§ Mr. MARLEY
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, the Native population of our dependencies should not be exploited as a source of low-grade labour; no governmental pressure should be used to provide wage-labour for employers; due care should be taken of Native social well-being; the Native demand for land should be adequately and satisfactorily met and their rights therein properly safeguarded; where the Native population is not yet fitted for self-Government direct imperial control of Native policy should be fully maintained; Native self-governing institutions should be 582 fostered; and franchise and legal rights should be based upon the principle of equality for all without regard to race or colour.9.0 p.m.
I rise at this belated hour to move this Motion in regard to Colonial policy. I would say to the House one thing, in case it might be thought by same hon. Members that this is not an important matter. If hon. Members ever have the privilege by the luck of the ballot to put a similar Motion down, their post bag will soon show them that this is an extremely important subject receiving the attention of millions of people in the Empire. It is not my intention, or the intention of any hon. Members associated with me in putting down this Motion, to make the coloured races and their problems the playthings of party politics in the House of Commons. It would be the worst possible thing for the native races if it were to be discovered or suspected that, with the change of parties in this House, there would be a difference of attitude in relation to the indigenous people in those parts of the Empire over which we still have control. It is generally recognised by the white races of the world that we owe a great deal to the coloured races and that it is our duty to accept the trusteeship which economic power has given us over the fortunes and destinies of these people.
I am going to leave India out of the discussion to-night and deal with indigenous people other than Indians, upon whose condition there is a Commission of Inquiry which will in due course receive a great deal of attention in this House and elsewhere. Africa has been portioned out without reference to the indigenous people. Those who have been in a position to take the soil have allocated it to themselves, sometimes merely having a map for reference and not having been to that country or to any other part of the Empire. They have merely marked out their portions of which they claim control. Here we have the possibility of economic development within the next 20 or 30 years which may, and in my opinion will, direct the lives and the conditions of livelihood of these native peoples for practically all time. His Majesty's Government accept a trusteeship in relation to these people in the Crown Colonies and in mandated territories, and the officers of His Majesty's 583 Government, whether it be this Government or any other Government, act as trustees, and it is the primary duty of trustees to look after the ward.
Our policy with regard to native peoples does not give rise to any big discussion where the indigenous people are in a part of the earth where it is not possible for the white people to live and prosper. The question becomes acute in those areas where it is possible for European settlement to take place, where there arises very soon after the settlement a divergence and conflict of economic interests. It is well that we should notice the extraordinary difference in our native policy in West Africa and that adopted in regard to East Africa, whether it be Uganda, Tanganyika, Kenya or elsewhere. In West Africa it is more or less recognised that economic exploitation will not be left in the hands of white people. Therefore, certain privileges and rights have been vested in the tribes there, for the development of that country.
In East Africa, in South Africa and Central Africa, whether under this Government or any other Government, the question takes on a new aspect. It is in relation to those parts which are possible of development by European or indigenous native labour where settlement is possible, that the greatest exploitation of the indigenous population can take place. We say in the Motion thatthe Native population of our dependencies should not be exploited as a source of low-grade labour.In these particular countries the natives are for the most part agriculturists, and as soon as you touch the question of low-grade labour you go right down to the question of land. It is in regard to land policy that the exploitation of the indigenous population takes place. I am using the word "indigenous" specifically, because we are all natives of some place, and I am using the word "indigenous" in order that we may understand exactly the people to whom I refer. It may be argued, with a great deal of reason and logic, that in order to advance these people there ought to be experimental farming and large scale production going on alongside their own settlement, that 584 for that purpose we ought to alienate a certain amount of land for the development of the natives, and that in order to preserve primal organisations and the customs and laws of the tribes we should segregate them into certain reserves.
The policy of segregation is more or less accepted by large numbers of people, without question, but it is possible, while pretending to be kindly towards the native in using the policy of segregation, to use all the economic advantages of the land which was his, and yet exploit him of his labour, and leave him in the same bankrupt condition that he was in when first we went there. When you have segregation in reserves a difficulty arises at once. If you segregate the natives in reserves, where are the settlers to get their labour? They want the labour of the indigenous population, and they proceed to bargain with the native to leave his reserve and work in their settlement. Here I come to the second portion of our Resolution, with respect to whether Government pressure ought to be brought upon the native to leave his reserve and go to work for white settlers. What do we mean by the Government using pressure? We mean the Government permitting such a policy of taxation as to leave no option to the native but to leave his reserve, or so to arrange the land policy that it is impossible for the native to keep himself out of his own labour and his own effort within the reserve.
It is of the utmost importance that honesty and faithfulness in regard to our position should be kept with the natives in connection with the reserves. When a line of demarcation has been laid down it ought to be laid down definitely, once and for all, and it ought not to be possible to take land away from the native reserve or to lease or sublet in any way, because that breaks the natives' faith in the administrators and the people who are connected with their government. We are often advised to take into consideration the ideas of the man on the spot. In relation to that suggestion I would like to tell a story of an African native who was spoken to by a missionary on questions concerning land, Poll tax and Hut tax. The native said: "God must be a very wise person to live so far away." "Why," asked the missionary 585 "What makes you think that?" "Because," replied the native, "if he lived quite close at hand he would be so involved and so pressed upon by all the different interests that he would find it very awkward to be just in his decisions in regard to any particular problem that confronted him." The man on the spot because of the social conditions of his life is more or less unwillingly biassed in his attitude towards this problem. Let it not be thought for a moment that I mean that as an aspersion upon the Civil Service or those who administer in these areas. The representations which have been made to me in the last five or six weeks show that whenever there is a question of getting an unofficial majority in place of an official one, all sections of coloured people, whether they be Indians, or indigenous people, prefer an official majority to an unofficial majority, at the moment.
I am afraid that I am going rather a long way in relation to this subject, in view of the field that I have to cover, and as I am anxious to leave ample opportunity for others who desire to take part in the Debate, will proceed more rapidly. In relation to land there is the Hut tax and the Poll tax. Here I would appeal to the Government to see that the. Hut tax and the Poll tax are not such as to compel the native to leave his reserve and work in settlement areas, when he does not so desire. I would, further, ask them to consider making representations in regard to the removal of the Poll tax from the women. At the moment, the only women excluded from the Poll tax are widows who are beyond the child-bearing age, and in certain cases it is also levied upon children of 13 years of age. When the Poll tax becomes heavy, it arises almost of necessity that one of the family, whether it be the father, the mother, a boy or a girl have to go out from the reserve, and that means the breaking up of family life and the deprivation of these people. There is a system in Kenya whereby when a native contracts he comes under a special code known to natives as "Kipandi." His finger prints are taken and he is treated more or less as a convict. If he breaks his contract he is liable to six months' imprisonment or to an equivalent period of forced labour. I appeal to the Government to see how far it is possible 586 to institute a medical service or native hospital within the reserves. I am informed that there is only one native hospital in the whole of the East African territories, Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya. There is a medical service carried on by missionaries, very low indeed in regard to expenditure and very inefficient in regard to medical qualifications.
I also want to ask this question in relation to land. Would it not be possible for permission to be granted to natives within their reserves to grow any economical crop which is permitted to be grown outside by white settlers? It is argued that if natives are permitted to grow a coffee crop disease may spread from their plantations to the plantations of the settlers, and that is the reason for the de-rooting of the crops, of chief Koinangha, in Tanganyika in 1922. It must be remembered that many of the coffee plantations of settlers are in the control of natives, and it is well known in Tanganyika and Uganda by the natives, it may be that the growth of an economic crop like coffee, with proper marketing would afford a means whereby the native could pay his Hut and Poll taxes and would not have to go out and do forced labour. I do not say it is true; but that may be the case. Then in relation to the education of the natives. I am going to ask the House to seriously consider a proposition in relation to the whole question of native education. I think it would be a good thing to set up an inquiry, first of all, as to whether agriculture or technical education would be more suitable; whether the native language should be taught with English or with any other language, and whether advanced education should be given in the Protectorate and dependency or in the British Isles. If it is given in the dependency or colony, should it be given the same status as we have here?
At the moment higher education in relation to these colonies takes place here and in order to practise the higher professions in India or any of the colonies a British degree is almost essential. Many of these people who come here find it difficult indeed to get accommodation and when they go back they find it difficult to fit into the conditions in which they have to live. Whatever their degree and qualification they are socially ostracised by people of the same social standing in 587 the dependency. This is a vital thing. It is vital that we should decide our policy in regard to education and I appeal to the House to see the position and to lay down the lines upon which we should develop, because in 20 years' time Rhodesia and the whole of Central Africa will become a field for whites settlers in the exploitation of minerals to an extraordinary extent.
I would urge hon. Members to read certain hand books issued by the Government in regard to the geology and mineralogy of the whole of Central Africa. We ought to have a definite policy, and it should be an agreed policy, not the plaything of parties. When we have laid it down it should not be for immediate application to every one of these dependencies and colonies, irrespective of their conditions. We should be able to say: these people are now advanced to such a stage that we can apply this or that proposal. The individual educated natives are at the moment able to sow seeds of discontent by showing that there is a privilege here and a privilege there, which is not granted elsewhere; it is a differentiation between one particular Protectorate and another. Our policy should be so framed now that we can say to them that we are not precluded from taking the necessary step when the time arrives. We ought not to give away land or give dominion status to anybody anywhere which would preclude us carrying out the same policy to all individuals at the proper time when they are sufficiently advanced to benefit by the policy we have laid down. This House should not he less forward than the Parliament of 1893, which was responsible for giving self government to Natal. In that case the Government's instruction said:The Governor shall not assent in our name to (8) any Bill whereby any persons not of European birth or descent may be subjected to or made liable to any disabilities or restrictions to which persons of European birth and descent are not also subjected and made liable to.We have proposals in certain of the dependencies which go a long way from the spirit and letter of Colonial administration laid down in that year. Those who may dispute the difficulty of finding higher positions and the ability to take qualifications in our medical 588 institutions and universities and schools, if they will consult me afterwards I can show them actual documents of many students who have attempted to get places and have not succeeded. In relation to West Africa there is a very big dispute going on at the moment; a dispute over a Bill which is known as the Howard Bill, which proposes to give to the Governor-General power to select a chief, other than the one nominated by the chiefs, as a paramount chief, if he does not agree that the selection has been proper. Anyone who cares to read West African papers will find that this has been engaging the minds of intelligent West Africans for months past. There we have developed a policy in relation to the natives, in conjunction with the native chiefs, and in land policy in relation to the "white caps," which has been beneficial and has been recognised as such by the best West Africans. They are extremely loyal to the Crown and at the same time are extremely loyal to their own chiefs. They also object, I do not see much reason in their objection, to trial without a jury. A good judge may be able to give as good a decision as a bad jury. The assessors' ordinance, however, is a thing to which they do take great exception, where the assessors in a particular trial may come to a certain conclusion and the judge comes to a different conclusion and overrules it. Their objection to this is that in the initial stages it was brought in to deal with recalcitrants in administration, those who had been guilty of administrative malpractices.
A particular English case is engaging the mind of the West African at the moment. An Englishman was tried on a vital charge, and, after sentence had been given, it was reversed through the right of appeal to this country. They maintain that this is a procedure in respect of a European which would not have been admitted in the case of an educated African. I refer to the Dr. Knowles case. They say that in the case of a West African, his liberty would have been taken, and there would have been no right of appeal. We ought to define a broad and generous policy, and recognise the point made by the Duke of Devonshire in regard to this, that when the rights of the immigrant population come in conflict with those of the indigenous people, the native interest must 589 always predominate. In relation to this development of African administration, the words of Lord Lugard are useful:It is important to ascertain the customary law and to follow it when possible, for the appointment of a chief who is not the recognised heir or is disliked by the people may give rise to serious trouble.In relation to West Africa, Sir Hugh Clifford said:I doubt very much if any system of government which we can provide to replace it can possibly effect the same purpose with the same measure of efficiency as that which the natives themselves have followed. It should be the policy of our administration to give a higher quality of justice and larger liberty than would be otherwise possible.In taking up the white man's burden, we ought not at the same moment to take away the black man's birthright.
§ Mr. CHARLES BUXTON
I rise to second the very comprehensive Motion proposed by my hen. Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Marley). Seeing the lateness of the hour, I should prefer to confine myself to the more general considerations rather than go into the many details into which it is so easy to stray. In view of the considerable number of Members in all parts of the House who, I believe, intend to take part in the Debate, I shall abbreviate as much as I can what I have to say, because I want to express the hope that this Motion will go forth from the House, as a, great Charter of Rights for the backward native population of the Empire, and that it will be endorsed by the approval, if not unanimous, at any rate nearly unanimous approval of this honourable House. Short as may be the time in which we are allowed to debate it, truncated as that time has been, and brief as must be the survey we give to the subject, nevertheless once this Motion has been voted by the House and adopted as its considered opinion, it will not be neglected or ignored by the world outside.
As my hon. Friend has just said, there are vast numbers of people outside this House who take note of what it does, and take all the more note of a declaration such as this Motion will constitute, because it is not very often that this House is able to consider these questions at all, and still less often that it is able to consider them in the general and comprehensive form embodied in the Motion 590 now before us. It is the accident of the Ballot which has enabled it to happen at this moment, and that gives all the more importance to the declaration, or the charter, if it is adopted by the House, One need not enlarge on the magnitude of the subject, but it is perhaps well to remind ourselves that when we speak of Colonial policy, we perhaps are too much inclined to think of that subject, as relating to the self-governing Dominions of the Empire. When we speak of the Empire, four men out of five think of Australia, Canada and so forth, as if they were the Empire, but if we look at the population of the British Empire, and the human interests involved, we cannot fail to admit that the question of the Dominions is a relatively small part of the question of Imperial policy. In round figures, 450,000,000 represent the population of the British Empire, and of that number, but 60,000,000 are white people. Speaking very roughly, 390,000,000 are brown, black or yellow people, and the bulk of that total is constituted by the populations of India.
Like my hon. Friend, I do not want to speak to-night on the populations of India, because there are, and will be, many other opportunities. Let us exclude that population of roughly 320,000,000, and we are still left with no less than 70,000,000 outside India, the bulk of them in Africa, a large portion in the West Indies, the Pacific Islands and other parts of the globe, some in various parts of Asia, Ceylon and other areas. There are, then 70,000,000, if we exclude the teeming millions of India, and it is these 70,000,000 of whom we hear so little in this House, who have so little opportunity to have their wrongs or their grievances redressed and their voices heard. It is of these that we are thinking to-night. Colonial policy is not so much a question of looking after the Dominions. They are very well able to look after themselves. I do not belittle the importance of their influence, but they are able to make their voices heard and, so far from desiring us to raise our voices on their behalf, they would justly resent it if we said a single word about their internal affairs in this House.
From the point of view of the party on these benches this question of Colonial policy is first and foremost a Labour question. It is a great question arising out of the vast reservoir of cheap labour in 591 various parts of the world, and many people have been first brought to a serious consideration of this question from a realisation of its close bearing on the manual labour of this country. This great reservoir of low-paid labour may have a deleterious effect on the position of the white labourer wherever he may be found. I am not saying that that necessarily would be so if the native labourer was working under perfectly natural conditions everywhere, but if he is working under conditions of exploitation, that is to say, if he is going to be ground down in any way below his natural standard of living by the exercise of pressure in one form or another, or of force in one form or another, then he is in a position which is described as exploited. That is undoubtedly the case in a very large portion of the earth where these backward races are to be found and where their labour is to be found. They are undercutting very seriously the labour and the standard of living of the white worker. It is from that point of view that so great an interest is taken by the workers of this country, and of every country, in the operations of the International Labour Office at Geneva, because they see in international labour legislation the possibility of remedying a grave situation. It is for that reason, I presume, that in the very forefront of the Motion these words stand:the native population of our dependencies should not he exploited as a source of low-grade labour.Our objects, from this limited point of view, are two: First of all to prevent this exploitation, this pressure in one way or another of the backward people to work at a lower standard than if they were complete masters of their own action and labour; and, secondly, to raise in whatever way we can their own standard of living. We find that our own standard of living in this country would be best aided by raising their standard of living too, and not by grinding it down low. From the point of view of which so much has been said and thought in this House, from the point of view of employment, with the limited world market that exists now, it is of vital importance that the standard of living of these backward populations should be raised to the utmost possible. It is a matter which has the most vital bearing 592 on the question of unemployment in this country.
Without lingering over that, it is not only the point of view of the interest of the white worker that influences us. We recognise that that leads us on inevitably and infallibly to the whole question, which is a wider question, of humanity and responsibility—responsibility that we have in this House and this country for the welfare of these people in every respect. We have that responsibility because, whatever the causes may be, we find ourselves responsible for looking after them. We cannot cut ourselves adrift; it would be the worse for them if we did. We find ourselves responsible and we find ourselves bound, not merely by an economical bond, but by the broad human bond of our common humanity, and the responsibility for seeing that their interests are looked after. The responsibility is doubled and trebled because they cannot speak for themselves. Whatever our grievances and sorrows and pains, we at least have some machinery for making our voices heard; at least there is a chance that anybody may be heard through our representative system. But they have no representative system and have no chance of making their voices heard. These millions are dumb, and if anyone speaks for them, it must be we.
That leads us naturally on to the recognition of another fact which has come to the forefront more and more in recent years, and that is that the responsibility for these people is not solely a national responsibility, but is an international responsibility; and on these benches—I aim sure on other benches too—we are increasingly alive to the international responsibility that we bear. Through the League of Nations, through the operations of the International Labour Office, through the operation of the Mandates Commission, more and more reality is being given to this side of international responsibility. The duties of Empire, as I see them, are not confined to developing certain backward portions of the Empire for the benefit of the Mother Country, nor are they confined, as many would have said till recently, to developing them in the interests of the native populations that happen to be there. The only right theoretical way of looking at the ques- 593 tion is that the responsibility is to develop them for the benefit of the whole world—those who are in the territories and the world in general. Some have endeavoured to express that idea by the conception of a dual mandate, partly for the people on the spot and partly for the world outside. But at any rate that makes it more and more an international problem, and with that international aspect of it we on these benches have the heartiest sympathy.
I want to ask a question which brings this matter to a head. Why is this an urgent question? We think it is urgent or we should not make this Motion. But if you were to ask most people, in view of recent controversies about these matters, they would say that it is urgent because matters have come to a head in East Africa and something has to be done there. We have had committee after committee, commission after commission, and inquiry after inquiry, to see what ought to be done to meet certain discontents and dissatisfactions that exist in East Africa. They exist among the white men there. We are told that because in Kenya in particular, the white population is dissatisfied with its political and constitutional position, and because it has been very vocal in putting forward its discontents for some years past, therefore it is extremely urgent that we should do something in the way of constitutional changes in East Africa, in Kenya and in the adjacent territories.
Some have gone as far as to say that this matter is so urgent that, if we find it difficult to deal with the whole question of native rights and native policy, nevertheless we must go ahead in Kenya with certain constitutional changes which would have the effect of giving a greater amount of control to the European minority. I dispute that. I say that if we are not going to deal with this question all round, from the point of view of native policy, with a new and adequate provision for native policy, there is no earthly reason why we should deal with it at all. The right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) presided over a Commission which arrived at a very comprehensive scheme of reform. I am not saying that it is perfect, but it has the great merit in my eyes that it links together any question of constitutional alteration in Kenya with 594 the whole question of new provisions for safeguarding native rights, and these provisions are the keystone of the whole matter.
Without committing ourselves to details, that is the position which most of us here take up. If you are going to lay down new safeguards for native rights and think out a new native policy, then there may be a case for making such constitutional changes; but there is nothing whatever that is so urgent in the matter of constitutional change in Kenya as to compel us to take any step on that matter alone. If that is not urgent, what is? The question of native rights or of native wrongs—that is the question that really needs to be dealt with, and the matter on which new steps and a forward policy have to be taken and must be taken. It is not as if matters were satisfactory, and we were just thinking out elaborate provisions for making them better. Matters are not satisfactory. We speak of Kenya. None of us wants to make an attack on any particular section of our own people in any particular part of the Empire, and we do not make an attack on the individuals there. But it so happens that, owing to local conditions, that particular Colony has become the testing point, the storm-centre if you like, the place where this question comes to a head.
The same tendency is going on in other parts of Eastern and Central Africa, and even in other parts of the Empire. It is the tendency to extend the system which is sometimes called the South African system, whereby the natives are regarded mainly as a labour supply, crowded into totally insufficient reserves, and pressed, or induced, or encouraged—Heaven knows how many elegant phrases are used to cover up this pressure—to come out and work for the white man who has the greater part of the land under his control, and develops it in large plantations. That system is the exact opposite of the West African system as my hon. Friend described it, but it is a system which is, unfortunately, growing with rapid strides. It is a thoroughly bad system, and will have to be checked, but it is spreading, and the whole theory or philosophy of it, if I may use that phrase, is spreading all through East Africa, up through that belt of territory where you can get a certain limited amount of white 595 colonisation, right to Kenya, and it comes to a head in Kenya because the white population there happens to be larger than it is in any other part outside the Union of South Africa. That is why we concentrate on Kenya, and while the Commission to which I have referred has dealt very fully and fairly with the position of the settlers, we are not blaming the settlers. All we say is that the government of the country ought not to be handed over to people who have an economic interest on one side in the great controversy that arises there. They cannot be expected to be impartial judges of a question in which their own interests are so closely concerned.
What are the wrongs to which we refer? I can hardly do more than mention the heads. Under the head of labour we find that now—not at some future time, but at present—pressure is exercised in many ways to induce, or encourage, as the phrase is, the native labourer to come out and work for the whites. I am aware that declarations can be quoted on both sides. Sometimes a Governor says one thing, sometimes another, and officials Are puzzled as to what they are to do. Some are told that they are not to do anything to urge the native to go out and work for the white man, as against staying at home and cultivating his own fields; some act on that principle, and when they do so are told that they are doing wrong, and that they ought to urge the natives to come out and work. Others take the opposite line because opposing declarations have been made.
Let me give an example. There was a meeting of the so-called Convention of Associations, a body of settlers in Kenya at which a speech was made by the Governor himself. It is a startling fact that a purely private and non-governmental organisation should invariably be taken so seriously by governors, acting governors, and principal officials. On this occasion the Chief Native Commissioner, who is charged particularly with the duty of looking after the interests of the natives, came forth and said in his speech that while officials were not allowed to recruit it was their duty to give every encouragement and help to natives desiring to leave the reserves in search of employment. The Acting-Colonial Secretary said that the Govern- 596 ment believed that the attitude of hostility or neutrality—note the words—on the part of administrative officers hindered the flow of labour. Therefore they are not even to be neutral. They are to take sides. Therefore, he continued, "they were now definitely instructed to do their utmost to promote the flow of labour from the reserves, "a matter which he said was of immense importance to the industries of the country. That is not leaving things alone. That is not leaving a free choice. That is definitely taking the side of the white employer to induce the natives to come out and work for the whites. To show that this is no small question let me remind the House of the number of native workers expected by the settlers to come out and work for them. The Labour Commission of 1927 estimated that the total population which was able-bodied and capable of working was 400,000 and this included all those who were living on their own lands and working their own lands in the ordinary course of native life and agriculture. Then the question was asked "What do we as settlers want? "and the requirements of the settlers were estimated at 200,000. It was claimed that these 200,000 natives should be got, however they might be got, for wage labour on white estates. Thus of the 400,000 able-bodied in the population, no less than one-half were expected to leave their native agriculture, their native life and their native villages to work for people outside the areas where they normally resided. That is a terrific demand. I am not saying that it has been satisfied. I do not believe it has. Something like 150,000 I believe are actually got out, but the demand made was much greater than that.
On the question of the land, I would only point out that anxiety about losing their land is the most disturbing of all the disturbing influences in the minds of the native peoples. The Commission presided over by the late Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies three or four years ago reported that they found from their inquiries that nothing disturbed the minds of the natives more than the constant fear that they were going to lose their land. That fear has, unfortunately, been justified by the fact that so-called reserves which have been set aside for the natives have been nibbled away time after time in the interests of the white settlers, 597 and there is no guarantee, and the natives think there is no certainty, that it will not continue. It is one of those causes which, I venture to suggest, though I have not exact knowledge, is behind the outbreaks of so-called sedition and unrest and so forth which are attributed to other causes. They are amply explained by the fact of this anxiety with regard to possible losses of land in the future. On the question of taxation—I am speaking of present wrongs which need to be redressed—I have here a pamphlet which can be obtained from the office of the East African Dependencies in Cockspur Street. It is a very attractively produced pamphlet to induce people to go out and make their fortunes in Kenya, and among the attractions offered, in addition to sport and other things, are exceedingly low taxation—that is for the whites—and exceedingly cheap labour. On page 34, we find that the taxes are described as follows:There is no Income Tax in Kenya.Happy land!The following taxes are paid by European adult males: Non-native poll tax, 30s. per annum; education tax, 30s. per annum.And there it ends. The rest is merely licences for guns and motor cars. That is all the taxation that there is, and side by side with that I put the fact that the taxation levied upon the adult male natives has been estimated, if you take the number of adult able-bodied males, at as much as 30s.—the same sum. There have been various estimates, but they vary between 23s. and 30s. The nominal rate of the tax is lower, but seeing that that tax is levied on innumerable people who are not able-bodied at all, if you average it out among those who are able-bodied, you find that it works out at 25s., 26., 27s., and some say up to 30s. a head. That represents the earnings of three months' labour. Then, on page 34, we get the wages, but I will only give one figure:The cost of labour is as follows: general farm labourers, from 14s. to 18s."—not per week, but per month; that is to say, from 3s. 6d. a week up.
These are among the attractions offered to the white settler, and I venture to say that the taxation system is one which cannot be justified on grounds of justice as between the two races in the manner in 598 which it is levied. To give one sidelight upon that, it is, as has been suggested, used as a lever for inducing people to work; in addition to some Governmental pressure, it is used as a further lever to get people to come out to work. In the meeting of the Convention of Associations this year, 1929, the Government was very much criticised for not ordering the collection of taxes at a particular moment, namely, at the beginning of the coffee-picking season. The reason obviously is that the taxes should be put on at the very moment. when they would exercise the strongest screw in order that labour might be obtained at the particular time when it was specially needed. Taxation is urged not as an instrument of revenue, but as an instrument for compelling people to work for the white races. That is a little side-light on the question of taxation.
These are the things that make this question urgent—not the complaints of the white settlers, but the wrongs from which the native people are suffering now. We want a new policy, and this Motion suggests the remedy, in my opinion, in broad and comprehensive terms. That remedy is to be found in removing those grievances to which I have alluded, and one more, which is more important perhaps at bottom than all the others, and that relates to the question of equal legal rights, equal rights before the law. However much you may go into this question of political change, you should make that political change on one firm foundation, which has been tried in other parts of this Empire, and has succeeded, and that is on the basis of a common electoral roll for all electors and a franchise which shall be the same for all. It is easy to criticise and even to ridicule it. It may be said that under such a system you would have an education test and a property test, and that. you would admit very few Africans. I am prepared to say that if you only admit 100 Africans, or only, say, a dozen Africans, upon your electoral roll at the first beginning, it is still the right policy to pursue, because it is the principle of equality that counts.
It is the principle of equality, the principle of equal status, that means so much to the Africans themselves, and the same applies to our Indian fellow-subjects as to the Africans. It is the principle of 599 equality of status, which is granted with the possibility of development in future, with the possibility of saying to every man, "When you become a civilised man, you shall stand on an equal footing with the white man, and it is in your power to make yourself so "—it is that principle which appeals to the feelings and the aspirations of these people. I am not saying that that is a complete solution of the problem. I am merely saying that any solution except that, that any solution of the self-government problem which leads away from that, will lead in the wrong direction and is a dangerous step to take. We have to go forward in the right direction in this matter, to remedy these grievances, and give to these people, into their own hands, the possibility of taking a part, little by little, in the remedying of these grievances for themselves; and it is on those lines, which are laid down in this Motion, that we shall proceed if we are going to discharge the heavy responsibility that rests upon us.
Duchess of ATH0LL
The hon. Member for Elland (Mr. C. Buxton), who has just sat down, has rightly said that this is a very comprehensive Motion, and I hope he will forgive me for saying that I hardly think it is possible for this House to give a considered opinion upon it within the short space of two hours, bat I should like to assure the hon. Member for North St. Pancras (Mr. Marley) how heartily I reciprocate his desire that native policy, Colonial policy, should be considered on a non-party basis, and how heartily we, on these benches, join with him in upholding that doctrine of trusteeship to the native races which was laid down by a Conservative Minister of State some six years ago.
I do not propose to follow either of the hon. Members who have just spoken in the various economic questions into which they entered. I want to bring before the House some reasons why some Members of this House, who have been studying conditions amongst women and children in the Crown Colonies—women and girls particularly—feel that there is urgent need for more consideration to be given to the social well-being, health, and education of women and girls in some of our dependencies than sometimes seems 600 to have been the case. This small group of Members of all parties who have been considering this question for some months past has met missionaries of different churches, of long standing in different Colonies, also laymen and women, among them doctors, and we are one and all deeply concerned at many of the things which we have learned bearing on the status, the health, and the welfare generally of women and girls.
In particular, we have been terribly impressed by what we have learned on a subject on which I put a question to-day to the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, namely, the existence of A pre-marriage rite among young girls, among many African tribes, a rite which is frequently referred to as the circumcision of girls. We have heard that this obtains in Southerin Nigeria and among one tribe in Uganda, but we understand that it exists in its worst form among the Kikuyu tribe in Kenya. I am sure it will be realised that this is not an easy subject to deal with publicly. I venture to bring it before the House, because none of us can afford to forget the responsibility that has been impressed upon us from the benches opposite—the responsibility for that Colonial Empire -which is directly governed from this House. We must at all times be ready to study the conditions in that Colonial Empire, particularly when we remember how little native races may be able to express themselves, and how backward they may be in respect of many of their customs.
I wish to give the House some idea of what this rite means, because I am certain it is not realised by many people in this country. I doubt very much if, even apart from missionaries and doctors, and perhaps Government officials, there are many white people who realise what this rite is, and what it means to the health and well-being of the girls and women. The term applied to it is totally inadequate to give an idea of what it means. Our Committee has been assured by medical men, and by missionaries who have attended these women in hospital and in their homes, that the rite is nothing short of mutilation. It consists of the actual wholesale removal of parts connected with the organs of reproduction. The operation is performed publicly before one or two thousand people by an old woman of the tribe armed with an iron knife. No 601 anesthetic is given, and no antiseptics are used. The old woman goes with her knife from one girl to another, performing the 'operation, returning it may be once or twice to each victim. A lady missionary steeled herself to see this operation not long ago, and has given a description of it verified by photographs which she took. She told us that the girl has a whistle put into her mouth so that her screams will not be heard. A medical man told us that the operation leaves great scarring, contraction, and obstruction; natural eliminating processes are gravely interfered with, and there is reason to believe that much blood poisoning results. The obstruction causes terrible suffering at childbirth, and the first child is rarely born alive. It is difficult to ascertain the extent of the mortality, because there is no register of births or deaths, but one missionary who has attended many of these young women in hospital in their confinement. told me recently that out of 10 eases, affecting 20 lives, only six lives survived. I have also been told of a boarding house for 60 girls of this tribe, where a death had occurred every year lately from sometimes an apparently trivial cause. A cut finger may turn so septic owing to the poisoning from which the girl has suffered, that that type of injury may cause her death.
What is the policy of the Government in regard to this terrible custom? I put a question to the Under-Secretary of State to-day on the subject and his reply was:The policy followed up till now by the Colonial Governments concerned has been to bring persuasion to bear upon the tribes which non- practise the rite in its more brutal forms to return to the traditional and less harmful form of it. I am glad to say that a number of local native councils in East Africa have passed resolutions making illegal the severer forms of the operation.I will ask the hon. Gentleman how he can ensure that the old women who may receive instructions to practise the less severe form of the operation, will in fact carry out the instructions. When the knife is in her hand, what reason is there to believe that she will restrain herself? The committee of which I have spoken has been assured by a medical man of standing in East Africa that, while there is this lesser form, which is not so severe a form of mutilation as the one which 602 I have described, it is an operation which he would not sanction by anyone under his control. If we turn to the question of persuasion, surely one of the best ways in which to persuade people is to give them practical demonstrations of other and better ways; and that surely means that every opportunity should be taken to help them to be healthy, and to help women to realise that, if they do not go through this operation, they can become mothers with much less suffering and danger to their children and to themselves.
When we ask what is being done in Kenya in this matter of care for women in childbirth, we find that there are no midwives practising in the reserves; at least, that is our information. We are told that, though there are several Government hospitals—the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion, I think, was misinformed on the subject of hospitals—there are only women nurses in two of them. Therefore, the majority of these hospitals are not very well equipped for attending women in their confinement. No doubt, it may be difficult to find any women to train as midwives, but Uganda shows a splendid example of what can be done in that way. We have been informed that in the Protectorate, there are no less than 26 centres for maternity and child welfare, and, as a result, in the last 10 years, the infant mortality rate has dropped from 500 per thousand births—a terrible level—to not more than 130 per thousand in the kingdom of Uganda.
It seems difficult to believe that what has been possible in Uganda cannot be possible in Kenya. Kenya has its mission boarding houses and boarding schools maintained by the various missions, where African girls are taken in and given an all-round training for several years, and I have no doubt that this training is the best possible preparation for definite training as midwives. One of these boarding-houses is besieged by girls wanting to come in, and a missionary who has been in charge of it has told us that she has far more applications than she can possibly satisfy— applications from girls, some of whom at least wish to escape from this mutilation. To sum up this policy of advocating the lesser rite, it seems to me that it is impossible, first of all, to guarantee that the instructions given will be carried out, 603 and in the second place there is room for a great deal more to be done in the way of providing relief and hygienic instruction for these unhappy women. If we turn to what is said in the answer given to me as to the number of local native councils in East Africa which have passed resolutions making this severer operation illegal, I believe—
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not like to interrupt the Noble Lady, but this is a Motion of a very wide nature dealing with Colonial policy with regard to coloured races, and I want to ask whether the Noble Lady is entitled to deal with what seems to be a special interest of her own and with a question which she put to the Under-Secretary at Question Time to-day.
Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER (Mr. Dunnico)
I do not think the Noble Lady is out of order, although I do not think that it has more than an indirect bearing on the Motion before the House.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
May I point out that the Motion includes the wordsdue care should be taken of native social well beingand surely if ever there was a subject that was germane to native social wellbeing it is the continuance of this barbarous and intolerable custom in one of our Dependencies.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
May I say that the practice which has been described is very prevalent among native tribes, and it is imperative on those in authority to take every means possible to stop it.
I have ruled that the Noble Lady is not out of order, but that she is dealing with but a restricted phase of the Motion.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I submit that the particular point with which I am trying to deal is of such tremendous importance—
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. While the Deputy-Speaker has given a ruling that this does come within the scope of the Motion, and anything about black men would be within its scope, yet there is in these things a certain perspective, and I put it to—
Duchess of ATHOLL
If the House will allow me I will show that this is a very urgent question. In his answer to-day the Under-Secretary stated that certain native counsels were trying to stop the severer form of this operation. I believe they have passed a rule instituting a punishment of one month's imprisonment and a fine of 50s. for offenders, but that, I am told, refers only to the reserves, and is easily evaded elsewhere I have heard of a case of a Christian girl who wished to avoid being subjected to either operation, but she was seized by her relatives and obliged to submit to the severest form. Where the urgency of the question comes in is this, that an appeal was made to 'a native Court for damages against the operator, but the magistrate ruled that no grievous hurt had been done to the girl.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I believe it was in July this year. I have seen a letter of protest in regard to it in the "East African Standard" of August. The case was carried to the Supreme Court, where the decision of the native Court was upheld, so that the woman who inflicted this terrible operation on this girl against her will has only a sentence of 30s. I am quite well aware that no Member of this House must say anything which reflects on the Courts, and so I will only say that we must presume that the Supreme Court of Kenya, in giving this decision, was carrying out the law. In that case the law must be altered, and it is for the House of Commons to show the Government of Kenya that that sort of law is not good enough. It is intolerable that a native girl who has had the courage to stand out against this custom of her tribe should be seized and forcibly operated on in this way. The letter from a well-known missionary, to which I have already alluded, referred to the fact that hundreds of young girls were anxious to escape from this operation. I must say to hon. Members that I understand the policy of British Governments of all political complexions has been to 605 avoid interference as far as possible with native customs subject to this qualification, that they were not contrary to justice and humanity. I ask the House what could be more inhuman than the practice which I have described, and what could be more contrary to what we understand as British justice than that a girl endeavouring to escape from this terrible custom should not have the protection of a British Court.
One hon. Member just now referred to the practice of suttee. That is, I believe, the only one of the old practices of India with which we have interfered, and which we have definitely prohibited by law. I would remind the House that that definite and courageous step was taken just one hundred years ago, and I say to the House in all sincerity, and after very careful deliberation, that I regard this custom of the mutilation of girls as practised in Kenya among the Kikuyu as even more injurious to the race than suttee, terrible though suttee was. The suffering it inflicts may not be so hideous as the suffering of suttee, but certainly it is more prolonged; it may follow a girl through life, and it is more injurious to the race because it affects the health and lives of both women and children.
Some of my hon. Friends who have been serving on this committee went with me the other day to ask the Secretary of State if he would set up a Select Committee to inquire into this terrible practice, but he said he could not see his way to do so. Nevertheless, he has assured us that he is going to communicate with the Governors of the Crown Colonies on this subject, and endeavour to secure from them fuller information than he has at present. I submit that, if the information he obtains from official sources confirms the statements that have been made to the committee by several people of experience, every effort should be made to put an end to this terrible abuse. I have only to-day seen a public letter in an East African paper from the Chairman and Secretary of a committee of Kikuyu women protesting against this practice. The native elders of certainly one missionary church in Kenya have for several years taken a very strong line against it, and there are, I believe, many of the younger men among the Kikuyu who deplore it. Are we going to be more 606 backward in our standards, lower in our standards than the Christians, or even some of the non-Christians among the Kikuyu people?
I do not wish to detain the House longer, because there is very little time left, and there are several other speakers, but I would say to the Under-Secretary how terribly concerned this committee feel about this question, and I would appeal to the hon. Gentleman to learn all he can about it, to impress upon the Governors how greatly distressed anyone is who has heard the information provided by those who have had experience of this terrible custom, to urge them to keep ever in view our trusteeship for the native races, and to allow no difficulties to stand in the way of doing everything that may be possible to end a barbarous custom which is causing untold suffering, ill-health and loss of life.
§ Miss RATHBONE
I beg to move, in line 10, to leave out the word "or, "and, at the end of the question, to add the words "or sex."
This Amendment would make the last sentence of the Motion read as follow:Native self-governing institutions should be fostered; and franchise and legal rights should be based upon the principle of equality for all without regard to race, colour, or sex.In moving it, my motive is not to discuss the great abstract principle of sex equality, important as I believe that to be. My object is a much more immediately practical one. The Noble Lady the Member for Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) has communicated to the House some of the results of the consultations that we have been holding with those who have had intimate acquaintance with the lives of coloured women in some parts of Africa, and has dealt with the question of the effect of certain customs on the health of native women. I want very shortly to allude to another aspect of the question. We have had evidence from witnesses which has revealed to us that the position of the native women in many of these tribes—I do not say all—is one of sheer slavery, accompanied by many of the worst conditions of slavery, and carried on practically without let or hindrance from the British authorities—slavery, not to Europeans, but to men of their own race. If it be thought that the word "slavery" is an exaggeration, 607 may I quote the definition of the word in the Slavery Convention of the League of Nations:Slavery is the condition or status of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.We have evidence that practically all the rights of ownership are, in effect, exercised over the coloured women of these races. A girl is sold by her father, often in early infancy, without choice, to the man who is destined to be her husband. Before marriage she undergoes, again without choice, at the age of 10 or 11, the cruel custom that has been described by the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross. After marriage she becomes the property of her husband, to be used by him and treated by him as he desires. If he dies, she becomes the absolute property of his next male kin, it may be his brother, his cousin, or even a little boy of her own. She may be sold by her new owner in one direction, her daughter may be sold in another direction; the sons are usually retained as the representatives of the tribe. One witness, a very cautious moderate man, evidently anxious not to exaggerate but rather impatient with the questions with which we plied him as to whether a woman had rights over real or personal property or over her children, said, "I can summarise it very shortly. So far as we can judge, a woman in these tribes has no rights at all from the moment she is born until the moment she dies. "If that is not slavery, what is? To endure torture and mutilation, to be sold in marriage to a man whom she loathes, to be obliged to endure childbirth under conditions under which childbirth is carried on, without any of the comforts of decent treatment and medical care, and separated forcibly from her children —are those things less hurtful and humiliating and degrading to humanity because the persons who perpetuate them are the blood relations of the women who endure them?
I would not have it thought that we who are responsible for this Amendment are out of sympathy with the purpose of the Motion. Most of us are in full sympathy with it. We do not wish to draw a red herring across the trail or to distract attention from the need of better relations between coloured 608 men and white men. Two blacks do not make a white. The exploitation of coloured women by coloured men is no excuse for the exploitation of coloured men by white men. But if we are asked to accept the principle that native self-governing institutions should be fostered, and the franchise and equal rights should be based upon the principle of all without regard to sex or colour, we hope the champions of these native races will remind them that it has been an old principle that there is no slavery under the British flag. It has been a terrible shock to many of us to whom these facts are new that there is slavery under the British flag, not in small numbers, but some millions at least of women, and it is tolerated so long as you can get away under the pretence that it is a domestic custom. Many of us will never be satisfied until the full hideous truth is disclosed and made known to the women of the world and everything that can be done is done to stamp out slavery of this kind, whether by legislation, by education, or by public opinion. Let them take this message to the men of the native races. There can be no equal citizenship between coloured men and white men till there is equal citizenship between coloured men and coloured women.
§ Colonel WEDGWO0D
I beg to second the Amendment.
When I first heard of these vile things about six months ago, I think it was the cruelty to these children that most horrified me. Since then, what has horrified me far more is that this thing is tolerated, not by the House—we do not know anything about it—but by the English women living in Kenya. It is tolerated by these settlers. It is part of the horrible policy of the bar between human beings and human cattle. This thing used to exist in Uganda. Uganda used to be even worse than Kenya, not in this way, but in a hundred ways. The missionaries have been in Uganda for 35 years, and Uganda is now an example to the whole of Africa. The women are decently treated as the equals of men where they are more or less civilised after 35 years of Christian missions. I never thought the day would come when I should speak well of Christian missions. They have done it there, but we have been 30 years in Kenya. English women and men have been living amongst these things for 30 years and it is tolerated 609 and it is legal to-day, and if a, girl tries to escape from it, she has no case before a British Court. Is not that appalling? It seems to me this is a case where our eyes are opened to the awful gulf that there is between white and coloured in some parts of our Colonies. It sometimes forces me to think of the black man in a black Colony. French officials may treat him unjustly, live on his women, bully him, but the nigger in a French Colony will strike his breast and say, "I am a French citizen." I have never heard a native in an English Colony say that he is proud of being an Englishman. [Interruption.]
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
In the West Indies, perhaps. The real reason is that infernal colour bar which has caused the system winch regulates the relations between white and coloured men. That is why I get back to the Motion. The essence of the Motion is that we should treat both black and white before the law in every respect as equals. Every item of difference is carefully set clown in Kenya. He may not own or lease land, he may not rent land, he may not grow coffee in Kenya, he must have his finger prints taken in Kenya, he may not leave his master unless he goes to prison in Kenya. These are all the differences between black and white in Kenya. They are differences which are observed else- where, but in Kenya the position is worse. I am quite certain that it all comes back to this in the end. Are you going to give these people a chance of being civilised, educated, and treated exactly in the same way as the white population? As long as the Colonial Office sticks to the system of communal representation, whether in Kenya or anywhere else, separating black and white in India and in Africa, perpetuating the idea that they should not possibly vote for each other, that it would be loss of caste and prestige for a white man to go and ask a black man for his vote, as long as you stick to that idea, you permanently degrade the man who is not given the same right of citizenship as another. The one thing that they are determined upon in Kenya is that they will not have a separate roll of electors for Indians. What we want is the common roll. The common roll need not swamp your white settler in the least. 610 All that we ask in the common roll is that a man or woman shall be sufficiently educated to pass a civilised test. You may have a property test too, if you like. If you have the common roll you at least establish the possibility of future common interests in a common citizenship.
I despair of getting the common rights asked for in this Motion for the black men in Africa if these rights are always to be dependent upon the presence in this House of a few people who hate the injustices done to the blacks. We cannot possibly protect the blacks thousands of miles away, and the only chance of their protecting themselves, in the long run, is that they shall have the right when they acquire a certain amount of education to have a voice in the Government to protect themselves. Therefore, I put before everything else this question of a common roll of electors. The hon. Gentleman—I wish he were a right hon. Gentleman—on the Front Bench who is now in charge of this Department has recently come back from Ceylon, where he has done justice to the people there. He has abolished communal representation and, in the interests of the citizens, has established a common roll there. Could he not apply that principle, in however elementary a manner, to this country of Kenya, where it is far more necessary? Unless the black has a chance of some day rising to the position of being able to vote for a white man, or even to stand himself for Parliament, all our pious Resolutions will fail, in the long run, because we cannot permanently protect from England a civilisation developing so rapidly as the civilisation of Kenya to-day.
The natives in Kenya, I think, trust me pretty well. I would beg of them to remember that their chance of citizenship, their chance of rising to equality with the white, all depends upon their realising that this horrible circumcision custom should be put an end to, and that their rise in civilisation will be measured there, as it is measured everywhere else, by the treatment of women by them. It is far better to get these people by persuasion to drop these practices, just as Suttee was put down. If persuasion does not succeed, then the law must do it, in the interests of humanity and in the interests of civilisation.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Dr. Drummond Shiels)
I am sorry that the time for our discussion has been cut so short to-night, and that my rising now prevents other hon. Members, some of whom I would have wished very much to have heard, from speaking. I know well the tragedy of the undelivered speech, but I think that hon. Members would expect that there should be some Government comment on this Resolution. We ought to be grateful to the hon. Member for St. Pancras North (Mr. Marley), who moved the Resolution, for bringing this subject before us. I enjoyed his speech, which was full of humanity and of robust commonsense, as well as the speeches that have followed. It is natural that in this House the bulk of our time should be taken up with domestic matters, which are important and often very urgent. Foreign affairs also receive a good deal of attention. India has been recently brought prominently before us, and is likely to be still more so in the future, which is all to the good. But I have often thought that it is not sufficiently or frequently enough realised that this House is directly responsible for the welfare of from 50,000,000 to 70,000,000 of human beings, scattered all over the earth, whose conditions of life may be adversely or happily affected by decisions which are taken here. I wonder how many Members of Parliament could score 75 per cent. of points in a, test as to the names of British colonies and protectorates, leaving out the question of where they are.
There are some 36 British colonies and protectorates, including the mandated territories. In the administration of those dependencies there are about 60,000 colonial public service officials engaged—a fact not often realised. These British officials are important people. They are sometimes criticised, and they may—on occasion—deserve it; but they are performing a great service, and many of them are doing exceptionally fine work without any publicity. They have to make many sacrifices. Their family life is frequently broken up, they are often cut off from their wives and children for years, and have to endure bad climatic conditions. Nothing is better for them than to know that this House is interested in the problems and difficulties which they have to face constantly and which are often numerous and great. For 612 all these reasons this discussion is to be welcomed.
The coloured peoples of the Empire present many variations of race and culture and no uniform policy is possible or desirable. There are, however, certain general principles which govern British policy and administration which are practically all covered by the terms of the Motion. These general principles have been set out in various documents, but as time is short I shall not quote from any of them. Suffice it for me to say that the Government accept fully the principles of the Devonshire and similar declarations in the spirit and in the letter. The method of the application of these principles is a matter which necessarily arouses controversy from time to time, but the principles themselves, I hope, are clear.
The Motion refers to the social well-being of the natives. One of the first considerations in that connection is health. You cannot have people happy and contented unless they have good health. Some attention has been devoted to this to-night. In the Colonial service increasing attention is being given to it. There are now 56 separate medical departments in the Colonies with 2,000 qualified medical men and women. British, Asiatic and African, so that, in quite a significant way, there has been introduced the principle of racial equality. The Colonial Office serves in some measure as an Imperial ministry of health. The chief medical officer at the Colonial Office keeps in touch with the medical difficulties of the overseas medical officers. There is in London an advisory medical and sanitary committee, and a medical research committee. These committees review colonial medical problems and stimulate and advise upon medical research. Very much more work and more research are required.
In regard to the special subject brought forward in the speech of the hon. Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl)—I think we should be grateful to her for raising the matter—I can assure her that she is pushing an open door so far as I am personally concerned in seeking to arouse my detestation of the practice she mentioned, and I know that my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies shares my view. It is, however, my duty to point 613 out, at the same time, the difficulty of interfering with such traditional customs, and, while I do not say that this is an absolute bar to action, it does constitute a great obstacle. The instance which the Noble Lady gave of the attitude of the native Courts and of the relatives, and what we know from other sources of cases where girls who have refused to adopt this practice have been ostracised, show that it will require considerable efforts to get the practice stopped. My Noble Friend, the Secretary of State, is exploring the matter further, getting all the available information, and in the light of that he may be able to take action which, I hope, will satisfy the Noble Lady and also the conscience of this House.
A great deal has been said about the conditions of labour among coloured people. Time will not permit me to go into this subject, but I recognise the anxiety felt and the fact that the House is concerned about the possibilities of exploitation, which has not been unknown in the past. The British representatives at the League of Nations have taken a foremast place in negotiating and concluding the Slavery Convention the provisions of which have been made binding on all the British non-selfgoverning colonies, dependencies and mandated territories. If, as we hope, a satisfactory international convention for the limitation of forced labour is concluded at the next conference in 1930 it will be applied to all our dependencies. It is now laid down that compulsory labour must be limited to work of a public utility character near the workers' own homes, and done under strict regulation.
The question has been raised of the relation of native taxation to compulsory labour. The Poll Tax and Hut Tax have not always been used in Africa merely as a means of raising revenue. The Government position is that native labour should not be compelled to hire itself out solely to provide the means of meeting taxation. I believe this desirable end is now generally attained in Africa, though His Majesty's Government will always be watchful to see that no abuses occur. Hon. Members will remember that the Hilton Young Commission., after a very careful investigation, reported that native taxation, in East Africa, at least, was roughly commensurate with ability to pay. The 614 relation to other taxation must be watched.
We come back, as we always must come back, to the land question. It is an accepted policy that land allotted to natives is not to be alienated except for public utility purposes, when the consent of the Secretary of State must be obtained. Any land taken for public utility purposes must be replaced by an equivalent amount. There are other questions I must leave, but I would like to say one word about education.
I am not at all happy about its position throughout the Dependencies. Out of roughly 15,000,000 children of school age, only 2,500,000 are enrolled as scholars, and I think one of the strongest criticisms that can be made of our past Colonial history is for our neglect of primary education. I feel that many of our difficulties in Kenya would have been lessened to-day if the provision of primary education had been put into operation many years ago. A year ago an advisory committee on education in the Colonies was appointed. It superseded a committee on native education in Africa which existed some years previously. It is a very strong committee and has some of our leading educationists on it. It has the very good custom of roping in any visiting education director from the Colonies for consultation, and it has been able to work in many important directions. I hope that it will be able to provide us with some general lines of policy which will help to remove a stigma on our Colonial administration. I would like to have mentioned something about higher education. I can, at least, say that in Achimota, in the West and in Makerere in the East are two great institutions which might well be the genesis of African universities.
I would also have liked to say something about progress towards self-government. I feel that education and the encouragement of the development of self-governing institutions are the two most important requirements in our Colonial Empire policy. In this connection I am very much interested in the question of the gradual development of Legislative Councils from official and nominated to elected assemblies and with the increase, in number and importance, of local self-governing bodies as a training ground for the larger spheres. This development has 615 been seriously neglected, and we have lost a fine recruiting ground for administrators who might have eased the situation in many directions. But I have not time to go into that.
There is also the question of franchise and representation, about which I would have liked to have said something. There is great need also for industrial legislation. A number of Colonies have no Workmen's Compensation Act, no Employers' Liability Act, and only very primitive factory legislation, or none at all. Then there is the important question of wage regulations. These are matters which ought to be explored. I hope that we may see them attended to in these various Colonies.
I apologise for not replying to many of the points that have been raised. I have tried in a general way to give a survey, although I recognise that it has been very imperfect. It would have been less imperfect if I had had longer time. In closing, let me say that I believe the increased responsibility which we ought to feel for our Colonies has been to some extent recognised. There have been great changes in the Colonial Office in recent years. Although we on this side have differed sometimes on colonial policy with the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for the Colonies, I would like to say that in nay opinion, and I believe in the opinion of all who know the facts, he and his versatile and able late Under-Secretary have made a very great improvement in the Colonial Office. It is now alive with all sorts of committees working out plans for bettering the conditions of people in the Colonies. I think we have good reason for being hopeful of the progress of our Colonial Empire in the direction of a greater measure of health and comfort for our coloured fellow subjects. I have great pleasure in accepting the Motion and the Amendment which has been moved to it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Main question, as amended, again proposed.616
§ Mr. MARLEY
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
I feel that one of the short time at my disposal is to congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for the colonies on his extremely able and interesting speech—
§ MR. MARLEY
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the question be now put," but Mr SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that question.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock the Debate stood adjourned.