Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £98,306, 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, 1931, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies."—[Note: £49,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. FOOT
I wish to take the opportunity upon this Vote of raising a matter which has been very prominently before the country during the last week or fortnight and dealt with by Ministers in a number of replies to questions put by hon. Members in all parts of the House. I want to raise the question of the position in Malta, having regard to the answer which was made by the Prime Minister on Tuesday of this week, and the further answer which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking for the Prime Minister, in the House this afternoon. I regard this question as being one of the highest possible im- 1455 portance affecting this country and our general Imperial relations. In dealing with this matter, it will be necessary for me to ask the patience of the Committee so that I may, first of all, show how the position has arisen, and ask the Committee to consider the proposals which have been made to deal with the very difficult situation with which we are now confronted.
Malta is governed under a constitution set up in the year 1921, and I understand that it has 32 Members of Parliament. These Members, it is interesting to note, are elected under a system of proportional representation—I commend the example to this country—and the electorate numbers about 50,000. I understand that were it not for the system of proportional representation in Malta the situation there would be very much more acute than it is at the present time. When the election of 1927 took place, Lord Strickland, who was formerly a Member of this House, and his party were successful at the polls, and from that time up to the present time there have been many and increasing difficulties. It may be said that those difficulties commenced with a question which arose in relation to the proposed deportation of a priest from the island. Yesterday, in another place—I have no right to refer to the details of the discussion—a statement was made by Lord Strickland which I commend to the attention of the Committee.
I do not think it would be right for me to ask the Committee to spend time in looking back upon the details of that case. Difficulties did arise, and they have become more and more acute in the last two or three years. Early last year there was a desire on all sides that these difficulties, if possible, should be met. The suggestion was made that the Vatican might send a representative to the Island to make a close and careful inquiry into the circumstances so that, if possible, a concordat might be arrived at between the rival parties. The delegate who was selected and given the great title of the Delegate Apostolic was Mgr. Robinson. He came to the Island on the 3rd April last year, and he left the Island on the 29th May last year. He made many inquiries, and interviewed all the 1456 parties concerned. This investigation made by Mgr. Robinson was pressed for by our authorities, so that the differences between the two parties in Malta might, if possible, be settled before the election of 1930 arose.
Following upon that has arisen the correspondence with the Holy See relating to Maltese affairs with which, I expect, most hon. Members are acquainted. A most remarkable document was presented to Parliament only a few days ago. It might be asked, why should it be a Foreign Office document, seeing that it dealt with a British colony? The answer is that when the Constitution was set up in 1921 there were certain reservations made in the Constitution, one of which was that in the British Government remained all responsibility for negotiations and communications with any foreign State. The Vatican, besides being the representative of a great religious organisation, is, of course, a foreign State, and it is as well to remember this fact in the course of any discussions which may take place later on in this House.
There followed this correspondence, occupying something like 94 pages contained in a Blue Book. The correspondence sets out the history of the difficulties. Declarations were made to the British Government from the Ambassador, Mr. Chilton, whose conduct throughout has been altogether admirable. Acting for the British Government, he has found it necessary to use terms in relation to the diplomacy of the Vatican which, I think, must seem very strange in the history of diplomatic correspondence, certainly of recent years. It has been necessary for the representative of this country to tell the representative of the Vatican that their action has been discourteous, and it has been necessary for him to say that the action of the Vatican has been reprehensible. Let me quote a passage from page 88. One knows that diplomatic language is generally very suave, words are used that are gentle, and there is great care taken that the susceptibilities shall not be offended. That makes even more remarkable the words contained in the statement handed by Mr. Chilton to the Cardinal Secretary of State:These acts"—1457 he is speaking of the acts of the Vatican—seem in the highest degree reprehensible to His Majesty's Government, who must protest against them in the most emphatic manner.It is necessary for me to refer to that correspondence so that I may lead up to the present situation, and we may be able to weigh the proposals that the Government are taking to deal with it. The impression left upon my mind after reading and re-reading the Blue Book is that behind the action of the representatives of the Vatican there was prevarication, deliberate prevarication, that in many cases the diplomacy seemed to be rather slippery diplomacy, and that frequently there was a very unfortunate economy so far as truth was concerned, deserving the words used in another place, that those who represented the Vatican in this matter have behaved on more than one occasion with insolence. That word is not used in the first place by myself, but was used by one who was formerly a Member of this House.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not want unduly to interfere with the right of the hon. Member to raise this question. He is entitled to raise the merits of the question in so far as it relates to the Colonial Office, but such matters as concern the Foreign Office and are outside the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office will not be in order on this Vote.
§ Mr. FOOT
I appreciate the correction, but may I submit that the action of the Colonial Office has been determined by the condition of affairs that has arisen in Malta. We are not in a position to express an opinion in this House upon the decision that has been arrived at by His Majesty's Government and the Colonial Office unless we can see how the present position has arisen.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
As I have said, I do not want unduly to restrict the hon. Member's opportunity of raising this question, but it is always a matter of difficulty for the Chairman in Committee of Supply to avoid forming a bad precedent. This Vote must be kept strictly to the colonial aspect of the situation or, at any rate, to that part of it for which the Colonial Office is responsible. I appreciate the difficulty of the hon. Member, but he must also appreciate my difficulty in seeking not to create a bad precedent.
§ Mr. FOOT
If in my subsequent remarks I offend against the Rules of Order I shall be perfectly willing at once loyally to accept your Ruling. I will, if I may, honestly keep to this line, and I will simply relate the circumstances so that, if possible, the Committee may consider whether the course, the very remarkable course, of suspending the Constitution in Malta has been justified by what has happened. It will be necessary for me to deal particularly with that abrupt and very necessary act which was very reluctantly taken by His Majesty's Government. From the correspondence two facts have emerged. The first was the repeated statement by His Majesty's Minister that the real source of the difficulty was the intense participation in politics in Malta on the part of the priests. The next was that there was a threat of ex-communication against those who refused to support the candidates of a particular party, and the third was the demand by the representatives of the Vatican for the removal of Lord Strickland, himself a Roman Catholic, the Prime Minister of that Island. That was made clear on page 62 of the correspondence, where Mr. Chilton sends to the Foreign Secretary extracts from an interview which he had with the representative of the Vatican. He says:It looks, therefore, as if there is no hope whatsoever of inducing the Vatican to intervene with the Bishops with a view to instructing the priests not to interfere in political affairs, and still less of initiating concordat negotiations so long as Lord Strickland is in power.The concluding words of the Blue Book are remarkable, and I draw the attention of the Committee to them because I think they are words that were very necessary to be said, and very rightly said. In concluding the correspondence in the Blue Book His Majesty's Government use these words:Instead of this they"—that is, the Vatican—have now refused to take, as far as concerns them, the steps necessary for the restoration of a normal political life in Malta, whilst, before that, they had delayed many months the long promised negotiations for defining the relations between Church and State in the Island, and finally rendered them impossible by a condition as to the personality of the Head of the Maltese administration, which constitutes nothing less than a claim to interfere in the domestic politics of a British Colony.1459 It is with these words that the Book closes, and I want to express my profound gratitude and pride that during this difficult time the best tradition of this country has been upheld by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He has been subjected to criticism. He was criticised yesterday. It has been said that unusual words have been introduced into this diplomacy. There were unusual words because a very unusual situation had arisen. I believe that in the course of that correspondence the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has very properly——
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am afraid that we cannot discuss the action of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on this Vote. I am quite prepared to allow as much liberty as I can to the hon. Member, so far as it can be allowed under this Vote. If the general question has to be raised, there are other Parliamentary means of raising it. We must restrict the subject of discussion to this Vote.
§ Mr. FOOT
I think I shall be able to say what I have to say without any further reference to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The reason why the Foreign Office appears in this matter is that in the Constitution that was set up for the Colony there was a reservation to the Foreign Office of the conduct of the foreign affairs of the Colony. Let me get back to the question of the difficulties which have arisen. In the early part of this year there was to have been an election, and just before the election a pastoral letter was issued, which is set out in the Blue Book. That pastoral letter was published by the Bishops of Malta and Gozo at the very last moment. Our representatives had asked again and again that there should be a settlement of this problem, but they had been held off. The thing had been postponed again and again until, just on the eve of the elections, when it would do most damage, the thunderbolt was hurled at the Maltese people. A declaration was made in what is called the pastoral letter, telling the Maltese people that when they went into the polling booth, first of all they were bound to vote, and that when they did vote it would be a mortal sin if they voted for Lord Strickland or 1460 any candidate belonging to his party or to the Labour Party. It told them that it would be a mortal sin if any one of them stood as a candidate for that party, and that it would be a mortal sin if they failed to vote for the candidates of the other party. At the same time, threats of excommunication were made, and a ban was put on the Government newspaper to the effect that any one reading, distributing or selling a newspaper belonging to that party was likely to be excommunicated, with bankruptcy threatened to those who own the newspapers.
On the eve of the election those who went to confess their sins to the priests were asked first the question, "Do you intend to vote for Strickland and his party" If he said "Yes," then he had to go away with his sins unconfessed and absolution refused. That is what has happened in the year of grace 1530. It may be that in this country we do not attach much importance to it, but in Malta a great deal of importance is attached to it. To devout and faithful people it means that if they exercise the first right of a free citizen they are denying themselves the forgiveness of sins, the grace that comes in baptism, the grace and the blessing which come with the benediction of the church upon marriage, and consolation of religion for the dying. They are threatened with the pains of eternal punishment. That is what it meant, and it justifies the action of the Government. These poor people, these devout people, were to be cut off from the resources of divine grace because they did not favour the particular nominee of this party; they were to be separated from the church, militant and triumphant, because they exercised the first right of a free citizen in the British Empire. We were discussing in this House a few months ago the Blasphemy Bill. This claim is worse blasphemy than that which was ever sold at the kiosks of Paris or reprinted in the columns of the "Times" newspaper telling us something of the horrors of blasphemy under Soviet rule.
I want the Committee to realise the position if this had been done in this country. The basis of our Imperial splendour and greatness is this, that we give to any British citizen in distant lands what we would demand for the British citizen in London. Macaulay 1461 said of Burke that oppression in Bengal was the same thing to him as oppression in the streets of London. That is our first demand. We demand that these people when they go into the polling booth shall be able to go as freely and with as full protection as any citizen in any constituency in this country. If this threat had been made in any constituency in this country the man who made it would lay himself open to the punishment of our laws. Let me read the Section of the Act of Parliament. In the Corrupt Practices Act you will find these words:Any person who directly or indirectly by himself or by any other person indicts or threatens to inflict any …. spiritual injury …. upon …. any person in order to induce or compel such person to vote or refrain from voting shall be guilty of a corrupt practice.Under that Act the offender could be sent to prison for 12 months or fined £200. Why is that not applicable to the Archbishop of Malta and the Bishop of Gozo? It is not applicable because they are not subject to the law. Under the constitution of that island they are not amenable to the law, and being above the law they have denied the rights of the law to others. This threatened ex-communication was not the irresponsible action of a few excited ecclesiastics. It was an action which had the manifest approval of the Vatican, and has been endorsed since. I want to ask this plain question. What was done there was either right or wrong. If it was right to do it in Malta it is right to do it in this country. If it is asked why it is not done here while it is done in Malta, the answer is because they have not the power to do it here, but they have the power to do it there. Then came the attempt at the assassination of Lord Strickland, which happily he escaped. Requests were made to one of the bishops that in the church the people might return thanks to Almighty God for his deliverance. The request was refused. In earlier days, when on St. Bartholomew's Day Huguenot blood ran in the streets of Paris, and Admiral Coligny lay stabbed to death, when it is said that Philip of Spain laughed for the first and only time in his life, the streets of Rome were illuminated and the Te Deum sung in St. Peter's. No Te Deum is allowed to be sung when the Prime Minister of Malta escapes assassination. The postponement 1462 of the election was inevitable. The action of the bishops would not have mattered here or to any people with the New Testament in their hands, but there it was a threat of grave importance. It was cowardly to use innocent people in order to get back upon Lord Strickland. They should have fought it out with him. These shepherds should not have done it at the expense of those who were their flock. We are confronted with a deadlock, and I am going to suggest that the Government has taken the only and right course in dealing with it. They might have gone back to Crown Colony government, but I am glad they did not do so. I received a reply from the Prime Minister two days ago. Let me read it:In these circumstances, His Majesty's Government with considerable reluctance have decided that they have no alternative but to sanction a temporary suspension of the Constitution. The necessary legislation to give effect to this decision will be submitted to His Majesty in Council at an early date. The effect will be to place as an emergency measure the full legislative and executive authority in the hands of the Governor. The existing Ministry will, however, be retained in office and will be available in a consultative capacity in so far as the Governor chooses to make use of their services. It is not proposed to publish a further Command Paper relating to Malta at present, but the text of the Order in Council providing for the interregnum will be made public in the usual manner as soon as possible."—[OFFICIAT REPORT, 24th June, 1930; col. 868, Vol. 240.]I then put a supplementary question asking him if the measures to be taken would require the sanction of this House, and the Prime Minister said that he would prefer to have notice of the question. The question was answered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day in these terms:Owing to the urgency of the matter it was necessary to act without delay. The requisite legislation was enacted by His Majesty in Council this morning. It will become operative on Proclamation by the Governor in Malta.In a certain sense it is not strictly accurate to speak of a "suspension" of the Constitution. Lord Strickland has said that it has had to be put in hospital. It may be called the hospitalisation of the Constitution, because there is to be consultation with Lord Strickland and the Governor. I hope that in any discussions which arise in this Committee we shall not make the mistake, 1463 made in another place, of dwelling upon the so-called defects of character of Lord Strickland. The complaint has been made that he lacks humour—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member has made a reference to another place. It is not in order to answer speeches made in another place.
§ Mr. FOOT
Criticisms have been made as to Lord Strickland's character. As far as I have been able to judge from the documents, and I ask the Committee to believe that I have gone into the matter very closely, I am convinced Lord Strickland has behaved uprightly throughout this matter. I think his personal character cannot in any sense be impugned, but criticism has been made not merely in another place. Others have been attacking his character, and the latest attack on his character has come from Mgr. Robinson himself. Hon. Members may have seen some preparatory notes on the White Paper of the Vatican referring to Lord Strickland, and a more insolent statement was surely never made. It is said of him that he has a resemblance to Martin Luther. That, to the mind of some of us, would not be any stain upon his character. It is said:He would sacrifice any individual, policy, or principle for the sake of his love of power, and he has cunning without scruples.These diplomatists, at any rate, are good judges of cunning. Mgr. Robinson goes on further to say thathe believed that the British Secretary of State for the Colonies understood the extent of the damage done by Lord Strickland to the prestige and popularity of England in Malta.What right has one foreign country to say that of the Prime Minister of the Colony of another foreign Power? If Lord Strickland has done illegal acts the Courts are open, and if he has behaved improperly in his Government, there are the polling booths open, and let the people decide. Speaking further of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Department represented by my hon. Friend on the Front Bench, it is said:He might decline to accept responsibility for Lord Strickland's policy or oblige him to modify the policy, or find some way of peacefully eliminating him from the political field in Malta.1464 Peacefully! That was, at any rate, ecclesiastical generosity. He is to be eliminated, let us hope, peacefully, but eliminated anyhow. I say that you will not find in the history of diplomacy any such statement as that issued by the representative of a foreign country referring to the Prime Minister of a British Colony.
I want to put to the hon. Gentleman on the other side one or two questions upon the proposals made by the Government. Is it intended that there shall be the publication of any further Papers? In that book there is a list of accusations made by the Vatican, mainly based on tittle-tattle, and ecclesiastical tittle-tattle is the most unreliable of all tittle-tattle. They are accusations made against the Prime Minister of an English Colony. I want to see Papers published that will enable Lord Strickland at any rate to make his full and categorical reply. That reply has been published by the Government of Malta. Let us have it in our British papers also.
How will this declaration be made to the people of Malta? To that I attach grave importance, because there is really this danger, that you will put great power into the hands of the ecclesiastical authorities in Malta, and that they will be able to go to their people and their flocks and say—and, mark you, there is a strong pro-Italian influence in Malta, as admitted by the Government themselves in this document—"Here is your precious British Government robbing you of the Constitution that was won by you." It is of the highest importance that we should see that this declaration, made by the British Government in the permanent interests of the people of Malta, shall get to them without being carried through very crooked and deviating channels. Let the Government not be content with the ordinary Government language, but let pains be taken so that there shall be published to the people of Malta, in language that they will fully understand, that it is in their interest and that it is to protect them that we have been compelled for the time being to suspend the Constitution of their Colony.
How long will the Interregnum last? What steps will be taken to strengthen the law? When the Interregnum is over, 1465 are we to go back to this condition of things? Cannot something be done to strengthen the law by invalidating any election that can be shown to be brought about by this wrongful spiritual influence? I suggest upon that that there should be some strong and independent body, other than the Court of Appeal, that can have the power, where that illegitimate influence is proved, to invalidate the election and, if necessary, to award the seat to the candidate who has been prejudiced by the illegitimate power.
Under what Clause in the Constitution is the Government acting? Members of the Committee may be aware that the action of the Government has recently been disputed in the Courts in Malta. That case came before the Maltese Courts, and was reported in the papers yesterday, and the powers of the Government under the Constitution are being seriously questioned. What we ask is that that decision should be hastened as much as possible, because an appeal is pending. It may be that amending legislation will be required, and I believe it would be in accordance with the wish of those who have been responsible for affairs in Malta if there could be a hastened decision by the Privy Council in this country, so that, amending legislation, if found necessary, may not be delayed.
All that we ask is that in this matter there shall be no weakening. Some have been asking about peace, that there should be peace in this matter. On what terms can we have it? Owing to the action of the Vatican negotiations have been broken off. They know the terms upon which those negotiations can reopen, but it is useless for the Pope of this day to be like an earlier Pope and to expect that there shall be a return to Canossa in this business. I believe that if we gave way upon that matter, it would be one of the most serious things that we could do. It is of the highest importance that Lord Strickland and his Government should be retained in consultation with the Governor. I thank the Government for insisting upon that term in their decision. It is said that he is not persona grata with the Vatican. Well, who is? I wonder if the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is persona grata? And if they have the 1466 right to insist that the Prime Minister in Malta must be eliminated, peacefully or otherwise, why have they not the right to ask that the Foreign Secretary in this country should be eliminated?
I want to conclude by quoting an Article of the Church of England. I believe that later to-night we are discussing one of the Church of England Measures. I am not a member of the Church of England, but I stand loyally by many of its Articles, and one that I stand by is the 37th Article, which reads:The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England.I want further to quote someone who, I think, ought to give his example to the Government in these days. In fact, I think that the Under Secretary himself perhaps may have learned some of his lessons in that direction, and I hope that when Ministers pass into this House they sometimes will not always come in behind the Chair, but will come in by the other door, and spend a minute or two in front of the statue of Oliver Cromwell. I think it will help them in many things. I would refer them to what was written by Oliver Cromwell from Whitehall on the 6th of May, 1656, when a question arose of relations between ourselves and a European Power. The passage in the letter to which I wish to refer was as follows:To General Blake and Montague at sea. From Whitehall, 6 May, 1656. In one of the Articles agreed with the Ambassador, it was expressed that the merchants should enjoy liberty of conscience, in the worship of God in their own houses and aboard their ships; enjoying also the use of English Bibles and other good books; taking care that they do not exceed this liberty. Now …"——said Oliver Cromwell in his letter—unless we will agree to submit this Article to the determination of the Pope, we cannot have it; whereby he would bring us to an owning of the Pope; which, we hope, whatever befall us, we shall not, by the grace of God, be brought unto.
§ Colonel Sir JAMES REYNOLDS
I am surprised that a speech such as we have just heard should ever had been made in the House of Commons and I rise to protest against it. I admit without any reserve the difficulties that have arisen in Malta and I regret them as much as anybody who is not of my own opinion in this country regrets them. It has been a great shock to all of my faith to hear 1467 the edict that was given out in connection with sin and the election but I wish to remind hon. Members that, in part of the evidence which has come before us in the documents which have been circulated, it is stated that that interdict emanated from certain priests in Gozo who had since been withdrawn. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I read that myself in the documents. I wish to say that I think it is a very grave thing for any Member of the House of Commons to accuse a Power with whom we are on friendly relations of using insulting language in connection with this country of prevarication. The trouble is there and it has to be got over. I am a personal friend of Lord Stricklands. I have visited him in Malta and I have been his neighbour in Westmorland and I am extremely grieved that he has fallen into the trouble into which he has fallen but I would point out to hon. Members that in Malta, by the Constitution, the clergy are entitled to go into Parliament and to act entirely as lay-folk may act.
It has been the case that in recent years Lord Strickland has found himself in political warfare with certain of these priests. In my own opinion it is not every man who would have acted in that difficulty as Lord Strickland has acted. I say that on two occasions he acted in a manner which was practically creating a situation from which the clerical side could hardly withdraw without retaliation. I wish to explain to hon. Members one thing which I think they ought to understand, much as I regret the situation which has arisen. Malta is an entirely Catholic country. The Catholic religion is the religion of the State under a concordat and I want to get this thought into the minds of hon. Members—that through misunderstanding, through the clash of personalities, it has come about that the clerical authorities there were of the definite opinion that Lord Strickland was seeking to destroy the Catholic Church in Malta. I think that did come about. I am not saying that they were entitled to think it, but we must remember that some things were done in connection with duress on a certain priest who had taken vows of obedience to his own Order. He was aided and abetted in not carrying out that obedience when he received a command 1468 from his own superior. That was a very serious thing to do. That man's first duty was his vow of obedience, but he got into politics and he appealed to Lord Strickland as a civilian and a politician. The action taken by Lord Strickland caused the feeling that he was definitely out to help——
§ Mr. FOOT
There was a denial that duress was brought to bear upon that priest by Lord Strickland. Lord Strickland in his statement shows that in this matter he behaved with the greatest possible deference to the Vatican and to their representative and that all he did was to refuse to allow the man to be deported from Malta.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir J. REYNOLDS
I have had the whole explanation from Lord Strickland's own mouth, sitting at my own table. He refused to give this man a passport out of the island when the man was ordered to go to another monastery in another place. Lord Strickland refused the passport and that was absolutely interfering with the orders of this man's superior. I only wish to say a final word in regard to this very unpleasant and unsatisfactory situation which I am perfectly sure will come right very soon, if people will only refrain from trying to make a great bonfire out of what is really a rather small matter. What I would say is this. If the clerical authorities thought that Lord Strickland was out to put down ecclesiastical authority in Malta, then they would have the right in my opinion to state to the people—the people being Catholics themselves—that they should not support such a Government. The edict that was given had no relation to anybody except those who were Catholics. They had the right to do that in view of the particular situation in Malta if they thought that Lord Strickland was out to destroy the Catholic religion in Malta. This situation has arisen, as I say, from misunderstandings and from a clash of personalities but I am perfectly certain that 1469 if the House of Commons only acts with that courtesy which is due from one Power to another, this matter will very soon be put right but the less we discuss it in this country in the spirit in which the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) has spoken, the sooner will it be settled.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Reynolds) has not I think kept himself abreast of this Maltese case as it has been reported in the Press and in another place and his version of the facts hardly coincides with the Blue Book which I hardly think he can have read.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It is unfortunate when an hon. Member comes here ill-equipped with the facts, because he is then in a less favourable position to make agreeable to hon. Members doctrines which strike our ears as being somewhat medieval in character. We in this country leave the Church to deal with moral matters, and, in State matters, prefer to be without any form of clerical direction. That is the doctrine which is I think pursued in the Catholic church in this country, and it is very difficult for us to appreciate the state of mind in a country like Malta where apparently doctrines which we have long ago discarded are still in the forefront of politics. For myself I think I have never listened with greater satisfaction to a speech in the House of Commons than that which was delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) because he stated, as I hope it will always be stated by Englishmen, that one of the rights of the citizen is to think as he likes on political matters and to be free from clerical censures in connection with all his political actions. That doctrine has long been the foundation of British liberties and I hope that when the Constitution is restored to Malta in its full vigour, that doctrine will be as well established in that British Dominion as it is in the Mother country.
There is one point, however, in connection with this Maltese embroglio which needs emphasis at the present moment. We know that the constitution has, as my hon. Friend said happily, been put 1470 in hospital for the moment. The constitution is suspended, but what I would ask the Committee and particularly the Government to consider is this—is that suspension to be the peaceful elimination of Lord Strickland, is this suspension of the constitution precisely what the Vatican desires, and how far can we say in this House that those unfortunate results are not actual facts? Lord Strickland and his Government are now in an advisory capacity, and are to be called upon to advise whenever the Governor of Malta thinks it desirable. That may be his elimination. We all hope that it will mean that Lord Strickland will still be in fact Prime Minister of Malta, and that the Governor of Malta will act by his advice generally, for there is this to be considered. Suppose that this suspension of the constitution is what was wanted by the Clerical party. They will then be in a position to say, "You see, we have eliminated Lord Strickland, and, what is more, you will observe that Great Britain, which gave you a constitution and a right to govern yourselves, has taken that constitution away; Great Britain cannot, therefore, be the friend of the Maltese people, for she has taken away their constitution and in future the Maltese must see that their real spiritual and racial home is Italy, Rome and the Fascist Government."
I am afraid that that will be an argument that may be used, that the action which the Government have taken in Malta may be received with acclamation by the Clerical party, and that they will have in their hands two weapons—the proof that they have eliminated Lord Strickland, and the proof that England has failed the Maltese people, and that they must turn to Italy for help. It must be made clear that Lord Strickland, although not Prime Minister, is still the person who has the confidence of the British Government and of the Maltese people, and that the views, not merely of Lord Strickland as Lord Strickland, but of a Government representing the majority of the thinking people in Malta, are to be considered in the legislation which is passed. Though the constitution is temporarily in hospital, let the will of the people still prevail through the party which was in power, and in that case Malta will get what it wants in the way of administrative action, and we shall be saved from putting a very 1471 strong weapon into anti-English hands and those who desire to see Italy replace us in Malta. It is probably undesirable that we should have a prolonged debate on this matter, upon which we all feel so strongly, either on the clerical or on the anti-clerical side.
I would like the Committee to consider the position of some of the black races who are in our keeping. I want to mention first Tshekedi Khama, Chief of the Bamangwato tribe in Bechuanaland.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I think that Bechuanaland was ruled out as being a question which does not come under the Dominions Vote, but under the Colonial Vote.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Dr. Drummond Shiels)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) is correct; it is a Dominions Office question.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I would like the Under-Secretary to consider the possibility of the Colonial Office giving an opportunity to native chiefs and native bodies that have a grievance bringing their cases before the Privy Council—only, of course, in cases where the Colonial Office approve. It would facilitate many questions if natives without money were able to bring their cases direct to the Privy Council in this country, which they regard as their father in matters of justice, instead of having to go through the extremely costly processes of law. This is an idea that has occurred to those friends of the natives with whom I have been working for some time as a possible solution of a great many difficulties. The hon. Gentleman will remember the case of the Southern Rhodesian natives which cost so much money four or five years ago.
I want to deal with one other side of the development of native African territories, that is, the side of education. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Horrabin) is fuller of information 1472 on the education question than I am, but I would put this view before the Committee that in order to give the best chance to the African native, he should be allowed to learn English. It seems such a silly thing to ask for, and yet in a great part of Africa, not merely in South Africa but even in Kenya, the white population are doing their best to ensure that the natives shall have a language of their own which is not English. I am certain that the rise in the standing of the native, his cultural development, his coming forward into the ranks of civilisation, his ability to resist exploitation and to get into his trade unions, and to widen his mind, depend entirely on the chance of learning to read and speak English. If, as is the case in Kenya to-day, we refuse to allow the native to be taught English so that he may know Swahili only, we definitely prevent him rising in the scale of civilisation and having the advantages of the white race. If they cannot read the papers or literature or the laws, if they cannot understand the white agitator, they are in a helpless position in matters of wages or justice. Give them the chance of learning English.
I know that it is becoming the fashion lately to say that if only we had not let the Indians learn English, all would be well in India, and that it was the fault of that man Mill and that man Macaulay that we have an educated mass in India thinking like Westerners, although they have a coloured skin. There may be something in that point of view, but, if we take that point of view with Africa which we refused to take in India 100 years ago, we shall be betraying our trust. We have had from the Colonial Office a most admirable Memorandum on native policy in East Africa. I dare not say how highly I think of it, lest other forces should require the Government to withdraw it. Anybody who reads that document—and I know it now almost by heart—will see that the Government have laid themselves out, to see in what possible way they can protect native interests and allow the natives to develop on to the same civilised plane as the white man. I would congratulate my hon. Friend on having got into that document that interesting and I hope final decision on the drawbacks of communal representation and the superior merits of the 1473 Common. Role of Electors. The only thing they have not said in that excellent document is: "And the native shall be allowed to learn English and become equipped as an Englishman with knowledge to fight for himself." Here we do not or cannot always look after the interests of subject peoples. I know that we pride ourselves on doing it, but we do it jolly badly. It is one thing to have to rely on an even perfect House of Commons for justice, but it is far, far better that these people should have the knowledge and the ability to rely upon themselves and to read, think and fight for themselves. Our true duty towards the natives of Africa is not merely to protect them temporarily from the dangers of exploitation that beset them, but to enable them, in due course, to take their place as civilised peoples governing themselves and protecting themselves.
§ Mr. AMERY
I do not rise to follow my right hon. Friend in the very interesting subject he has raised, but to say a few words, and I hope no unnecessary words, on the very unfortunate and difficult situation which has arisen in Malta. In the first instance I should like to call attention to two features of the situation which are worth noting. This interference by the Vatican in the political affairs of Malta has not arisen out of any religious issue, in the ordinary sense of the word. It has already been stated that Lord Strickland is an earnest and sincere Catholic. I believe some of his ancestors have been canonised as martyrs for their faith.
§ Mr. AMERY
No legislation has been introduced in Malta that can be described as in any sense of an anti-clerical character. No administrative action has been taken which could justify any such intervention by the clergy in politics as undoubtedly takes place in every country where a Church thinks that its practical interests or its spiritual position are threatened by political action. The whole difficulty has arisen out of this: that the majority of the Maltese clergy have thrown themselves very violently on one side in an issue which does not directly affect religion at all. The issue which has dominated Malta polities for more 1474 than a generation past is that very issue of linguistic teaching of which the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has just spoken. There has been a long conflict between those in favour of the use of the Italian language and Italian culture and those who advocate on purely practical grounds of commercial advantage the use of the English language and who also, upon grounds of national sentiment and convenience to the people, advocate the extension of the Maltese language, which is the only language understood by 80 per cent. of the people and the only language used, in the home, by the remaining 20 per cent.
It is not for me to express any opinion as between those points of view, but they have formed the storm centre of Maltese politics. The issue has been largely as to whether, if English and Italian are to be treated theoretically as equal, children should be compelled to learn a little bit of both—and learn both badly—or whether the parents should be given the option of making a choice of languages. Obviously this is not a religious matter, but it has so happened that, with relatively few exceptions, the clergy in Malta have considered that their status, their position and their influence have been largely bound up with the dominance of Italian culture. I would like to say here, and say with all the emphasis that I can command, that that point of view has not, with very rare exceptions, been associated with any disloyalty to the British Empire or any desire to be politically associated with Italy. The people of Malta regard themselves as in no sense akin to or related to the Italians, any more than they are related to the people of this country. They are a very ancient, interesting little European nation of their own.
§ Mr. AMERY
Yes, Phœnician; and perhaps of still older Mediterranean origin. At any rate, with the exception of very few individuals, it is not a question of any disloyalty to this country, and there is no reason why we in this House should sympathise with one party rather than with another. The Constitution of Malta has never put any restric- 1475 tions on the intervention of the clergy in politics. It was hoped the assignment of two places in the Upper House to the clergy would keep them out of ordinary controversial politics, but that did not prove to be the case, and they have taken a very active part in the ordinary political warfare of Malta and in the ordinary slinging of political mud, and have received a certain amount of the same in return. Unfortunately, they have regarded this ordinary political treatment on Maltese lines as a direct attack on their Church, and it is through treating a political controversy on nonreligious subjects as an attack upon their Church, and endeavouring to use spiritual weapons to defeat an ordinary political opponent, that this whole trouble has arisen.
There is one other aspect of this matter which has been a pivot of this difficulty to an even greater extent than has been realised in this House, because it has not appeared in the Papers which have been published. The Blue Book has dealt entirely with the correspondence between His Majesty's Government and the Vatican, but there is another correspondence, immensely interesting, between the Maltese Ministry and the Vatican, through the mediary of the Archbishop, which ought to be published in this country if the issue is to be understood. The hon. Member sitting behind me dwelt on the particular case of the priest who was ordered to leave Malta by his ecclesiastic superior because, so it is alleged—and I make no comment upon it one way or the other—he showed himself active politically on Lord Strickland's side. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that the question of the refusal to grant a permit ever arose, because the matter was suspended in order that the Vatican might itself look into the whole question. But during that period of suspension the Italian superior of the priest in question committed a technical breach of the postal regulations by habitually sending letters to Italy with Italian stamps through the local Vice-Consul.
On that technical breach, so I understand, a prosecution was raised. Whether it was wise to raise it or whether it was a matter of sufficient importance to warrant it, is no concern of ours, but what is important is that upon this issue 1476 the Vatican put forward a claim that no ecclesiastic might be brought into a court of law without the sanction of his ecclesiastical superior. That claim is not admitted in any Catholic country of which I know. It was finally rejected in this country by the Constitutions of Clarendon, 760 years ago. It was disposed of as far as Malta was concerned a few years after the British occupation of Malta, more than 100 years ago. When the Maltese Ministers drew attention to this matter and to the fact that the British Government had repudiated that claim and that the Vatican had accepted that repudiation, the answer was that it might have done so but that it had done so under protest and that therefore it was entitled to revive the claim whenever it saw a suitable opportunity.
Those facts, quite apart from any other matters, seems to me to justify the action which His Majesty's Government have taken. I rise in no sense to criticise them but rather to associate myself from these benches with the decision they have felt obliged to take in a very difficult situation. I would only like to ask one or two questions about it. I understand that during this temporary period the view of the Government was that ordinances could be passed having the force of law in order to regularise and straighten out the whole situation. I rather hope with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) that the opportunity may be used to give more effective protection than exists at present in Malta to the ordinary free citizen and voter against illegitimate spiritual coercion. I understand, however, that the Court of Appeal in Malta has directly challenged the authority of the Governor to issue those ordinances.
I imagine that there are two means by which His Majesty's Government can deal with this situation. One is to bring the decision of the Appeal Court in Malta before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That is a course which may take some time. There is, of course, another alternative, which is still in full force as regards Malta, though it is no longer constitutionally in force as regards the Dominions, unless it were deliberately asked for by the Dominions. That alternative is the power of this House to pass legislation directly validating the whole position. I do not know whether the 1477 Under-Secretary of State is yet in a position to inform us as to the line which the Government may take in this matter?
While I entirely support the action of the Government, I do most sincerely hope they may find a way out of this difficulty which will enable the Constitution of Malta to come into operation again at the earliest possible moment. It would be a great misfortune if this wide measure of self-government—this really very daring experiment in self-government which was conceded to Malta less than 10 years ago and with the concession of which I was privileged to be closely associated—should be treated as having failed. Apart from the intervention of this issue, I do not think anybody can suggest that the Maltese have shown themselves unfitted for self-government. They have had plenty of liveliness in political contests; so have we. But there has never been a, liveliness directed against the Empire or this country, and in spite of that liveliness the island of Malta has, under self-government, made very satisfactory progress indeed.
When I investigated the finances of Malta at the end of the War they were in a situation so grave that I had to come to this House and ask for a free grant of £,250,000 to enable Malta to get on its feet. Once put on its feet and given control of its own affairs it has managed its affairs over a long period of years under a Nationalist Government, and more recently under Lord Strickland's Government, in a perfectly satisfactory manner. Industries in that island have flourished, and a population of 250,000 has somehow managed to find its livelihood on a territory not as large as the Isle of Wight. Therefore I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it would be a grave disaster if the Constitution of Malta were suspended for so long that the origin of this dispute became forgotten and it was forgotten that the Government had intervened in the interest of self-government. It is from this point of view that I commend the whole situation to the consideration of the Government, and I can assure them that in this situation, with its grave implications, the Government need have no fear of any partisan criticism or of any desire to make party capital in any quarter of the House.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
I wish to take the opportunity to raise upon this Vote a matter that has been before this House several times since the year 1922 and which has not yet been satisfactorily solved. I refer to the question of mui-tsai in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. I am well aware that the majority of hon. Members in the Chamber know perfectly well what mui-tsai is, but in the event of new Members not realising what the system is, I want to say quite clearly that it is a matter of slavery which still exists under the British flag and in one of our Crown Colonies. It is a system whereby little girls from seven and eight, years upwards are deliberately sold for certain sums of money. I have a list here of the prices that are paid for little girls in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Sometimes the price is 96 dollars, and at other times it is 80 dollars. But it is a question of selling little girls into slavery. It is not my desire to attempt in any way to harass the feelings of hon. Members by describing what the slavery is. There is no doubt that in certain cases, perhaps, the little girls are well treated, but there have been cases again and again of revolting cruelty in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. Sometimes they are beaten, and I have instances where little girls are cruelly tortured by being burned by hot coals. It is quite obvious that the selling of little girls into slavery is a system which should no longer exist under the British flag. It is a crime to enslave man. How much greater a crime is it to enslave children! In 1880, when Sir John Hennessy was Governor of Hong Kong, he wrote these words:I had from time to time made some efforts to expose and check the form of slavery and of the buying and selling of children in connection with the brothel system in Hong Kong.He went on to say:The more I penetrate below the polished surface of our civilisation the more convinced am I that the broad under-current of life here is more like the Southern States of America when slavery was dominant than it resembles the all-pervading civilisation of England.Since then ordinance after ordinance has been passed to abolish that evil, and they have been ignored. There are difficulties to overcome. In 1922 or 1923 this matter was investigated, and its abolition was ordered as being contrary to the principles of British law and justice. At 1479 that time, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and he took energetic steps to do away with the system, but unfortunately that system still exists. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping wrote to the Government of Hong Kong in February, 1922, as follows:I am not at all satisfied. Unless I am able to state that this institution does not involve the slightest element of compulsory employment (which is the essence of slavery) and that every mui-tsai of a certain age is in law and practice free if she wishes to leave her adopted parents or employers. I cannot defend its existence in a British colony. So far as administration measures can make it so this freedom must be real.After that energetic steps were taken, and then, to the complete surprise of everybody, it was found six years afterwards that the ordinance had been ineffective, and had not worked at all. It is astounding that a system of this kind should be allowed to exist so long in one of our Crown Colonies. A Bill dealing with this question was passed in 1926, and the present Secretary of State for the Colonies has stated that it has been entirely ineffectual.
I wish to draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies to another evil system which is closely allied to the one I have already mentioned, and it is the selling of young girls under the system of tolerated houses, which still exists in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. It is well known to everyone who has studied the League of Nations Commission on the Traffic in Women and Children that where tolerated houses exist and State regulation of vice, as in Hong Kong, there is always a sale of girls. One way of dealing with this question is to abolish tolerated houses. I call the attention of the Under-Secretary to the fact that this evil still exists in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, and I wish to know whether the subject of tolerated houses is one which is going to be considered at the coming Imperial Conference. I do not wish the House to think that no steps have been taken to deal with this question. The Secretary of State issued an ordinance last year to the Government of Hong Kong which stated:It now appears, however, that six years from the passing of the ordinance, the most 1480 that can be said is that there is no reason to believe that the number of mui-tsai in the colony has increased.After making all allowance for their difficulties in bringing the system to an end, which are described at length in your despatches, it is my duty to inform you that public opinion in this country and in the House of Commons will not accept such a result with equanimity.It may be assumed that very little of this evil is known outside the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. I would like to point out that from my own constituency I have received letters urging me to bring this matter before the House of Commons. I admit that the last Ordinance has been more effective than the previous one, and it was decided that a report of its working should be sent to England every six months. I would like the Under-Secretary to tell the House whether the first report has yet been received, because the Ordinance was put into force in December, 1929, and I want to know if the report will be made public when it has been received by the Colonial Office. The present position is that the Hong Kong Government have dishonoured their pledge on this question by allowing this evil to continue uninterrupted. I agree that if this new Ordinance is put into force it will do much to deal with the evil, but experience on these questions in the past shows that it is absolutely necessary that public pressure must be brought to bear if such Ordinances are to be made effective. I have brought this question forward, because I believe it is the earnest desire of every Member of this House that this state of things should be blotted out.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
I wish to raise two matters with the Minister in charge of this Vote. The first is with regard to an item which I do not think has appeared in previous Estimates, namely, the item under Sub-head B:Conveyance of Colonial Office bags to the Middle East by the England-India air line.I feel that Members in all quarters of the Committee would like some information with regard to this item. It is a very bare item of a line or two, and we should like to know what is the policy of the Government on this matter, and what the sum which we are asked to vote in respect of it indicates. One would like to know the quantity of 1481 Colonial Office bags carried by the air mail, and what is the idea of the Government as to the future development of air services for the transport of Government officials and Government mails. I should also like to ask the hon. Gentleman on what basis this air mail is carried. It would be out of order, I presume, to raise now the question of the iniquitous charges made by the Post Office, who make a profit on the air mail to India which they do not make on letters. I do not propose to go into that question, except to ask if these Colonial Office bags are carried on the same basis which the Post Office charges for air mails. One would like to know that the Colonial Office regards sympathetically the future of air transport, and is taking a long view as to the eventual value to the British Empire of this new means of rapid communication. Rapid communication between any two districts may mean a rapid interchange of thought, and a rapid development of good understanding with a particular part of our Empire where relations may be strained; and, in cases where there may be trouble with the indigenous inhabitants, a better understanding within a shorter space of time may mean peace within the British Empire. I would ask the Government to give some indication of their line of thought and of development on this very important matter.
The other question which I desire to raise, and which I touch upon with considerable diffidence, is the question of Malta. I do so only because I feel that what we are discussing here to-night will probably have a vast effect, mental and psychological, on millions of inhabitants of this country, for, in raising this issue, we have started something which may get out of the control of the House of Commons and out of the control of the Government. If we once raise religious feelings in this country in one section of people believing in a particular form of worship as against another, we are indeed raising what is still probably the basic impulse in our national life in this country, and I feel that, if we talk as we have been talking, we are likely to cause reactions on the deepest and most instinctive feelings of all citizens of this country. There are many citizens of this country who have not the knowledge 1482 which has been displayed by hon. Members here to-night, and, particularly, have not the knowledge of the circumstances of Malta which is possessed by my right hon. Friend who has spoken from the Front Bench. Without that knowledge, citizens of this country may be liable to form a hasty judgment. I hold no brief for the Roman Catholic Church; indeed, being a Scotsman, my instincts are possibly rather the other way. Nevertheless, I do feel that we ought to remember, and to be very thankful for the fact, that the Church of Rome, thanks to the great tolerance and breadth of British character, has dwelt in our midst amicably and peacefully for many years past.
Personally, I think that there has been a fault—a temporal fault, an administrative fault—on the part of the Church authorities in Rome, reacting in Malta, and that that fault is a serious one which must be dealt with with firmness by the British Government, in order that there shall be no religious interference, that there shall be no religious influence brought to bear in the political life of any dependency of the British Empire. At the same time, let there be tolerance. It is only a great people that can display great tolerance. We are a great nation; we are a great Protestant nation. I honestly feel that we can be proud that we are a great Protestant nation, and, in our greatness, can overlook faults which probably we repeat in other forms of life and in other directions. This is a fault which has a great instinctive reaction in our souls, but do not let us forget the old parable of the mote and the beam. In this question, let us try to exercise that charity of mind which is embodied in the injunction that we should do unto others as we would they should do unto us, and forgive and forget for the future. When once we have made quite certain that the British Government at home has given all support to a British Government which is going to do its duty, let us forget, and do not let us raise a religious controversy in this country which would go far beyond the question with which we are dealing in this debate, and which might go far to alter the destinies of this country. I have said that we are great. Let us rejoice in our greatness, and be tolerant in the future.
§ Mr. HORRABIN
I do not propose to touch upon the subject which was introduced so eloquently in the first speech of this debate by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but perhaps I may be permitted to tender my congratulations to him on having made so moving a speech, and to plead that the subject upon which I want to say a few words, if it has not the same dramatic interest, is at least as much concerned with human freedom, and with the human freedom of numerically a great many more people than the issue which has been previously referred to. During the discussion to-day in this Committee, we have heard a great deal about economic development, about marketing, about Empire trade, and so forth, but I want to say something about a different sort of development, which, as it seems to me, should receive equal attention from the Committee, namely, the development of the people who inhabit this Empire. I am one of those who believe that there is no justification for our presence at all in Africa and in other Continents except on the terms which are expressed so clearly in the mandatory principles, and in the principle, especially, of trusteeship for the backward races—a trusteeship which is to operate until those peoples are able to stand on their own feet and take their own place in the comity of nations. That trusteeship involves, surely, the care for their development, for their training in self-Government, and for their education towards self-Government.
It is that educational aspect of Imperial affairs that I am anxious to stress, and I should like to mention the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), in a debate in the House a year ago on this same subject, remarked that the Colonial Office in these days was in fact a Ministry of Education. We on this side of the House, on many occasions, both inside and outside, have insisted on the dangers of the exploitation of native peoples, particularly in Africa, in the interests of capitalists. I want to urge on the present Government that, from the point of view of the African, there is surely very little to choose between a policy of exploitation in the interests of English profits and a policy 1484 of exploitation chiefly in the interests of an English unemployment problem. During the many debates on African affairs which have taken place in the House during the lifetime of the present Government, we have constantly heard of Colonial development, of economic development, but we have heard very little indeed about the duty which surely lies alongside that privilege of economic development—our duty in regard to educational development towards the peoples of Africa. It is surely possible, if I may put it in this way, that there might develop a sort of working-class Imperialism, which, as I have said, would regard the natives of Africa and their resources primarily as means towards the solution of our unemployment here at home, and that, from the point of view of Africans, would be no different from a policy of quite naked exploitation. It is the first duty of a Labour Government to give at least equal place and equal attention to this business of educating the African towards self-Government and, in the very broadest sense, as to the development of African resources or the use of African labour.
I want to ask the Under-Secretary if he will assure us that the general views with regard to education laid down in paragraph 8 of the Statement on Native Policy issued a few days ago are going to be carried into effect and are not to remain pious observations; that they are going to be, in fact, an educational charter for the Africans, and that the statement on native policy is not to remain just a scrap of paper, because hitherto it is easy to compile instances of the exceedingly parsimonious attitude adopted by the British Government in various parts of Africa on this question of education. When we remember that, until after the War, the Government in Kenya did not spend one penny on education, and that even now it spends £50 per head per annum on European children and 4s. per head per annum on African children, it is obvious that in the matter of native education there is still ample scope for this Government to do more than its predecessors have done. When we remember that in Nyasa there is not a single Government school, and that until a few years ago the Government's contribution towards African education in Nyasaland was to divide some £3,000 a 1485 year between 1,500 mission schools, there again it is certainly not necessary to emphasise the parsimony of such an attitude. An eminent authority wrote recently that not 1 per cent. of African children go to Government schools, so that there is apparently ample scope for educational development, and I ask the Committee to compare that fact with the record in German East Africa, where, before the War, the Germans introduced compulsory education in the three biggest towns in the Colony, an educational achievement, surely, which has not been reached in any British Colony, even in South Africa, so far.
I want to emphasise two main points which, it seems to me, must characterise this business of educational development. In the first place, we must work for a purely liberal education and not a merely technical education, not an education content with dealing in a utilitarian way with certain definite present-day problems, even though those must be touched on in a curriculum designed for them. A very distinguished African missionary and educator wrote recently that the only possible aim for our education must be, quoting certain classic words, "that they might have life and have it more abundantly." I should be a little shy in quoting such idealist sentiments in so realist a place as this House were it not for the fact that those words were endorsed and underlined by so practical a realist as the late Sir Gordon Guggisberg, who himself quoted the passage, that these words must define the only possible aim of our education of the African. Surely the appeal is made all the easier since the Africans are passionately anxious for education. May I quote an incident described in a recent book by Mr. Fraser, the head of the Achimota College in West Africa, in which he says, on this very subject of the scarcity of schools, that he has seen a school where 300 children stayed outside among the trees, unable to be admitted for want of space, each hoping to be the first to get in when a vacancy occurs. I ask the Committee, not in any sentimental spirit, to try to see that picture of 300 children standing outside the school hoping at some time to be able to get into it, a picture which ought to be contrasted with some of the 1486 pomp and pageantry of Empire. The first main point about this question of African education must be that it should be liberal education, and not simply technical education, nor an education designed for inferior beings. Professor Julian Huxley quoted recently in the "Times" an observation addressed to him by an unofficial settler member of the legislative council in Kenya, who remarked that all native education which was not strictly technical was always useless and usually harmful. If anyone insists that that, at any rate, is the point of view of the man on the spot, one can only quote against the man in the spot of that type the whole attitude and the repeated words of the late Sir Gordon Guggisberg, who surely was entitled to rank as a man on the spot in this particular regard.
The second point I want to emphasise is that this African education must be based on the teaching of English, and that need not in any way obviate a grounding in African history. English must be, surely, to the African native the main means of liberation, in exactly the same way that four or five centuries ago in Northern Europe Greek and Latin were the languages of liberation. I am quite aware of certain difficulties about this teaching of English. I believe that in certain Colonies, Nigeria for example, the easiest way for scoundrelly Africans to get rich quick is by advertising themselves as teachers of English. Mr. Fraser tells us that men of this sort who know hardly a word of English quite easily raise money from their innocent compatriots by advertising themselves as English teachers. It is obvious that that English teaching must be very carefully watched. Does not the mere fact of getting rick quick in that way prove as clearly as possible the desperate desire of the African for knowledge, for a knowledge of English, for education?
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) referred to the fact that education in India has been based on English teaching. It is best to be quite frank and to say that we want African education to be based on English in the same way, because one wants to get the same results, not results of violence, but the results of an educated and intelligent Nationalist movement demanding 1487 its rights, the right to stand as free individuals inside the Empire. We are told as a stock argument that an education based on English means an education alien to the mentality of the African. Surely there is no reason why an education based on English should be more alien to African mentality than a Semitic, Biblical education is to us.
Just two or three minor points of urgency in regard to this question of education—points on which everyone, whether he has first-hand or merely book knowledge of the subject, agrees in principle. There is urgent need for more teaching. I urge on the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary that the same method which has been worked successfully in Kenya, and to the success of which Professor Huxley bears tribute, that is of the travelling schools, should be repeated in other parts of Africa, especially in West Africa. I should like to emphasise the very strong appeal that Mr. Fraser made recently for the closer relationship between the medical service and the educational machine. It has been remarked that the Ministry of Education in this country has become more and more a Ministry of Health through the examination of children that takes place in the schools. It has become as much concerned with health as the Department which bears that name. That ought to be the case in Africa, where questions of health, hygiene, and sanitation are so much more important. I do not need to remind the Committee that out of every thousand babies born in almost every tribe in Kenya rather more than 400 die every year. I believe that that is a very low estimate.
The need for the very close relation of the medical service and the education machinery is sufficiently obvious. That leads quite naturally to the other point that I want to mention—the need for the much greater development in the education of women in Africa. It is obvious that if you are aiming at an education which is to be related to the day-to-day needs of the people, and those needs are so much concerned with sanitation, the education which leaves the woman outside largely negatives itself. I have seen figures of the numbers of girls educated in Government and mission schools in Nigeria. It was mentioned in each case 1488 that the number of boys in those two classes of schools was four times the number of girls. Here is a direction in which the present Government might very well do something. It seems to me that a Labour Government could most appropriately justify itself in regard to these colonial problems, if it were to set about an intensive development of this educational business, which expresses our immediate duty to the African people.
§ Miss RATHBONE
Like the last speaker I want to direct the attention of the Committee for a few moments to the question of the problem of the treatment of the native races in Africa, especially with relation to women. During the last few days we have had circulated to every Member of the House two extraordinarily interesting memoranda, one dealing with the closer union of Central East Africa, and the other on native administration in East Africa. We are told that the latter memorandum has been circulated to the Governors of the territories concerned with instructions that native administration should be brought into strict conformity with that laid down in the memorandum. I should like to ask whether we are to be furnished with information as to the precise way in which those general principles, laid down in the memorandum, are to be carried out? Statements of general principles not followed by concrete acts are often delusive. They serve as a screen between the truth and the individual, behind which there may be much going on or very little going on. For example one of the principles laid down in the memorandum regards the subject of taxation.
We are told that in future direct taxation of the native is to be limited by his capacity to pay without hardship and without upsetting his customary methods of life, and that the Government expenditure should bear a proper relation to the revenue raised from the natives, and particularly that the natives should receive directly and visibly a fair return for the direct taxation which they are called upon to pay. I gather that that strikes experts on the subject of African and Colonial administration as a great advance, because in the past natives have not received the full benefit of the taxation which they have been called upon to pay. Being a novice on this sub- 1489 ject I would like to know, further, whether it involves, as it appears to do, that the taxation which is to be expended upon the natives should be limited to that which they themselves are called upon to pay. If so, it appears a curious principle not altogether in accordance with natural justice, which is that the wealthier section has to pay for social services which benefit the poorer sections. Are there to be two separate pools of taxation, and separate beneficiaries. If so, it is hard to see how the elevated phrases in these memoranda are ever to be translated into concrete realities.
The hon. Member who spoke last quoted the extraordinarily remarkable difference between the per capitum expenditure of Europeans on Asiatic races and on the native races. I notice that the per capitum expenditure on education of the native races was described as practically negligible. That, surely, throws a curious light and a strange contrast upon the principle laid down in the recently circulated memorandum of local policy. It says:On the one hand, it must be the aim of the administration of every territory with regard to all the inhabitants, irrespective of race or religion to maintain order, to administer justice, to promote health and education, to provide means of communication and transport, and generally to promote the industrial and commercial development of the country. In all this range of work persons of every race and of every religion, coloured no less than white, have a right to equal treatment in accordance with their several needs.It will require drastic changes in the administration of these countries if that item in native policy is really to be carried out and brought into conformity without causing very great changes in the ratio between expenditure upon Europeans and upon natives. It is hard to see how it can be carried out at all if the expenditure upon natives is to be bounded and limited by the amount of taxation which is collected from the natives. Money may be the root of all evil, but money in matters of social reform is also the root of all progress. Indeed, the amount of progress that can be accomplished in health and in education will be the measure of the financial resources available for the purpose.
Turning especially to the question of women, we are faced with still greater anomalies. It has become a sort of 1490 fashion, I notice, in nearly all reports dealing with distant parts of the British Commonwealth to pay a kind of lip service and tribute generally in a single paragraph or two to the great importance of education and the advancement of women. In the report which we have all recently been studying with such passionate interest—the Simon Report—we find that the women's question is described as the key to progress. In the Hilton Young Report on Africa there occurs this paragraph:The progress of African communities will be seriously retarded if education is not extended to women as well as men. It was asserted in the famous educational despatch of 1854 which laid the foundation of modern education in India that by the education of women 'a far greater proportional impulse is imparted to the educational and moral tone of the people than by the education of men.' The principle has the support of the best educational opinion and it may be hoped that greater success will be achieved in giving effect to it in Africa, where there is no purdah system, than has so far obtained in India. Christian missions deserve the highest commendation for what they are doing for the women of Africa and their work in this field deserves every encouragement from Government.It is also a kind of custom in these reports, having paid this tribute to the importance of women's education, to forget all about it. When it comes to translating general principles into practice we hear very little further about the education of women. I think, therefore, we are entitled to ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can give us, in the future, if not to-night, fuller information to show precisely what proportion of the poor and meagre funds are being made available for educational services for women. In seeking light on this subject, I have been struck by the very meagre information available in regard to it even in the quotation from the Hilton Young Report which ends in the rather typical and disquieting phrase:Christian missions deserve the highest commendation for what they are doing for the women of Africa and their work in this field deserves every encouragement from Government.That, as far as I can gather from the position in India, Africa and nearly all similar dependencies, is the very extraordinary attitude towards women's education in Government circles. They appear to say: "It is scarcely worth while bothering about the education of 1491 girls, but, of course, we ought to do something. Let us leave it to the missions." Therefore, we find the missions receiving a sort of pat on the head from Government officials, a word of commendation now and then, and occasionally a small grant out of such State funds as may be available when they have done what they must do for the boys.
I am expressly avoiding going into figures and quoting particular Colonies, for fear of giving unnecessary pain and offence to those who are doing their best, but from very many workers who have spent years in doing painstaking work for the education and the health services of women in Africa., one hears the same complaint of tiny grants, capriciously given, frequently lowered or raised without any particular reason, often in accordance with the demands of economy or because of some anonymous complaint, or because money must be made available for some institution in which an administrator is interested. On the health side we hear of great tracts of Africa where hospitals are either nonexistent or where they have no female staff and are entirely staffed by men and native boys, and where women cannot receive service. This state of things exists, although there is an appallingly high infantile and maternal mortality.
Another thing that I have observed in regard to these matters of education is that, although we have had a good many committees lately, women never seem to find a place an committees, either as members or as witnesses. Take, for example, the Hilton Young Committee on Closer Union, which dealt with every aspect of East and Central African welfare and examined about 300 witnesses, representing every profession, every commercial interest and every shade from the darkest black to white. Among the whole 300 witnessess there was not one woman. May we appeal to the Under-Secretary that in any future committee that is set up he will remember the necessity for including the membership of women. May I remind the Committee that there is a special reason why women should be given a place on these committees, as is given in this country, often after reminders from some of us in this House and sometimes not without some protest.
1492 There is a special necessity to do something with respect to the women in East and Central Africa, far more so than in regard to any European country, because out there the women are not only suffering all the disabilities of colour set up by the men of their race, but they are, in addition, often something like slaves to the men of their own tribes. Therefore, it is peculiarly dangerous to leave it to the men of the tribes and to those who are in touch with the men of the tribes to keep in memory the need of provision for women. Often the native men are the last from whom to expect a lead in this matter. Another report, for example, notes that in many cases the older men especially are opposed to the education of women because they are afraid that their wives and daughters will become restive under the institution of polygamy, having their husbands chosen for them and a price being fixed when they themselves are infants and under the conditions to which the hon. Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) referred to in a previous debate. The problem of the women is a problem of colour and also a problem of subjection, which in many cases has the worst features of slavery. I appeal to the Under-Secretary to bear these points in mind and to carry out the details of this admirable Memorandum, to see that women receive an adequate share of such financial grants as may be made and that they shall be represented on committees whether in Africa or in this country. I want to see the Colonial Office carry out a really courageous policy so that this Memorandum shall not remain a mere pious expression of opinion, but shall lead to definite and practical results.
Mr. ERNEST WINITERTON
I want to associate myself with the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). It is important that a declaration of this House should become neither a dead letter nor a scrap of paper. In 1888 this House passed a Resolution cordially supporting the Imperial and Colonial Governments in their endeavour to suppress the traffic in spirituous liquors in the territories under their influence and control. There has been an increasing sale of spirits in certain parts of the Crown Colonies which is causing the gravest distress and con- 1493 cern to many people in this country of all parties and creeds, whether they are associated with the temperance cause or not, who desire to see a far stronger position taken up by the Colonial Office than has been the case during the past few years. They are filled with grave concern at the unsatisfactory nature of the replies so far given and although they acknowledge that there has been some slight improvement in West Africa and on the Gold Coast during the last two years there is still much to be done to redeem the established declaration of this House, that the right thing to do with the liquor traffic as regards native races is to prohibit it.
§ Dr. SHIELS
I am afraid that I shall not be able to do full justice to all the subjects which have been brought before the Committee by hon. and right hon. Members. Perhaps the subject which naturally attracts the most interest is the subject of Malta, with which the British Government has been very much engaged during the past weeks. We have had the position very well stated in a number of the speeches which have been made. I do not think other hon. Members will object to my making special comment on the speech of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), not only for its information, but for its spirit. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) also emphasised something which I think it is very desirable to emphasise, that while we have to state quite clearly our convictions and our beliefs on a subject of this kind, we should try in every way possible to create or develop an atmosphere which is favourable to peace and harmony.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot), who raised the subject, went into it in a good deal of detail, and he will not expect me to follow him through that, but I was glad to hear, not only from him, but from other hon. Members, even those with other points of view than his, that there was general approval of the action of His Majesty's Government, and that in acting as they have done apparently they have not only interpreted the wishes of the House, but also the mind of the country. It has already been expressed that the action which the Government took was taken 1494 with great reluctance and with hopes that the Interregnum which now obtains will not be of long duration. There will at any rate be an opportunity given for calm, for all parties to reconsider their position and so to bring about an atmosphere, as I have already said, which is likely to bring harmony again.
I was asked one or two questions in this connection—I hope I have noted them all—and one was with regard to the publication of Papers. I quite understand the natural desire of hon. Members that there should be full information on this subject, and no doubt there are other documents which might be published which would throw further light on the situation. On the other hand, as the Foreign Secretary has already indicated, we do not wish the controversy to be further exacerbated, and it is desirable that as little opportunity as possible should be given for fresh recriminations; and while I believe that the documents which have been referred to will be available, I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is not yet prepared to believe that it is in the best interests of all concerned that an additional publication should be made, at any rate in the meantime.
§ Dr. SHIELS
I think that that is a consideration which could very well be taken into account and I shall be very glad to convey the suggestion to my Noble Friend. In regard to the ordinances which were declared invalid by the High Court of Malta these have been validated in the Order in Council which has received His Majesty's approval to-day. Provision is also made in that Order that the Governor in the exercise of his functions during the period intervening before the Constitution is re-established, has power to enact ordinances which will have full legal effect. The British Government has wished that the Maltese people should have the opportunity to work out their own destiny. It has not wished and does 1495 not wish to interfere between local parties, but it has been compelled to take action owing to the intervention of an outside authority. I think it is well, however, to emphasise what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook said, namely, that the issue is not really a religious issue but is to some extent a domestic controversy. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out very well the local considerations responsible for the serious situation which arose, and he rightly emphasised the fact that we have intervened in the interests of self-government. The right hon. Gentleman made reference to applying the Constitution of Clarendon to Malta. That is a matter which will be carefully considered, but I may remind the Committee that the constitution applied to Malta was that of Amery. This, as I have said, I hope will be completely restored when the present regrettable trouble has been overcome. I do not think that there is anything more in regard to the position in Malta to which I need refer.
§ Dr. SHIELS
All the procedure is being conducted through the Governor and care has already been taken to see that the Prime Minister's statements have been published in Malta. I appreciate the importance of what the bon. Member has said that, not only the reason but the purpose of the British Government's action should be made quite clear, and I will certainly take care to represent what has been said to the proper quarters. I can almost say that the course of action suggested is one that will be taken, and that the people of Malta will have every opportunity of understanding the full facts of the situation.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Will it be remembered that many of the people of Malta are illiterate and do not even read a newspaper and that therefore some special means must be devised of bringing home to the common people of Malta that they are at liberty to vote as they think fit?
§ Dr. SHIELS
We are very well served by the Governor of Malta; he understands the position very well, and I am quite certain that he will have these facts in mind, and that he will take such action as will achieve that result. We all agree that it is desirable that, after a period of time when there is an opportunity for bitterness to subside and for reasonable counsels to prevail, this will prove only a temporary interruption in the peaceful working of the democratic institutions given to the Maltese people under the Constitution of 1921.
A number of other questions have been raised to-night and one of them has concerned African education, which has been raised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Horrabin), and other hon. Members. I have a great deal of sympathy with the views of these hon. Members, and I agree with everything that they have said of the importance of education. I am only sorry that, they did not give me information that they were going to raise the subject of education, or I might have been supplied with figures showing that a great deal is being done in that way. Some Colonies are more advanced than others, but there are many of our African colonies which are doing splendid work in that connection. I would like to remind hon. Members, some of whom may have never known of it that we have in the Colonial Office a very able Advisory Committee on Education composed of some of the best educational experts in the country. That Committee was there when we came into Office, and we have done our best to develop it and to take full advantage of it.
§ Dr. SHIELS
There are English educational experts on it, but there are also experienced colonists like Lord Lugard and Sir George Maxwell. We try to prevent it becoming too academic Joy taking care that all directors of education and governors and other officials, when they come to this country, are invited to the meetings of the Committee, and, wherever possible, they go over the problems with the Committee, and so 1497 keep their feet on solid earth. I can assure the Committee that the work of that Committee is very fruitful. We have just finished a survey of the educational system in Nigeria. We are considering a scheme put forward by the very able director of education there, and there is every reason to have very great hope of the results which will follow the working out of that scheme. As regards the kind of education, that is a very important matter, but not one into which I am able to go fully to-night. I have a great deal of sympathy with the view that we as a Ministry ought not to pay very much heed to the fears of what may arise from the teaching of the English language. We are told that it may become dangerous to develop a black-coated brigade, because all Africans will want to become Government clerks. The number of such appointments is very limited, however, and therefore the majority of the people will have to adapt themselves to other occupations, and I think that the extension of the teaching will be likely to cure that propensity, whereas if we confine the teaching to a small class the position is likely to be intensified.
There are some differences of opinion both about the particular type of English education and the appropriate time at which it should be given, and this matter has been engaging our Attention, but there does seem to be a general concurrence of opinion among educationists that it is better to carry on in the vernacular up to the age of about 10 years, and after that to start with English. One of the difficulties relates to the supply of teachers, for the teachers must know something about the English language, and we have concentrated, and I think wisely, on providing training for teaching as being the most important line on which we can develop. I can assure hon. Members that all the points they have made are sympathetically regarded and are before the Colonial Office. On the question of linking this up with medical education, there ought to be a liaison between the medical service and the education service, and that is being carried out.
In regard to the women's question, child welfare, and so on, which have been referred to by the hon. Lady for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and 1498 others, these subjects are being taken up with very great earnestness in the Colonial Office, and the existence of the Colonial Development Fund has given us some encouragement. The terms of reference of the Fund were broadly drawn, and it has been found possible to include in the schemes towards which assistance can be given schemes to develop and to assist the public health service. We have just had a committee of the Colonial Office sitting to devise the lines along which such assistance should be given, and I am certain that before very long we shall get very substantial assistance from this Fund for various Colonies which are not very well off, because as, I think, the hon. Lady for the English Universities said, "Whatever fine ideals you have, they cost money to carry out." There is no doubt that we have been hampered, especially in certain Colonies, such Nyasaland, because of the former parsimoniousness of the Treasury, but we are now hopeful that in Nyasaland and other parts we may be able, with the help of the Colonial Development Fund, not only to assist in public health but also in the training of subordinate medical personnel and of midwives and in other ways to meet the very real need to which hon. Members have called attention.
I would like to say a word about the subject which the hon. Lady the Member for The Wrekin (Miss Piston-Turbervill) raised, namely, the question of mui-tsai. I wish she had given me notice, because I should have been able to have brought more accurate data in regard to the subject. As I think she knows, in December last new regulations were put into force for the registration of employers, and six months are given for the change to be brought about. In July we expect to find out the result of the alteration. The hon. Lady seemed to suggest that there had been some failure to carry out the promises made in this direction, but she must remember this is a very difficult task. After all, Hong Kong is a typically Chinese town, in very close association with the mainland, and it is said that 10,000 people pass to and fro every day. It is a very difficult thing to carry out many of these regulations which we regard as desirable, but no more mui-tsai are allowed to be brought in, and every 1499 effort is being made to carry out the decision which has been made. At the same time, there is a difference of opinion even among British people as to whether all the results which are expected by some people from the abolition of mui-tsai will be realised. There is no doubt that there are some disadvantages in the girls being reduced to the status of domestic servants without the protection which they have under the present system. However, it has been agreed by the House and by successive Governments that, even though there are disadvantages in the abolition of mui-tsai, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and that we must make an effort to carry out the policy.
§ Miss PICTON-TURBERVILL
Would the hon. Gentleman kindly answer my questions as to whether it would be possible for the question of the tolerated houses, which are so closely allied to this matter, to be dealt with at the Imperial Conference and whether the six months report will be published?
§ Dr. SHIELS
I was just coming to that point, but, to finish off the subject of the mui-tsai, as I say, it has been decided that this is the proper method of dealing with the subject, and we are going ahead and doing our very best to carry it out. But when accusations are make of broken pledges I would remind hon. Members that the problem is an extremely difficult one and that it is a case to a large extent of legislating against local public opinion. As everyone knows, when you try to enforce measures which have not the full weight of public opinion behind them, the task of administering them is very much more difficult.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Could the Under-Secretary say whether the Chinese on the mainland around Hong Kong are taking any steps to prevent mui-tsai, and putting a stop to the practice in the whole area of China?
§ Dr. SHIELS
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the Chinese authorities have seriously tried to do something of that kind, but the disturbed state of China has made their efforts largely ineffective. Therefore, we have really had no assistance from outside which we might have had under normal 1500 circumstances. The policy of the Government is to get rid altogether of these tolerated houses in Hong Kong. The Secretary of State and I myself had an interview with the new Governor of Hong Kong before he sailed and he has been asked to make a careful personal investigation into these questions and to advise as to the best way in which these evils can be dealt with. I think the hon. Member for The Wrekin will see that we have all the facts fully in mind, and we realise how desirable it is that the state of things which she has described should not be allowed to exist.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet has asked me a question about the air mails. We are giving attention to all the questions affecting air communications, and are co-operating with the Air Ministry in regard to various matters connected with the air service. The hon. Member for Loughborough spoke about the liquor traffic in West Africa. I received notice that this subject was going to be raised, and I have figures which I think will show to the hon. Member that the subject is not quite such a serious one as he thinks. As a matter of fact there has never been any serious liquor problem in West Africa. [Interruption.] I agree that certain lurid statements have been made, but the figures are not easily got over. The Commission in Nigeria which reported in 1909 found that there was no ground for the allegations made and no evidence of widespread drinking. A report was made at the beginning of this year and there is unanimous testimony to the fact that drunkenness is almost unknown on the Gold Coast and in Ashanti, and the situation in this respect is better than it was before the War. If the hon. Member cares to put down a question on the Order Paper asking for the figures, I shall be pleased to supply the information.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.