§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The heart of every Member in the House to-day is gripped by a deep anxiety, and throughout the nation that anxiety is felt, for so much of the most vigorous and best of our young manhood is at this moment exposed to mortal danger. In the fields of Belgium, in the air, and on the sea, they are engaged in defending, against a ruthless foe, our lives and our land and our liberties. There is no step that this House would hesitate to take to support their stubborn resolution, their glorious courage and their lighting skill, upon which, with the renowned martial qualities of our Allies, the future of civilisation depends. It is one of the awful features of the war that it releases almost universally forces of destruction. Material things, precious works of art, human lives and man's painfully achieved records of progress are all alike exposed to possible annihilation. The greater part of the time of hon. and peace-loving Members of this House is now also devoted to the stern business of destruction. The Prime Minister said that the policy of the Government is to wage war, and by far the greater part of those vast sums of money which we are asking the taxpayers to-day to contribute will be turned into weapons for discomfiting, defeating, destroying the enemy.
It is characteristic, that whilst every ounce of our energy is thrown into that task, this House nevertheless finds time to turn and to offer substantial and indeed generous encouragement to Colonial development. In the midst of the ruin of so much, it is good to be engaged still upon certain works of construction. Moreover, there is another significance attaching to our proceedings this afternoon. At this critical hour let the world mark the passage of the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill through the British Parliament as a sign of our faith in ultimate victory. This nation will pass triumphantly through its 42 present ordeal, however hard and grim and desperate the struggle may be. When the enemy is worsted and the war is finished, Britain will still exercise vast responsibilities for the government of Colonial peoples. In the meantime we must not default upon our Colonial obligations, we must not let slip the experienced skill of our guiding hand; we must still, even now, have a constant care to protect and to promote the well-being of our fellow subjects in the Empire overseas. In these sombre days our anxieties and our hopes are fully shared by the peoples of the Colonies. It seems to me that one of the most notable assurances that our cause is just is the fact that these distant peoples, alien to us in race, who are ruled by us, sprang instantly and spontaneously to our side at the moment of the declaration of war.
There are some 50 Colonial territories. Most of them are far removed from the scene of our European quarrels. They had no hand in the writing of that chapter in the story of international relations which closed so disastrously on 3rd September last. Many of them are comparatively small communities which, in those circumstances, might well have sought to excuse themselves from suffering the hazards and the dangers of. modern war, but not a single one of them chose to take that course. On the contrary, every single Colonial territory has voluntarily associated itself with us, every one of them has asked in what way it could help best the Allied war effort, and they are contributing, by gifts of treasure, by the production of essential foodstuffs and raw materials, and by the eager raising of Colonial military units far in excess of anything that they did at a similar period in the last war. I think it is significant that these 60,000,000 people, scattered over 50 different territories, who are not yet free to govern themselves, who are governed by us, recognised instinctively from that experience that we are the true guardians of the liberties and the happiness of small peoples. Nevertheless, the proposals for assistance towards Colonial development which are contained in this Bill were not devised after war had begun. They are not a bribe or a reward for the Colonies' support in this supreme crisis. They were conceived long before the war. For many months before that the details of these proposals were already being 43 worked out in the Colonial Office. They are a part of the normal peace-time development of our Colonial policy, and if we had not been engaged in war, the Government would still have been introducing this legislation in the present Session of Parliament.
The voters in this small democratic island have many large responsibilities, but they have none that is greater than their charge of the government of Colonial peoples. The problems of development and welfare in the Colonies are very different from those problems in this country. For instance, to take an extreme case, there are communities in parts of the Colonial Empire where life is as simple and ideas are as primitive as they were among our ancestors in this island some 2,000 years ago. That is not typical. The Colonial Empire, of course, contains a great variety of peoples and of circumstances. There are countries within it where there are societies famed for culture and long-established civilisation. Nevertheless, it is true, generally speaking, that economic and social requirements in the Colonies are quite different, in many cases they are at a far, far earlier stage of development than they are in Western Europe, and it would be a profound error to suppose that economic and social standards which are established here and which are rightly considered as a minimum standard by our people in this country, can be translated at once, suddenly, to the many different peoples in the many different countries of the Colonial Empire. But what we do have to ensure is that the progress from their existing standards is steady, that it is suitable to the different climatic and other conditions in which they live, and that they have the actual means of making that progress at their disposal.
In the last generation there has been a great deal of wise government of the Colonies by experienced, sympathetic, understanding British administrators, aided to an ever-increasing degree by local executive officers and legislatures. The advance has been continuous. For example, the extension of the service of trained agricultural officers throughout the Colonial Empire has led to remark able improvements in the methods of production and marketing of Colonial goods; the steady reinforcement of the 44 Colonial medical service at every front in the Colonial Empire has resulted in an increasingly effective attack upon tropical and other Colonial diseases; and the slow expansion of the education service is gradually bringing enlightenment where sometimes only dark ignorance prevailed before. But in all this important process many Colonies have suffered from one handicap. The development of the resources and the services of a country is naturally an expensive business. It requires a considerable expenditure of money, it requires a certain reliable robustness of revenue, and the simple truth is that many of our Colonial territories have not had adequate means to achieve that object.
Of course that is not true of all of them. In some of the Colonies there are rich resources of material wealth. They are producers of gold, copper, tin, oil and rubber, and these countries are comparatively well off, having ample revenue to finance enlightened and progressive government. But that is not the situation in a majority of the Colonies. They are mostly and almost wholly agricultural countries, and though it may be that in the past the fruits of their soil were able to draw a goodly ransom from the markets of the world, that has not been the case during these latter years, when agricultural markets have been glutted and prices have often fallen to a disastrously low level. At present a majority of the Colonies cannot finance from their own energies and out of their own resources their own proper developments. They cannot undertake some of the engineering, irrigation and other works of capital development, they cannot afford to finance the agricultural and veterinary research, and they cannot afford to increase their service of agricultural officers, all of which are essential if the exploitation of their economic resources is to be realised to the full. Nor can the territories in some cases afford medical research, the building of clinics, hospitals and schools, and the steady increase of their health, educational and other technical officers necessary if the standard of their social services is to be what it should be.
Therefore the Government are introducing this legislation, because the British people who have assumed responsibilities for these Colonies in these circumstances 45 must assume responsibility for providing the wherewithal for establishing these works. This principle has been partially recognised in the past. There is, for instance, the existing Colonial Development Act. That Act is a most valuable Measure which has been on the Statute Book for the last 10 years, but it is one which this Bill now seeks to supersede. Those who are familiar with the Debates of 1929 will remember that even then the primary purpose of our legislation was not to help colonial development for its own sake, but in order to stimulate that development mostly to bring additional work to idle hands in this country. It was devised as part of our scheme to solve our own unemployment problem.
In that respect, as in other respects, the Bill which we are discussing this afternoon breaks new ground. It establishes the duty of taxpayers in this country to contribute directly and for its own sake towards the development in the widest sense of the word of the colonial peoples for whose good government the taxpayers of this country are ultimately responsible. I should like to pay a tribute to one of my colleagues whose part in the achievement of this policy I have not noticed commented upon in the newspapers or elsewhere. It is very easy for a Colonial Secretary to devise a policy like this, and it is extremely easy for the Colonial Secretary to advance upon the Treasury and ask for several million pounds to be devoted out of the Revenue for this purpose, but it is not easy for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to grant that request. It is particularly difficult for him to do it in the middle of a great war, when many other urgent, irresistible and incalculable demands are being made upon his resources; but my Noble Friend who is being introduced this afternoon into another place, Viscount Simon, never demurred. He encouraged and supported these proposals as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he accepted them, and I think that he, and his advisers in the Treasury who were equally sympathetic, deserve our praise for high statesmanship and vision.
This legislation proposes fresh departures in a number of directions from the points which have been reached by our existing Colonial Development Act. Briefly, I should like to mention the three most important of these. First, the moneys to be made available for colonial 46 development are to be multiplied more than five-fold. Instead of a fund restricted to a maximum of £1,000,000 a year, this Bill would authorise expenditure on colonial research up to £500,000 a year, and expenditure on colonial development and welfare up to £5,000,000 a year. The provision with regard to research is to be made for an indefinite number of years, and the provision with regard to development and welfare is to be assured for the next ten years. These figures £500,000 and £5,000,000 are maximum figures so far as the present legislation is concerned. Even in more auspicious circumstances, and even if we were still in the blessed days of peace, it could not be supposed that we should arrive at once at that rate of expenditure. Time will be necessary for the careful working out and vetting of comprehensive well-balanced plans of development. Then time will be required for putting these plans into practice, and it will be some time after that before the many schemes involving development reach their maximum activity and costliness. Even in peace-time I think that that process of working up to the maximum of expenditure would perhaps take some two or three years, but in war-time, alas, other obstacles are likely to lie across the path. In some cases material which might be required for Colonial schemes will be being put to other more urgent uses, and in some cases labour which might be required for schemes of Colonial development will be engaged upon tasks which aim directly at the defeat of the enemy. I do not think that the maximum figures mentioned in this legislation are likely to be attained at any time during the war, but I can assure the House, and the great colonial audience outside this House, that we shall work towards these figures as far as and as fast as the exigencies of these unhappy times permit.
The second new departure to which I wish to draw attention is this. Under the existing Act it is not only the money but the object on which that money can be expended which is somewhat limited. For example, money out of the existing Colonial Development Fund had to be spent upon objects which were concerned with the material development of the Colonies, and under that definition some of the most important activities of colonial Governments were absolutely debarred from obtaining any assistance. For 47 example, technical education might qualify, but as regards all the rest of educational activity, a Colonial Government could only appeal in vain for help from the Colonial Development Fund. In this legislation we are going to widen the whole field of works and activity which we can assist. Certainly the Government will attach particular importance to giving assistance to work of economic development, because these are the works which will increase most rapidly the material wealth of the colonies concerned. These are the works which will enable us to exploit to the maximum extent the natural resources of these territories, and these are the works therefore which will put a colony at the earliest possible moment in a position to finance out of its own resources the administration and social services which are required.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I was referring to all sorts of works, such as irrigation, agricultural development works, and similar works of economic development which will increase productivity. Our object under this legislation is to develop the Colonies so that as far as possible they become self-supporting units. But in the meantime their citizens must enjoy a proper standard of social services, and we shall count as qualifying for assistance under this Bill every part of the health and medical activities and every part of the educational activities of a colonial Government. In this legislation the word "development" has not a narrow materialistic interpretation. It certainly covers the development of the material economic resources of a territory, but it also covers everything which ministers to the physical, mental or moral development of the colonial peoples of whom we are the trustees.
There is in the existing legislation a third cramping provision which we propose to abolish under this Bill. For the moment money out of the Colonial Development Fund can be contributed only towards the capital cost of works. We cannot contribute a penny towards the normal maintenance cost of those works. We can contribute towards the erection of a research station or a hospital or to the 48 making of an improved transport system in a Colony, but we cannot contribute any money towards the running costs of those schemes once they have been created and established. Therefore, if a Colony could not afford out of its own revenue to maintain those hospitals, research stations or improved methods of transport, and so on, which it might have been given, those benefits to the Colony never came into being at all. It has been a rigid principle of Colonial policy up to date that every Colonial territory should be a self-supporting unit and that its citizens should have only those services which they themselves out of their own moneys could afford to maintain. That was a restriction which hit very hardly some of the smaller and poorer Colonies, and because of it they have had to do without services with which they really ought to have been supplied. Therefore, this legislation proposes to abolish that inability to make payments out of the Exchequer towards the maintenance cost of development work. If this Bill goes through Parliament we shall be able in future to contribute towards not only the initial costs of establishment but the running costs of any of those services which are needed in these days for the proper welfare of Colonial people.
These are the main alterations which we propose in the provision made by Parliament for Colonial development. They are set out in Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill. Clause 2 provides for the closing of the existing Colonial Development Fund and for the demise of that statutory Colonial Development Advisory Committee which for the last 10 years has administered the Fund. Before that body passes away I should like to express the sincere thanks of the Government and of this House to its chairman, Sir Alan Rae Smith, and to its other members for their long, prudent and fruitful services to the Colonial Empire. When they reflect upon the death of their Fund under Clause 2 I believe that they will feel more than amply consoled by the announcement of the birth in Clause 1 of a larger, more lusty and more richly endowed child to carry on the work which they have had so much at heart.
These are not the only benefits which the Colonies are to derive from this legislation. We have taken the opportunity to do something else. Development in some of the Colonies has not only been 49 held up in some cases through lack of funds; it has also been embarrassed by a heavy burden of debt attaching to their governments. A large part of those debts were owing to the United Kingdom Exchequer. From time to time in the past for various purposes we have lent the Colonial Governments considerable sums of money. For instance, during the last war we lent for various war purposes sums amounting to nearly £3,000,000 to three East African territories. Those particular loans are not touched by this legislation, but we have taken the opportunity to review every other debt of a Colonial Government to the United Kingdom Exchequer. We found that the grand total of those debts amounted to something like £15,000,000. As the result of our review of the situation we make provision under Clause 3 of this Bill for the remission of something over £11,000,000 of those debts. In fact, what we are doing is to clear the decks of any unnecessary encumbrances that may lie in the way of the vigorous development of the Colonial Empire.
When the Government statement on Colonial development and welfare was first published a few months ago some people regarded it as a very pious declaration. They thought it a wordy statement of good intentions, proclaimed for the sake of creating a good effect but not to be followed by the substance of action. I hope that the early presentation of this Bill will remove some of the doubts of those people. I should like to offer certain other evidence of our resolute purpose to go ahead as fast as we can with this policy. This development of policy, this new policy, will mean a great deal of additional work for the Colonial Office in London. We have to expand our organisation there so that it can accomplish its new task. I should like to mention three or four of the changes which have been made in the Colonial Office during recent months in order to equip it to undertake this work. First, we have strengthened greatly the economic staff. Recently an additional Assistant Under-Secretary of State was appointed and he is devoting a good deal of his time to economic questions. In addition, the economic department in the office has itself had an effective increase in its personnel. Second, we established about 18 months ago in the office a social services 50 department. It is in very good working trim and it also has had an addition to its personnel in recent weeks. Third, we are increasing the staff of the Secretary of State's special official advisers on social questions. For example, hitherto the chief medical adviser has had one assistant adviser. We propose that in future he should have two to help him in his work. Until recently there was no education adviser as such to the Secretary of State. Such an officer was appointed at the beginning of this year and we now propose that he should have an assistant adviser. If necessary at a later date he will have a second assistant.
I know that in some quarters there was a disposition not very long ago to criticise the personnel of the Colonial Office. I think I am qualified to express a view upon that. After two years' experience I say deliberately that I think that the personnel of the Colonial Office is as able as the personnel of any of the high offices of State. That, indeed, is as it should be. I formed the highest admiration of the energy, enthusiasm and capacity for constructive thought and action of the general staff in Downing Street which watches over the interests of the Colonial Empire. Of course, this is a policy on which we should not depend solely for advice on our official advisers. There is a great deal of personnel outside official quarters who are experienced and wise in Colonial matters. The Government ought to draw on that experience and wisdom and that is why, although no statutory advisory committees are being set up under this Bill, we propose to establish two new advisory committees as part of the policy of Colonial development and welfare which was announced a few months ago. There will be one advisory committee, partly official and partly unofficial, on Colonial development and welfare, and another committee on Colonial research. I am glad to be able to announce that we have secured to preside over those two committees two individuals who have a wide knowledge and a great wisdom in dealing with Colonial problems. The chairman of the Committee on Development and Welfare will be Lord Moyne, and the chairman of the Committee on Colonial Research will be Lord Hailey.
In the midst of a struggle for our very lives the British Government are launch- 51 ing on new action which is worthy of the highest traditions of our Imperial policy. I will say no more than that. This is not a time for flowery oratory. This is not a time to celebrate in speech our great Imperial record. It is not a time for boasting. It is a time for that quiet inner confidence that in the struggle which now faces us we shall prevail and we shall survive, and that in the days of peace which our exertions shall regain for us it is our destiny to complete the great work for our Colonial peoples to which we set our hands long ago.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas (Portsmouth, South)
In making my maiden speech, I know that this House will accord me that consideration which is customary on such occasions. I should like, if I may, to congratulate the new Minister on his appointment and to say that we wish him well. I should also like to congratulate the outgoing Minister on being able to introduce this Bill, for which, after all, he was responsible. I welcome this Bill for several reasons. First, because it gives us another opportunity of refuting the accusations of our enemies that we won the Empire by rape and that we play the part of the dog-in-the-manger. Let us look at the facts. Not less than seven-tenths of our far-flung Empire is completely free and self-governing. India and Ceylon are in process of becoming so. No preferential tariffs are possible in the African Colonies or the Mandatory territories. Their markets and their produce are equally available to all. Germany actually had a favourable trade balance with our Colonies before the war. As to the charge of rape, much of the Empire was won by the sword, but it was mainly won from our present Allies, the French and the Dutch, and from our foes of ancient days, the Spaniards. The rest was mainly acquired by voyages of discovery, by peaceful trade, and through chartered companies. But whatever the method, the result is apparent to all: Every man, of every creed and of every colour, is a free and independent citizen. That is why the whole Colonial Empire, without exception, has rallied to the cause of the Motherland, giving men, money and help to the utmost of its power.
Again, I welcome this Bill not only for the remissions of loans that are being 52 made but for the grants that are promised. Tropical agriculture is still in its infancy, and with research and improved methods of cultivation, marketing and transport, there is nothing we need that cannot be grown in, and supplied by, the Empire. With the probable exhaustion of our foreign investments, and the difficulties of exchange that must ensue, this will be of vital importance in the future. But let us not forget that, though we have our duties to the natives, it is the white settlers and administrators who have invariably been responsible for such improvements and progress as have been made, more particularly in the conquest of tropical diseases. In this and other respects I hope that we shall co-operate with our French Allies. In my travels I have been immensely struck with the magnificent work done for the French African Empire by that splendid man the late Marshal Lyautey whose record will live for generations.
Even more important than grants for administration and research is the need for bringing prosperity to the inhabitants, and to the communities at large. Much of the depression in the West Indies has been caused by the fact that in the past we have purchased Central European beet sugar, subsidised for export, rather than West Indian cane. This folly must stop. We should buy Empire citrus fruit before Californian, Empire tobacco before Virginian, Kenya coffee before Brazilian, Empire cotton before foreign, Empire maize before South American. Bulk purchases could be paid for partly in cash and partly by credit notes for British goods. The African natives' love for bright cotton goods should give opportunities for restoring prosperity to Lancashire rather than benefit Japan. If we can bring prosperity to the Colonial Empire, we shall be repaid again and again.
Now for a word upon the social, medical and educational services. These, coupled with fair wages, are, to my mind, far more important than high wages without social care, and it must not be forgotten that the producer has to compete in world markets. But I would insist that companies and individuals who are developing the Empire and making profits should devote some portion of those profits to the maintenance and extension of social services and to welfare work. 53 It is done in many cases, and it would protect the good employer if it were made compulsory for all. Bodies like the Boy Scouts, with their minimum of one good deed a day, are doing wonderful work in Africa. A little financial assistance in that direction would repay itself a thousand fold.
But we also need Empire teaching at home. The B.B.C. broadcasts and the Imperial Institute films are doing good work in the schools. But how many school children realise that 25 per cent. of our air pilots come as free volunteers from the Empire? There is something to capture the imagination. Teach the school children to be proud of their cousins overseas, some 60,000,000 of whom live in the Colonies. Make more use of the Empire societies. One alone has raised £50,000, mainly from overseas sources, for cigarettes and comforts for the troops. How many hon. Members know that over 2,000,000 children in British schools throughout the country will pay 1d. each on Empire day to the same fund for the troops? Each will receive a coloured certificate of thanks, with his name on it, for helping to provide comfort and contentment for the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the British Commonwealth, who have rallied to the cause of safeguarding freedom, justice and security.
I should like to pay a tribute to the teachers for the magnificent way in which they have co-operated to make this scheme a success. I think we might also pay a tribute to Sir Evelyn Wrench for thinking of and carrying out this scheme. A little imagination and appeal would go far to make children Empire-minded, proud of their overseas possessions, conscious of the responsibilities of Empire, and not unmindful of the debt of gratitude we owe. The Empire Marketing Board, under Sir Stephen Tallents, did yeoman service. This may have to be revived. We must do all we can to help the native races, but we must not forget our own settlers and pioneers. The first duty of a Government is to govern; be kind, be wise, be firm, but be just. Unbounded liberty develops into licence and even anarchy. Good government is the happy mean between dictatorship and decadence. The Empire has been built up by the wise and selfless rule of men from these islands, whose very existence 54 we are now defending. Let us show the world that we not only stand up to our enemies but that we stand by our friends as well.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
It is somewhat presumptuous that a comparatively junior Member of the House should be in the position of offering congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member for South Portsmouth (Sir J. Lucas). I may not agree with him in every particular of his speech, but I am certain that the House will welcome from time to time his contributions to our efforts towards shaping a policy for our Colonial Empire, because of his special experience and his special activities in regard to Britain overseas. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill must be feeling profoundly disappointed that he will not see it right the way through to the Statute Book. I should like not only to acknowledge his courtesy at all times when Members of the House have approached him on Colonial questions, but also to express my appreciation of the very hard and practical work he has done for the Colonial Empire since he was appointed to the Colonial Office. I view his departure with a certain amount of misgiving. I am not too happy about his successor, but I am very certain that the House of Commons will find in the Under-Secretary a person of profound sympathy with and understanding of the problems which confront us in the Colonies. Therefore, while I express my sorrow that the right hon. Gentleman is departing from the Colonial Office, I say on behalf of my colleagues on these benches that we look forward to a very promising time of fulfilment so far as the Under-Secretary is concerned.
The Labour party give their whole hearted support to this Bill. It will, of course, be our responsibility and our duty from time to time to criticise the proposals which come from the Government Benches. We shall do our best to let it be known what the Labour movement is thinking about Government legislation and Government proposals, but in the main our co-operation will be sympathetic and full. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that it is noteworthy that while this country is engaged at this moment in fighting possibly the greatest battle in history, we ourselves sit here 55 quietly discussing a problem which at first sight seems a little remote from the Titanic conflict across the Channel.
We have very much at heart the well-being and the future development of the Colonial peoples. This Bill marks, I think, the ending of the laisser faire attitude towards Colonial development and, I hope, the end of platitudinous talk about trusteeship. It would be quite easy for some of us on these benches to engage in a tirade against past neglects and our failure to develop the Colonies as fully as some of us would have wished, although I do not minimise the very considerable achievement inside the British Empire. I think the Bill before us reveals the marked change in public opinion regarding the Colonies. No longer do we regard them as our possessions. They are not places for easy profits for those who have the money to invest in them. We realise that our attitude towards them has to be constructive and positive. On the other hand, it is no good for us on these benches to talk of capitalist exploitation, or for Members in any part of the House to talk about the goal of self-government, unless they are prepared to help the Colonial peoples to get food, shelter, knowledge and health, and to bring to them economic organisation for the development of their well-being. As the right hon. Gentleman has reminded us, it is economic development which in the long run makes possible social services and welfare, and the ability of the Colonial peoples to stand on their own feet.
The late Secretary of State has told us that the original Colonial Development Act was more concerned with finding employment in this country than with Colonial development and the well-being of the Colonial peoples, and has pointed out the grave limitations under that Act. I do not want to repeat the criticisms of that Act which he himself has made. I should like to join with him in expressing our gratitude to all those who have shared in the work of the committee concerned with the administration of that Act, but in spite of the excellent stimulus it gave to economic development, a great deal remains to be done because of the restrictive effect of the Measure in certain directions.
56 We welcome this Bill, therefore, because it makes far-reaching changes. While it still retains, I understand, facilities for making grants-in-aid where certain Colonial Governments require them, it makes possible social as well as economic development. It opens out prospects of economic schemes and works which, under previous conditions, were extremely difficult. I am convinced that, if used imaginatively and constructively, with long-term planning, the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will confer very great benefits on our Colonial Empire.
In the preface to the Bill it is pointed out that, for some time to come, it is not likely that the £5,000,000 asked for will be required. We must appreciate that there are vast pieces of work requiring to be done. Every investigation and every report of a Commission indicates clearly the great amount of economic and social work which is urgently desirable. The right hon. Gentleman told us recently that at least £1,000,000 of the £5,000,000 would be devoted to the West Indies, and in another connection he pointed out that a considerable sum would be required to put the Arabs on their feet in Palestine. There will not be too much money available for other parts of the Empire. The cost of Empire has not, so far, been extraordinarily great to us. We have not gone into Empire-making with the same zest that some of the would-be Colonial Powers have shown in the past. Italy spent vast sums in trying to put up a good show in Northern Africa as to what a colony might become under her rule. Likewise, Germany, before the war, in her brief 12 years as a Colonial Power, spent £70,000,000 in developing 1,000,000 square miles. During the past 10 years we have spent little more than £12,000,000 in grants-in-aid, and £5,000,000 in other grants out of the Colonial Development Fund. It is undesirable of course, that the funds that will be made available should be used for spectacular schemes. There must, of course, be a tackling of the major troubles such as disease, irrigation, soil erosion, lack of transport and communications and so on, but the laying of the economic and social foundations in each of the Colonies is the vital thing. I think, with the wise use of money, steady progress can be made in agricultural improvement, health standards and educational advance, and we can go on rapidly bettering that economic organisation.
57 Under the Bill, we abandon once for all the old principle that each Colony must be self-supporting. In connection with the administration of the Fund which will be set up under the Bill, great stress must be made on economic development. Here I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that, while it is desirable, as far as possible, that Colonies should be self-supporting, we should not, shall I say, attempt to pauperise them. It is therefore important that the greatest possible stress should be placed on the economic aspects of the problems of the Colonies. Of course, some Colonies are doomed to poverty and to becoming a liability, but we want a vigorous and far-seeing policy in every case so that the liabilities shall not be permanent. We want the Colonies to be less the prey of world forces, of fluctuating prices and other precarious economic conditions. That means a vigorous economic attack. I am glad also that it is proposed that the administration of the money is not to be highly centralised, but will be administered in such a way as to build up local responsibility. The man on the spot will be encouraged, I hope, to collaborate with a widening circle of people who are concerned. The Colonial Office, with all the apparatus which the right hon. Gentleman has described, will be available to assist in the work.
I would draw the attention of the House to the importance of recognising that those Colonies which have already put their finances in sound order should not be prejudiced because of that fact. It is not only the Colony which is, at the moment, in poverty and unable to pay its way, that needs our help; it is also those Colonies which have tackled their special problems and have been able to secure a balanced Budget. That brings me to a point on which the right hon. Gentleman has not so far touched. The question of taxation in the Colonies ought to be looked at. In his White Paper he said:In some territories, larger revenues could be raised without injustice by adjustment of taxation, and considerably heavier local taxation has, in fact, been accepted in most of the Colonies since the outbreak of the war.The recent Under-Secretary of State, when this matter was discussed in another place, pointed out:The whole effort must be a joint one with the Colonies themselves.58 He went on to say:I think, personally, from their reactions, they are well aware of these responsibilities. Actually, within the last seven months or so—that is, since the war began—we have found that Income Tax has been imposed for the first time in four Colonies and that greatly increased rates of Income Tax have been imposed in fifteen more….In the past, richer members of the community have not borne their full share of the burden. It is, therefore, very gratifying to see that they are now realising their responsibilities, and it will be remembered that one of the recommendations of Lord Moyne was that the rates of Income Tax should be increased. We are at the present time taking up with the Governors of the West Indies the question of whether rates of Income Tax could not be brought into line with pre war rates in this country.I welcome that statement, because I believe that, in the past, had taxation been more wisely conceived, some of the difficulties which we have to face to-day would not be with us.
There is another point to which the attention of the House should be drawn, and that is the great flow of wealth from certain of the Colonies in the way of profits and royalties. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he wanted the money under this Bill used for greater exploitation of the mineral and other resources of the respective territories. That is all very well, so far as it goes, but I would illustrate my point by directing his attention to the case of Northern Rhodesia. This case can be multiplied by reference to other Colonies. In Northern Rhodesia, where, recently, there has been an acute dispute, involving both white and African labour, because of the intolerable working conditions and pay of the men concerned, the problem is very largely the inadequacy of the remuneration of Africans and the fact that the natural resources are in the hands of alien people. In 1937, copper raised in Northern Rhodesia was sold to realise not less than £12,000,000. Only £1,000,000 of that sum found its way to the Africans. In point of fact, their actual wages were between £200,000 and £300,000. If one multiplies that by two or three, to allow for food and the other services that they received, £1,000,000 will be an ample figure of the reward received by them out of the £12,000,000 realised on the copper raised.
It is true that £700,000 was paid by way of Income Tax and £500,000 was sent out of the Colony as royalties to the British South Africa Company, which happens to own the materials, by virtue of 59 a doubtful treaty with the King of the Barotse, made 40 years before. No less than £5,000,000 was paid to non-resident shareholders, while the people who produced the copper and did the work, the Africans themselves, received £1,000,000. White labour received less than £1,000,000. Most of the money went into the pockets of alien owners who were interested in Africa only in trying to get profits. That illustrates the flow from many of the Colonies rich in mineral and other resources of wealth which ought to be retained for the development of the social services and for the welfare and happiness of the Africans themselves. If we want the economic advance of the Africans, they should not be divorced from ownership and the enjoyment of their own natural resources. So far as the marketing of exportable wealth is concerned, it should be dealt with by responsible controls for or by the Africans themselves. I would like to make another point. Private enterprise, has, in the past, been supported by the Colonial Development Fund. There should be substantial safeguards for the public in respect of future grants.
I turn for a moment to the proposals as to how the £5,000,000 is to be utilised. We were informed previously that £1,000,000 was to be made available for implementing the recommendations in the Report of the Royal Commission to the West Indies. We shall await with interest the White Paper which has been promised by the Colonial Office on schemes which can be put in hand, both immediately and over a long period. I desire, in this connection, to remind the House of the fact that the Government accepted the period of 20 years for the £1,000,000 grant, in the place of the 10 years which is now the figure in the White Paper presented with the Bill. I hope that when the Committee which will be appointed to deal with the administration gets down to its work, it will not feel itself restricted by the 10 years' limit. I am glad to note that, already, very considerable new works have been put in hand in the West Indies. All I would do now is to emphasise the paramount importance of economic reconstruction in the West Indies. I would like to emphasise that British Guiana should be opened up in a vigorous, downright way. Money should 60 be spent on land settlement, mixed farming, production for the West Indian market, and, particularly, on the introduction of small industries. This is economic work which cries out to be done.
Another part of this £5,000,000 is to be spent on Palestine. The Arabs are to be helped in a considered land policy. This has been promised for a very long time, and it is a development which I think all will agree is long overdue. If the unhappy consequences of the new land-transfer policy are to be averted now that certain other schemes have been postponed, then the fullest co-operation should be encouraged between the Jews and the Arabs. I am certain that if in the restricted areas the Jews can be brought in a little more freely than has been indicated by the right hon. Gentleman in the land regulations, they will assist and co-operate with the Arabs to the utmost. This money should be used in order to create a new land policy for the small tenant Arab and for Jewish settlers alike. I would like the Fund used as a means for co-operation between these two people who unfortunately have been flung into antagonism in recent years.
The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing this Bill, also referred to educational needs. I have no time this afternoon to indicate the way in which the educational services in the Colonies are starved for want of money. That Colony of which we are so proud, Nigeria, has not been able to make any advance or new developments in its educational work over a number of years because of the absence of money. There are big gaps in the existing educational scheme, and if hon. Members desire to know a little of what might be done in regard to planning for education in the Colonial Empire, I would refer them to the article in the April number of "Overseas Education," a journal for which the recent Secretary of State has some responsibility. I am glad to note that in this Bill no schemes of work are to include children under 14 years of age, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the introduction of so important a point.
There are one or two things I desire to say in regard to the right hon. Gentleman's explanatory note accompanying the Bill. In his White Paper he refers to the Fund as one which will bring 61 benefits to the inhabitants of the Colonies. I want to stress what has been for many years a vital principal in Colonial administration, that in the consideration of who are inhabitants the paramount interest must always be the African peoples themselves so far as the African Colonies are concerned, and the natives of the other Colonies, before the alien settler or other peoples arrived. Therefore, when we read the word "inhabitants," we should not forget the doctrine of the paramountcy of the native interests. Further, we were told in another place that the committee which was to administer this Fund was to be composed of two parts. One part was to comprise officials, and the other part was to comprise business men with social interests. So far as the unofficial side of the committee is concerned, we want not merely business people with social interests. We want people with a large, liberal outlook, who are concerned with social and humanitarian interests. Therefore, I hope that in setting up this committee a more liberal interpretation will be employed in considering the qualifications of persons to serve.
The right hon. Gentleman has drawn our attention to the vigorous way in which the Colonial Office intends to tackle the question of research. I have felt a little ashamed at times when reading in the reports of the Colonial Office that we have had to rely to no little degree on outside help in order that necessary research should be carried out. If we are Empire builders, we should appreciate the importance of research and be prepared to pay for the fact. But we have had to use American money, and we are exceedingly grateful to the Carnegie Corporation and to the Rockefeller Foundation for their assistance. Now by this Bill is our chance for reorganising and co-ordinating research. We may be confident that the money spent will not be doles for relieving penurious communities but will be sound investment which will bring back a hundredfold, helping economic development and promoting the well-being of the peoples concerned. I hope, too, that certain sociological and economic problems will be included within the scope of research. What is so baffling to many of us in looking at the conditions of the people in the Colonial Empire is that we have not solved the problem of how to correlate the under-consumption of the masses of the people 62 with the over-production of natural and mineral wealth in many parts of the Empire. That is one of the urgent problems in the building-up of the standard of life of the Colonial people.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the relief which this House is giving in respect of past loans. It seems to me that we have sometimes given guarantees and expended freely with little foresight and not with great prudence. But if we study the proposals which accompany this Bill, we must admit that if progress in the Empire is to be made, many of the Treasuries must be relieved of the existing crushing burdens. Therefore, we must support the suggestions which have been put to us that certain of these big debts of the Colonies should be wiped out altogether and that the British Treasury should bear them. There is no less than £5,500,000 to be paid in respect of the Uganda Railway in Kenya. This railway, I believe, was originally constructed for certain strategic and possibly moral purposes. For some time I had been sceptical about the wisdom of wiping out altogether this large sum of money, but I must confess that the argument used by Sir Alan Pim in his review of the finances of Kenya are convincing and certainly persuasive. If indirect benefits can flow to the people of Kenya by relieving them of this debt, then I think we should do so. The history of this particular railway is a long and tortuous story, but I think in the long run it is sound business for us to exempt the Kenya Government of this burden. I should like a little more information about the £1,000,000 which we are wiping out so far as the Tanganyika and Nyasaland railways are concerned. It has been pointed out to us that we are not likely to recover this money in the days to come.
I welcome the suggestion that the £1,000,000 or more which is owed to us by the South African Protectorates should also be borne by our Government. I think this is a liability which is largely due to our own past neglect. It has been a sad story that until comparatively recently the Protectorates have been neglected, and have not been too good an example to their immediate neighbours, the Union of South Africa, as to the methods of British administration. A positive policy in those Protectorates has long been necessary; there- 63 fore, I welcome very much the wiping-out of this £1,000,000 and I hope the Government will energetically pursue a positive, constructive policy in these territories.
In regard to Newfoundland, we relieve that Government of £600,000. In recent years there has not been a great deal of economic prosperity flowing to the people of Newfoundland as a result of the work of the Commission Government there, and I would suggest seriously that the time has come, particularly because of the sacrifices of the Newfoundland people in this war, again to admit them into the Councils of their State. If we cannot restore full democratic government now, at least we should make a start by creating an Advisory Council in order that they may be admitted more and more into responsibility for their own Government.
There are other items on which I would like to have passed comments, but I will conclude by expressing the hope that although there is war there will not be undue delay in implementing the terms of this Bill. The Secretary of State said that with a resolute purpose the Government would go ahead as fast as possible. We on these benches welcome the Bill; we hope its policy will be energetically pursued and that it will contribute to the improvement and building-up of the social standards of life of the people and the full economic development of the territories. Let us work for a Colonial Empire which Britain as a Colonial Power may well be proud of in the days to come.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans (University of Wales)
I am glad to have this early opportunity of expressing my congratulations to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) on his appointment as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. He has imagination and sympathy, and he will find plenty of scope for exercising those qualities in the important office which he has assumed and in which I and his friends wish him success. I also wish to congratulate the Minister of Health on producing this Bill and promoting the policy to which this Bill gives expression. His transposition, if I may say so, means a great loss to a Department in which he has served so energetically and conscientiously in many difficult times. I welcome this Bill very heartily. I think 64 it is commendable that at a time when our thoughts are largely and anxiously concerned with the dangers which beset us we should turn aside for a short time to say that we are not unmindful of other responsibilities which devolve upon us.
The Colonial Fund has undoubtedly done a great deal of good in many of our Colonies. Perhaps I may be forgiven for saying that the most useful function that it has performed has been to show its inadequacy. That is shown by the Command Paper which was recently published—a very excellent paper, if I may say so—and by the introduction of this Bill. We want to profit from our experience. If we are to get the highest possible advantage from these new proposals, we must bear in mind not only the amount of the fund, but also its administration and the purposes to which it is to be devoted. In regard to the amount, there is not much that one can say. It is bigger than what we have now, but it belongs to that category of subscriptions of which it can be said that "all donations will be gratefully received." It is a large sum to give, but a small sum to expend in view of the urgent needs. I turn to the administration. This will require great knowledge, great vision, great foresight, and great sympathy. I was glad to read, in the Command Paper, that the Secretary of State's view of his duties in relation to the local authorities was that he should advise and guide them and not dictate to them. I wish that that policy had been acted upon a little more in the past; it would have prevented a great deal of friction. I am sure that that represented the right hon. Gentleman's policy, and also that it represents the policy of his successor. That is very vital.
I want to ask a question about the functions to be entrusted to the Advisory Committee. I understand that this is not a statutory body. In fact, there are, as I understand, to be two bodies, and I should like to know more about their proposed functions. I am not suggesting that those functions should be defined; I do not suppose it is possible to define them, or that it would be advisable if it were possible; but it would be better that we should know a little more about what is intended. I am not criticising these proposed bodies; on the contrary, I welcome them. There is in this country a large number of men and women, of great ability, with intimate knowledge of native 65 conditions and experience of native administration, and it is an admirable proposal that the Secretary of State should consult them about policy, and also in regard to the long-term programmes which it is one of the objects of this Bill to encourage. But I hope that it will not be necessary for every scheme put forward by local authorities to be scrutinised by a body which should not necessarily be in continuous session. There are, among other considerations, two which are vitally important. One is that proper weight should be given to local opinion. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that, save in special circumstances, and for very particular reasons, local opinion ought to be the decisive factor in the adoption or rejection of schemes which are put forward.
The other consideration is that all unnecessary delays should be avoided. I feel bound to mention this, because I recently had the privilege of serving upon the Rhodesia-Nyasaland Royal Commission, and we heard evidence, more particularly I think in Northern Rhodesia, about great delays which have occurred, and which were then occurring, in connection with the consideration of schemes. I do not know whether all of those complaints were justified—it was clearly impossible for us to examine each one in order to see whether there had been delay—but the impression was left on my mind that there had been delays which had caused inefficiency and which—not less important—were depressing those members of the European communities who were anxious to play their part in the government and administration of the territories. It seems to me that such delay is inevitable under the present procedure. I heard of cases where a district commissioner had to submit schemes, dealing with matters which as subjects of broad policy were insignificant, but in their local effect were of great significance—matters which could have been dealt with by an ordinary clerk—to the provincial administration, and that the schemes had then to be submitted to the Governor, and that he in turn had to submit them to the Secretary of State. In some of these Colonies, the files of departments dealing with insignificant matters assume proportions which are enormous, and which are a great drain upon time and temper, apart from the great wastage of paper. In this Command Paper, a fresh spirit has been intro- 66 duced. I hope that when this new policy is brought into operation, opportunity will be taken to meet what is a real grievance in some of the territories which come under the administration of the Colonial Office. I hope that something will be done to avoid this delay. There should be greater decentralisation as between the Colonial Office and the central Governments of the Colonies, and as between the Governments of the Colonies and the provincial administrations.
There is another suggestion that I should like to make. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, realises the value of this question, because he has, in the Command Paper, anticipated my criticism, and, indeed, the suggestion that I am about to make. I am not making this suggestion merely on my own responsibility, because it is made in the Report of the Royal Commission to which I have referred. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to various changes which have taken place in what I might call the administrative part of the Colonial Office. Among other things, he takes pride in the fact that a large number of his officers from time to time visit the various Colonies. If he tells me that that is so, I take it as a fact. But in all the criticisms which are concerned with this sort of thing, we are not attacking the personnel of the Colonial Office. I think that the Colonial Office is admirable in many respects. That some of its officers often visit different Colonies, is not the point. The point is, what they do when they get there. I fully realise that, on questions of broad policy, the Secretary of State must ultimately be the man to decide, but many schemes which are put forward by the Colonies do not involve broad questions of policy. There are other schemes which, even though they do involve questions of policy, cannot be put into operation except after the consideration of various local details. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman—he cannot adopt my suggestion now, but he might pass it on to his successor—that there should be a system of frequently and regularly sending out from the Colonial Office in London to the various Colonies officers who will not merely go there for a visit—I do not like to say, for a joy ride—but armed with authority to decide questions of detail on the spot, in consultation with the local Governments, instead of having to refer 67 these questions back to the Colonial Office.
Another thing that I am glad to see in the Command Paper is that it is definitely established that grants out of this Fund are not to entail financial control. This financial control has been a bugbear in many of the Colonies. I have no doubt that the Treasury is a very great institution, but it is a very difficult institution in many respects. I do not want to mix my metaphors, but the Treasury, instead of being a live wire, has often been a dead hand. It has been proved so in Colonial administration. I am reminded of the position in Nyasaland. I am glad that this Bill includes provision for wiping out the liability which the Government of Nyasaland incurred by reason of its guarantees in respect of the Trans-Zambesia Railway. That is a very valuable concession. I say frankly, in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman, that when I signed my name to the inclusion of this proposal in the report, I felt very doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman would be able to persuade the Treasury to agree. I congratulate him on his success. But what will be the effect on Nyasaland in regard to Treasury control? There has been very strict control in Nyasaland for many years. One of the reasons was the existence of the liability in respect of this railway. Does this mean that there will be a relaxation in the strictness of the control exercised by the Treasury over the finances of Nyasaland? Secondly, does it affect another matter, which is very vital in the life of Nyasaland? When the standard revenue of Nyasaland exceeds £420,000 a year, it is provided that half of the excess shall be taken for the repayment of past loans. Does this mean that that provision will disappear, to the great advantage of that little, but very progressive, community, Nyasaland?
The third question concerns the purposes to which this Fund is to be devoted. I am glad that some of those hampering conditions which affected the 1929 Act are to be abolished. It was not merely that there were statutory limits to the purposes for which the Colonial Development Fund could be employed, but that even the interpretation of the purposes for which it could be employed was very strict. As I understand, the Fund is 68 to have a much broader basis, and a much broader application. I was very glad to find that this new Fund may be employed for such purposes as agriculture, education and health. You may call it "economic development," "material development," or whatever you like, but economic development requires a reservoir of health as much as of wealth. There is nothing more appalling than the inadequacy of the facilities for education, health and housing in many of our Colonies at the present time.
Therefore, if this Fund is to be put to its greatest possible use, the greater part of it must be used for development in this direction. If you take Central Africa and compare conditions in Northern Rhodesia—and even in Southern Rhodesia, where there is a very progressive spirit in, the matter of social reform—with Nyasaland, where health and educational facilities are better, owing mostly to British enterprise, the value of which cannot possibly be overlooked—if you compare these two neighbouring countries from the point of view of economic development, you will see what expenditure upon health and housing can do, not only for the happiness of the natives, but also for their health and efficiency as servants of the public in other fields than those of merely manual labour. Therefore, I am glad that this wider interpretation is being given under the Bill.
There is not a field of human endeavour or a natural process in which there is not a great demand for the services of research in the Colonies. For goodness sake, do not start a scheme of research and then let it go down in the middle. I have found complaints about that sort of thing in the past. You start off with a scheme and work on it, say, for a couple of years, and then you are told that there is no more money available, and you have to close down. The result is that all the money has gone to waste, and it depresses and discourages any further effort in that direction. I do not think that £500,000 is enough, but, at any rate, it can do a great deal as long as it is carefully used and not too widely diffused among a large number of schemes.
I finish, as I started, by welcoming the Bill. I am glad that it has this wider scope. It can be made to do a great deal of good, and I welcome it for that 69 reason, and also as evidence of our appreciation of the fact that we are the trustees for the well-being of the peoples of the Colonial Empire. We are trustees not only for the natives, but also for the Europeans. I am sorry that the word "paramountcy" has been introduced. It is not a question of paramountcy but of partnership, and until we realise that fact, we shall never get the best possible development in the Colonies. Loyalty to the Crown is an impressive feature of native mentality and spirit. It has been freely expressed in the past, and it is being amply proved in the present emergency, and that fact should inspire us to even greater effort to prove ourselves worthy of our trust.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
May I first congratulate the Noble Lord who has assumed this high office? He is a great Imperialist and a person of great energy, and I am certain that he, in conjunction with the Under-Secretary, with his interest and sympathy, will make a very good team and so help on the great work in the Colonial services. At the same time, while welcoming the newcomers may I also speed the parting Minister with a few compliments? He has had, in these two years, a very difficult time, troubles to deal with in Jamaica and Trinidad, he has had to contend with the great problem of Palestine, and he has had the reports of two Royal Commissions, in the West Indies, and in Rhodesia and Nyasaland—all very difficult matters with which to deal. Perhaps I may quote the beginning of an Ode of Horace which says:"Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem."and which translated reads:Remember in difficult times to keep your mind well balanced.I think we can say that the late Minister carried out that maxim to the full. May I also say on behalf of a large number of unofficial members, not in this House, how much I know they have appreciated the late Minister's accessibility and sympathy. It makes a whole difference when people who come from overseas are received by the Minister and he goes into their troubles and acquires a thorough understanding of their problems. That also is one of the great mementoes which the late Minister will leave behind him.
70 I am glad that this Bill is to be his swan-song. It is a purely financial Measure, and we ought to discuss it as such to-night. It deals with finance and development. We can regard the administration of our Colonies, to-night at any rate, in exactly the same way as we would regard the position of a finance and development company. The same process occurs in both. There are discovery, exploration, investigation, and finally investment. In a company, if an investment goes wrong, it is always possible to wind it up, but if an investment goes wrong in Colonial affairs, it is not possible to take such a course. There are strategic, political, humanitarian and other motives which prevent the cutting of the loss. There is, in short, very often a trust which cannot be surrendered, and so the business continues. In the Schedules to this Bill there is a list of loans which cannot be repaid or, as described in the Bill, loans proposed to be remitted. The same thing happens with a development company. An investment is made in the hope that by casting bread upon the waters it may return after many days, buttered. If the investment does not succeed, it has to be written off. At some time or other a stock-taking is necessary. That is what is happening at the present moment. This Bill provides for the stocktaking before proceeding to further development.
The Bill deals with the dead as well as the living, the past as well as the future. Before we cast some of these items into the limbo of forgotten things, it may be advisable to give one lingering look behind at one or two of them. They represent the enterprise, the initiative and even the romance of the past. The first item with which I will deal—and I am going to deal only with those countries which I happen to know myself—is one of £5,500,000 for the Uganda Railway. The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), who is not here at the moment, I think, was wrong to suggest that there was any question of profit in the building of that railway. Actually, one of the main reasons for the building of the railway was the abolition of the slave trade, and, curious as it may seem, the Admiralty were one of the chief Departments which favoured the building of the railway because it was costing them £250,000 a year to police the seas against the slave traders of that time. There 71 were other motives like that of controlling the back door to the Sudan, and, naturally, the support of missionary effort. The people in those days who were our missionaries and our pioneers were having a very difficult time among the natives of Uganda, and it was our duty to support them.
In those days there was a considerable doubt as to whether we should keep Uganda once we were there, but in these days it is difficult to realise the position of those times. An agitation took place, and it was considerably assisted by the knowledge of a Major Lugard, now Lord Lugard. This agitation was based to a great extent on the strong feelings that existed at that time in connection with the slave trade and the name of David Livingstone. Anyhow, that railway was finally decided upon. There was no idea whatever of making a profit, and I cannot make out really why the money was left as a loan, because at that time nobody was expecting that Uganda, starting from scratch in about 1900, would produce, 40 years afterwards, 400,000 bales of cotton. Nobody could ever conceive that Kenya, which did not exist then as a Colony, and Nairobi, which was only a construction camp for the railway, would produce sisal, coffee, tea and gold. There was no hope of that railway being self-supporting. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Shipley, who is rather doubtful whether this item should be written off. These East African countries are mainly dependent on the limited resources derived from agriculture, and it is only with great difficulty that they are able to provide the social services that are required, and it is obvious to all of us that a country with a debt of this sort tied round its neck can never really prosper.
The question of the guarantee by Nyasaland of the interest of the Trans-Zambesia debentures is an example of foresight, in those days by Lord Milner, and by my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for India. In 1921 I went up to Nyasaland by stern-wheeler from Chinde, at the mouth of the Zambesi, and then by railway to Nyasaland. All Nyasaland's products in those days had to go down the Zambesi in that way, and if there was to be any hope for Nyasaland, it was necessary that the Trans-Zambesia Rail- 72 way should be built. It was decided that Nyasaland should guarantee the debentures. It turned out that that beautiful country, an agricultural country again, could not possibly provide the interest for this venture, and therefore in the Bill it is provided that £1,200,000 should be written off.
While I am on the subject of Nyasaland, I should like to touch upon the matter which was raised by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) in connection with the recommendations of the Royal Commission of which he was so distinguished a member. That Commission suggested three solutions of the financial troubles of Nyasaland. I need not trouble the House with them now; they would cost another £1,500,000 if dealt with at the present time. I am only sorry, however, that when the stocktaking was made the axe was not laid to the root of the tree and that the Colonial Secretary did not see his way to deal with all these debts which hamper the country. After all, the Royal Commission stated:In no other way can the load of existing debt be lifted, the growth of increased indebtedness on similar grounds be arrested and the financial control of the Treasury in Nyasaland be brought to an end.I quite realise it would have meant an increase in the money which this Bill is remitting from £11,000,000 to perhaps £12,000,000 or £13,000,000, but it seems a pity that in a case like this the whole situation was not straightened out once and for all. There is one other small example. I see that the Bechuanaland Protectorate is being released a matter of £460,000. This is not so much a question of money spent through enterprise and initiative; it is a question of a very poor country. Any hon. Member who goes there in the dry season will wonder how the cattle can exist there. He will learn that there are very succulent grasses hidden away in the scrub and that this was the winter feed country of Lobengula. But there are few cattle, and the natives cannot possibly find the money to pay the expenses of administration. Therefore, it is necessary for us to make a clean sweep in Bechuanaland and wipe off this amount. If hon. Members have seen the report for 1938 on Bechuanaland, they will realise that some progress has been made, because the grants-in-aid during the last three years have been 73 gradually diminishing, which means that investments made in the past have, to some extent, come to fruition. There is no need for me to give particulars of other countries, especially as I have not been there, but I do think that from this Schedule we can realise one thing. Our enemies have frequently sought to suggest that we have gone into Colonies and acquired territory entirely for commercial and financial reasons. But this Schedule is the answer. It shows that many of our Colonies are not paying propositions, and we must leave it at that. There are items which cannot appear in this Schedule. We must remember that we have taken away from the inhabitants the fear of slavery, we have taken away the fear of tribal wars, and we have taken away the fear of starvation. We are gradually by education removing the superstitious fear of the unknown, and we are gradually reducing the disease which prevails in all these countries. We are slowly building the steps leading from barbarism to civilisation. All these are items which cannot be shown in a profit-and-loss account.
As regards the future, I would just say a few words about the £500,000 put aside for research, for the benefit of production of all sorts, and for the health of man and beast. I would like to pay a tribute to what some bodies, not the Government, have already done. If we consider what the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation has done during the last 20 years, we realise that the prosperity of some of these countries is largely due to the work they have done. In health matters we must all pay tribute to an institution like the Ross Institute, which has studied malaria far more than any Government could possibly do. The Northern Rhodesian copper mines have been mentioned, and it is here that owing to the work of the Ross Institute, in conjunction with the far-seeing co-operation of the directors and managers, in three years the deaths among Europeans from malaria were reduced from 23 per 1,000 to 9 per 1,000 and among Africans from 30 per 1,000 to 5 per 1,000. I hope that in future when this £500,000 is expended it will be possible to co-operate to the full with institutions such as the Ross Institute and those referred to by the hon. Member for Shipley—the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation.
74 As regards the £5,000,000 which it is proposed to spend in the future, I will deal only with the position of East Africa. I think we can look at it like this: For 30 or 40 years there have been exploration and pioneer effort, trial and error by Europeans. I disagree entirely with the statement that there has been no progress. If the hon. Member had been there at intervals of 10 of 15 years, he would have seen most surprising progress in the physical well-being of the people and the enormous increase which has taken place in the agricultural produce. Altogether an immense advance has been made. The foundation has been laid for a further advance. The time has come to make things happen rather than let them happen. But better planning and continuity are required. I am glad that in most of these countries there are economic and development committees already in being. They will be able to some extent to put forward in embryo plans for the future. It is impossible to suggest that the Colonial Office should produce these plans. It is difficult, without continuity, for local Governors to produce plans. I had an interesting conversation with one eminent Governor, and he told me his plans for the native well-being and development and said, "This means drawing on our balances and a 10 years plan, and I hesitate to put it forward because I shall be here for only four or five years. Someone else may come who does not agree, and perhaps there may be changes in the Colonial Office." Surely that state of affairs should be brought to an end. It is essential to have continuity if possible, and that continuity includes questions of the movement of Governors and senior officials. This matter was referred to by the Bledisloe Commission, and I am glad to see that in the report of the West Indies Royal Commission exactly the same statement was made. They said:The Colonial Office should where possible avoid dislocation of public business caused by too frequent changes of holders of high appointments.It is not only a. question of dislocation of public business; it is dislocation of what might well be well laid plans. In the past developments have been left partly to chance, partly to the energy of the Governor or administrator, and partly to the interest and activity of the Colonial Secretary. As Members are aware, especially those who have travelled, a 75 situation may arise in a country where a slack Governor does nothing and an energetic Governor with a new broom comes in, stirs everything up, and produces a number of excellent plans. Then, possibly, trouble occurs in a neighbouring Colony, and the energetic Governor is taken away before he is able to put his plans into operation, and the whole thing comes to an end. Very often too in the past perfectly sound schemes depended on the budgetary position of a Colony. The Treasury might say that because a Colony has not balanced its budget, it cannot embark upon a particular scheme. It is welcome news to hear there is to be a departure from this policy, and there is now a chance for weaker Colonies to develop without being hamstrung by the Treasury. All that I would suggest is that somehow or other this planning committee, after it has received reports from various development committees and from Governors overseas, should be able to produce some sort of framework within which Governors could work. I think that a Governor should be given more power over detail, but certainly it would help him if he had the framework of a major policy within which to work. It would also save the dislocation and delays which have taken place in the past. I welcome the provision of £5,000,000 a year.
I realise that in the present circumstances the provision of this money is unlikely, but when we get to normal conditions there is one question in regard to this money which I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. It is this. What happens if a less amount than £5,000,000 is spent in one year? Is the balance to go back into the Treasury? If that is the proposal, I suggest that it will be fatal to the whole scheme. There are two points of view. The first is that people who are to carry out schemes will try to hurry them on as much as possible in order to get the money in the prescribed period. That, as we know, is what happens in other Government Departments. It is a fatal habit and leads to great waste. The other point of view is that the planning committee might say it is not worth while to put forward a scheme for this year because the money cannot be spent in the year. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can give us some explanation on this point, otherwise 76 I am afraid that this Treasury practice may stultify the whole object of the Bill. I welcome the Bill, and if it is carried out in the spirit of the White Paper and in the spirit in which it is framed, I am certain it will make for the prosperity of the Colonies.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) and other speakers before him seem to be quite unaware that the Germans are stated to be in Abbeville and Amiens, and that this Bill is, therefore, stillborn. I have no compliments to make and no congratulations to offer, except to the Under-Secretary of State for not being himself condemned to bring in this Bill. We have listened this afternoon to a pre-war Minister making a pre-war speech, on a pre-war Bill, and every other speaker also seems to have partaken in this playacting. Of course, there will be no £5,000,000 a year spent. Even when the war is ended we shall not have £5,000,000 to spend on Colonies. We shall want every penny for aeroplanes and battleships and tanks; and it is recognised in the preface to the Bill and in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that for a long time to come no money will be spent. And if there is money spent, it will not benefit the Colonies but those people who own the land. An hon. Member spoke about the Uganda Railway and what Lord Lugard did for that country. That railroad would have paid for itself if we had practised the same policy as when we built a similar railroad in Nigeria. The State, in Nigeria, took the whole of the land; the tenants, the natives, are tenants of the State, and any appreciation in land value goes to the State in Nigeria. The building of that railroad made the fortunes of the first settlers in Kenya; those who came in on the ground floor got the benefit.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
The natives of Uganda have certainly benefited, because they got a much better Government, the British, and ceased the war which had been, going on between Catholics and Protestants.
I think we must bee the world as it is to-day, and realise that the actual proposals in this Bill cannot be carried out. At the same time we may be thankful 77 that owing to the war there is not the same necessity for carrying them out. The very fact of our being at war and needing the primary products produced by the Colonies has improved the prosperity of the Colonies. They have profiteered, and we are willing enough to pay and get the goods. The situation is completely different to-day from what it was when the report was drawn up or when these proposals were made. I do not think this £5,000,000 can profitably be spent in the ways proposed, but I do think that we might make better use of the money by investing it in other proposals in these Colonies.
I ask the House to consider our position as it is to-day. We have to fight for our lives, and in the greater part of England manufacture will become difficult. We must take advantage of the widespread character of our Empire and use these Colonies as places where we can continue to get food, munitions, small arms, shells and even 'planes. We have to look forward now to a long war, and it is time we realised that there are ways in which the Colonies can help us. We have done well by our Colonies in the past. They have good reason to bless the freedom which has been brought to them by the administration, or if not freedom at least justice. After all, freedom may be the right only of grown-ups, but justice is the right of all. In spite of Lord Haw and all those who have a professional interest in blackguarding Great Britain and her history, I say that we have done well by the natives in our Colonies, and that they are just as anxious as we are to preserve our justice and a measure of freedom. They have indeed more interest than we have in the defeat of Hitler. If we go down, what chance have the coloured races of the world of being treated in any way but like soulless cattle? They have expressed their loyalty to this country in time of war and have all volunteered to be on our side. What is more important to them is that we should be on their side.
I do not know what hon. Members have been thinking during the last fortnight, but it has passed through my mind that before this war is over we shall all be conscripted for work, all our wealth will be conscripted, we shall be under military discipline and controlled by the State for the duration of the war, we shall be 78 serfs of the State. Is there an hon. Member who would not welcome that as the alternative to Hitler? And it is equally certain that the people in the Colonies will be willing to work on the same terms as we Englishmen. These elaborate arrangements whereby forced labour is to be no longer allowed is because we naturally wanted to continue for natives English customs and the same rights as English working people; but in these days, while the emergency continues, we cannot be free and they cannot be free. We shall all have to make sacrifices, and the sacrifices will benefit not only us in this country but actually benefit the Colonies and the natives morally and economically. Hon. Members will remember that in the last war India, for the first two years, did not play its part at all. It resented any demand on its services, and neither men nor munitions could be got without great reluctance from India, until the middle of 1916. But from then on India put its back into the job, production increased, and at the end of the war there was no country so prosperous as India. The rupee rose, I believe, to 2s. 4d.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Such was the prosperity of India; because she was able to develop her industries owing to the clamant market here for her goods. The development in India in those last two years of the war was a consequence of the investment in that country of large sums of money in the form of machinery for the producing industries. Steel works sprang up, railway workshops became shell factories, and there were factory extensions. Since that war, India has been no longer a purely agricultural country, but a manufacturing country, with trained and skilled mechanics and engineers. All that development took place because we in this country, in time of war, made a demand upon the services of India. They sent us goods and they sent us enormous additions to our Army. Sometimes their recruiting methods in the Punjab may have been a bit rough, but in those days, I would remind the House, Gandhi was recruiting for the Indian Army. And he has not changed much to-day. The hearts of the Indians are entirely with us. They know that they and we must win this war. I hope that India, I am sure that India, now the 79 crisis has come, will be of a mind to send both men and goods.
The fact that India developed in that way seems to indicate to us now that we might apply exactly the same principles to the Colonies in the hope that they too will send us what we want. I am thinking of such places as Malaya, Palestine, Ceylon, possibly Cyprus and possibly Malta—the better educated Colonies. This sum of £5,000,000 should be invested in factories, in developing the production of engineering goods and the production of foodstuffs. Do not bother about the prices at which these things are sold. Develop the supply of munitions for this country at any price; develop exports to neutral countries, for all that helps us. There is still this ridiculous restriction on tin output and rubber output. We want them to produce every ounce they can and sell it to every country in the world except Germany's satelites. Everybody in the House has been saying that we must increase our exports in order to get the foreign exchange with which to buy munitions. Exactly the same thing applies to the Colonies. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) is now responsible for the Colonies. Let him remember that they can save us just as much as the Welsh miners can. Every additional pound's worth of goods produced in Ceylon is as useful as every ton of coal mined in the Rhondda.
We are living in a new world. Great Britain, I hope backed by America and by Russia, is against the most powerful organisation we have ever faced in our history. We have to use every possible means of resisting an infernal siege. Only our backdoors will be open to the world, the only parts of the world that we can count on working as we shall work are the Colonies, whose interests are our interests, who will make the same sacrifices as we are prepared to make. Call upon their services and their sacrifices not merely in labour but in capital. The self-interest of every great producer of cotton, cocoa, coffee must go as long as the war lasts. Confiscation, it may be called, but it will not be confiscation if they get it all back. Somehow or other we must get from every one of these Colonies the maximum production; and this Bill may have some value if the powers contained in it 80 are used to carry out, not the delightful proposals of a dead old world, but to carry out production, development, and training of the natives so that they will become as skilled producers as we are; all of which will certainly be necessary if we are to beat Germany.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has brought us back to a sense of realities. I confess that I entirely agree with him that one is discussing a Measure of this kind in an atmosphere that is hardly the atmosphere of reality to-day. I wish also to refer to one other point in his speech. I agree with him that there are no people in the world to-day to whom the success of Germany would be more disastrous than it would be to the people of those parts of Africa that we now administer. Speaking as one who has spent six years of his life in one of the primitive parts of Africa and who then had the privilege of travelling as member of a Commission through the whole of East Africa right down to the Cape, I can say there is nothing which impressed me more in the course of my journeys than speaking to the native chiefs who came before us as witnesses in Tanganyika, hearing what they had to say about German administration, or than seeing there—after coming from the Sudan or Uganda where the district commissioners were the fathers of the districts where they lived and people came and sat in their garden talking in the evening—how a German district commissioner's house was a fortress surrounded by a moat and a wall with spikes on the top of it. That brought home to one what the German administration in Tanganyika had been.
But such remarks take one rather far from the subject of the Measure that is before us. Although I agree with my right hon. Friend that this is not the time for long speech-making, there are, nevertheless, certain points, seeing that this Measure is before us, which it is legitimate to make. I should like first to join with other hon. Members who have expressed their congratulations to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) on taking his seat on the Front Bench as representing this very important industry. I should like further to join in the expres- 81 sions of great appreciation for the services which my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Health has rendered during his tenure of office at the Colonial Office. I need not go over that ground again, because it was well dealt with by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby). Then, too, I should like to join my hon. and gallant Friend in expressing my own tribute and my congratulations to the Noble Lord who has become Colonial Secretary. If I have congratulated the hon. Member for Aberdare on one thing, I would like now to congratulate him on another. I think it will be an inspiring experience for him to work with the Noble Lord who is Colonial Secretary. I have worked with him for three years in dealing with matters of this kind and I can testify that he is full of vision and full of drive, and if anybody can make anything out of the development of the Colonies in war conditions, I am sure he will give an inspiring lead to a purpose of that kind.
The matter before us to-day is this Bill which proposes to set up a fund by which £5,000,000 a year can be devoted to purposes of Colonial development and £500,000 a year to research work. I think it is very important to consider how that money is going to be spent. The mere spending of money on a Colony is not necessarily an advantage. We have to remember that if we are spending money for the relief of taxpayers in Africa or the West Indies, that money is coming from the pockets of taxpayers in this country, and it is not so easily found. This act of generosity is a thing which cannot be commended merely because it suggests that we are going to give money from the pockets of one set of taxpayers, who are very heavily burdened, to benefit another set. What we have to consider is whether this money will be well spent and constructively spent. If it is to involve nothing but a sort of pauperisation of a certain number of Crown Colonies, I do not think it will do any good. It must be spent on carefully selected objects which, if followed out in a businesslike way, will lead that Colony where the money is spent into a state of greater well being. I do not say necessarily greater economic prosperity; I put it broader—greater well being. But that requires very careful planning. The point—and it is really the 82 only point I want to make—is this. We must face the fact that whatever may happen in the next few weeks it will be hardly possible to get this scheme fully under way in the near future. That will give a very valuable time for going over all the plans that come in from the various territories.
I particularly welcome the general outlines given in the White Paper of how it is proposed to deal with this matter. As I understand it, it is the purpose—and this is really the first time it has been done—to have a comprehensive review of the whole situation, because from every Crown Colony there will come in proposals for long-range development. That is what is necessary. In connection with that, I want very strongly to support what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sevenoaks. He emphasised how in the past the handling of these matters had suffered from lack of continuity. It is astonishing, if one travels about the British Empire, among the Crown Colonies, how great differences one finds in the conditions and the policy as between one place and another. One may find in the administration of one Colony certain characteristics quite different from those which appear in another Colony, perhaps next door. If one asks why there are those differences, one finds perhaps that there was a particularly energetic Governor there—it may have been 20 or 30 years ago—or a particularly active set of missionaries in another place. There are great differences everywhere. Governors come and go, and so many of these projects get started without there being provision for adequate continuity to see the project through.
That brings me to the question of how this sum of £5,000,000 a year is to be administered. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health paid a tribute to the work of the Colonial Loans Committees. I was personally glad to hear that tribute, because I was in fact chairman of the first example of a Colonial Loans Advisory Committee before I went to India, and I also served a short time on the present committee. But I have always felt that this committee procedure is not entirely satisfactory. You cannot get from a committee, meeting perhaps only once a month, that continuous review of the position which seems to me necessary for the wise administration of a Fund of this kind. To deal with the 83 sort of propositions which come before such a committee, there should be more continuous study, and a background of knowledge is also required, against which the various proposals can be judged. For instance, it is necessary to know how the railways are going in a particular country and to be in constant contact with their progress, if one is to deal adequately with an application for a loan for railway extensions.
The point which I want to put to the hon. Member for Aberdare is this: In starting to administer a Fund of this kind we are starting, on a huge scale, a sort of investment and development company. I want to be satisfied that there is some body analogous to a first-class board of directors, who will watch how the money is spent, who will be responsible for authorising projects, and who—and this is the most important point of all—will have to live with the results of their actions. If people who are brought in to advise on projects feel that they have only to give their advice and that six months hence when the scheme comes to fruition, they will probably be far away, it is hard for them to feel that sense of responsibility which the manager or director of a business undertaking feels when he knows that if he makes a mistake he will have to live with the results of that mistake. It is of great importance that there should be some body responsible for a continuous review of economic conditions and for watching how these projects are carried out and how they develop.
It is not clear from the way in which these proposals have been put before us how the Measure will work, but I understand that the Colonial Secretary will have the entire responsibility. He will consult one or other of the two committees of which we have heard—and, in passing, may I say how strongly I welcome the announcement of the names of the chairmen of those committees. Presumably, the Colonial Secretary will have to consult those committees but subject to that, the decision will be his. It will not be the case, as it was previously, that a proposition will have to be approved by the Advisory Committee before being submitted to the Treasury. It will be solely a Colonial Office responsibility and all they will have to do will be to get the Treasury's approval. 84 If that is the position, then I feel strongly that some development of the Organisation in the Colonial Office is necessary. According to what my right hon. Friend said and according to the White Paper, that is what is proposed but I venture to put it to the hon. Member for Aberdare as a key point, that it is necessary to have continuity of the administration of this Fund. Every project should be well considered against a background of knowledge, not only of local conditions but of world conditions.
That brings me to my next point. If you are aiming at the economic development of a Colony, that almost inevitably means the production of some article which has to find a place in the export markets. Indeed, if you are to help it to be self-supporting and to meet the interest on sterling loans some part of the products must find place in export markets. But then you must be sure that markets are available. No worse crime could be committed than that of encouraging a primitive, native people, by gifts of money, to grow crops which afterwards they cannot sell. As the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme has pointed out, at the moment the difficulty of finding markets is not with us, but it is a condition which may arise again and if one is pleading for a properly co-ordinated plan of development, having regard to the conditions in each Colony, one must add to that the plea that when these wide plans—and with such a sum of money they may be on a very big scale—are started, they will fit in with some general world plan of co-operation between nations. Only in that way shall we get away from the absurd conditions in which we have been living, conditions of artificially restricted production. Only in that way shall we be able to pass to more generous policies, which will enable us to increase the standards of consumption all round. However, that is looking forward, I fear, to a very distant date and our thoughts at this moment must be on a different and much more urgent problem.
There is only one other comment which I should like to make upon this Measure. It provides for expenditure up to £5,000,000 a year, but as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sevenoaks pointed out, as the Measure stands, if the sum of £5,000,000 is not spent in any one year, it will lapse and the total avail- 85 able over the 10 years will be reduced. There is, moreover, another feature which the House ought to understand. This £5,000,000 may go either in grants by way of gift to the Colonies, or in loans. From the Treasury point of view, it is a question only whether the money goes out or not, and it makes no difference to them whether it goes out as a gift or as a loan. It is possible therefore that this Measure, which I am sure the House interprets as involving a gift of sums up to £5,000,000 a year to the Colonies, might be administered without any money passing to the Colonies at all. The money might all go in loans, which, in due time, might be repaid and go back to the Treasury. There is no sort of revolving credit by which that money could be applied again for new purposes. I feel that a distinction should be made between loans and gifts and if the time comes when it is possible to do so, I think the Colonial Secretary might consider trying to get the plan altered so that we should really be setting aside a fund of £5,000,000 a year for the purposes covered by the Bill. If money advanced by way of loan were well spent, and came back again, it could then go out afresh, to start new projects. That, I believe, would represent the intention of this House in supporting a Measure which purports to give the Colonies £5,000,000 a year. Beyond that I only wish to add that I join with other speakers in expressing my general approval of the Measure, subject to the over-riding condition that it is properly administered.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Captain Alan Graham (Wirral)
I should like to voice my sincere regret at the departure from the Colonial Office of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of this Bill and to say how much we appreciated the ideal combination of firmness and sympathy which he brought to the discharge of his duties. At the same time, I wish to offer my congratulations to the Noble Lord who succeeds him, and to assert my confidence in his drive and resourcefulness to extract from our Colonial Empire the utmost strength, in war as well as in peace, for the British Empire as a whole. Some hon. Members who do not belong to the Noble Lord's party may be afraid of him as an Imperialist. They may attach a bogy significance to his Imperialism, but I would assure them that the Noble Lord's 86 Imperialism is the faith which he has in the principles underlying our British civilisation and his determination that those principles shall prevail.
Whether in days of war or days of peace, one cannot but welcome this Measure, for which there is, indeed, the utmost need. It is a sad fact, but if one compares the signs of material progress in any of the Colonies belonging to far smaller and poorer Powers than Great Britain, with some of our own Colonies, particularly in the Mediterranean, one finds that the comparison is by no means in our favour. In the case of Italy, for example, the signs of material progress in Libya, Tripolitania and Rhodes are striking. The foreign neutral observer who goes to one of those Italian colonies and sees the enormous improvements made there in sanitation and productivity and who then visits a Colony of ours where, indeed, there is infinitely greater liberty for the individual, finds that there is certainly not the same evidence of material progress as is to be found in the Italian colonies.
§ Captain Graham
To Cyprus. The neutral observer who makes the comparison which I have suggested cannot but be affected by what he has seen, in his views about Fascism. He then announces to his countrymen and to the world the benefits which have been achieved under the Fascist system of government in the Italian colonies. Democracy, he will say, may have done well in the past, but when one sees it at work in a British Colony it seems worn out and asleep. Unfortunately, the majority of neutral observers do not look, primarily, at the political conditions of the peoples dwelling in the Colonies as much as at the signs of material progress. It is unfortunate for us, with the immense resources of our Empire, that such unfavourable comparisons should be possible.
There were present in this House at Question Time to-day, listening to our democratic wrangle over the Official Opposition, 16 Turkish deputies and editors of Turkish newspapers. One of these is a man who was born in Cyprus 20 years ago, but because of the lack of opportunity for a British subject born in Cyprus at that time, he went over to Turkey. I am sorry to say that that lack 87 of opportunity remained, certainly up to the last two or three years. The young British subject in Cyprus felt that he had not the opportunities for development which were afforded out of the infinitely slenderer resources of the youthful Turkish Republic. It seems to me a scandal that this great Empire of ours should not be able to provide, in every one of these Colonies, avenues for self-development for each one of its citizens, coloured or white, and that British subjects should be forced to emigrate before they feel that they have a chance to get on in life. I would, therefore, suggest that of the sums to be allotted under this Bill a large proportion should be devoted to technical education.
The world, in my view, is considerably overstocked with black-coated sedentaries. There are not enough people throughout the world who are capable of being first-class engineers and who can construct healthy homes, healthy towns, communications, transport and all those material evidences of civilisation. Particularly is this so in many of our Colonies. We are concentrating too much on a smattering of non-technical education and not nearly enough on technical education to fit these human beings, for whose development we are responsible, to perform really constructive work and take a useful part in the development of the country in which they live.
I notice with great satisfaction that the proportion of the Ottoman Debt which previously fell to Trans-Jordania has been remitted. I think that anyone with a knowledge of the history of the Ottoman Debt cannot but welcome it as an act of elementary justice. I regret very much, however, that where the Colonial Office has seen the light in regard to Trans-Jordania in this respect, it has apparently turned a blind eye to the many-year-old demand of Cyprus in the same respect. What justification in equity can there be for relieving a people from the brutal tyranny of the Ottoman Sultan and the Ottoman Government and then continuing to make them pay a proportion of the debts contracted by that Government from whom you have released them? There is no justification for it whatever. Cyprus was leased from Turkey in 1878, chiefly in order to assist in the protection of Turkey and Britain in the Mediterranean against the threatened 88 Russian advance. It was annexed to Britain in 1914. After the Turkish sovereignty had been seriously impaired by our taking over the lease, and definitely abrogated by our annexation, we still demanded that Cyprus should go on contributing thousands of pounds a year to the payment of this Ottoman Debt. In the view of perfectly loyal Cypriots and most Englishmen who have studied the question, there is definitely a justifiable demand that £500,000 should be returned by the British Treasury to Cyprus for money wrongly taken from them in this respect. It is simply grist to the mill for those agitators who still urge that Cyprus should join Greece that the richest Empire in the world should compel Cyprus to pay this unjust sum, I hope the Colonial Office, in extending justice to Trans-Jordania over the Ottoman Debt with the left hand, will not withhold it from Cyprus with the right hand. Apart from that, I welcome the Bill most sincerely as a, Measure which, I think, fulfils many needs.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
May I first of all, as a former political opponent, congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) upon the attainment of office? I have often in the past listened with interest to his speeches in the House, and I am certain his knowledge of working-class life and working-class problems will prove most advantageous in administering the affairs of the Colonial Office. My right hon. Friend who introduced this Bill gave us, with that eloquence which we have come to accept as customary, a vivid picture of the Colonial Empire, and he justly took credit for great achievements. I agree with him, but it is equally true that much still remains to be done. I could not help thinking of those encouraging words of Cecil Rhodes, himself a great executive and Imperialist, when he said that so little is done and there is so much to do. I believe that for that reason this House welcomes unreservedly the introduction of this Bill. It initiates a policy which many of us would like to have seen implemented on the Statute Book a long time ago. The Debate on the Colonial Office Vote last year achieved one main object; it encouraged the Government to set up two committees, the Colonial Development Advisory Committee and the Colonial Research Advisory Committee. At any 89 rate a survey will now be undertaken and plans will be made and public works put down in order of their priority.
As time passes, I hope that more and more scope will be given to Colonial development, and that more and more investors in this country will devote their savings to the development of our Colonial Empire overseas. Hon. Members this evening rightly stress that we have one policy in our Colonial development—the policy of trusteeship. We believe ourselves to be the guardians of the native races until such time as they become of age. We treat them as human beings. It is a great contrast between our administration and the ideas developed by the leader of the German people, who in "Mein Kampf" dismisses the coloured people of Africa as half apes, helpless tortured slaves to be used for the economic welfare of the all-conquering Nordic race. For my part, I confess most unashamedly that I am a sentimentalist when I consider the ideals of our Colonial Empire. In these days, when our fate is being settled on the fields of Northern France, I take the greatest encouragement from a phrase such as that uttered by the hereditary chief of Accra, and quoted in the "Times" a short time ago:If the worst comes to the worst, I will take off my sandals and walk bare-footed with the British troops into the firing line.I believe that we owe loyal statements of that kind to the policy which has guided us in the past.
Sub-section (2, b) of Clause 1 of the Bill lays down a just principle, namely, that any colony in which public works are undertaken shall be able to benefit from any resulting increase of value. We have made mistakes in the past, and I hope we shall avoid them in the future. I will give two illustrations to show my point, and the first deals with the Gold Coast. Hon. Members will remember that some time last year the cocoa producers oft the Gold Coast felt themselves aggrieved with the prices they were receiving for their cocoa. In the uphill villages they met together, organised a protest, and started to boycott British.goods, and the spindles in Lancashire were the first to suffer. Rightly or wrongly, the native cocoa producers thought that a powerful combine was forcing down the price of their commodity. The Cocoa Commission which investigated the trouble made a wise suggestion. It said that the 90 native producers should strengthen their position by organising themselves into a producers' association. I understand that the Government now give a fixed and comparatively good price for cocoa, but I have not yet heard that that good and simple suggestion has been accepted by the Government.
I will give a second instance, that of the producers of cotton seed in Uganda. The cotton producer, who again is a native, produces on small holdings and brings the cotton to ginneries which separate the cotton from the cotton seed. I understand that the Government, in the interests of the cotton producer, have evolved a formula whereby the price is based on the market value of cotton and cotton seed. The ginner pays to the native producer a rate according to the price which he receives for these two. I am not complaining about the price of cotton, for that is quoted on the open market, but I am complaining in this case about the price received for cotton seed, because in Uganda it is far below that of Egyptian and South American cotton seed. A powerful combine which deals with Nigeria is the sole purchaser of Uganda cotton seed. I would like to suggest that when the Committee stage of the Bill is reached a Clause is introduced whereby in any future public work undertaken the Government should see that the native producer receives the fair world price for his goods or, alternatively, a guaranteed price from the Government. I am opposed to monopolies at all times and never more so than when they deal with native peoples. I believe, as an hon. Member opposite said, that the strength of our Colonial administration has been due to the sense of justice and sense of security which we have given to native peoples. Let us, therefore, however advantageous this Bill may be, keep these two principles in mind and try, by learning from our failures in the past, to implement our efforts in the future.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I listened with interest and sympathy to the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr). I think the suggestions that he made were helpful. I listened with great interest also to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health when he was moving the Second Reading of the Bill. He has passed on to be the Minister of Health 91 for this country from being the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I hope he will have greater success in looking after the health of the people here than he has had in the development of conditions for the people in the colonies. I remember the Debate on our colonial administration when the Minister was pretty roughly treated by all parts of the House because of the conditions in so many of our Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that he had a very bad evening, but possibly a great deal of the blame thrown at him was really a heritage that belonged to the previous Secretary of State. There was certainly a widespread feeling in the House that our Colonial administration was a great failure in many respects.
Now we have a change of Ministers. One hon. Member congratulated the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) on the fact that he was to be associated with the new Secretary of State for the Colonies because of the latter's great gifts. I congratulate the hon. Member on the fact that he will have an opportunity to do something in connection with our colonial administration. I have listened to many speeches from him and he knows that I have a real appreciation of his eloquence and of the good sound common sense which has been notable in so many of the speeches he has made from the Box on the other side of the House. I wish him well in the office that he has taken up. I cannot say that I am in the least enthusiastic about the Noble Lord with whom he is to be associated in the administration of the colonies.
§ Mr. Stephen
If the hon. and gallant Member listens to me a little longer he will perhaps find that I know something about him. I may not have met him personally, but I know that there are many charming people with pleasant manners who yet have not been notable for their success in administration. I do not know that I would have taken part in the Debate but for the enthusiasm that has been shown about the Noble Lord. I remember the present Minister of Economic Warfare, when a Labour Government was in office, making it one of the great boasts of the success of the late Mr. Henderson that he had given Lord 92 Lloyd the sack. There had been difficulties in connection with his regime in Egypt, and hon. Members above the Gangway will remember that one of the things upon which we Members of the Labour party prided ourselves was that we had got rid of this Imperialist who had conducted himself in Egypt in such a high-handed way. Now he is the chief of our Colonial administration and I do not look for very much from him in view of his record in Egypt and of his public speeches. I do not look for a policy in connection with our Colonial Empire such as I think should be pursued.
This Bill has aroused great enthusiasm among many members because it provides for a fivefold expenditure as compared with the expenditure under the Colonial Development Act of 1929. The Bill also provides for the remission of debts due from the Colonies to the extent of over £11,000,000 because there is no hope of ever getting the money back from them. Of that sum more than £5,000,000 has gone to Kenya. From my knowledge of the administration in Kenya, I think the native population will have got very little out of it, and that probably many of the white settlers have been much more benefited by that expenditure than the native population.
There was one sentence in the right hon. Gentleman's speech which rather irritated me and made me inclined to intervene in this Debate. It was the sentence in which he was criticising the point of view of those who, as he said, expected that the people in those Colonies should have the same standard of life as the people in this country. He said their countries were different, their circumstances were different; that the people in the Colonial Empire had a standard of life of their own which was not comparable with ours because of different environment and circumstances. I think that statement expresses an entirely wrong point of view. It is simply an apology for maladministration and for the bad treatment of the people in the Colonial Empire. We see that their standard of life is low, that their difficulties are great and that there is poverty and misery among them, and then we solace ourselves by saying "Of course, the sun shines in those countries much more strongly than it does in this country, and the people there do not need the same 93 food as we do here; they can get along on a banana and a few nuts and do not need porridge and bacon and eggs, and therefore we cannot compare the two standards." But the fact remains that in the Debate to which I have already referred there was condemnation by the House of the fact that in so many parts of the Colonial Empire there had been failure to make suitable provision for the uplift of the native peoples.
I would also recall to the House that there has been a lot of trouble in parts of the Colonial Empire. We have had inquiries into those troubles. There was the trouble in Trinidad. It was quite obvious that in the administration of the Colonial Empire there was a lack of sympathy for the development of working class organisation among the people. If one was unfortunate enough to be an active of some part of our Colonial Empire and took part in seeking to organise the people in order to get a movement going that would have as its objective the raising of the standard of life, one would come into conflict with the representative of British Imperialism in the Colonies, and, as happened in the case of Uriah Butler, the agitator would have a very good chance of suffering many years of imprisonment because of doing things which the right hon. Gentleman himself thought it was right to do in this country when carrying on such an agitation. Recently, because of these revolts, the Government have been appealed to take action, and the attempt is being made to develop labour organisation, but labour organisation under careful rules, so that it will not really be a dangerous organisation and threaten British interests in the Colonies.
By this Bill £5,000,000 per annum is to be provided, and £500,000 in connection with research. I think that that sum, spread over the 60,000,000 people in the Colonial Empire, will do very little. In view of past experience, I think most of it will be wasted; and that so much of it will go to try to improve the holdings of British Imperialism in those Colonies and very little of it will go to minister to the needs of the native peoples. I said when I rose how much I appreciated the speech made by the hon. Member for Oldham. It showed a desire that this money should be going to the needy people, to bring them along towards the higher and finer 94 things in civilisation; but frankly I do not look for anything very much from the administration under the conduct of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, more especially the Secretary of State who has now been appointed. I think his mind is very much like the mind of Hitler with respect to the primitive peoples. As he has expressed himself, his is the mind of a man who thinks of the native races as inferior races. I think they are just as capable, given the opportunity, as the people of any race in any part of the world. I believe there is a very common standard of intelligence in human beings, whatever their colour or creed, but that some have had better opportunities than others, very often because of the mineral resources of the country in which they have been born; but in all our talk about the Colonies there is this idea that the native races are inferior races, whom we are going to help along.
We are carrying on a philanthropic organisation. We are going to spend this £5,000,000 to help the poor people of the Colonies. My view is that a great deal of that talk is humbug and that so much money is being spent on the Colonial Empire because of the need of markets for the people in this country, the ruling class. The Colonies are very largely a plantation for the people of this country, and the £5,000,000 that is to be spent annually may very well be simply a subsidy to try to procure markets for the ruling and owning classes in this country.
The fact of the matter is that, with the little development of education in many of our Colonies, the little that has been done to help the people to a higher standard of life, the ruthless oppression and repression when great popular movements have come, such as the one to which I previously referred, and the cruel treatment of native leaders like Uriah Butler, show that there is very little to be hoped for from this Measure. Something more is needed than a Bill like this. It needs a new spirit and a new point of view in the world in which we live today, in which there is so much change and disturbance. I believe that we are coming to the end of the order which exploited the people of the Colonies. I say that we need a new spirit which will regard the people in the Colonies as our brothers and sisters, fellow men and women who are as capable as we are, 95 given the opportunity. We have to cease our rule or our reign of exploitation and give them their freedom and the opportunity to work out their lives in the same way that we want to live out our lives here.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
When the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Health spoke in his former capacity as Secretary of State for the Colonies, he opened his remarks by speaking about clearing the decks for action. If you are clearing the decks for action you must have a plan of action. The plan presented in the Bill is for setting aside a certain sum of money, £5,000,000 a year and £500,000 for research. That plan is admirable in itself, but on what are you going to spend the money? There is not enough classification and organisation with regard to the report, which deals, for instance, with the whole Colonial Empire. A little time ago we had a very interesting disquisition on the Island of Cyprus, given with intense personal feeling by an hon. Member who was talking about Cyprus because it comes under the Bill. True, it does, but so do Palestine, the West Indies and West and East Africa. Newfoundland comes into the Schedule.
There ought to be some arrangement about these things. It is almost grotesque to have to consider at the same time expenditure for the development of undeveloped tropical areas like West Africa and East Africa, and for the extraordinarily sophisticated problems that have to be dealt with in Palestine, Kenya or Cyprus. There should be a division of these things, because they need different treatment. Take again the West Indies. There you have a problem dating from the slave days and the old plantation days, and going on in a series of social changes—many of them degenerative social changes—up to the present time. There is no possible comparison between what has to be done in the West Indies, an old country which has decayed, in a sense, and which has a social system which never worked very well and has to a large extent broken down, and what has to be done with the problems presented by, say, West Africa. There you have a very active and vigorous native population. The hon. Member who spoke 96 on this subject was wrong about their poverty. A good many of these natives are very much better off than many of the people in Scotland.
The problems in East and West Africa are so extraordinarily different from those of the West Indies that you cannot consider them in the same breath. You have to do repair work in the West Indies, but in East and West Africa, in fact in the whole of tropical Africa, you have to do constructive work by building up from the existing foundations and creating new work. I confess I was a little perturbed when the right hon. Gentleman, in carefully chosen words, made it clear that the total amount of the money might not be spent. I could not help the comparison rising in my mind with a fund, established years ago, of £1,000,000 a year for Empire settlement, for the purpose of settling white people in different parts of the Empire. That was an admirable purpose, but the money was, I believe, never completely spent, because the plans for spending it and for settling people were never made. In what the right hon. Gentleman said I did not hear the plans for spending this money as it ought to be spent. That is an essential thing.
There has been too much stress—it occurred in practically all the speeches—on the financial side of this matter, and not enough on the economic planning side of it. In my remarks I propose to confine myself very largely to the problems affecting West Africa, because I have recently had an opportunity, as a member of a private commission of investigation, of spending three months in that country and of investigating its resources very thoroughly indeed. For the proper economic organisation and direction of the resources of Nigeria the only money that you would require to spend would be to pay for certain technical instructors in the Government service who could help agriculturists to improve their agriculture, which is already on a high level, and enormously to improve their standard of life.
97 As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the land in West Africa as a whole is held in communal tenure. The amount of land which is held in individual tenure is exceedingly small, and that means that the whole of the produce of the work of the people on the land comes back to them, except in so far as they sell what they produce in the form which, in West Africa, they call cash crops. Therefore, they can, by improving their agriculture, by increasing the number of things which they grow and by scientific and technical improvements, increase the use of their own soil, of which there is practically an unlimited amount at the present time. Therefore, they can enormously increase their own standard of life by improving the articles which they consume. But the right hon. Gentleman during his speech did not once mention the fact that the essential problem in West Africa, and I believe in all tropical Africa, is precisely to preserve that communal tenure of land and to raise the standard of the Africans on the basis of improving their, agricultural methods on that land. If you can do that, then on the basis of the country's own resources you can raise up a population very materially without any great expenditure at all.
In West Africa at the present time, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, there is a great conflict between the ideas of our Western money civilisation and of the African subsistence civilisation. On the basis of the African subsistence civilisation the African has been secure in his land and completely self-sufficient for many hundreds of years. We have introduced into West Africa, sometimes with the best intentions in the world, our British and Western methods, and where we have succeeded in introducing those methods we have produced not an advantage but a disadvantage to the Africans. In West Africa this question of land tenure and the building up of the prosperity of the African population by improving their own forms of agricultural production on the basis of communal land tenure, is such an important question that before the commission to which I referred went out to Africa, when the people in Nigeria learned that one of the terms of reference of the commission was to consider the question of land tenure and to report thereon, the youth movement in Nigeria 98 —a very active political movement of the Socialist kind, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will be glad to know—was so impressed with the danger, as they thought, of this investigation, that they promptly arranged a deputation to the Governor of Nigeria, and when this commission, of which I was a member, was in Nigeria, we were met on every point with questions as to the meaning of this item in our terms of reference, "to investigate land tenure," which, of course, we meant objectively as it stood.
Actually as a result of my own visit to West Africa, I became firmly convinced that the first essential in West African policy from the point of view of the prosperity of the African, of the prosperity of the European trader and of European trade in general, is to maintain that communal tenure at all costs, and I may say that I understand that for some time past that has been the policy of the Colonial Office. It certainly was the policy expressed to me by the Governors of the different Colonies with whom I had the opportunity of discussing the matter, and it was also expressed to me by the leading representatives of the British business community, some of whom by the way are representatives of the monopoly which was referred to earlier. It was approved of by the representatives of the British community as being the only permanent and solid foundation of African life. I want to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman and on the House that when dealing with the Colonial Empire one should first of all consider it from the standpoint of Africa, because in the Colonial Empire there are 60,000,000 persons, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and in West Africa alone you have 25,000,000 of those persons. When you take the rest of Africa together you certainly have 50 per cent. of the total Colonial Empire in Africa. Africa is the most important part of the Colonial Empire, and from the standpoint of the policy of treatment of Colonial people, it is the most important of all Colonial States which belong to the British Empire, because it is there that you can do most to improve conditions along new lines.
I would like to refer for a few moments to one or two purely financial points which came to my notice. One of them is extremely familiar to a good many 99 hon. Members in this House, particularly those who up to the present have been in the habit of sitting on the opposite side, and that is the prevention of waste. I came across a most abominable example of waste of public money in Colonial expenditure, in the erection of a house which had cost £6,000 to put up and which in this country would not have cost more than £2,000—and quite over-expensively put up. I remember querying why a house in a particular tropical area, where the temperature never went below 80 degrees, had been put up with such an extremely heavy roof. I was informed in all seriousness that it had been put up following plans made by an architect who had followed the principle that the roof of a house should always be able to support a full load of so many feet of snow in the winter-time—in a country where snow has never been known to fall, except perhaps on the mountain tops. In this house, with its elaborate expenditure, there was no method of providing hot water for the bathrooms. All the water had to be heated in kerosene tins over wood fires in the yard, carried in and poured into the bath—a combination of waste and bad organisation which it is difficult to parallel.
There has been a great deal of waste in colonial administration in the erection of houses for public officials, in the erection of large administrative blocks of buildings in a European and modern manner where it would have been much cheaper, more economical and even cooler and more sanitary to have followed the local African method. There has been a tremendous amount of waste and it must be prevented. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to know that one of the first reactions I experienced when the Colonial Development Fund was announced was to receive a letter from a source which I will not mention, but a very well-informed source, saying: "Of course, plans are now being made to run our expenditure into this Fund"; plans were being made to prevent money being spent in the ordinary way and to put it on to this new Fund. That kind of thing will have to be prevented.
Here is another financial point. I was rather intrigued when I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that minerals in a 100 Colony were a source of great wealth to that Colony. I do not see any great reason for thinking that. Licence fees are paid, a certain amount of taxation is paid but by no means does the largest proportion of the value of gold, diamonds or other minerals go to the Colonial Governments. I wish it did. I do not see any reason for thinking that all mineral resources in the Colonial Dominions ought to be national property and used for the nation. I do not mean to say that capital enterprise should be excluded—I do not think that would be practicable—but I would like to see the capitalist organisation take a fixed percentage, the balance going to the community, rather than allow the small amount to be given to the Colony.
To return to this question of economic development. Take, for instance, Nigeria, the largest of the Colony States—I think we shall have to adopt such a name as Colony States—with its 20,000,000 of population. Southern Nigeria is an immensely wealthy area in the real sense of the word. The soil is fertile; it has a large and industrious population, some of whom are very highly civilised in their own way, and it has mineral and forestry resources. What it needs is direction and organisation in order to develop it very much better, but it must be developed with an eye first to the improvement of the standard of life of the African people, and that means improving and maintaining their communal agriculture. If you do that, you can add to that communal agriculture the improved agriculture of certain exports or cash crops.
West Africa, as everyone knows, exports palm oil, palm kernels, and other tropical products. If those products are exported and sold, a certain amount of money is paid for them, and that is spent in the country. There is in that way a very simple form of export and import trade. While the general standard of their population is not a high one it is not easy for that trade to develop in a big way, because the people have not much time for looking after cash crops apart from their subsistence agriculture. Therefore, the tendency is for the trader to try to stimulate the production of cash crops, without reference to the effects on the African problem. In that way, a conflict of interests is set up between the white trader and the African. It is definitely detrimental to the African to be 101 encouraged to grow cash crops and to sell them to a larger extent than he can combine with a good standard of subsistence agriculture for himself and his family.
I have looked into the cocoa question on the Gold Coast, and I have no hesitation in saying that, while a very large amount of cocoa has been produced for the world market, that fact has had a destructive effect on the native form of life, from which it will take certain of the native areas a very long time to recover. On balance, the effect on the native economy has been to lower, rather than to raise, standards. Although I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman was able to make the arrangement by which the cocoa producers are to get a fixed price during the war period, I should have been more pleased if greater attention had been paid to improving, and indeed in some areas actually reintroducing, subsistence agriculture where it has been destroyed by the cocoa agriculture, developed for the purpose of export trade. The same thing is happening in Northern Nigeria with regard to ground nuts. The native producer sees a thing in a store which he would like to buy, and wants the money to do so. The production of ground nuts gives him an opportunity of getting easy money. He is neglecting subsistence agriculture, and that will make him entirely dependent for his livelihood on the sale of ground nuts. He will, therefore, have to import, or to purchase for cash, food to support himself, which otherwise he would grow. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that position has already occurred in the Colony of Gambia, where a large number of people, in a country which is quite able to support all of them if they only used their ordinary method of communal agriculture, produce and sell ground nuts, and import rice on which they live. That is an utterly ridiculous situation, and it ought to be prevented. I found no indication in the right hon. Gentleman's speech of a policy of preventing that sort of thing.
I want to see it laid down that the subsistence agriculture of the African people in all the areas which we control will be supported, and will be improved, by technical instruction, by experimental farms, and by administration, in order to raise the standard of life of the African. That could be done. Having raised the standard of African life, you could cer- 102 tainly go on to develop cash crops, if you carefully safeguarded the production of enough food for subsistence purposes. It is very difficult for those who have not visited countries in the tropics to realise the extraordinary difference that exists between our money system of economy and the subsistence system of economy which prevails in Africa. Let me give one instance. Money, for practical purposes, in West Africa has little significance. If you go marketing—as I did in the market town of Onitsha on the Niger river—it is no good taking any coin larger than 1d., because you will not be able to spend it adequately. The ordinary coin is the anini, a special coin invented by the West African administrations, having the value of one-tenth of a penny. So money values there do not mean what they mean in this country. Money there is still a thing of secondary importance, the thing of first importance being the subsistence economy of the African. I believe that the essential thing is to let all the African peoples know that this Government will conserve the African land system at all costs, and will do its best to minimise the effects of conflicts between the European system and the African system. That conflict is created by people of both good and bad intentions. Some of the missionaries, who insist upon putting children into entirely unsuitable hats and coats and other clothes, are doing them just as much harm as the people who exploit them. That must be prevented. Let us build up in every way that we can the standard of the African.
What has become of a proposal, which I think might have particular importance at the present time, to set up a Parliamentary Committee on the Colonies? We are all one family at the present moment. Why should we not have that Parliamentary Committee, which could consider all the complicated problems of Colonial administration? We might have a subcommittee for Cyprus, another for Palestine, and so on. We might have, perhaps, a larger committee for the bulky African question. I hope that whoever is to wind up this Debate will be able to make some declaration that the Government will not go back upon the policy which has been maintained in Africa, of keeping the communal tenure of the land for the African. I hope that the Government will base their plans on the im- 103 provement of African farming and of the African standard of life, and, building upon that, will make the first object of our Colonial administration the raising of the standard of the people, by the use of all the resources in their own country.
In most of the areas in Africa of which I am speaking you could do the work of development with a little money, comparatively speaking, but it would have to be spread over a considerable number of years. You cannot do this kind of thing very quickly. You must give time for education to spread and for ideas to pass from one to the other, but in West Africa there are all the resources required to create and to build up new wealth. If you create new wealth you will find, after a few years, instead of having to provide a Colonial Development Fund of £5,000,000 a year, that these enormously potential, productive areas, with a population whose standard of life has been raised by a really constructive economic policy, will be able to help us with that new wealth that they have produced, instead of our helping them.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish (Lewes)
I want to say a few words about these West African and other Colonies, and I cordially agree with nearly everything that has been said. I think that we as a nation are very much to blame and that we have treated for a very long period of years all our African Colonies and many other Colonies in a most shabby way, without any real vision, and therefore this Bill makes up at least a little for what we have done so wickedly in the past. Many Members who have taken part in this discussion perhaps realise that a Royal Commission, which sat early in my lifetime, made a recommendation that we should give up all the African Colonies completely. I am glad to say that that decision was not agreed to and that we have stuck to them. On the other hand, it is true to say that they have been extremely badly treated. I would apply that same remark to the West Indies. I speak with some little knowledge of this—although it is somewhat ancient, because 45 years ago I was in West Africa for two years, and I helped, in a humble capacity as a junior naval officer, to put things to rights, with the result that some of these Colonies are new in a very 104 settled and comparatively satisfactory condition.
No doubt many Members here have read of the expedition that took place up the Niger River to the city called Benin. I happen to have had the good or bad fortune to take part in that expedition. One of my jobs was to look after the carriers. We had to have carriers of water, provisions, and ammunition. Of two or three hundred under my charge, there were not more than 5 per cent. of them who were not mutilated men, that is to say, they were short of either one or both ears or their nose, or, in many cases of a hand. These men were the population of some of the districts in the delta of the Niger River, and the local chiefs found that that was the best way, as they thought in those days, of punishing their people if they had done something wrong. When we got up to Benin City we found that it comparedfavourably—if such a word cart be used of atrocities—with those that had occurred in French West Africa in Dahomey. Human sacrifice was the custom. They sacrificed a number of individuals on the day that we arrived there, and there were literally thousands of corpses, most of which had been actually sacrificed to their gods. To-day having read the report on that particular Colony and seen the remarkable progress, I think that, however many things we may have done badly in many respects, we have at least stopped that sort of thing from happening. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) made a remark that gave me the impression that he thinks that the West African and other African tribes are very much alike. If he saw a Kroo man from the Kroo coast with a blue tattoo mark down his forehead and a native of some of the Niger delta districts or Liberia he would change his mind. One is a most magnificent specimen of the human kind and the other one of the most miserable. Their brain capacity and energy are equally different.
I also had some experience on the East Coast of Africa which makes me realise what progress has been made, because I was there before the railway to Uganda was even designed. It was our job, in which I took a great interest as a young man, to suppress, the activities of some of the Arab slave raiders who were making life a misery for the natives. That 105 again has been brought to an end and is satisfactory. I remember when I was there 45 years ago the story of the ship called the "Black Joke," a celebrated West African slaver. Any Member of Parliament who would like to read something of extraordinary interest and horror should read the story of the "Black Joke." But even 45 years ago the ship that I was in had on board all the records of the final extinction of the slave trade in West Africa, which came to an end only between 1860 and 1865. When we remember that we in this country have been responsible for the exploitation of the slave trade—more exploitation than was made by any other country—and that we were also, I am glad to say, responsible for its final extinction, it made up to some extent at least for the horrors that we had committed previously.
I would say a word about Cyprus, which is another place that I know well. I have been astonished on the several occasions that I have been there to find how little real interest we took in the place and how badly we conducted our responsibilities there. Speaking generally, I have always thought that we have been much too inclined to look on our Colonies as links of Empire rather than possessions that ought to be carefully and considerately developed on behalf of the natives. We have used them as fortified bases and as pawns in the dreadful game of war. If one turns to the history of the West Indies and looks up the way in which this country and our Government treated our troops and our white people who went out there, and the natives for something like two centuries, it makes one blush to think how badly we have handled these parts of the world. There is no doubt about that. I should like to see the help very much increased as opportunity offers.
Something has been said on the subject of the standard of living. I am sure that many Members have taken the trouble to read the astonishingly good report on nutrition in the Colonies and Colonial possessions. That report stands greatly to the credit of the Socialist Administration which called for it. It is interesting as showing the importation of food in a land of plenty and the varying foods that the natives eat. Some of them live from one year's end to another on milk and butter, others on fruit, and 106 others live the whole year round on meat; many of them go through periods of starvation waiting for their crops to come up. All these things, I think, should incite us to do our best to make up for some of our sins of the past. Having been not very constructive, but perhaps a little reminiscent, I do urge that we should go ahead with this matter, make our plans and do our utmost, always remembering that the native African, as well as the West Indian, is a very simple creature. If he thinks he can get money for nothing, he is only too ready for "dolce far niente" the whole of his life. It will require all the energies of our organisers and educators to make the Africans really good technician, but it can be done. There is a great deal of labour to be done to rectify our errors. I hope our efforts in this direction will be considerably increased in the future. I look upon this as some redress, as a monument to tens of thousands of our countrymen who died through the neglect of this House and the country in the past, and whose graves litter every West Indian and West African Colony. I look upon it as in some sense making up for what we were responsible for in exploiting slavery. I wish the Bill every possible success, and I look forward to the principle of help for African and other Colonies with the greatest possible pleasure.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Riley (Dewsbury)
I do not intend to press myself at any length on the patience of the House. I only wish to intervene for the purpose of raising one point which is an important part of the Bill. May I say, in the first place, that, like a lot of Members on all sides of the House, I welcome this Bill as a step in the right direction and add my congratulations to the Minister of Health, who, of course, has been the author of the Measure and whose energy has brought it about. There is, however, one point in the Bill on which I would like more explicit information, and it is that part which refers to the method whereby this £5,000,000 per annum will be handled, administered and dispersed. In the financial explanatory memorandum at the bottom of the second paragraph there are the words:In planning the expenditure the Secretary of State will enlist the help of a Colonial Development and Welfare Advisory Committee 107 which will be composed partly of official and partly of unofficial members, and of a Colonial Research Advisory Committee.In other words, two committees are to be set up. I am not concerned with the question of the Advisory Committee with regard to research. Clearly that is a committee of a technical character, and its personnel must necessarily be specialist, but what I am concerned about is the nature of this Colonial Development and Welfare Advisory Committee. Is it to be composed of civil servants, official members, non-civil servants, or be a mixed body including Members of this House? On that point I think we ought to have some quite clear information to-night. We ought to know quite definitely what is to be the nature of this very important committee, on which will undoubtedly rest the prospects of success for a scheme involving an expenditure of £5,000,000 for 10 years.
I would remind the House that on this matter a very strenuous discussion took place about a year ago on the Colonial Office Vote, on 7th June. We had a whole day's discussion on the Vote, and one Member after another in that Debate stressed the importance of the fact that if this Imperial Parliament was properly to fulfil its duties to the Colonies and avoid repetition of the grievances which have occasioned this Bill, and the neglect which was revealed, there ought to be a special Colonial Committee of this House to have Colonial affairs more or less constantly under review. Therefore, it is very important that we should know exactly what is meant in the Bill with regard to the composition of the Committee. Personally, I would like to see at least half of this Committee composed of Members of this House, and that on the Committee there should also be competent, qualified Colonial subjects, even some men or women of colour, with knowledge, qualifications and experience, making their contributions to this great work. As to the feeling in the House a year ago, may I read to the House for a moment one or two statements which were then made? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg), who is now a member of the Government, made this statement:There is no doubt that this House wants to play a much greater part in helping the Colonial Empire to sound and successful 108 administration: and unless this House plays its part, the stimulus and initiative will never be given. I am not disparaging either the Colonial Office or our great Colonial Service. It is not the business of civil servants to initiate, and it is not the business of the civil servants to look far ahead. Their business is to carry out the policy with which they are furnished by those who direct policy in this country, and the real responsibility rests with this House.The same hon. Member went on to say:The interest of the House in Colonial questions is shown by the number of Questions he has to answer on Wednesday afternoon and by the Supplementary Questions which his replies invariably evoke; but that it not really a satisfactory manner of dealing with Colonial affairs. We have to find something more effective and continuous so that these Colonial questions may be more deeply and more continuously explored than they can be by Question and Answer across the Floor of the House.Let me give one more extract from the same hon. Member:I have always been in favour of the development of the committee system in this House, and I believe that it is desirable to develop it in other directions, but particularly in regard to Colonial affairs. Foreign affairs are frequently debated, but Colonial affairs, apart from Question and Answer, are debated only once a year. We cannot possibly deal with these vast responsibilities in that way. It creates a false impression in the world and in the Colonies for which we are responsible when we should pay so little attention to them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1939; cols. 480–1, Vol. 348.]In the Debate last year speaker after speaker expressed a keen desire to see a closer contact between Members of this House and the administration of Colonial affairs, and, as a matter of fact, immediately after that Debate the Prime Minister was asked whether he was prepared to set up a committee, and certainly on two occasions the Prime Minister said he was considering the matter. I also think that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health expressed some opinion towards a consideration of such a committee. I want to know the nature of the committee which is to be set up under the Bill. A very pertinent remark was made by the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), that this sum of between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000 is to be contributed by the taxpayers of this country. Obviously, therefore, Members who represent the taxpayers have a duty to see that this expenditure has the direct supervision of this House. I make that remark for another reason, and it is my final reason. We are all aware that during the years 109 1937, 1938 and 1939 there was a series of widespread disturbances throughout the West Indies. Almost every one of our Colonies there took part in rioting, in disturbances, in shootings, and something like 100 people were killed. A condition of things was revealed which everyone admitted was a disgrace.
This Bill is part of the remedy. But the interesting thing which struck me was that while in our Colonies of Jamaica and Trinidad and the Windward Islands, in which without a single exception these violent disturbances took place, there was not a single disturbance in any of the French Colonies or the Dutch Colonies. The disturbances were confined entirely to British Colonies. In Martinique and Guadaloupe there were no disturbances, but in every one of our Colonies there were disturbances, and there were reasons for them. One of the reasons, I suggest, is that in the French Parliamentary system there is a Colonial Committee of members of the French Chamber and a constant contact between the Colonies and the representative Chamber. I suggest that in this new authority, which is going to be the chief authority for carrying out these schemes, it is of the highest importance that there should be the closest contact with this House. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some information as to the nature and intentions of this committee.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I should like to bring to the attention of the House the proposals of the Bill with regard to the provisions for the health of the people concerned. I was sorry to hear the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) consider that it was out of place to discuss this Bill to-day. No doubt we are in the middle of what one may call the agony of death, but even at such a time it is not right to desert your children, and we in this House are in the position of being the parents of these young and backward nations of the world. We take a pride in them and rightly have our affection for them, and not least when we are in the middle of a maelstrom. I do not think we need to apologise for taking this action at the moment. After all, it is carrying out the statement of policy in the White Paper presented to the House in February last, 110 which I expect few Members have read. These Colonies are, in effect, our children, and one of the first things a parent does when his children get into a mess is to clear their debts. I think it is an extremely sound and practical proposal in this Measure to clear the debts of our Colonies, either wholly or in part.
I hope that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) is not correct, that we are only going to give them loans to be repaid in the future. That, I think, would be quite impossible. A parent would not do that for his children. He would say that they had got into a horrid mess and that he would wipe out their debts, in the hope that he might be repaid in the long run. I want to impress upon the House that in making financial provisions, a great deal—indeed, everything—depends upon how the money is to be distributed. We have heard some wise remarks about how money can be wasted, not only in the Colonies but in this country, on many things which come under the head of social reform when the objects are not properly thought out. These matters must be properly thought out. These financial provisions are supposed to be made especially for agriculture, housing, health, education and research. Nobody can be keener than I am on education, but careful consideration must be given, in the administration of these provisions, to the kind of education on which the money is to be spent. We may learn a good deal from our experience in India and elsewhere, where so much harm has been done to the population because it was thought that by our system of education we would bring up the people to be like Westerners, to be able to produce industrial products, to read and write English with a view to their being able to copy our culture. We have learned better than that. Alhough I am afraid we shall not be able to retrace our steps in India, I hope we shall be careful, in giving the assistance under this Measure, to see that in the matter of education the money is spent on a proper and reasonable scheme.
What such a scheme should be is clear to any of us who have been in close contact with some of these Colonial possessions. We have to consider the psychology of the people there, the minds and the needs of the people, in order to see in what way they want their children to be educated. If it is to produce by machinery 111 that is one kind of education with which, I think, we have done a great deal of harm in the past, and we do not want to do that again. If we really want to educate them for their own needs, we shall have to work on the basis of something which appeals to them and interests them. What interests them first of all is their own agriculture, not for the purpose of getting goods to export for cash, but goods for their own use; and the second thing which appeals to them is health. Education can be developed upon those bases, and it is only by starting on those bases that we shall be able to get their minds developed. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) spoke as though he looked upon the inhabitants of these Colonies as being our equals. They are not. They are different from us in all sorts of ways. If he meant that they are equal in status, they are not, although we may bring them up to be equal in that respect one day. If he meant equal from a religious point of view, then I say that we know that; that is our Christian religion. But as regards intelligence, they certainly are not equal to us, although the standard varies a great deal. One has to think of their own intelligence and possibilities in order to give them an education which it is worth their having and which will not spoil them, but will develop their minds.
A certain number of us have had some experience of how the minds of these people can be developed if one starts on the basis of something in which they are interested. When I was a sanitary officer in Iraq during the last war—in Mesopotamia, as it then was—we had sanitary squads composed of various races which had come from either India or Arabia. In those squads there were primitive people as well as more intelligent people. Even in the case of the more primitive people, after they had been through a course of malaria prevention—finding out the kind of mosquito one has to look out for, where it lives and how it can be scotched—it was astonishing how they used shrewd powers of observation, deduction, and action. To give another example, I will refer to the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association, which has been established for about 15 years and has branches all over the Empire. The result of this scheme has been that we have obtained knowledge of the extent of leprosy 112 throughout the world, We have found that leprosy is at least two or three times as prevalent as it had been supposed to be. The reason is that formerly the treatment was entirely insufficient. The leper was a pariah, cut off from civilisation. As a result of modern methods and discoveries, we have found that probably two-thirds of these cases are no longer contagious or infectious, and that they can be returned to ordinary life. Clinics have been established and the result is that people come forward in the early stages, and the number of known lepers throughout the Empire has been increased by two or three times, but splendid results are obtained from the treatment which is afforded. Surveys which have been made in different Colonies and possessions show that now that we have a rational scheme for the treatment of leprosy, the natives rise to it. Our late medical secretary returned after five years' splendid work in the Association here to Lady Willingdon's big leper institution in the Madras Presidency. He has found, in his devoted work for those people, that he has been able to make them intensely interested not only in leprosy work, but that by using this as a basis, for all the public health work, instead of teaching them public health vaguely, he has been able to teach them sanitation, and so on, on the basis of that all-too-familiar scourge around them from which they want to escape. By this means he has managed to bring about a very great advance in sanitation and an understanding of healthy living, as well as nutrition and housing.
I hope that those illustrations will give a general idea as regards the education of these people. If the education is based upon something which really interests them, it will bring good results. I have been very much interested in Zululand. I should like to refer to this territory, although it does not come under the Bill, because it is in the Union of South Africa, but the mission which I have in mind also covers Swaziland, which does come under the Bill. In Zululand they are struggling along with small hospitals containing about 20 beds and having financial resources of £400 a year. How they manage, I do not know; but I hope that the grants which are to be made under the Bill may be given to small hospitals of this sort in different parts of our Colonies, where they cannot afford to 113 keep them going, or to improve or extend them, with their present resources. Very often these hospitals have been started in connection with religious houses and religious organisations of various civilised countries which have missions in the Colonies concerned. The leprosy survey of the Empire has shown the valuable work which has been and is being done by the missions, whether under the Jesuits, the White Fathers, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Anglo-Catholics, the Baptists or the Church Missionary Society. It is a splendid work, and very often you will find a little mission hospital which is just able to struggle along. We do not wish to spoil them by clearing them of all financial obligations, but I hope that use will be made of these hospitals and that, for the purposes of the administration of these grants, they will be looked upon as centres of a really good Westernising influence. At present, they stand out more than anything else, I am afraid even more than the mission churches in some cases, as centres of this influence, and they have the greatest power for good. I hope they will also be made centres of collective work.
One thing that is being done is the training of Zulu girls as midwives. One little hospital is training and sending out something like a dozen midwives in a year. I hope that, in connection with the education which is to be carried out under this Bill, a special effort will be made to provide facilities for training native people in the work which they can do in the health services. One of the first essentials is to train midwives, whose work results in a tremendous saving of life, but it is necessary also to train other workers. You will want to train doctors when you get to the stage of establishing voluntary medical schools, but what is very necessary now is the training of people for subordinate services as auxiliaries, to help as dressers, laboratory attendants, sanitary inspectors, and so forth. A very useful work can be done in this way. From the point of view of education also, the work of the missions has been most useful. I think it was under the administration of Lord Harlech, when, as Mr. Ormsby-Gore he was Member of Parliament for Stafford and Colonial Secretary, that the schools of the different missions were for the first time recognised as the basis of the Government's scheme of education. I hope 114 that that work will be continued and that assistance will be given to it out of this Fund.
Lastly, I wish to refer to the research work for which a separate grant is proposed. Lord Hailey is to be chairman of that committee, and those who have read his deeply interesting "African Survey" will agree that with his intimate and sympathetic knowledge of the African he will be a very good chairman. I hope care will be taken to see how the money devoted to research is spent. A great deal goes on in the name of research which is valueless. We do not want this research to be tendentious. We want to see it conducted in a proper spirit and limited to really useful work and not allowed to get into a groove. A great deal of work can be done in psychology in relation to the natives. A certain amount has already been done, but much more can be done. The chief thing is to secure proper co-ordination among those who are already carrying out such work. Often research work in this country is wasted by overlapping, as a result of which one institution knows nothing of what is being done in others. Much has been done by those magnificent schemes already mentioned, under the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation and the Health Section of the League of Nations. One hopes that this work will be co-ordinated and that all these various agencies will co-operate in a scheme of research. We all regret very much, I am sure, the loss of the medical adviser to the Colonial Office, Dr. O'Brien. He rendered great service, and I hope that his successors will be able to carry on his good work. We have a parental pride in our Empire. I hope we shall prove worthy of it and that we will think not only of the needs of these Colonies and Dependencies and Protectorates, but of their great possibilities and opportunities at the present time.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Barnstaple)
I speak only for myself this evening and rather diffidently, because I have not the detailed knowledge possessed by other hon. Members who have made practical contributions to the Debate. I cannot follow the last speaker in the details of which he is master, but I would like to follow the speech of the right hon. and 115 gallant Gentleman the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). That speech seemed to me to contain more realism than any of the others which we have heard in this Debate. I was reading a book recently by Sir John Orr on "Feeding the People in Wartime." He dealt with that rather prosaic problem in an extremely interesting way, and in his book I came on this thrilling sentence. I may not have the words accurately, but this is the sense of it: "At the end of this war 1938 is going to seem as far away from us as—"I thought he was going to say 1914 or perhaps 1800, but no, he put it correctly: "At the end of this war 1938 is going to seem as far away as 1038." I profoundly believe that to be true, and I gravely fear that the very introduction of this Bill and the way in which we have been discussing it shows that we have not realised that truth. Things at the end of this war will be not rather different, but entirely different.
I do not wish to add to the various criticisms which have been offered of Colonial administration in the last few years. There have been mistakes and neglects. On the other hand, we have done in the Colonial Empire a great deal of very good work. But we have not done it without reward. It is a mistake to paint the British Empire in pitch-black colours as a sink of iniquity. It is equally a mistake to regard it as a great charitable institution. The people of this country have drawn an enormous reward from the Empire. I wonder what has been the total of all the dividends earned by all the companies trading in the Colonial Empire. Probably greater than that, although less spectacular, is the total of the benefits which ordinary people in this country have received by the cheapening of all kinds of products, as a result of the advantage which we have been able to take of coloured labour prepared to work on standards of living far below our own. When we buy a bar of chocolate it is larger than it would be if people were not working on these low standards.
This Bill seems to me to be just a small repayment, or an attempted repayment, for all the advantages we have received. I just do not believe that by this modest repayment you are going to retain at the 116 end of this struggle, or even during this struggle, anything like the same situation as now exists. It is not now a question of thinking in terms of modest little improvements in our practices, but of thinking in terms of entirely new practices. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) was speaking very near to the truth when he spoke of the need of changing over from cash production to subsistence production. I would rather say it is a question of changing from production for profit to production for use, and that is precisely the great change which has to be made in our Colonial Empire. We have to take into account and establish the fact that the physical resources in the Colonies are resources which belong to the people who live there, and are to be developed for their exclusive benefit.
Someone was saying that this is already being done, and that it is already our policy. Well, yes, it may be done already, but how do we do it? In the Colonies we have companies trading and individuals conducting enterprises to enable them to have the best profits, and out of these profits they pay, or at least our administration says that they pay, the best wages and give the best conditions they can. When that is done at its best it may be a very good thing, but now I think we have come to an end of an era and that it is not going to happen any more. If there is to be any compensation for any shareholders or particular companies the people of this country will have to pay it. I am sure that we shall have to present to the people of the colonial Empire their resources unimpaired by any claims made upon them by individuals or groups in this country. You have then to think along the lines of the speech of the hon. Member for North Islington of how these people can maintain themselves out of these resources. It will be a question of production for consumption, production for use, and not production for profit. If the Colonies produce export crops it will only be part of the production for consumption to enable them to attain those things they cannot grow on their own soil.
I believe that that is the great change of outlook we shall have to make. I am not so foolish as to suggest that these people are capable to-day of governing themselves and managing the whole of 117 their affairs without any aid from white people. Beyond any question they will need administrative and technical assistance from white people of all kinds. But at the world's settlement, after the war, why should that assistance from white people be given exclusively by British white people? Why do we think that we are the only people to have some contribution to make to the assistance and the development of the resources of these colonies for the people to live there? I believe that there will be no world settlement of the Colonial question as it affects the relations of European countries except by establishing something quite beyond the conception of anything about which we are now thinking, namely, a situation in which all the European countries share among themselves, on terms of complete equality, the whole of the tasks of giving administrative, technical and scientific help and advice to these people.
Someone says that that is visionary, fantastic and unreal. My reply is that it may be so; yet it is no more fantastic than to suppose you are going on as you are now with just such little surface alterations as this Bill proposes. In congratulating the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall) on his appointment, I hope he will consider it his duty to see whether he cannot begin in the administration of his great office, not merely by directing himself towards little things, but towards really great changes. If we do not make these violent changes in our ideas I believe they will be forced upon us.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The right hon. Gentleman, I must point out, can speak again only by leave of the House.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I can, of course, intervene in this Debate again only by leave of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed."] I have sat through a number of Debates on Colonial affairs during recent years, and, as hon. Members have been good enough to remind me, one or two of them have been rather difficult experiences for the ex-Secretary of State for the Colonies. I certainly can say that I have never sat through a Debate on Colonial affairs which stimulated so many speeches full 118 of interest and of practical and constructive suggestions as the one to which we have listened to-day. I should like to thank the House for the generally sympathetic reception which they have given to this Bill. I am not going to repay that friendliness by speaking at any length at this fairly late hour, but I would confine myself to answering the specific questions which have been put to me by different speakers.
The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) asked me a number of questions to which he wanted an answer at the end of the Debate. He asked whether the remission of certain debts in the case of Nyasaland would mean a relaxation in the strictness of Treasury control over the Budget of that territory. I am afraid that the answer to him must be a disappointing one. It is in the negative, because the Treasury control must be maintained so long as Nyasaland is in receipt of grants in aid of normal administration expenditure.
The hon. Member also asked me a question about the Nyasaland standard revenue. I regret that it is an extremely complicated and technical question to which the Minister of Health ought not to give an answer. I would not like to say anything this evening which might commit my successor; it is under very careful consideration, and he will have to make up his own mind about it. The same hon. Member asked me what were the functions of the Advisory Committee which it is proposed to set up, first, to deal with Colonial development and welfare and, second, to deal with Colonial research. In putting his question he expressed two fears. The first was that we would override or overrule, in London, local opinion as to what was required in the way of development in the respective Colonial territories. I can assure him that that is not the intention at all. Indeed, he pointed to a sentence in the White Paper which indicated that that was not our intention, and I can assure him that we shall act in the spirit of that sentence. Let me sketch the procedure which will be followed in working out these plans. He will recognise from that that the initiative is entirely with the local Governments and that in the vast majority of cases the final decision will be left in their hands. What will happen 119 is this—and what I have to say here will partly answer the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) about the importance of getting a real plan.
Already we have communicated to the various Colonial Governments, as a first step, a request that they should prepare their plans of development. We have given to each of them some preliminary and tentative indication of the sort of sum out of the total of £5,000,000 which they might expect to get for expenditure in their own territories. At this moment the Governments in the Colonies, with that general idea of the kind of expenditure upon which they may be able to count, are drawing up their plans under various heads. In the case of most Colonies, not all of them, the most important head is, no doubt, agricultural development. The hon. Member for North Islington was inclined to be critical of me, because I have not expressed my support this afternoon of a policy to which he attached great importance, that is, the development of subsistence agriculture in the Colonies. While it is true that I did not express my views on that this afternoon, I have expressed them firmly in the course of previous Debates on more than one occasion. I strongly support the view that one of the modifications which is needed in Colonial agriculture to-day is a movement towards the establishment of what the hon. Member called subsistence agriculture in the Colonies generally. I think it is wrong that a great many native producers should be engaged in producing commodities for export and are not engaged in producing the foodstuffs which they themselves require for consumption. Not only in the case of the African Colonies, but in the case also of the West Indies and other Colonies, one of our lines of advance should be a modification of the policy of spending too much effort on export crops in the direction more and more of subsistence agriculture. That is the deliberate policy of the Colonial Office to-day, and I am certain that the local governments in drawing up their plans will place a good deal of emphasis on the desirability of that policy.
Does that include, so far as West Africa is concerned, the maintenance of the communal tenure of land?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I have to be careful what I say, as I am not now Secretary of State, but when I was in that office I never contemplated any change in the land system in West Africa. I am not aware that any changes are in contemplation, but I do not think I ought to make any statement on major policy on matters which fall outside the scope of this Bill Perhaps the hon. Member will be satisfied with an assurance from me, having held the office recently, that I never contemplated any change in the system of land tenure.
We are now awaiting the submission of plans from the local Governments drawn up with their local experience and knowledge. These plans when they are ready will come to London, and it is at that point that the Advisory Committee on Development and Welfare should begin to function. The plans will be examined by that committee with a view, as the White Paper says, to assisting and guiding, but not dictating to, the Colonial Governments concerned. It might well be that in London we shall take the view that in the plans of a certain Colony "A" there is a gap which ought to be filled. It may be our view, from our knowledge of affairs in other Colonies, that in the case of Colony "A" too little importance is being attached to something like technical education. That does not mean to say that the Advisory Committee will advise that the whole of the plan of that Colony should be held up until communications and consultations have taken place on the question of technical education. It means, no doubt, that the whole of the rest of the plan will be passed and will proceed, but that subsequently communications will be sent to the Colonial Government concerned raising this particular question and asking them to consider it, and to let us have their views on it with regard to plans of development for the following year.
The central committee in London can also perform another extremely useful function. It will see the plans for all the 50 Colonial territories. It will be able to balance one against another and to advise the Secretary of State whether, in the allocation of this £5,000,000 between so many different territories, a right division of the money is being made. A central body of more or less expert people in London, looking at these 50 plans as one complete picture, can perform a useful 121 function in co-ordination and advice to the authorities both in London and in the Colonies.
§ Mr. E. Evans
I had in mind a particular proposal to erect a bridge. The plans were submitted through various channels, and, I think, they were approved, and the bridge was built. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that all schemes of that sort should come before the committee?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I should not like to commit myself or my successor to any particular procedure in a case like that. The Advisory Committee have not yet been established, though the chairman has been selected, and it will be for the Advisory Committee, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to work out its actual procedure. But I do say this, that I fully appreciate the great force of the point which the hon. Member made about the terrible delay which has taken place in some cases, and the desirability of such delay being abolished in future, and I am certain from discussions which we have had at the Colonial Office that Lord Moyne, who is to be the chairman of the committee, recognises fully the necessity of avoiding that delay, and that the Advisory Committee in London will not go through these things in such great detail that delays like those which have sometimes occurred in the past will be repeated. It is a committee for taking a general view of the whole situation, and I would point out that it is a purely advisory committee. The responsibility rests with the Secretary of State, and with him alone, and therefore the assistance of the committee should not interfere with that continuity of plan and policy to which one or two hon. Members below the Gangway attach a great deal of importance.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) asked about the composition of the committee. Again, I wish I could enlighten him. The position is that we have selected the chairman, Lord Moyne, and have given some preliminary consideration in the Colonial Office to the composition of the rest of the committee. We are decided, of course, that it shall be composed partly of officials and partly of non-officials, and I may add that I myself have formed certain definite views, but I must leave any announcement on the actual composition of the committee 122 to be made by my successor or by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State when the proper time arrives for it. That reserve must also attach to the other question about the Parliamentary Committee That, again, is an important matter of policy, on which I cannot make a pronouncement but which must be considered by the new Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
In view of the public statement made in another place as to the composition of the Advisory Committee, in which it was said that at least one-half of the committee would be made up of business men with social experience, which is a very narrow qualification for work on this committee, may we have an assurance that there will be a much more liberal choice, a much wider qualification for service?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I remember reading very carefully the speech which was made by my Noble Friend Lord Duffer in, who was a most brilliant Under-Secretary of State, and whose departure from office in the Government I very much regret, and do not think that the hon. Member has represented him quite correctly. He did say that there would be on the committee business men with an interest in social problems and affairs, but I do not think he indicated that 50 per cent. of the committee would be made up of individuals who satisfy that condition. Certainly it is our intention to draw from a wider experience than that—having simply officials on one side and business men on the other. But beyond that I must leave the decision on the matter and announcements on the matter to be made by the Ministers now in charge of the Colonial Office.
There are two other questions which I should like to answer before I sit down. An hon. Member who spoke about research referred to cases where research projects had been undertaken and money had been found for them for two or three years, and then, on the plea that no more money was available, those schemes had been dropped. If that occurs, then, usually, one might as well never have spent any money on the first two or three years of work; because a great deal of the most valuable research work is work which must be conducted over a long period of years. It is only after a number of years that the workers begin to make discoveries which justify the whole of the 123 expenditure from the beginning. It is because we recognise that point that no limit of years has been set in this Bill to the provision of up to £500,000 a year for research. In the case of development and welfare there is in this Bill a limit of 10 years, but in the case of research no limit whatever, and the intention is that money should be available, with proper assurances, for whatever period of years may be required to produce the results desired. That applies to the West Indies and all other Colonies in the Empire.
Finally, I was asked whether, if the money which is voted for this development work in one year is not actually spent in that year, it will go back to the Treasury or be handed on for the work in the following year. I am not certain whether I have made clear the exact position as it will appear in the Votes. We are not going to put down every year, beginning with this year, a vote of £5,000,000 for Colonial development and welfare. What will happen is that at the usual time we shall begin to work out an estimate of the amount of money which we are likely to spend on Colonial development and welfare during the next financial year, and it is that estimate which will appear in the Votes. No doubt the estimate will be fairly accurate, and generally speaking there should not be any large surplus of unexpended money at the end of a given 12 months. But it is true that we may over-estimate, and that there may be some surplus, and technically that surplus will go back into the Treasury. That does not mean to say, however, that the work for which that money was provided will stop, because that work will continue. It will spread over into the next year, and therefore automatically the money required for the completion of the work will appear in the Vote for the following 12 months.
I should like to emphasise that this is a fairly elastic scheme. The hon. Member for North Islington said that I had made a very carefully prepared statement to the effect that we should not spend these maxima of £5,000,000 and £500,000 a year. The statement which I made about that was strictly confined to the war years. I said, and I said frankly, because I thought frankness was due to the Colonies in this matter, that very likely war conditions would not allow us to reach those maxima while the war 124 lasted, but I certainly think that we shall reach figures approaching those maxima in the years after the war; except that I agree that it is a very difficult thing to talk about conditions after the war until we see what they are like. But under this White Paper these maximum figures of £5,000,000 and £500,000 will be reviewed from time to time. If it appears that £5,000,000 is not enough, it will then be open to Parliament to raise the figure.
That is set down, again in very carefully prepared language, in the White Paper itself, where it says that these maximum figures had been reached after estimating the expenditure which was desirable and practicable over a reasonable period of years ahead, and that they will be subject to review from time to time and if experience shows that they are insufficient, it will always be open to Parliament to increase them. We arrived at the figures £5,000,000 and £500,000 because, so far as we could see, it appeared, when we were drawing up these plans, that they were the sort of figures which would be reasonable and practicable to retain over a period of years ahead. Beyond that, we did not attempt to plan. If it is necessary to come to Parliament to get the figures increased, I very much hope that the Secretary of State of the day and the Government of the day will do so.
Those are the specific points on which I was asked questions. Beyond them, I will say only a few words. Many hon. Members raised other points in their speeches and I found myself in agreement with a great many of those points. If I have not mentioned them it does not mean that I disagree; on the contrary, I find myself in agreement with many of the things that have been said in the course of the Debate. Many hon. Members made valuable suggestions for future constructive efforts of policy, and I do not remember being in violent disagreement with any of them. Those matters will now fall to be dealt with, in this House, by my hon. Friend who is now, I am glad to say, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. We all know here his conscientiousness and his broad sympathies, as well as his vision. I hope that he will have a very happy time in that office. I am certain that he will be a success as a House of Commons Minister in what I regard as one of the 125 greatest offices of State in the British Government.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Thursday.—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]