Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £35,133, 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, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs."—[NOTE: £17,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Before we begin our discussion this afternoon I venture to ask your Ruling, Sir Dennis, on a point of Order governing the scope of the Debate. As Secretary of State for the Dominions my right hon. Friend, who is about to make his statement, which we are all anxious to hear, is responsible for communicating to this House affairs connected with the Irish Free State, which is still one of the Dominions of the Crown. I am anxious to receive your guidance as to how far it is possible during the course of the Debate to deal with certain happenings in the relations between this country and the Irish Free State. There are, no doubt, many questions which arise which are of interest to the two countries, but there is one in particular in which some Members are interested, and that is the situation which has been Produced by the recent decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council defining the authority of the Statute of Westminster in relation to matters settled in the Irish Treaty or the Articles of Agreement of 1921. This is a matter of great consequence, because the decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council runs exactly counter to the most explicit assurances which were given to us by the present Prime Minister, by the present Attorney-General, then Solicitor-General, and, though in less precise terms, by the Secretary of State for the Dominions, whose Vote is under discussion to-day. The matter is of the very highest consequence, because undoubtedly 582 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has now defined what the law is, and defined it in a sense exactly contrary to the assurances given to the House when the Statute of Westminster Bill was going through. I wish to ask for your Ruling, whether it will not be in order for us on this, the only occasion we have open, to refer to this aspect of the relations between His Majesty's Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and His Majesty's Government in the Irish Free State?
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Before you answer, perhaps it will be convenient, Sir Dennis, if I put a rather similar point of Order which has some bearing on the matter. If I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, I desire to raise the question of the bearing of the South Africa Act upon the Protectorates in South Africa. It is impossible for us to discuss this matter, to which some of us attach great importance, without reference to that Act or the possibility of amendment or otherwise of it. Would it be in order to do so, as it is intertwined with the future of the Protectorates, and there is a conflict of opinion as to the exact bearing of the Act upon the Protectorates?
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Taking first the question put to me by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), I will preface what I have to say by observing that it is a little difficult to say what will be in order or not until one knows what Members are trying to say, but I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is obviously not possible to discuss on this occasion a judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. So far as concerns the question of the policy or action of any Minister on legislation in 1931, even if it be, as no doubt it would have to be, that of the Dominions Secretary of State, the policy or action taken in 1931 certainly does not come under the Vote for the present year. There are other objections, one being the rule which limits the extent to which the Committee can discuss matters which take place in the House. Matters which take place in the House can only be discussed in the House. Therefore, as far as I can gather what the right hon. Gentleman wishes to say, I should be obliged to rule out of 583 order anything of the kind to which he refers. In answer to the noble Lord's question, I felt a little more difficulty about that, until he said that he would probably wish to discuss matters which might mean an amendment of the South Africa Act.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The definition may be another matter. I am not certain about that, but with regard to the question of fresh legislation, of course that is outside the scope of discussion in Committee.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
Of course, I take it that it would not be open in this Committee to discuss the findings of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, but I presume that the situation in which we stand arising from those findings would not be barred. With regard to the ability of the Committee to discuss any matters which have been previously transacted in the House, I should be grateful if you would give me some further guidance upon that point, for I was certainly not aware that it is not in order in Committee of the House to quote from a statement of a Minister made in the full House. I have often heard it done. Many lapses of order must have taken place unwittingly in the past generation. Indeed, may I not ask you whether the Committees of the House do not, in fact, follow on, by a definite process of treatment, the actual topics which have been decided by the House? I should, therefore, be very grateful to know what is this rule that we have to follow, that no reference must be made in Committee to what has taken place, for instance, on the Second Reading of a Bill. I thought the whole of the Committee work stood upon that basis.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman has read into my words more than I intended. I did not say that no reference could be made to statements made by a Minister in the House, but that they cannot be replied to in Committee. Without, however, going into detail as to the limitations of the Committee, I would say on the more general point that the only things which can be discussed on a Vote of Supply are those 584 matters of administration of, and the purposes of the expenditure to which the particular vote relates; it is administration and administration limited to the period for which the Vote is asked.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
Is it not the case that on a Vote of Supply we can discuss in Committee the question generally of the relations between this country and other countries? For example, we can discuss the relations between Great Britain and any foreign Power on the salary of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the question of how he is fulfilling the duties of his office in relation to negotiations with that foreign Power. Similarly, on the Dominions Office Vote, cannot we discuss generally questions of policy concerning the relations between His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and His Majesty's Government in any one of the Dominions on the salary of the Secretary of State for the Dominions? If that be so, would it not be in order to-day to discuss in general large questions of policy concerning the relations between this country and the Irish Free State?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that is so, but it is subject to what I have said just now. The discussion will have to be on matters of administration coming under the particular Vote which is before the Committee. That would not permit the discussion of the conduct of the Minister in question, in conjunction with other Ministers, in the matter of legislation in the House some years before the time for which this Vote is being asked.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
We understand clearly your Ruling that the Committee cannot criticise actions taken by the House. The point we are anxious to raise is that the House took certain action in the past by reason of misleading statements made to it by Ministers. Are we not entitled to refer to those statements in pointing out the present position, which is due to the fact that, no doubt quite unconsciously, the House was misled as to the results of what would take place in the event of certain legislation being passed?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman has not given me any reason for altering the Ruling I have given on that point, but he raised a specific point which will, perhaps, enable me to put rather more clearly what I have stated on the ques- 585 tion of debates in Committee in regard to debates in the House. It is an established rule that statements made by Ministers in the House cannot be debated or replied to in debates in Committee.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it legitimate in this Debate to ask the Dominions Secretary whether he is carrying on his administrative work in his office according to the Statute of Westminster as this House passed it or on the facts as established by the Privy Council decision? Surely the administration of the office is substantially different—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that that is clearly a matter for debate, and during the Debate the hon. Gentleman may be able to discover how far the Chairman will let him go.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I should be reluctant to come into collision with you, Sir Dennis, on any point, but I take it as a general guide that we can discuss the present position existing in the currency of the present financial year between Great Britain and the Irish Free State, and that that will be a fair matter of discussion, although it cannot be a peg on which to hang an episode which occurred in the past, such as the passage of the Statute of Westminster four years ago. Am I rightly interpreting your Ruling on that point?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Without committing myself too far, as I know the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman in using pegs, I think the answer to his question is that broadly he could so discuss the present position on the same lines as indicated by the answer which I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) as to discussions of policy on the Foreign Office Vote.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I presume that it will be competent to compare the positions before and after the decision of the Privy Council in this matter in order to deal with the different matters that will arise in administration if the two different views are taken in regard to the Statute of Westminster, namely, the view which was put forward by the Government before the Privy Council's decision and the view which was taken after the decision?
§ The CHAIRMAN
If the hon. and learned Gentleman had confined his question to his first sentence without going 586 on to explain the purpose of the comparison, I should undoubtedly have said it would be in order. If I give him a qualified answer it is merely that I reserve my right to curb anything which I think goes beyond the bounds of order when it arises.
§ 4.22 p.m.
The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
I am delighted with the very keen desire already expressed to obtain information and to debate very important questions which this Committee ought to appreciate. I intend this afternoon to give a broad general survey of the Imperial position as I see it at the moment. The point of order raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) clearly indicated that the Statute of Westminster, which I admit was the obvious result of the 1926 Imperial Conference, created an entirely new situation in the relationship between the mother country and the Dominions. In short, it said that each Dominion was given absolute freedom to determine its own destiny, and that the one binding link of all was to be allegiance to the Crown as the sovereign head. It can be truthfully said that, whatever arguments may be used about independence or a republic, there is no Dominion Government, with the exception of the Irish Free State, which would not frankly say that, so far as the liberty of economic development of their particular countries is concerned, they are absolutely free and unfettered, but the one binding link is allegiance to the Crown.
Those of us from all parties who were privileged to take part in and to see the recent Jubilee celebrations will admit that that in itself was the best indication of the family spirit and the essential unity of the British Empire. But do not let us forget that, whatever may have been the manifestations of loyalty in this country—and they were indeed great—they were only a reflex of a similar expression of feeling throughout the British Empire. The presence in London of so many representative Dominion statesmen gave us an opportunity to discuss the whole range of Imperial and foreign policy, and, although it would not be true to say that there was any Imperial Conference in the sense of an agreed agenda, it is true to say that the presence in London of the Prime Ministers and their 587 Cabinet colleagues enabled us to discuss the whole situation. I would emphasise that in our discussions on foreign policy and Imperial defence no attempt was made—indeed, it would have been improper if any, attempt had been made—to ask any Prime Minister to bind his Government. The whole of our Dominions are represented as free entities in the League of Nations, but it is necessary for me to emphasise that, so far as the communications and general relationships between the Dominions and ourselves are concerned, there has never been any important declaration of policy taken by the present or the late Government which was not first communicated to our Dominions, not because we desired to bind them, but because by the very nature of our family connection it was our duty to inform them.
Therefore I would say, speaking broadly, that without a solitary exception the whole of the Dominions realised our difficulties, they sympathised with our policy, and did not hesitate to declare two things: First, that His Majesty's Government must continue the effort they have already made for peace, and keep in mind the value of the League of Nations as the instrument likely to bring peace about. Secondly, when it was explained to them, as it was explained fully, what was the nature of the defences of this country, and the extent to which we had neglected our defence in order to set an example to the world, they, without hesitation and without a solitary exception, declared that in their view we should be wanting in our duty to our people at home and should be neglecting our obvious imperial obligations, if we did not take the steps which we announced to them and which have been announced to the House to put our imperial defences right as soon as we could. It is only fair that the Committee and the country should know the views of our Dominions in that connection.
I have already indicated that imperial and foreign policy were discussed, and I am sure the Committee will expect me to say something also about the relationship between the Dominions and ourselves on the economic side. When we returned from Ottawa there was considerable criticism, some on the ground that we had not given the Dominions all that they were entitled to and other 588 criticism that we had given too much. I propose this afternoon to ask the Committee to judge upon the facts of imperial trade. We said at Ottawa that we desired to maintain for ourselves the absolute right of making our first policy the consideration of our people at home; second, that we wanted to encourage and develop all parts of the Empire by giving them a preference; and, third, and not the least important, that in doing both those things we must not be unmindful of or neglect the vital importance of our export trade with foreign countries.
Those were the broad principles guiding our policy at Ottawa. I will now ask the Committee to judge of the results by the figures of the Ottawa year and to-day, not only the figures showing what our market meant to them but, what is more important from our point of view, the figures of exports from this country to the Dominions. In 932 Canada exported to the United Kingdom £43,000,000 worth of goods, and in 1934 £50,500,000 worth, an increase of 17 per cent. Australia, in 1932, sent £46,000,000 worth of goods, and in 1934 £50,000,000 worth, an increase of 8.7 per cent. New Zealand sent £37,000,000 worth in 1932 and £40,500,000 in 1934, an increase of nine per cent. Let me take the exports from the United Kingdom to the Dominions. To Canada they amounted, in 1932, to £17,500,000 and in 1934 to £21,000,000, an increase of 20 per cent. To Australia, in 1932, they amounted to £20,500,000 and in 1934 had jumped to £27,000,000. To New Zealand, in 1932, they amounted to £10,500,000, and in 1934 to £11,500,000. To the Union of South Africa they amounted to £18,500,000 in 1932, and £31,000,000 in 1934.
My hon. Friend knows that for reasons which he understands, unfortunately the Free State was not included in the Ottawa Agreement. I have been justifying the Ottawa Agreement, and it was on that Agreement that I made my statement. My hon. Friend can rest assured that I will deal later with the Free State. I submit to the Committee this proposition. Were we justified at Ottawa in saying, first, that we must above all else have regard to our imperial interests, but at the same time must not neglect the general value of 589 our trade as a whole? The figures I have given to the House will, I submit, justify me in saying that, especially remembering that Ottawa struck the worst possible patch in economic history. Notwithstanding all the difficulties that we have experienced these figures are, in my judgment, abundant justification of the Ottawa policy.
I will go beyond that, and say that the inter-Imperial trade between the Dominions, exclusive of the Mother Country, due to separate Ottawa Agreements between themselves, also shows a remarkable development. But the best justification I could give is this. Whatever may be said of the position of the rest of the world, every Dominion, without a solitary exception, that was a party to the Ottawa Agreements, and took part in the negotiations, can at this moment show, as we show, a Budget surplus and a certain tendency towards restored prosperity. I think the Committee will join with me in saying that not only do we not apologise for our Ottawa policy but we believe it is abundantly justified.
I pass from that to the discussions now taking place with regard to the meat situation. I had hoped that it would be Possible to announce to-day an agreement. Unfortunately, I cannot announce it. Negotiations are still taking place, but I am not without hope that a satisfactory agreement will ultimately be arrived at. It is only fair that the Committee and the country should know exactly the difficulties that we are up against and the factors which must be considered. In the first place, there is the position of British agriculture. I place that first. It is the oldest and still the largest of all our industries. No one will deny what British agriculture has been passing through, or that it is at this moment in a very bad way, and I can understand the farmer and the agricultural labourer resenting the import from anywhere of the things he produces, especially when he finds that they are sold in other places at a higher price than they are sold here. I can quite understand his resentment, because he feels, and rightly so, that that is dumping of the worst type. I can quite understand the British agriculturist pointing out, as I have pointed out to the Dominions, that notwithstanding the increase in the population of this country in the last 25 years our agricultural pro- 590 duction has remained practically stagnant. That is something which cannot be allowed to continue, and I felt it to be my duty, not only as Dominions Secretary but as the representative of an industrial constituency in this country, to place those facts before our Dominion colleagues. It is only fair to say that they are not unmindful of that difficulty, they fully realise it.
When we consider Australia, South Africa, Canada and New Zealand, knowing that there is room in all those countries for a population of many millions more than the existing populations, knowing the tremendous potentialities of each of those Dominions, and knowing perfectly well their desire to increase their population by people from this country, we not only sympathise with but appreciate their absolute resentment against any policy which says, "You must no longer expand your trade." I can understand and appreciate their difficulty because that is a natural sentiment, and it is up to us to appreciate that difficulty. Unless we do so, we are not likely to find a solution of it.
Let us come to the question of the foreigner. No Dominion would make an agreement—and no Dominion made such an agreement at Ottawa—which would ignore their foreign trade. We had no right to ask them to do so. Australia kept in mind that she had to sell wool to other people than to this country—such as Japan—and Canada knew that she had to sell wheat to foreign countries. It would have been madness on their part and would have been against their best interests not to retain freedom to develop their foreign trade quite apart from their Imperial trade. I pointed out quite clearly to them that it would be bad policy also for this country to adopt an attitude which would have the effect of destroying export trade. If the miner, the ship-worker, the engineer and the other industrial workers were deprived of the opportunity of work, they would no longer be in a position to buy either home or Dominion produce. Those are the three balancing factors, all of which had to be considered. There are two other factors that complicate the meat situation. When we were at Ottawa neither the Australians nor ourselves could have anticipated the tremendous development in their chilled meat in- 591 dustry. The Committee will remember that we sanctioned a large sum of money for experimental purposes, and the result has been that the Australians have not only developed the system to which they attach tremendous importance, but they look upon the change from frozen to chilled meat as vital.
The other factor which complicates the situation is that the Argentina Agreement, which was made after the Ottawa Agreements, for reasons which were explained to hon. Members, renders it impossible to impose a tariff on meat until that agreement expires in about 16 months' time. We cannot impose a levy without the consent of the Dominions. We have said frankly, as I now say to the Committee, that, instead of a system of restriction and embargo, which leads to all manner of friction, and instead of the British Government finding the heavy subsidy which they are compelled to find to-day, the policy at which we are aiming and the agreement which we are striving to obtain is a tariff, with a substantial preference to the Dominions.
I would say to those who tell us that they told us that three years ago, "You ought to be delighted that you have someone at the penitent form now."
I do not in the least apologise. Many people have reversed their views on the meat trade since then, including many of the Dominions, and we would be foolish, whatever policy we adopted three years ago, if we did not say that after our experience we consider that this will be a better policy. It is far better to face the facts. I have endeavoured, I hope impartially, to review the interests of each industry and to indicate to the Committee the difficulties that we are experiencing in endeavouring to get an agreement on those lines. I believe it is on those lines that the best interests of British agriculture and of the Dominions lie.
Having dealt with the agricultural problem, in which the Dominions are 592 naturally interested, I must not forget that there is such a thing as British industry, quite apart from agriculture. It is no good the Dominions saying that they must have a free and unfettered entry into our market under a preference unless they keep in mind that there was another part of the Ottawa Agreements, namely, Article 10, which set out, as far as it was possible to set out in a resolution, a broad definition that instead of prohibitive tariffs with a preference that meant nothing, British industry had to have a fair chance to enter the Dominion market on a competitive and not a prohibitive basis. Therefore, as we have been conducting negotiations with regard to agriculture with special reference to the meat problem, side by side we are also conducting negotiations on the industrial side to secure a better interpretation of Article 10. I am pleased to announce to the Committee that, so far as it is possible to judge, there is every indication of a satisfactory agreement being reached under that head.
I pass from that aspect of this subject to the problem of migration, in which many hon. Members are interested.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point would he kindly tell us when he thinks he will be able to announce the conclusion of the Dominions agreement respecting meat?
I will announce it immediately it is possible to do so. My right hon. Friend must remember that we have to conduct negotiations not only with the Dominions but with Argentina. I have already explained that a levy is impossible except by agreement, until the Argentina Agreement expires. I can assure my right hon. Friend that no one will welcome more than I an opportunity at the earliest date of being able to announce an agreement.
The first point I would emphasise with regard to migration is that we must not discuss that question merely as a means of solving our unemployment problem, because that conveys to the Dominions the impression that we are merely dumping something on them, and that would not only not be true but not necessary, for this reason: Since the economic depression set in five years ago, notwithstanding all the talk about people not desiring to migrate and of their 593 losing interest in migration, there have never been fewer than 50,000 people ready, anxious and willing to take their chance. My hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), who was in charge of this side of the question at one time, will know that. The old spirit is not lost, and people still desire to take their chance in the Dominions.
Every Prime Minister without exception with whom I have discussed this matter has emphasised his desire to assist migration at the earliest opportunity. They have all said frankly, what I was compelled to realise and to accept, that it would be madness to talk about migration at this stage when the Dominions were unable to absorb their own unemployed. They also said frankly that they would not only not look at it but that it would be disastrous from every point of view, so far as they were concerned. The very able report of the inter-departmental committee, which I set up, was sent to the Dominions over 12 months ago and was also submitted to the voluntary organisations. All the Dominions have not yet replied, but the main structure of the report meets with their general approval. Do not let us for a moment assume that migration is something in which we alone are interested. If migration is to be a success, it must have the backing, the co-operation and the good will of every Dominion to which the migrants go. Equally it is only fair to say that in my discussions I have taken the view that when the time arrives—and it is for us to have our schemes ready, because this is the time to prepare them—I hope it will be not only a big, bold policy but one which ensures a fair chance as far as those leaving these shores are concerned through the hearty, willing co-operation and welcome in the Dominions to which they go.
I now pass to a subject of considerable interest to the Committee and the country—the discussions between General Hertzog and myself with regard to the High Commission territories. I extremely regret the attempt made in certain sections of the Press to stir up strife in this matter and to state that there is a conflict, both of view and interpretation, between General Hertzog and myself on our agreement. Nothing was more resented by General Hertzog himself than the statement attributed to him that he had left South Africa and arrived here merely in- 594 tending on his first meeting to demand from me the handing over of these territories. General Hertzog at the outset said that nothing was further from his thoughts, and it would be sheer madness on his part to adopt any such policy. We, therefore, discussed the situation quite frankly. I pointed out to him at once that, so far as the Government were concerned, and indeed any Government in this country, they were and would be committed absolutely and completely to the pledges given to Parliament from time to time that there should be no transfer until the inhabitants, native as well as European, had been consulted and till Parliament had been given an opportunity of expressing its views. General Hertzog pointed on his part to the promise contained in the Statute and said that they looked forward with every hope and anticipation of the territories one day coming within the jurisdiction of the Union. We agreed that nothing would be more disastrous than to stir up an agitation among the natives with regard to the uncertainty of their position. Nothing would be more disastrous, if ever the time arrived when transfer was agreed upon, after the conditions had been fulfilled, than that it should take place by people being compelled to go against their will. In other words, whenever the time was ripe for transfer, whenever the circumstances would warrant or justify it, the one essential thing was that it should take place with good will and co-operation and be welcomed by the natives themselves.
Beyond that we must keep clearly in mind the economic position of the Protectorates, lying as they are so close and so connected with South Africa that friction between them and the Union would be disastrous to both. Therefore, we applied ourselves at once to the problem first of keeping in mind the obligations and commitments to our own people and to Parliament, and, secondly, the promise made to the South African Union which they had a right to expect would be fulfilled. Therefore, with the object of removing any misapprehension, I propose to read the aide-memoire which after our discussion I gave to General Hertzog and which he accepted as the real terms of the so-called agreement:We are pledged to Parliament here that the transfer of the High Commission territories should not take place (a) till the inhabitants native as well as European, have 595 been consulted, (b) till Parliament has been given an opportunity of expressing its views. These pledges were given during the passage through Parliament of the South African Bill and have been several times repeated since. Their nature is set out in some detail in the memorandum handed to General Smuts in July, 1933. It has been explained in the previous exchange of letters with General Hertzog that we do not regard the time as ripe for consulting the inhabitants under the first of the above-named pledges. All our information goes to show that at present native opinion in the territories is very strongly opposed to transfer. In these circumstances, it appears to us that the results of such consultation would be embarrassing and undesirable from every point of view. We believe that the Union Government, in the words used by General Hertzog in March, 1925, would not wish to incorporate the territories in the Union unless the inhabitants of the territories, native as well as European, are prepared and desire to come in. We do not wish to suggest that the principles underlying Section 151 of the South African Act have been affected except in so far as the establishment of Southern Rhodesia as a self-governing colony has a bearing on the future of, at any rate, part of Bechuanaland. It will be appreciated, however, that the provisions of the Schedule to the Act would have to be re-examined in the light of general constitutional developments since the Act was passed. The provisions requiring special consideration in this connection are mentioned in the memorandum handed to General Smuts by me which is referred to above.The conclusion which we draw from the above considerations is that the policy of both Governments for the next few years should be directed to bringing about a situation in which, if transfer were to become a matter of practical politics, it should be effected with the full acquiescence of the populations concerned. With this end in view, we feel it important that the closest possible co-operation should be established between the Union Government and the administration of the territories. We realise, of course, that some measure of co-operation already exists, but we feel that there are many directions in which it could be fruitfully extended. In particular, it appears to us to be an essential condition of the success of such a policy that the native population should feel that the Union Government are working in concert with the local administration with a real and genuine desire to develop and improve conditions in the territories. We would very gladly consider sympathetically any proposal which the Union Government may feel able to make as to further practical steps which could be taken for promoting co-operation on these lines in the administration of these territories.
§ Earl WINTERTON
In view of the great importance of that document, which to many of us is very satisfactory, would 596 the right hon. Gentleman consider publishing it as a White Paper? We have had no such full, authoritative statement on the matter as has now been given to the Committee.
I see no difficulty. I will certainly acquiesce. I am glad that the Noble Lord has raised the matter for this reason. One thing that we all want is to avoid unrest and uncertainty in the minds of the natives and the chiefs and, secondly, we want to encourage and develop the spirit of co-operation, because it is essential for good will to exist between the Union and the territories and, following that mutual understanding, I instructed Sir William Clark to see General Hertzog with some of his commisioners and go into the whole problem immediately on General Hertzog's arrival and, indeed, the instructions that I sent to Sir William Clark I showed to General Hertzog himself. When we are dealing with native problems, do not let us ever forget that we are trustees. Equally, do not let us be unmindful of the economic effects and the advantages which would accrue from co-operation. It is in that spirit and with that object in view that I ask the Committee to accept the agreement that I made as being in the best interests of all concerned.
§ Mr. EDWARD WILLIAMS
Has the right hon. Gentleman had any representations from the natives on this matter?
The High Commissioner and the district commissioners are always in touch with the natives. Up to the present the natives have always expressed a strong view against transfer, and I have always replied to every deputation that I would not be a party to breaking the pledges that I have already indicated to the Committee. On the other hand, the commissioners and the High Commissioner himself, knowing the agreement and knowing the necessity for co-operation, will, I am sure, give effect to both its letter and its spirit. As I have already said, the one thing that we want in this matter is to create a good atmosphere on all sides, but, when I say that, I do not want the Committee to be unmindful of the fact that we ourselves make a great contribution, as we are entitled to do and as we ought to do, for the betterment of these Protectorates. During the past four years alone, no less a sum than £427,000 has been voted by 597 the House of Commons for the administration and development of the Bechuanaland and Swaziland Protectorates. I put it to the Committee that that is a fairly good sum. Hon. members will be pleased to know that grants of £100,000 have been made from the Colonial Development Fund; and, in addition, a grant of £10,000 has been made by the mineowners of South Africa, which will be used exclusively for medical purposes among the natives. I cannot leave this subject without paying a tribute to that small staff who live in very difficult circumstances, who carry on under great difficulties, and of whom no words that I could say would be too strong in commendation of the great sacrifice and devotion to duty that they show in these Protectorates.
I pass now to another subject which will be of equal interest to the Committee, namely, the subject of Newfoundland. I suppose I should be correct in saying that the real cause of the change that has been made lay in the fact that Newfoundland had been living on deficits and loans. To be quite frank with the Committee, I had no idea, before the Commission arrived, of the extent to which demoralisation had set in in the Island. For instance, free railway travel seemed to be something that everyone expected. There has been a great reduction in the volume of traffic carried, but there has been an increase in the receipts. There was one occasion when, it was reported to me, people did not come in ones and twos to travel free, but 90 went together and demanded free transfers, and, when challenged, they said that it was the old custom, which they were going to continue. A prosecution, I am glad to say, succeeded in preventing that kind of thing from continuing.
I am thinking of the State as well as of the railwaymen's side. I understand that it is not limited to that. For instance, in connection with the Customs, it was reported to me from St. John's that one merchant during the past 12 months had found that his sales of tea had increased 600 per cent., and his sales of sugar 300 per cent. The Customs, therefore, were proportionately benefited, but I do 598 not want the Committee to assume that that benefit was due altogether to prosperity. It was due to the smuggling which took place, both of tea and of sugar, before the new administration came there. That is only an indication of the kind of difficulties which those responsible had to encounter. I do not think, however, that the Committee will disagree with me when I say that, notwithstanding all the difficulties, remarkable progress has been made.
I am not suggesting, and no one in the House will suggest, that there is not much more to be done. I do not for a moment suggest that the standard of living is anything comparable with what I desire to see. But I would ask the Committee to remember, first, that by the action of the Government in connection with the Conversion Loan £350,000 per annum is being saved to Newfoundland. That was the first effect of our administration. In the second place, the unemployment figures have been considerably reduced, while, thirdly, the amount of unemployment relief has been increased. Beyond that there has been the experiment of taking families of 100 who had hitherto been on what would be called the dole, and setting them up in an entirely new district. All the evidence goes to show that that is proving successful, and another £100,000 will be sanctioned this year for the settlement of 300 or 400 more of these families. All this indicates marked progress in 12 months. I would ask the Committee, in judging the situation, to remember that the change made was a remarkable one. It was not a pleasing thing to say to one of the oldest Colonies, "We are taking your freedom and your independence from you." It was a difficult thing for three British Commissioners to sit with three appointed from Newfoundland. But the spirit of co-operation and good will which all have experienced tends to show that, in spite of all the difficulties, substantial progress is being made.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
The right hon. Gentleman has made a statement with regard to unemployment relief. Can he tell us what previously had been the standard of payments made, and what they are now?
My hon. Friend will, I am sure, have seen the White Paper, and 599 he will see the details there, but, if any further information is desired, my right hon. Friend who will be replying to the debate will endeavour to give it. I was dealing with broad, general principles. I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised this matter, because I do not want to be accused of saying that this is a standard with which I agree, that this is a standard of life in which I acquiesce. What I have pointed out to the Committee is that, first, unemployment has been considerably reduced; secondly, that the social condition of the people has materially improved; thirdly, that the administration has been tightened up and corruption practically stamped out; and, above all, the organisation is now such that the latest telegram I have received says that the fishing industries show better prospects this year than at any period since 1928. I put it to the Committee that that is a picture which must be judged, not only from the point of view of what we should all desire, but from the point of view of the state of affairs as it was when we became responsible; and it is a picture which I am sure, on the whole, the Committee will appreciate.
I now pass to the Dominion which, unfortunately, was not represented at the Jubilee celebrations. So far as the Irish Free State is concerned, the only change in the past 12 months has been the Coal-Cattle Agreement. That was the first indication of an advance in the relationships between the two countries. I welcomed that agreement, and did all that I could to facilitate it. The Committee will be pleased to know that it is working satisfactorily on both sides. Curiously enough, it almost approximates to a pound for pound agreement. At the present moment, acting under my instructions, officials are endeavouring to see how far this agreement could be extended, because we should welcome an extension of it.
It is only fair to say, however, that the real difference between the Irish Free State and ourselves is not alone on the economic side, but on the political side as well; but any further agreement, any effort towards a rapprochement that would settle this question, would be welcomed by the Government. Hon. Members will recollect the recent statement of 600 Mr. de Valera in the Dáil, in which he boldly declared that he wanted to make clear at once, if any enemy of this country believed that the Irish Free State could be used as a base for an external attack on this country, that that was a position which would not be tolerated. We on this side welcome that statement, but I do not want the Committee to be under any misapprehension. It is not alone the economic difficulty; there is the political difficulty as well; and no steps that we can take to bring about a settlement will be neglected. On the other hand, it would be deceiving the House and deceiving the country if we did not say how fundamental were some of the differences, although, important as these are, we all desire the opportunity to come to an amicable settlement.
I have endeavoured to give a short review of our Imperial relations, and I am sure that the Committee will accept my statement when I say that it is far better to have faced the difficulties, as I have endeavoured to face them, and put them to the Committee quite fairly, but I would also, say that, having met and discussed the situation with all our Dominion representatives, in a world which is changing as this world is changing to-day, with events taking place every day and every hour that none of us could foresee, it is a magnificent tribute to this great Constitution of ours, and something of which we ought really to be proud, that, in this changing world, this old Empire stands unique in the history of the world to-day. It is something of which we ought to be proud, and of which this House ought to be proud, and I have no hesitation in saying that it will be the duty and pleasure of the Dominions Office to continue in that spirit.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to which we have listened to-day shows very clearly to us how important are the problems between this country and the Dominions. In my view, they are quite as important, and a solution of them is equally as important, as any difficulty we may have either in home affairs or in foreign affairs. We have acknowledged, as far as the Dominions are concerned, that they are 601 free and equal partners with us as a result of Imperial Conference decisions and the Statute of Westminster. The right hon. Gentleman has said many times that we are the Mother country. I doubt it. No one speaks of the Mother country to-day. We are equal partners with the rest of the Dominions, but when we look at these Estimates in which nearly £700,000 is provided for the various Dominions, in addition to the large sums for the Irish Free State, we realise that we have a good deal of mothering to do. That is our position whether we are the Mother country or not.
The Labour party are anxious, willing and ready to co-operate in any measures that are calculated to be to the advantage of the Dominions, and will co-operate with them as to their welfare and future development. But this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman has told us several things of which we shall want to know more than we have been told even in his very long speech. He has had the Dominion Prime Ministers here for some time. They have been discussing various problems. I believe that most of them have gone away or are about to go away, and yet I understand that in regard to meat he is only able to say that no agreement at all has been arrived at.
I must correct that statement in fairness to the Dominions. Mr. Lyons did not come here to conduct the meat negotiations, and he did not do so. He has left the negotiations in charge of his Minister responsible. The same thing applies to Mr. Forbes, so that the meat negotiations have not been conducted by the Prime Ministers.
§ Mr. LUNN
I understood that it was very largely the question of the economic position between this country and Australia that the Prime Minister of Australia came to discuss, and in the absence of the Prime Minister it is very difficult to come to an ultimate agreement upon these matters. It is unfortunate that an agreement has not been arrived at before the Debate to-day, but we have gathered from the right hon. Gentleman that there is a possible solution, and the solution that he has suggested is that there is likely to be another tariff in order to settle this particular matter. He confessed this afternoon that he is eating humble pie as to many of his previous opinions with regard to these 602 matters, and I think that he has, so to speak, changed his coat so rapidly from what were his opinions in days gone by, that it is very difficult to know where he is from one year to another. The Labour party know that there is an abundance of food in the world for the people, and we should like to see the possibility of no restrictions whatever until everybody has a sufficiency of what they need. That is not provided at the present time. We welcome co-operation, as far as it can be established, in the interests of the people who are living in the Dominions and who are living in this country. But if it is intended to make or to support agreements simply to enable private profiteers to benefit as a result of them, we shall be no party to that particular idea of a settlement.
I did not imagine that the question of migration would come up in this Debate. Migration is a big enough subject to have a day to itself. The Inter-Departmental Report which was published some time ago ought to be discussed, and we ought to know the attitude of the Government towards it. At the same time, I cannot see any possibility of any migration for a long time to come. I agree with the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman upon this matter, that until there are opportunities provided which will guarantee a livelihood to the people who go overseas, there is no purpose in doing much in regard to the question of migration at this time. As a matter of fact, scores of thousands more people are coming back to this country, and have been for the last three or four years, than are leaving our shores for any part of the British Empire. As long as that is the position, it is not possible to establish any scheme for future migration between this country and the other countries. I know that if conditions were sufficiently good to encourage people to go overseas, our people would go, but there is no possibility to-day, and there is not likely to be fore a long time to come, of anybody being tempted to go overseas with conditions as they are at the present time. Moreover, the Victorian settlers idea left a nasty taste with regard to migration to Australia, and there is no doubt that we shall have to pay the penalty. There are—and it was admitted by the Prime Minister of Australia the other week—18 per cent. of the trade union workers in Australia at present unemployed, and 603 there are many unemployed in Canada. So we can afford to leave this question over for a long time before we can expect anything practical coming from it.
There is only one thing I would say upon the Inter-Departmental Report upon this matter—I shall bitterly oppose it if I am in the House when it comes before it—and it has relation to the idea of reopening child migration to any part of the Dominions. I believe now, as I believed in 1924, that it was largely slavery. I hope that we shall never return to that form of slavery for children who are of school age, and that the idea will never be accepted. My view has always been, and it is to-day, that if migration can arise, and if work and a livelihood can be provided, the best form is the migration of families where the father, the mother, and the children can go out together. But that can be left to the future, and I think for a long time in the future, before anything practical can be done.
The right hon. Gentleman said that with regard to the African Protectorates there had been a good deal of feeling expressed upon the matter, and he resented the idea that there had been very deep feeling expressed upon it. I noted the interjection as to what newspaper was mentioned. You can go to more than one newspaper, and to many parts of the country, and to many people, and find that there has been deep feeling expressed upon the question of the Protectorates, and I doubt very much whether his statement to-day has completely removed that feeling. There is a good deal in his Memorandum which he has read to-day, and which he is going to publish, with which I could agree. I welcome the idea that there is to be co-operation and consultation between the natives and our Government, that the natives have to be satisfied with regard to the transfer, if ever it is to be put forward, and that this House has also to consider it and have to be satisfied upon it. I welcome that particular idea, but I do not understand what is meant by the co-operation that is to take place between the Union Governor and the representatives of the natives in Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland. I want to know what this co-operation is going to mean, how it is to come about, and who is to institute the co-operation which is to come in that particular way.
§ Mr. THOMAS rose—
§ Mr. LUNN
The right hon. Gentleman has two tries to my one. I think that we might leave it, and then the right hon. Gentleman can deal with it later, as he will have an opportunity, I believe, of replying at the end of this Debate. I hope that when he does reply he will deal with that matter, and let us understand what is meant by the co-operation which is to take place and the assistance which is to be given to the territories in the future. We are not very satisfied about this matter even yet. We are not satisfied that the interests of the natives are to be considered as they ought to be. We are not satisfied that this does not mean transfer. The right hon. Gentleman has not alluded to the speech which was delivered by General Hertzog, the Prime Minister of South Africa, the other day in which he said that they were to be transferred at a suitable time. We ought to have had a statement made as to what was meant by the Prime Minister of South Africa as to the transfer of the territories to the Union at a suitable time. He did not leave it there. He said the British Government never go back on their word.
Unfortunately, I understand, there was nothing in writing upon this matter between General Hertzog and the right hon. Gentleman. He is not a man to be played with. He is a very serious individual and we must have regard to the statement he made, that the territories have to be transferred. We shall need more information than we have had up to now in order that we may be quite sure that the territories are not going to be transferred, and that what is being done is not intended for their transference to the Union. Before that happens a good deal has to be done. I do not know whether the Memorandum that was read by the right hon. Gentleman is the Memorandum that has been sent to the High Commissioner for three Protectorates. If not, and if that is not the whole of the information that has been sent, I should like to ask whether any instructions have been given to the High Commissioner since the visit of General Hertzog to this country. Any instructions that have been given ought to be published at the same time as the 605 White Paper, so that we may know what is to be the attitude of the High Commissioner on this matter in the future.
We know, and it has been admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, that the natives are bitterly opposed to the idea of transference. They do not wish for it. This applies not only to the natives in the Protectorates but the natives in the Union. Not long ago I saw a resolution that had been passed by certain natives in the Union asking that they should be transferred to the British Crown and should be removed from any connection with the Union of South Africa. I hope that we shall not leave this matter where it is but that we shall keep alive to the position and get to know what is to be the future of this question. I think we shall find that since the National Government was appointed in South Africa the determination to have the transfer has gain ground. I hope that we shall keep awake to the position and see that nothing is done which will injure the interests of the natives in that part of Africa, for whom we are the trustees. I have heard it said that there is a desire for transfer, but the transfer for which I have heard the desire expressed has been the transfer to the Colonial Office. They have more confidence in the Colonial Office than in the Dominions Office. That has nothing to do with the Ministers of the two Departments. They feel that there is more sincerity in the idea of trusteeship being carried out through the Colonial Office than through the Dominions Office. That matter has been discussed on many occasions.
There is another matter in connection with the Protectorates to which I would call attention. At the present time there are two Bills before the Union Parliament which are largely based on the idea that transfer to the Union is possible—the Native Land and Trust Bill and the Representation of Natives Bill. Both Bills discriminate not in the interests but against the interests of the natives. We ought to know what is going to happen to these two Bills as a result of the agreement arrived at.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Member that we cannot discuss legislation in the South African Parliament.
§ Mr. LUNN
Those matters have some bearing on the subject and I was only asking a question in regard to them. As there is such deep feeling whether or not these Protectorates should be transferred to the Union and what is to be the co-operation that is to be extended from the Union or from this Government to the Protectorates, we ought to know where we are and what is going to take place. However, I will leave the matter there, it is a subject in which many hon. Members are concerned and no doubt they will desire to speak upon it.
I come to the question of Newfoundland, and here I disagree a good deal with the right hon. Gentleman. Newfoundland is our oldest Colony. Its democratic Government has been abandoned and we have had no statement to-day when there will be a possibility of its being restored. I admit that it is largely through its own fault and extravagance that this has come about, as was revealed when the Royal Commission's Report was published 18 months ago. It was a remarkably good report, and I should like to see more advantage taken of some of its suggestions than have been taken by the Commission of Government. I am not satisfied with what is being done by the Commission of Government. The people of Newfoundland are in terrible circumstances. They are desperate. Their condition is tragic, and every one must have sympathy with human beings who are living under the conditions which prevail there. According to the White Paper, beri beri is rampant and the physical condition of the people is so low that on three occasions the amount of relief has had to be increased. In paragraph after paragraph there is reference to the question of the relief of the people. I suppose that we could go on for ever giving relief to the people if we took no other action than has been taken by the Commission of Government.
There is a statement in the White Paper that outside St. John's 71,000 people are on relief. That is practically the whole of the population outside St. John's. Many thousands of people in St. John's and hundreds of families in St. John's are on relief of a kind which does not show that there has been much human feeling in the amount of relief given. The conditions of the people are 607 just the sort that cause unrest, discontent and create demonstrations, and no one knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman. Since I have seen the copy of the White Paper I have had more reason to believe the "Daily Herald's" exposure of what has happened than before. Everything that is mentioned in the White Paper is the sort of thing that creates the type of demonstrations that have taken place, and the opinions that have been expressed in Newfoundland regarding their position. In my opinion these demonstrations and the exposure in the "Daily Herald" are responsible for the increased relief. Since the demonstrations took place an increased amuont of relief has been given to the people who are on relief there. There are parts of three paragraphs which deal with this matter, and I should like to quote them. Paragraph 13 says:The reason for the increased cost is a material improvement in the relief which has been distributed. The scale of relief is 25 per cent. higher than has ever before been the case in St. John's, and a wide variety of food items is supplied. The scale is higher than that outside of the city, regard being had to the fact that its residents are unable to provide for themselves agricultural produce and this has to be made up in the ration issued by the relief authorities.Paragraph 16 says:The reason for the increase in the cost of relief is to be found in the more liberal diet which is being provided during the present year.Paragraph 22 says:A second notable evidence of the improvement in conditions is the reduction of the number on able-bodied relief, combined with the more generous scale on which that relief is given.How far has that been influenced by the administration of public relief and by the discontent which there has been in Newfoundland in regard to this matter? I see very little in the Report of what is being done to restore conditions and give employment to the people. We might continue to give relief year after year. The Commission of Government have been given unlimited powers and can draw from the British Treasury all that they need that is not provided from the revenues of Newfoundland, until the end of 1936. What will happen after that I do not know, but I feel that this is not a satisfactory report of what is happening. We ought to have more information. If 608 what is reported is all that is happening, the Commission of Government are not doing what they ought to do in the interests of Newfoundland.
Newfoundland has vast resources, wonderful raw material and the finest cod fishery in the world. What is being done? In paragraph 10 we are told what has been done. There is not very much here. The only thing of importance that has been done is referred to in paragraph (f) which says:small amounts are being lent free of interest, local committees desiring to engage in co-operative undertakings for catching, curing and disposing of fish.Is it the whole idea of the Commission of Government to perpetuate an economic system which we know has failed? The Royal Commission said that private enterprise had completely failed there. I spoke to the Chairman of the Commission just before the Commission of Government went out, and I had hoped that something would be done so that we might establish co-operation in Newfoundland, and that as far as possible there should be public ownership in everything that was done with regard to the restoration of trade, the improvement of employment and the re-establishment of the island on a proper footing. There is no other cure for the position except public ownership and control. In no other way can there be anything satisfactorily achieved in Newfoundland. I want the Commission of Government to do something more than is revealed in the White Paper, not that I object to people receiving relief in their desperate condition but that the Commission should do more than they are doing to restore conditions. I should like to see them adopt the suggestion in the Royal Commission's Report and give the people an opportunity of earning their own livelihood whilst making the Island more prosperous and putting it into a more satisfactory position. We shall have to keep our eyes on this matter, and have further and better reports before we can accept all that is being done by the Commission of Government. Meantime, we are bound to support the Vote, which is largely a case of relieving people who without it would be in very dire distress, but we hope that before the end of 1936 something more will be done.
The only other point to which I desire to refer is with regard to the Irish Free 609 State. I should like to ask when the war between this country and the Irish Free State is going to end. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he would welcome any idea of a settlement. I have with me a letter signed in June, 1932, wherein the President of the Irish Free State agreed to accept arbitration for a settlement of all the issues between us and the Irish Free State. I have never hesitated to offer my opinion as a layman. I believe that the enmities are due to us, and I have always had the idea that it would have been much better to accept the offer made in June, 1932, gone to arbitration, found the people who would have been agreed upon to settle the matter, rather than continue a war of this kind year after year. Why should we discuss little things and not discuss the main question? The right hon. Gentleman takes pleasure that the Irish Free State should not be a base to be used against this country. There is no reason why we should be discussing a matter like that. It is only a question of the representatives of this Government and the Irish Free State getting down to it to provide a settlement. We have come to agreement on small matters. Why cannot we come to an understanding on the larger question? It would mean much to the British Empire if the Irish Free State was in no doubt as to her position as a Dominion in the British Empire.
While we criticise the right hon. Gentleman and his Department in some things, we are quite anxious to see co-operation and understanding between ourselves and the Dominions. The greatest bulwark for peace in the world is the British Empire. I believe in peace, but not through increased armaments; there is no safety in that idea. In his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that the Dominion Prime Ministers had no power to settle anything at all, but he gave us to believe that they all agreed to the idea that we should increase our defences. He might have gone a little further and said that they would consider this matter in their various parliaments. If they had no power to settle anything, why should they be able to agree that we should spend many more millions for the defence of the Empire? I hope that is not the position. Believing as I do that the British Empire is the greatest bulwark of peace, 610 I hope that we shall use this instrument to the full to prevent anything happening which may bring disaster not only to ourselves but to every country in the world.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
The speech of the Secretary of State ranged over such a number of very important questions in all parts of the world that one is tempted rather to follow him in his passage from one Dominion to another, but having regard to the hour I propose to confine my remarks to one particular subject. Before doing so let me refer to the figures he gave with regard to the Ottawa Agreements, rather remarkable figures showing a great increase. I would point out that the figures for the first year were for a year when the economic blizzard was blowing very strong, and the deductions which can be drawn from comparing the two figures cannot be made without bearing that fact in mind. It considerably alters the value of the figures as they appear at first sight. We regret that he was not able to make any statement as regards meat, but hope that he will be able to do so in the future. Apparently the right hon. Gentleman is not without hope that within a short period he will be able to let us know that some agreement has been arrived at. Nothing is more unsettling to the industry than the present state of ignorance as to what is going to be settled. It was of great importance to hear the declaration of policy, namely, that the Government are going to do away with the experiment of quotas and restrictions and work in the direction of a general tariff. That is a subject which will need considerable watching when the time comes, but that cannot be until the Argentine Agreement comes to an end.
The subject upon which I desire to offer a few remarks is that connected with the proposed transfer of the South African Protectorates. This is not a new matter. It is an advantage that we are to-night able to discuss it for the first time since the arrangement was come to between General Hertzog and the Secretary of State, and I should like to take this opportunity of saying that the statement which the Secretary of State read out—the agreed statement, drawn up after they had consulted together—is, on the face of it, very satisfactory. It will commend itself generally to the House and 611 the country. We have been in the unfortunate position of not knowing exactly what passed between the Secretary of State and General Hertzog, but it will be realised that the agreement to which they have come is essentially reasonable and fair. The demand that was made by General Hertzog a short time ago rather took this country by surprise. It has been forgotten that it is 25 years since this country first envisaged a possible transfer of the Protectorates to the Union of South Africa. General Smuts, when he was over here a few months ago, referred to it in a speech, in which he recalled a conversation 25 years ago between Lord Selborne, Chief Justice De Villiers, General Botha and himself, in which it was generally hoped that the transfer might take place before a long time had elapsed after the Union of South Africa had come into force. In any consideration of this subject we have to bear in mind that this is not really a new subject, although it may appear new to a good many people in this country. Twenty-five years and the years of war have made a big gap, and the subject has now come up again almost as a new one. From the point of view of South Africa it has been much more prominent in their mind than in ours.
When the Union Act was passed a Schedule was drawn up in which careful provisions were inserted for safeguarding native interests. I will refer to only one or two in order to show the point of view taken in this country at that time. In the first place, legislation affecting the natives in the High Commissioner's Territories was to be proclaimed by the Governor-General in Council; it was not to be by the Parliament of South Africa. Power was reserved to the Crown to disallow any law so passed, and any Bill introduced to alter the Schedule was to be reserved for His Majesty's pleasure. At that time safeguards were carefully inserted in the Schedule so that if any transfer took place native interests would be protected from any change which did not commend itself to this House.
Since then the Statute of Westminster has been passed, which materially alters the position. Indeed, the political position has been profoundly altered from what it was 25 years ago, and the conditions which now surround the transfer are very different from what one en- 612 visaged in 1909. It is quite true that if the transfer is made now it would be to different Ministers of the same King. That has always to be borne in mind. His Majesty's Government in this country and His Majesty's Government in South Africa are both governments of the same King, and if a transfer were to take place from one set of Ministers to another it would still be to Ministers who were nominally answerable to the Crown. But the great difference is this, that if a transfer takes place now it would in its nature be final, that is to say, the home government would cease to have the power of intervention which it had under the 1909 Act if any alteration of the conditions were considered. That is the main difference between the transfer that was envisaged in 1909 and the transfer that is under consideration now. In 1909 there were still these powers reserved to the Crown to look after native interests, but the transfer taking place now would be a final one, and there would be no power still left to the Crown to intervene. What definitely remains the same is the geographical position. Any one looking at the map and seeing these three territories surrounded by Union territory must realise the very great difficulties that are inherent in a position like that, where those territories are under the rule and control of another country which is 6,000 miles away. Geographically they are surrounded by the Government of the Union of South Africa, and economically they must be dependent on the country in which nature has placed them. Any undertaking to transfer, therefore, must be considered in a different light from that in which it would have been considered in 1909; that is to say, any terms that are come to must be reached by the joint consideration of the Union Government on the one side and of the Home Government on the other.
The Secretary of State said that it is most desirable that nothing should be done or said, certainly on this side, which would lead in any form or shape to friction or controversy between the two Governments. The honour of both ourselves and of South Africa is involved in this question of transfer. Our honour is involved on two grounds; first, because of the pledges which we have given and have renewed from time to time to the native inhabitants of the territories, and 613 also there is our declaration in the Preamble to the Act of 1909, which I will quote:Whereas it is expedient to provide for the eventual admission into the Union, or transfer to the Union, of such parts of South Africa as are not originally included therein.So that we have pledged our honour on the one hand to the natives to look after their interests, and on the other hand we have inserted in the Preamble to the Act our intention to provide for the eventual admission into the Union of those territories. Then we come to the other side. On the part of South Africa, particularly since they have reached full stature in the British Commonwealth of Nations, they feel more keenly than ever that the future of the whole of South Africa is in their hands and that they must bear the full responsibility for it. When General Hertzog first made his declaration apprehensions were naturally aroused. I think that the statement we have heard from the Secretary of State to-day has gone a good way to dispel those apprehensions, because it is the expressed intention now that both sides should take counsel together and act with good will and without haste. That is most important. A few years are of little account in the long history of nations. It is of the first importance that we should not act with any precipitate judgment, but should act slowly and carefully, and watch our steps the whole way that we go.
I would ask, what does that mean in practice? A way will have to be found which will ensure the good will and co-operation of Great Britain and South Africa, and above all provide that the natives shall be fully consulted and their interests safeguarded. That will take time. We have to realise that the natives are very nervous about this possibility of transfer. In fact, as we heard an hour ago, any attempt to take native opinion at the present time would result practically in a unanimous vote against any transfer from the Crown. The natives are very apprehensive of what their position may be under the Union Government. On the other hand we are equally anxious to know the full value of the future native policy of the Union. Both of those anxieties must be allayed. It is quite impossible that we should consent to any transfer of these territories, for which we are trustees, unless we are fully satisfied that the future of the 614 natives, economically, politically and socially, will on transfer be open to an improvement of conditions, conditions better than they have enjoyed. The native fears have also to be satisfied that if a transfer takes place the new conditions that will be offered them will be such as they can frankly accept. How is this to be carried out? It is not sufficient to speak merely of good will and co-operation. I think the Committee would like to know a little more about the machinery that it is proposed to put into action to effect these objects.
Some suggestion has been made, from the point of view of the natives, that possibly they would prefer to be administered by the Colonial Office. I should like to approach that matter from a slightly different angle. We all know that the Colonial Office has unrivalled experience of administration of various territories in Africa and has a large staff of able administrators. I would like to ask whether it might be considered that it would be an advantage to bring the Colonial Office into this matter with the consent of the Government of South Africa. It has occurred to me that it might be possible to have a combination of skilled administrators drawn from the Colonial Office, combined with experienced officers in South Africa who have a knowledge of South Africa but have not perhaps the other knowledge that might be drawn from servants of the Colonial Office who have served elsewhere in Africa. If both the Union and our Colonial service were to lend the best of their officers it might be an effective means of improving the existing conditions of the natives in those territories, and help to allay their fears as regards any future transfer that may take place.
But, after all, we come back, so far as we ourselves are concerned, to the main issue, which is that we should never be able to assent whole-heartedly to any transfer unless we were fully satisfied that the conditions which the natives will enjoy after the transfer will be such that we can approve of them. Of course the operation is essentially a delicate one. The Secretary of State spoke of obtaining the full acquiescence of the natives. It will no doubt take considerable time to obtain such full acquiescence, but I do not think that it is impossible. I would like once more to impress on the Com- 615 mittee my view that there are very great dangers in forcing the issue in any way. We have to move very slowly and with the greatest circumspection in the whole matter, if it is to be successful. In my opinion any attempt to force the issue would be disastrous, any attempt to effect a transfer before all the three parties were satisfied that it should go through. A transfer should be made and should only be made on real terms of honour and good will for South Africa, Great Britain and the natives of the territory.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) has dealt with the matter of the South African Protectorates in a spirit that has entirely lived up to his declaration that we ought in this House to say nothing which will create any difficulty as between the Government in this country and the Government of the Union, the honour of both of whom and the vital interests of both of whom are implicated in the question of the future of these territories. On that issue the Secretary of State has made a statement which, I think, ought to give widespread satisfaction. For one thing we have now the definite terms of the agreement between him and General Hertzog, which ought to put an end to all misunderstanding and all attempts to make mischief between the two Governments primarily concerned. The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), who somewhat prematurely moved a reduction of the Vote before he knew the statement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was going to make, said that he was not satisfied that it was not intended to transfer the territories, and objected to General Hertzog saying that there would be transfer when a suitable time came. Surely, the essence of the whole matter has always been that ultimate transfer was envisaged and intended, but that the whole difficulty lay in defining and agreeing to the conditions under which a suitable time could arise.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has said that the geographical conditions of South Africa do point directly towards the ultimate unity of that country. South Africa is essentially a unit, not only a great solid block on the map but within itself separated by no 616 natural boundaries, with nothing to prevent the free movement of goods and of people, a single block politically and economically. The very fact that it was a unit led to the South African War. It was impossible to maintain in a single country two entirely inconsistent systems of government from the point of view of the treatment of white immigrants and of the relationship towards the British Commonwealth as a whole. It was the same essential unity that made it impossible for a group of Colonies, though they were all under the British Crown, to live together as separate Colonies without coming to some form of constitutional union.
In the same way it is, in the long run, impossible to maintain within South Africa, in the very heart of the Union, entirely separate systems of native administration in areas looking to a Government which is 6,000 miles away. That is what we may call the underlying condition of long-distance policy in this matter. On top of that, it was undoubtedly intended, when the Act of Union was passed, that the territories should eventually join the Union. Indeed, few people then thought that the transfer would be delayed as long as it has been. At the same time, it was no less clear that our responsibilities to the natives in those territories, the pledges which we had given to the native chiefs and the treaties which had been made with them, as well the wide difference between the systems of administration in the Union and in these territories, made immediate transfer out of the question. The problem then arose of how to find an eventual solution between pledges which we were in honour bound to fulfil in the interests of the native populations for whom we were trustees and the ultimate necessity of union for South Africa as a whole. It seems to me that the statement of my right hon. Friend this afternoon does afford a satisfactory framework within which that solution can be found.
The real trouble to my mind is that since the Act of Union, for various reasons, our approach to the problem has been negative. It has been an approach of marking time. Ours has been a negative policy both on the economic side and on the political side. Nothing struck me more when I was in South Africa seven 617 or eight years ago than the fact that our policy in those territories had been what I then called a "Whipsnade policy," a policy of preserving them in every respect as they had been before and at the same time a policy which did very little for the material progress of those territories. I attempted to get something done to make a start towards a policy of more vigorous economic development. Since then my right hon. Friend has done far more than I was able to do, and I wish to congratulate him unreservedly on what he has been able to do for these territories, and still more on what he announced to-day he would be able to do in dealing with this problem, and above all with the vital question of health. Nothing has been more disquieting in recent years than to learn of the seriousness of the health conditions in these territories, particularly Bechuanaland. I know that my right hon. Friend has had to work with the tide flowing strongly against him and has had to spend much money merely on shoring up the existing position instead of pushing forward as he would have wished to do. I think he deserves a tribute of recognition from this Committee for what he has been able to do in spite of immense difficulties, and I certainly join with him in paying a wholehearted tribute to the small staff of administrators out there who, in the most adverse circumstances, have kept their flag flying. I think the Protectorates are fortunate in the officers who are administering their affairs. Swaziland recently lost a capable and devoted administrator, but both in Bechuanaland and Basutoland my right hon. Friend has energetic and capable agents who will do their utmost to develop those territories.
What struck me most was that it was essential to get away from a purely negative, "marking time," protective attitude towards the economic problems of the territories, and to try to make the most of them, not by a policy of mere seclusion but by a policy which would enable the native to develop, not merely as an unskilled worker but as a skilled worker and as far as possible also as a professional man. Our conception of the territories ought essentially to be one tending to development but to a development in which there is no colour bar. That seems to me to be the essential thing upon which we have to fix our minds and upon which we 618 want to secure complete agreement with the Union before transfer takes place. A question has been raised about machinery. I think so long as the Dominions Office is free to avail itself of the best personnel it can draw, not only from its own staff but from the staff of the Colonial Office, the question of transfer from one Department to another here need not arise. But I warmly endorse the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) that from the point of view of co-operation the more interchange and transfer there can be between the best elements in the existing native administration in the Union and the administration in the Territories, the better for co-operation in the future. I would say without undue vanity that such interchange would not be without benefit perhaps for the administration, in the Union as well as for the Protectorates.
There is another aspect of the negative policy or policy of drift, on the economic side. While, within the Protectorates, it has not done very much, it has also meant that the Union under perfectly natural pressure from its own farmers—who are able directly to bring pressure to bear in the Union Parliament—has in one way or another imposed restrictions which tend to prejudice the development of the territories, or at any rate show that the Union is not interested in that development. An agreement on eventual transfer implies the recognition on the part of the Union that its ultimate benefit lies in the prosperity of the territories. I think there is every hope of both sides working together to bring them to such a pitch of prosperity that they will be able to hold their own in the Union when they are transferred and that the Union will welcome them as an addition to its resources and wealth when such transfer can take place. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that he would welcome any suggestion from the Union of practical machinery to implement that co-operation. I should like to suggest one possibility. It seems clear to me that it would be a waste of money if we spent large sums on any policy of development in the territories which the Union was not afterwards prepared to carry further, or incurred debt obligations for which the Union was not prepared to undertake responsibility when the transfer occurred. It seems to me, 619 therefore, that in any policy of economic development of the territories we ought to bring the Union into our councils. Something in the nature of an economic advisory council, more or less informal, to consider these matters might be well worth examining.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has raised that question. When I spoke of co-operation I did not attempt to define it. I had in mind for instance that if there was an outbreak of disease or locusts or anything of that kind those were matters in which both sides would naturally be interested. I had precisely in mind the point raised by my right hon. Friend. If expenditure is to be sanctioned for the development of the Protectorates I want that expenditure to be in a direction which the Union would welcome. In that case there would be no question that, ultimately, further consideration would be given to these questions.
§ Mr. AMERY
Clearly, we are in agreement on the main principle. I would only urge the desirability of having some kind of standing machinery, however informal, which will make certain that the two sides are working together. Then we come to the question of a more positive political administration. There, it is true, we are working—I am speaking at the moment of the internal administration of the territories—under old treaties made with various chiefs. There can be no doubt that indirect government as it operates in the Protectorates is something very different from the indirect government carried on in other parts of Africa where there is a progressive system under which we utilise the ground work, the root stock, of the native system but steadily implant among the natives British ideas of progress. I think development in these territories is prejudiced by the powers enjoyed by the chiefs and the resistance, in many directions, which the chiefs have been able to offer in the past to measures calculated to benefit the native population. I do not think it would be fair to the Union if transfer took place before those matters were brought into a much better position. We have to consider, not only the economic development but the effective administration of these territories. That is our task and our duty before any question of transfer can arise.
620 Lastly, there is the question of positive political co-operation with the Union. I have already referred to the suggestion of something in the nature of an interchange of administrative staffs. What is wanted generally is not a mere saying to the natives, "Do not be afraid. No question of transfer is going to arise." Rather, what is wanted is to make them realise that we are working towards that ultimate end, and correspondingly for the Union to make that ultimate possibility an attractive one to them. There is room for a positive spirit in these things, which cannot be interpreted or put into definite agreements or definite words, but which does, I think, mean a much better approach to the whole problem. My plea, then, is that instead of a "marking time," purely negative attitude on these problems, we ought to adopt, in co-operation with the Union, a positive constructive attitude, realising the seriousness of our pledges and the intrinsic importance of a problem which cannot be rushed but must be dealt with by degrees and in stages. There is certainly no obligation that transfer should take place at one step in the case of all the territories together. The territories differ very widely from each other and transfer may be more feasible in the case of one territory than of another. The results of transfer in one territory could then be available for the natives of other territories to judge. In any case, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what seems to me a clear and unequivocal agreement. I hope that within the framework of that agreement he may be able to work actively with the South African Government for the well-being both of the natives in those territories for which we are responsible, and ultimately of South Africa as a whole.
May I turn for a moment from that topic to the wider topic of economic co-operation with the Dominions, to which my right hon. Friend devoted a great part of his speech? I certainly welcome the general outline of policy which he gave, and I do not think there will be any of the grudging spirit of the elder brother towards the prodigal son on the part of those of us who have consistently from the outset stood for the policy of effective tariff protection of our own agriculture, coupled with substantial preference for the products of 621 the Dominions. Some of us incurred some slight unpopularity with the Whips at one time by voting against the Government on this issue. Some of us, who endeavoured to represent the interests of British agriculture at Ottawa, incurred no slight unpopularity with our own official delegation by urging them to remember that tariff protection for meat was needed for the sake of our own agriculture at least as much as in the interest of the Dominions. Some of us incurred a little censure even from my right hon. Friend when we suggested that the Argentine Agreement was most unsatisfactory and would prejudice that development of the chilled beef industry in the Dominions on which the Empire Marketing Board had been working for some years past and in regard to which hopes were already very substantial at the time that the Argentine Agreement was made.
It is not, however, my object to go back upon the past, but rather to express satisfaction that we and the Government now see eye to eye on the main essentials of future policy. We are concerned that that agreement in principle between us should lead to some satisfactory agreement with the Dominions in practice. I realise the tremendous difficulties under which my right hon. Friend has been working in these last few weeks, owing to what has occurred in the past. It is no good blaming anyone for that. The only thing I would urge is that we should make quite sure that we get a clear, definite, sound agreement now. I would suggest that rather than making anything of a patchwork character or tying ourselves up unduly with the Argentine in the future, we should come to an agreement now with the Dominions as to what we should do as from the 1st January, 1937—a thoroughly effective agreement—and get it ratified in a definite manner. After all, a meat policy cannot be developed overnight, and if the Dominions know to-morrow where they are going to stand 18 months hence, that will mean a great deal more, if the agreement is a satisfactory one, than a limping, unsatisfactory agreement patched up for the immediate future.
I know that the Dominions realise just as much as we do that we must have foreign trade as well as Empire trade. 622 So must they. But inter-Empire trade is something differing in quality as well as in quantity from foreign trade. I could give figures, but I do not wish to detain the Committee, to show that, as a mere matter of trade, taking investments and everything into account, it pays far better to support Australia and New Zealand than to support the Argentine. But that is not the only consideration. We have to look at the thing as a whole. No amount of purchases from the Argentine will support a large population of British workers either on the land or in the factories. Every purchase from a Dominion opens up possibilities for migration, and it is only in proportion as we develop outlets for Dominion production that we can hope to find outlets for British people in the Dominions.
That brings me to another aspect of the question. It is perfectly true that the Dominions cannot expect unlimited free entry and unlimited expansion here, and not give us a fair field in their markets. I do not think they expect it. They have always accepted the view that it is our duty to look after our own people first, but they also take the view that whatever each of us gets from outside our own territory, we should primarily endeavour to get from the rest of the Empire. To my mind, making preference truly effective is, if we think Imperially, even more important than a hard bargaining to secure reduced duties from each other. Whatever we secure from foreign competitors by additional preference is a sheer addition to the total production of the Empire. On the other hand, what we may secure by the lowering of Dominion tariffs, and what the Dominions may secure from us by a lowering of our tariffs, is, to some extent at any rate, only a transference of the development of wealth from one portion of the Empire to another.
At the same time I think it is in the interests of the whole Empire that we should not be divided into watertight compartments; I think it is in the interests of the agriculturists of this country that the industries in our great cities, which are their first and best market, should be able to live by their trade with the Dominions; and, therefore, a narrow, purely agricultural view of Dominion competition in this country is a mistake from the 623 point of view of our own farmers. Similarly, a narrow protectionist view by the Dominions, a prohibitive attitude towards British industry, is, I think, a great mistake from the Dominions' point of view too. The spirit of the agreement which was reached at Ottawa, that, while giving effective help to promising new industries, and while taking full account of differences of wages and other costs of production, we should allow for a reasonable measure of fair competition—give a chance to our industries in the Dominions and to Dominion agriculture in our market—is the right one.
I think we have had from the Secretary of State to-day an essentially satisfactory statement. Some of us might wish to have got where we stand to-day three years ago, but we recognise fully that the ideal cannot be reached in a moment and that there have been difficulties inherent in the situation. We are, at any rate, glad that those difficulties are now by way of being solved, and we wish the Government all power to their elbow in going forward with a definite policy to put Empire development, Empire progress, in the very forefront of their activities.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. PERKINS
When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs made his opening statement, he gave us the figures of British exports and imports to and from all the Dominions, but there was one exception. He did not give us the South African exports to this country, and I wonder why that figure was not given.
I will tell my hon. Friend at once. I did not want to include gold and bullion, because there may be arguments arising out of the situation in this country on the transfer of gold, and it would have been unfair to draw a deduction.
§ Mr. PERKINS
I thank my right hon. Friend for his explanation, but when he replies at the end of the Debate will he tell us, excluding gold and bullion, whether it is not a fact that South Africa's exports to this country have gone down since the signing of the Ottawa Agreement, whereas our exports to South Africa have gone up, according to the very gratifying figures which he gave, 624 from £18,000,000 to £31,500,000? I am delighted that our exports to South Africa have gone up, but I regret when I see, as I have seen, certain figures which suggest that South Africa's exports to this country have gone down, and I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he has not power to do something to encourage the sale of South African goods in this country. Has he the power now to employ the tactics of the Empire Marketing Board? Can he run a big advertising campaign in this country to encourage the British people to buy South African goods? It seems to be to be too obvious that South African cannot be expected to go on buying, in increasing quantities, British manufactured goods unless we in turn are prepared to buy more of South Africa's goods, and I would ask my right hon. Friend to see whether he cannot do something to increase the purchase of South African goods in this country.
Then I want to raise a very old grievance, which I have raised on many occasions before. It has to do with the way in which the Australian Government are administering certain of their tariffs. As I understood the principles of the agreement reached at Ottawa, they in their turn undertook not to protect uneconomic industries in their own country and not to encourage the establishment of specialised industries in their own country. They also undertook that they would allow British manufacturers a fair chance to compete in the Australian market and, over and above all, that there was a kind of gentlemen's agreement—it was only a gentlemen's agreement—that there would not be any substantial increase in the Australian tariff against British manufactured goods, but that there would be a tendency to lower it in our favour. I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is absolutely satisfied that that agreement has been honoured in both the letter and the spirit. I admit fully that there has been—and I am only too delighted to know it—a big increase in the trade both ways between this country and Australia. I welcome that and I believe it is entirely due to what was done at Ottawa, but unfortunately this very happy picture of an increase in trade between Australia and this country is being spoiled by one or two, or possibly three or four, instances in which the Australians have 625 substantially increased their tariffs against this country.
I will give three instances—I could give my right hon. Friend many more—as being, perhaps, enough. Since Ottawa the Australian Government have increased the duty against British edible fats by no less than 300 per cent. It has gone up from 1d. per lb. to 3d. per lb. The second instance has to do with electrical transformers, the duty on which has been raised from 35 to 50 per cent., including primage. The third instance is the case of electrical fans. Before Ottawa electrical fans went into Australia free of duty, but now they go in against a tariff of approximately 20 per cent., including primage. It seems to me that these illustrations—and there are several others that I could give—rather spoil the happy picture that my right hon. Friend painted of the increase in trade between this country and Australia.
I will venture on another line of argument. At Ottawa it was agreed between us and the Australian Government that they would not encourage the manufacture of specialised machinery in Australia. Since Ottawa—and I hope my facts are correct; if I am wrong perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me—an old munition factory has ceased to make munitions and has switched over to making sheep-shearing machinery. The Australian Government by every method in their power, by using taxpayers' money, by using every device, are boosting State-made sheep-shears against British sheep-shears going into Australia. There, again, you have a definite infringement not only of the spirit but of the letter of the Ottawa Agreement. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, has he done anything about this matter? I brought it to his notice two years ago. Has anything happened? Has he really made any representations, and, if so, what has the Australian Government to say about it? I am optimistic. I like the people of Australia. They are British people, and I have great faith that when they realise these facts and the slim way in which the politicians of Australia have administered certain of their tariffs, they will demand of these politicians that they shall administer the tariffs in the broadest possible spirit, and honour these Ottawa Agreements not only in the letter but in the spirit.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I rise to offer an observation or two on the vote for the expenses of the Dominions Office. I suppose it would be in order to congratulate the Minister on being there. In one of his weightier sentences he said we were living in a changing world, and that is a solemn and a true thought. But where everything else seems to change, the Dominions Secretary remains the only stable element in a changing world. He is now unique among the Ministers of the Crown. He obtained the position of Dominions Secretary, I think, in the Labour Government. He retained it in the first National Government. He still held it during the second National Government and now, in the more spacious days of the Third Empire, if we may call it so, he still remains, riding the whirlwind and directing the storm. That shows certain qualities and capacities. He said about the British Constitution that its great virtue is that it is a flexible constitution, which gives it a superior advantage over the more rigid constitutions of many other countries. Obviously, the Dominions Secretary is well fitted by his natural characteristics for fitting into a flexible Constitution. The fact that he has been there all these years removes from him the necessity for the charity which members on the Opposition side of the House have offered to the various new Ministers who have just assumed office. When a Minister of Education has only been appointed two or three days obviously you cannot make him responsible for the operations of three or four months before, but when a Minister has been in the same office for a period of several years, under many Governments, you can hold him responsible.
I do not feel in the mood to offer to him other congratulations than the ones I have already tendered. He has retained his office, and he deserves congratulations for that. It is no mean achievement. Other greater, and perhaps more experienced men, have been unable to do it. But in offering him congratulations on that account, I am afraid I cannot offer him congratulations on the general position of the affairs with which he has to deal. Nor do I congratulate him on the speech that he has made today. He took great credit for the success of the Jubilee celebrations. Surely he is not going to claim responsibility for 627 the fact that the King happened to have completed 25 years on the Throne at the same time that he had been Dominions Secretary for six years? He claims credit for a very fine fishing season in Newfoundland. I know the right hon. Gentleman's capacities and qualities and his legerdemain—we remember the phantom ships he produced on previous occasions—but it is asking too much even of my credulity to make me believe that he was responsible for the extra fish that have swarmed round the coasts of Newfoundland.
When one surveys his own survey of his work in his Department it consists almost entirely of a statement that in every department no progress has been made. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) went far beyond the facts of the right hon. Gentleman's statement when he described his statement on the Basutoland question, on the African Protectorate question, as representing progress. As I understood it, all the right hon. Gentleman quoted to the House was what, I think, he described as an aide memoire, which was not a statement of progress but merely a statement of the difficulties in the way of making that progress. That was all on that subject—a statement of the difficulties of making any progress. On the meat question, for which he received congratulations, all he could tell us was that he had hoped to make a statement to-day but was unfortunately not able to make it, and that it probably will be made some time in the future. I noticed his tremendous anxiety to protect home agriculture first, Dominions agriculture second and to consider foreign agriculture as an "also ran," if I may be permitted to use the term. I am sorry his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is not present. I was very interested to hear from a friend of mine who occasionally lunches in the staff dining-room of the Ministry of Agriculture that it is always Argentine beef they eat there. There might be some explanation of that in these last few years, when Civil Servants have had to live on a more limited income, but now the cuts have been restored it might be desirable to try at the Ministry of Agriculture to see if British beef cannot be placed on the menu for the consumption 628 of the men who are trying to develop British agriculture. I have never been a parish pump politician. If British rather than Argentine beef were being used there it would be a step forward as compared with the present position.
Now that the right hon. Gentleman has got as his assistant the Noble Lord who has just come from the Admiralty perhaps he might make a suggestion that in the Navy the virtues of British beef might be extolled also as they are extolled in this House. They seem to prefer to feed the Fighting Services, as the Minister of Agriculture believes in feeding the intellects of the nation, on Argentine beef in preference to the homegrown or the Dominion produced products. But on that issue the Minister had no statement to-day. He had only a statement of talks progressing. Everyone who remembers the days when the right hon. Gentleman was a prince among trade union leaders as a negotiator, knows that if there is one thing he is able to do with more success than anything else it is to keep the talk going on for an indefinite period of time. Always when there was a great trade dispute the leader of the Labour movement was able to say that no progress had been made, but he was still keeping the parties together. There were still negotiations and as long as there were negotiations the right hon. Gentleman was in his element and all was very nearly right in the world. Thus all you are getting are continued negotiations. In Ireland the position is the same as it was, so far as the political relations of the country are concerned, when he first took office, or rather since 1931 or 1932, when the trouble arose over the annuities.
§ Mr. HANNON
Surely the right hon. Gentleman deserves some credit for the cattle and coal agreement?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I was not going to attempt to deny that. I will give him credit for that—that among the many various openings that the President of the Irish Free State has given to the right hon. Gentleman to take an opportunity of improving relations between the two countries that is the only one; and it is a trade one, and not a political one. Everyone in this House knows that the essential trouble between this country and Ireland is not economic but political.
§ Mr. HANNON
The agreement has been of considerable value both to the coal miners on this side of the water and to the Irish farmers on the other side.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I have never attempted to deny it, but it has not done anything to remove the political strain between the two nations. The President of the Irish Free State has held out not one but several olive branches, but nothing of a concrete nature has come as a result. I want to put it to the right hon. Gentleman that when Mr. de Valera assumed power in Ireland he had a very narrow parliamentary majority—or rather he had no parliamentary majority, but was dependent on other methods to maintain him in office—and the right hon. Gentleman assumed that his stay in power was going to be short, and he acted on that assumption. The facts have proved that to be an unsound Assumption, for Mr. de Valera is staying more soundly in control of Irish affairs to-day than, I was going to say, the right hon. Gentleman is staying in his office in this Government, but that, perhaps, would not be a good comparison. He is, however, sitting there perfectly strong, with a very solid backing from the Irish people and a very solid approval for his policies, even supposing that in some instances those policies have inflicted hardship on certain sections of the Irish population. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the time has now arrived, now that he has been reestablished in his own office, really to do something definite, concrete and courageous with reference to the Irish position, and to establish decent friendly relations between these two countries which have so much in common.
My hon. Friend is now discussing a subject of importance to both countries and to the Empire as a whole, and he has made two specific statements. He said that my policy was guided by the narrow majority which Mr. de Valera had in his first Parliament. Let me say to my hon. Friend that that is not true. There is no evidence or justification in any speech of mine for that statement, and I go further and say to my hon. Friend, to the Committee and to the country that never once in my consideration of the Irish problem have I considered Mr. de Valera's political position. The issue was a fundamental one, which I considered of import- 630 ance to the Empire, namely, the repudiation of an agreement by one side. My hon. Friend has also said that several olive branches have been offered. Will he please tell me what are the olive branches to which he refers? I have been watching for them, and I shall be glad if he will tell me what they are.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not going to attempt to produce out of my memory a whole series of statements, but there was a definite olive branch, which the right hon. Gentleman quoted, with reference to Mr. de Valera's statement about any foreign Power which might regard Ireland as a friend.
§ Earl WINTERTON
An olive branch for a country in the Empire to say that it is not going to allow it to be a hostile base! If that is the hon. Gentleman's idea of an olive branch, he has a different idea from mine.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The noble Lord has held high office in this country and he has more experience in these things than I have, but if it were not a significant statement why should the right hon. Gentleman take the trouble to quote it as a significant statement? He quoted it as being an indication of friendly feeling. He seemed to think it was a statement of a new frame of mind. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has caught me to this extent, that I cannot produce on the moment instances that would satisfy him of Mr. de Valera making offers of good will to this country.
I hope that my hon. Friend will not think for a moment that I attempted to catch him, but I stated that I have watched every statement and every opportunity offered privately or publicly—there have been many privately—and I have missed none. When my hon. Friend says that there were many olive branches, I want to know whether I have missed any. I say to him that I know of none. When the statement to which he refers was made, I publicly made a statement the day after it was delivered appreciating it and saying that I hoped it would lead further. I would ask my hon. Friend to accept that I know of no olive branch of any sort or kind, and if he can tell me of any I shall be glad.
§ Mr. MAXTON
If the right hon. Gentleman goes on interrupting me long 631 enough he will get my mind clarified for me. He says that there have been no olive branches which he has not picked up—which is an admission that there have been olive branches. There was the one relating to coal and cattle, and the one which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) mentioned with regard to arbitration on the annuities question. The right hon. Gentleman says that he has neglected none of them. I am prepared to accept that, but he has produced nothing concrete. He has produced no results. Here is the President of the Irish Free State giving three or four opportunities to a responsible statesman in this country to establish a better relationship between the two nations, and the relationship between the two nations is just as bad now as it was four years ago and, in some ways exacerbated.
I want to turn to Newfoundland. The right hon. Gentleman knows that my colleagues and I strenuously opposed the action of the Government in taking away from Newfoundland its own rights of self-government. We also criticised severely his anxiety to rush in to shoulder the responsibilities of people who had invested money foolishly in Newfoundland. I say foolishly because it must have been obvious to anyone who was looking at the work of investing money in a serious way that for many years Newfoundland was not a sound investment. It is the ordinary rule of the market, as I understand it as an outsider, that those who are caught by foolish financial operations ought to suffer the consequences of their folly. The right hon. Gentleman, however, felt that, while that might be true in general, the people who had invested in Newfoundland stocks had to be saved at all costs, and he rushed in and put the finances and credit of this country behind the bad debts of Newfoundland. In order further to attempt to put Newfoundland on its own economic footing, he removed its Parliamentary institutions and put the Government of the island under six commissioners. I opposed it strenuously, but I accepted the word of the right hon. Gentleman when the Act was passed that the control of this island's affairs would be put under six chosen men of experience who would replace the Government which he alleged was soaked in corruption. He gave the Commission unlimited 632 power in the island and unlimited support from Great Britain.
I said to myself, "Here is a chance for these men in a dictatorial position to make something of this island, of developing its economic resources, of establishing new industries, of raising the general standard of life of the people, and of putting the island in a decent social condition." What have we got? Nothing but a very slight diminution in the total number of the unemployed, a diminution that does not compare favourably with the diminution in unemployment that has taken place during the corresponding period in most parts of the world, and certainly not anything like in proportion to the diminution in unemployment that has taken place in Britain over the same period. The mass of the people are still on relief, there is still relief of a very meagre kind, and it is issued in kind. There is widespread disease in the island due to malnutrition, and no new industrial enterprise of any description has been developed by this all-powerful Commission. It is true that they have stopped the more obvious kinds of corruption that were going on, and that the customs duties are now being collected. It is also true that the revenue of Newfoundland has increased under the administration of the Commission. That, however, is not the test. The test is whether the people have got better opportunities of living securely and comfortably and of finding more useful ways of life in Newfoundland than they had before the Commission took over. In all the reports we have had officially there is no evidence that the affairs of Newfoundland are more stable than they were in the days of the previous corrupt government.
§ Mr. MAXTON
You can say that about anything under the sun. I will tell the hon. and learned Gentleman a story about that in the smoke-room after this debate, but it is no philosophy for a person who is merely trying to do his job in human affairs that things might have been worse. The job of the politician is definitely by his efforts to make things obviously and clearly better. It is not his duty to console himself with the fact that things might have been a great deal worse.
§ Mr. HANNON
The hon. Gentleman ought to remember that the period in 633 which the Commissioners have been able to work has been short, and surely he will give them some opportunity for events to develop. They dealt with corruption in the first instance, and that was a great stepping-stone towards improvement.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The time is not the essence of the thing at all. If the beginnings of new development had been laid down it would take time to see whether these new developments were going to prove successful or not, but there have been no new developments.
§ Earl WINTERTON
It is not fair to say there have been no new developments because a promising land settlement scheme has been started.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it a new development to take people from one bit of land in Newfoundland where they cannot make a living and put families with less experience of land work on to another bit of land where they equally cannot make a living? Even the experienced agriculturists in Newfoundland were near starvation. How is the placing on the land of 100 families out of the town of St. Johns and fishermen off the boats going to make a prosperous agriculture where the agriculturists cannot do it? In any case it leaves my statement unchallenged, because agriculture is not a new development. So far as the Commissioners are concerned, there have been no new developments, and the people are suffering very grievous hardships. I will not detain the Committee, because I know hon. Members want to deal with many other subjects, though I should like to remain on my feet from now until 11 o'clock running over the territories of the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs. But I am not so selfish as to place my own pleasure before the wishes of the Committee.
I will draw to a conclusion by saying this to the right hon. Gentleman: He has pooh-poohed the expressions of discontent in Newfoundland; he has pooh-poohed the great demonstrations in the streets of St. Johns. He has said that those demonstrations were brought together by agitators, and agitators whose personal records were not too good. The right hon. Gentleman used to know something about agitation, and he knows that it is more difficult for agitators whose personal records are not too good to get a crowd really up-in-arms, and that a 634 crowd only get up-in-arms when, as was the case in St. Johns, they do not think about the person who is leading them but are feeling that they must give some expression to their grievances. Undoubtedly there were grave expressions of widespread discontent with conditions in St. Johns, expressions of a serious suffering which cannot be mollified merely by kind words but only dealt with by actual accomplishments. Those are the few words I hand over to the right hon. Gentleman, who is sitting there with a tremendous amount of power. I suggest that both in the case of Ireland and in the case of Newfoundland he should not allow things to drift along, but should deliberately go in now and produce something great in the way of achievement.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Captain Sir IAN FRASER
I wish to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to take one or two matters into account in his dealings with the question of the High Commissioner's Territories in South Africa. I should tell the Committee that I have some personal interest in those territories, which perhaps makes the few remarks I have to offer all the more carefully weighed. I myself am of South African origin and have the greatest interest in that grand country and in those territories, which are geographically and economically a part of South Africa. I have always felt that that sub-continent must some day become one great country, ruled locally by the people who live there but associated in the most cordial relationship with Great Britain and the British Crown. That leads me to think that it can only be a matter of time before some of the smaller units within that area become part of the Union of South Africa. Indeed, it has seemed to me that it is a long time, looking back to the Act of Union of 1909, for so many of these separate units to have remained separate instead of coming together. I think it should be a point of Dominions' policy to try to aid some aggregation of those various units in South Africa, so that the greater unit which Rhode dreamt of may come to pass. Some people in this country, including one or two who have spoken to-day, seem surprised and fearful at the thought that the conversations which have taken 635 place between my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister of South Africa suggest the incorporation of these territories within the Union, as if that were either a new idea or a shocking idea. To me it has always seemed the inevitable thing, and it would be well that people should realise that it is an inevitability, realise how it was planned all along in the Act of Union and how it is geographically and economically desirable and is bound to come to pass.
One or two questions arise with regard to the steps now being taken. First, I want to welcome the fact that some positive action has been taken by this Government in the direction of facilitating the transfer when the time comes, and also of abating the doubts and—I would hardly say ill feelings—feelings of difficulty which unquestionably were arising in South Africa over the matter. In some quarters in South Africa it has almost become a question of national honour, and I do most sincerely congratulate my right hon. Friend, and, if I may do so, the Prime Minister of South Africa, upon having cleared out of the way what might have developed into a very awkward and difficult question. The very fact that we have affirmed the plan laid down in the South Africa Act of 1909 whereby the transfer is proposed for some time in the future, and the fact that we have undertaken to take positive action to bring it about under happy and peaceful conditions, have removed and I believe will keep out of the way any awkwardness which might have arisen in South Africa.
One matter to which I want to ask the Dominions Secretary to devote attention is the way in which this extended co-operation shall be carried out. We have not been told how this co-operation will be effected, and since my right hon. Friend has undertaken to publish a White Paper incorporating this aide-memoire may I ask him to include in it any instructions which may have been issued to the High Commissioner, or any further particulars which might make it clear to us how this co-operation between the Union and the local officials conducting the affairs of those territories is to be effected and carried out? It would not be enough merely to hope that the natives in those territories may some day come to look 636 upon the Union of South Africa in a more friendly way than they do at present. That would not be enough. They must somehow come to see that the Union of South Africa is their friend, and can be their guardian and one whom they can trust. The history of those lands is deeply embedded in the lives and memories of those native people. They look back upon the time when certain elements in South Africa were their enemies, and when the British and, behind the British, the great Queen were their protectors. Time was, 50 or 60 years ago, when the paramount chief of one of those tribes, discussing the proposed government of his country by the British, sent a message to the Queen in which he said: "Tell the Queen that what I desire is that she should send a man who will be her eye and her ear and also her hand to work with me in political matters." We have been told in a report issued recently, the work of Sir Alan Pim, the Commissioner who has been out to those territories, that something of that feeling and devotion to the Queen, who as many believe still rules England, yet exists. It is very pathetic and very trusting and does call forthe from us a sentimental feeling which we must recognise.
Within the last few weeks the present chief of one of these tribes sent a message in which he said, "We pray that the protection of the British Government will not be removed from us in any circumstances." There is a great deal of sentiment and history to be overcome and rewritten before these people can lightly and easily take to any transfer. They will have to come to learn that the man who is sent to govern them comes from the King, though he comes from the King's Government in South Africa instead of from the King's Government here. As the chiefs themselves have said, the people are simple and childlike and will take a long time to learn, but that we are positively endeavouring to teach them something of this new Empire organisation of which we are trying to make a success is a sound thing. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to assure us that positive steps will be taken to bring about a better understanding by the natives of the new position that is arising as the Union of South Africa is growing into, and, indeed, has grown into, a separate responsible democracy.
637 An important factor in considering the native attitude in these territories is the attitude of the very small number of white people who live there and farm and trade there. The right hon. Gentleman has confirmed the view laid down by previous Governments that before any transfer takes place there will be consultation with the natives and with the Europeans. It is satisfactory to have that affirmed, but there is positive action which should be taken in the meantime, not only positive action to educate the natives so that they may willingly be transferred but also positive action to establish understanding between the right hon. Gentleman's officers in the territories, the officials who may come from the Union to effect this co-operation, and the white settlers and the white farmers and traders. It would ease a great many doubts if the right hon. Gentleman were to tell them that in any discussions which take place to bring about this co-operation their rights, their licences, their leases, and the habits and customs which have been established as regards their settlement and their trade, will be safeguarded in the event of transfer to the new authority.
The last matter to which I wish to direct attention is the neglect of these territories which this country has fallen into. The right hon. Gentleman stated with pride that we had spent £400,000 in the territories in the last four years. That may be so, but of course the value of that sum is relative to other expenditure in other territories in other parts of the world and to our liabilities as a whole. Anyone who knows about the territories will know that the agricultural and veterinary services, well as they are managed by the local men, who have strenuously tried to help the natives to develop them, have all been starved of staff and money. There has not been adequate development of roads or of irrigation systems. Anyone who reads any of the reports, which have recently been published in respect of those territories, cannot help feeling that Great Britain cannot claim that this is a piece of work of which she can be particularly proud. If these territories are to be transferred in a few years, it is extremely important that when we hand them over they should be in the best possible order 638 so that we may feel proud of the work which we have done there.
As to the suggestion of my right hon. Friend on how co-operation may be effected, I would emphasise how important it is that there should be education of the natives so that the transfer can be effected after satisfactory consultation with them. I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to do better in those territories, during the few years in which they will remain in our charge. I again congratulate him and the Prime Minister of South Africa upon the settlement, which I believe will, in the end, be in the best interests of the natives and the European population, and will remove from the field of controversy a matter which might very well have caused great trouble between Great Britain and the Union of South Africa.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. RONALD ROSS
I hope it will be a long time before any community, trusting this country and happy to live under the British flag, will be removed without their consent, and placed under the power of any other community. I thoroughly agree with the observations which fell from the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) as to the importance of respecting the feelings of those people in Africa until they have confidence in the Union and in the authorities of the Union and wish to be transferred. I hope that if ever I find myself in the position in which those people are, the hon. Member for Rothwell will not draw a colour line, and that he will be as zealous in my defence as he has been in the defence of the people in Africa.
We all enjoyed, as usual, the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) who I am sorry is not in his place. From time to time he touched the fringes of Imperialism, and it is evident that he no longer wishes to abolish the Empire but to improve it. He went one step farther than Mr. de Valera has gone, because he referred to "the President of the Irish Republic." That is a step which Mr. de Valera has not yet taken. I thought I knew an olive branch when I saw one, but apparently all sorts of things may be considered to be olive branches, because the hon. Member for Bridgeton seemed to regard the mere 639 statement that Mr. de Valera would not allow Irish territory to be used as a base of attack as a most friendly gesture. I certainly welcome as heartily as anyone Mr. de Valera's statement, because I shall probably be one of the first to be attacked, but we must remember that the people of the Irish Free State, who have always prided themselves upon being a nation, have been incapable in recent years of keeping any national undertaking. In 1914 Mr. Redmond was the unquestioned spokesman of the people of what is now the Irish Free State, and he promised their support in the War. Two years afterwards, British troops were being shot in Dublin by Mr. de Valera and his friends.
Mr. de Valera has now become spokesman of that country. We remember the undertaking entered into by Arthur Griffiths and Michael Collins at the time of the Treaty. No two men could have represented the opinion of that part of Ireland more truly than they, but what has happened? The Treaty has been repudiated, and the word of those men has gone for naught. Now we have the statement of Mr. de Valera, and I am glad, for what it is worth, to have that assurance, but will those who succeed him keep it? I wonder. The opposition have already repudiated it. The ink with which it was printed was scarcely dry before they did so. I think it was General O'Duffy who said that Mr. de Valera had no authority to give any such assurance. I would be glad to know the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the situation in Ireland. We know what his view was in 1931, but, alas, that view was not only ill-founded in law but wrong as to facts at that time. He said that no attempt would be made to interfere with the Treaty. We had assurances as to the various safeguards upon which the people who were living in the Irish Free State relied. We had a specific assurance about appeal to the Privy Council. Where is that safeguard now?
I would like to know what is to be done for the persons who, relying upon the word of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions, remained in Ireland and kept their property in the Irish Free State, and who are now at the mercy of the courts of 640 that country without appeal, and Free State executive. It is not much satisfaction, when faced with financial ruin, having believed in the statement of the responsible Minister, to be afterwards told that the Minister and the Law Officers were wrong in their law, and I would like to know if anything is to be done for those people.
As to the justice of our trying to recover our lawful debts by putting duties on Irish Free State goods, no one, I think, could quarrel. The hon. Member who spoke on this subject for the Socialist opposition forsook for once the immortal Socialist principle of disunion at home and surrender abroad, and said frankly that he believed we ought to be paid those just debts by the Irish Free State. What is the policy as to the collection of those debts? There is a duty upon Irish cattle, but I would like to know how far the duties collected on cattle have approximated to the money which we ought to have been paid. How much are we short? Why is there no duty upon those agricultural commodities which are heavily subsidised and dumped upon the British market? Again and again, I have tried to discover why no adequate duty is put upon Irish Free State butter. The duty is only 20s. in the £, but as butter is subsidised at about 80s. per cwt., I do not understand why more should not be taken from it. Free State butter is generally held up until April, and when it is dumped upon our markets the price of our butter falls. The British Government should put on a duty sufficient to cancel out the subsidy. The subsidy is so heavy that at one time it was not unusual for butter to be exported into Northern Ireland and to be smuggled back in order to be re-exported to draw the subsidy again.
There seems to be little co-ordination between the Dominions Office and the Ministry of Agriculture in carrying out that policy. I do not see how it is possible to have a policy dealing with agricultural imports from the Irish Free State on a purely money-raising basis without considering the agricultural reactions. The Secretary of State for the Dominions has more than once said, when I have tried to get information from him, that the duties were solely for the purpose of raising money, and that the worst possible purpose for which they could be 641 used would be to assist agriculture in Northern Ireland or anywhere else. It is quite impossible, I submit, to interfere with the flow of agricultural produce without considering the reactions of so doing upon the farmers in your own country. The policy of raising money by duties on Irish agricultural produce has had its consequences.
Hon. Members will no doubt remember the well-known occasion of the storming of the Taku forts in China in 1860. The Chinese were thoughtful people, and they endeavoured to the best of their ability to find out what was going to happen when the Allied fleets moved up the river to attack the forts. They carried out an investigation in the most scientific manner of the day to ascertain what the result would be, and they made only one mistake. They forgot that the Allied fleets would shoot back. If the Allied fleets had not fired back, the forts would have won. As it was, they were captured. The Dominions Office seem to have forgotten that, when duties are put on, there may be retaliation. Upon whom does such retaliation fall? It falls upon us, the people of Northern Ireland. We have been exposed to duties from the Irish Free State ever since the policy was instituted. It is the policy of Governments in the Irish Free State to denounce partition of Ireland as a crime while endeavouring to make it a reality. If it were not for the duties, partition would be little more than a line on the map. It is owing principally to the efforts of successive Irish Governments that trade with Northern Ireland has become almost impossible. That does not affect the people of Northern Ireland alone, and the people in Donegal on the other side of the border where a sack of flour costs 40 per cent. more than it costs us. We are more fortunate, even while suffering from any tax which is put upon us, than we would be if we were in the Irish Free State. We are standing the brunt of the reprisals against the policy instituted by the British Government and the British Government can still do something for us.
Far the most active measures have been taken against the people of Ulster in reprisal for any duties that have been put on against the Irish Free State, and this fact should not be forgotten when negotiations are going on with the Free State Government, because the last con- 642 cession that they would be willing to give would, of course, be one which would benefit the people who live in the same island on the other side of the boundary. What did we get in the only negotiations that have taken place over the cattle quota? That was not a relaxation of any duties that had been put on for the purpose of raising money. A quota had been put on cattle from the Irish Free State at the instance of the Ministry of Agriculture because of the necessities of the cattle trade in the United Kingdom. It was taken off without a word of explanation as to how it was to be compensated at the instance of the Dominions Office and, as far as I know, no substituted restriction has ever been made in place of it. We have a very large addition of 66 per cent. in fat cattle and over 100,000 store cattle a year coming into a market which is already overcrowded and where the price is already far too low.
I am not surprised that it has been difficult to convince the Governments of other Dominions that they should restrict their imports of cattle when the Dominions Office themselves are prepared to strike out a regulation established by our Ministry of Agriculture and let in this very large quantity of additional cattle. We have borne the heat and burden of the economic war, so to speak, and how are we rewarded? A settlement is made at the expense of the cattle trade, and particularly of store cattle. Any money that is raised by duties does not go to us but to the British Treasury. So far from any improvement in our position as a result of these negotiations, our position is made definitely worse. I am always pleased to hear of more work going to the coal mines, but, if we are to be sacrificed to the interests of the coal mines, it is unfair and unjust.
It is hard to tell what is going to happen in the future. We are told of negotiations, but we do not know what they are. The right hon. Gentleman constantly expresses his good will to the Irish Free State. I do not doubt it. I certainly would second him in wishing peace and prosperity to that unhappy country. A happy and contented Free State not actuated by feelings of aggression would be as fortunate a thing as could happen to the people of Northern Ireland. But I would ask him if he has 643 not the same feelings towards the people on his own side in this struggle in which we are backing him up and, in whatever negotiations he may enter into with the Irish Free State, I would ask for his assurance that the interests of the people of Northern Ireland will always be remembered. It will be the hardest thing to get from the Irish Free State any concession that would help us, but I ask him, as the man on whom our interests depend, to see that they are adequately protected in the negotiations.
§ 8.6 p.m.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I will answer the hon. Gentleman at once. When there are differences and difficulties one always deals with them. There never has been a difference with Northern Ireland on these great material issues. To bring Northern Ireland into the controversy would merely be inviting them to say, "What have we done?" I believe Northern Ireland is as desirous as we are of bringing about unity and would like to see the Irish Free State a willing, co-operating partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations. But, in saying that, we sacrifice no principle. We are not unmindful of the position of Northern Ireland. It is not necessary to emphasise their loyalty. That is understood. I hope, therefore, the hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand my position and assume that I am neglecting Northern Ireland. I know where they stand in the Empire. There is no necessity to emphasise it.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. ROSS
I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman. While I appreciate that, I hope he appreciates that we stand the whole cost of counteraction and that he will bear that in mind in his negotiations. I am sure I can say on behalf of everyone in my country that we would rejoice to see the Irish Free State a loyal partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
I do not often get an opportunity of expressing views that are complimentary to the present Government, and I suppose one ought to take the opportunity when one gets it. Before I come to that part of my remarks, however, I think the right hon. Gentleman was a little too self laudatory 644 in what he said about the Ottawa Agreements. He was patting himself on the back for a long time about them, and shortly afterwards he offered to put another part of his anatomy on the stool of repentance. If he takes that part of his anatomy up to the West Riding of Yorkshire, it will not be the stool of repentance that is offered by the manufacturers in the textile trade, because they are under no delusions at all as to the effect of the Ottawa Agreements upon them.
The subject on which I wish to say a few words is that of the Protectorates in South Africa. There was very much in the right hon. Gentleman's statement which met with my very great approval. I cannot profess to have any expert knowledge with regard to the Protectorates. I have just that interest which a great many people have at this time, and which is primarily an interest in the native peoples in those Protectorates. It gave me great pleasure to hear that unequivocal declaration once more from a Minister of the British Crown about our trusteeship for the native peoples in those countries, and that it would be disastrous that the inhabitants of the Protectorates should be taken into some union against their will. I welcomed those words very greatly. There is no cause for glibness, of course, when we consider the economic position of the Protectorates. One has to face that side of the question just as much as the sentimental side.
I was pleased also at the almost unanimity amongst those who have spoken to-day as to the need for co-operation with the Union towards the betterment of the condition of the Protectorates. What exactly is meant by that co-operation? The right hon. Gentleman mentioned some instructions that he had sent to the High Commissioner recently. I wonder whether he would consider publishing them. In this matter clarity and publicity can do no possible harm. If it can be seen from the outset just where we are heading, it will be all to the good from the point of view of obtaining the co-operation of the natives as well as of the Union Government, and indeed of all people in this country too.
The question of the Dominions Office as opposed to the Colonial Office has also been touched upon. I suppose it would 645 be out of order to advocate that there should be a change in that direction, and I do not propose to advocate it, because it may very well be possible for the Dominions Office to avail itself of the material that is at the disposal of the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office has done some extraordinarily good work, it seems to me, in the development of backward tribes in Africa, largely carrying out the principle that they should develop what was already in the native institutions and try to mould those institutions and lead them on to progress as we understand it rather than take them out of their civilisation and hurl them into something new. It seems to me that there is a good deal that could be learnt from the Colonial Office in that sphere, and I implore the right hon. Gentleman to do all he can to make available for his office, so long as it is the office that controls the future of these Protectorates, the material that may be in the possession of the Colonial Office. There was one rather interesting statement with which that most interesting man Tshekedi Khama finished up a recent manifesto to the people of this country which is on very much the same lines. It is a most remarkable document by a most remarkable and able man who would be a credit to any race, let alone the supposedly child race of which he is a member. He says:Finally, I contend that the Protectorates require an experienced administration to afford them every guardianship, more assistance and better opportunities for progress than has been shown them in the past. This type of guardianship can be obtained in the British Colonial Service, and with such supervision Protectorates can at least support their own administration.So he is aiming at the same suggestion as has been put to the right hon. Gentleman to-day. I hope that, whatever may be the answer to the question which I have put about the publication of the instructions to the High Commissioner as to co-operation with the Union, the right hon. Gentleman will give some indication that the material which is at the disposal of the Colonial Office will be used to infuse new blood, new ideas and new energy into the administration of these unhappy Protectorates.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Sir EDWARD GRIGG
The statement made to the Committee this afternoon by the Secretary of State for the 646 Dominions covered an enormously wide range. There were single subjects with which he dealt which might easily occupy the House for a whole working day, and I am bound to say that among the topics which he raised there are some which I hope it may be possible to discuss at another time, since obviously, in view of the range of the present Debate, they cannot be adequately discussed to-day. I rose in particular to deal with the subject of the High Commissioners' territories in South Africa, but, before I come to that, I should like to say a word of welcome of what the right hon. Gentleman was able to tell us about the attitude of the Dominions in the matter of our foreign policy at the present time. It is a matter of the greatest satisfaction to all in the House to know that the policy which we are pursuing in very difficult circumstances in Europe at the present time is understood and appreciated by the Dominions. I do not think that we should ask or press in any way at this time for more than understanding on their part. There is no case whatever for pressing for formal commitments on their part, or anything of that kind; but it is extremely desirable that they should know what we were doing in every way, and that they should express, very generally, agreement with the course that we are pursuing from our own point of view. I am very glad that that statement was made to the House, and congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having been able to make it.
Before I come to the South African Protectorates, I should like to make a passing reference to Newfoundland. On the whole, what the right hon. Gentleman said to us about Newfoundland was satisfactory. I was particularly glad to hear his reference to land settlement. Indeed, if we are to take his words literally, the process of generation, as well as the process of regeneration, is going on at a striking rate in Newfoundland, because he spoke of "families of 100" being settled, and of setting aside more sums of money to put more families of 100 on the land. That is satisfactory so far as it goes, but, while not going so far as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who spoke earlier, I am bound to say that I feel a certain anxiety about what is passing in Newfoundland at the present time. The riots which have been taking place would not, I 647 think, have taken place without grave cause. They were serious riots; there is no doubt about that; and I hope that the Commission will do its utmost to press forward with new schemes of development in that island, for really there is no other prospect of finding employment for a great part of its population. I should also like to revert to a question which was discussed in this House when the project relating to Newfoundland was originally proposed—the question of giving some representation to public opinion in Newfoundland at the present time. It is very dangerous in any British territory to throttle down opinion and give it no opportunity of expressing itself. I said that when these Measures were passed, and I repeat it now that these riots have taken place. That is a dangerous situation. I presume that the Press is absolutely free in Newfoundland. We have not been told that, but I assume that it is so.
§ Sir E. GRIGG
But that is not quite accurate, and, if no means be found for enabling legitimate criticism of the administration to be expressed in some way or other, for enabling grievances to be brought forward, and for enabling people, when they feel discontents, at any rate to get them off their chest, we shall find that Newfoundland is becoming very hard to deal with long before the process of regeneration to which we have set our hand is completed. I do not press for any statement from the right hon. Gentleman on that subject, but I should like to register a very strong and sincere opinion upon it in this Committee to-day.
I come now to the subject of the Protectorates. The aide-memoire which the right hon. Gentleman read to us seemed to me, from a first hearing, to be an extremely satisfactory document, and I congratulate him very sincerely upon it. To have secured that understanding with the Prime Minister of the Union is, I think, an achievement of which he has every reason to be proud, and I am exceedingly glad that he was able, not only to tell this Committee that a satisfactory arrangement had been arrived at, but to give this Committee the actual terms of the arrangement. If he will 648 publish that as a White Paper, in addition to its being published, as it no doubt will be, in the OFFICIAL REPORT of our proceedings, I think it will be a very good thing.
There are two guiding considerations in our dealings with the native Protectorates, and, if I refer to them very briefly now, it is because I should like to address a word of exhortation to my friends above the Gangway, who may be responsible for dealing with this question long before it comes to a final settlement. The first thing, of course, is to show the most absolute, punctilious, scrupulous regard for our pledges to the natives. There is no question about that. But, while we do that, do not let us underestimate the enormous importance of securing the co-operation of the Union Government in the better government of these territories when we can certainly do so. Again and again in the history of this country's relations with oversea territories we have made the mistake of trying to force policies upon distant peoples by lecturing them, by assuming attitudes of superiority, always believing that that was going to help the natives, and it has never in the end done so. It is no use for us in this country, who are not dealing at first hand with these questions, to adopt the attitude of the Pharisee, to make broad our phylacteries, to thank God that we are not as other men are. That attitude is fatal in dealing with populations of that kind, and I should have been glad if the speech made from that bench early in this Debate had shown a much more generous welcome for the co-operation in this matter which was offered us by the Prime Minister and the Government of the Union. I am sure that, when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway come to deal with this question themselves, they will realise the truth of what I have said.
I congratulate the Government, then, very warmly on what has been achieved, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us a little more, if he can, if not this evening at any rate a little later, before the Session ends, as to the form of co-operation which is proposed. Of course, an interchange of personnel would be valuable, but I think that more important than that, both in its effect on South African opinion and, more important still, in its effect on native opinion in the Protectorates, would be 649 the establishment of some sort of advisory council on which representatives of the Union Government would sit. I do not see why there should be any difficulty about that. The Union has men of great experience in native affairs and in dealing with the native territories, like the Trans-Kei and so on. I have known them, and they are men with more knowledge in some ways of native affairs than anyone that we have. I think that, if we could secure their co-operation, perhaps in a purely advisory capacity, that would be a step towards real co-operation which would be extremely valuable at the present time. It would certainly have a good influence on the natives; it would, I believe, go far to show that we really wish to co-operate with the Union Government; and it would make the gradual process of accommodating our views to South African views and native views easier in the long run.
The right hon. Gentleman made, I think, some reference, and it was very proper that he should make it, to the expenditure incurred by us, even though times have been hard, in Bechuanaland and Swaziland. He made no reference, unless I misheard him, to expenditure in Basutoland. We have recently had a most excellent report upon the development of Basutoland from Sir Alan Pim. It is an admirable document obviously written by a man who not only understands the economic problem, but also has a sympathetic understanding with the native point of view. I hope very much that the Government are going to find the money at once to implement the recommendations made in Sir Alan Pim's Report. Considerable matters are required. There is a plan for dealing with erosion, an enormously important matter, which alone, as an experiment, is to cost £150,000. Sir Alan Pim very rightly points out—and I can confirm this by personal knowledge of what was taking place in regard to territories subject to erosion in Kenya—that every year the expenditure needed becomes heavier, and that really, therefore, it was a case for the Imperial Government to make up their minds immediately to spend the money required. I hope, therefore, that before we adjourn this evening we shall be told that this money is to be found at once for the improvement of land in 650 Basutoland and for dealing with irrigation and other matters of that kind.
The hon. Gentleman who preceded me in this Debate made some reference to indirect rule, which is one of the most difficult problems of administration in Africa at the present time. It is extraordinarily hard to say at what point it is really helping the natives and at what point it is really keeping them back, but I have no doubt whatever that in the South African Protectorates, and particularly in Basutoland, the influence of the chiefs has been reactionary, and, difficult as it is to deal with that question without upsetting native feeling, we ought, as a matter of fact, to do our utmost now to modify the influence of the chiefs. I spent some time trying to develop indirect rule in Kenya, but I always felt when one was setting up an authority that it was to some extent reactionary and was militating against the achievement of things one wanted to achieve. There is, as a compensation to that, the fact that you are building upon native foundations and that the responsibility for their own local government which is thereby secured is good for the native morale. But unquestionably the chiefs may be a very reactionary element, and I hope that their influence will be dealt with as required in Basutoland and the other territories.
I have only one other thing to say, and that is to join most sincerely in the tributes which have been to the Civil Services in those Protectorates. They have been working under immense difficulties. Every service, which is very small in number, works under very great difficulties. They get little encouragement from outside. They lead lonely lives, and we owe them a great deal. I say that with special feeling, because the Commissioner of Swaziland was an extremely good officer seconded from Kenya. He died at his post last year. I knew what an admirable officer Mr. Ainsworth Dickson was and how good his work. I heard from him and others how efficient and devoted has been the work of the Civil Service in those territories. I am glad, therefore, to join in that tribute to them, and in general to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the statement he was able to make to the Committee this afternoon.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander JAMES
Two Members of the Opposition, one above and the other below the Gangway, the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), attacked the Government over the Irish difficulties. It is only because nobody else has entered into a defence of the Secretary of State that I presume to do so for a moment or two. I believe that there is no activity of the Dominions Office upon which they can less rightly be held blameworthy than in this matter of the Irish impasse. Both the hon. Member for Rothwell and the hon. Member for Bridgeton spoke as if nothing but reluctance on the part of the British Government to meet reasonable demands stood in the way of a settlement of this difficulty. It is a wholly unwarrantable assumption. In the same way that it takes two to make a quarrel, so quite clearly it takes two to make a settlement. I am not such an ass as to imagine that because I go to Ireland two or three times a year, and have had the advantage and opportunity during the last few years of frequently having discussions with or hearing the views of members in various political parties and groups in Ireland that, therefore, I understand Irish politics. God forbid that I should imagine that for one moment, but, as far as Irish external politics are concerned in relationship to this country, I think that the situation is really very clear.
The so-called economic war between Ireland and England at the present moment is the prime political asset of the party in power in Ireland to-day. It is their one great political asset, and to have the Dominions Secretary available to hold up in effigy as a bully anxious to dominate unhappy Ireland is the very best political weapon they have and they are certainly doing their best to use it. The dispute is the main means whereby the present Irish Government are able to whip up support for themselves in that country and to bolster up that exaggerated nationalism which is only, after all, a natural reaction from the long period of repression by this country, which, being wise after the event, we may all deplore to-day. It is so very simple for the powers-that-be in Ireland to-day to point to an unobtainable moon and encourage the people to shout for it. 652 It always seems to me when I am listening to Irish politicians talking that they are suffering from an inferiority complex. I do not know why it should be so, but it certainly is. They seem to love to delude themselves into believing that the British people are really worried by this unfortunate dispute. In point of fact, the British electorate is almost wholly unconcerned about it. For example in my constituency which does a fairly big trade with Ireland, in 10 years I have been asked exactly two questions at political meetings about Ireland, both from Irishmen resident in England, one of whom was apprehensive that if the present Irish Government were successful in obtaining their demands he might lose his job in England. There is a delusion in Ireland, fostered by the present party in power, that England is longing to interfere with and to bully Ireland. There is nothing which can be further from the truth. The exact converse is the truth. If the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions wanted to harm the party in power in Ireland, he could do so most effectively by conceding all the demands which are now being made to him. If he did that he would effectively dish Mr. de Valera's Government.
Incidentally, it is noteworthy that those in Ireland who are suffering directly at the present time from this economic war are not the supporters of the existing Irish Government. There is not the slightest doubt that if this unwise economic policy of the present Irish Government is pursued very much longer, a crash is bound to come, and the present followers of that Government will inevitably suffer. But for the time being it is the people who might be regarded as our friends who are losing most from the economic war. It is even arguable that it would suit us to give way. I am not sure that the advantages of doing so would not outweigh the disadvantages. The ratio of exports between the two countries for the 50 years preceding the economic war shows pretty clearly where the balance of advantage lay. We took from Ireland during that 50-year period an average of 87 per cent. of her total exports, and she took from us during the same period 7 per cent. of our exports. Therefore, we could really afford to completely lose the Irish market, while they could not possibly afford to jeopardise our 653 market. We should lose a certain amount of raw materials and agricultural produce, but if we regarded the matter purely in a cold economic light probably the whole of those supplies could be got on better terms from other Dominions who are anxious to supply us, and in return to buy from and co-operate with us.
A settlement will come when the dupes of the present Government realise how they are being led up the garden path. When I use the word "dupes" I do not mean to suggest that the present Irish Government is immoral or that Mr. de Valera is otherwise than a perfectly honest man. I have not heard even his bitterest opponents suggest, however much they may dislike him, that he is otherwise than a perfectly honest man. I believe that the present Irish Government have got themselves into an impossible, if temporarily convenient, position largely by accident. When they came into power they were complete amateurs, with very strongly held theories. They proceeded to put those theories into practice without knowing where they would lead them or whether they would bring them to such an impasse. But they are learning as they go along. Recently Mr. de Valera has in many directions displayed marked courage, and there is no reason to despair that ultimately he will learn statesmanship, too. When a party has got itself into the position of the party in power in Ireland, when its party interests—and party interests in a government of Irishmen tend to have queer ramifications—are served by the impasse, when their theoretical inclinations are served by that impasse, and when it may almost be said that their very self-preservation depends upon the maintenance of the impasse, it is very difficult for them to retrace their steps. The only hope of a settlement of this unfortunate dispute, which does immense harm to Ireland and does a little harm to us, is patience, forbearance and sympathy, and to wait until the present folly on the part of the people who are only just learning sense, has had time to run its course, or has been found out.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. HAMILTON KERR
I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the subject with which he has 654 dealt, but I hope I can repeat, without offence, a couplet by Walter Savage Landor which seems to me to sum up the Irish situation:Ireland only was contentedSay you so, you are demented.I must congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs on the striking statement that he was able to make to-day. I am sure that the Committee listened with pleasure to the eulogies which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), usually such a strenuous opponent of the Government, was able to give to him. Re congratulated him on retaining his high position. That reminds me of the story of a little girl, not an adept at spelling, who was asked why Queen Victoria was a great queen, and her answer was "Because she sat on a thorn for 64 years." If my right hon. Friend continues to occupy his distinguished position for an equal number of years I hope that he will not have such difficulties to face.
I should like to bring the Debate back to some wider issues of Dominion policy. Few people will deny that the Statute of Westminster and the Balfour Declaration of 1926 have fundamentally altered the meaning of the words "British Empire." Whereas formerly, in theory if not in fact, the balance of power lay in London, the British Commonwealth of Nations is to-day composed of a voluntary association of free and independent peoples owning one common allegiance to the Crown, and to mutual ideals. Thus it follows, as a natural consequence from this new state of affairs, that no Dominion can be drawn into any particular policy to which it does not first give its consent. Consent implies consultation, and I should like very briefly to examine and, in my humble way to suggest, methods of improving the co-operation between this country and the Dominions, with special regard to foreign affairs.
Post-war statesmen recognise that peace is a universal problem which demands constant vigilance in every corner of the globe. But I have noticed, in reading newspapers from the Dominions, that, more than once, responsible opinion in the Dominions looks upon Europe as the danger spot of likely war, as an area where deep-seated racial differences and frontier disputes are most likely to lead to that inflamed state of temper which 655 will inevitably result in conflict. General Smuts, however, one of the most farsighted and sagacious of Dominion statesmen, in a remarkable speech delivered on 12th November last year, pointed to other problems. He mentioned the Pacific, and he used these significant words:There the hand of destiny is still writing in its unknown script in a language and in ideas scarcely intelligible to the Western mind.Previously he had hazarded the suggestion thatthe storm centre will pass away from the countries of Christian civilisation and will shift to the Far East.This being the case, it is more and more important that we should try, by consultation and co-operation between individual members of the British Commonwealth, to formulate a common foreign policy. At the present time there seems to be no policy except that of peace. The British Commonwealth of Nations is entirely peaceful. It harbours no designs of aggression against any one of its neighbours; it wishes only to live by trade and in security. Thus, it seems to me, that with this basis to work upon, we can at least formulate some fundamental principles. The various members of the British Commonwealth of Nations approach world problems from their own individual aspect. Canada feels herself to be a North American power. She shapes her policy in conformity with that of her great neighbour on her Southern borders, the United States of America. She feels that nature has been kind to her by placing the Atlantic and the Pacific on either shore, thus removing a possible aggressor to a long distance. She feels that she wishes to avoid entanglements, and she hesitates to adopt commitments which may engage her people in struggles not of their own making.
Australia looks across the ocean north-wards to Eastern Asia, where the crowded yellow race struggle for a bare living. A white Australia, being a prime feature of policy, she realises that her independence depends on sea power and is more willing, like New Zealand, to place reliance upon collective action and help from this country. South Africa, on the other hand, like Canada, feels herself far removed from the more pressing problems of Europe. But she has a pressing problem in her own borders, in 656 the shape of a native problem, which brings her into contact with other great nations of the world which enjoy colonial possessions in Africa.
With these facts in view and properly recognised, can we arrive at some common basis on which to work out a foreign policy. I am well aware that the Secretary of State cannot, and would not wish to, impose his will unduly upon these great governments in the Dominions of His Majesty overseas, and I merely make these few suggestions in the hope that sympathetic ears in the Dominions may receive them. At a conference which I had the privilege to attend in Toronto, held under the auspices of the Institute of International Affairs, the representatives from these same Dominions gave these suggestions a wide measure of support. At Toronto it was felt that too often Prime Ministers in the Dominions held at the same time the portfolio of foreign affairs. Absorbed in domestic problems, and distracted with administrative details, his preoccupations too often did not allow him to give that wide and serious attention to foreign affairs which an ever increasing urgency in the modern world demands. Mr. Lyons, the Prime Minister of Australia, has been quick to recognise this fact, and transferred the portfolio of foreign affairs, first to Mr. Latham and now to Sir George Pearce. Other Dominion Prime Ministers, however, usually hold the portfolio for foreign affairs. It has been said and frequently remarked that in the Dominion Parliaments there is very often a wide and frank discussion on the work of the International Labour Office. The reports of the International Labour Office are laid on the Tables of Dominion Parliaments and members have access to the information contained therein. Thus a well informed and critical opinion springs to life in those countries. But rarely are reports laid on the table of Dominion Parliaments from this country dealing with international political affairs. I know that the Dominions Office sends to the Dominions full and documented accounts of the leading events on the European situation. The Dominion Prime Minister receives these documents and this information, but often they do not pass beyond the confines of his study.
There is only one last suggestion. In the Foreign Office in London we can 657 rightly claim that we possess a diplomatic tradition. We have a knowledge of the technique and usages of European diplomacy. I feel, therefore, that members from the Dominions overseas might benefit from a short experience in our Foreign Office; that members of our Foreign Office, likewise, if they were able to pay a visit to the Dominions, would learn at first hand the problems which those Dominions consider to be most pressing. By such an interchange of personnel I am certain that we in this country, as well as in the Dominions, could build up a highly trained and technically qualified staff, able, at moments of crisis and difficulty, to advise those individuals responsible to their several Governments.
These few suggestions, as I have said, received a certain amount of assent at Toronto. I am fully aware that the Secretary of State is not in a position to impose his will on members of Dominion Governments, but I hope that these suggestions may receive sympathetic consideration. The Australian Government, I understand, is highly satisfied with the work of the liaison officer in London and at the League of Nations, who informs his Government on the leading topics of the day and upon the most outstanding problems. Finally, the British Commonwealth of Nations is the greatest bulwark for peace in the world to-day. The Statute of Westminster and the Balfour Declaration, far from loosening the ties which bind our great peoples together, have only strengthened the ties which Sir Edward Grey, paraphrasing a remark of Burke, described as "ties as light as air and as strong as links of iron." By improving methods of co-operation we can press forward with those great ideals which the British Commonwealth holds, peace, security, and progress.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I only desire to deal with one point, and I will be brief. I should like to say, however, that the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) gave a wrong impression when he said that the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) had not properly appreciated the work done by the Dominions Department. I paid great attention to the details which my hon. Friend gave and to the manner in which he pointed out the fact that the connecting links 658 between the Dominions and this country were as strong as ever. I am not disposed to enter into an argument on that point, but it is becoming clear, as year follows year, that the connecting link is pretty much an economic link, and that the Dominions look upon it as a definite advantage, especially since the Ottawa Agreement has been placed at their disposal. An economic advantage of that description is inclined to create an appetite which is not easily satisfied. However, Ottawa is closed, and I am not going to touch upon it further.
Its object was that the producers in these countries should have a fair show with each other, but in order that there should be fair competition certain factors were absolutely essential and should be open and above board at the disposal of the States. One was the question of costing, but the Canadian Tariff Board has expressed itself as having some difficuty in complying with this necessary factor, because on the 24th March they decided that a, comparison of production costs of each country was virtually impossible. That attitude has been adopted by industrialists in Canada and elsewhere, and, therefore, its operations are not going to be as helpful as they might be. It may to some extent be responsible for the dissatisfaction which does exist. According to "The Times" of the 9th February the Australian Tariff Board is charged with an interpretation of the Ottawa clauses with reservations which will diminish their value to British trade. I hope that we shall have a word on this matter, because it appears that the Dominions will only be satisfied with the erection of a tariff barrier going ever higher and higher, with suitable drawbridges to allow them to get through and no one else.
The particular point I want to stress is due to the impression I have that the inter-connection of the Dominions and ourselves is stronger on the agricultural side than anywhere else, and perhaps this should predominate. I do not desire to allocate the importance of the field of agriculture as against industry, but I should like to hear from the representative of the Dominions something with regard to the operations which may be possible industrially between the Dominions and ourselves. It appears that if what I have quoted is correct, some attention 659 will have to be paid to this matter so that there will be fair co-operation between the Dominions and ourselves.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
I do not know whether the hon. Member was present when I spoke, but if he was he would have observed that I drew particular attention to Article 10 and indicated to the Dominions that we on this side did not think that up to this stage they had given the fairest interpretation, and I indicated that a change, as far as Article 10 was concerned, was contemplated.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I admit that I did not notice that point in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. If it is the case that that matter is being attended to, it eliminates the point that I desired to make. But I regret that we have not proceeded a little faster than we have done in this matter. I have the brochure prepared by British industries on this subject. It is now three years old, but I would like to quote from it my final point.The purpose of a conference on complementary production between the manufacturers in a particular industry in Great Britain and in a given Dominion would be to explore the feasibility of an arrangement whereby the production of certain goods should be recognised as being the province of the Dominion manufacturer, whereas others would be regarded as better left to the United Kingdom manufacturer.Later on there is this statement:The British industrialist would co-operate by agreeing to render all possible assistance to the Dominion industry through technical assistance in planning, machinery and designs, co-operation in research and in certain cases in capital developments. The Dominion manufacturer would co-operate by rendering all possible assistance to the British industry, in order to secure to this country the bulk of the import trade.I am not necessarily supporting the organisation that has put forward that proposal, but I quote it in order to bring into relief the fact that this desirable thing has been looked upon as necessary for a period of three years, and as three years have elapsed I think we might have made quicker inroads into the problem than we have made. There are other hon. Members who wish to speak, and as other points I wished to raise have been touched upon and I am satisfied with what the Dominions Secretary said on the point of industrial co-operation, I shall say no more.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. WISE
The Committee owes a debt of gratitude both to the hon. Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Leonard) and to the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Kerr) for removing the Debate from the channels into which it was getting canalised. I am sure that the Dominions Secretary in listening to the Debate must have recalled the remark of General Joffre early in the War, when he read an English newspaper and said, "Out of 400 miles of front I gather that the British are holding 390 and the London Scottish 389." In listening to the speeches to-day I really came to the conclusion that there was no British Empire or Dominions other than Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland. I do hope that for the remainder of the Debate we shall be able to get away from those comparatively small issues.
The question of Ireland is one which will solve itself in the course of time. Nothing that we can do can accelerate a settlement in Ireland, and interference is more likely to retard a settlement. Sooner or later this matter will find its own solution, and I believe firmly that the less we discuss Ireland, and certainly the less we interfere with it, the more likely we are to reach a proper and decent settlement. Although I would not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman's methods of handling the Irish problem, I think he has the right to collect the annuities which are due to us. On the other hand, I believe that a settlement is much nearer than he gave us to think, perhaps because of his natural caution. I believe that we could collect the annuities with less irritation to the Irish than at present, and I hope it will be possible for that to be done in the near future. But it is not Ireland I wish to talk about. It concerns me too intimately for many reasons, family and otherwise, and I find it extremely difficult to speak without heat on either one side or the other. Therefore I think it better to say as little as possible on that matter.
But I do want to come down to the point that we are discussing to-day the Vote of what is in fact the most important of all His Majesty's Secretaries of State, an office to which all other Cabinet offices should be subordinate if 661 our Empire were properly ordered, and an office which has the power to do more for the benefit of our people than has any other Minister, whatever his function. The Dominions Office can do more for the unemployed of this country than the Minister of Labour or the Minister of Agriculture ever can, or any other of the multitudinous Ministers, including those without portfolio, are ever likely to be able to do. It is they who form the co-ordinating link between the Dominions and ourselves—the Dominions who are the greatest part and the richest part of our Empire, who have all the things we lack and who want all the things we have. They have room, we have overcrowding; they have raw materials in plenty, and we are beginning to exhaust ours in this country. There is one office and one office only which can start off the readjustment of our Imperial system, a readjustment which is the only thing that will stand between our folk in this country and inevitable starvation in three or four generations.
No one who has studied, even in the most elementary way, the progress of modern manufacture and the general tendency of industrial population, can believe for one moment that this Island will be able to support its population without a very large export trade. No one who is looking at the European situation to-day believes that there is going to be any export trade outside our Imperial circle. Wherever we look we can see one thing and one thing only—that barriers are being put up, not to stop British trade necessarily going into a country, but to stop any trade going in. Therefore we must turn to the one area where we can have some help, where the people are of our own kin and are therefore more ready to co-operate with us.
I listened rather with disappointment to some of the Dominion Secretary's statements. Possibly I took them too seriously, but I was a little disappointed when I heard him say that it was absurd to talk about emigration while the Dominions still had an unemployment problem of their own. Surely one of the causes of that unemployment problem in the Dominions is the fact that they have not enough population to absorb the goods which they make. Most of the unemployment there is industrial and the industries are idle because there are not 662 people to consume the products. If the population were increased those unemployed would be absorbed.
§ Mr. TINKER
Will the hon. Member explain how it is that these people are now unemployed in the Dominions? Why are they not in employment?
§ Mr. WISE
I do not think the hon. Member has listened to what I was saying. I was explaining that the unemployment in the Dominions was largely industrial and that it was due to the fact that the Dominion industries had not a big enough home market to absorb their products. I was submitting that the only way to have a larger home market is to have more population.
§ Mr. TINKER
But is not the point that there are unemployed there now and should not the first consideration be to find employment for them before you transfer other people there? Why transfer people to places where there already is unemployment?
§ Mr. WISE
If the hon. Member will bear with me in patience I propose to try to explain my point more fully. This question is intimately bound up with questions of finance and organisation to which I shall come in due course but while still on the question of the necessity for increased population in the Dominions, I want to suggest that what we should all hope for and what we should all work for is a reduction of tariff barriers between the Dominions and ourselves. There is one potent reason why the Dominions must have extremely high tariff systems and it is that, while their own home market is restricted there can be no possibility of fair competition between them and other countries. For example, take the case of Canada with a population of 10,000,000 to absorb its industrial production and compare it with our own case. We have a home market of 45,000,000 to absorb our products before we export our surplus. The more the populations of Canada and Australia rise the easier it will be for the industries of those countries to compete on level terms against ours and the more certain will be a reduction of the tariff barriers which now exist between us.
One encouraging statement in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was to the effect that at any time there are never less 663 than 50,000 people who are ready and willing to try their luck in the Dominions. I believe that figure to be an under-estimate. Indeed, I think we could easily add another nought to it and say that there are half a million people ready and willing to go to the Dominions if they have some guarantee of security when they got there. It is not beyond our power to give such a guarantee. Furthermore, it is possible to increase the numbers of those who are willing to go. The desire and the capacity for emigration is largely a matter of education and the methods of education which the Government has at its disposal are, in these days, enormous. We have wireless, the Press, the posters on the hoardings, and all the forms of advertising which, if properly used, would create a real desire on the part of many people to go out and populate the far places of the earth.
I said just now that, provided some security were offered, there would be no hesitation on the part of a large proportion of our population to undertake this experiment in colonisation. Why should there not be that security? We have here unemployed men drawing relief and assistance. Does it make any difference to us whether we pay that relief in Birmingham or in Freemantle? Is there any reason why we should not undertake that responsibility in respect of any emigrant who falls out of work in a Dominion, at any rate for a fixed period. Is there any reason why our settlements should not be sufficiently well-organised to make failure almost impossible. There is a great shortage, I am told, of good capital investments in this country. Is there any better investment than land? Is there any better investment than the settlement of our people in places where they will have room to expand and ultimately to own something—people who have never owned anything in their lives, who have never owned a house or a stick of furniture, who rent their houses and get their furniture on the hire purchase system? Under such a scheme as I have in mind such people would have a chance of acquiring land as a permanent inheritance for themselves and their families. I can conceive no better investment for the surplus capital we have in this country.
664 Then, as new areas developed and created fresh wealth, more money would become available for further settlement. The process could be made one of steady and slow but very sure development. It only requires a little energy and a little belief in the destiny of our people. At the moment we are literally doing nothing. A Departmental Committee was set up not long ago and it made a report, as one would expect such a committee to make, which showed all the difficulties and advanced no solution. If that committee's terms of reference had been a little different; if it had been told not to worry about the difficulties but to report how the thing was to be done, the committee would have done it and done it very efficiently. It is worth while to take some risk now both with our capital and with our credit. Unless we do, the next generation will be looking in vain for that capital and that credit. It will probably be handed over to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) unless we take some steps to deal with what is becoming a permanent sore in our country. However much trade and industrial conditions are improving, we can see little prospect of our unemployment figures coming down to what we used to consider normal unemployment.
We are over-crowded. Our factories are producing at the height of their capacity in many cases now. We have in large parts of the country a shortage of skilled labour. Yet no real impression is being made on the permanent core of unemployment and no real impression can be made on it in this island. We have to call to our help the enormous areas which were earned for us but which at the moment we are almost allowing to go to waste. It is true that we should have to make some guarantee to the people whom we sent out and to the Dominions who were willing to receive them, that whatever surplus they produced we would consume. That is not impossible. As I say, the Secretary of State for the Dominions ought to be the principal officer of the Cabinet and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would be sufficiently determined to assert himself in that position and to make the other Departments of State understand his views and conform to his policy. In this country now we are importing from outside the Empire, at the lowest estimate, £100,000,000 worth of foodstuffs grown in 665 temperate countries, apart from tropical foods. Even if we halved that with the Dominions and our own farmers, it would produce a very great deal of prosperity both in the Dominions and at home. And there is room for far greater consumption in this country. At the moment we are in the ludicrous position of trying to stop imports of meat coming into this country because we have too much meat, when a quarter of our population can only eat it once a week.
It is worth our experimenting. We have nothing to lose by trying this on a properly organised and financed scale, but we have everything to gain, and if we do not try it, we shall not only lose very much in this country; we shall sooner or later let the Dominions slip, because they will not go on for ever waiting for a lead and being permanently disappointed. In every Dominion they know the need for more population. Most of their Prime Ministers have said as much. I did hear, though I have been unable to confirm it, that there is a scheme mooted for settling a large number of Germans in Australia. I heard also that an enterprising German was over here raising British money with which to do it.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
In the ordinary way one would take no notice of absurd and silly statements, but I must remind my hon. Friend that he is a Member of this House and that statements that he makes may be reported in the Dominions. It is only for that reason that I ask him to remember that he is a Member of Parliament and that he must not in this House merely get up and say he has heard statements. The idea that any Germans are contemplating settlement in Australia is too ludicrous for words, and I would ask my hon. Friend not to repeat silly and absurd statements like that.
§ Lord APSLEY
But it is the case. There are a number of German settlers going to Australia and taking plots, that have been abandoned by British settlers, of bad and unworkable land, and making successes of them.
That only emphasises my intervention. The Prime Minister of Australia was in this country until a few days ago, and no one would resent more than the Australian Prime Minister and every other Prime Minister the implications of the hon. Member's statement. I am sorry the Noble Lord should have 666 attempted to support it. Of course, there are foreigners going into the Dominions and coming here, and there are many British going to foreign countries, but that is not the point. I was dealing with the specific reference of my hon. Friend which if given publicity, would cause considerable harm, and I wanted to correct him, however much he may have been misinformed, as well as the Noble Lord.
§ Mr. WISE
I have not made any assertion that this scheme had been put into force or that there was anything that I myself knew. As I said, I had been unable to confirm it. I said that a scheme had been mooted, and such a scheme has been mooted, and if it is absurd, so much the better. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for intervening as he has, because the right hon. Gentleman was a little misleading in stating that our suggestion of there being foreign emigration to Australia was absurd. He knows very well that the foreign emigrants to Australia are increasing year by year. He cannot deny those figures, or, if he likes, I will give him some figures that I have here, which are from the High Commissioner himself. Although the number is at the moment not large, it rises from 3,800 in 1932 to 5,300 in 1934, or approximately 10 per cent. of the total immigration into Australia. Those are foreigners—definitely non-British white races—and it is rather absurd to make so much fuss about the suggestion that I made, because, if we do not settle these Dominions, other people will.
The Dominions know well that they have to have population. Australia has a defence problem which it wants met. Canada has enormous resources which it wants to develop and it has not the people at the moment to develop them. Mr. Bennett, I think it was, the other day said he wanted to increase the population of Canada, and Mr. Mackenzie King has gone so far as to say that the proper population of the Dominion is about 80,000,000, whereas at the moment it is only 10,000,000. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to try to get idle men into open spaces and to bring production where there is no production, to try to reduce the dead weight which we have to carry in this country, which is slowly sinking us, and to try again to convince the Dominions that we are the senior partner and that we are ready to give 667 the senior partner's lead for which they are all waiting.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I only wish to intervene for two or three minutes, largely because of the speech of the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise). If the hon. Member had just paid a short visit, either to the agricultural sections of Canada, to the wide open spaces of Australia, or to some of those unfortunate individuals over there who have lost every penny they ever accumulated either in this country or anywhere else, then perhaps he would change his views with regard to transferring people from this country to Australia. I wonder if he heard the Secretary of State for the Dominions make his speech this afternoon. If he did, he will recall that the right hon. Gentleman definitely said that for weeks on end he and his colleague the Minister of Agriculture, and perhaps others, have been trying to conclude agreements to restrict, or impose duties upon, or in some way to retard the imports of meat into this country, foreign as well as Dominions meat. What is going to happen to those millions of people whom the hon. Member wants to transfer to Australia? I was there only a few months ago, during this present year, in places where they had 18 per cent. of unemployment in many of their large cities and where the conditions were anything but pleasant for those who were unemployed.
The hon. Member's suggestion is that by some magic wand the Secretary of State for the Dominions in this country should pick up 100,000 or 500,000 of our unemployed and transfer them to the wide open agricultural spaces in Australia, so that they can consume the town-made products and so that the 18 per cent. of industrial unemployed workers can be reabsorbed into industry. But the hon. Gentleman does not tell us who is going to consume the meat and the wheat and the other agricultural products that they produce there. It is clear that they can produce infinitely more per person than they can consume. They must of necessity, therefore, have an outlet for their surplus agricultural production. It is such an easy suggestion for any hon. Member to make. There are lots of money in this country lying idle in the banks, and there are millions of square miles of territory in Australia without 668 population. The question is how to bring the idle hands to the idle land and utilise the idle money lying in the banks.
The hon. Member should remember what happened in Australia in 1930. For many years Australia has been importing in excess of the value of her exports, and she has also continued to borrow very largely from this country for further development, and perhaps for the purpose of creating opportunities for the emigrants who had gone there from this country. The hon. Member must remember that the Money Market of London was closed to Australia, and that their imports, as a result of the pressure imposed from this country, fell from about £120,000,000 worth to £54,000,000 worth, while our sales to Australia were reduced almost to nothing. Instead of that situation creating either the psychology or the opportunity for more migration, it closed the door to migration for at least a decade. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that in the last four years more people have been coming back from Australia than have been going out there? These are not the theories of the simpleton who looks at the map and allows his imagination to run riot; they are statements of fact. It is this City and the people who dictate the policy of this Government who determine what the situation shall be in Australia. The hon. Member cannot support this Government all the time in all that they do and support the City of London all the time in all that they do—even when that means closing the Money Market to Australia, closing the door to migration, and creating a grave unemployment problem in Australia—and then, on the Dominions Office Vote, suggest that the Dominions Secretary, of all Ministers in this country, ought to have the power—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Member is quite right in suggesting that the Governor of the Bank of England tried to dictate the policy of the Government while we were in office. The hon. Gentleman, like so many of his colleagues, took advantage of the dictation of the bankers here and abroad to 669 get a seat in this House which otherwise, perhaps, he would not have got for the next 35 years. There are many reasons why hon. Gentlemen opposite support the City and the Bank of England and all the foreign colleagues of the Governor of the Bank of England. But if the hon. Member suggests that of all Ministers the Dominions Secretary should be the paramount Minister and should have the power of taking 2,000,000 people and transferring them to Canada or Australia, he would do well to go out to the agricultural districts of this country and tell the farming population that. He should tell them that all we have to do is to send 2,000,000 consumers of agricultural produce from this country to Australia, so that they can create more agricultural products to send back to this country for fewer people here to consume, and so put agriculture in this country completely out of existence. The hon. Gentleman has made a very poor point and I think that speech would not have been made had he known the first thing about Canada or Australia. I suggest that between now and next year when the Dominions Office Vote is put down again, the hon. Member should take a health trip, or some other trip, to some part of the Dominions to see for himself what the situation is there.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary for the Dominions to make as clear as he can the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman relating to meat. The Dominions Secretary told us that negotiations had been going on for a long time, and that so far no settlement had been reached; and that as a result of the Argentine Trade Agreement with this country, no levy could be imposed for a period of 16 months. Therefore, he said, as restrictions and quotas have brought nothing but friction and difficulties with all those with whom we have been negotiating, the Government have decided to go for the straight John Bull tariff. Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman meant that for 16 months the position will remain as it is, but that the Government in advance have made up their mind that the moment this country is free to act they are going to apply a tariff to all imported meat, with a Dominion preference? That ought to be made perfectly clear, so that we shall all understand its full implications. The Prime 670 Minister said something this afternoon about the possibility of a General Election shortly. I think the Under-Secretary would agree that whatever policy the Government have, if it is definitely settled, ought to be understood by all sections of the community. I hope that the Noble Lord will make that position crystal clear, so that we shall all understand that for a period of 16 months the situation is to remain as it is, but that at the end of that time a tariff policy is the settled policy of the Government.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Mr. HANNON
I should like to join with my many hon. Friends who have congratulated the Dominions Secretary on the admirable speech he made this afternoon. It must be gratifying to most Members to realise from his review of the Imperial situation that in all the difficulties of the time in which we live such happy relations subsist between the Mother Country and most of the overseas Dominions. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), one of the most charming and delightful personalities in this House, could not resist the opportunity of saying something critical about the banking organisation of this country. I would remind him that when his party landed this unhappy nation in very serious economic difficulties, it was the strength, vitality and foresight of the bankers of this country that saved the situation. As the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition may one day be responsible—a long time hence, no doubt—for the financial policy of this country, I would suggest that he and his friends should criticise the banking community with more caution and circumspection.
I listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) with a certain amount of regret. Those of us who come from Ireland, and who still have a deep interest in the establishment of friendly relations between Ireland and this country and the rest of the Dominions, never like to say a word that may make more difficult the possibility of the establishment of a kindly understanding in the future. My hon. Friend seemed to suggest that some pledge given in the early stages of the Great War that Irishmen would play their part in the difficulties of these 671 islands and of the Empire had not been fully implemented. The services of Irishmen in the Great War were not less, either in quality or proportionately in quantity, than the services of any other part of the British Empire. I venture to suggest to hon. Members that in dealing with the delicate and sometimes exasperating questions that arise in connection with Ireland, they should make no reflection on Irish gallantry, chivalry or self-sacrifice in the Great War. I would like to support the general suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise). I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who served with great distinction as Secretary of State for the Dominions. In Debates of this kind the presence of my right hon. Friend is a real asset, and the speech he made to-day will be received in all quarters of the Committee with respect and appreciation. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), with his monopoly of all political and economic wisdom, smiles at every suggestion made from this side of the House—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We were smiling because my hon. and learned Friend and I were saying to each other, "When do we come in for some of the compliments?"
§ Mr. HANNON
The right hon. Gentleman knows how strong my personal affection for him is. In a recitation of kindly references to that side of the House I could never leave him out, but I notice that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol is always prepared to treat with scant consideration really substantial constructive proposals coming from this side of the Committee. I was about to say that, much as I support the Dominions Secretary in his general policy and the Government in the line that they pursued in Empire policy at Ottawa, I think there is still much to be done on the question of migration within the Empire. Somehow or other we do not seem to have reached the kernel of that problem. It has been discussed time after time for years. For the 25 or 30 years since I was an officer of the Government of Cape Colony the question of peopling the Dominions and putting helpful and hopeful citizens in the vacant spaces has been the policy of 672 every part of the British Empire; yet we seem to be as far away as ever from some sound, constructive and helpful policy. I will say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary that now, in face of the improved situation in this country, but yet with the embarrassing problem of unemployment facing us, this question of migration within the Empire ought to secure from them and from the Government as a whole much more sympathetic and concentrated thought than has been the case for many years. If ever we are to make the Empire a great directing force in the civilisation of our time, the question of migration must be dealt with on the lines of constructive statesmanship looking forward for a long period.
We are delighted to hear from the Dominions Secretary his attitude, in which he represented the attitude of the Government, towards British agriculture. British farmers in this country and others engaged in the whole processes of rural life ought to have the first consideration of British statesmanship. After them should come the people in our own Dominions and Colonies, and, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said, using a commonplace phrase, foreign countries should be also ran. I would urge that those agreements made with foreign countries, which in their operative effect are inflicting serious disability on agricultural production in this country, should, before their period of renewal arrives, be reconsidered; and more regard should be had when they are re-arranged to the interests of British agriculturists than was the case when the agreements were first decided upon, taking into consideration, of course, all the time the fact that the Empire must come second. In a remarkable speech on meat some time ago, the Secretary of State put it this way. He said that we have a duty of 2d. on foreign meat and 1d. on Empire meat, thus giving to Empire production a preferential place in our markets, and giving our own farmers the advantage of the 2d. in the one case and the 1d. in the other. If that represents the policy of the Government, I am sure that it will have the full support of the Committee. The farming production of this country in every department of its activity should have first consideration. The Dominions and 673 Colonies should come next, and the foreigner should receive that measure of treatment which is justly reciprocal of the extent to which his markets are open to us for the exploitation of our manufactured goods.
With regard to Newfoundland, the hon. Member for Bridgeton was a little severe on the Secretary of State. He seemed to see no good at all arising out of the new regime in Newfoundland. He saw no good in the abolition of representative Government, side by side with the complete elimination of corruption and the substitution of what he called a dictatorship by a commission. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman has really read the report which was submitted by command of this House last month.
§ Mr. HANNON
It embodies a whole series of acts of statesmanship and shows the extent to which the operations of the Commission have contributed to the economic and social progress of that community; the extent to which, apart from the benefits conferred upon the fishing community, the standard of life has been raised and disease has been dealt with; the extent to which medical missionary work has been carried out among the people; and the extent to which the condition of the submerged population of St. Johns has been dealt with. These are all tributes to the admirable work of the Commission.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I did not say the Commission had done nothing, but that there were no new economic developments. I admit certain social ameliorations, but there are no new economic developments.
§ Mr. HANNON
My hon. Friend, whose philosophic mind must adjust itself to the exigencies of the very extraordinary situation when the Commission were appointed, must realise the immense amount of work which had to be done before any new economic proposal could be considered. They had first to restore some kind of equilibrium of morality in that island, to get people to recognise their obligations to the State and, indeed, to understand that they had to deal honestly one with another. As the Secretary of State explained, the whole vast machinery of corruption had to be wiped out. Surely my hon. Friend, who is so fair towards persons in positions of great 674 public responsibility who are making a contribution to help their country, would admit that some substantial time must elapse before they can embark on new economic propositions. On the whole the work of the Newfoundland Commission during the short time it has been in operation is entirely to its credit, and I hope this Committee will show by supporting this Vote to-night that it endorses the work the Commission has done and approves of the manner in which the members of it have discharged their onerous duties, assure them at the same time that they will continue to have the confidence of this House in the further discharge of their work.
My last word will be to say that I think a profound mistake was made when the Empire Marketing Board was abolished. There we had an instrument in this country, brought into operation at the instance of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, which was doing admirable work not merely in the service of the Dominions but admirable work abroad, reciprocally with the Dominions, for the manufacturers and workpeople in this country, and I agree with my hon. Friend opposite who was an active supporter of the work of the Board when he was in office that it was a profound mistake to do away with it under the stress of circumstances following upon the Ottawa Conference. While acknowledging the immense value of the conclusions which were reached at Ottawa and the agreements which were determined there, I feel that it was a profound mistake that the Conference decided to abolish the Empire Marketing Board. I am proud to think that the Imperial policy of this country is still commanding respect in the whole of the world, and I think the speech of the Dominions Secretary will commend itself to every thoughtful citizen. There is much still to be done. The work of statesmanship in relation to our Dominions is vast and weighty. The opportunities are immense. I would urge upon the Government that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook should be carefully considered and that the suggestions he made should become part of the Government's constructive and positive policy.
Lastly, I hope that in this House, as in the country as a whole, the delicate and difficult situation in Ireland will be treated considerately and without any 675 exasperating language or critical terms which might make the difficulties of coming together in the future harder than they have been. I believe that the Dominions Secretary has, in trying circumstances, done everything in his power to promote friendship with that difficult community, and I hope we shall all support him in making the path more smooth, and the process of examination of the problem as easy as possible, in order to bring about what we all hope may ultimately be achieved, happier and pleasanter arrangements with our little island beyond the seas.
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
I am afraid I shall be unable to maintain the wedding breakfast atmosphere that the hon. Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) always seems to radiate in this House. I have no compliments for anyone, not even the leader of the Opposition or my distinguished colleague in the representation of Bristol, nor have I even a posy for the Secretary of State for the Dominions. I would rather try to follow for a few moments, though I hope in a more temperate form the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) when he spoke of Ireland. The Secretary of State, in his admirable speech, which lasted something like an hour and a half—of which I make no complaint—devoted only about three minutes to the position of Ireland. From that speech it would have been impossible to realise that for the last two years there has been a ruinous trade war and a serious embitterment of the relations between our two countries. But in the three minutes which he did devote to the question of Ireland there came one sentence to which I would specially direct attention: he spoke of there being "fundamental obstacles" in the way of a solution of the Irish problem. I would ask the Under-Secretary whether it be possible for him to-night, in the time at his disposal, to state what exactly are those fundamental obstacles to an agreement. We have a right to know precisely and definitely what this dispute is about. Surely it is essential that the minds of both Ireland and Great Britain should be clear on this question.
What is it that Mr. de Valera wants? What is the issue? Is it that Mr. de Valera is challenging the whole basis of 676 the treaty of 1921, or is it merely a question of the legal interpretation of the annuities? Surely that question vitally affects the whole principle of arbitration. If Mr. de Valera wants to clear away the whole treaty, then clearly there is nothing to arbitrate about. The Irish Treaty of 1921 was agreed upon by the Irish plenipotentiaries. It was afterwards confirmed by the Dail, it has been ratified three or four times in Ireland at General Elections, and if Mr. de Valera does decide to repudiate it that is his affair. It is obviously not a question upon which we can possibly go to arbitration. Does he take this complete attitude of non-compromise? I put that question very seriously to the Government. Can the dispute be narrowed down to a legal interpretation of the annuities? I do not know. I am not making any criticism, but I am merely asking for information.
I looked up what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the last Debate that we had on the Irish annuities just a year ago. He said:If we were prepared to concede that the Irish Free State should become a Republic and that certain other breaches of the treaties between us shall take place, we might perhaps settle this dispute."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th June, 1934; col. 42, Vol. 291.]If that is the only chance of settling the dispute, the position is pretty hopeless, but is that the position? What evidence have the Government for saying that this is entirely a political dispute? Whether the dispute is legal or political seems to be a vital question. If it is purely a legal question, I would ask the Government whether it is worth while standing firm on the question of an Empire tribunal.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton pretty fairly described Mr. de Valera's statement as an olive, branch, and before we reject it out of hand let us make quite certain that the leaves are not poisoned. It may be argued that it would mean a climb down and loss of prestige: surely, it would be nothing to the loss of prestige that we are now suffering by our failure as a great Imperial nation to come to terms with our nearest Imperial neighbour. I do not believe that any great nation suffers from doing the big thing. Would anyone deny, for instance, that the British Government were abundantly justified in their decision, strongly 677 attacked at the time, to submit the Alabama dispute to arbitration? I should not object in the least to referring this question of land annuities, provided that that were the only question, to an international court, say, like the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
My suggestion is that before we quarrel about the nature of the tribunal we should decide the terms of reference on which we shall submit the dispute to the tribunal. Let the British Government resume the initiative in this matter. Let them get down in black and white what exactly Mr. de Valera means, and then we shall have gone a long way to discover the materials of a solution. Neither country is benefiting by this ludicrous deadlock, and a trade war is having a lamentable effect upon their industries. What is much more serious is that it has added a new embitterment to the relations between the two countries at a time when it seemed that the conflict of centuries had ended. I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of British statesmanship to find a solution of the deadlock or that this great National Government is so weakened that it cannot afford a fresh effort, even at the risk of some loss of so-called prestige, to find a solution honourable to all and humiliating to none.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
We do not propose to vote on these Estimates to-night, because we desire to keep the Vote open in order to have an opportunity on another occasion for a fresh discussion of the meat problem. I will not deal with that matter at all. The only two subjects to which I will refer are Newfoundland and Ireland. With regard to Newfoundland, we are profoundly disturbed and dissatisfied at the state of affairs disclosed in the report by the Commissioner of Government as to the unemployment situation. The Committee ought to recollect that this is the only democratic assembly in which the affairs of Newfoundland can be discussed, and that we therefore have a heavy responsibility for the full discussion of affairs in that country. That state of suspended animation of the democracy of Newfoundland is highly disturbing, and we hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take steps as soon as possible to initiate some method of making an opposition available in New- 678 foundland matters. No one desires to retain a position in which rioting may occur by those who want to make themselves heard. It is vitally important that the people in this country and in Newfoundland should have some means, through an assembly of some sort, of asserting the voice of the people of Newfoundland as against the views of the Commission of Government.
No one doubts the accuracy of those reports, but it is essentially a one-sided view. We are trying to administer the affairs of Newfoundland in this Parliament, and we are not provided with any local knowledge. That is an extremely unsafe and unsatisfactory way of trying to control any country. Nor is it good government that we should regard ourselves merely as good receivers in bankruptcy for Newfoundland. We have a greater responsibility than that. Some hon. Members talk about the necessity for getting rid of corruption in Newfoundland government; it is true that the individuals who were in the ruling position in Newfoundland were found, and no doubt rightly so, by the Royal Commission to be guilty of gross corruption but that is not something which should be laid at the door of the people of Newfoundland as a whole. Unfortunately, their political sense was not sufficiently developed to enable them to throw off their corrupt political masters, but that is no reason why we should not attempt at the very earliest possible moment—it is vital that we should attempt—to restore to them their political liberty, and to call forth from them their critical faculties in regard to the development of Newfoundland.
This story of charitable distribution of money here and there for this or that social service, is not the story of a determined effort to reconstruct the economic life of Newfoundland. We want to see a root and branch reconstruction, not under the aegis of the corrupt private individuals who had to be displaced, but under the aegis of the people of Newfoundland themselves, owning their own wealth and and administering their own country.
Let me turn to the Irish situation. On former occasions I have suggested that the Government, in dealing with this situation, have always missed the big thing and have taken the short view. I 679 think it has been proved, as time has elapsed, that by their taking that short view the difficulties of settlement have grown greater and greater. There is no doubt that if in the very early stages of this matter of the annuities problem it had been arbitrated upon the position between the two countries would have been very much easier. The Government stood out almost upon a technical point as regards the personnel of the arbitration tribunal, and now the position is such that it would probably be hopeless to attempt arbitration limited to the land annuities.
I ventured on the Second Reading Debate on the Statute of Westminster to point out the critical danger that was likely to arise after the passage of that Statute unless we took steps immediately to set up an inter-Imperial arbitral tribunal which would be in existence when these sort of difficulties arose. There could then be no question as to whom they should be referred. You would have had the existing tribunal which would have been approved by the parties to the Statute of Westminster, and I still press the right hon. Gentleman to see that that tribunal is set up. It may not be Ireland; it may be South Africa with whom a dispute may arise. If we have an existing tribunal we have the safety that we cannot have friction over who shall arbitrate in a matter of this sort. With complete and absolute freedom to every unit of the Commonwealth it is vital if we are going to preserve the unity of that Commonwealth to have ready the means of deciding a dispute if a dispute arises. It is not good enough to leave the matter year after year. When a difficulty comes, difficulties about each side wanting to select the tribunal they think likely to give them a favourable answer will arise and will create the sort of position which has been created as regards Ireland.
Since this matter was last up for discussion there has been a remarkable change in the situation. There can be no doubt that at the beginning of this year the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Government were proceeding on the basis that the Treaty overrode the Statute of Westminster, that the Statute of Westminster had not affected the legal obligations under the Treaty of 1921. The Privy Council in 680 the recent decision in which they have now laid down the law on that very matter they have taken precisely the opposite view, a view which I have ventured to urge ever since the passing of the Statute of Westminster. May I just remind the Committee of their findings? In their conclusion, at the end of their judgment, they say this:The position may be summed up as follows:(1) The Treaty and the Constituent Act respectively form parts of the statute law of the United Kingdom, each of them being parts of an Imperial Act.They had said in an earlier stage that the force and validity of the Treaty derived from an Act of Parliament.(2) Before the passing of the Statute of Westminster it was not competent for the Irish Free State Parliament to pass an Act abrogating the Treaty because the Colonial Laws Validity Act forbade a Dominion Legislature to pass a law repugnant to an Imperial Act.(3) The effect of the Statute of Westminster was to remove the fetter which lay upon the Irish Free State Legislature by reason of the Colonial Laws Validity Act. That Legislature can now pass Acts repugnant to an Imperial Act. In this case, they have done so.It would be out of place to criticise the legislation enacted by the Irish Free State Legislature. But the Board desire to add that they are expressing no opinion upon any contractual obligation under which, regard being had to the terms of the Treaty, the Irish Free State lay.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am quoting the last passage of the judgment.The simplest way of stating the situation is to say that the Statute of Westminster gave to the Irish Free State a power under which they could abrogate the Treaty, and that, as a matter of law, they have availed themselves of that power.Since that decision there can be no possible doubt in any one's mind that the Irish Free State ever since the Statute of Westminster have had complete power to abrogate any terms of the Treaty and make any alteration in the terms of their constitution.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Where a matter is capable of submission to the supreme 681 tribunal of the Empire it is idle to talk of moral power or moral right. One has got to abide by the legal right. It is the law, and just as in a court of law in this country it is so often said, "We are not a court of morals but a court of law," so in a matter of this sort we must judge them by their legal obligation.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, there having been a decision by the Supreme Court which is acknowledged by this Parliament as well as, we should say, by the Parliament in Ireland, it has been decided by that Supreme Court that the effect of the Statute of Westminster passed by this House was to give the Irish Parliament power to abrogate the Treaty.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The decision is perfectly specific. It is that the Statute of Westminster, passed after the Treaty, changed the situation so as to allow the Irish Parliament to alter the terms of the Treaty which are in the constitution of Ireland, and the Privy Council has held that the Statute of Westminster gave to the Irish Free State a power under which they could abrogate the Treaty, and that, as a matter of law, they have availed themselves of that power.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Certainly we can pass any Act in this House to vary the terms of the Treaty. The whole question that was raised in the Second Reading Debate, I think by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and others, was: Will the Statute of Westminster give the 682 Irish Parliament power to alter the terms of the Treaty and the Constitution? Some people said No. The Government said No. I venture to say Yes, it will give them power; and they have utilised the power. The negotiations have gone so far on the basis that they had not the right to do it. It has now been held by the Supreme Court that they have the right to do it. I have only got a few moments. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would answer my speech at the end.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I would rather complete my argument. The right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of replying afterwards. The position is that up to this stage the negotiations have been proceeding on the basis that the Irish Government had not the power to alter the Constitution. That is the very point that was taken to the Privy Council and was argued there. It has now been declared, contrary to a great many people's expectations, that they have that power, and, moreover, they have exercised that power. One may say what one likes about their moral obliquity or otherwise, but, as a matter of legal decision, they have done what it was within their power to do. It is no use now arguing on the basis that they cannot get rid of the Privy Council appeal, or that they cannot do this or cannot do that. They can do it, and it was the House of Commons that gave them the power to do it under the Statute of Westminster. We cannot go back now and consider whether that was a wise or a stupid thing to do.
Therefore, I am suggesting to the Government that this is a proper opportunity for reconsidering the approach to the Irish problem, because, now that this question has been cleared out of the way, we can start negotiations on the basis that the legal position of Ireland has been determined, and there is no longer any doubt about it. I am going to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will be prepared to enter into fresh negotiations with Ireland on the basis of the legal position which has now been settled? I know that there are many and great difficulties in these negotiations, but it does seem to us that, now that this decision has been given, there is a fresh opportunity, on the basis of the new legal situation which has now been declared, to start the negotiations afresh, because 683 in so many cases, when a legal power is once granted, people do not insist upon using it as they do when the right to use it is being denied them, and they use it in order to test the right.
Of course I know that the Government will accept this decision, naturally, but I hope they will use the opportunity created by the decision in order to launch a fresh offensive of friendliness upon the Government of Ireland, wiping out all these discussions as regards their legal powers, putting that all aside, and saying to them, "Admitting now that you have got all these powers, cannot we sit down and discover whether there is not some means by which you can remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations and yet at the same time exercise that full liberty which it has been found that you have just as much as the other Dominions in the British Commonwealth of Nations?"
§ 10.19 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
This is a very large point to crop up at so late a stage in the Debate. In fact, I do not think that any more important point has been raised in the whole of this discussion. I very rarely find myself in agreement with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), but I must say that I do now, whether it be upon the establishment of an inter-Imperial arbitration tribunal as an essential element in the entire structure of the British Empire under its new Constitution, or whether it be upon his reading of the law, in which I agree as far as my opinion has any value. If my opinion has any value, it is because I expressed that opinion four years ago. In fact, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) moved an Amendment to exempt the Irish Treaty from the operation of the Statute of Westminster. That Amendment, of course, was voted down by the Government without the slightest compunction or hesitation. On that occasion we were advised by independent lawyers and constitutional authorities of great eminence that unquestionably the Statute of Westminster enabled the Irish Parliament to do what they pleased with the Irish Treaty and override it in every respect. [Interruption.] I was talking of great lawyers. I see one of them there. I am very glad 684 There is the man. There is the legal authority who set himself against the Privy Council, as it is now found that he gave an opinion which has been overridden by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely in error. If he will refresh his memory by looking at the observations he will find that he is mistaken.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That is a very safe boast. The Chairman of Committees has already ruled that quotations of that kind must not be made. It is a very safe boast. But I have the passages here and have shown them to many of my friends in the House this evening, and a more complete reversal and stultification of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's legal opinion was never presented than that which has been laid before us in this Judgment of the Privy Council. He it was who produced the legal argument—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is now trespassing upon matters which the Chairman said must not be raised.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I was probably a little provoked by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who challenged my facts. Let me return to the original thread which I was pursuing. I found myself very largely in agreement with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, first, upon the inter-Imperial Arbitration Tribunal, and, secondly, upon the reading of the law upon the Statute of Westminster. I also find myself very much in agreement with him in feeling that a further answer must be made by the Government. These matters are fundamental. It is only from time to time that we are able to examine them, and this is certainly not a convenient time. I address myself to the Prime Minister. We have a great advantage in having a Prime Minister here to-night. That is why I am very much in favour of the recent changes which have been made. We, at any rate, have one who combines the power with the office, and can be held responsible, and, to use a sterner word, accountable for what takes place. My right hon. Friend is now Prime Minister, and I 685 address myself to him. And I have a right to address myself to him, because no one gave a more specific and elaborate assurance in Parliament, to quote the words which have just been used by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that the Treaty overrode the Statute, and not the Statute of Westminster the Treaty. No one used stronger words or gave more forcible reasons than my right hon. Friend. He carries enormous weight, and very rightly. He is regarded not only as the most honest man in the country, but also the most honest man this country has ever produced, and in consequence, when my right hon. Friend gives a definite, solid opinion and says something very forcible, people believe him.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are not discussing the Prime Minister's salary.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I shall not do so. I am only dwelling upon the situation in which we find ourselves after having had these definite assurances. Now we find that they are overturned by the highest tribunal in the land, and, in illustration of that, I said that the right hon. Gentleman's peculiar weight and authority had counted in this matter. It is a very great thing that he should have this peculiar weight of authority in ordinary matters, but it is very inconvenient when everybody believes what he says, and what he says on more than one occasion is found to be vitally wrong. In this case he has been found to be wrong. No one is more wrong.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman is again transgressing the Chairman's ruling. We cannot discuss what opinions were given in the Debate on the Statute of Westminster. That Statute is the work of the House of Commons and every Member is responsible for the form in which it was passed.
§ Earl WINTERTON
On a point of Order. How can we discuss this Vote apart from a definition, which we are entitled to ask the Government to put, of the law under which the administration is carried on?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The Government are not entitled to put any definition 686 of the law. The definition of the law is a matter for the Courts of Law.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Surely, we are entitled to ask the Government how they define the administration which they are carrying on. If they cannot define it, how can we discuss the administration?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
So far, that is not the point which has been argued. What is being argued is difference of opinions in this House during the passage of a Statute. That is a matter which we cannot discuss. A Bill becomes an Act of Parliament as the work of every Member of the House, and the House as a whole must take responsibility for it.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
What you have said and the commentary that has taken place on the point of Order really illustrates the point that I was making, and reinforces my appeal in a manner more direct, and I hope more persuasive, than any words which could have fallen from me. Is it not perfectly clear that we must have a debate on this matter under conditions which will enable the real points to be raised? Surely, that is reasonable? Here is an immense change in our affairs, which we were led into, the consequences of which are now with us. These are the consequences. Because of what we did we are dealing with the matter in the Estimates of this current year. We have reaped the consequences already. It is astonishing how soon the consequences come home to roost.
I see my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) sitting in his place. I am sorry that it is not a higher place, considering all things, but I will not press that point. The other day he chaffed me with wit and point. He said that I had made a speech which was the end of the last chapter of the Book of Revelations—[Laughter]—I mean the Book of Jeremiah. This is not any longer the last chapter of gloomy prediction. It is the first chapter of the Book of Lamentations, where the predictions come to be verified. Here we see a situation where we have been completely misled. An entirely false position has been created, which has governed and is now governing Imperial action in relation to Ireland. Apparently, according to the judgment of the highest tribunal in the land, the one which we exalt most, we gave by the Statute of 687 Westminster complete legislative autonomy even to the over-riding of every Statute of this House, even to the overriding of fundamental Statutes governing the Treaty between this country and Ireland. That being so, the entire relationship between this country and Ireland should certainly be the subject of a full and free debate. Not only has that occurred, but we have made arrangements about the American debt in the interval.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Whatever other responsibilities the Secretary of State for the Dominions has, he certainly cannot have any responsibility for the American Debt.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
No. I am not putting responsibility on the right hon. Gentleman. I am only endeavouring to deal with these matters of real consequence.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman must remember that we are now in Committee of Supply and that he cannot range over the general sins of omission on the part of the Government.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am not attempting to range over the sins of omission of the Government. I am taking note of the situation at which we have arrived in the relations of the two countries, which are certainly involved in the Vote. I am not going to stand between the Under-Secretary of State, whom we welcome to his new office, and whose speech we are awaiting, but I would ask the Prime Minister to consider whether it is not his duty, in view of his own statements and assurances, to use his plenary authority over the time of the House to secure a proper opportunity for the relations of Great Britain and the Irish Free State to be freely and fully debated in the light of what must be to the Government the wholly unexpected decision of the highest court in the land.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
The Committee will appreciate my difficulty My noble Friend will reply to the general Debate, but I should be the last person to ask him to accept responsibility for something for which I am wholly responsible. I want the right hon. Member for Epping 688 (Mr. Churchill) to appreciate the difficulties. I never believed that it was possible for the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) to enter into combination in a discussion on Ireland.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
The right hon. Gentleman has no right to make any such suggestion. The only combination is that the hon. and learned Member has had the courtesy to tell me when he was likely to conclude his speech. The Secretary of State has no right to make such an insinuation.
The right hon. Member must not misunderstand me. I did not mean anything sinister. I meant that for the first time the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and learned Member happened to be in combination. The position is that the Opposition has agreed not to divide against the Vote, and, therefore, the right hon. Member for Epping will have an opportunity through the usual channels to secure that arrangements can be made whereby the Irish situation can be discussed.
I understand that the Chairman's Ruling prevents a discussion arising on the Privy Council's decision. It is impossible to make a reply now, but we will take note of the suggestion made and see how it can be met. We are not unmindful of the difficulties, and we do not wish to shirk responsibility. I am sure the House will not expect my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State to deal with this technical question, and other means will be taken to provide an opportunity for discussing it.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ Captain PETER MACDONALD
Before the Noble Lord replies may I raise one very important point? A great deal of this Debate has been taken up with the future of the Protectorates of South Africa. I am sure that the Noble Lord's reply will deal with that situation. 689 I contend that the future of the Protectorates of South Africa is mixed up as much as is the Irish Free State with the Statute of Westminster. Therefore I urge the Noble Lord not to commit himself to-night, if more time is to be given to the discussion of this question, to anything which may be taken as the decision of the Government.
§ 10.36 p.m.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Lord Stanley)
I am sure the Committee will be good enough to forgive me if I do not follow the extremely technical and controversial points raised by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I am glad, too, that the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has allowed my first words in my new capacity to be words in which I feel that everyone will join whole-heartedly, and that is an expression of admiration for the Dominions, for the courage and the initiative which they have shown throughout the great difficulties of the past years, and of congratulation on the way in which they have succeeded by their own efforts in extricating themselves from the economic depression in which they have found themselves during recent years.
I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State can have every reason to feel satisfied with the reception of his speech, and I will add that it was a reception which was deserved. When you get a constructive survey of the affairs of a Department over which a Minister presides, you generally find it followed by a constructive and useful Debate. That has certainly been the case with the Debate this afternoon. Once again I have to ask for the consideration of the Committee. I have been in my new Department for only a very short time, and I am sure that many hon. Members who have raised extremely interesting points, out of their intimate knowledge, will not expect me to answer them in detail to-night. Those points will be carefully studied in the office tomorrow. If possible I will give them an answer, or probably the best answer is that their suggestions are useful, and we will see whether we can use them.
690 The hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) moved a reduction of the Vote, although I understand that the matter is not to be pressed to a Division. My speech in defence of my right hon. Friend would be indeed an easy one if the hon. Member for Rothwell put forward the whole of the case for the prosecution. I have had the feeling during the Debate that Members who have been critical have had to go very far to hunt out their criticisms and to find a whip with which to chastise my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) was, perhaps, a little unfair when he complained that during the administration of my right hon. Friend at the Dominions Office there had been no progress. That criticism is not justified and I can best show that by taking the main features of my right hon. Friend's speech to-day. He dealt first of all with the protectorates. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) asked me not to commit myself in any way on that subject. I am certainly not going to commit myself further than the aide memoire sent out by the Secretary of State which I think has been received with universal satisfaction. It has made this progress, that it has put an extremely difficult question on a new plane. It has done away, we hope, with all chances of friction in the future, and provided a great opportunity for development and increased co-operation in the present.
The hon. Member for Rothwell did not seem able to believe his own ears and asked whether my right hon. Friend really meant what he said. My right hon. Friend could not possibly have put the intentions of the Government in plainer language, though for the satisfaction of the hon. Member I will repeat it. He said we were pledged to Parliament here that the transfer of the High Commissioner's territories shall not take place until (a) the inhabitants, native as well as European, have been consulted and (b) until Parliament has been given an opportunity of expressing its opinion. I can think of no statement more clear or unequivocal. Many Members have spoken on this subject with great knowledge, and I do not pretend, with my limited experience, to try to follow them. The Committee will realise that while we are, undoubtedly, trustees for the natives in these Protectorates we have no reason 691 to think that the interests of South Africa and the interests of these natives are going to run directly counter one to the other. Rather should we do everything we can to encourage and help South Africa to take the greatest possible interest in their development. It is for that reason that in this aide memoire we have stressed the desire for closer co-operation.
I have been asked to go into details, but it is not possible to do that, because the Secretary of State has only just instructed our High Commissioner for the Protectorates to discuss plans for co-operation with the Union Government. The directions in which those plans will lie are obvious to everybody. There are many common interests in such directions as trade and commerce, medical and veterinary services, and many others, and I assure the Committee that many extremely useful suggestions which have been made in the course of this Debate, will be taken into consideration. I may be allowed to refer particularly to the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) and to say that great attention will be paid to their views. With regard to the speech of the latter, I would like to say also that my right hon. Friend hopes shortly to make a statement on the position in Basutoland.
There was one statement coming from my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook which the Secretary of State and I endorse most heartily, and that is the tribute paid by him to the staff working in the Protectorates. I may tell the Committee that we take advantage, in appointing this staff, of as much experience as we can. The new Resident Commissioner of Basutoland comes from Tanganyika, the late Resident Commissioner of Swaziland came from Kenya, and the present Administrative Secretary to the High Commissioner has just come from Nigeria. That, I hope, will reconcile some of the hon. Members who have suggested that these Protectorates are being taken away from the care of my right hon. Friend and myself and given over to the administration of another Department. I think one can sum up the whole situation in a very few words, and that is to suggest that in the immediate 692 future we can help best by resisting any carping criticism, by doing everything that we can to prevent there being any cleavage between the Union of South Africa and these Protectorates, and, on the positive side, by encouraging in every way the closest co-operation between our administrative staff and the Union of South Africa, so that the natives can see that their interests are not different and that when the time has come for a transfer the transition will be a uatural one and will be carried out with the good will and eager co-operation of all concerned.
We have also devoted a good deal of our time to the position in Newfoundland, and I should like to tell the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol that we do not look upon ourselves as receivers in bankruptcy, but that we look upon ourselves as trustees for the people of Newfoundland. I would suggest to the Committee that they really cannot expect miracles to happen in a short time, and, considering the difficult conditions which they have had to face and considering the mess which they have had to clear up, a great deal of progress has been made. While we in this House are quite used to criticism and take it at its fair level, which is generally not very high, officials are not inclined to take it in the same way, and the criticism which we may hear is not always fair to the officials. I think unjustified and unfair criticism—I say this to those who are really interested in the future of Newfoundland—does retard the return to prosperity and confidence which I am sure they all desire as much as we do.
I cannot help saying to the hon. Member for Bridgeton, who is usually so generous in his speeches, that he was a little carping in his criticism of my right hon. Friend when he said that he was not responsible for the improvement in the fishing industry. It is perfectly true that he was not responsible for the fish actually being at such a very convenient place at the right time. I have heard a phrase used in a great number of speeches during the last few years which runs something like this, that no Government can create prosperity. But a Government can create a situation in which they can take advantage of prosperity when it comes, and that is exactly what my right hon. Friend has done with the fish. In the hope that the fish were going to 693 come, he arranged that 3,000 fishermen should be outfitted by the Government at the lowest possible price; he then established cold storage depots for the bait, thus beginning at the beginning; and he then got cold storage plant for distributing the bait and helped to build 50 fishing schooners and to rebuild 11 others. He then set up a herring board, so that the result of the catch would be marketed to the very best advantage.
Therefore, while it is true that the presence of the fish was probably dependent on Providence, the credit of being able to take advantage of Providence belongs to my right hon. Friend and his colleagues. I also suggest that it is impossible to create new industries in a very short time. You have to have a certain amount of patience. I am not going to give any figures, but unemployment has gone down in three years to 66,900 from 87,500. The number of families on relief has gone down as well. We are doing everything we can to set up new industries in the country. Better contracts have been obtained during the past year for timber than ever before. We are encouraging the fur trade, and beaver farms have been established. A geological survey is being carried out to see whether we can take advantage of any mineral possibilities in the country, and in addition, although it may seem extraordinary to think of it as a new industry, we have settled 100 families on the land. Although it may seem amazing to us in a country that lived by agriculture for a great number of years, agriculture as a real industry is unknown in Newfoundland. I can assure all those hon. Members who spoke on this subject that we shall do everything we can to alleviate the distress there and bring the country back to a more prosperous state of affairs.
There is one direction in which, unfortunately, my right hon. Friend has not been able to report progress, and that is with regard to the meat negotiations. My right hon. Friend told Members at considerable length not only what our objects but what our difficulties were. I will sum them up in a few words. Our objects are well known to everyone. The first is that we are determined that the home producer shall get a fair return for his output, and I am glad to think that that position is generally recognised through- 694 out the Committee. We are also determined that the Dominions shall get a preferential share of the market, and we desire to maintain that extremely useful trade with foreign countries, if those countries are prepared to give us a fair quid pro quo. We also intend to deal with the new meat situation by means of tariffs. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) I may say that we mean the ultimate settlement to be one of tariffs; the interim settlement is now a matter for negotiation. The Committee will be kept in no suspense as to what the terms are; they will be put very fully before hon. Members, and I am sure there will be every opportunity for debating them, and no man will be more glad than my right hon. Friend when he is able to report not only progress but completion.
There is only one point to which I would like to refer in regard to meat. The hon. Member for Rothwell said that in his view there should be no restrictions on meat coming into this country at all, and that the more that came in and the lower price at which it was sold, the happier he would be. I do not know whether he has ever considered the position of the farmer, not only in this country but in the Dominions, and whether if he has these views on meat he has the same views on coal.
I think the hon. Member will find that he said he hoped meat would come in without restriction, and I hope he will remember that what is good for those people with whom he is most intimately connected, namely, those who get their living from the coalfields, is equally good for those who get their living from any section of the agricultural industry. He must remember that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.
Many other points have been raised during the Debate, and I am certain that I shall be acquitted of any discourtesy if I do not deal with all of them. There was an extremely interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr) who suggested means of getting better and closer co-operation and consultation with the Dominions on all affairs, particularly on 695 foreign affairs. I am sure that the views of His Majesty's Government are the same as those of the hon. Member. We have always done in the past, and will continue to do everything we can, to see that the Dominions are kept fully informed and are in our closest confidence. I cannot go into details on the subject of the Ottawa Agreements, but I will say that we are glad to see that considerable advantages have already come from the duties. With returning prosperity and by negotiations, and with increased knowledge of the working of tariffs we hope that even greater advantages will accrue in future. With regard to migration, I will only say, reiterating the words of my right hon. Friend, that I do not know that a great deal can be done in that direction at the present time. When the time is ripe, however, I can assure the Committee that we shall be ready to take full advantage of it. That ends what I am afraid has been a very scrappy winding up of this interesting Debate, and I should only like to finish the Debate on the same note as that on which it started, that is, by expressing a sincere hope that this Jubilee year, which has shown from all parts of the Empire unparalleled demonstrations of loyalty and affection to the Crown, will also see within the Empire an end to any differences and a settlement of any difficulties and will usher in a new era of increased prosperity for all our people.
§ Sir GEORGE PENNY (Treasurer of the Household)
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the handsome manner in which the Secretary of State dealt with the request that a special debate should be arranged in which the great question of the effect of the Privy Council's judgment upon our Colonial and Dominion Constitution, and the general relations of the British Empire, can be discussed. Such a step is greatly to be welcomed from the Government, and we are very much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for having so very spontaneously and readily made us this promise and undertaking, and I hope that it may be some 696 time before the end of the Session that it can be fulfilled.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.