§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn"
Mr. Creech Jones
I was about to remark that we are grateful to the Commission in question for the speedy way in which they discharged their duties. It may be that one does not altogether agree with the rather narrow way in which certain aspects of the problems have been dealt with, but I think we are all agreed that they approached the matters in question in a practical and commonsense way. I regret that the Northern Rhodesian Government have not accepted certain of the recommendations which the Commissioners made. To-day I want to resist the temptation to discuss British policy generally in Northern Rhodesia, or to say much about past neglect, present needs and the slow social development. A series of illuminating Reports all point the way the Territory should go. It is largely an undeveloped country. Its manhood and its wealth have, to a degree, been drained away, and its people are very poor. We have obligations to the native people, and I hope that the British policy will rest on the principles of the paramountcy of African interests and opposition to racial theories and practices which are based on the assumption of the superiority of the white man. The mines in Northern Rhodesia have, in recent years, been the outstanding economic feature, and in 1935, when a disturbance in the Copper-belt occurred, the Commission appointed then, with prophetic vision, made these remarks:Here (in the Copperbelt) there are considerable numbers of natives concentrated in compounds without chiefs; with their tribal organisations being broken down by disinte grating influences; becoming accustomed to machinery and modern methods; feeling an increasing desire for luxuries, and what has been called pathetic contentment rapidly giving way to what has been called divine contentment. Experience in all countries shows that industrial disputes give rise to violent passions and often to sudden violent destruction, to the loss of all parties, which is afterwards regretted; and it is unreasonable to hope that no such industrial dispute will ever take place on the Copperbelt. It is a possibility which must increase with the development of industrialism, and it seems necessary to recognise the fact and to take such measures as are necessary to reserve the public peace.That was stated by the Commissioners in 1935, and I think it will be generally 1734 agreed that following that report comparatively little was done beyond the setting up of a Native Industrial Labour Advisory Board. It is true that three years afterwards Major Orde-Browne did report on the situation as he saw it at that time. He stated that the unfortunate neglect by the Government of the new problems arising out of mineral exploitation, and the large measure of industrialisation which had suddenly overtaken the native population, called for attention. He pointed out the glaring defects in respect of accurate statistical evidence as to native movements, disease, contracts, wages, and cost of living. He also referred to the lack of comprehension in the relations between industry and the administration and the lack"of experienced men and people to deal with recent industrial growth and developments. Following Major Orde-Browne's investigation, it is quite true that a Labour Department was created, that a Labour Commissioner was appointed at the centre, and that the Labour Advisory Board was improved. He recommended that there should be at least four labour officers appointed in the Copperbelt. At the time of the dispute no labour officer had been appointed, and it was then obvious that a great deal still needed to be done if the grievances of the employés were to be focussed. It was obvious that certain machinery should be created in order that the views of the natives concerned should be made known.
The absence of suitable industrial machinery should be kept in mind when dealing with the problems of the dispute. The Northern Rhodesian Government did not heed the 1935 warning which I have already read to the House. I stated that there was no broad machinery for the ventilation of these grievances or to deal with disputes. The Government in the present dispute had warning of the trouble which was brewing. That is brought out in paragraph 46 of the Report. They must have been conscious that there had been no adjustment in wages to meet the new necessities, that the cost of living was rising, and that industrial problems had been neglected over a period. It was clear, even when the dispute was coming to a head, that the Government there were still half-hearted in their proposals and the kind of intervention which was necessary if the crisis was to be avoided. Industrialism and wage earning have spread 1735 practically into all corners of the British Empire, and it is imperative that we should not wait on events but should go all out with a well-conceived and well-planned labour policy in respect of the whole Colonial Empire.
About the dispute itself, we all deplore the loss of life, but I feel that the authorities had a very nasty situation to handle. There may be grounds for criticism that, for instance, there was not enough tear gas available, which might have avoided the necessity of shooting, or that it is a pity that the management paraded the native workers who had been at work on the pay day in sight of the strikers. But I think the situation was an ugly one, and undoubtedly the authorities handled it in as practical a way as the circumstances of the moment permitted.
But the Report reminds us that something is not altogether right in regard to wage relations as between the mines managements and the African people. It is true that the standard of wages is higher than those operating in other parts of the area and that the mine-owners appreciate the value of a healthy and contented labour force, and they have a great deal to their credit in regard to the provision that they have made in respect to medical care and sanitation and certain aspects of welfare. But wages have remained, until this dispute, pretty well unaltered all these years and, following the slump, they never recovered with the prosperity of the mines. There was no attempt to bring the African wage-earners up to a standard more consistent with the return of prosperity to the Copperbelt. I think it is fair to say that the mine-owners have always taken advantage of cheap labour in the Protectorate, of the lack of organisation among the workers and of the desire of the Africans for wage employment because of their poverty and their tax needs. The Commission has been extraordinarily modest in its recommendations in the matter of wages, and only some very tardy concessions have been made. No one will suggest, however poor the standard of living of the Africans, that an increase of less than 1d. a day is a satisfactory wage accommodation. A ticket carries with it 30 shifts, and it means that every day of the month must be worked in order that the half-crown shall be earned in that month. 1736 Probably this is deliberately done to compel the worker to work every day of the week, Sundays included, so that he can claim no special rates in regard to his week-end employment.
The same tardy concession is seen in the bonus which was agreed to of 2s. 6d. to meet the increased cost of living. Even that bonus is subjected to the good will of the compound manager. That is to say, the compound manager, a civilian outside the immediate work, may make deductions or determine whether the full bonus should be paid I should like to ask why, when the Commission recommended that no deductions for disciplinary purposes should be made from the bonus payments, the Northern Rhodesian Government do not accept the recommendation, and why these new disciplinary powers should be placed in the hands of the compound manager. I believe that under Statute they have no right to exercise these disciplinary powers.
Likewise, in regard to overtime, the Government reject the proposal of the Commission that there should be a fair basis of calculation of overtime rates, and the grounds of the rejection by the Government are that the method recommended is contrary to local practice. I should have thought the Commission made its recommendations because of what the local practice was, and I am astonished that so flimsy a pretext should be offered. The other wage adjustments proposed are almost illusory, because so many of the Africans do not stay at the mines much more than six months and therefore cannot earn the special increments which are likely to accrue for service beyond this period. In any case any additional costs which these adjustments may involve are not likely to fall on the copper companies at all. There is an arrangement in regard to the output of copper with the Ministry of Supply whereby any additional working costs to which the companies are put will be borne by the British Exchequer. I submit that more generous arrangements might have been made as far as wages, overtime and bonus payments are concerned.
Something must be radically wrong in our Colonial methods when we allow such intense poverty and so much disease in a Territory where there is an enormous drainage of great wealth from it. This aspect of the problem has received con- 1737 siderable attention outside the House. All the missionary bodies and associations concerned with the well-being of the African people have urged from time to time that there should be some limit to this drainage of wealth in order that the welfare of the Africans in their own lands shall be built up or safeguarded. I would submit that in the case of the Copperbelt an end ought to be brought to the perfectly infamous arrangement whereby the British South African Company are able to levy a perpetual toll on industry in royalties on the work that is done. I need not tell the history of that transaction, but sooner or later, and the sooner the better, this miserable story ought to be brought to an end, because probably as much is taken out of the territory in royalties as the total wage bill of all the black people who are employed on the Copperbelt. That is a grossly unfair situation.
Likewise, the Copperbelt companies are making an enormous contribution in taxation to both the local and Imperial Exchequers. We are receiving in taxation from the Copperbelt a vast sum of money every year, and I would suggest that that money should be returned to the Colony and used as a trust fund for social and economic development. In addition, a vast sum of money is annually distributed in this country to the shareholders of the Copperbelt companies. It may be argued that, taking a long period, that return is not as large as is often assumed. In point of fact, between £5,000,000 and £3,000,000 has been sent out in the past few years, and it amounts to from 12 to 16 times the total wage bill of the 26,000 Africans who are engaged in the work. The miserable wages paid on the one hand and these enormous profits on the other are completely unjustifiable.
§ Mr. Leslie Boyce (Gloucester)
The hon. Gentleman has informed the House that a large sum of money is paid annually by way of dividends. In order that the amount he mentioned might have some meaning, will he say on what capital it has been paid? I am not asking for any purpose except for genuine information.
Mr. Creech Jones
For some of the companies the average yield may be 5½ per cent. over a long period of years. The actual dividend in recent years is infinitely higher. The point I am making is that 1738 out of the Colony, something like £3,000,000 to £5,000,000 is distributed every year to shareholders in London. This wealth is taken from the Colony where the total African wages are £300,000 to £500,000. That disparity is completely unjustifiable. It is not a question of how much capital is invested. It is a question of the enormous drainage of wealth from the Colony which ought to be retained for the well-being and happiness of the people.
The poverty, ill-health and undernourishment of this Territory have a bearing on the industrial problem. When the Royal Commission reviewed the situation a year or so ago they pointed out how thin was the whole economic apparatus of the Territory. They urged a policy of development in agriculture and subsidiary industries which, they said, should be vigorously pursued—and, I submit, vigorously pursued, even in war-time. Otherwise, the drainage from the villages will not be modified and the appalling social consequences stopped. Major Orde-Browne pointed out in his report that there were probably 280,000 adult taxpayers in the Dependency. Of these, 90,000 were involved in employment out of the Dependency, 48,000 were unfit for full manual labour, 67,000 were wage earners in employment in the territory, and only 60,000 earned their livelihood other than by wage-earning employment. These figures reveal how far wage-earning has developed over a great section of this Territory. The fact that people are obliged to leave their villages to seek wage-earning employment which has brought them in turn into contact with Western influences has a most unsettling effect.
I cannot appreciate in these circumstances why the Northern Rhodesian Government cannot make up their minds, as is revealed in their statement attached to this Report, on the vital issue whether there should be attached to the mines a permanent labour force. The Report informs us that 18 months is the average time away from the village on the Copperbelt. Large numbers of persons who leave their villages never return. The mine-owners themselves submitted in their evidence the necessity for the presence in the compounds of the wives and families of the labourers, and they pointed out that if there were to be con- 1739 tentment, morality, health and well-being among their people, proper arrangements must be made for the wives and families of the labourers to come into the compounds. At the Roan Antelope Mine three out of five men who are employed are married. At Nkana two out of five are married. How far accommodation can be provided depends on the general policy of the companies, but, judging from the figures in Major Orde-Browne's report, it is reasonable to say that in all cases the percentage where wives accompany husbands has tended to rise in recent years and that there is also a corresponding increase in the average period of employment of each labourer. At the Roan Antelope Mine 35 per cent. of the African labourers have stayed more than two years, and 21 per cent. have stayed for six months to two years. At Mufulira 23 per cent. have stayed for two years or more, and 25 per cent. from six months to two years. At Nkana 27 per cent. have stayed for more than two years and 31 per cent. from six months to two years. These are significant figures showing a tendency to the creation of an industrialised class of labour among the Africans and the creation of an African who is steadily becoming detribalised.
I submit that that tendency cannot easily be reversed. In point of fact, so far as the Belgian Congo is concerned, it has been accepted as a fact that a system of family settlement should be established, and the deliberate aim in the Belgian Congo is that the second generation of workers should not drift in from the villages but be born on the spot. If you are to stabilise and develop the countryside, then I think some greater stability will also have to be found in the Copperbelt itself; but the Northern Rhodesian Government would seem to have no definite policy as regards stabilisation or the establishment of a permanent labour force, and seem sometimes to ignore the fact that a wage-earning section of the African community has now been created, because, as pointed out by the Commission itself, with the vast resources of copper in this region the industry cannot be regarded as other than a permanent one.
The present uncertainty in policy seems to hold up social improvements in the 1740 compounds and makes for unsteady industrial conditions, because a well-thought-out policy cannot be pursued if there is a continuously changing mining population. After all, many of those people have left tribal authority and all that is associated with tribal life behind them. In a recent count in the Copper-belt it was found that two-thirds of the children were actually born in the mining areas. They have no real tribal life, and so it seems futile to prevent permanent settlement in order to preserve the tribal system when the Africans are subject to all these disintegrating factors. The abnormal social conditions in the Copperbelt are generally recognised, and they are an additional argument for building up a permanent labour force around the mines. The irregular unions, the uncontrolled and undisciplined children, create for those who are administering in this area some very grave social problems. In those conditions you cannot hope to preserve very much of the structure of tribal life, with its predominance of tradition, as in the villages. I suggest that if the Government do not favour a permanent family settlement at least they should hurry on with proper arrangements in respect to repatriation and recommitment and there should also be better schemes in respect of deferred pay. Above all, there should be a policy for agriculture in the villages.
Now let us look at the question of accommodation as provided in the Copperbelt. Surely more should be done to provide the accommodation required by married workers and their families. In my submission, home-making ought to be encouraged and everything done to ensure a stable permanent nucleus. If a slump did overtake the Copperbelt in the future it would be unlikely that it would have very much effect on the permanent labour force established in proper proportions along the lines I have suggested. Accordingly, the compounds should be made much more attractive and less ugly, greater privacy should be available for the Africans, and, as is pointed out in the report, there ought to be more tree-planting to reduce the dust and the glare. More should be done for recreation and diversion, I submit, and facilities provided in the compounds for the wives and others to grow vegetables and have a little land to cultivate.
I have not the time to say much more about the social needs of these areas, of 1741 the problem of the children, the adolescents and the women, and the necessity for the extension of education, but all these are fundamental questions in those areas. May I, in passing, emphasise the danger of this industrial bleeding artery which is draining away from the villages the vitally necessary manhood of the country? In some way or other the evil ought to be controlled, certainly modified. The social consequences in Northern Rhodesia are disastrous. Large numbers of men never return to the villages, where the standard of life tends to get steadily worse. If we are to counteract in some degree the effect on native society of all these disintegrating forces a more vigorous agricultural policy is urgently and fundamentally necessary, difficult as the working out of such a policy may be.
Then the Commission recommend means of expressing grievances and negotiating with managements on the special industrial problems of the Africans. They suggest that an "elder" system might be established to bridge the way to trade unionism. One recognises the difficulty of establishing full-fledged trade unionism among an illiterate people, and a people who have not grown up in a long industrial tradition, but I would point out that the "elder" system is not generally operative in the Copperbelt. At best, it has only functioned for compound purposes, and when the dispute occurred it seemed to break down altogether. Obviously, with the flow of labour in and out of the Copperbelt, the forms of combination such as we are most familiar with in this country cannot be established very easily, but I hope that in the case of the permanent labour force, of the more experienced Africans established about the mines, the practice of combination may be allowed to develop and, indeed, encouraged in every way.
I would hope that the labour advisers will do all they can to give a guiding and helping hand to the Africans, and that they will as time goes on seek practical methods of bringing into operation a more effective form of combination than the Elder system for dealing with all the problems that arise out of industrialism. But I notice that the system of "elders" does not altogether recommend itself to the Northern Rhodesian Government, and I should like to know whether they are retreating from this recommendation of the 1742 Commission. I suggest also that the labour officers should make it their business to intervene or to help the Africans in their industrial relations by not waiting for grievances to flare up but by seeing that modifications and improvements are introduced into African conditions of employment and thereby prevent friction and greater grievances arising. I would make the suggestion that labour officers should not be appointed merely for three years, but should have, as far as possible, a proper avenue of promotion and of first-class work inside the Labour Department itself, so that we should not have in the Colonial Service these continual transfers in and out of the labour officers. There should always be experienced labour officers to deal with the problems of industry.
I also ask the Under-Secretary of State to say what the Government are doing in respect of the problems of recruitment and repatriation as are mentioned in paragraph 198 of the Report. Also, is it intended that penal sanctions shall be completly abolished in this territory? If so, how soon? Will early steps be taken to improve the existing workmen's compensation law? It is true that a new Ordinance has been put upon the Statute Book in recent months in Northern Rhodesia, but it is not as generous as it should be in its terms. In the event of death, for instance, the calculation is based on a computation of three and a half years' life. There should be a nearer approximation to the methods which have been adopted in our own country, inadequate as they are.
My last point is in reference to the colour bar, which is of fundamental importance. The colour bar is practised in the Dependency. The Commissioners desire that it should be modified. I submit that the policy, as set out by the Northern Rhodesian Government, looks very much as though that Government desire to perpetuate it. This matter really is the touchstone of British administration in Africa. The notice of the Commissioners was drawn to the bitter resentment caused among African workers by the terms of address and the sneering attitude frequently used towards Africans by Europeans. Africans are employed to a limited extent on certain supervising jobs, and frequently on 1743 work calling for a great deal of skill. When the Commission was in Northern Rhodesia the Africans challenged the Europeans as to the volume of work which they as a team could produce in comparison with a team of Europeans, and as to the quality of the work which they performed. In their proposals, the Northern Rhodesian Government seem to shuffle over the whole of that question. They timidly refer to the conditions after the war and suggest that the revised wage scales to which the companies have agreed will afford very considerable advancement on the present lines and will offer to Africans reasonable satisfaction during the next few years.
I am amazed at the use of such words. What is the considerable advancement promised by the Report? What is this reasonable satisfaction, when the cost of living is rising and wants are increasing and when other influences are stirring the Africans to new aspirations? The use of language such as that is surely humbug in these circumstances. I suggest again that this is the touchstone of our liberal faith in Colonial administration, and some assurances must be given to the African workers on the matter. If the Africans cannot be admitted to the European trade unions, the Government must limit European employment and insist upon an increased quota of employment in supervisory jobs to the African workers. The entrance of European workers must not be permanently allowed, it should be controlled and the Government should declare that European employment must not prejudice the future prospect of the African workers in the industry. We cannot and dare not shut out the Africans in their own land. If he is to advance, the African must be allowed to exercise increasing industrial and political responsibility. It would be unfortunate for the British Government to accept the somewhat specious reasoning submitted by the Northern Rhodesian Government. Let me remind the House that the Africans regard this matter as one of cardinal importance in European Colonial policy.
I hope that our Colonial Ministers will come out boldly in their directions to the Northern Rhodesian Government on the matters that have been raised in the Report. I hope that the British Government will not delay action, and will not 1744 rest complacent. Northern Rhodesia is one of the unhappy lands in our Colonial Empire, brimful of perplexing problems. This Report ought to be used in order to repair the past and to give an occasion for a sounder policy, based upon the wisdom, science and experience expressed in the many important Reports of recent years which have been written on the problems of this important Territory.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans (University of Wales)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in the many details and recommendations which he has addressed to the Government. I prefer to approach the matter from a slightly different angle and from a rather broader point of view. My excuse for intervening in this Debate is that I happen to have visited those territories which we are now discussing, and not very long ago. I think it was in 1938 that I spent a little time in the Copperbelt. [Interruption.] I know it was a long time, but however short, it was spent in intensive and, I hope, intelligent examination of the conditions which prevailed there. I was not at all surprised to hear that disturbances had broken out in the Copperbelt last year. Even in 1938 I left that portion of Northern Rhodesia with a feeling of anxiety and indeed of depression. Even then the feeling was tense. It was obvious that the seeds of unrest had been very widely sown in rather favourable land. Although I was not surprised to hear that disturbances had broken out, I was surprised at the particular occasion on which they had done so. They broke out in connection with a dispute on economic questions affecting the mineworkers. The main purpose of my intervention now is to press upon the Government that although this dispute may have been the occasion of the disturbance, it was not the cause. The cause goes much deeper and affects the whole of our administration in Northern Rhodesia in recent years.
Many factors affect the situation, but I cannot hope to enter into all of them now. I will mention one or two of them. I take a rather more favourable attitude toward the Government of Northern Rhodesia, and to the Imperial Government certainly, than the hon. Member who has just spoken seems to do. The native policy as applied to the Territory in Northern Rhodesia, as has been expressed by successive Secretaries of 1745 State in this country, is a liberal one, but my complaint is that that policy has not been fully implemented in Northern Rhodesia. No doubt, there are several reasons for that. One of them, undoubtedly, is the fact that in recent years the Government of Northern Rhodesia have been very much handicapped by financial considerations. I do not think that the Government of Northern Rhodesia are properly susceptible to the serious charges that have been made by my hon. Friend. I do not say that that Government have been as active as they could have been—I do not think they have for a moment—but I am bound to say that when I was out there I found among those holding responsible positions in that Territory men who were only too anxious to implement the policy of the Imperial Government in the matter of native affairs with the fullest understanding and sympathy, but they were handicapped. They were handicapped by financial considerations more than anything else perhaps, but that does not do away with the fact that results in Northern Rhodesia have really been lamentable. The position of the medical services in Northern Rhodesia has very little to be said in its favour.
With regard to research into agriculture and other matters which vitally affect the life of the community, much more should have been done. In regard to education, there has certainly been a very great lack of use of such opportunities as were available to the Government of that Territory. I would say in passing that the native of Northern Rhodesia attaches tremendous importance to education. Wherever you go and speak to the natives in that territory you find that they attach great importance to the giving to future generations opportunities of education which they themselves have not enjoyed. I am glad that the Report of the Commission draws particular attention to this matter. In paragraph 197 it says—and I am afraid that this is true:There is, for many years to come, likely to be a wide gulf between the standard and outlook upon life of the European and the African worker—a gulf that can only be bridged by the continued education of the African and his children.That is a matter which cannot be too strongly impressed upon the Government of Northern Rhodesia.
1746 There is another element which has been largely responsible for these circumstances in Northern Rhodesia. At the present time, when we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle in which all parts of the British Empire are playing their magnificent parts, I do not wish to say anything which may offend the susceptibilities of any part of the Empire, but I am bound to say that a lot of the trouble in Northern Rhodesia has been caused by the incursion into that Territory of an undesirable element from the South. They are people who are not imbued with the spirit of the native policy as expressed by the Imperial Government. In fact, they are dead against it. They are acting on that basis in their treatment of the natives in the Copperbelt of Northern Rhodesia. Many of them are undesirable people in themselves. They are men who have held mining jobs in South Africa, then a little bit further North, and then a little bit further North still; they are, in fact, "hitch-hikers" who have lost their jobs in other parts of Africa and who have then made their way up to Northern Rhodesia.
The extraordinary thing is that many of those people sincerely believe that the Government of Northern Rhodesia, quite contrary to what my hon. Friend said, are much too partial to the natives, and they have a grievance against the Government of Northern Rhodesia because they say that the natives get greater attention, and even favours, from the Government of Northern Rhodesia than the Europeans get. That spirit is very largely responsible for what happened in the Copperbelt last year. I must say that I am very surprised indeed to find in the Report of this Commission that they seem to be taken in by the officers of the Northern Rhodesia Mine Workers' Union, which is a body representing the spirit of which I am now talking. This Report puts it on record that the Northern Rhodesia Mine Workers Unionobjected strongly to the exploitation and cheap labour of the African who was trained or being trained to do work normally regarded as the European's prerogative.That is the hypocrisy of this type of man. They tell you, "We are all in favour of the African being given every opportunity, but only if he is given the same wages as the European," knowing full well that in the circumstances and conditions which exist in Northern Rhodesia 1747 at the present time, it is an absolute bar to the giving to the native of the greater opportunities which I think he ought to have. I have nothing but praise for the managements responsible for running the copper mines in Northern Rhodesia. They are a fine body of men and have shown a great deal of enterprise in regard to conditions, even in the compounds, for the natives, and also in regard to educational facilities. I can also say a good deal in favour of the bulk of the colliery managers, many of whom come from England, Wales and Scotland. I only wish that there were more employed there. They make a very great difference indeed to the outlook and the prosperity of the industry. But there is this other undesirable element. We talk about wages and conditions of labour of natives employed in these mines, and I am all in favour of giving them every opportunity of reaching higher, more responsible and better-paid positions than are open to them at the present time, but I do say that that raises an issue of a very wide character with which I cannot hope to deal in a Debate of this sort, affecting as it does the whole life of the native population of Northern Rhodesia.
My hon. Friend referred to the effects which this industrialisation is having upon the tribal organisations in Northern Rhodesia. The population of Northern Rhodesia will never find its livelihood from the Copperbelt. It has got to be concerned with and depend largely upon what I may call the agricultural side. It is there that you find the real native life and the real tribal organisation, without which you cannot hope to carry on successfully in Northern Rhodesia. Whatever may be the necessity for industrialisation in Northern Rhodesia, that alone will not affect the future prosperity of the territory of Northern Rhodesia. You have to get back to the native soil and the native organisations, and, whatever you do by way of developing the industrial prosperity of Northern Rhodesia, you still have to bring back your mind to the fundamental fact that the life of Northern Rhodesia mainly depends upon districts which are outside, and that it is necessary to encourage agricultural progress, which unfortunately is developing very slowly indeed at present.
1748 Therefore I do not want the Government to regard the disturbances in the Copperbelt as a purely economic question. They represent something much deeper than that, and I can only hope that there will in future be much greater co-operation than there has been in the past between the Government of Northern Rhodesia and the European population. I found that among the European population there were many people who were indifferent to the policy of the Government. They were not out of sympathy with it, but felt that it was nothing to do with them and was a matter purely for the Government. I think that is a very wrong attitude. It does not apply to all the Europeans there, for there are in Northern Rhodesia many very fine Europeans imbued with British tradition and a fine liberal outlook, but there are others who try to avoid any responsibility for native policy by saying that it is a matter for the Government. I do not think that in the past there has been sufficient co-operation between the Government of Northern Rhodesia and the European population. I hope that one of the results of this Report will be a greater co-operation in future, and a greater understanding of these essential elements in the development of the Territory.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
We have listened to two exceedingly interesting speeches based on very special knowledge. I do not want to attempt to cover the ground that has already been dealt with except to say that I most heartily support what has been said about the supreme importance of our Government and this Parliament making it clear that we cannot in any way approve the creation of an industrial colour bar, and I would therefore urge the Minister to do even more than he has already done to impress upon the Government of Northern Rhodesia the great importance of this issue, and that we cannot be satisfied with the way in which that Government have virtually shelved or set aside the very modest recommendation of the Commission. Their reason, which I believe is in the White Paper, is that places have to be kept open for skilled European workers in the mines who are absent on war service, and one can quite understand that. But they also claim to have an obligation to the skilled 1749 European workers who have come in temporarily to take those places. Surely the obligation that they have to the African who is a native of the country must outweigh any consideration of that kind. The men who have come in temporarily have come in just to make money. One cannot begrudge them that, but they have no interest in the country apart from their temporary occupation; they have no intention of settling there, and they cannot therefore be regarded as having the same claim as the African natives whose whole life is bound up with the life of the country.
I would also like to say a few words about one or two special measures which I have ventured to press for in Questions and which I believe are having the very sympathetic consideration of the Undersecretary and of the Colonial Office. The Commission recommended the planting of trees in the compounds in order to make them more suitable for living in for the large African population which lives there, not just for a few months, but for years. So far there has been no response from the Northern Rhodesian Government. The Under-Secretary has informed the House that he is in communication on the matter with the Government of Northern Rhodesia, and in view of its great importance from the point of view of the health and happiness of the dwellers in the compounds, I would beg him to urge upon that Government that the Colonial Office consider this to be a matter of real importance to the well-being of the people, and one which ought not to be put off.
There are other matters which I have also ventured to raise in Questions, in regard to which we had yesterday a very encouraging reply from the Under-Secretary. My hon. Friend then informed the House that he was prepared to recommend consideration of the appointment of women welfare workers, with special skill in handicraft work, to help the women who are living permanently in the compounds. One of the tragedies of the sudden industrial development of Northern Rhodesia has been the complete divorce of the life of such a large number of Africans from all their native traditions and former way of life. They had a very real civilisation, although of a primitive type, but it has been taken away from them by the industrial conditions of the compound and nothing ade- 1750 quate has been put in its place. The African woman in the village has to educate her children in a simple way; not, of course, by book education, but by character and life training, and her garden is an essential part of that method of education. It is also a most important part of her life in as much as the time she spends in it gives her joy as well as work. She also has to prepare the meals for her husband and family. When she gets to the compound all that is taken away. There is no garden; she has no longer any need to prepare meals, because part of the payment received by the worker is given in rations which are supplied cooked if desired, and the simple life of the family is destroyed and nothing is put in its place. The married women, some of them resident for years in the compound, have practically nothing to do for a large part of their time. It inevitably leads to demoralisation, and I therefore rejoice that the matter is being taken up.
I hope the Government will continue to press for the development of handicraft training and other work of that kind, which will provide a healthy spare-time interest for the women in the compounds. I would also beg them to press for the provision of gardens. It is not merely a question of a material benefit for the family; it means much more than that—it means a spiritual benefit. It is desirable for the woman herself, who in her normal village life spends so much time in her garden, and it is desirable for her children. If the industrial community is not to be permanently divorced from the land, it is essential that there should be garden allotments available for the workers, and that there should also be school gardens in connection with the schools. We do not want to see the mining and industrial population permanently divorced from the main life of the African community, which in Northern Rhodesia, as has been pointed out, is necessarily largely agricultural. I have every confidence that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has the interest of the worker at heart in this matter, and that both the Secretary of State and he can be trusted to take a long-sighted view of the problem. I hope that they will press upon the Government of Northern Rhodesia the need for a long-term policy based upon respect for the 1751 rights of the African and a determination to ensure for him in future the fullest possible measure of development.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)
I am sure the House will wish me, at the outset, to refer to the grievous news which has just reached us from Northern Rhodesia that the Governor died very suddenly yesterday. It is a strange coincidence that we should be having this Debate the day following his death. Sir John May bin had been Governor of the Territory since August, 1938, and in the years which have elapsed since then he had given signal proof of his capacity as an administrator. He had previously had nearly 25 years' experience of Colonial affairs. He had great charm of manner, and his outstanding qualities of tact and sympathy and his sterling character won him the esteem and admiration of those who knew him. The loss of such a distinguished public servant would at any time have been grievous, but in these critical days it is even more grievous. I am sure the House will wish the Colonial Office to convey to the relatives its deep sympathy in their loss.
I would also like to pay a tribute to the Commission which was responsible for the Report that we are debating. I consider the Commission, made up of Sir John Foster, Sir Walter Buchanan-Smith, and Mr. Dalgleish, a well-balanced Commission. There is no doubt that it has got on with its work with commendable speed. I make no complaint about my hon. Friends raising this question to-day. Their very great interest in Colonial affairs is well-known to the House. To the speeches which have been made we take no exception, although my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) was perhaps a little critical. It must be remembered that we are dealing with a problem which has arisen very largely from the rapid development of a new industry in a territory which was always regarded as a very poor one. The Copperbelt was first discovered only in 1925. From then until 1929, there was progress. There was a setback owing to the world depression of 1931–32, but from 1934 there has been considerable progress. I think it would be worth while, in order to give a background to this discussion, to refer, in terms of 1752 figures, to the progress made. In 1935 the copper exports from the Copperbelt were to the value of £5,000,000; in 1937 they had increased to £11,000,000; and during the first six months of 1940 the total amount exported was to the value of £6,000,000.
Seeing that my hon. Friend has raised the question of the contribution of this industry to the Territory, it is well that we should take note of the fact that, whereas in 1925–26 the revenue of Northern Rhodesia amounted to £370,000, it had almost doubled by 1939, while this year the revenue for the territory is estimated at £2,500,000. It is interesting to note that of that amount the Income Tax is expected to yield £1,500,000. In 1938 the Income Tax receipts from the mining companies alone amounted to no less than 79 per cent. of the total tax collected. There has been a tremendous development, not only with regard to output and revenue, but in the number of people employed in the Copper-belt. In 1930 the number was 15,000. We had then the development to which I have referred. In 1932 the number slumped to 7,000. At the present time the number is from 26,000 to 28,000. That, of course, does not include the Europeans employed. They vary between 3,500 and 3,800—in other words, at the rate of one European to every 10 Africans in the Copperbelt. The importance of this industry can be judged from the fact that the amount of copper at present being produced in Northern Rhodesia is about 300,000 tons a year. This gives the industry a good place in world production. The Territory has overtaken Canada, which was formerly the greatest producer of copper in the world. The reserves of this valuable high-grade ore in the Territory amount to about 750,000,000 tons, so the source of the Territory's prosperity may be regarded as permanent.
We must not overlook the fact that the rapid development to which I have referred has entirely altered the complexion of this part of the Territory, and has been admittedly the cause of very much industrial strife. It was because of the strike of 1940 that the Commission was appointed. My hon. Friend referred to the delay in the publication of the Report. The delay was largely due to communications having to pass between Northern Rhodesia and this country. I might add 1753 that had the Commission been appointed by the Colonial Office here there would have been a certain amount of delay, for the same reason. My hon. Friend will realise the difficulties of communication and of transport. We have the Report before us. The Colonial Office, in addition to submitting the Report, have submitted a statement, giving the recommendations and dealing with the result of the negotiations between the Northern Rhodesian Government and the mine managers. I trust that the submission of a statement in that form has been of great assistance. I should mention that I think that, taking everything into consideration, the mining companies deserve a tribute for the way in which they co-operated with the Government over this problem. When you examine the changes which have taken place, you find that the companies have not only conceded almost everything asked for in the Report of the Commission, but in some cases have gone a little farther. The acceptance by the mining companies of the recommendations, and what they have done in addition, are, in my opinion, proof of their co-operation. My hon. Friend dealt with the cause of the dispute and also with the wages question and other attendant questions.
I shall not deal at any length with the cause of the dispute, as time is going on, and we are very anxious to close this Debate in order to get on with the other matters which are to come on after this Debate has finished. I shall therefore not go back into its history, but come straight away to the question of wages. There was one thing to which my hon. Friend did not refer when he complained about the amount of wages paid in the compound. He did not mention the fact that, in addition to wages, houses were provided, and food, not only for the worker, but for members of his family, and also a certain allowance for the renewal of clothes, all of which, of course, are an addition to the wages which are paid to the African workers.
Mr. Creech Jones
I took the allowances for granted; everyone knows that they are made. I was merely trying to get a contrast between the total cash wage bill and the other income from the industry.
§ Mr. Hall
I agree that people who know the conditions of the Copperbelt know that, in addition to the wages that are 1754 paid, there are other allowances given, and when one comes to balance the wages and the value of what is given in addition, I am not sure whether that which is given in addition to wages does not exceed the amount of the wages that are paid. But I want to put it on record that, in addition to wages, there are these other outgoings. Far be it from me to say that I am entirely satisfied with the amount of wages paid even in accordance with this recommendation, but I am sure that my hon. Friend, as the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. Ernest Evans) has already done, will see that you cannot relate the wages paid to all Africans in the Copperbelt to the wages paid to Europeans, nor the wages paid to the Africans in Northern Rhodesia with the wages paid to the people in this country. The only way in which you can relate wages is to relate them to those which are paid in the territory itself.
§ Mr. Hall
I am not suggesting that they should be entirely related and kept down to the level of the wages which are paid, but we have to take into consideration the relationship as between the one and the other. I would call the attention of my hon. Friend to paragraph 26 of the Report, which points out that until 1926, when industrial development on a large scale commenced, there were very few Africans who had been employed in semiskilled work, and a large number who had done nothing but rough labour, for which only 5s. per month, plus food, was paid.
§ Mr. Hall
I agree, but even at the present time the Commission report that, relating the wages, previously given in the Copperbelt to those which are paid on the railways, in agriculture and in secondary industries, they are not excessive but are in excess. Let me take the wages as they have been fixed in accordance with the recommendation of the Commission. I am not going to say that substantial increases have been agreed to, but increases have been agreed upon. If my hon. Friend or any hon. Member in this House will look at the statement which was issued with this Report, he will see that the maximum has been increased, in some instances, from 50s. per ticket to 1755 100s. per ticket. The surface maximum has increased from 40s. per ticket to 80s. per ticket. The minimum has increased by 2s. 6d. per ticket, which is not very much. As my hon. Friend has said, it is about a penny a day. That is so, but he himself got confused in connection with the payment of these wages, and I can understand it. I had for many years some experience in dealing with the pay tickets of South Wales miners, and the way in which these wages are assessed and arrived at is almost as complicated as was the case in South Wales. He said that the 2s. 6d. per ticket cost-of-living bonus was regarded as an efficiency bonus and was only paid in accordance with the wishes or at the discretion of the compound manager. May I assure him that that is not so. The cost-of-living bonus is paid because of the increase in the cost of living.
Mr. Creech Jones
May I point out that the suggestion was very clearly made that the compound manager may deduct from that bonus in the light of his views as to indiscipline or inefficiency on the part of the worker?
§ Mr. Hall
I feel sure that my hon. Friend is under a misapprehension in connection with that bonus. It may be that, with regard to other efficiency bonuses, the compound manager has the power which he has ascribed to him, but as far as that bonus is concerned, it is purely a cost-of-living bonus. I have stated that, in addition to wages, there are free rents, house accommodation for the married, with free rations for the family, and there is a bonus system for efficiency and other purposes, and then we come to the question of clothing.
Mr. Creech Jones
This is purely on a question of fact. The Commission recommended the deduction from bonus for disciplinary purposes but this was unacceptable to the Northern Rhodesian Government.
§ Mr. Hall
There are bonuses given for efficiency work and good conduct, and the compound manager can interfere with a bonus given for efficiency and good conduct, but he cannot interfere with a bonus that is given to meet the increased cost of living. In addition to the wages referred to, there is an allowance for clothing, which in some of the mines was not 1756 given. Free clothing is given for the first ticket for six months, and then for every other ticket 2s. 6d. is given for the replacement of clothing that is worn out, and a certain amount of clothing is given. Personally, I do not like this system. I see in it too much of the operation of the old company shop in the early days in this country, but here we have to take the position as we see it at the present time.
My hon. Friend dealt with the question of colour bar, as did also the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Wales. He said that the kernel of British Colonial policy was the question of the proper treatment of the natives in whatever territory they were, and he referred to the policy of successive Secretaries of State. I can assure my hon. Friend that that policy is not in any way changed. I made the position quite clear in this House in reply to a Question when I said that the Government did not stand for the colour bar in that Territory. It is the accepted policy of His Majesty's Government to give the Africans of Northern Rhodesia, as well as those of all other Dependencies in tropical Africa, opportunities for qualifying for any post or employment for which they are capable, and to supply the requisite educational training. It is important to create conditions in which an increasing number of applicants can be trained for large-scale employment—agricultural, medical, educational, technical, legal, clerical and the like. But we must remember that the pace of this movement depends largely on our ability to provide trained African teachers and give adequate education. It is to supply this demand that such colleges as Achimota and Makarere were founded, and I am glad to say that they are fulfilling their purpose.
My hon. Friend referred to the settlement of Africans in certain positions now occupied by Europeans. The Commission definitely did deal with that matter, and it has now been referred to the Governor for consultation with the mine managers to see what can be done. It will be remembered that the Commission recommended that mines managements should consider with representatives of the Government and the mine-workers' union as to the positions, not now open to the African worker, to which he should be encouraged to advance, and the Northern Rhodesian Government have ex- 1757 pressed their readiness to initiate such discussions in due course. Why have they suggested that the discussions should take place in due course? The reason is that certain commitments have been entered into by Europeans who have left these mines to take up military service. In exactly the same way as we passed legislation here, through the Military Service Act, which guarantees to any person who has gone into the Forces that his position will be kept open for him when he returns to his job, so the Northern Rhodesian Government have the matter in mind. That is the reason for their reluctance to open up these negotiations.
As I have pointed out in reply to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey), my Noble Friend is already in communication with the Government of Northern Rhodesia with a view to expediting these discussions as between them and the mine managements. But it is not so easy as a number of my hon. Friends seem to think. It must be remembered that the Commission specifically referred to the attitude of the European mine-workers' union. The union said they had no objection to the advancement of the African provided he undertook work which is now done by the Europeans at the same rate of wages as that received by the Europeans. After all, as one who is interested in the trade union movement, as I know my hon. Friend is, he will admit that the trade union side of this matter must be borne in mind in dealing with the difficulties which are likely to arise as a result of turning out Europeans from their jobs to make room for Africans, if knowing that when they are turned out the African will be employed at a rate of wages far less than the rate paid to Europeans.
The very basis of our trade unionism would be blown sky high unless the rights of trade unions, as they are in our own country, are safeguarded when skilled jobs are done by what may be regarded as unskilled persons. For all that, there should be no deterrent to every possible opportunity being given to the African for the purpose of training himself to be fit for jobs when they become available, and I think the difficulties will be overcome. My hon. Friend also referred to the bitter resentment caused among African workers at the terms used about them in the Press and the sneering atti- 1758 tude which is not infrequently used towards them by European mine-workers. It is true that concrete instances of the conduct complained of were very difficult to secure, but the matter was taken up by the Commission with the mine managers, and the officials of the Northern Rhodesia Mine-workers' Union undertook to check this as far as possible. I trust their efforts will be successful, for, if I may express my own feelings and, I am sure, those of Members of this House, I would say if there is any truth in the statement, it is not British to treat other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the same way that it has been suggested Africans have been treated in this case.
My hon. Friend dealt, too, with the question of trade-union development. The Commission dealt with this matter at length and pointed out the difficulty at the present time of organising trade unions among African workers. There is a real difficulty, for in many cases education has not gone very far with Africans, and in most instances it has not begun at all. But to enable Africans to have the means whereby their grievances can be voiced to the mining companies and managers, the Commission, rightly, in my opinion, developed and made use of the "elder" system, which was the only system on the Copperbelt which had some semblance of acting for representatives of the Africans. I can assure my hon. Friend that as far as the Colonial Office is concerned, no obstacle will be put in the way of the Africans organising themselves into trade unions whenever they are ready to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Welsh University referred to the need for the development of education, but if he knew the whole facts, I think he would admit that there is a tendency now to increase facilities for education in the Copperbelt. This year some £14,000 has been set aside for additional facilities, and if he sees the progress which has been made in the daily attendance at schools, he will find a sure indication that facilities have considerably increased during the last three or four years. In 1938 the average daily attendance rose to 1,659, against 587 in 1937, whereas in 1940 the actual enrolment was 3,075. The Government of Northern Rhodesia are fully alive to the need for additional educational facilities.
1759 My hon. Friend referred to the question of the stabilisation of the industrial population on the Copperbelt. This, again, is a matter which will take a considerable time before it will develop. We are dealing with a new industrial area, and I would like to point out that on the Copperbelt itself, among very representative people, there is not complete agreement as to the advisability of stabilising the urban population. The missionaries on the Belt feel that there should be a stabilised population, whereas the Bishop of Northern Rhodesia and other representative people think it is a great mistake that there should be a stabilised urban population. But there is one thing that we can all be agreed upon, and that is that where the Africans take their wives and children there should be developed adequate housing provision and facilities of all kinds to enable them to live the kind of life which we think they ought to be allowed to live. I agree with my hon. Friend that where food is provided and cooked, and there is very little work for the women-folk to do, it tends to cause discontentment. The mine managers recognise that difficulty, and the progress that is now being made with regard to additional housing is such that there is an indication that this matter is being fully attended to by the Government and the mine managers. Not only is additional housing accommodation being provided, but there is also better housing accommodation.
I think we may rightly say that we look forward to very much better housing conditions and greater facilities for the married folk who are settling in the Copperbelt. It may mean after a while there will be a stabilised industrial population there, but it must be remembered that copper is subject to fluctuations, as was seen in the Congo in the world depression of 1930–32. The unemployed people in the Congo, torn away from their native villages and native life, suffered severe privations as a result of being thrown out of work. The fact that from 1929 to 1932 the number of Africans there fluctuated from between 12,000 and 14,000 in 1929 to 7,000 in 1932 is an indication of possible fluctuations in the industry which may lead to a considerable amount of distress, and to what one might call "Special Areas" in Northern Rhodesia 1760 such as we have had in South Wales and Durham.
It is impossible for me now to deal with all the points raised by my hon. Friend. I assure him that the Colonial Office and the Government of Northern Rhodesia are fully seized of the points he has raised. We shall see that the attention of the Government is drawn to the Debate which has taken place to-day. In conclusion, I want to say that I am not satisfied that all that could be done is being done for welfare, although we have had some glowing tributes to the work done by the mining companies in Northern Rhodesia towards the medical attention of the African workers. Where is there any industry in this country where the mine-worker or industrial worker is weighed before he begins work, and is weighed every month to see whether his weight has been reduced, and if it has, is referred to a medical man for the purpose of ascertaining the cause, and if illness is the cause, is sent to a hospital to see whether his health can be restored? I do not suggest that everything is what it ought to be. I do not like the fact that the more beer that is sold in the Copperbelt, the more money is set aside for welfare work; but we have to keep in mind the fact that it took nearly 60 years of mining development in this country before we were able to establish the Miners' Welfare Fund, which has revolutionised recreational and welfare work in the mining districts. The possibilities are that some time in the future we may be able to get in the Copperbelt a miners' welfare fund on the same basis as we have one in this country.
With regard to plots of trees and gardens, I can assure the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities that I am in complete sympathy with him. We are in communication with the Government of Northern Rhodesia to see that amenities and facilities are provided in the Copperbelt, This is a young and developing industry, in which it is imperative that the workers should be content. While it is true to say that much work has been done, there is still more to be done. Do not let the mistakes of the past be repeated. We have seen the mistakes that were made in the early development of industry in this country, and I trust that those responsible for the Copperbelt and for industry generally in the Colonies will benefit by the experience 1761 we have had here. Let the mine owners in the Copperbelt and the Government of the Territory now get together and establish such conditions for the people living in the Copperbelt that the sad circumstances which necessitated the Commission will soon be forgotten, and a new era of happiness and contentment for the workers and their dependants will be established in that part of the Empire. This, and this alone, will bring much satisfaction not only to the African workers but to the Territory as a whole. It will bring prosperity to the mine owners and the Government. It will bring great satisfaction to the Colonial Office and the people of this country.