which, simply because they are above party controversy, are often left unventilated.
§ Mr. THURTLE
In spite of the soothing words of the right hon. Gentleman, I think the Committee are still entitled to regard with suspicion the policy embodied in this White Paper. I think we can be certain that, sooner or later, the white settlers of Kenya are going to be admitted to either a small or a large part in the government of that Colony. I want the Committee to consider whether the admission of white settlers into the Government of Kenya is consistent with the pledge which we gave in 1923 that we would regard ourselves, specifically, as trustees of the natives in that area. Not only did we say that we were trustees of the natives, but that we could not delegate or share that trust. Furthermore, we laid down this specific condition that so far as Kenya was concerned, the interests of the natives would he paramount and that if and when those interests conflicted with the interests of the immigrant races, the interests of the natives should prevail. It is that point about which I am concerned. If the interests of the white settlers conflict with those of the native races, are we going to see to it that the interests of the native races prevail? If we admit white settlers into the Government and give them an important influence in that Government, it is dubious whether, should such a clash of interests occur, the natives will find their interests considered in preference to the white settlers' interests.
I do not wish to say anything harsh or unfair about the white settlers. I realise they are in a difficult position. They are not the dreadful exploiters of the natives which they are sometimes represented to be, but I do not believe that they are angels with sprouting wings, as some of my hon. Friends would appear to suggest. I believe they are just ordinary human beings like ourselves and apt to act as we would act in difficult conditions. What are the conditions in which the white settlers are living in Kenya? Many have invested a great deal of capital in land there and some have invested all their capital. They find that unless they get 297 a certain amount of labour for the cultivation of that land their investment will be largely thrown away. In these circumstances, there is a very strong self-interest in trying to secure as much native labour as possible. It is a notorious fact that at present there is nothing like an adequate supply of native labour for working the plantations. Many of the natives prefer to work in their own reservations rather than for the white settlers, and it the policy of the whites, animated by self-interest, to do everything they can to compel or induce the natives to leave their own reservations and work in the plantations.
To carry that policy into effect, certain means of pressure have been adopted. There has been a heavy increase in the head taxation upon natives. The result has been in many cases to compel young able-bodied men, against their will, to work for three or four months in the plantations of the white settlers. That is going to be the great conflict of interests in the future between the whites and the natives. In a case of that kind, it is better that an impartial tribunal like the House of Commons should defend the interests of the natives rather than have a body in Kenya to control these matters whose policy will be largely influenced by the white settlers. I realise that this discussion ought to come to an end because there is another matter of great national importance to Scotland to be discussed, and, without wishing to prolong this Debate, I submit that we have laid it down that we regard Kenya and its natives as being in our special trust and guardianship and, if we alter the constitution and Government of that country in such a way as to jeopardise the interests of the natives, then we shall be false to that trusteeship about which we have talked so much.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
There are some points on which I desire a reply if it is possible before this Debate concludes. I understand that in connection with the International Labour Office, a committee of colonial experts has been or is being formed to look after native questions, particularly in relation to labour conditions. From a list submitted to me, I find that all kind of official persons are named in connection with that Committee such as the Director-General administering the Colonies of Belgium, an official representative 298 of our own and a representative of the Dutch East Indies. As far as I can see they are all whites and all officials. I suggest that some person should be included in that Committee who is conversant with Colonial labour conditions from a working class point of view. The point of view of the white settlers and of the Governors should not be considered exclusively and I hope that something will be done in the direction of appointing a member of this Committee who is in direct touch with the labour side of these questions affecting the natives. Some time ago the hon. Member for the Attercliffe Division of Sheffield (Mr. Cecil Wilson) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies a question about a sentence of three years hard labour imposed upon Isa Macdonald Lawrence, a Nyasaland native for importing into Rhodesia six copies of "The Negro World" published in Philadelphia and two copies of the "Workers Herald" published in Johannesburg. The reply was:If this native has been convicted under the Seditious Publications (Prohibition) Ordinance of 1918, he would in the ordinary course serve his sentence in Nyasaland, and the question of deportation would not arise. The Seditious Publications Ordinance was not passed as a War-time measure, and the question of its continuance is primarily a matter for the consideration of the Governor of the Protectorate in the light of local conditions. I shall, no doubt, receive a report from the Governor."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1926; col. 803, Vol. 200.]I wish to know if a report has been received about this matter because I understand that the Judge responsible for this sentence has been transferred to another district. I should also like to know why the Rhodesian authorities prevent the formation of branches of the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union and why they take the line which they do take against allowing the natives to organise themselves in protective bodies in order to improve their conditions and standards of life. I wish to know if there is any chance of a revision of this sentence which seems to be a particularly harsh one for the offence of taking into this district a few newspapers.
Another question I have to put deals with a strike at Acre, in Palestine which, I understand, has been in progress for five months. It is a strike for the purpose of improving the industrial, and even the sanitary, conditions of people 299 engaged in the Nur match factory at Acre. I understand that recently the owners attempted to separate the Jews and the Arabs by attempting to persuade the Jews to throw over the Arabs and accept conditions for themselves. When this attempt to break the solidarity of the workpeople on strike failed, the whole of the people were regarded as having been dismissed, and blackleg labour was employed. This led to trouble, and the information I have is to the effect that there has been an attack on the pickets by the police. I am told the Palestinian Government employ British police. I know there is always a certain amount of resentment when these questions are raised, and that one has to be very careful, and I do not want to imply that our people out there have taken undue advantage of those whom they have to control, but a cablegram has been received which seems to imply that there is something which the Colonial Office ought to look into. It is stated that 13 girls and nine men were cruelly beaten, that they were picketing outside this Nur match factory, and that the British police, under the control of a non-commissioned officer, cruelly beat them. Batons were freely used and many of the pickets bled very freely as a result of the violence used against them. I am told that the violence, the brutality, was absolutely unjustified, that there was no reason whatever for the violence that was used.
I would like to know what are the facts of the case, and whether the Colonial Office here can take steps to have it looked into. The right hon. Gentleman told us in his speech that we must accept the care of these coloured peoples as a trust, that we must use our power righteously and justly. I am raising this question because I do not like the name of this country to be besmeared. The hon. Member may smile, but I am just as careful of the name of our people and of our country as anybody else, and I would like to know whether these things are right or wrong, and whether the statements are justified or not. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, we must regard our trust in a very serious way and jealously guard our reputation as the trustees of the welfare of the peoples whom we govern, and I think some 300 answer should be made to the charges. I think the Committee have a right to know whether those statements are right or wrong, and I sincerely hope the statements can be proved to be incorrect.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Can the hon. Member say who made the statements? Was it a British citizen or a foreigner?
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
The cablegram is not signed by a British name. It is signed by a native. I do not propose to give the name unless—well, I will show it to the hon. and gallant Member if he likes; but I do not know whether I am justified in giving the name.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I am asking whether this is correct or incorrect. I have given the text of the cable, and I am asking whether it is true. I am asking whether the Colonial Office can say whether these charges are justified or not, and I have said that I sincerely hope they will be proved to be incorrect. I sincerely hope the Under-Secretary will tell us whether there is any justification for these charges.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)
This is the first I have heard of this matter. The Government were given no warning that anything like this was going to be raised. We understood from the Opposition that the subject was to be East Africa. I have never seen the cablegram; I have never heard of the incident. I will make inquiries if the hon. Member will furnish me with the source of his information and inform me what the charge is. This matter has been sprung upon me, and I have absolutely no knowledge of what he has been talking about.