Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £118,078, 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, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies."—[Note.—£59,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Denman
On a point of Procedure. Before the Debate begins could we know what will be the Ruling of the Chair in regard to raising the question of Palestine? It is, I believe, well understood that we cannot raise a special subject under the Vote of the Secretary of State when there is a special Vote for that subject. I could not hear what Vote was put to the Committee just now, but I imagine that it was Vote 8 and not Vote 9. Shall we be allowed to discuss Palestine on Vote 8?
On that matter I am in the hands of the Committee. Three Votes, 8, 9 and 10, are on the Paper to-day. If it is desired by the Committee we can take a general discussion, not in detail, of the three Votes, but in that case, of course, if a reduction of the first Vote is moved early, discussion will be limited to the first Vote. What has been done occasionally previously has been that a reduction was moved formally at the end of the Debate. If the Committee are agreeable to that course, obviously it is a matter in which I am in their hands.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I gather that if my Amendment to reduce the Vote by £100 were postponed till the end of the Debate we could have a general discussion involving Palestine as well as other subjects?
If that is the general wish of the Committee I shall certainly raise no objection.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
From our point of view it would be much more desirable to have a general discussion than a more limited discussion. I shall, therefore, postpone my Amendment till later.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan
Speaking purely as a private Member, not having discussed the matter with the usual quarters, I maintain that these Debates on these Votes are often rendered meaningless by reason of the large number of issues raised in the same Debate. I think it would be far better and for the convenience of the Committee if a Debate could be focused on one subject and that subject concluded, and if the House then turned to another subject. I speak only for myself, but I maintain that all through these Debates on Supply we have had the same kind of confusion.
Captain Arthur Evans
I would call attention to the fact that when the Colonial Estimates were before us last year it was the wish of the House that the Colonial Secretary of the day should prepare, for the use of Members, a Colonial Empire report. The first report we have now received, and if the view of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) is carried out, it will prohibit hon. Members from reviewing the various important matters which are brought forward so well in that report.
I am inclined to agree with the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain Evans). Obviously, there is a great deal in that report which could not be debated. I cannot help thinking that it would be for the convenience of Members in all parts of the Committee if we follow the common practice of previous occasions.
§ 4.13 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
In opening this discussion I feel that I must ask for the indulgence of the Committee. I have only lately arrived in the Colonial Office, and it would be idle to pretend that I have had time to master all the affairs of a Department which covers such vast fields and whose work is so varied and complicated. Indeed, in presenting myself before the Committee this afternoon I feel rather in the position of the notorious candidate for an examination who, when he was asked to give a list of the major and minor prophets, replied, 81 "Far be it from me to make invidious distinctions between the prophets, but I append a list of the Kings of Israel and Judah." I could give the Committee a list of the Ministries in the Dominions and a catalogue of their various activities, but far be it from me to claim that I have yet the same familiarity with the governments and affairs of the Colonial Empire.
However, coming up for this examination, I am armed with an excellent "crib." My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), in the Debate last year, suggested that it would be helpful to the Committee if the Colonial Secretary of the day could publish, in connection with the Estimates, a full statement on affairs and policy in the Colonial Empire during the previous 12 months, and I think the response to that suggestion which my predecessor has made has fully justified the suggestion itself. I think that in all parts of the House a great admiration is felt for the qualities of my predecessor in the office of Colonial Secretary. He had an unrivalled personal knowledge of the countries and peoples of the Colonial Empire, and he brought to his task a fine intellectual equipment and unbounded enthusiasm; and I believe that in all parties it is recognised that his administration was most progressive and courageous. In his last act as Colonial Secretary, the preparation of this statement for the 12 months, he has put the Committee, and he has certainly put me, more than ever in his debt.
I do not propose to range over all the affairs of the 40 territories and the 55,000,000 people included in the Colonial Empire; I do not understand that to be the object of the discussion this afternoon; but, of course, if any hon. Members want information on countries or subjects on which I do not touch in this statement, I shall be prepared to intervene again at the end of the Debate and deal with points which they may raise. I believe, however, that hon. Members are anxious to discuss, rather, particular events in particular places. Strong searchlights have been beating fiercely during recent months on two areas in particular which come under the administration of the Colonial Office—first, on the Holy Land, which comparatively recently came under the British Mandate; and, secondly, on that cluster of islands and territories situated in the western corner of the 82 Atlantic, the West Indies, some of which are among the most ancient of British Colonies. Our attention has, unhappily, been concentrated on disturbances in both of these places, and in this opening statement I propose to confine myself to various comments on those two topics.
In the first place, I would say something about Palestine. There is not anything new that I can say about it, but it is, of course, the most urgent and immediate task of the Administration there to suppress the acts and campaign of terrorism which are taking place, and great forces of police and military are cooperating with that object. I think it can be said that the large bands of terrorists have been broken up and destroyed; many of their leaders have been killed, and many of their members have died beside their chiefs. Nevertheless, the police and the military forces operating in Palestine are still compelled to wage a campaign against smaller bands of terrorists. Unhappily there are still all too frequently acts of destruction of property, of shooting, of wounding, of murder, and I think that a good deal of the present activity in this direction is made possible by reinforcements of arms and of men which are coming into Palestine across the northern border of the country. Therefore, one of the objects of the present phase of the Administration's campaign is the construction of a great barbed wire fence round the northern boundary of the country. That construction is proceeding as rapidly as possible, and the 30 or 40 miles to be covered will be completed in the next few weeks. We are hopeful that the completion of that barrier will have a very distinct effect in checking the evil traffic that is going on.
I think we can claim that acts of outrage and terrorism have been very largely reduced in the southern and more open parts of the country, where the Government's forces can be disposed and can manoeuvre more easily. A great many of the unhappy events of more recent times have taken place in the northern country, which is more inaccessible and wild, and where operations are more difficult. With a view to meeting that situation the authorities in Palestine have recently adopted the policy of sending police and military to occupy some of these northern villages and secure them 83 against attacks, and they are also pursuing the policy of building roads through that difficult country, so that the forces maintaining law and order can be more easily disposed there. As I have said, I am hopeful that the combination of these more recent efforts will have the effect at any rate of very substantially reducing the incidents which are taking place, and I can assure the Committee that we are watching the situation with the greatest possible care. We have, for instance, under active consideration the question whether more forces are required in Palestine if we are finally to attain our objective of restoring law and order in that country. The second set of comments that I would make with regard to Palestine is on the matter of general policy—
§ Mr. McGovern
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point, would he tell us whether the Government are taking any action in relation to the seat of the trouble, the Grand Mufti and the funds that are used in Palestine for this terrorist campaign?
§ Mr. MacDonald
We have taken such action as lies in our power with regard to activities which are going on outside the territory over which we have any direct control. With regard to policy, of course the change of personnel in the Colonial Office does not mean any change in the policy of the Government. The various statements which have been made on behalf of the Government stand. For instance, at the time of the publication of the Peel Commission's Report, a statement of policy was issued by the Government which included the statement that they had been driven to the conclusionthat a scheme of partition on the general lines recommended by the Commission represents the best and most hopeful solution of the deadlock.The Government at that time obtained the permission of Parliament and the permission of the Council of the League of Nations to explore a scheme of partition further, and some two months ago the Woodhead Commission went out to Palestine to examine in greater detail the possibility of a scheme of partition which would be equitable and practicable. That Commission is carrying out its work as expeditiously as it can in Palestine, and, pending the receipt of its report, it is impossible to add anything to the statements which have been made. I would, 84 however, say that I think it is very desirable from every point of view that final conclusions and action arising out of those conclusions should be taken regarding the policy in Palestine with as little delay as possible, and the Woodhead Commission have been instructed to complete their work as quickly as they can consistently with thoroughness and efficiency. I cannot say when we may expect to receive their report; it will certainly be some time yet before they are in a position to present it; but I can assure the Committee that the Government will give the report their immediate attention when it comes to them from the hands of the Commission.
I turn now to the other scene of disturbances, the West Indies. Their story is rather a complicated one. The conditions vary somewhat from West Indian Colony to West Indian Colony, and, if I were to give a perfectly accurate picture of the situation in the West Indies, I should have to deal with the problems in each Colony one by one. That, of course, would take up a great deal of time, and I am certain that it would weary the Committee. I shall have, therefore, to speak of the West Indies generally as a group of colonies. In doing that, I dare say I shall run the risk of over-simplifying the problem in the West Indies, but, at the same time, there is perhaps some advantage in stating the main issues quite baldly.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
Do I understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he does not propose to discuss the Jamaica issue in particular?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I think the hon. Gentleman will realise, as I proceed, that what I say will have a good deal of reference to the Jamaica situation as well as to the situation in the West Indies generally. During the last year or two there has been a series of disturbances, now in this West Indian Colony and now in that. There has been a series of agitations and riots: unhappily, some of them have reached a culmination in the shedding of blood; and there has been a series of successive reassertions of authority by the local administration. Let the Committee appreciate the significance of these incidents. I would like to speak perfectly frankly. I do not think they are the result of a passing whim of this or that individual. I do not think they are movements simply on the surface, without roots underneath, which we can dismiss 85 lightly and forget about as each one apparently comes to an end. I think we must recognise that these outbreaks express a sense of unrest which is fairly widespread in the West Indies, which arises from feelings which we must respect and which will remain as a source of further trouble unless we can do something effective, in co-operation with the local administrations, to meet the legitimate grievances of our fellow-subjects in the West Indies. These feelings of unrest are a protest against the economic distress of the Colonies themselves, a protest against some of the consequences of that economic distress: uncertainty of employment, low rates of wages, bad housing conditions in many cases, and so on.
I do not believe that, except in perhaps a minority of cases, the people who are concerned in these demonstrations are moved by any anti-British feeling. On the contrary, at the present time there are no people in the Empire who are more loyal to the British connection than these people in the West Indian islands and territories. That fact should make all the stronger the appeal to our sympathy when we are considering whether there are ways and means of improving the economic situation in these West Indian Colonies. It is quite true that this series of outbreaks has produced a certain amount of criticism of the Colonial Office and the local administrations. They are being criticised for neglect and lack of foresight. I could spend a great deal of time to-day in answering that charge. There is a good deal that can be said, and should be said, in reply to it.
For instance, it is quite true that in many places housing conditions are bad. But for many months past men have been employed by Governments, and by private enterprise, too, in destroying some of the urban slums, destroying some of the bad rural housing conditions, and building good dwellings in their place. Again, it is true that in some of the Colonies there is a good deal of urban unemployment from time to time. But again, on the Votes of a number of the Colonies there have been appearing for a good time past large sums of money for expenditure on public works, on road construction, on harbour development, on the erection of public buildings, and so forth, one of the prime objects of which is to give work to the workless in urban areas. Again, it is quite true 86 that rates of wages are low. It is perfectly clear that the most recent outburst in the Island of Jamaica was caused by a current of dissatisfaction at low rates of wages. But the local Government were not unaware of that, they were not indifferent to that, they were not being idle about that. They certainly did something. The late Governor, who had a career of great service to the Colonial Empire, and whose untimely death we all deplore, had appointed two months ago—before the first of the outbreaks started—a highly competent committee of inquiry into the wage rates throughout the island. That inquiry was being pursued with great thoroughness, and it was in spite of that action by the Governor of the island that the leaders of the recent movement decided to try to take the law into their own hands. As soon as the most recent outbreak took place the Governor formed a conciliation committee and put on to that committee the members of the wages inquiry, which was still being conducted; and that conciliation committee was able to take action very quickly in arranging for increases in pay for dock workers, municipal workers, banana workers and others. Why was that committee able to take action so speedily? It was precisely because long before the disturbances had taken place the Governor had appointed this committee of inquiry and, although the inquiry was not completed, the committee had been able to gather sufficient information to put the committee of conciliation in a position to decide what increases of wages could be made immediately in the existing circumstances. Those are some examples which should go some way, at any rate, to acquit the local Governments in these Colonies of many of the wild charges of complete neglect and lack of foresight which have been levelled against them.
But they would not deny for one moment, and I would not deny for one moment, that there is room in the West Indies generally for a great deal of further improvement in many directions. What we have to devise from the beginnings which have been made in the last few years, is a long-term policy of reconstruction in the West Indian Colonies. I think that that long-term policy should, perhaps, have three main features. The first 87 of its main features should be this: a steady expansion of those social services and other services which can raise gradually the standard of living of the peoples in the Colonies. There ought to be surveys of housing: there ought to be more housing programmes. We must push ahead with the work which has been already started and improve the nutrition of the peoples of these Colonies; we must carry forward the work—which, again, has already been started—of developing really effective medical services in the Colonies, and so on. As I say, I think a steady expansion of those social and other services should be one of the main features of the policy to be pursued in those Colonies at the present time. Of course, the difficulties are very formidable. We shall not make much progress with our task unless we recognise what they are. The Colonial Office and the local administrations have been embarrassed, have been hindered and hampered at almost every turn, by the vulnerable economic position of these Colonies; and that is one of the absolutely fundamental weaknesses of their position.
Let me give some account of the situation in a very few sentences. Except in the case of two or three of the Colonies, the economy of none of them is buttressed by the possession of mineral resources. The finances of none of them are fortified by revenue pouring in from those industrial activities which are most profitable in the world to-day. These Colonies depend almost entirely on a comparatively few agricultural industries. They depend almost entirely on their exports of a comparatively small number of commodities like sugar, cocoa, bananas and a few other things. They depend almost entirely for their wellbeing on what price they can get for those commodities in the markets of the world. If the price is good, so much the better: if the price is bad, it is something like a disaster for the West Indian Colonies. If the price is bad, it quickly becomes beyond the power of those Colonies, out of their own resources, either of public or private enterprise, to give the peoples of the Colonies secure employment, good wages and good conditions.
These commodities, like sugar and cocoa, are some of the very commodities which, through no fault of the Colonial Office or the local administrations, often 88 because of world movements over which we can exert practically no influence, have received in the years since the War one severe blow after another. I might take them one by one. I might tell the story of cocoa. I might describe how we tried to solve the cocoa difficulty by getting an international agreement; but we failed, and many of those engaged in producing cocoa in Trinidad to-day, for instance, are only being kept on their land by considerable subsidies paid by the local administration. I might tell the story of bananas, where, again, the colonial governments and the Government at home have done everything they could to safeguard the position of that agricultural industry which is of such importance to Jamaica and one or two of the other West Indian colonies. In that case, we have been more successful.
But I would like to say something about the position of sugar, as an example of all the rest, and because sugar is a crop which is of very great importance not only to Jamaica but to a number of the West Indian colonies. It certainly cannot be said that the Government of this country have not done a very great deal to help sugar producers in the West Indian and other British colonies. The Government of this country have done a very great deal to help those producers in two ways. In the first place, we give the colonial sugar a very handsome tariff preference on entry into the United Kingdom market. The present scheme is a little complicated. I need not describe it in detail, but, in effect, it means that the average rate of preference which colonial sugar enjoys over foreign sugar coming into the British market amounts to 4s. 9d. per cwt. It is a very generous preference, which has been guaranteed to the Colonies for a number of years ahead. That was our first great effort to help to rehabilitate the sugar industry in the West Indies and elsewhere inside the Empire. That has been insufficient. The capacity for producing sugar in various parts of the world and shovelling it into the free market of the world was so much in excess of the demand for sugar in that free market that prices tumbled right down to a level at which the Colonial producers in the West Indies, even with the advantage of the preference of 4s. 9d. per cwt., could not, in many cases, make any profit on their production. What was required was the taking off the 89 free market the surplus production which was depressing prices, and an international agreement among sugar producers which should regulate the production of sugar, and the export of sugar into the free market, so that that export conformed to the demand in that market.
The second great contribution which the Home Government tried to make for sugar producers in the Colonies generally was the negotiation of that international sugar agreement. In spite of two or three failures, in the end, on the initiative of the Government of this country, the sugar conference met in London during 1937, and that conference ended in an agree-merit. The principle of the agreement was that the regulation of supply should conform to demand, and, in the various quotas which were arranged, it can certainly be said with truth that the Colonies received very advantageous terms as opposed to foreign producers. When that agreement was reached, everybody heaved a sigh of relief and hoped that at last this terrible sugar problem had been solved. But I am afraid that those high hopes have been disappointed. The sugar agreement and the fate which it has suffered since is a classic example of how, in this disturbed world in which we live to-day, even the most carefully prepared plans are apt suddenly to be upset and destroyed by external factors suddenly beginning to operate which could not be foreseen when the arrangement of the plan was originally made.
The basis of the plan of sugar regulation was that production in the free market should conform to demand, and perfectly reasonable calculations were made at the time of the agreement as to what the demand for sugar was likely to be. Those calculations were correct in the circumstances of 1937. For instance, they anticipated that there would be a normal demand for sugar in far Eastern markets, in Japan, China and Manchuria. They calculated that those markets would absorb something like 560,000 tons of sugar per year, and then the Sino-Japanese war broke out—it could not be foreseen—and, instead of those markets absorbing this year 560,000 tons of sugar, it is very doubtful whether they will absorb as much as 300,000 tons of sugar. These external, unforeseeable factors coming into operation destroyed the effective working of the International Sugar Agreement, and so the second great effort 90 which the Home Government made to help the Colonial sugar producer has ended, for the time being, in comparative failure.
We have now to look for a solution of this new sugar trouble. I believe that we have to look for it through the machinery of the International Sugar Council, and that we have to try to persuade the council to alter the quotas for production so that they are reduced in conformity with the reduced demand for sugar in these times. There is no question, of course, of a reduction being asked of the British Colonies. Their production is safeguarded under the agreement itself. But the International Sugar Council met some weeks ago to consider this new situation, and imposed all the cuts which it was in their power to impose on foreign exports into the free market, and, in addition to that, a number of foreign countries accepted further voluntary cuts in their quotas. These reductions are proving inadequate to meet the situation. I understand that the delegates have adjourned to consult with their governments. The Council are meeting again in the early clays of next month, and I hope that they may be persuaded, by further voluntary reductions in the supplies coming from foreign countries into the free market, to get equilibrium established once more between demand and supply, so that the price for producers generally can rise to a reasonably profitable level. At any rate, that is the right and proper machinery for dealing with the present sugar difficulties, and at least we have to exhaust the possibilities there before we begin to explore any other possible solution of the trouble.
There you have, in that history of our efforts to help the sugar producers in our British colonies, an example of the very vulnerable position of those islands dependent on the export of a comparatively small number of agricultural products. I said just now that what was required in the West Indies was a long-term constructive policy, and I said that the first of the three main features of that policy should be, as far as possible, a steady development of the social services which build up a good standard of life for the people of the islands. The second feature of that policy must certainly be any reasonable action that we can take to help the staple agricultural industries on which the colonies so largely depend.
91 We have taken action regarding cocoa, bananas, and sugar. I cannot promise any further action on our part. All that I can say is that we are very gravely concerned at the serious position in which producers of, at any rate, two of these commodities are placed to-day, and we shall do everything that lies in our power through the proper channels to improve the conditions of these industries. But supposing that we can be successful and that by some good fortune we can reestablish the well-being of the cocoa industry, the rice industry and the sugar industry as well as the banana industry and some other industries in these West Indian. Islands, still that will not be enough to solve the economic difficulties of these territories. It might well be—it certainly would be—that improvements in these cases would enable better wages to be paid and better conditions to be provided for the workers in those industries, but we have still in these colonies the additional problem of a steadily increasing army of surplus labour.
Take the position in the sugar industry itself. As time goes on, land is being treated and is becoming more productive. Methods of cultivation are becoming more intense and the same quantity of sugar is produced, as time goes on, with less human labour, and inside these industries themselves we are faced with the prospect of increasing unemployment. The population problem is aggravated by two other circumstances in the colonies. First, the birth rate in these colonies is very high; there is a steady natural increase in the population. I am not expressing any moral judgment one way or the other regarding that, but I am simply stating the hard facts that we have to face. In the second place, emigration which used to take place from the Colonies to Cuba and to the American mainland has stopped, and, indeed, if anything, there is a movement in the opposite direction. Cuba has threatened to repatriate to the British West Indian Colonies large numbers of labourers who have been settled in Cuba for a considerable time past. Therefore, the third main feature of a constructive policy in the colonies should be the development of alternative or additional occupations for the population—additional means of making a livelihood. Here, again, the local and home Governments 92 have already done a certain amount of work. They have encouraged the establishment of one or two new agricultural industries like the production of sea island cotton. It is well established in the Leeward Islands. I must confess that, good as these developments are, I doubt whether we are going to find very many fresh crops for export from these colonies.
You have to contemplate development in another direction. In the first place, there is a good deal of evidence of malnutrition in the Colonies, of people eating the wrong kind of foodstuffs. Again, of the food which is consumed in the Colonies, a very large proportion comes from outside. I think that I am right in saying that in the case of Trinidad something like three-quarters of the food consumed in the island is imported. I am told that if you go into the shops in these Colonies you find the shelves piled up with inexpensive tinned fruits; and this in Colonies as productive as any under a smiling sun. We have to contemplate the development of peasant agriculture, smallholdings and land settlement under which people can be engaged much more than they are to-day in growing nutritive foods for consumption in the home markets of those Colonies.
Once more I would remind the Committee that this is a policy which is already being pursued in some of the Colonies. A number of comparatively small experimental schemes are already in operation in this or that Colony. The acting Governor of Jamaica announced the other day a very far-reaching island-wide scheme of land settlement in Jamaica. I only refer to that fact because it seems to me that that policy which has already been started in some places ought to be developed as much as is practicable in the circumstances of all the Colonies. If I speak rather diffidently, after a comparatively short acquaintance with these problems, I would say that we shall have to go in for a constructive policy which has, at any rate, these three main features—there may be other features to be added to it—(1) the extension of the social services, (2) the safeguarding as far as we can of all the main agricultural industries on which the Islands have hitherto been largely dependent, and (3) the development, as far as possible, of new additional occupations and means of livelihood for the people of 93 the Colonies. I dare say that when we have developed our policy on these lines it will be beyond the financial resources of the Colonies themselves to carry out these plans adequately, and I think we shall have to contemplate finding some other ways and means of financing the policy to the full. I am afraid that it is fairly obvious where we shall have to look for those ways and means. It is no good asking for any wide, constructive policy in these Colonies, and at the same time expecting that the Colonies can provide that policy out of their own financial resources.
There have been from time to time recently a number of individual inquiries into individual circumstances in individual Colonies. We have had reports from committees of inquiry and reports from Governors and Administrators. We have a good deal of information on which we can build up a policy of this nature, but I do not think it is entirely satisfactory to depend simply on individual reports from individual Colonies. The West Indian Colonies have to be regarded as a group and have to be treated more or less as a comprehensive whole. I think there will be gaps in our information, our knowledge, our guidance if we divide them up into a series of, so to speak, watertight compartments. Many of them have troubles and problems in common, many of them have problems which interlock with the problems of other Colonies. For instance, the recent Commission of Inquiry into the disturbances in Barbados reported that the main problem in that Colony was over-population. It reported that unless migration could take place to land settlement schemes in other parts of the West Indies, that problem would never be solved.
That committee of inquiry recommended that a Royal Commission should be sent to the West Indies to conduct an inquiry into the whole question of migration and land settlement in the Colonies. From other points of view a comprehensive survey of the West Indies as a whole ought to be conducted, and the Government have, therefore, decided to advise His Majesty that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the social and economic conditions in Barbados, British Guiana, British Honduras, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Trinidad and the Windward Islands. 94 Those are not the terms of reference. The terms of reference for the Royal Commission will require to be carefully thought out. We want a first-rate Commission and, therefore, the names of those who are to go on it will require very careful thought; but I hope to be able to make an announcement as regards both the terms of reference and the composition of the Royal Commission at a comparatively early date.
If that Royal Commission is really going to help us in producing a constructive policy for the West Indian Colonies, it is going to spend a good deal of time in making its inquiries and drawing up its report. If it is to do this work well and effectively, it will spend many months on the job, but I should like to make it perfectly clear that we have not decided to advise His Majesty to appoint this Royal Commission simply to have an excuse for doing nothing in the meantime, for sitting and twiddling our thumbs waiting for the report to be presented. I have, perhaps, said enough to suggest that from the information which we already have we have plenty of material for going on with some of those items of policy which I have mentioned, such as housing, the development of medical services, the solution of the problem of nutrition, and so on. I need not go through the catalogue of the items of policy again, but I should like to refer to one aspect of immediate policy and then I shall have finished.
We have to try and do something to make as harmonious as possible the relations between the employer and the employed in the West Indian Colonies. The disturbances which have broken out recently in various Colonies have had their roots in economic causes. They are due to dissatisfaction on the part of the employed with the rates of their wages or the conditions of their employment. The agitation in regard to these things has taken the form of violence, rioting, destruction of private and public property very often, and attacks on the police. The agitation has been carried into unconstitutional channels. We cannot countenance that. That sort of agitation must be put down with whatever firmness is at the command of the local administration. The reason why the agitation has gone into that channel is very largely because there has not been other 95 machinery for redressing the grievances, or, at any rate, no other obvious machinery. There have not been, for instance, properly constituted, well organised trades unions. The normal machinery of collective bargaining between employers and employed has been conspicuous by its almost complete absence.
It would be a good thing if good trades unions were developed in these Colonies, and we shall certainly do nothing to stand in the way of that. If we can help in any way, we shall help. But I do not believe that sound trades unions will be developed in these Islands very quickly. I think that, inevitably, that is going to be of slow growth, and in the immediate future we shall have to rely very largely on other machinery for establishing peaceful relations and the peaceful settlements of disputes between employers and employed. We must press ahead with the establishment of labour departments in these Colonies to study the interests of the working people and to advise the Government on this important question. We must press ahead with legislation, in some cases, perhaps, minimum wage legislation, in others, perhaps, legislation to establish machinery for conciliation and arbitration. We must press ahead with the appointment of labour officers of conciliation experience. This policy was developed very considerably by my predecessor during his two years in the Colonial Office. Among other things he appointed for the Secretary of State himself a very excellent Labour Adviser, Major Orde Browne, who has great experience and great knowledge of these affairs and who is going to the West Indies this autumn in order to investigate personally, and to give us his advice as to the further development of these policies.
This is an aspect of the question in which hon. Members opposite are particularly interested. It is an aspect of the question on which the trade union leaders in this country are showing very great concern. The Trades Union Congress has set up a Colonial Advisory Committee. I welcome the appointment of that committee. I believe it can help us a great deal. It can give advice on this and other aspects of Colonial labour problems, and I look forward to having an early discussion on this question with 96 the representatives of that committee. I have not the slightest doubt that hon. Members opposite will offer a good many criticisms to-day and a good many more criticisms in the future. I do not in the least mind that, but I hope I may appeal also for their co-operation. I know that they feel the same pride, as do hon. Members below the Gangway opposite and hon. Members on this side, in the highest traditions of our Colonial administration. We on this side certainly share the desire which they have that those highest traditions should be maintained in the West Indies and elsewhere. This West Indian problem is not an easy problem; it is a very difficult problem. I am finding that other problems in the Colonies are very difficult problems. I believe we shall make most progress in settling these problems if we co-operate instead of fighting on these matters in this great democratic Assembly, where all of us are ultimately responsible for the good government of the vast majority of the people of the Empire.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I should like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the very informing speech he has delivered upon a somewhat limited part of the Colonial field. He laid emphasis upon the fact that his predecessor in the Colonial Office, now Lord Harlech, promised last year to present a report giving a survey of the year's work of the Colonial Office, and I should like to join the Colonial Secretary in expressing our gratitude to the late Colonial Secretary for the excellent document with which we have been supplied. The right hon. Gentleman said that as he has just arrived at the Colonial Office he hoped he would be excused from making a detailed survey of all the problems which confront him. "Arrived" is not exactly the right word; he has "returned," and I feel a certain disappointment that he has not drawn upon his previous knowledge of the work of the office to discuss some aspects which he has completely overlooked this afternoon.
The main problem which concerns hon. Members on this side is, of course, the West Indies situation, but I should like to make one or two references to the situation in some other parts of our Colonial Empire. What is the present 97 situation in relation to Malta? I called attention to this matter in the Colonial Office Debate in July, 1934, when Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, now Lord Swinton, was Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the burden of my complaint then was that Parliamentary -government in Malta had been superseded. Lord Swinton advanced the argument that it had been superseded because the Maltese Ministers had been guilty of the gravest extravagance in the expenditure of public money. "Extravagant and reckless expenditure" was the phrase he used. I controverted that proposition at that time, and I have been watching the course of affairs under the present administration since, but I am afraid that the subsequent history under the reformed regime is not as satisfactory as that of the previous regime which it superseded. The actual expenditure has gone up since then by over 40 per cent. The official statistics of the Governor of Malta indicate that in 1932–33 the expenditure was £975,000, leaving a favourable balance of £180,000, and that now, in the current year, the expenditure is £1,422,000, with a favourable balance of £62,000. If the Ministers who were superseded were reckless, what shall we say of their substitutes? There may be some reasons for this increase, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give us some idea of the actual situation.
I should like to make this appeal to him. I dislike seeing any retrogression in the matter of popular government. I think it is bad. I disliked intensely what took place in Malta. There may be reasons for not restoring full and complete autonomy to Malta. The Colony has never had it since the War. There may be reasons arising from the international situation which make it impossible to restore the full constitution of 1921, but I cannot see what reasons there can be against giving Malta a measure of local government in regard to local and domestic affairs, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he can restore the elected assembly so that they may have control over their local and domestic affairs even if it cannot be extended to a larger field. Let me add, that this reluctance to restore some measure of popular government cannot arise from any lack of loyalty 98 on the part of the people of Malta. Lord Plymouth on two occasions has declared that the Government here are convinced that the great majority of the people of Malta are loyal to the Crown and Empire. On the second occasion Lord Plymouth said:His Majesty's Government not only believe, they know, that the vast majority of the people in Malta are absolutely loyal to the Crown and Empire to whatever party they belong.With such testimony to their loyalty surely they might be entrusted with the task of dealing with their own domestic affairs?
I turn to the subject of Palestine to which the right hon. Gentleman paid some attention. I was glad to hear him indicate that as far as the state of terrorism is concerned, the Government feel that it is getting some measure of control over the situation. After all, terrorism of that sort cannot be good for Arabs or Jews. It is, indeed, inimical to the interests of both, and the sooner a state of peace is restored, the better it will be for all concerned. I was also glad to hear him refer to some development in the making of new roads. Although they may be for military purposes, they will ultimately become of value to the community at large. On the general policy of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to Palestine I should like to make this observation. He said that the Government still remain attached to the proposal for partition, and that the House of Commons had authorised the Government further to explore that situation. That is quite true, but what is in question is the word "explore." It must be clearly understood that this Parliament refused to commit itself to the principle of partition, and it is not committed at this moment. If, therefore, the Government are still proceeding on the line of partition, it must he clearly understood that this House is not committed to it. We are committed to the Mandate so far.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there is a Commission in Palestine at the present moment, but that he does not know when he will receive its report. He added that the Government felt disposed to have swift action arising from the report. Very good, but let us be quite clear. Parliament will rise at the end of July and adjourn for two or three months, 99 and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us an assurance that no action in the direction of partition will be embarked upon by the Government during the vacation without the House of Commons having a chance to state its mind on the matter. I am all for rapid and effective action, but the House of Commons should be consulted on any recommendation the Commission may make on the question of partition.
In the next place I would like to know the Government's present position in respect of immigration into Palestine. The urgency of this matter has been pressed on the Committee on former occasions. The despatch of the Secretary of State last March has led to some measure of stagnation in Palestine. There is a limitation of immigrants to a certain figure, and the consequence has been that there has been less initiative and energy than would have been the case if we were still trying to give effect to the phrase "economic absorptive capacity." I think that the sooner we get the question of immigration and the rate settled, the better for all concerned. Another reason for urging this matter is that there has been convened for next month, July, a conference at Evians by President Roosevelt and some other 20 nations. The conference, I believe, will primarily be concerned with the emigres from Germany and Austria, but, obviously, this question cannot be discussed without looking at the larger issue of the refugees from Poland and Rumania, which will also be involved, and, as I see it, must mean a problem of 100,000 to 150,000 people—a colossal proposition.
I do not know what proposals the American Government will put forward. They may be prepared to say that they will allow a certain number of immigrants into the United States. What proposals will His Majesty's Government put forward? Are we to be there as a listener, or shall we put forward any definite proposal of our own? I should like to have a reply on this point. It seems to me that the immigration regulations into Palestine are closely related to the discussions and decisions at this international conference. For my part, I should like to see an enlargement of the bounds of immigration into Palestine at the earliest possible moment. Lastly, I would 100 like to know whether the Government have taken any further steps or any new decision as to the territory south of Palestine called the Negeb. I know it is at present a dreary waste for men to live in, but I believe that scientific people are coming to the conclusion that there is water available in this area, and if that is true it may prove to be a very useful place to which to send a number of willing Jews.
The next problem I want to raise is that of the African situation. The right hon. Gentleman, I will not say ignored, because that is an unkind word, but he did not mention it. When we come to discuss Africa, we are faced with problems which are somewhat cognate in character to those facing us in the West Indies. Labour problems confront us in the West Indies, and labour problems confront us mainly in Africa. I am inclined to think that the African situation calls for ever-increasing clarification. Things change in this country, but they change also in other parts of the world just as much. It seems to me that we can see a process of industrialisation going on fairly rapidly in some parts of Africa, bringing with it problems of a substantial character. Gold mining is in progress in West Africa and now in Kenya; there is copper mining in Northern Rhodesia, and mining for other metals in the Gold Coast and Nigeria. This produces problems, and produces them in ways with which we here are very largely unacquainted. The most similar thing of which I know is the migration of people from South Wales and Durham to other parts of the country.
The problem with which I will deal now is that of the migration of labour from certain parts of the continent to other parts. The natives go from their homes to far-distant fields, and at once there are created two social problems. First, there is the problem that is created in the places to which the natives go, and secondly, there is that which is created in the places from which they go. I am not sure which of them is the worse, for both are exceedingly intricate and baffling. When the natives go into industry, the thing which disturbs hon. Members on this side is that protective legislation so often fails to keep pace with industrialisation. In the case of migrant labour, the International Labour Office Convention has not yet been put into 101 operation in Africa, owing to the opposition of the Union of South Africa, which will not agree to the regulations regarding repatriation. Obviously, that is an important point, and one that must be tackled as speedily as possible.
The question of contract labour is being discussed at the present session of the International Labour Conference at Geneva. Contract labour is open to the gravest abuses. I will give an illustration of what I mean. I believe that an amendment has just been passed to the Kenya labour legislation enabling children to be employed at the age of 10 years. Ten years of age is a pretty early age for children to embark on labour. At home it is bad enough, but if they are far from home, it is an infinitely worse proposition. The employment of children of 10 years of age in Kenya and 12 years plus in Uganda and Northern Rhodesia for long periods, away from their homes, produces of itself a social problem which merits very earnest and close attention. There is then the question of health attendant upon the recruitment of these workers from tropical areas, and their removal again from tropical areas to the Rand to work. I should like to see that stopped as quickly as possible, for it is an iniquitous proposition to take these people many hundreds of miles away from their homes to work in these places. I find it hard to speak with patience about it.
The report of the Governor of Nyasaland this year shows that the rate of mortality among these natives is about 18 per thousand, a very heavy rate; and I hope the Government will watch this matter and attack the question with vigour. If we ignore these social problems that are developing in Africa, we may easily be confronted with a similar situation to that which has been forced upon us recently in the West Indies. Here I would like to make one general observation. When we discussed the constitution of India, for our guidance we had the invaluable assistance of the report of a Royal Commission upon the state of labour in India. I am not sure that the time has not come when we might conveniently have an inquiry into labour conditions in Africa. Here we are far removed from the centres of activity, and we want authoritative evidence upon which to base our judgment and decisions. I think it would not be 102 inappropriate if the Government would consider the appointment of a Royal Commission with a view to fortifying hon. Members with definite knowledge on these problems.
I pass now to the land question. I understand that in Kenya the removal of natives from the Tigoni area to an enclave in the White Highlands has been progressing during the past year. I understand, too, that in connection with labour tenancy a change has been made by the Kenya Legislative Council by which African labour tenants may be called upon now to work, not for 180 days, but for 270 days a year. I believe that some of the people in Kenya resent criticism in this House of that kind of thing, but whether they resent it or not makes no difference, for the criticism must be made. We cannot allow people in Kenya or elsewhere to create for this Parliament a problem with which we shall find it hard to deal in later years. We should not have had the West Indian problem if we had dealt with the people there in a spirit of trusteeship. That is the spirit which was laid down for us by the Duke of Devonshire in his famour memorandum in 1923. It is a good test. As far as I can see, we have no right whatever to expect other people to accept our word that all is well in these parts of our Empire unless we can show by facts that we are raising the standard of happiness and contentment of these people and guiding them on the path towards ultimate self government.
I pass now to the problem of the West Indies, which is present in the minds of all of us. I have spoken of the principle of trusteeship. The right hon. Gentleman said—and I think he was right, broadly speaking—that it is better for us to regard the West Indies as one entity, as one group, rather than as a series of isolated areas. Although they are separate, they have conditions that are common to all of them. We are called upon this afternoon to examine our trusteeship for these areas in the light of present-day events. No one can doubt that the revelations which have taken place as a result of the disturbances some weeks ago make one feel a sense of uneasiness that we have not quite realised the trusteeship which we have. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that there have been disturbances in other parts recently. I think there have 103 been disturbances in Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, British Guiana, the Bahamas, St. Kitts, and now in Jamaica, all during the last three years. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that it is no use our trying to comfort ourselves by saying that all those disturbances were the work of agitators. If agitators were responsible—I say "if"— they must have had very fruitful soil on which to work.
Anybody who has made even the most cursory study of conditions in the West Indies must have seen at once that the conditions are such as to make us all feel a sense of shame at the situation which now exists. It is a hundred years since we freed the slaves in Jamaica. The ancestors of many of these people were taken there unwillingly. We are responsible for their being there, and it is our business to see whether we cannot do something more than we have done to make their lives a little more bearable than they are. The right hon. Gentleman said that there are no people in the world who are more attached to Britain than are these people. I am inclined to think we have abused their loyalty. Perhaps they have taken too much on trust.
As I see them, the problems that have led to the recent disturbances are partly economic and partly constitutional. The right hon. Gentleman did not deny—I think he admitted—that there are obvious economic grievances which must exercise the minds of these people, however illiterate they may be. Wages scarcely bear to be spoken about—they are disgraceful, and there is no other word to describe them. I would like here to refer to the Annual Report upon the Social and Economic Conditions of the People of Jamaica, 1936, on page 27 of which there is the following statement:The average rate of wages for labourers in Government employ is: Skilled or unskilled, 2S. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per day. Private employers pay skilled men from 3s. to 3s. 6d. per day, and unskilled men from 2s. to 2s. 6d. per day. Women in private employ get from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 8d. per day.I have in my possession a batch of Press reports dealing with the situation in Jamaica. I have not seen one report from a Press correspondent in which there is a suggestion that the wages are anything like that—if there was one, I may have overlooked it, and if so, I apologise. 104 The quotations I have are taken from the "Times," the "Daily Telegraph" and many other newspapers; and not one of them has mentioned any figures approaching the ones I have quoted. I do not understand this, but it is worth our while to find out what are the facts. I trust that we shall have that information available as soon as this Commission, or some other commission, has reported on the matter. It is true that mechanisation enters into industry in Jamaica as elsewhere, and, therefore, the number of those employed must tend to be reduced. Still, those who are employed ought to be guaranteed a decent living wage. Unless they are guaranteed such a wage, the purchasing power, even of those who are at work, is limited, and to that degree the stability of the community is threatened. As regards housing conditions, I propose to quote, not from a paper which is favourable to the Labour party, but from the "Times" which published a series of remarkable articles on the West Indies by Mr. Harold Stannard. In the issue of 25th May we read:The conception of a decent standard of life at once reflects itself in housing conditions. A lower middle-class man who lives in the new residential suburbs of Kingston, Jamaica, is, on the whole, better housed than a man of corresponding standing in London, but the gulf 'between his bungalow and the hovel in which the poor country labourer dwells is wider than that between the modern English housing estate and the slums which are now disappearing. The first time I saw one of these hovels I could 'hardly believe that it was intended for human occupation. Strands of dried bamboo are woven round a framework of stakes and the "room" thus formed is covered with palm thatch. There is no furniture except sacking on the earth and some sort of table to hold the oil-stove. To look from these hilts to the neat little wooden bungalows by which the better employers are replacing them is to pass from barbarism to civilisation. Urban conditions are, if anything, worse. In a region of Kingston now marked down for slum clearance are shacks put together anyhow out of the sides of packing cases and sheets of corrugated iron. These shelters were evidently run up just after the earthquake. The shocking thing is that it has taken 30 years and special slum clearance legislation to get rid of them.No one could paint a more horrifying picture than that. It is a terrible indictment of the neglect, I will not say by this Government, but by Governments, of the housing situation in Jamaica. I ask hon. Members, how can we ask people to live contentedly under such conditions as those described in the quotation? Is 105 there any ground for surprise at the recent disturbances? The surprising thing is, not that such disturbances should have occurred, but that they should not have occurred long ago. Now that they have taken place, I hope the right hon. Gentleman proposes to push on energetically with the task of supplying these people with housing accommodation which is fit for human habitation. The state of poverty among them is obviously appalling. Their food is very poor in quality, as I think the right hon. Gentleman admitted, and the condition of sanitation is exceedingly bad.
Direct taxation, I am informed is not heavy, but on the other hand, indirect taxation is very heavy. The labourers are landless, and I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he proposed to urge on some development of small holdings. But for my own part, I would like to see the State take a vigorous, bold, energetic line in this matter of the control of the land so that a far larger number of people should be put upon the land and enabled to earn their own living and protect themselves against the risks of distress such as that which has recently overtaken them. Industries in the West Indies tend to become large-scale industries controlled by large companies. The sugar industry is a case in point and I ask the hon. Members of this Committee to keep one fact in mind. I daresay it is true that many of these people cannot read, but the few who can read are able to inform their fellows of what they read, and whether the deduction which they draw is logical or not, it cannot have been lost upon them that one of the big sugar companies in this country has recently announced an increase in its profits from £724,000 to £1,227,000. When men read that, they may be wrong in the conclusions to which they come, but the fact that they read the announcement of those profits and at the same time see the conditions in which their own people live, must create among them a sense of bitterness.
Captain A. Evans
I am sure the hon. Gentleman is anxious to be as fair as possible to all interests in these islands, and perhaps he has noticed that the profits of the largest company in the West Indies, the Ste Madeleine Company, Limited, which has by far the largest factory there, has been, over a period of 10 years, only 106 3.5 per cent., while one or two companies in Jamaica, such as the Jamaica Sugar Estates, which is also a very large company, have had to cut down their capital.
§ Mr. Morgan Jones
I made no deduction for myself. I was telling the Committee that if people in Jamaica read these facts as we read them, they will, whether they are right or wrong, draw certain conclusions which must necessarily add to their sense of discontent and resentment. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to embark upon a large-scale policy—I think he called it—of dealing with this situation, and the first thing which he proposes to do, I understand, is to extend steadily the social services. I can only say that I do not see that his observation that much money has already been spent upon housing is justified from those returns which I have been able to inspect. It may be that the Colony has not been able to afford much in that respect, but we in this House have a great responsibility in this matter, and we must take what steps we can to assist these people in the provision of adequate and decent housing. The same remark applies to education and to health legislation.
In regard to wages, I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman welcome the formation of trade unions. For my part—and I think I can speak for my hon. Friends on these benches—if the Government look favourably on the establishment of trade unions, I say "well and good," but I hope that the unions which they have in mind are not those carefully shepherded unions with which we have been acquainted in some other cases. It is better that the people should form their own trade unions. If the Government are to be responsible for the machinery of trade unionism, then I am afraid it will lose half its value. The right hon. Gentleman said he was going to deal with the economic situation as far as he possibly could. I think he must face the proposition that new industries must be established and stimulated in the West Indies. The population has grown from 850,000 to 1,200,000 since 1921—an enormous increase in such a short time. Bananas and sugar may play their part, and let us hope they will, in providing employment for these people but, clearly, with a population increasing at that rate, some new sources of employment must be found.
107 The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the Sugar Convention had prevented things from becoming even worse than they are, and I think that is about as much as can be claimed for it, but if there is to be a further reduction in production, it seems to me that, inevitably, there will be an increased cost of the commodity and if there is an increased cost of the commodity, our experience in 1920 shows what will happen. If the cost of sugar is too high for the consumers here, the demand will decrease. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered the effect which our sugar beet subsidy policy has had upon the West Indian situation. It has been, I feel sure, a contribution in an unfortunate direction. I do not know whether the Government are now prepared to reconsider that policy, or whether in the alternative they will give some new financial assistance to the sugar industry; but, above all, I urge them to consider the introduction of new forms of industrial activity.
I said that this question was partly economic and partly constitutional, and I turn now to its constitutional aspect. I do not think that the forms of government which now exist in various islands in the West Indies, can be justified according to modern ideas. Some of the governments are ridiculous. They keep up all the forms of government and all the paraphernalia of government in islands which are much too small to support such institutions. I suggest that the Government ought to consider whether an amalgamation of the governments of some of these islands could not be worked out with satisfactory results. Secondly, I hope that, in addition to giving the workpeople in industry the right to form their trade unions, the Government will go a step further and consider the reform of the anti-sedition law. This law has been in existence since 1840 and is completely out of date, and it can be extremely onerous if rigorously applied. Is it not, also, obvious that we ought to provide these people with a chance of expressing their political convictions through the medium of a legislative assembly? We took such an institution away from them within the last 100 years. Why not restore to them a legislative assembly with a new franchise? Indeed, I am not sure that it would be too early to give them the franchise based upon the Ceylon 108 model. The people should have a chance of making known their aspirations through the medium of an elected assembly.
I conclude with this observation. None of us can have read of the events of the last few weeks without feeling a deep sense of sympathy with the workers of Jamaica in their difficulties and troubles, and also a deep sense of shame that we should have done so little to help them. We cannot undo the past. "You cannot turn a mill with water that has passed." There it is; it is past. The right hon. Gentleman comes to his office, no doubt, with renewed vigour and with a desire, I am quite sure, to find a way out of these complexities and difficulties. In so far as he succeeds in raising the standard of happiness and contentment of these people, I can assure him that we on this side will give him our wholehearted support. But we do beg that the grievances which now bear down so heavily upon the shoulders of these unfortunate people shall be remedied as quickly as possible, in order that we might feel that our trusteeship is real and not merely apparent.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby
I thank you, Captain Bourne, for putting me in first, and I promise that I will not stay in as long as Bradman. I agree very much with what the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) has just said about trusteeship. There is no doubt that we all, in this House, have a spirit of trusteeship and wish to carry it out to the best of our ability. At the same time, I feel that we are all shareholders in a great company, and, as shareholders, we do not want to depreciate the value of our stock or to do anything which will make it difficult for those who manage the affairs of the company. For that reason any criticisms which we may make are only for the benefit of the company, as I call it, and I am sure that Members of this Committee will agree that frequently questions are asked which are not to the advantage of the Colonial Empire. They are questions which make difficulties for the people on the spot and for the Colonial Office, and I would put in a special plea on behalf of the administrators in our Colonies. You can quite realise the feeling of, we will say, a Provincial Commissioner in the middle of Africa who is doing his best and who has to act on his 109 initiative, in a hurry, if he knows that what he does is going to be the subject of a question in the House of Commons.
What we want more than anything else is that these people overseas should have the spirit of initiative and should feel that they are being trusted to do their best, and on their account I would ask that questions of minor importance should if possible be avoided In the same way, if I may say so, on behalf of the Department I feel that frequently a great deal of time is spent, and bother entailed with cables and so on, in obtaining answers to questions which are not really vital. I would say, however, that questions relating to major policy are on quite a different plane. When any of us have been to the Colonial Office to ask for particulars about something that we have wanted to know, I think we must have been struck by one thing more than by anything else, and that is by the huge pile of files which they have in the Department which deals with that particular question. When I look at that pile of files, I always realise that at the bottom there is a file which is probably the most important of all and which is often not reached at all, and that is the file relating to policy and planning.
I have a feeling that, as regards policy and planning, we have been exceedingly backward, and when I say "we" I mean that we can go back 30 or 40 years to the various Governments that have held office. We might find that our policy has been split up into three kinds as regards the different Colonies in which we have been interested. In some places there is a policy of stagnation. It may be that the country is small and that its budget is balanced, when nobody pays very much attention to it. It may be that the financial resources of the country have been just sufficient to keep it going, and that particular Colony may dribble along with nothing done for it and nothing happening at all until a crisis occurs. I am rather inclined to think that the West Indies are a case of what may happen as the result of a policy of stagnation. There is another type of Colony, where there is a policy of inaction. That is a Colony where the budget is not balanced and where there is Treasury control, and frequently nothing is done because the Treasury are not prepared to spend any money there. I am not at all sure that if the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies were able to answer, and wished 110 to answer, he might not be able to give instances of what I am thinking as a result of his recent visits.
Then there is a third form of policy, which I might call a policy of jerks and spasms, a policy which is suddenly evolved as the result of a crisis, as the result of the visit of a commission and the necessity for coming to some perhaps rather hasty decision. All that is due to a great extent to the fact that there is no real planning, no definite scheme of development. Frequently there are changes in policy, which naturally are very bad for the local administration. I venture to suggest that these changes are often due to the fact that Governors and senior officials are picked up in various parts of the Colonial Empire and dumped down in others. You have a case of a Chief Secretary, we will say, moved from Fiji to Nyasaland; he may go on to Hong Kong, and he may end up in the West Indies. Sometimes he happens to be particularly brilliant. He arrives in a country, and he has perhaps a year in which to forget the place he has come from, another year in which to begin to consider the affairs of the country in which he has arrived, and then, being an exceedingly good Governor, he may be moved off to some other country altogether.
You can quite imagine the effect of that on the country concerned, and more than anything else the result is that there is no continuity of policy. If there was a fixed plan laid down on which a country could develop, then the removals or the mobility of Governors would not matter so much, but as it is you obviously get these difficulties, and I am certain that the Minister himself will agree that it would be impossible for a Governor, however good he may be, to give a considered report, say, on a specially backward country until he had been there for at least two years. The Colonial Office suffer also, because they do not get the real service which they should get. A result of that is spasmodic commissions and committees, and visits from eminent people in this country.
I venture to suggest one solution, or partial solution, which was referred to by my right hon. Friend in his speech. I think the time has come to divide up the Empire into definite groups. It is already done for administrative purposes, as appears from this report on the Colonial Empire. I would not necessarily stick 111 to these divisions, but if you take East Africa alone, which is a very large country, it would be possible to administer it as a separate unit and for all the senior as well as the junior officials to circulate in that particular portion of the Empire, and not go to others; or, if thought advisable, you could have an African Colonial Service, so that all keen administrators could be trained in the spirit of Africa and not wander about obtaining experience and information outside. There is plenty of experience to be gained in Africa alone. That is one suggestion.
The other suggestion is in connection with a larger question altogether. Are we really happy about the position of the Colonial Empire at the present time? If I were replying to the Debate, I could easily produce excellent figures which would show rising imports and exports, increasing populations, and apparently, except in one or two bad spots, a contented series of peoples. But I must say that, in view of the results, not only of what has happened in Trinidad and Jamaica, but also of what happened in Northern Rhodesia not so very long ago, one cannot help thinking that probably all may not be well and that the whole situation should be looked at anew. It may be that our form of administration, as the hon. Member mentioned in connection with the West Indies, and generally of the Colonial Empire, wants to be thoroughly investigated and possibly brought up to date. In the early days it was not a difficult matter. Governors went out, they had a comparatively free hand, peoples were young in knowledge and in civilisation, the natives of the different countries were brought out of a state of barbarism into the beginnings of civilisation, and they lost a state of fear.
That was all right up to the beginning of this century, but then came what I may call the birth pains of economic development, and these people began to grow crops for export. Since the War particularly that has gone much farther, and now you have, all over the Empire, a situation in which the local inhabitants are up against the great problem of world prices. How can you explain to a Uganda native that the price of cotton has fallen and that he cannot therefore receive as much as he did a 112 year before for his seed cotton, while at the same time he still has to pay the same amount for the material for his shirt? How can you explain to a native of the West Indies that the price of sugar has fallen so much that a rise in wages is very difficult, and this at a time when the standard of living of the people is slowly but gradually rising? As the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, there are the medical services improving the health of the people and reducing mortality and there is the prospect of a great increase in population in all these countries, at the same time as, for world reasons, there is restriction in the production of certain commodities.
We are faced with a vast number of new problems. A great deal of new planning is required, and one wonders whether the old machine as it is framed at the moment is able to cope with these problems. I know that the late Colonial Secretary has done a great deal in the reforms which he put through with the assistance of his advisers in the Colonial Office. We have now almost a panel of experts—an adviser on agriculture, an adviser on labour, a Colonial Empire Marketing Board, and a wonderful statistical bureau where one can find out anything about any country. Everything is being done to prepare the foundations for a further advance. In the Colonies themselves, however, conditions are such that we have often to send commissions of inquiry in order to settle specific points. If the Colonies were grouped there would be a greater chance of avoiding these innumerable commissions. In East Africa, since the Commission of 1925, there have been at least three commissions dealing with the East African countries, and four or five which have dealt with questions of finance, land, transport, and so on, in individual Colonies.
I cannot help feeling that the Colonial Office is to some extent groping; it is not quite certain in which direction it is moving, and whether it is moving in the right direction. All these problems are making far more work and a great many difficult situations all over the world. I feel that the Colonial Service is like a boy who has outgrown his suit. At first it can be lengthened, or a bit can be let in, but after a time it is necessary to have a new suit altogether. I wonder whether the 113 right hon. Gentleman would consider extending the excellent idea of a Royal Commission to the West Indies and appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the whole question of the methods of Colonial administration. I put these points forward in no spirit of criticism, but with a desire to help. I make no particular criticism of the way in which the Colonial Empire is being run. I am certain that both here and in the Colonies everyone is doing his best, but there comes a moment when it may be necessary to look into the framework of the machine. While I cannot ask the right hon. Gentleman to give answers to any of these questions to-day, I hope he will be good enough to consider them.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) has drawn our attention to the fact that some of the questions which we are used to asking when the Colonial Estimates are being debated occasionally lead to discomfort in the great Dependencies beyond the seas. I hope that none of the remarks I shall make will cause any difficulties. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman who has just taken this high office will accept my congratulations on this good report on the Colonial Empire which has just been published. It is signed by Lord Harlech and it bears the imprint of his style, and of the matters with which he was so well acquainted. Some measure of thanks is due to him on behalf of the House for the trouble he took in drawing up this report. The right hon. Gentleman must be well satisfied with the reception which it has received. The publicity which has been given to it by the Press has been gratifying, for it has shown the growing interest which is being taken in this country in the welfare of our Colonial Empire.
I have no doubt that this report will have a wide circulation outside this country. It is a welcome record of the manner in which Great Britain is fulfilling her Colonial responsibilities. It is a useful complement to the reports which are delivered annually to the Mandates Commission, and it shows that the Colonial administration is not afraid of submitting to the gaze of inquiry in this and other countries the manner in which these great Dependencies are 114 governed. A particularly gratifying aspect of the report bears on a matter which was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks, and gives an account of the measures which have been taken for the co-ordination of Colonial administration and for the higher efficiency of the Colonial services. I was particularly interested in this respect to note the prominence which is given to the despatch sent by the right hon. Gentleman in November, 1935, and circulated to the Colonial Governments, in which he emphasised the need for adequate machinery to deal with labour questions. I venture to say that if that despatch had been acted upon more resolutely than it was, as has been shown in the later despatch of Lord Harlech in 1937, the labour unrest which we have witnessed in the West Indies and elsewhere lately might well have been averted. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will now proceed with determination to bring into being conditions envisaged in the despatch and in the speech which he made this afternoon. He began by rather glossing over the difficulties and the maladministration of certain parts of the Empire, but he went forward to outline certain measures of reform which I welcome. I was particularly glad to hear him announce the establishment of the Royal Commission.
The general question of Colonial administration has been debated, but there are certain points of detail which I feel should also be raised. I will, therefore, leave aside the general question of Palestine. Like everybody in the Committee I regret the trouble, the murders, and the assassinations that are occurring in Palestine, and I trust that the vigour with which the Government are now pursuing the military problem will soon bear a happier result than it has up to the present time. The future of Palestine lies in the report of the Commission. After the Commission has reported the matter is to be referred to this House and it will therefore be debated again. In the meantime, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman about "Teggart's Wall." I should like it to be made clear that the new fence surrounding the northern part of Palestine runs adequately along the frontier and does not leave any part of Palestine on the northern side beyond the boundary.
115 I should also like to say a word about the immigration regulations and to allude to the many hard cases which have arisen owing to the worsening of the situation in Austria. Because of that situation the demand for entrance into Palestine under the category of dependant relatives has increased, and yet only 200 certificates have been granted for the six months beginning last April. There are as many as 7,000 Austrian settlers established in Palestine with many dependants who are anxious to go there but are at present languishing in Austria. Now there were 153 certificates of all categories left over from the period which ended last March. The 200 certificates which were granted at the beginning of April were used up in the first three weeks. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman to realise that some extension is needed. Could not the unused 153 certificates be added to the quota? It is a miserable quota and great hardship is being suffered.
I will give the right hon. Gentleman only two instances in order that the Committee may understand the difficulties, the anxieties and the unhappiness that underlie this question. One is that of a widow aged 74. Her husband committed suicide. Her two sons in Austria disappeared, and we know what that means. She has a well-to-do son-in-law in Jerusalem eager to receive her, but the quota is exhausted. She must wait and she may never be granted permission to go there. In another case an elderly Austrian was arrested in a round-up in the streets—there was no charge against him—and sent to a concentration camp in Dachau. I need not describe the conditions which reign there; everybody in this House knows of them. This man would be released if he could leave the country. He has a son-in-law in Jerusalem ready to receive him, but he is unable even to apply for permission to go, because the quota is exhausted.
I feel it incumbent upon me to say a word or two about Zanzibar and Cyprus. In the Colonial Empire Report which is before us reference is made to the appointment of Mr. Binder to investigate the clove position. Mr. Binder concluded that the marketing of the whole clove crop should come under the control of the Growers' Association, stating 116 that this was essential. The recommendations obviously meant a certain interference with the middlemen who handle the commodity. These middlemen are mainly Indians, and the Indian Congress Party in India at once intervened and declared a boycott against Zanzibar cloves, a boycott which was most effective since the Indian trade is one-third of the whole export trade of cloves from Zanzibar. That much the report tells us, but it does not mention the settlement which has now been made—I take it since its publication. This settlement, I submit, was practically dictated by the Indian Congress Party. It sets aside altogether the findings of Mr. Binder, who was sent there, no doubt, as an expert. Under this settlement the Growers' Association are allowed to deal only with half the crop, and cannot export directly, but must sell through middlemen, the East Indian middlemen. However, the Indian Congress Party was not satisfied even with this. They asked for further provisions and obtained them—provisions with regard to the composition of the board of management of the Growers' Association. They insisted upon a certain number of the members being nominated by the Indian National Association. I should like to know on what grounds the Minister justifies these concessions. They appear to me to be mainly the result of pressure by a political party and very much to be deprecated.
May I next ask for some information on the economic and social conditions in the Island of Cyprus? I will not on this occasion discuss the question of the fortification of Cyprus. The question of fortifying Cyprus depends on the outcome of the Italian Agreement, and we know how nebulous that outcome is at the present time. Therefore, it is inexpedient to discuss the fortification of Cyprus, but I should like to point out that the strategic importance of the island will not be lessened in any way by whatever happens to the Italian Agreement, and the strategic considerations demand economic stability, prosperity and political contentment. Do those conditions obtain in Cyprus? As in Malta, constitutional government has been suspended in Cyprus since 1931. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what are the prospects of its restoration. I should be interested to know how far this continued 117 suspension of the constitution is due to pro-Greek agitation in the island, and how strong is the propagandist movement for union with Greece; and perhaps, also, the Minister will tell us what steps are being taken to deal with the problem.
I see in the report that the teaching of English has been extended in the island. This is not sufficient. If steps are being taken to bind the inhabitants of Cyprus closer to this country, I trust they will include measures of social advancement, in order to create permanent satisfaction with British rule. After all, we have seen in Cyprus conditions similar to those in the West Indies—bad housing conditions, lack of ventilation, bad sanitation and appalling overcrowding, whole families living in one room which often serves also as a stable or byre. It is a depressing picture of social conditions.
Then there are the problems of the landless peasantry. These are created by the frequent forced sales resulting from agricultural indebtedness, a situation very well known throughout the East. In each of the year 1935 and 1936 there were about 4,500 forced sales. The peasants who have been evicted in this way are being forced to seek work in the mines. Has anything been done to deal with this problem? Will these forced sales continue, and at the same rate? The present system of land tenure represents another grave and serious problem. The last Government report upon Cyprus, published in 1936, states that the problem is complicated because the land is divided into numerous classes, and different laws govern tenure, transmission and inheritance in each class. It is the same law as ran throughout the East under the Turks. The Report of the Department of Overseas Trade for 1935 complains that this system is seriously handicapping agriculture, because properties are scattered in small pieces over a wide area, and that means uneconomic cultivation. I said that this law applied throughout the Turkish Dominions. So it did before Ataturk revised the laws of Turkey. To-day even Turkey has abolished these land laws as completely out of date. How long will they continue in Cyprus? The committee which was set up to look into the question of Cyprus in 1934 made recommendations, but apparently the Government are still considering them.
118 As regards East Africa, I will confine myself to three individual points which seem to me to be of great interest. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) developed the question from a general point of view, but I think it would be interesting here too for the House to have its attention drawn to certain individual cases The first point is that of communication. The Colonial Empire Report mentions Sir Osborne Mance's report on the co-ordination of road policies in East Africa. I should be interested to hear more about this. It has been stated in the Press that little or no progress has been made in road construction in East Africa in the last 20 years, though Uganda may possibly be an exception and Tanganyika recently has made slight improvements. The figures as a whole are startling. Tanganyika, which is 40 times the size of Britain, has only 85 miles of metalled roads, and 17,500 miles of earth roads which are passable for light motor traffic in dry weather only. In Kenya there are only 816 miles of hard-surface roads and 1,200 miles of earth roads. These are classified as "principal arterial roads," but they are not always passable after heavy rain.
The contrast in Uganda is remarkable. There we find 2,500 miles of roads built and maintained by the Government, all capable of carrying loads of 4½ tons, and nearly 1,200 miles of these are class I roads. In addition, there are 5,000 miles of roads built and maintained by native administrations, capable of taking loads of 2½ tons. I submit that one road system should be planned for the whole group of East African dependencies. As things are, it seems that it is nobody's business to promote road contraction. I specially urge the Government to take into consideration the construction of a coast road from the Kenya border to the extreme south of Tanganyika. It has been spoken of for years. It would go partly inland through Tanga and would be exceedingly useful to all these dependencies; but nothing has been done about it. I should like to know whether Sir Osborne Mance's report contains any recommendation in regard to this road.
My second point concerns the forced sales of cattle in Kenya. It affects specifically the Wakamba people, a tribe in East Kenya. There can be no doubt that the reduction in the size of herds 119 throughout Africa is very necessary in order to deal with the problem of soil erosion. I understand that what took place was this: The officials of the administration asked cattle owners to sell some of their beasts and the owners were not unwilling to do so at the normal market price, which at that time was 50s. per beast. But prices have now dropped. Owing to this measure there was a great glut on the market, and now, where sales take place, it is at a price of anything from 12s. to 20s., and many owners are reluctant to sell. In consequence of this the police shoot the cattle in the fields. I should like an assurance from the Minister that these arbitrary methods will be discontinued. I urge that reasonable compensation should be paid and more sympathetic care shown for the interests of the natives. I fully realise that if a very high price were given it would raise the number of cattle even beyond what it is, but some means might be found with the approval of the Government and the people. The Colonial Empire Report states that a factory has been built in Kenya, with a view to the reduction of these native herds. I am not surprised that there is a sense of injustice among the natives that this European factory should batten upon and benefit by their losses. I have dealt with this matter as it affects the Wakamba, in the hope that such methods will not be used with other tribes whose cattle it has been decided to diminish.
As regards the question of child labour in Kenya, the Minister has stated in answer to a question that the restrictions in cases of contract of service for children are fully effective; I should like to know how far they are effective. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to investigate the manner in which those restrictions are enforced. I should like him to inquire also as to the extent to which parental consent is obtained and what real choice the parents have in this.matter. Tea planters would sooner employ children than adults, because children are cheaper. Therefore, children must work in order to earn money to cover the taxes of their parents. In Uganda the position is just the same; adults earn something like 7s. per month and children earn 2s. per month, and therefore children are employed in large 120 numbers. It is said that children in Uganda cannot be employed under the age of 12; I wonder whether birth certificates are ever or can even be produced.
The result is that such children live on the farms, and are generally separated from their parents. They grow up without family ties or tribal control and they become debased and demoralised. I can well believe that advanced native opinion is seriously perturbed by all these facts. These questions of child labour will give ample scope to the new Colonial Office Labour Adviser who was appointed by the late Secretary of State for the Colonies. Labour conditions throughout the Colonial Empire will give him ample opportunity, as has been stated by all Members who have spoken on this matter. Labour conditions have created problems in many colonies, often resulting in disturbances and bloodshed. Such unsatisfactory labour conditions usually have, as one common feature, the absence of effective machinery for collective bargaining. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is going to set up machinery for conciliation, in the form of labour bureaus which will function as an institution whose help is much needed throughout the West Indies. Mauritius and Trinidad have suffered greatly from the absence of such machinery lately. Commissions which have been set up in both those islands have on every occasion recommended that facilities should be provided for collective bargaining. Events in the West Indies have brought home our responsibilities; are we really fulfilling them. I warmly support the proposal for the setting up of a Royal Commission which has been mentioned by the Minister, and I trust that this body will look not only into the economic and social conditions of the West Indies but also into the constitutional problems which are arresting public opinion and which may easily hamper development in Barbados and elsewhere where the government is conducted on antiquated lines.
The measures which will be necessary to remedy the present condition of things will be complex and drastic, and far-reaching decisions will have to be taken by this House. They will have to be based upon knowledge and understanding of the problems, but at present these are what hon. Members do not possess. The proposed Commission should remedy that 121 lack of knowledge and understanding, and should enable the House to discharge its responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the bad conditions which are due to low sugar prices, but I wonder whether a rise in sugar prices would by itself form an adequate solution. The real difficulty and the real problem are closely related to over-population, as will be found stated in the report of the Commission which inquired last year into conditions in Barbados. It is more acute there than anywhere else, and that report will no doubt be further amplified by the proposed Commission. The population of Barbados in 1937 was 190,000, or 1,114 people per square mile. The annual increase is 2,000 per annum. According to the Barbados Commission there is now a surplus population in the island of something like 20,000 people; they are more than the island can support. The resources of the local government are inadequate to cope with that problem. Any scheme sponsored by the local legislature can touch only the fringe of the question. An outlet must be found as soon as possible, as the Barbados Commission stated, for those 20,000 unemployed, and we know that it is to Great Britain that the island looks for assistance in its hour of need.
On the question of migration as a solution, the Barbados Commission stated that only 475 families had been settled in St. Lucia. That was a very small proportion of the population and was not large enough for appreciable effect. Emigration on the scale required is an Imperial responsibility and will require thorough preliminary investigation. It has been pointed out that there is much suitable land in British Guiana; I am glad that the Colonial Office are now undertaking an economic survey there and that one is also in progress in the Windward and Leeward Islands. The total area of British Guiana is 90,000 square miles, but the cultivated area is only 198 square miles. The population of British Guiana is less than four per square mile. Let hon. Members compare that figure with Barbados, where the population density is more than 1,100 per square mile. The climate of British Guiana is healthy and the infant mortality rate is lower than in Barbados by about 66 per cent. I hope that the Government and the Commission will go into this matter. I hope also that the Government will not wait for the de- 122 cision of the Commission but will start the work as soon as possible. I know that the Colonial Office are migration-minded, as was shown by their proposed organised migration from the Gilbert Islands to the Phoenix Islands in the Pacific.
There are other problems. There is the use which can be made of the land by reclamation, by setting up a higher standard of cultivation and by an extension of land settlement. The Barbados Commission noted one gratifying feature, which was that one-fifth of the arable area was in the hands of peasant proprietors. This introduces a valuable element of political and economic security, but it is not put to proper use, namely the planting of food crops. The Barbados Commission states that the price of locally-grown vegetables is beyond the means of the labourer, owing to insufficient cultivation of food crops, and that the labourer's diet is largely restricted to rice and corn meal. This is bad for their health and their physique, and leads to malnutrition. I am glad to see that the Colonial Office are giving attention to that matter.
We might compare with that state of affairs what is done in the Dutch East Indies, where land is set aside to meet the food needs of the whole population before any cash crops may be grown by the natives. A rise in sugar prices would not be an unmixed blessing, because it would further encourage the use of the land for cash crops, unless regulations were imposed throughout the West Indies similar to those which exist at the present time in the Dutch Indies. The need for an extension of peasant settlement applies to all the West Indian Colonies, and was recommended by many Commissions, including the Olivier Commission in 1930 and the Trinidad Commission in 1937. Those recommendations have been endorsed by very notable authorities upon West Indian matters, including Professor Macmillan.
Why have the Colonial Office neglected this matter? Why has there been no attempt at reclamation which would have provided both land and work? Why has there been no attempt in the past at land settlement in Jamaica? It is gratifying that Mr. Wooley is now embarking upon such a scheme. He has taken over in very difficult circumstances on the death of the late Governor. I sincerely associate myself with the regrets which have been expressed on Sir Edward Denham's 123 loss. Sir Edward Denham had a splendid record as a Colonial administrator, and he was doing his best to deal with a difficult situation when death overtook him. The West Indian Colonies to-day are what Britain has made them, in their people, their trade and their social life. Great Britain has drawn men from many parts of the world, from Africa, China and India to populate those islands and to work in order to supply our needs. To-day we are a little perturbed at the results of our handiwork and we are anxious to improve it. When this House faces that duty I am confident that it will not be deterred by any reactionary element either here or in the islands themselves any more than was the Parliament of 1838 perturbed when it abolished the slave trade, 100 years ago. During our rule in the West Indies for something like 300 years, much blood and treasure have been spent and many naval battles have been fought there. Great reputations were established in its waters by fighters in the days when the people of England were not afraid of the Spaniards.
One hundred years ago, on 1st August, the people of the British West Indies were set free from slavery, and on that occasion the British people provided £20,000,000 as compensation to the planters. It was a considerable sum but this country has not yet completed the task which was begun 100 years ago. It has failed to bring contentment and prosperity to the people of the West Indies. We must take further measures for the betterment of these conditions. They may require a financial contribution voted by this House. I feel certain that it will be paid willingly. The last contribution was paid to the slave owners. If any money is paid on this occasion, it will be to enable the descendants of those slaves set free 100 years ago to realise to the full the benefits of freedom.
§ 7.1 p.m.
Captain A. Evans
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Rothschild) in his varied and—if I might say so—interesting survey of conditions in many parts of our Colonial Empire, but I rise to join the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) in welcoming the Colonial Report which has been presented to Parliament for the first time, and I think we should 124 congratulate Lord Harlech on the comprehensive and frank manner in which it has been presented. In future Debates on the Colonial Empire such a report will be invaluable to Members in all parts of the House. Thanks are also due to my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) for suggesting this course of action to the Noble Lord. My hon. Friend has asked me to express his regrets for his absence, and to say that it is owing to a public engagement, but not to one at Ascot. It is clear that recent events in the West Indian Islands are, in the main, due to two reasons. The first is the economic one over which producers have little control when regard is had to the position of world markets and to the low prices of commodities. The second, perhaps of equal importance, is the unfortunate condition of labour and the absence of social amenities. It is impossible to ask the industries concerned, or the taxpayers of the islands, to put into operation the measures that we are anxious to see in the present state of the two main industries which support the community.
The varying price which producers of sugar have received in the past century has been very unsatisfactory. An enormous proportion of the world's production is sold to-day in markets sheltered by huge protective tariffs, and the free market for the disposal of sugar throughout the world is notoriously restricted. Parliament took steps to ease that position and approved a measure of Imperial preference, which gives the Colonial producer a price of £8 10s. per ton as against the world price of £5. That is made up in a simple way. If you add to the world price the value of Empire preference and also of Empire special preference certificates, amounting to 90s., you have a total of £9 10s. a ton, from which freight and dock charges have to be deducted amounting to £1. We in this country consume annually approximately 900,000 tons of Colonial-produced sugar, and of that amount we give a preference on, roughly, 350,000 tons. In judging this problem and asking ourselves whether we are doing justice to the industry, we have to take into consideration what we have done in the past to assist the home producer, what the Dominions are doing to assist their producers, and what we in turn do to assist the Colonies.
125 As far as home-grown sugar is concerned—we have to realise that Colonial sugar is competing with the home-grown product—there is the subsidy of 5s. 3d. a cwt. and a market price of 4s. 6d., the preference is 4s. 9d. and there is a refiner's contribution of 6d. a cwt. The revenue is never allowed to fall below £15 per ton. In Australia the price of refined sugar is £37 6s. 8d., and of raw sugar £22, and there is a total embargo on imports of foreign sugar. The same conditions apply in South Africa, where the prices ruling in Natal are £32 13s. 4d. for refined, and £22 13s. 4d. for raw. It is interesting to compare these figures with the £8 10s. for raw sugar which our Colonial producers receive after taking into consideration the value of Empire preference. We have to bear in mind that South Africa and Australia have practically on their doorstep a large home demand, which our Colonial producers have not got, and they dump the very considerable balance, which I understand is approximately two-thirds of the total permissible export from the Colonial Empire, upon this country.
In this situation what is the position of the Colonial producer? He gets a preference and, if you include the value of the special certificates, and spread it over the whole of the output, the amount of money that he receives is only £4 15s. a ton. The United States is a little more generous to its Colonial producers. Any sugar produced in the Colonies of the United States enters that country free of all duty, and the duty on foreign sugar is £8 16s. a ton, so that the United States give their Colonial producers a subsidy at that rate. It is obvious, therefore, that, if we are to be of practical assistance to our Colonies in their present economic difficulties, we must face the fact that money has to be found and I think, when the people of this country realise the dire necessity of the West Indies, they will be prepared to render financial assistance. The standard of living is far too low, and we are all anxious to do what we can to improve it, but we cannot do it unless we are prepared to pay.
This is no new problem. The recent riots and the disorders, first in Barbados, then in Trinidad and finally in Jamaica, have perhaps made the House and the country more conscious of the difficulties of the islands than they were before. My right hon. Friend pointed out that the late 126 Governor of Jamaica had established his Commission of Conciliation two months before the riots started. That action was welcomed by the whole House, but it is unfortunate that similar action was not taken in other islands. We must have some regard to the psychology of the people with whom we are dealing. What is the impression on the mind of the native who lives in Jamaica when, in the midst of all the difficulties and, as he imagines, as a result of the disorder and bloodshed, the local Government announces a grant of £500,000 for land settlement? Why was that not done before? I do not think we are helping those who have to settle these difficulties by approaching it in that way. It shows a lamentable lack of imagination on the part of the local authorities and of the Colonial Office. Mr. Hugh Paget put it very well in the "Sunday Times" of 11th June:A good Government should take the leadership in the social development of the country over which it rules; it should not lag behind, awaiting the spur of insurrection, before providing the most elementary needs of the community.I, personally, interested myself in this problem, because I might be the only Member who has a very large number of natives of these islands domiciled in his constituency and actually on the register of electors. Thirteen years ago I was appointed a member and secretary of a delegation of the Empire Parliamentary Association which went to the West Indies under the chairmanship of the late Earl Peel, a member of the then Cabinet, to investigate the sugar problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. F. O. Roberts) and I are the only ones left of that Commission who are still Members of the House. I think the right hon. Gentleman will remember that, on our return to this country, we submitted a report to the Government of the day and to the Executive Committee of the Empire Parliamentary Association. I would like to read an extract from that report, because even in those days, in 1925, the same difficulties existed and the same hopes were still in the breasts of the natives who are suffering so much at the present time. In our report we used these words:Perhaps the most pressing request urged on our attention was a further preference or a free right of entry for sugar into the British market. Sugar employs so much 127 labour that the decay of the sugar industry would produce, for instance in Barbados, with its 1,000 persons to the square mile, grave social problems. Large sugar factories which alone were economical, demanded much planning and foresight and heavy capital outlay. The present preference, with a fixed period for the preference, was valuable, but an increased preference or free entry into the British market would give a great impetus to the principal industry of these islands, and enable them to await the exhaustion of the virgin lands of Cuba and to defy competition. It is a mistake to suppose that the planters have been blind to the signs of the time and have pinned their faith entirely on sugar. On the contrary, many expensive experiments have been carried out in rubber, cocoa, limes, and other products. Neglect or indifference in the past on the part of Great Britain may have chilled their hearts but has not damped their energies.… Once they had supplied Britain and Europe with sugar, spices and tropical fruits. Now they were caught in the whirlwind of world markets whose forces they could not measure"—that was in 1925.Their sugars had to fight against the beet sugars of Europe and the products of the still virgin lands of Cuba. West Africa was exporting its thousands of tons of cocoa; they could ill compete with the vast coffee plantations of Brazil; but"—and I would ask my right hon. Friend to note these final words—our visit was accepted as a sign of a quickening of interest in the Parliament and people of Great Britain. They felt that their days of isolation were over; that their claims and requirements would find utterance and meet with sympathy.That was 13 years ago, and I hope they will not be disappointed. I cannot better express my view of this problem than in the words of the very excellent leading article in the "Daily Telegraph" of 3rd June, which said:The time has arrived when it is incumbent upon Britain, not merely to rely upon the good offices of a commission of conciliation such as has just been set up in Jamaica, but to apply herself earnestly to the task of redressing the more fundamental causes of West Indian discontent.Of course I realise, as my right hon. Friend realises, that since 1925 the preference to which I have referred has been increased, but in the circumstances I hope most sincerely that my right hon. Friend and the Government will see whether it is possible to consider the question from the point of view of an Amendment which certain hon. Friends of mine and I have put down on the Order Paper for consideration during the Committee stage 128 of the Finance Bill. Obviously, I do not wish to deal with that aspect of the question to-night; I will content myself with expressing agreement with what was said by the Under-Secretary of State in another place only last week, namely, that something must be done if the world price of sugar could not be raised. I would only repeat that something must be done and I hope done quickly. Lord Dufferin went on to say:Until it is clear that the Sugar Council is unable to raise the price of sugar, it is, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, premature to take decisive action in any other way.We shall know on 5th July exactly to what extent the International Sugar Council can help the West Indian islands, but I hope most sincerely that my right hon. Friend is not suggesting to the House of Commons that his responsibility to the West Indian islands comes solely within the scope of the International Sugar Agreement. Whatever the International Sugar Council decide, I do not think it will relieve my right hon. Friend of his responsibility for taking adequate economic steps to meet the situation, and in that regard I would like to say how much I welcome the setting up of the Royal Commission that is proposed. There are many aspects of the situation which are not connected with either the banana industry or the sugar industry, and on which Members of the House feel very keenly; and an impartial Royal Commission of this kind, not hurried in its labours, going out to the West Indian islands and studying conditions on the spot, will surely be able, on its return, to furnish the House and the country with a report such as will enable, not only His Majesty's Government, but the people of these islands, to appreciate the importance of these Colonies to the Empire.
There are certain limited steps which under the International Sugar Agreement, His Majesty's Government can take at the present time, but there are, of course, certain restrictions, and very important restrictions. My right hon. Friend referred to the loss of the Chinese market, pointing out, if I understood him aright, that owing to the unfortunate conditions which exist at the present time in the Far East a market of approximately 200,000 tons has been lost, and that when conditions in the Far East become peaceful once more, and that market is regained, 129 the prospects of the sugar trade throughout the world would improve. But no doubt my right hon. Friend realises, as I realise, that that would not help the position in Jamaica. Under the International Sugar Agreement, their export quota is limited, and it can only be increased if the increased export is sold to a market within, and not without, the British Empire. My right hon. Friend must admit that that would not help the production of sugar in Jamaica in the slightest degree. We all know that the production of sugar in the West Indies is far from reaching the maximum of efficiency at the present time, and, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, this maximum of efficiency can only be attained as a result of curtailment of the acreage under cultivation. How is that going to help the labour position, and how is it going to improve the standard of living, having regard to the enormous increase of population in the West Indies? I find, having studied the reply to a question put to the Secretary of State, that during the years 1926–36 the population in Barbados increased by 14 per cent., in Trinidad by 15 per cent., and in Jamaica by no less that 21½ per cent.; and this at a time when it is suggested that possibly a very large number of British subjects at present in Cuba will be repatriated to Jamaica. That is a very serious state of affairs.
I turn to another very important industry in Jamaica and the West Indies generally, namely, the banana industry. I do not wish to emphasise the difficulties under which that industry is labouring at the present time, but I think we all know that things are far from well. The Panama disease appears to have spread to an alarming extent, and, as a result, labour is not as plentifully employed as it might be in better circumstances. That is another aspect of the situation which requires to be dealt with. We shall soon have the report of the Commission of Conciliation, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will consider sympathetically whatever practical steps are suggested in it, with a view to the possibility of putting them into early operation.
On this question the Government must take a large and long view. The ills of the Jamaican body politic are deep-seated and complicated, and it is obviously no easy matter to prescribe a remedy. But there are certain things that can be done 130 immediately, without even waiting for the report of the Royal Commission. I had hoped that my right hon. Friend might make some mention this afternoon of the recommendation in Lord Harlech's Empire Report that the new Governor should be a "comparatively young man in full vigour." I venture to think that he should possess certain outstanding qualities for dealing with a situation of this kind. I would venture to say with great respect to my right hon. Friend that at this particular time he should not appoint a man too wedded to what I would call the "Colonial Office type of mind." You want a person with some appreciation of world economic and political trends, with some practical experience of industrial realities and international difficulties. We are facing a time when the position of the British Colonies will assume an importance in world politics which it has never assumed before. We know that at least one country is looking with envious eyes towards the British Colonial Empire, and I feel that it behoves us at this time to prove to an anxious world that under our system of democratic government we can produce at least as efficient results as any dictator country in the world. I feel also that, in spite of what has been said in another place, my right hon. Friend, without waiting for the report of the Royal Commission, should review the position of this country under the International Sugar Agreement, because, as I have already pointed out, we only give a preference on half the quantity of colonial sugar which the people of this country consume. As I have already said, to deal with the position will cost money, but I think the people of this country ought to realise that in some instances they are paying too little for essential commodities. Cocoa to-day in Grenada sells for 2¼d. a pound, and I am not quite sure that the manufacturers of chocolate in this country pay a large enough sum for their essential raw material. I feel that, if the additional cost were spread over a much larger area it would be of benefit, not only to us, but to the West Indies.
There is another aspect to which my right hon. Friend must give his immediate attention. It is the suggested repatriation of a large number of British subjects from Cuba to the various West Indian Islands. I have been looking up the figures with regard to Cuba, and I 131 find that for the years 1935–37 the average imports of Cuban sugar into the United Kingdom were no less than 578,000 tons, as compared with an annual average of 587,000 tons from the whole of the British Colonies during the same period. Last year we bought from Cuba goods to the value of £5,202,000, and we only sold to that country goods to the value of £1,034,000. In other words, we bought from the people of Cuba goods at the rate of 28s. per head of the population and sold to them in return goods to the value of 5s. 7d. per head. I am sure that my right hon. Friend with these figures before him, and with his great reputation as a successful negotiator, should not have much difficulty in persuading the Cuban authorities to review their decision further to repatriate these men. I will not put it any higher than that.
We all know the immense difficulties which face any administration in the West Indies at the present time, but I think we are entiled to take into consideration the position of Porto Rico. There, the United States of America finds itself able, as the result of its economic policy, to support a population half as large again as that of Jamaica, and exported twice as much again in 1936 as all the British West Indian Islands put together. Surely we, with all our great experience over the centuries, can at least equal that record. The West Indies, and, indeed, other parts of the Empire, to-day need leadership, organisation and finance, which the Mother Country, I suggest, has the responsibility for providing, and can provide. We have to remember this important fact, that there is no change in the world's material or moral condition to-day that does not send its ripples into the remotest of our possessions; and if we sincerely desire to retain these Colonies and justify that claim, let us prove to a loyal people that they will share in our Empire financial resources and future prosperity. I cannot conclude better than by quoting the words of my former chairman, the late Lord Peel:Let the peoples of the West Indies feel.that their days of isolation are over; that their just claims and requirements will find utterance and meet with sympathy in Parliament and in the councils of the Empire.
§ 7.32 p.m.
Mr. Lloyd George
I would add a few words to the appeal which has been 132 addressed to the Colonial Secretary to take this problem earnestly in hand. I owe him an apology for not having been here to listen to his statement, but I will follow the example of the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway and say that my absence was not occasioned by my having been at Ascot. I would like to urge still further the appeal which has been made, an appeal quoted from the "Daily Telegraph" article, that the Government should probe the fundamental causes of these disturbances which have taken place now in a succession of West Indian islands. I was in the West Indies only once; that was about a year ago. I spent over three months in Jamaica and I was perfectly appalled at the conditions. Some of the conditions I saw for myself, and many more were reported to me by credible witnesses. I felt ashamed that we should have tolerated for a very long time such a state of things under the British flag, while we were boasting of our great Empire.
These people are a very loyal people. I was very touched wherever I went at the extraordinary loyalty attaching the people to the British Empire. They are proud of being British citizens; they boast of it. When I went to Panama, I found there were thousands—I am not sure there were not tens of thousands—of British Indian workmen there. They did a great deal of the work of excavation. Wherever they went in that American enclave they were always boasting that they were British subjects. The same thing struck me very much when I arrived in Jamaica. Their devotion to the Empire was sincerely earnest and reverent. They are not the people to break out into disturbances unless there is some real cause. Take the district I was in for a very long time. There was very little trouble there. I spoke to the chief constable, and he said the people were very easily controlled. I see there have been some very serious disturbances in that area, and I am not in the least surprised.
There has been a good deal of complaint because in one place the population did not help the police to arrest a crippled negro who had been addressing them and stirring them up about their grievances. That is the sort of thing that happens in every country: people address those who are suffering from distress and grievances; and why should they not? This man was acting on behalf of his own people. It is an incredible story. It is said they were 133 using violent language; but that language is not so bad as that which would be used by the right hon. Gentleman himself if he visited some of those slums in Kingston. There is no language adequate to describe them. The police went there with a warrant, and the man was arrested while he was addressing a crowd. It was stupid and tactless. His language was not quoted, but I venture to say that it did not go beyond what was justified. This gives an indication of the sort of thing that happens. As far as I can see, the wages are incredibly low. I do not know how the people live, and how they raise their families. The housing conditions are quite indescribable. The place in which the indentured workers live is just a long building, with a corrugated iron roof and one room for the whole of a family. In Jamaica—and it is probably the same in Trinidad—the houses are tumble-down and foul. We do not want a slummy empire for millions of very decent people, living under the British flag and as proud of it as any man sitting in this House, and prepared to fight for it, as they did in the late War. I met many of them, and they were proud of the fact.
I also met some of the British and American missionaries, who have been there for many years. One has been there for 20 years; there was a letter from him in the "Manchester Guardian" yesterday. I asked him what the conditions were like, and he said, "Perfectly appalling." He said that he had had to go to an American banana company, to which the telephone belonged. The Governor had to send messages through the American banana company's telephones. It looked as if the British Empire were a bankrupt concern, and could only carry on its functions through the courtesy of an American company, which was paying very bad wages to our fellow-citizens there. This minister—the pastor of a congregation—said, "I had to go to this company to beg for the bananas which dropped from the bunches, and gather as many as I could in order to keep my own congregation from dying of starvation." It is not as if this were a new thing.
We talk about a commission. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman about that. I was glad to hear him say that it was not a commission to put off things. I hope it is not going to be a white- 134 washing commission. It is not whitewash these people want, but food. In 1897 there was a Commission. Their report was written 41 years ago, and the recommendations were never carried out. It is better to find a way to end the disturbances if you cannot prevent the disturbances. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his courage in making a start at any rate. I hope we shall not allow this discredit to the Empire to continue. The Americans are there trading. They see exactly what the conditions are. The West Indies are next door to them. It is by the West Indies that they judge British administration. This is a good story to tell the millions of Americans, to show what the British Empire has done. It is just like a great landowner who boasts that he has the best estate in the country, and allows all his outlying territory to fall into a desert and his people to live there in conditions in which nobody ought to live.
We are the biggest landowners in the world, and we allow our people to live in these conditions. This report gives a description of the sanitary conditions there, the horrible diseases from which the people suffer, and the high percentage of the population which suffers from these horrible diseases all due to malnutrition, neglect, insanitary conditions, and to the foul shacks in which human beings are compelled to live. The right hon. Gentleman shares responsibility as far as his office is concerned. He knows something about it, and I hope that he will act. We have had commissions. I hope that we shall get the right sort of persons to be on the commissions to begin with, people who will really investigate conditions there and who will go down into the slums of Kingston and see what they are like. The slums are so terrible; the whole place is hardly fit for visitation, and yet there is to be seen one of the most beautiful islands that God ever planted in the seas.
It is not all sugar. You are not going to deal with this problem by the manipulation of tariffs and preferences. You may do a little, but most of that little will go into the pockets of great concerns. You have to see that these people get their food out of one of the most fertile lands and climates in the world. They can do it if you give them an opportunity, but it cannot be done unless you are prepared to spend money. Half a 135 million will not do it. You really ought to give up the West Indies or see that the people there live under conditions which will be a pride to the Empire. That is not the case now. I had the pleasure of meeting the late Governor. He was a very able, honest and upright man, but I could see that he was heartbroken. I do not know what the medical profession called the disease from which he passed away, but I can give the name of the disease. It was heartbreak. He was in despair. There you had these conditions. It was sheer heartbreak. You have no right to send good men to these places and let them break their hearts because they have no instruments with which to do their work. If the Empire says that it cannot afford it, let us honestly file our petition in bankruptcy. But we are not yet in that state. We can afford to do the right thing by the people under our Flag. Do not let us dishonour the Flag by perpetuating conditions which are described here.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Whether on Cannock Chase or in this House, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is always effective and sometimes correct in his economics, but I disagree with him completely if he thinks that, by putting up money in this country, we can do justice to the people in the West Indies. We have tried that method and it has left us with the situation that we see to-day. We want a Royal Commission, not to find out the facts, but to do a little straight, honest, economic thinking. The late lamented Mr. Malthus wept bitterly at the prospect of a world which would be over-populated and underfed. He discovered 100 years ago that we were moving towards a condition where population would outrun subsistence. We know that that has not happened. As population has increased and inventions have grown, foodstuffs, instead of becoming scarcer have become more abundant.
Malthus and his despairing theories were upset completely by the late Mr. Henry George. The right hon. Gentleman appears still to be labouring under the Malthusian tragedy. Henry George said, in quite simple language, that "Men and hawks eat chickens, but the difference 136 between the two is this, the more hawks the fewer chickens, but the more men the more chickens." And ever since Malthus's day we have been having more men and more chickens. I cannot bear to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, at the outset of his career, bewailing from that bench in one speech, almost in one sentence, that the population is going up, that, at the same time, the land is becoming more productive, and that the combination of the increased population and the increased productivity of the land in Barbados and Porto Rico and elsewhere is ruining the people of the West Indies and is the damaging result of natural economic laws. As long as these are the ideas which permeate the Front Bench opposite and the sort of people who go out on Royal Commissions as well, what is there even to hope? Does the right hon. Gentleman who has been educated in a Scottish University and understands the elements of political economy, really believe that an increase of population or an increase of production is a disaster to the world? If that were so, let us surrender ourselves to the hope of higher tariffs, land monopoly and a bloody war, something to keep the population down—
§ Colonel Wedgwood
And food dear. The Committee have to get rid of the idea that increased population is a disaster, if we are going to do any good in our Colonial Empire. Even the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) lent sanction to the belief that every new baby that was born was a curse to society.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
We must understand this thing. Every new immigrant, like every new baby, makes as much work as he takes. When it comes to permitting an old lady to go to Palestine, where she can take nobody's job and will have to be fed, transported, housed, surely, that is making more work for people in Palestine and taking no work away from them. The idea that if we halve the population of this country, or the Barbados, there 137 would be greater prosperity and more employment is the economics of the madhouse and not surely of the House of Commons.
That is a necessary introduction to what I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman about the whole of this Colonial Empire of ours. In a great part of the Empire, in Kenya, in parts of the West Coast of Africa, in Tanganyika, in Nyasaland and in Northern Rhodesia they are suffering from a shortage of labour. They do not suffer from unemployment, but from over-employment; there are not enough people to do the work needed. In all these Colonies different methods are devised by the people who need workers to get labour cheap. In Kenya they have the method of the hut tax, which forces the people to go out to earn money in order to pay their hut tax. In Nyasaland, they have a restriction on the number of natives who leave the country to go and work elsewhere in order that they may work cheaply instead for employers in Nyasaland. Every sort of device is used, but chiefly the device of taking away the land from the native so that he cannot employ himself. That has been employed so effectively in England, in our older Colonial Empire, in the West Indies, that the inhabitants have been divorced from their natural employment on the land.
I can give an admirable example of one colony which comes exactly in between those colonies which suffer from under-employment, and those colonies which suffer from over-employment. In between there is the blessed colony of Nigeria. Nigeria suffers neither from under-employment nor from over-employment. I ask the Committee to observe that for the last 30 years we have had no trouble from Nigeria. There has been trouble from every other colony under the British flag, but no trouble from Nigeria. Why is that? It is because some 30 years ago we established in Nigeria a system of land tenure which has lasted to this day and gives complete satisfaction. All the farmers in Nigeria farm their land with security of tenure, subject to paying the rent to the State, which rent is regulated every seven or 14 years, not according to the use that a man makes of it, but according to the land value. There you have free peasantry cultivating their own land and suffering neither from under-employment nor from over-employment.
138 Surely, we might judge from that what is wrong with places like the West Indies. I am afraid that we must add, besides the West Indies, Mauritius and Ceylon. Everything which you are suffering from in the West Indies today, you are also suffering from, without having it advertised, in Ceylon and Mauritius, and, I dare say, in a great many other countries too. By the blessing of Providence, the acting Governor of Jamaica has suddenly discovered that the best cure for the troubles in Jamaica would be to get the people back to the land, and he has put forward a scheme, which I see the Government have accepted, whereby £500,000 would be spent in buying land in order to settle the peasants upon it. As I understand it, we are likely to have to pay the interest on that £500,000. We are buying up the land from the people who own it and have taken it from the native inhabitants of the island, and handing the land back to the natives and settling them upon the land.
If the Colonial Office will only look from one Colony to another and cast their eyes round the more intelligent Colonies, they will find that in Kenya all local taxation is levied upon land values, excluding the houses and the buildings upon the land, with the result that nobody is able to hold up land for high prices. The same principle applies throughout the Dominions. In New Zealand, in a large number of the provinces of Canada and in Australia, there is the same system of taxing and rating the landlord in order to ensure the most economic use of the land and to keep down the price of land so that the people can use it more cheaply. I am confident that if we apply the same principle to the land in the West Indies that we apply in Kenya, Fiji or New Zealand or South Africa, it would produce the land settlement that is needed, without coming to this country for money to buy out the landlords in those Colonies.
I will give one further illustration from the Government's own Commission's Report. We sent a Royal Commission to Newfoundland to decide what should be done with that extremely curiously governed country, and the Commission reported. It was a very good report, and every single thing that it recommended has been done, except one. They recommended that there should be a tax on land values in order to break up the big 139 estates and force the land into the market and into production. That was not adopted. Here we had an impartial body of commissioners inquiring into things on the spot and making this recommendation, but the Colonial Office said: "That is heresy. We must do these other things, but we will leave that out." I hope the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to give evidence before the Royal Commission on the West Indies to try and put a little economics into their heads before they go and devise palliatives. It might save this country millions of pounds if they tackle the problem from the right end.
I should like to make a few comments on the report which has been issued from the Colonial Office. To get an annual report from the Colonial Office is a great advance and I hope it will be perpetuated; but that in future it will be issued rather more than five hours before the Debate. Several important matters are raised in the report. In the first place, I should like to draw attention to that part of the report which deals with Cyprus. Cyprus used to be a bankrupt Colony. Up to a few years ago subsidies were given annually by this country to Cyprus, in order to make both ends meet. If hon. Members will look at the report they will see that the surplus reserve in Cyprus has risen to over £500,000. That is a pretty good thing and it is a feather in the cap of the Government and the Governor of that country. If the Government wish to make Cyprus more prosperous, why not take a leaf out of the Palestine book? Cyprus has a surplus of £500,000. Palestine, before certain troubles arose, had a balance of £6,000,000. How did they get that? They got it by allowing people with capital to go into the country. Why cannot Jews, for example, be allowed to go into Cyprus, just as they are allowed to go into Palestine, to bring in their trade and capital, to improve the land, as they have done in Palestine, and make Cyprus as prosperous as Palestine? Cyprus is a very good place for making that experiment.
Now I come to Malta. We have been promised over and over again that we would see an advance in education in Malta, and particularly an advance in English education. The report says that:Progress has been made in the sphere of elementary education. The salaries of some 140 of the lower-paid teachers have been increased. It has continued to be part of the Government policy to encourage the use of English.I have been through the schools in Malta. I do not suppose that any other Member of the Committee has done that. The schools are incredibly bad. The teaching of English in the schools is simply a laughing matter. It is taught by people who do not know English and who do not like English. There are plenty of Roman Catholics in this country—I do not want to deport them all but we might get English Roman Catholic teachers from this country to teach in the Maltese schools, instead of relying upon illiterate people out there. If we want to teach English, let it be taught by people who can speak English.
It is of vital importance to have in Malta a population which will be friendly to Great Britain and a barrier to Nazi and Fascist propaganda. We have always been fortunate up to now in having a pro-English section of the population, particularly at the dockyards. They have been the mainstay of the old Labour party in that country, but they have been deprived of any voice in the Government for the last 10 years. I think the time has come when we should not merely see that these people are brought into the family but that they should be given the rights that English people enjoy elsewhere. We already allow them to come in to defend the Empire by admitting them into the Army and the Navy. I hope that we are going to increase the pay of these dockyard men, which is scandalously low. Surely, we might consider now a restoration of the Constitution. We might allow these people to have the only real protection for any workers, namely, a vote, for their own safeguarding and trades organisation.
Whether in the West Indies, in Ceylon, in Hong Kong or in any of these Colonies, by far the best protection for the working man is the possession of a vote and a knowledge of English. If he has those two things he can stand up, through his trade union and through his representatives on the council, and make his voice heard and his views known far better than by coming to Members of this House and getting them to make known his grievances, because we cannot know the local conditions half so well as the people on the spot. When we are dealing with Malta or Cyprus or any of these 141 Colonies which are not torn between two races or different religions as they are in India, we should bring in the British system of representation, however much we may keep control of the government of the country.
The chief difficulty of the British Government in securing the co-operation of the Maltese people has hitherto come from Fascism and the Church of Rome. The Archbishop has been in poor health and there is now the question of appointing a new Archbishop in his place. I hope the Government will see to it that the Archbishop who is appointed is a man of pro-English sentiments. We keep an expensive envoy at the Vatican, whose principal business is to see that the appointments made by the Vatican throughout the British Empire are of people not hostile to the British Empire. It is very important that we should have in Malta an Archbishop who is pro-English and not an Archbishop who is addicted to Mussolini and Fascism. If we have an Archbishop of the latter type we shall be doing infinite harm and setting back indefinitely any chance of Maltese co-operation with the British Empire.
I now pass to the cognate question of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is left out of this report, but I hope it will not always be left out. It is a pity that throughout the whole of the war in Spain, Gibraltar has appeared to be used as a channel through which atrocity stories against the Government of Spain have been circulated and come over here. The famous story about the nuns who were stripped and bound and crushed under a steam roller in Malaga, and the equally impossible story about a priest who had been crucified upside down in the streets of Malaga, and other stories equally horrible have come through Gibraltar. They all seem to have come from refugees who have got to Gibraltar, and that town has become a sort of propaganda centre for the Franco people. I think we might look after that Colony a little more closely at the present time.
The people who work in the dockyard at Gibraltar mostly live in La Linea. I do not know whether the statement is true—there is no chance of a private Member finding out—but I am told that they draw their wages in the dockyard in Gibraltar and that when they cross the frontier a large part of their wage is taken 142 away in the exchange they get on the other side. Nothing is done about that. I am told that our officials in Gibraltar go cap in hand to the Franco people on the other side and get permission to hunt in Spanish territory, as if they were on perfectly friendly terms with one side in Spain, while the others are hounded in the narrow streets of Gibraltar or else turned out to be shot over the frontier in La Linea.
My next subject would have been Palestine, but I do not intend to raise Palestine grievances here any more. If they want their grievances remedied they must do it for themselves. Direct action by those concerned will be infinitely more important than speeches and questions in Parliament. When I am told that Jewish immigrants are led in chains to Acre gaol, I say that it is the business of the Jews in that country to stop it. It is their business and not my business. Such things should be remedied by the people out there, by collective action against injustice rather than by complaining to me or to the Government. British officials in Palestine will respect them far more if they complain less and act more; there are plenty of methods to be adopted from the armoury of Mr. Gandhi which can bring any government to heel. It is idle to appeal to justice in this post-war world; an appeal to force is the only way. The West Indies is another example of the same thing. Unless you are willing to suffer and go to prison you will never get anything in this world.
My last piece of advice was the best. I said that whenever any trouble arises would you mind thinking of what British settlers would do if they were faced with the same situation, and then if you only do half of what they would do you will never have to do it again? What strikes me about the trouble in Palestine is the humiliation of it all. It is going on in Galilee, an area of about the size of Rutland. It has been going on for two solid years, and all the time the Jews have not been allowed to lift a finger. They must not arm and defend themselves; everything will be done by the Government. Anything more humiliating and useless I cannot imagine. There is no sign of it ending. A matter of this sort we can stamp out in a fortnight in any other country. We stamped it out in a fortnight in Cyprus and in Ceylon, and while this is going on it 143 makes the Jews a laughing-stock and also makes them suspicious that every action of every British official is a connivance at the trouble. You are creating enemies where you should have friends, and above all you are ruining the prestige of Great Britain and of the Colonial Office service.
When I was in the Colonial service in South Africa we sought to bring good government; and we brought good government to the Transvaal. Throughout the whole of the world our Colonial Civil Service has been the model for other Civil Services, and on the West Coast of Africa you have produced the best administrators in the world. Here you have this little tinpot country governed far worse when Turkey governed Palestine. It is still going on, and it is allowed to go on. The Government have decided to continue the job, and at the same time to show how impossible it is. I do not want to say anything about it except this, that the sooner we arm the Jews and allow them to do their own job the better for the reputation of this country and for humanity and honesty.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
If the right hon. and gallant Member will address his remarks to the Chair we shall get on much better.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
In Palestine you will find that the land is at the root of the evil. As long as the people are prevented from buying land, and the price of land is inconceivably high, you will have unemployment and stagnation in the country. There are acres and acres, square miles of the country, would could be redeemed and be made productive, but which is still held out of the market while Jews are starving in Poland and Vienna. The land is there for them if they were given the opportunity to use it.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not know, Colonel Brown whether, when you and I were young, you were like me, an admirer of Miss Vesta Tilley. If so you may probably remember the song she used to sing, "I joined the Army yesterday, so the Army of to-day's all right." Apparently when the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedg- 144 wood) did the opposite, it had the opposite effect. He has told us that he left the Colonial service yesterday.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
That is what I meant by "yesterday," and that the Colonial service now is all wrong. I was sorry to hear that the right hon. and gallant Member has given up Palestine, although I was glad to know that he was prepared to take up the Archbishopric of Malta, and if I can help him at all I hope the Colonial Secretary will take the offer seriously. There is one other matter in the remarks of the right hon. and gallant Member to which I desire to refer about Palestine. I hate to discuss this subject, because I am conscious of incompetence. I do not wish to be excessively modest and to claim an incompetency greater than most hon. Members, but, absolutely, I am conscious of incompetence in a matter which is also extremely controversial and on which it is almost impossible to say anything without incurring the bitter misunderstanding of somebody or other. But the right hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, the hon. Member who spoke first from the Opposition side and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) all in varying degrees but (if I may say so), with perfect good temper and feeling, seemed to me to link the problem of the ill-usage of the Jews in Europe with the problem of our administration, under Mandate, of Palestine.
I think it ought to be said by somebody in the course of this Debate that not all hon. Members of this House are certain that these two problems ought to be treated as part of each other. For my part I am not conscious of any sort of difficulty in sympathising with Jews either here or in Palestine, or anywhere else, but I feel convinced as the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) said about the West Indies, that it is no use deceiving ourselves, that it is all done by agitators, and that we must not allow the population in Kenya to create a difficulty which in the end we shall have to deal with—I would ask the hon. Member to apply these two fair principles to the Palestine situation. I think there can be no doubt that the fundamental difficulty in Palestine is the depth and sincerity of the feeling of Arab nationalism on the one hand and, on 145 the other hand, the Zionist feeling for which I do not know the English word but what the French would call étatisme, the passionate Zionist desire to be a State. These two things are there and are not easily or quickly to be diminished: they are the trouble which causes the guns to go off. If it be true then that, as we are glad to hear from the Colonial Secretary, the Government mean to act quickly on the advice of the Commission, that they have not yet received that advice, and, indeed, in view of the history of the last 20 years in Palestine, if at this moment the rearrangement of the proportions of the population in that country were to be dictated not by factors inside the country but by factors outside it, I believe that, if His Majesty's Government allowed that now to be their policy, a very great disservice indeed would be done to the Arabs and a not less disservice, even if slightly less obvious, would be done to the Jews. That was the first subject on which I wished to touch, and I do not think that the one or two other things that I want to say can be very easily linked up with it.
In the first place, as I was one of those who, a year or more ago, asked for some report such as this, I wish to add my congratulations and gratitude to the Secretary of State and to his predecessor, and like almost everybody else when thanking for a present, I want to suggest that it be better in the future. Not that I do not think it very good, but I think that we might have a slighly longer interval in which to read the Report before being asked to discuss it. I quite understand that depends upon printing difficulties, perhaps this year on changes at the Colonial Office, upon the date which the Opposition fixes for these Estimates, and all sorts of things, but it seems clear that a week-end—and a rather short one—is not really enough for the purpose.
Secondly, I wish to suggest that in time the report ought to be of a rather different character. I can best indicate what I mean by quoting some phrases from it. If hon. Members will look at page 4, they will see that the report pays a tribute to the value of co-ordination throughout the Colonial Empire with a view to the common utilisation of the resources and experience not only of the Dependencies but also of this country, and it says that that 146 is being increasingly realised. It goes on to mention one method by which that has been done—and this is a matter upon which I should like to congratulate the Government—that is, the unification of Colonial services that has been going on since 1930, and which is now, I think, almost complete. I am quite sure that that unification and the method by which recruitment has been managed of recent years have, between them, done inestimable service to the British Empire and to all of us.
I would like incidentally to say on that point that when there was a bad slump a few years ago, such as we hope the present recession is not going to turn into, one of the effects was to cut down recruiting for the Colonial services. I would like to ask whether it is not possible that the opposite ought to be the real result. When there is a bad slump, and young men find it difficult to get floated in life, that is the moment when a corporation or body like the Colonial Office, which goes on indefinitely, we hope through many slumps and booms, ought to he buying young men, because that is the time when the best young men can be got in the employment market. I think that is a point worth considering.
I want now to go on to some other questions in connection with the business of trying to co-ordinate the Colonial Empire and trying to foresee and prearrange a lithe the development of it. The Minister spoke of various things in that connection to which I would have liked to refer, but I wish at this hour to be as brief as I can. The hon. Member for Caerphilly also spoke of this and of a commission on labour conditions in Africa and so on. What I wish to suggest is that this report gives a far better opportunity than we have ever had before of understanding a little—for almost all of us must, of course, have only a very slight and indirect knowledge of most or indeed all the Colonies—of understanding what might be called the tactics of the business, the way in which this side of it has been managed in Kenya and the other side in Zanzibar, and so on; but there is little or nothing that helps one to understand or criticise the strategy of the business. On this occasion this year, I do not in the least blame the Minister. It would have been impossible for him to face that. He had obviously these two very big immediate crises on his hands, Jamaica and 147 Palestine. He had to deal with those two territories. But the Colonial Empire would be one of the greatest of all human enterprises if neither Palestine nor Jamaica existed, and it ought to be possible, once a year at least, for the House to have some sort of discussion on the general strategy, the long-range intention about the Colonial Empire.
What is it for? Why have we got it? It is easy to repeat, as three hon. Members have done already, the phrase about trusteeeship, but I do not think that gets us very much further. I was much rebuked a year ago for saying that, but I still think it is true. There is no doubt that His Majesty's Government in England are trustees for the negroes in Jamaica, but they are also trustees for white men in Whitechapel, and when talking about what proportion of its resources His Majesty's Government should use for one and what proportion for the other, how much they ought to tax people here in order to improve conditions in Kingston, Jamaica, it does not help much to say that they are trustees for the people at the other end, because they are trustees for the people at this end too.
What I wish humbly to suggest is that somehow or other it ought to be possible in time, in the form of this report and in the form of this Debate, for us to discuss generally the general co-ordination and long-range intention of this country about its Colonial Empire. The Colonial Office have difficulties in doing that which are obvious. At any given moment almost, its head has some crisis on his hands. As for the office staff in general, it is impertinent perhaps for us to praise Civil servants, and it is not very wise to criticise them; one can only express one's general impression. I have a sort of general impression that the Colonial Office, which came into existence at about the time of the Great Exhibition, has always rather suffered from prenatal experiences. I think there is always rather rumbling round the backs of the heads at the Colonial Office the importance of Yorktown and Bunker's Hill, two generations before they were founded, and memories of Gibbon Wakefield's ridicule of the Mother Country and Downing Street control one generation before.
148 Unquestionably, in the sort of conditions which exist at the Colonial Office there is a temptation, with the added ease of control, of over-estimating the importance of tactical matters. With telegraphs and telephones and aeroplanes it is easier now to know how the administration is being carried out in Tanganyika, Fiji, and so on, than it was some years ago; and it seems to me that there is a temptation for the Colonial Office to busy themselves with tactics rather more than is wise and not to think very much about strategy. It seems to me that the existence of this Minister and this Office really has two objects. In the first place, you can plan the Colonial Empire in a way in which you cannot plan your own country. I do not wish to suggest that the inhabitants are morally, mentally, spiritually or in any other way inferior to Members of this House. I do not think that is so, and if I did, I would not suggest it. However that may be about individuals, the Colonies must be in some sense dependent this year, next year, in 20 years or in 100 years—they must be so strategically, economically and in other ways—dependent on us or on someone. Therefore, it is much easier to plan for them. In this country, all planning is vitiated very largely because one does not know in the least what the population is going to want in 18 months' time; but when dealing with remote and in some senses inferior conmmunities, you can yourself partly decide what they shall be wanting in 18 months' time or in 18 years' time. Therefore, some sort of planning is possible.
I suggest that the proper functions of the Colonial Office are these: First, it must insist on co-ordination between governors in both time and space. By coordination in time, I mean that it must see that what the present governor of any Colony is doing bears a reasonable relation to what the last governor did and what it means the next governor to do. By co-ordination in space, I mean that it must see that what is at present being done, say, by the Governor of Kenya bears a reasonable relation to what is being done say, by the Governor of the Gold Coast. It seems to me that, in the last analysis, that is the part of our Colonial responsibilities to which we ought to give the closest thought. It goes much deeper than any question about the badness of the plumbing in Jamaica—though 149 I would be the last man in the world to underestimate the importance of that question. Indeed, I think it possible that the badness of the plumbing in Jamaica arises from the want of that sort of long-term thinking on the part of the House of Commons.
We were told just now about the Commission which went to the West Indies in the 1890's and told us of all sorts of things that ought to have been done. In 1931 or 1932 a Commission wholly or mainly concerned with education went out there and its report foreshadowed the sort of things that would happen if certain steps were not taken. I happened to know very well personally of an enterprise projected just after the War for establishing civil aviation in the West Indies. That enterprise fell down, partly owing to the difficulty of persuading one Colony to take it up, and, partly, because in this country at the time there was one of the periodical "squandermania" campaigns and Lord Milner then Secretary of State said that the Government could not possibly face the cost. Think what a difference it would have made to the whole situation in the West Indies, if aerial communications had been firmly established there in the early 1920's.
Reference has been made to the constitutional position in the West Indies. Of course it is not satisfactory and perhaps it never will be. I can speak with some knowledge on this subject. I do not know the West Indies; I have never been there, but I do know West Indians and I have family associations with the West Indies, and I know that you cannot make a single community there of the kind which some hon. Members seem to have in mind, until improved communications have given West Indians more sense of unity. It is no use to admit grudgingly that the West Indian islands are isolated. Of course they are. That is why they are called islands. The difficulty is to make the peoples of the islands get on well with each other, and you must make them get on with each other before you can join them in a single political entity. At present it is almost as difficult to make the people of these different islands get on with each other as it is to make the people of one European country get on well with the people of another European country. Indeed it is even more difficult—I would say that it is 150 almost as difficult as getting one local education authority in England to get on well with another. The only way in which we can ever achieve anything like that is by improving communication, and that can be done in no other element but the air.
The justifications, therefore, of the existence of the Colonial Secretary and the Colonial Office are two—first, coordination between the different Governors, and, secondly, that there should be a relation between the administration's doing of this and the House of Commons, that there should be a few people in the House of Commons who are interested in and who know something about these questions. There should be people here who will see these reports and give them attention as part of a long-range strategy, that they should watch these questions and bring them up one year after another as part of a whole.
I believe that at present that is the greatest lack in our Imperial Government, and it is a lack in one way easy to deal with because not primarily depending on finance. It seems to me that in some ways it depends almost in the proportion of 90 per cent. upon the good will of people in this Committee and people in high positions in the Colonial Office. This is one of the matters with which we should mainly be concerned. We should have the report every year in a form that can be discussed as a whole and not, as is inevitable at present, in bits and pieces, here and there, instead of covering the whole field. Then we might know what wants doing before crisis compels something to be done, and when what wants doing is known it will not go undone because being unconnected with any whole it gets forgotton.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I find myself in sympathy with a great deal of what the previous speaker has said. I welcome the report which has come from the Colonial Office. I joined in the demand for such a report, and I am glad that the Committee has now an opportunity of bringing under review the policy which is being followed in the various Colonies for which we are responsible. In some respects I think it an admirable survey. It shows how we are working towards unity of policy. It shows the steps which are being taken for better co-ordination 151 in policy and also how we are attempting to implement certain general principles, for which we have declared, in Colonial administration. I hope that with the passage of years the report will be amplified, that certain important gaps in it will be filled and that, as the last speaker suggested, we shall get a clearer view from the Government and the Colonial Office of the policy which they are trying to work out for the whole Colonial Empire.
From time to time there have been great declarations of liberal principles in relation to Colonial administration, but we are all conscious that, in the case of many of our Colonies, those principles are not applied with any degree of consistency. We know that different policies are being worked out, even in territories within measurable distance of each other and we want to know what the Government mean when they talk about trusteeship and when they speak about the blessings of indirect rule and pay service to the principles of the dual mandate. What is the policy which they really intend to implement throughout the Colonial Empire and how far are they carrying out those laudable declarations of principle which this country has periodically made?
In this report there are a number of declarations which one welcomes. There is the declaration in respect of the need of industrial codes for the protection of labour, another on the importance to the native producer of his home market. There is the declaration on the importance of nutrition and the adjustment of diet in order that healthier conditions can he made possible. Those things in the Report are of great value. I hope that the Report will go to the League, of Nations. I hope it will be studied there, because I feel very strongly that, as far as British administration is concerned, there should be some accountability before the bar of world opinion. We ought to recognise the fact that the world is moving away from the old assumptions of Imperialism and from the tradition of exclusive national ownership of Colonies. In view of that fact, an opportunity should be given to the rest of the world to pass judgment on the methods of British administration.
During the last few years our own complacency in Colonial administration has 152 been rudely shocked. We have heard this afternoon of a number of reports which have been issued by commissions and others, and one is considerably disturbed. One remembers, for instance, the revelations in the Pim report on the stagnation in the Protectorates of South Africa; also that terrifying report about the migration of the native people from Nyasaland, the report on the riots in the copper belt of Northern Rhodesia, the medical officer's report on the state of health on the Gold Coast, the report in respect of Mauritius and the disturbances there last year, the revelations in the reports on Barbados and Trinidad, and now there are riots in Jamaica. Here you have enough to shake public confidence in the administration in many parts of the Colonial Empire, and I suggest that it is no good our talking the cant of Empire, believing that all is well and phrasing a great deal of false ideology about the blessings of Empire, if we are not prepared, not only frankly to criticise our failings in administration, but also to attempt to see that administration conforms to the highest standards that we know.
I do not deny that we, as a nation, have accomplished much in the way of colonisation that is of great value to the world, and the report which we have before us is eloquent in pointing out the good work which is going forward in respect of research in health and agriculture, improvements to stock, attempts to broaden the basis of elementary education, and attacks on the economic problem in respect of marketing and the stability of production. But in spite of all that good work, we must recognise, quite frankly, that in many places a process of deterioration is actually going on. You have that deterioration brought out in the report on Barbados and in the report on Trinidad, which we discussed in February of this year, and I recollect an article by Miss Margery Perham in the "Times," pointing out, so far as Tanganyika is concerned, that there again there are certain aspects of labour where decay has set in. Likewise, in the recent report of Sir Alan Pim on Northern Rhodesia, he expresses very real anxiety about the effects of migration on the social life of the native people and the deterioration in the native reserves. In passing, I think we ought to pay a tribute to the magnificent work which Sir Alan Pim and his colleagues 153 have done in bringing to our notice not only the facts in relation to Northern Rhodesia, but also his report on the Protectorates and on taxation in Kenya as well.
It is because all is not well with our Colonial Empire that I want to submit three considerations to the Committee. The first relates to the economic purpose of Empire. May I recall the fact that no less than £200,000,000 of capital is invested in British Africa, in private enterprise, quite apart from money in Government stock, and that that money is invested very largely in rubber, sugar, cocoa, tobacco, copper, tin, gold, and so on? But that investment has created in Africa a proletariat working in the mines and on the plantations at very low wages, and tolerating an almost impossibly low standard of living. That investment has involved a great deal of irresponsibility in the way in which natural resources have been exploited and labour has been treated, and we have seen how the wealth of many of these territories has been drained away, with no home markets created for the natives, and with no attempt to build up native consumption. We have had little regard for the social effects following that exploitation, and little contribution has been made by this investment to the social wellbeing of the Colony itself. I suggest that a system which subordinates the life of a colony to the interest of profits for remote investors, instead of building up the social, economic, and political life of the people, is fundamentally wrong.
That point is brought out vividly in the reports that have recently come from the Colonial Office in respect of Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, Barbados, and Trinidad. We may seek some sort of explanation by reference to the effects of world forces—prices, schemes for restricting output, and the loss of certain fairly steady markets, but the questions which we have to ask here are, Why is it that these people are so dependent on the export trade; why is it that so often they have virtually no purchasing power at all; why is it that there is not a balance between home production and export trade; why is it that, when we see restriction schemes applied, we do not proceed to plan for production in other respects, in order to make good the loss which must inevitably come through 154 the working of these restriction schemes, knowing all the time that the success of a colony depends very largely on the development of its productive capacity? We might also well ask, Why is it that so often our policy seems to withhold land from the use of the native people themselves; why is it that we are overcrowding the natives into the reserves in Kenya; why is it that in other parts of Africa the reserves are already deteriorating; why is it that, as far back as 40 or 50 years ago, Members in this House were pleading for land settlement schemes in the West Indies, and that to-day we find that the same sort of demand has to be made? These are not rhetorical questions; these problems will become more acute when we enter, as we probably shall, a further period of depression and when certain of these colonies have to face up to the difficulties of over-population which have been referred to during the course of the Debate to-day.
The second consideration that I would like to put to the Committee about the sickness of these acquired societies is: Where rests the responsibility for that sickness; how much of it rests in London and how much with the Colonial Governments themselves? So far as London is concerned, it seems to me that too often the policy of Colonial Secretaries has been determined by certain principles of Imperialism. Big interests have had to be satisfied, and Ministers have been afraid to offend. It is true that declarations of great liberal principles have been made, both by Ministers and by the Colonial Office, but the Colonial Office has tended to wait on events. It has issued many circulars, with which few of us could quarrel, setting out magnificent lines of conduct and expressing excellent intentions. Once these circulars have gone there has been little energy in following them up and seeing in what degree the recommendations to the various Colonial Governments are actually put into operation. We have a right to ask why it is that the good intentions of the Colonial Office are so frequently baulked.
The report before us refers to the creation of a Colonial service, to the creation of new specialised branches of it and to the necessity of having governors who are young and full of vigour. It is true that the Colonial Service has produced some very remarkable men.
155 Sir Donald Cameron, Lord Lugard and Lord Olivier are names of men who have rendered great and distinguished service for this country and the world, but our Colonial Service is essentially composed of the governing class. Its officers are trained to govern, and in their discharge of their duties they tend to get a little out of touch with the main currents of opinion in the territories for which they are responsible. Continuous social meetings with the well-to-do sometimes tend to make these officials a little detached from what is really required in order to give expression in a practical way to the aspirations and hopes of the people for whom they are responsible. Let me give a case in point. The present Secretary of State for the Colonies sent a despatch to the Government in Trinidad. The recent Commission to Trinidad reported on it in paragraphs 171 and 172 of their report. The Secretary of State suggested that there should be set up in the island of Trinidad a Labour Department. The Commission reported:It is a matter of regret that the Government of Trinidad took no action on this dispatch.I can quote from other reports strictures of that kind in cases where circulars have gone out, where responsible Ministers in this Government have made recommendations, and where virtually nothing has been done. At the present moment there is a model ordinance for East and West Africa on the subject of workmen's compensation. That ordinance has been going backwards and forwards for the past two years. Meanwhile, men lose their lives or are maimed and crippled, and no compensation is paid. There is on pages 50 and 51 of the report a great show of labour legislation existing in our various Colonies. Most of it is just window dressing, because it is very unreal and completely inoperative. If we study the list of Colonies which have put ordinances on their statute books, we find many of our important Colonies are absent, showing that in those Colonies this type of labour legislation does not exist at all. Moreover, what we read in this report about industrial legislation refers, in the main, to the last year or two. Why this long delay in putting necessary legislation on the Statute Book? There is, for instance, the paragraph relating to factory and industrial protection. What is the 156 good of telling us what Colonies have ordinances in respect of the protection of life and limb in factories when we know very few Colonies have an effective labour department with a trained inspectorate.
The truth is that until riots and disturbances occurred and we had unrest beginning to sweep from one end of our Colonial Empire to the other, very little was really being done. This burst of activity is largely due to the fact that at last the workers are demanding that something should be done. It is a sad commentary on our method of government when we have to wait for riots and disturbances to force us to do what is elementary right. We recall the Trinidad report in which were the same strictures of neglect and failure to do the obvious things in regard not only to industrial legislation, but to social legislation as well. It is not due to the agitation of Communists and of people of the extreme Left that these troubles arise. In the report of the Commission to Barbados, paragraph 6, page 4, the Commissioners say:It would appear that hunger or fear of hunger was the chief cause of the outbreaks in the country districts.They point out that housing and social conditions are a disgrace to any community. For telling the workers in Barbados to organise themselves with a view to getting some kind of social and industrial reform, their first leader was deported and the second leader has been sentenced to 10 years hard labour. Although he advised the workers to avoid violence and merely to organise, he was told by the judge that he was guilty of a serious offence, and was sentenced for trying to build up some form of organisation among people who had been forced into rebellion because of neglect. It seems that what we are concerned with is not how to progress a little further inside the Empire, but how to stop decay.
We have waited for the past two years for the ratification of the Convention of the International Labour Office, dealing with recruiting of native labour. What is keeping us back from the ratification of that Convention? I suggest as one important reason it is because there is a group of wealthy gold magnates who want to have at their disposal certain of our territories as great reservoirs of cheap labour, and they are not prepared to pay the necessary travelling costs in order to get the natives to work for them on the 157 Rand. The third consideration I want to put to the Committee is that at this moment there is an almost complete lack of adequate industrial and political protection. Mr. Sidney Webb in 1930, when he was at the Colonial Office, suggested to the various Governments that they should consider the making of new Ordinances in respect to the legalisation of trade unions. There has been a somewhat elementary law permitting trade unionism in Jamaica, but every effort on the part of the workers to create an organisation has been frustrated by the authorities. Meetings have been broken up or prevented by the police. In Trinidad and Mauritius the workers have been obliged to adopt subterfuge in order to get some form of organisation. In Barbados when an organisation has been attempted the organisers have been deported or sent to prison. In West Africa anyone expressing discontent has been treated as a person stirring up sedition who ought to be prosecuted. There is the recent case which came before the Privy Council. In fact, one may say that so wide an extension has now been given to the legal meaning of sedition that almost any searching criticism of a Colonial Government by a black man or even of the conditions of employment in a Colony has become a punishable offence. How can there be effective trade unionism when many of the Colonies still have remnants of Master and Servant Ordinances on the Statute Book? They exist in Jamaica at the present time, and in most places penal sanctions are still allowed to operate.
What we have done in Ceylon and West Africa surely we can do throughout the Empire, and that is abolish penal sanctions. But let me warn the Committee that at this moment the Secretary of State is waiting to give his signature to a Bill which re-enacts all the old penal sanctions in Kenya Colony. The Ordinance concerning labour tenancy repeats all those sanctions which all decent people view with abhorrence. In addition to reimposing penal sanctions, that Ordinance increases the number of days of labour servitude from 180 to 270, not only for the worker himself but for his family as well. May I express the hope that so far as Tanganyika is concerned the recommendation of the Labour Committee there in favour of the abolition of penal sanctions will be put into effect?
158 As to industrial protection, I would recall what the Secretary of State said on 1st June when talking of child labour. He told the House that, with the consent of a child, it may be contracted into a trade at the age of 9 years in Uganda and at the age of io in. Kenya. It may be that the occupations are of a light kind and that the contract has to be attested by a magistrate, but the fact remains that children of 9 and 10 can be forced away from their homes and subjected to penal sanctions and all the wretched influences of industrial and other types of employment, and that very bad moral effects can accrue to the children. Has this mighty Empire really sunk so low that it has to depend for its well-being upon the employment of black boys and girls—not white boys and girls—of 9 and 10?
Reference has already been made to the political disabilities existing in many of the West Indian Islands. In Jamaica, out of a population of 1,200,000, there are only 60,000 on the franchise roll, and it is a singular thing that the roll is not increasing. Year by year that roll tends to contract, although the population tends to increase. In Mauritius, out of a population of 400,000, only 10,000 are on the franchise roll. In Barbados, out of 190,000 only 5,000 are on the roll. Not only is there no political democracy or wide franchise, but the qualifications for service in the Legislatures are so high as to put them beyond the reach of the genuine representatives of the workers. There is also the difficult problem of Crown Colony Government.
In Cyprus and in Malta we have abolished the constitution. Now an agitation is springing up in Ceylon, on the part of the big interests there, for a modification of the constitution at the expense of the Ceylon people. I hope the Minister will not yield to the demand. I recognise that, so far as the working of political institutions are concerned, we have done good work in the Sudan, in Nigeria and in Uganda, but I am frankly worried at the tendency in other parts of Africa towards creating a subordinate race without any political rights at all.
If I had the time I should have liked to discuss conditions in Mauritius. One hopes that the new Governor there will not only see that the franchise is extended, so that the literate workers are 159 enfranchised, but also that a genuine measure of economic and social reconstruction is carried through. There is also the problem of the recruitment of natives for service on the Rand. We have not yet solved the health problem of natives brought down from the tropics to work in the mines there. The death rate among them is three times as high as among other natives, and we ought to take a firm stand and say that until the International Labour Office Convention is ratified by the Union of South Africa not a single Nyasaland boy can be recruited for work in the mines.
I should also like the Minister to reconsider the position in Kenya. He will shortly be called upon to issue an Order in Council in respect to the Highlands. I believe that discrimination will occur at the expense of the non-European people. I hope such discrimination will be avoided, but I would ask him most seriously to consider this policy of tearing away from their ancestral lands certain of the native people who have for generations lived in those Highlands. It seems to be a cruel and wicked policy to transfer those people from their old territories to land unsuited for them and to which they do not wish to go. Again, I hope that he will not recommend the Royal Assent to the Ordinance which is concerned with labour tenancy. I have already referred to the fact that the new Ordinance increases the number of days of labour servitude from 180 to 270, and makes still more insecure the employment of the natives concerned. Of course, with the reserves overcrowded it is difficult to know where to transfer these natives.
When the Minister is urging big schemes of social reconstruction I hope he will see to it that it is not left to employers to work them out, but that they are carried through by the respective Colonial Governments. In far too many instances it has been left to the employer to see to housing, sanitation, and the rest. Social legislation such as education, health, and housing is a responsibility of the Government, which the Government ought to discharge. We are told in the report about the generous help towards military preparation which has been forthcoming from the Colonial Governments, but I sincerely hope that the programmes of social reconstruction are not going to be crippled 160 because of the grants for military purposes.
Finally, I hope very sincerely that the whole problem of dealing with labour questions at the Colonial Office will be looked into again. I am glad that there is the nucleus of a Labour Department, but I want to see much more. I want to see that Department assisted by an advisory committee, so that there will be a continuous review of labour problems—not a waiting upon events, but, rather, the anticipating of them by recommendations and by wise action. I do not intend to detain the Committee longer by saying what I had intended to say in regard to the Jamaican situation, but I sincerely welcome the announcement by the right hon. Gentleman of the appointment of a Commission to survey the possibilities of future economic and social development in the West Indies. I followed closely his review of the situation in Jamaica, and I am glad that the Commission will take into account not only the West Indies but the mainland of America—British Guiana and British Honduras as well. This Commission was recommended not merely by the Commission which dealt with the disturbances at Barbados. In that of the Trade Commissioner in British Honduras he suggested some inquiry into land settlement in that area and that experiments should be made. The most distressing economic and social conditions exist in the West Indies because of the neglect of local governments, as well as of London itself.
I would add in regard to the West Indies that I hope that the political aspect of the problem will be looked into and that the present disabilities suffered by the workers in Jamaica and other islands will be removed. If you are to get industrial and social legislation through the legislatures, representatives of the people concerned ought to be there to criticise it and to see that the laws are actually put into operation. I welcome the announcement of a new social and labour policy in Jamaica. It is good that the Government are now vigorously concerning themselves with conciliation machinery, a labour department, adequate inspectorates and taking steps for the building up of the standard of life of the working people.
In regard to Palestine, I hope that the Minister will seriously consider what is 161 meant by the phrase "economic absorptive capacity." The statement made in March by the late Secretary of State aroused a considerable amount of misapprehension and there is a feeling, in view particularly of the tragic condition of Jewry and of the lack of hospitality shown to them by almost all countries in Europe, that vigorous steps should be taken to absorb into Jewish Palestine more Jews than are admitted at the present time. I hope that the ban will be lifted and that a generous interpretation will be given to the meaning of "economic absorptive capacity."
I would conclude with the hope that the period of office of the Secretary of State will be distinguished by some arrest of the decay which I have tried to indicate and some definite advance of the people in our Colonial Empire. The "Times" said the other day:If this great heritage of the Colonial Empire is to be developed to the greatest benefit of the native inhabitants and of the world which uses their products, there is needed a greater and more comprehensive effort, directed by far-seeing statesmanship, backed by a more generous use of the financial resources of the home country, and sustained by a keener and better informed public opinion.With that I agree. If the Secretary of State succeeds in this matter, if he resists the assumption of the Imperialism which he once denounced and goes out to build up the native life and to give them self-government, in order to enable them to stand on their own feet in the strenuous conditions of the modern world, he will earn the gratitude not only of this House but of the 60,000,000 people who make up this complex Empire and who look to Great Britain to champion justice.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Captain Peter Macdonald
I have no intention of trying to follow closely the arguments of the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) in his very able survey of the whole field of Colonial administration. I was under the impression at the outset that the Debate would be confined to Jamaica and Palestine, but most speakers have covered the whole economic and Colonial field. I shall confine my observations to that part of the Empire upon which the light of publicity has been turned recently, owing to the unfortunate occurrences in the West Indies, and particularly in 162 Jamaica. A most moving speech was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) pointing out that a report on the situation in Jamaica had been presented in 1897, I think it was, and that certain reforms were recommended, and that since then nothing had been done. I could not help wondering what the right hon. Gentleman had been doing in those 40 years to see that the recommendations of the report were carried out. I regret that his peregrinations around the world have been confined to the autumn of his life, and that he did not realise until he had his leisure—enforced leisure, I was going to say—upon his hands, that he began to wake up to the fact that we had a British Colonial Empire.
I do not want to minimise in any way the picture which the right hon. Gentleman presented to the Committee, but I have been interested for a long time in the Colonies because I have visited the whole of the Colonial Empire. I have felt very much the same as anybody feels who goes there and sees the appalling social conditions of the West Indian Islands. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate, and whom I welcome to this important office, went to the root causes in his characteristically thorough manner when he said that they were chiefly economic, and that the economic distress of the islands had brought on other evils, namely, bad housing conditions and bad sanitary conditions. There is no doubt a great deal of truth in that statement, but nevertheless there is a great deal more than that to be said about the question. The economic position has not always been as bad as it is to-day. Those social evils have been growing up for years and there has certainly been something radically wrong for a long period of years with the administration of those islands.
The question is, what is to be done to relieve that economic situation? Great stress has been put upon the uneconomic price of sugar, but sugar is not the only commodity exported by those islands. Jamaica exports about 17.3 per cent. of the total export of the islands, all of which comes to this country, and over 53 per cent. of bananas, and then there are rum and other commodities. A great deal of stress has been laid on the 163 necessity of more being done for these Colonies than at present. A great deal has been done by grants-in-aid and another £500,000 has been granted for housing reform, but I do not think that is going to be of much benefit to the island unless the root causes are tackled. You must send out young men with vigorous minds to go to the root causes and have the strength of character to see that remedies are forced through. If we have a Colonial Secretary at the age of 37, surely it is not necessary to have many of our Colonial Governors over 55 or 60, not that I want to say anything about the Governors who are doing their service, because most of them deserve well of their country, but most people who live in tropical countries know what effect the climate has upon a man's health and mental capacity, and the fact that he is out of touch with the home administration for a period of years has a very deteriorating effect upon his administrative capacity. There is no question about that. There are far too many men today waiting for their pension and putting off reforms, which they know should be tackled, rather than run the risk of unpopularity with the Colonial Office or in the Colony itself.
When people talk of what should be done by this country for the relief of these Colonies, I like to ask what has been done by the Colonies themselves for their own relief? The British taxpayers pay 5s. 6d. in the Income £ Tax and there is a maximum Surtax of 8s. 4d. In Jamaica in 1935, the last year for which figures are available, ten people had incomes exceeding £20,000 and they paid Income Tax at the maximum rate of 2s. in the £. The rate on incomes exceeding £2,000 and not exceeding £5,000 was 1s. 3d. in the £,and on incomes exceeding £750 and not exceeding £1,000 6d. in the £. The total Income Tax collected was £60,738. There was no Surtax. Private cars paid £5 10s. per annum. Brewers, silk makers and match makers paid for the privilege of carrying on their business £1 a year and newspaper proprietors £1 10s., but a commercial traveller from abroad was obliged to pay £25 per annum. A great deal has been said about sugar, naturally, because it is a most important factor in the life of Jamaica, but the exports of sugar in 1937 represented only 17.3 per cent. of the 164 total exports, as against 53.2 per cent. for bananas. Other exports were rum, 5.3, and coffee 2.5 per cent. Practically the whole of the sugar exports came to this country.
We have been told the amount of the preference that the Jamaica sugar producers are getting. Although I have put my name to an Amendment to the Finance Bill to increase that preference, I do not think the sugar producers can really put the blame for their position entirely upon this country. From 1910 to 1914 the average tonnage was 14,000 and the value £178,000. This is to emphasise the increased production of the Colony over a not considerable period of years. In 1925 the tonnage was 68,939 and the total value £55,846. In 1936 it had come up to 77,000, and in 1937 to 95,000. I do not think we have done Jamaica too badly with regard to sugar. As long as you can encourage native production of staple foodstuffs more than you have done in the past and divert their productive capacity to other channels, I do not think you are ever going to save the island from its economic position by sugar preferences alone.
I sincerely urge upon the Minister to do everything he can to see that young men, more vigorous of mind and with greater courage, are sent out to these Colonies to back him up in his efforts to secure a better and sounder administration than in the past. I welcome the annual report that we have received, and I also welcome the Royal Commission that the right hon. Gentleman is about to set up. Lord Swinton did a great service to the Colonial Empire by his census of production. That was the first step taken in that direction in Colonial administration. It did a great deal to bring the Colonial Empire within the sphere of inter-Imperial trade. This annual survey is another step, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will go still further in bringing the Colonial Empire within the orbit of inter-Imperial and world trade, much to the advantage of ourselves as well as of the Colonies.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern
I think everyone will agree that to hear these stories unfolded of the domination of race over race or class over class brings home to us the truth of the saying of the leader of what is termed the Oxford Group the other day, 165 that there is enough in the world for every man's human needs but there is not enough for some people's human greed. We see in this report, and in the statements of the right hon. Gentleman and of other Members of the House, that there is something radically wrong in what is termed by many speakers this great and glorious Empire of ours. The flag, and the tinsel, and the cheering of the Empire, are one thing, but when one gets down to hard economic facts, and sees the everyday life of the natives of our Colonial Empire, one finds something completely different from all these tales and stories that are told on platforms, in theatres and over the wireless. Human beings suffer to produce wealth, and they are expected to live in poverty, degradation and suffering, never indicating to their white masters that they desire an uplifting of their human standards, that their housing conditions, if they can be called housing, should changed, and that they should be allowed to develop as human beings are entitled to develop.
We hear the right hon. Gentleman saying, with regard to Jamaica and the West Indies in general, that it is no use brushing these troubles aside, that there is a reason, that there is a cause for them, to which we must pay heed. Yes, but the men who have set themselves at the head of the expression of that human discontent are not cheered, or applauded, or told that they deserve well of the Empire; they are clapped into prison for five, 10 and 12 years because they express the human needs of men, women and children in those Colonies. Can anyone read the reports of human suffering and low standards in Jamaica, Trinidad and other parts of the Colonial Empire without a blush of shame that white men, who pretend to be the civilisers, keep their black brothers living, or existing, under such conditions? In these parts of the Empire one can see day in and day out this frustration, these continual promises to the black man that his conditions will be improved. Let me take two examples from the last Trinidad report:We visited the Waterloo sugar estate and were shown the plans of an admirable scheme of rehousing, but were subsequently advised that since the scheme was prepared, the undertaking had been converted into a public company (which, we understand, is mainly United Kingdom personnel), and that the shareholders' money could not be used for the carrying out of the scheme which must now 166 depend upon the profits made by the company. As some of the worst type of barrack dwellings are to be found on lands belonging to this company, we could only conclude that the directors were failing to realise that the claim of the workpeople for the common decencies of home life should be one for primary adjustment, and that, by maintaining the existing conditions, they were providing ground for justifiable discontent.With regard to Port of Spain, the report says:We have already referred to the existence of insanitary barrack dwellings in the city of Port of Spain, and in addition specific reference may be made to the adjacent village of John John, which a medical witness has rightly described as 'an entangled conglomeration of unsightly ruinous huts and privy cesspits placed helter-skelter on a sloping, steep and slippery hillside—a danger to health, life and limb for the local residents and a menace to surrounding city population.'This document and other documents show that the discontent is there, and some pretence has to be made. Plans are drawn up and promises are made, but the plans cannot be passed, and there is further delay. Others take land and say they intend to erect dwellings on it, but no development takes place. The workers, with their 2s. per day standard of life, many of them working three days la week, are asked to pay, as stated in the report, 15s. a month for houses, many of which lie idle because the workers cannot inhabit them even where they are provided. The report says that private ownership has done little or nothing to provide these things for the workers. I am very often angered by the idea—I heard it in a speech to-night—of the superiority of the white race, the superiority of a certain class of the white race. It is no wonder that Englishmen are condemned for their bombastic and impertinent attitude throughout the world. In the course of our history we have taken men and women from mud huts and placed them in Buckingham Palace, and if we can do that along the lines of historical and economic development, the black man, with a human being's needs and requirements, can be taught, can be trained, can be influenced for good by those who take him in charge with the determination to raise the standard of their black brothers and sisters in a decent way.
All these promises remind me of a man in my own area, who was great at what is called telling a good story. He used 167 to go up to the top of a hill and say to his family around him, when they were growing up, "You see all this land around here. It belongs to me. Some day I am going to build a great castle here." His eldest son, who was a mental defective, inherited this same quality from his father, and used, until he was practically of middle age, to say also, "All this land round about here belongs to me, and some day I am going to erect a great castle." That is the type of attitude of the British Government and the ruling class. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the developments that are taking place, and says he welcomes trade unions. Here are documents from a trade union in Trinidad, which at the beginning of July last year put in applications on behalf of its workers for increases in wages. These documents show that, from the beginning of last July to the present date, every effort that was made by the trade union on behalf of the workers was blankly turned down. Some progress seemed to be made towards a meeting, but suddenly the employers' federation said, "We have had word from Mr. Ormsby-Gore to do nothing that will prejudice the situation, and not to meet the members of the trade unions." Now, after 12 months, a stage has been reached where they are being asked to agree to arbitration on claims for an increased standard of wages. That 12 months of broken promises, of defeat of high hopes and expectations on the part of these simple men and women in that part of the world, has led them to believe that there is only one thing in the world to move governments, and that is direct action—the threat of force or the use of force.
If you are going to be constitutionalists I do not mind; but if you are going to teach the black man or the white man to be a constitutionalist, show him that there is some advantage in constitutionalism. I am only prepared to adopt it when it shows some results. When it fails to show results, I am going to take unconstitutional action. The same applies to the workers. Here is the story of 12 months' effort on behalf of the workers, then, when they are driven into the open to express their discontent, the whole forces of law and order are put behind the employing class by an employers' Government. The workers are entitled to be 168 treated in a decent manner, because if the Government are going to maintain the right to have an Empire—a thing I do not believe in—and say to Hitler, "We are not going to give you a part of our Colonial Empire," they must show Hitler that they are better than he is, and not adopt these Hitler-like methods. Here is another case of the wonderful rule of the British ruling class, in which a man in West Africa who stole yams worth 2s. is sent to jail for 10 years. This is a report from the "West African Pilot":The West African Court of Appeal, before Their Honours Sir Donald Kingdon, Chief Justice of Nigeria, President, Mr. Cecil William Carey and Mr. George Graham Paul, Associate-Judges, began sittings on Monday morning 9th May, 1938. The cause list before Their Honours was a heavy one, and contained about 47 cases. Of these cases of various characters, Their Honours dealt with about 15 of them. Among the cases dealt with were Rex versus Philip Esiaka and Ben Udensi, who were convicted by the High Court at Onitsha on 20th January, 1938, for the offence of burglary. The prisoners, who stole yams valued at 2s., were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment.In one case the sentence was reduced to 18 months, but in the other the to years sentence stands. If that happened in this country there would be a howl from every individual with a decent mind. These were probably men who were starving because of the economic conditions which the right hon. Gentleman sees are responsible for the movements taking place in the Empire. There is not only an Imperialist domination, but a class domination on top of that. When we see what is happening in these parts of the Empire, we understand the seeds of war, because the struggle between Mussolini on the one hand and France and Britain on the other hand, is a struggle to see who is going to exploit these people.
You will get from these people only the respect to which you are entitled. You will get only the kind of movements to which you are entitled. I do not compliment the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment, not because I would neglect the ordinary courtesies and decencies of life, but because I will only compliment him when I see something achieved of real value that will be to the permanent advantage of the community. I remember one or two phrases that the right hon. Gentleman's late father had. He said on a platform in Glasgow, speaking to the workers, "Your backs may be bent, 169 but your ways are straight; your hands may be rough, but your hearts are clean." These black men and women who are being exploited to-day have children, they have women folk, and they are entitled to expect decency. If you can, with our Empire, gradually raise the standard of life of the workers, improve their education and their medical services, and increase their wage standards, you can expect respect, and you can say that you are trying to knit together an Empire in order to improve the standards of these people. The present Government is run by the bankers, capitalists and landlords of this country. The Duke of Montrose, the Marquess of Bute and the other people who exploit these territories contribute to the political funds of the Government, and they are entitled to expect that the Government will do something for them in order to protect their profits; but the great mass of the people supporting the National Government believe that this Government is driving ahead.
This one-day Debate on this great subject, on which scores of points might be raised by hon. Members, is a tragedy and a farce. Many Debates in this House which continue for two or three days are of minor importance compared with this. This tremendous upheaval going on in the West Indies to-day cannot be stayed simply by repression, cruelty and imprisonment, and by backing up the exploiters. Some Members talk about the Governors being old men. I do not mind their age, but their ideas are much older than their age. They are living in the time of the Inquisition in Spain. Once discontent gets going and the people realise that they are being exploited and are simply slaves to a slave-owning class, they will drive as hard as they can along the road of progress, and will make things as difficult as possible for any Government that is holding them in subjection.
In regard to Palestine, it has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are acting in the most effective way they can to stamp out terrorism. There is a common impression among a number of well-meaning, honest people that terrorism in Palestine is due to the open hostility of the workers in that country to the possibility of the country being over-run by the 170 Jewish people. That is not the case at all. It is being artificially created by the arable landlords, who are dismayed by the progress made in the country and are stirring up the Arab peasantry, their wives and children. I had an extensive tour right up to Transjordan through Palestine. For a month, I spent night after night on the collective farms, sitting until two or three o'clock in the morning talking to the people with my colleague, the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). We got to know the ideas of the workers, who had been driven from Poland, Germany and other Continental countries by terror and brutality. They had escaped the ruthless terror of Hitler and his accomplices.
In going from village to village we could tell, after a short time, which was a Jewish and which was an Arab village. The Jewish people with their higher standards of education, greater culture and very fine living, healthy specimens of manhood and womanhood, could be seen throughout the country, and living alongside was the fellaheen, the Arab peasant. He was living in villages which were a positive disgrace to present-day civilisation in what was termed his bamboo and straw hut, where children were blind as a result of the filth and the conditions under which they were living. Here the Arabs see the higher standard of culture and education of the Jewish people, and the young men and women going about in shorts and modern dress, and the minds of the Arab women are being stirred. They do not know what is wrong, but they know that something is wrong. The minds of the Arab men are being stirred, and the Arab landlord, afraid that the Arab worker may rise in revolt against him, throw them against the Jewish workers, and says, "There are your enemies, get out your guns and shoot them in the street."
It is an artificial antagonism because right up on the borders of Transjordan, Arabs and Jews came to meet us and we had breakfast with them. Arab children were going to the Jewish school on a visit. They sang Arab and Jewish songs, and sat at a common table and ate a meal together. We had photographs taken but the heads of the villages pleaded with us not to publish their names because, they said, they were being threatened by the Arab landlords that, if they made friends with the Jews, 171 death would be the penalty. Men were going round the small collective farms where shooting was taking place at night. Windows were being shot in and people wounded. In one colony of 90 women they were running a complete farm, consisting of something like 1,500 orange and grapefruit trees, 2,000 fowls and 50 or 60 head of cattle, without the aid of a man. These people were performing miracles. My hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie said, "In the old days in the Ministry I used to talk of miracles, and now I have come to Palestine to see miracles." Lakes and swamps had been converted into arable land. Instead of hampering this sort of development, we ought to be sending the torch of progress into the East to inflame the minds of the Arab population in order to rouse them from their filth to a better standard of living, and give to the East the civilisation which is essential.
The Jewish people are bringing civilisation to the East. There are tens of thousands of these people waiting on the borders of Austria under the terror of Hitler. There is no greater atrocity in the world than to penalise, imprison, beat and murder men and women because of their race, creed or politics. It is a misconception held in some so-called Left quarters that this is a great mass movement in Palestine against the Jewish workers. There is land there which has never been taken up. There is the land of the idle landlord who has lived either in Paris or America and has exploited the population. The Government's partition scheme is all wrong. They agreed to the Mandate, which I might have questioned at the time had I been in politics, and they are in honour bound to carry out their pledge to the population there. They have given an undertaking and should go on not only in Palestine, but in Transjordan. I would put this population of healthy young men and women, virile and progressive, on the soil.
The Jewish people are said to have suffered in the past by not having their roots in the soils. They are getting their roots in the soil. Who can find fault with the Jewish people wanting a home? They are driven from pillar to post at the point of the rifle; they are put in the prison cell and suffer repression of every kind. Let Britain play a great part in bringing 172 these people out of the bonds of repression, torture and terror in Central Europe and giving them an opportunity of living in peace and harmony and in decency. I content myself to-night by saying to the Secretary of State for the Colonies that I wish him well in his position. Much as I differ from him and his Government, I hope that he will be able to bring a measure of relief to the people in the Colonial Empire, and I trust that before he vacates his office we can at least say to him, "You have made some progress during your peiod of office," and that, whether or not at the next General Election the Government go out of office, as I hope they will, we can say for the time being, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Denman
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) in his concluding sentences used language of an eloquence which I am sure must have affected many people in this Committee. On humanitarian grounds I suppose that we are all at one, and the case for opening up the national home for Jewish immigration is overwhelming. We realise the horrible conditions under which Jews are suffering, and we welcome any kind of reasonable or proper method which will redress some of that misery and pain. I should like to advance the same cause by rather a different kind of argument, because there are those who require more material arguments than the humanitarian ones. I want to put to the Government the one simple proposition that it is our business on every ground, British and international, as well as humanitarian, to put Jews into Palestine as rapidly and in as large numbers as we can. That is quite a simple and definite proposition, and I wish to confine my few remarks to reasons for that proposition. I assume one hypothesis on which I think all hon. Members will agree; that we are irrevocably committed to assist in the creation of the Jewish National Home in Palestine. That was a War pledge, given for value received, and it has always been recognised that failure to fulfil that pledge would not only be dishonourable to us but would be profoundly unwise. Were we to antagonise Jewish sentiment throughout the world we should be committing the same great mistake that we committed in antagonising Irish sentiment in the old days. All over the world 173 there were little spots of poison where people hostile to Britain were enabled to make difficulties for us, especially in the United States of America. We do not want a similar experience in the case of the Jews. Apart from the ground of humanitarianism it would be folly for us to go back in any way upon our honourable pledge to assist in the creation of the Jewish National Home.
I should like to remind the Committee of an argument even though it may perhaps not make any appeal to the hon. Member who last spoke, and that is that there were very definite British interests involved in the original pledge. That pledge, as I have said, was given during the War. It was then realised, from practical experience, that it was essential that, if it could be managed, there should be set up in Palestine a friendly State. One might, by analogy, say that what we need in the Eastern Mediterranean is something in the nature of a Portugal, a friendly State bound to us by ties of reciprocal interest, so that a major strategical point is not in the hands of a hostile Power. That, I suppose, is the function in the matter of strategy that Portugal performs in stabilising conditions in the Atlantic. A similar Power, a similar stabilising influence of a settled and friendly State in the Eastern Mediterranean, is clearly a major interest for world peace. That was felt by us during the War and the arguments for it have obviously grown stronger with the passage of time, because those were the days before the development of air power. In those days our Navy could command the Mediterranean fairly efficiently, but in these days of air power the command of the Mediterranean is obviously far less simple and far less secure.
Therefore, a friendly and powerful State in the Eastern Mediterranean is of vital interest for the British Empire. I should not argue for British interests if they were contrary to world interests, or contrary to the interests of the people in the territory concerned. We no longer regard Colonies as places where we can play our own national game, but where you can combine international and local interests with British interests, I think we are entitled to stress the fact that British interests have their importance.
There is the further interest to which the hon. Member opposite referred, 174 namely, the interest of our honour. We are committed by the most solemn obligations not only to the Jews, but to others. We accepted this Mandate from the Allied and Associated Powers. We undertook to them to assist in the creation of the Jewish National Home. We hold that Mandate with the approval of Italy and the other Allied and Associated Powers, and if we surrendered it Italy could claim to have some authority to decide the matter. There is a third body to whom we are responsible, and that is the League of Nations. We are responsible to the League for the conduct of the Mandate. The League can vary its terms, as for example, Article 18, which imposes the fiscal conditions on Palestine. But we have a responsibility to the League for competent administration, and I say that failure to carry out the Mandate, unless for it there is substituted something that commands universal agreement, would be another disaster for the League itself. The Mandate system is one of the League's major functions, and of all the Mandates the Palestine Mandate is probably of the greatest importance to the world. If that fails one more of the fruits and achievements of the League will have been lost.
There is another aspect of the immigration question, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones). He referred to the Conference that is about to take place at Evian, which has been summoned by the President of the United States, to provide some international means for dealing with Jewish refugees. What is to be our attitude at that Conference? The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) talked of our being the greatest landowners in the world. Are we to say that at most we can spare little bits of land for a few refugees? If so, is that all that a great Empire is able to offer towards the solution of this problem of the settlement of refugees, for which purpose the President of the United States has called the Conference? Is the Jewish National Home to make no contribution of substance? Are we at that conference going to say that there is a political ceiling of 1,000 immigrants there and that we cannot go higher than that ceiling and cannot allow more refugees into that Jewish National Home? That is to be the one portion of the globe where 175 immigration is to be strictly limited and confined. Is that the view that we can possibly take up? I am sure that the Government will not be able to take up that attitude. Therefore, I urge that the immigration of Jews should be encouraged to the maximum possible extent. We have been told, what is perfectly true, that the future of Palestine is still sub judice and that as between partition and Mandate a decision has not yet been reached. Like the last speaker, I never liked the idea of partition. If it were accepted by the Arabs, well and good, but if not it seemed to me to provide no solution of the problem but rather to make the problem more difficult.
Even if partition is to come, why hold up immigration now? No one proposes that the scheme of partition shall give the Jews less land than is provided under the Commission's outline. If that solution were accepted, immigration would be allowed up to the economic absorptive capacity of the area. Why not allow that here and now? I do not see any disadvantage in allowing immigration to take place within the recognised minimum area. We have expressly asserted that until partition has been decided upon the Mandate remains. The principle of the economic absorptive capacity has been the accepted interpretation of the Mandate policy from the earliest; therefore, I say that there is no reason for maintaining this political upper limit. I feel real sympathy with the Arabs. I think it is extremely hard that any country should have to suffer the invasion of even the most delightful people, if it is against their wish. If there were an invasion of angels in Cumberland I should be very much annoyed. If you domiciled 100,000 angels in Cumberland I do not say that I should snipe them or advise other people to snipe at them, but I should resent the intrusion of an alien people.
§ Mr. Denman
Probably for the same kind of reason which I imagine actuates the Arabs in objecting to the Jews. I have no doubt that I should find them always so reasonable, always so right, so thoroughly efficient, and I should be aware of a different musical taste. I have no doubt that the Arabs have 176 some of this feeling. It is, however, no kindness to the Arabs to slow down the process of the infiltration of Jews. As long as the angels come in by a few scores at a time we should probably go on resisting, but if they came in overwhelming numbers and we had to accept the invasion as an accomplished fact, we should no doubt find them charming fellow citizens. So long as you do not solve this problem in the only way it can be solved, by a mass immigration of Jews, so long as you allow the Arabs to believe that by continuing their agitation and making it difficult they will succeed in preventing it, so long are you making a settlement impossible.
I firmly believe that when this immigration is an accomplished fact, when you have a real National Home in Palestine you will find the two peoples settling down, the Arabs will be attracted by the superior standards of living of the Jews and will realise that life has amenities which have been quite outside their range hitherto, and that life is pleasanter altogether. But until that step is taken, there will continue to be agitation and difficulties. To conclude, I wish to make an appeal to my right hon. Friend. The great statesman is the one who, when confronted by a difficulty, discovers in it a great opportunity. I believe that in Palestine we have a great opportunity, and I rely upon my right hon. Friend to take it.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Paling
Like other hon. Members, I think that the issue of this report on Colonial matters is a very good idea. The report is necessarily a short one, but it gives a fairly good picture of the Colonial situation, and I think we ought to commend the right hon. Gentleman on its issue. However—and perhaps I shall be the first to be critical of it—I think the report, like most of the speeches delivered by Colonial Secretaries in Debates such as this, does not go very deeply into the matter, and it tends to make everybody think that everything in the Colonies is all right. I do not think that is the case, and I was glad that to-day the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that in one or two places things are very far from being all right. I do not intend to deal only with Jamaica, but also with East Africa. Although it may be true that the economic conditions in Jamaica and Trinidad are 177 to some extent responsible for the bad situation which has existed in those Colonies for some years, and although their industries, particularly the agricultural industry, have been finding it very difficult to export their produce and to make a profit, the fact remains that the bad conditions in Jamaica and the West Indies in general have existed for many years. They were equally bad, if not worse, when those industries were prosperous. When the people exploiting those industries were making huge profits, no attempt was made to deal with the bad conditions that have just been made public to the world. I hope that, although industry there may be in a relatively bad way at the present time, that fact will not be used as an excuse for doing nothing now that these disclosures have been made.
The wages paid in the West Indies have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who said that he was shocked when he saw in the report on Jamaica that wages there are as low as 2s. 6d. a day. The natives have been agitating for higher wages for years and years, but they have not made much progress. They have been agitating for trade unions and for better conditions, but the employers, when they were doing well, would not have anything to do with trade unions; they did all they could to prevent their coming into being, and I am afraid that the Colonial administration sided with the employers on nearly every occasion. When anybody in those Colonies has tried to put forward the point of view of the workers, he has been looked upon as an agitator, a Marxist, a Communist, and all sorts of things, and generally he has managed to land himself in gaol. It is a very sad story, and I hope that now it has been disclosed, and now that one hon. Member after another on the other side of the Committee has said that something ought to be done, the right hon. Gentleman will deal with the matter and see that wages are increased, that social services are put into operation, that the labour department is set up, that trade unions are allowed to exist, with the same full rights as they have in this country, and that full liberty will be given to these people to voice their grievances publicly without going against the law of the land. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that he hoped to be able to deal with that 178 question and I hope he will deal with it on those lines.
The West Indies, however, are not the only places in our Colonial Empire about which there is something to be said in this respect. My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly was shocked at the idea of wages of 2s. 6d. a day in Jamaica, but I wonder what he would say to the wages that are being paid to native labour in East Africa. There, 2S. 6d. a day represents vast wealth to the native labourer and I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, are we not drifting, in our East African Colonies, into exactly the same position as that which obtains now in the West Indies? The natives there are being industrialised more and more every year. More and more they are being compelled to go out seeking wages in order to pay their taxes. Wage-earning has become the general thing and industrialism is growing apace. Is the right hon. Gentleman content that that kind of thing should continue in our Colonies? Was it not intended that in those Colonies, in both East and West Africa there should be a system of agriculture and that the natives whose land it is, or ought to be—I am sorry to say that a great deal of the land is no longer theirs—should be able to remain on the land and work it instead of being industrialised and turned into wage slaves as we understand the term to-day. Was it not understood that the kind of evolution which has taken place in the West Indies should not apply in those Colonies? But it is going on there now and the right hon. Gentleman must know that, if the process continues at the present rate, it will result in even worse evils than those which have been disclosed in connection with the West Indies. With regard to wages I take the case of Tanganyika. Tanganyika has gold mines and the report of 1936 says:On the gold mines in the Musoma district, conditions of employment are satisfactory. Employers are beginning to realise that good housing and ample rations do as much as adequate wages to attract and keep the right kind of labour. The Geita mine in the western part of the Mwanza district is the most important in the province and its labour organisation has been the object of considerable interest.… The company is doing all it can to make conditions at the mine as attractive and comfortable as possible.Now listen to what the wages are. They begin at 12s. a month, for underground labour. That is for a month of 30 work- 179 ing days—five full weeks. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied with that condition of things? This, I would remind hon. Members, is described in the report as being one of the best mines in the Colony where the best conditions obtain. If the labourer's work is satisfactory, he has the prospect of rising by a series of increases of 2s. each to a wage of 18s. per month. I call that exploitation of the worst kind. This applies not only to wages in Tanganyika, for about two years ago a report was made on the conditions existing on one of the goldfields, and it made nearly as bad reading. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to give his attention to that side of the question.
Here is the report on Nigeria, where the wage of an unskilled farm labourer in Nigeria, in the Cameroons, varies from 2d. to 3d. per day. In some cases these labourers have rations in addition, but the rations cost only a matter of a copper or two per day and are hardly ever as high as 2d., so that there is not much in that. These natives are driven out because of the tax that they have to pay, which is sometimes as much as 15s. or 16s. a year, and they have to work as much as two or three months, 30-day months, in order to pay the tax, in addition to having to earn sufficient to keep themselves and to take them back to their own territories, which may be hundreds of miles distant, when their contract of labour is finished.
I have here another report, from Northern Rhodesia, and we have just had a report made by Sir Alan Pim—which again, in its way, is as bad as the report from Trinidad—of appalling conditions existing there. They pay 7s. 6d. per month for unskilled labour on farms and in rural areas, and 10s. per month in towns and industrial areas. In the copper mines the wages are slightly better than in the gold mines in Tanganyika, but even so they are only 18s. per month on the surface and about 31s. 6d. per month, again a 30-day month, underground. These mines have not even the excuse that has been made by the employers in Jamaica, because I read that three of these mines in Northern Rhodesia paid £5,000,000 in dividends in 1937. It is true that that is the highest that they have paid, but for some years 180 their dividends have been on a large scale and have been going up, until this year, as I say, three companies have paid over £5,000,000, yet they find it possible to pay only,18s. for a 30-day month for unskilled labour at the top and 31s. 6d. for labour down in the pit.
§ Mr. Paling
Rations are included in some cases that I mentioned, and it is admitted in most of these reports that the rations themselves only amount to 2d. and at the most 3d. a day, but it is hardly ever 3d. As to housing, it is true that in some cases they do provide housing but I think the less said about housing the better, because I am told that at some of these mines the houses they build for their people cost about 5s. each, so that they do not spend much out of their £5,000,000 profits on building houses. With regard to Uganda, exactly the same thing obtains, and in the report for 1936 it says:In the cotton ginneries visited the rate of pay by the month, or on the completion of 30 working days, ranged between 7s. and 12s. and averaged 9.87s.That is less than 10s. for 30 working days. In regard to hours, the report says:During the ginning season hours of work averaged 11 in the day. Half of the ginneries had recognised rest periods of from half an hour to an hour; the others had no such periods, either employing a few more men for relief work or making no provision at all.The right hon. Gentleman has indicated that he is setting up labour departments in some of the Colonies. They used to exist before 1931, but most of them were abolished as an economy measure. There has been an attempt lately to set some of them up again. I went into one of these ginneries in Tanganyika. The dust inside was almost incredible, and people should not have to work 11 hours in such conditions. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will call the attention of the local administrators of these Colonies not only to the abnormally long hours and low wages but to the conditions under which the people have to work day after day. With regard to compensation, the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) indicated that the report on the Colonies stated that compensations exist in most of the Colonies. He said that most of it was window dressing, and I believe it is.
181 The amounts of compensation given in most cases are shockingly low; it is given under conditions that are very difficult, and few of the people can get it. I understand that a draft code of compensation was sent out to the Colonies for study two or three years ago, but it appears that hardly any of the Colonies have put it into operation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give his attention to that.
Another question which requires attention is that of recruiting. For some years, I believe since 1931, there has been a tendency for recruiting to go down. The numbers of recruiters in some Colonies, Tanganyika in particular, went down to a very low figure. Since the gold mines started the number has gone up to a large figure and the number of natives recruited for work is very much higher than it was two or three years ago. The right hon. Gentleman knows that this system lends itself to great abuse, and I hope that he will deal with it and see whether it is possible to cut out recruiting altogether. If decent wages are given and good conditions provided, there will be no need for the recruiter. These people will do the work without being compelled, as they are to some extent by the recruiting method. I would like to refer also to the report on Nyasaland. Two years ago an alarming report was produced about natives leaving Nyasaland to find work. The report stated:Our investigations have deepened profoundly our individual and collective sense of responsibility. We must confess that, six months ago, there was not one of us who realised the seriousness of the situation; as our investigations proceeded we became more and more aware that this uncontrolled and growing emigration brought misery and poverty to hundreds and thousands of families and that the waste of life, happiness, health and wealth was colossal.Thousands of these natives from Nyasaland, in spite of that report, have been sent down to work in the Rand mines. It is admitted that tropical labour working in these mines is at a great disadvantage as regards health. In the last year for which there is any report it is stated that the death rate among the natives from the tropics was 18 per 1000, as against 8 per 1,000 in the case of natives from the neighbourhood of the Rand, and yet another agreement has been made between the administration in Nyasaland and the authorities on the 182 Rand to send 8,000 or 9,000 more natives to the Rand this year. Is it necessary, in view of that alarming death rate, to send these men from the tropics to the Rand? Will the right hon. Gentleman give his attention to that point?
My last question is in reference to the health and medical services. In the Pim Report on Northern Rhodesia extensive reference is made to the lack of medical services there. It is stated on page 345:Except along the railway line and in European areas the medical service is very defective and more than half the territory has not even the most rudimentary medical facilities.That is rather an alarming statement, but there are other statements equally bad. On page 290 it is stated:Taking the Territory as a whole the present medical provision for a native population of 1,366,000 … is entirely inadequate. In-chiding every Government post and every missionary medical post aided by Government, no matter how small … a total is reached of some 70 posts where Government makes provision for medical aid to natives. On the generous assumption that each of these covers an area of 25 miles radius or about 2,000 square miles more than half the Territory remains unprovided for.There is another reference to the subject in paragraph 539. I should like to ask why the ordinary reports, issued year by year, from all these Territories do not give some indication that this state of affairs exists. Nearly always it is left to a special commission to the Colonies to report these things and to shock the conscience of the people of this country. The administrative officers in these Colonies must know that these things do exist, and why is it that we are not told in the ordinary reports sent out from the Colonies year by year? You can read these reports as carefully as you like but you will not find any reference to this kind of thing, although the officials must know what is going on.
Finally, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman: What is the Government's policy with regard to these Colonies? Is this industrialisation to go on? Is there to be an ever-increasing pressure upon the natives to become wage-earners? Are they to be driven from the land? Is the possibility of their becoming peasant proprietors or small agriculturists living by their own exertions on their own land to fade away until we have a state of affairs as bad as that which exists in the West Indies or, it may be, in some parts 183 of South Africa? Are these natives, in so far as they have any land left, to be more and more crowded into ever-decreasing reserves, where there is not room for them to live? That seems to be the policy of this Government. Is that policy to continue? In face of what we have learned of the appalling conditions in the West Indies, and of what we are told is in these reports, will the Government change their policy and stop this relentless exploitation of the natives in the interest of making profits for people in England, and carry out the declaration of the Duke of Devonshire that the interests of the natives must be paramount?
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. M. MacDonald
The discussion has ranged fairly widely over the whole Colonial Empire, but it has always tended to wander back to the same place, and that is the West Indies. What was very remarkable was the way in which feeling regarding the West Indies was unanimous in every part of the Committee. Despite what was said at the end of his speech by the hon. Member for Shettlestone (Mr. McGovern), I do not quite agree with him as to the chain of cause and effect in the West Indies. But everyone was agreed as to the serious nature of the position in regard to these Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) expressed the temper of the Committee when he said that what was wanted was action. He wondered whether the Government meant action. He said that he hoped that I meant action. If he will do me the honour of reading my speech to-morrow or the next day, or whenever he has some leisure, I hope he will find that it means that the Government do mean action. That was certainly the impression which I intended to convey.
Some of the action for which he is anxious has already been taken at this moment, and some of it was being taken some time before the recent outbreaks in Jamaica. The right hon. Gentleman gave a very moving description of some of the slums which he visited in Kingston. That was about a year ago. I think he will be glad to know that his friend the late Governor, as long ago as January of this year, was able to set aside, I think it was, £100,000 for slum clearance in Kingston.
184 That clearance scheme has been in operation for some time, and I am in communication with the Acting-Governor at the present time in regard to further slum clearance schemes and to see how those programmes can be advanced. With regard to the West Indies, there is nothing that I would add to my statement.
I was asked one or two questions by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans), who wanted to know when there would be an announcement about the new Governor. I believe that the announcement will appear in to-morrow morning's newspapers. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not here?"] When hon. Members read the name they will know that the man who has been appointed the present Governor of Fiji is well known as one of the best Governors in the service. He is a comparatively young man, in his early 50's, and I am certain that he will be an excellent choice for this very difficult and important post. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is he?"] Sir Arthur Richards.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Will the Commission which is to be appointed be able to remedy political disabilities?
§ Mr. MacDonald
At the end of my speech I said that we had not settled the terms of reference, but they will have to have very careful consideration and the matter should be left until that consideration has been given.
A good many direct questions were put to me and I will answer as many as I can in the time at my disposal. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) was anxious that the Government should understand the position of the House of Commons with regard to the partition of Palestine. He emphasised the fact that, when the discussion on the Peel Report took place, the House did not commit itself to the principle of partition. All that it committed itself to was the further exploration of the possibility of partition. The Government is very well aware that that is the position of the House of Commons at the present time and that no final decision on the principle can be taken until the House has been able to express its opinion on the matter. I can assure him that the position of the House will be perfectly safeguarded in regard to that. Further, he asked me what was the position about the 185 Negus. The survey that was recommended by the Peel Commission has already been started. This Government is contributing something like £44,000 towards the expense of that survey in Palestine and Trans-Jordan this year. A number of wells have already been sunk but it is too early yet to make any statement about the conclusions that can be drawn from this investigation.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) asked about Tegart's Wall. Could he be assured that the wall was following the boundary of the country and that the various settlements were on the southern side of the wall? That is not exactly the position. The wall does not in every place follow the exact boundary of Palestine. The purpose of the wall is not to protect this or that individual place. It is to be effective in preventing the incoming of bandits and arms for the assistance of terrorists and it is built for that purpose and is following the line that is most effective from the strategic point of view for that particular purpose.
In connection with the question of Jewish immigration into Palestine two or three Members asked about the conference that is being called to discuss the fate of Jewish refugees in Central Europe, and I was asked whether I could say what the policy of the Government would be at that conference. The Government is now engaged in considering what policy it may be able to put forward and it would be premature at this stage to make any announcement on the matter. It requires further consideration.
Some questions were asked about Malta. The hon. Member for Caerphilly remarked on the fact that, as far as he could see, under the new Constitution, the expenditure, which at one time he thought extravagant, had increased by something like 40 per cent. I think the figure is a little exaggerated. I do not deny that expenditure by the Government has increased, but the expansion of social services which the Government is undertaking, and which I have no doubt is generally welcomed, necessarily involves increased expenditure. For instance, a considerable slum clearance scheme has been planned on the initiative of my predecessor, and certainly the greater part of that expenditure is for purposes which 186 the hon. Member would wholeheartedly support. Then he asked what is the position with regard to the Constitution. When the present Constitution was being discussed in the House in 1936, it was announced that the Constitution based on Crown Colony government was a temporary measure, not intended to stand for all time. The hon. Member will be aware that at this moment an appeal regarding a certain matter connected with the Constitution is about to be heard by the Privy Council. I think the date which has been fixed for the hearing is the 20th of this month, and in the circumstances, while that particular matter is sub judice, it will perhaps be inappropriate for me to say more regarding the constitutional position in Malta.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely asked about the similar situation in Cyprus. He asked whether there was any proposal for the restoration of representative institutions in the government of Cyprus. The policy we are pursuing there is to start democratic forms of government in the local councils first, and to build up from these beginnings. We have already made a start in the local councils.
A number of questions were put regarding East Africa and labour in East Africa—for instance with regard to the employment of children 10 years of age in Kenya. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members who have been asking questions on this matter that I said I was considering whether the policy embodied in the various Ordinances I have described, covering the employment of juveniles in the East African Colonies, was adequate to prevent the employment of children at ages and under conditions to which, on humanitarian grounds, objection could legitimately be taken, and that I promised to call for reports from the Governors on these questions. I have asked for those reports, and have heard to-day from the Governor of Kenya that, with regard to the question of juvenile employment in Kenya, he has set up a local committee of inquiry to review and report upon the question of child labour in Kenya, particularly as regards the minimum age and the application of penal sanctions in the enforcement of contracts entered into by juveniles.
The whole matter, therefore, is now under review, and, when the report of 187 that local committee is available, we shall, of course, give it very careful consideration from the humanitarian point of view. There were a great many questions regarding labour in Africa, where, of course, very great problems are raised by the development of industrialism. I had hoped to have time to answer those questions, but I know that the hon. Member is very anxious to move a reduction of the Vote, and so I must sit down in order that he may exercise his constitutional right. I will only say, in conclusion, that I think the whole committee has been unanimous about one thing,
§ namely, the value of an annual statement by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I believe it is a very valuable statement. I think that my predecessor has created a very valuable precedent, and, if I am here next year, I propose to follow it.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £117,978, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 131; Noes, 200.189
|Division No. 232.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Pearson, A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hayday, A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Price, M. P.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Ridley, G.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Jagger, J.||Riley, B.|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ritson, J|
|Batey, J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||John, W.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benson, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bevan, A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Sexton. T. M.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kelly, W. T.||Silkin, L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Burke, W. A.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cape, T.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Stephen, C|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cove, W. G.||Leach, W.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lee, F.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Daggar, G.||Leonard, W.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Dalton, H.||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McGovern, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, H.||MacLaren, A.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dobbie, W.||Maclean, N.||Walker, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mander, G. le M.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Marklew, E.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Marshall, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mathers, G.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Foot, D. M.||Maxton, J.||Westwood, J.|
|Frankel, D.||Messer, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Gallacher, W.||Milner, Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbre, W.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Groves, T. E.||Owen, Major G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Paling, W.||Mr. Adamson and Mr. F.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parkinson, J. A.||Anderson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Barrie, Sir C. C.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Broadbridge, Sir G. T.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Beechman, N. A.||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Beit, Sir A. L.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Bernays, R. H.||Bull, B. B.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Campbell, Sir E. T.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Cartland, J. R. H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Carver, Major W. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Boyce, H. Leslie||Cary, R. A.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Bracken, B.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Higgs, W. F.||Remer, J. R.|
|Channon, H.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Holmes, J. S.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hopkinson, A.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hulbert, N. J.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hunloke, H. P.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hunter, T.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Crooke, Sir J. S.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Salt, E. W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Latham, Sir P.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lees-Jones, J.||Scott, Lord William|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Selley, H. R.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lipson, D. L.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Liewellin, Colonel J. J||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Loftus, P. C.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Denville, Alfred||Lyons, A. M.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Doland, G. F.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Donner, P. W.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Drewe, C.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Spans, W. P.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Macnamara, Major J. R. J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Suater, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Emery, J. F.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Moreing, A. C.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Everard, W. L.||Morgan, R. H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Furness, S. N.||Munro, P.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Nall, Sir J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Gledhill, G.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Patrick, C. M.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Goldie, N. B.||Peake, O.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Petherick, M.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Pilkington, R.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hambro, A. V.||Procter, Major H. A.||Wise, A. R.|
|Hannah, I. C.||Radford, E. A.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wragg, H.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Ramsbotham, H.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ramsden, Sir E.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Rayner, Major R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Reed, A. C. (Excter)||Captain Hope and Lieut.-Colonel|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||C. Kerr.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.