§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
It has been arranged at the request of my hon. Friends who sit on this side of the House that we shall debate to-day questions connected with the Colonies. For my part, I am grateful to the Government for agreeing to this request. It is a long time—far too long—since the House debated Colonial questions. That has been particularly unfortunate, because, year by year, in recent times, when we discussed Colonial affairs, on Colonial Office Votes and on other occasions, our deliberations had more reality and produced more practical results. Because of the long interval since our last Debate on Colonial affairs, I wish to deal with the main issues of Colonial policy on the broadest lines. For that reason, I do not wish to spend long on any particular or detailed question. For example, I do not propose to raise any question connected with Palestine. I am sure that we ought soon to have a Debate on Palestine. Palestinian matters to be dealt with are now so grave and urgent that they deserve and need a full day to themselves.
Similarly, I do not want to raise what some hon. Members conceive to be the most urgent Colonial question at the present time, namely, the question of sovereignty over the naval bases which we have granted to the United States. As to that, I would only say that, for my part, I rejoice that we are working closely with the United States, and that bases 508 are being made which are truly international and which are to be used for the defence of world peace against aggression. I hope that that principle may be widely extended in times to come. Meantime, I desire only to ask the Under-Secretary of State this question—whether, on his recent visit to the West Indies, on which we all congratulate him, he was able to satisfy himself that the conditions of employment in the bases are reasonable and fair? But while I ask for that information, I repeat that I desire chiefly to deal with the broad principles on which Colonial policy in our 50 dependencies is based.
It was said by Lord Hailey not long ago that we have, broadly speaking, completed the first two stages of Colonial development, the first stage being the introduction of peace and order, and the second the taking of measures to prevent the exploitation of the inhabitants by private interests or Government authority, and that we are now in the third stage, the building up of the social services which, itself, is the essential preparation of the fourth stage, the creation of self-governing institutions. I believe all that is true. It is true that we are now in the stage of building up the social services. It is also true, as Lord Hailey said, that while "a sense of trusteeship has never been absent" from our administration, "it has of late years taken on a more constructive interpetation." Lord Hailey attributed that fact, and it is a very important fact, principally to the influence of developing social services in this country and to the better means of information about the Colonies which we now possess. Certainly, among a variety of causes, those are two, but I venture to believe that there are two others which are still more important. The first is the Mandates system of the League of Nations and the second is the work of the International Labour Organisation which held such a successful conference in New York a fortnight ago.
I remember when we were drafting the Mandates in 1919 in a committee set up by the Paris Conference, Colonial Office officials of more than one Allied nationality used sometimes to ask, "Why are we spending so much time on what is certain in any case to be a farce?" But the Mandates system was not a farce. It introduced new and higher standards of Colonial administration. It gave an inter- 509 national legal basis to the principle of trusteeship, by which we stood. It established self-government by the backward peoples as the declared purpose of the mandatory trustee and it reinforced the trusteeship by international machinery, which obliged the mandatory Power to make annual reports, which ensured the cross-examination of the responsible Colonial Ministers by a competent inter national tribunal, which gave the fullest possible publicity to reports on the Man dated Territories and the comments of the international tribunal—the Permanent Mandates Commission—and which, once a year, gave rise to an important world debate on the Mandates and on Colonial questions in the Assembly. The influence of the Mandates system was considerable. It was strengthened by the activity of the International Labour Organisation. Year by year its organs were engaged in the study of Colonial labour questions and in making Colonial labour conventions, and the Mandatories reports were examined by its competent officials from the labour point of view.
When the history of the last 20 years is written, I believe we shall see that the direct and indirect effects of those two international institutions on Colonial policy have been far greater than might at first appear. Certainly we felt that influence here. It is true, as Lord Hailey says, that in the last few years we have been seeing rapid progress. Parliament has had a keener sense of its responsibilities to the Colonial peoples; opinion outside has been much more interested and far better-informed and, in consequence, the Government established the system of giving us annual reports on their Colonial administration, we had the very important Royal Commission on the West Indies under the present Secretary of State, and we had other, more specialised inquiries, for example, the mission under Lord Bledisloe to Northern Rhodesia. We secured as the direct result of House of Commons pressure, or, if you prefer it, encouragement, the passing of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act which we all hope and believe will be an epoch-making event in the history of our Colonial Empire. On the eve of the war, in June, 1939, in our last Colonial Debate before hostilities began, we came, I believe, very near to the establishment of a standing Parliamentary Committee, a committee of this House, to work with the 510 Secretary of State and his Ministerial colleagues in discharging our responsibilities to the dependent peoples whom we rule. That was an advancing application of democratic principles and procedure to the conduct of our Colonial affairs, very similar in spirit and even in form to the international application of democratic principles and procedure which the man dates system involved.
The war brought a sharp break in this advance. The annual reports have been stopped. The Parliamentary Committee has never been set up, and our Colonial Debates have been much fewer. The execution of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act has been a great deal less rapid than we had hoped. Every hon. Member regrets that break, and I am sure the Government regret it too. It was per haps natural that it should have happened. It may, indeed, have been in evitable; for my part, I cannot help wondering whether it really was. I wonder whether the annual reports might not have been published at least in an abbreviated form. It has been suggested that shortage of paper was one reason. That ought not to have been put in the balance against the fact that the electorate of this country and this Parliament have immensely important responsibilities in respect of the Colonies which we rule. I hope the Government will put aside all minor reasons, and will go back to publishing not only reports on the Mandatory Territories, which, by international obligation, we ought to publish, but also the reports which they were giving us before on the other Colonies.
I wonder whether it was really impossible because of the war to set up the Parliamentary Committee which the House of Commons two years ago so very evidently desired. Certainly, the work for that Committee is not less than it was two years ago. The need is plainly greater. It is many months since the Government declared in favour of universal suffrage in the West Indies, a constitutional change of the first magnitude, but this House has never had an opportunity to debate it. I am sure that many subjects will be raised to-day on which we ought to have full information and discussion, subjects of urgent importance, eminently suitable to be dealt with by the standing Parliamentary Committee if it were set up. I wonder whether, even 511 now, the Government will not reconsider the matter and see whether it would not be of general advantage to introduce this reform. I remember that in the recommendations of the West Indies Royal Commission, over which the Secretary of State presided, there is a passage in which the Commission spoke of a standing Parliamentary Committee with evident sympathy, and urgedthat means should be found for devoting more Parliamentary time to the discussion of Colonial affairs.We have been devoting less time, not more, to this matter, and we shall be doing so while the war lasts. After the war, the time needed will be much greater still. Could not the Secretary of State act on his Royal Commission's view, and set up the Parliamentary Committee now? May I attempt a review of the questions of principle of which, as many hon. Members think, a close study by Parliament, and therefore by that Committee, if it is set up, is needed now, and all the more because we are at war. We are fighting for freedom—not, we claim, freedom for ourselves alone, but freedom for all mankind. It is in the Colonies, with their 60,000,000 of dependent peoples, that the world will look to us to prove that claim. One mistake there, one remediable abuse, will do great harm to our cause. Our policy in the Colonies to-day is of greater international importance; it can do more to serve our cause, than ever before in our history.
I think it can be fairly said that the support of these dependent peoples in the war itself is the finest testimony which we could desire. We can be certain that Dr. Goebbels would like to make trouble for us with these peoples if he could; but everywhere there has been not sedition, but generous, spontaneous support. Great sums of money have been sent from the Colonies to help our cause; the troops of East Africa and of West Africa have played a great part in the Abyssinian campaign. Everywhere, the 60,000,000 people have accepted the hardships and the restrictions of the war without a murmur. They have shown, in their own simple fashions, that they really under stand the issues, and that we are their protectors against the greatest slavery the world has ever known. That is no reason why we should be complacent. We have 512 to prove to them that we mean business when we talk about freedom. Every hon. Member knows that we have very much to do. I was talking the other day to a distinguished Englishman who was recently in the West Indies for the first time. He said, "Freedom! I did not find much but the freedom of the rich to grow richer." When we speak of freedom in the Colonies we mean two things. We mean political freedom—not only personal liberty, but also the advance towards self-government to which all our efforts must be bent—and economic free dom—freedom from exploitation, and, as far as we can provide it, freedom from poverty, disease and ignorance as well. The principle of political freedom is at stake in many different forms, in many different Colonies to-day. The simplest form of all is what we call civil liberties, which are every bit as vital in the Colonies as in Britain—perhaps more vital. Civil liberties have been a burning question in more Dependencies than one. I hope Ministers will remember that it is very easy for Governors and other Colonial officials, acting in perfect good faith—I do not question their good faith—to set aside evidence to which perhaps it would be right that the personal attention of Ministers should be devoted.
I do not want to deal with any individual cases, except to say that there is one case in the West Indies about which I do not feel quite happy, about which I do not yet feel convinced that justice has been done, and in West Africa there is the case of Mr. Wallace-Johnson, which I raised in this House more than two years ago. He is still detained. I am not satisfied that the Government are right to keep Mr. Johnson in. I know that they consider that there may be a risk in letting him out, but I put it that there may be a risk in keeping him in unless they have really adequate cause, a risk that they will create that very sedition which their action is intended to stop. Political freedom takes another form in the West African and other Colonies, namely, the progressive organisation of indirect rule and of local government through tribal chiefs. I mention that only because an eminent authority, speaking not long ago, implied that in such Colonies political progress should be, for the present at least, subordinated to social services and economic progress. He said: 513It should not be said that they asked us for bread and we gave them a vote.Certainly, but it must not be said that they asked us for political freedom and we gave them bread. That was Hitler's answer to the German people some years ago. In all our Colonies we must press forward with measures for giving the people a greater voice in their own affairs. That means, indeed, education and health work, but it means also that we must not allow indirect rule to become a cloak for oppression. Tribal rule must not become a cloak for dictatorship. This very important system of rule should become, as far as we can do it, democratised, so that we train the Africans both for self-government and for good government in times to come. I urge the Under-Secretary to give district commissioners the necessary instructions for that.
It is impossible to speak of self-government without mentioning again the decision of the Colonial Office a year or more ago to grant universal suffrage for the Legislative Council of Jamaica. We all thought that a decision of the highest importance. The whole House joined in warm congratulations to the Government when it was announced by my hon. Friend. This is the first opportunity we have had to renew those congratulations. I should like to ask, though I do not know whether my hon. Friend can answer, how things stand. I believe that the elected members of the Legislative Council in Jamaica do not approve of the Government decision. I take it that the Government will not be deterred by their objection, and I presume that they will go forward and put it through as quickly as they can. A promise unfulfilled in such a matter will do far more harm than a promise never made. I hope that the Government will carry through their promise and establish universal suffrage that will create in Jamaica what, in the constitutional history of the Common wealth, we have called "representative government." But it has been proved time after time that representative government is an unstable system. People who elect their own Parliament want that Parliament to choose and to control their Government. They do not stay contented with the kind of democracy which the Kaiser had in Germany in 1914. Representative government leads inevitably to the demand for responsible government. 514 It must lead to responsible government within a measurable period. If that is true, the people who are ultimately to rule should be gradually trained. While there must be reserved paths for the Governor, we should, as far as we can, do what we did in India—create responsible government in certain domains of Government action and repeat again in the West Indies what has succeeded in India and Ceylon.
But by far the most important issue of political freedom which is raised at the present time is that of the proposed amalgamation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and of Nyasaland. The demand for this closer union comes from the Europeans in both Northern and Southern Rhodesia. It has been voiced in recent months in very strong language indeed, and in language which has not always shown a very high respect for the House of Commons. It is important that the House should recall the basic facts. There are, in round figures, 1,000,000 Africans in Southern Rhodesia and 50,000 Europeans—5 per cent. There are in Northern Rhodesia 1,300,000 Africans and 13,000 Europeans—1 per cent. In Southern Rhodesia there are 25,000 electors, of -whom, according to the Bledisloe Report, only 39 are natives. Union of the Territories with self-government of the type now conceded to Southern Rhodesia, would mean that nearly 2,500,000 Africans would be governed by 60,000 Whites, and that we would have no say at all. The two Territories are not, as is often thought, really contiguous. They are separated by river and bush, and they are as distinct as if they were separated by the sea. Most of Northern Rhodesia could not be handed over by this country against the declared wishes of the inhabitants without a breach of treaty obligations. According to the report of the Bledisloe Commission, there was a striking unanimity of opinion among the natives of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland against amalgamation and their opposition was based on what the Commission calleddislike of some features of the native policy of Southern Rhodesia.The Bledisloe Commission said that this opposition was "a factor which could not be ignored," and they advised delay until native suspicions had been removed. It is native policy which makes this proposal 515 so open, as I think, to objection. There is no possible question as to what is now at stake. In 1930 His Majesty's Government published a Memorandum on Native Policy saying that the paramountcy of native interests was the basis of their Colonial policy, and that the full development of native life must be a first charge on any territory. The elected members of the Legislative Council of Northern Rhodesia, the spokesmen of the 13,000, the 1 per cent. of the population, who call themselves the Labour party in Northern Rhodesia, have openly challenged that doctrine of the 1930 memorandum, which has been accepted by every Secretary of State and every British Government since then. They say that, to British settlers, that doctrine is incompatible with justice and contrary to natural law, and they ask us to abandon the principle of trusteeship, which, we said in 1930, could not be devolved and from which we could not be relieved and they ask it in order that 60,000 white settlers should rule 2,500,000 African people.
The present position about this question is not very clear. I shall welcome any thing that my hon. Friend may be able to say about it. I hope that at least he will tell us that no decision will be made until this House has had a full opportunity for Debate. It would be right, and in accordance with the candour and friendship with which all Commonwealth questions should be treated, that I should express the views now held by many of my hon. Friends. We do not believe that this is what is called a purely Rhodesian question. It is a British question, in regard to which we have historical responsibilities to fulfil. It is a world question, because the eyes of the world are upon us now. Frankly, I do not believe that the House of Commons will ever again hand over what is called self-government to a small European minority in a territory with a much greater native population. With the West Indian precedent before us, I do not believe that they will do that, what ever safeguards on particular subjects may be agreed. And I add this: Any attempt to force this amalgamation through during the crisis of the war would create a lasting resentment in this House and in the country, which would make its rejection doubly sure.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I now turn to the question of economic freedom, and if my hon. Friend gives more attention to economic questions than to political questions, I for one shall not complain. Here again, I must mingle congratulation and exhortation with some complaint. Undoubtedly there is ground for warm congratulation to the Government and to my hon. Friend. The Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940, was a great event in our Colonial history, and it is remembered that in the last two or three years the Colonial Office have greatly strengthened their economic staff. They have set up a social services Department, and have special advisers on labour, public health and education questions. They created an advisory committee on development and welfare, and another advisory committee, with Lord Hailey as chairman, on research. In the last few weeks, they have presented to the Inter national Labour Conference a remarkable Memorandum on the "Supervision of Labour Conditions in the Colonial Empire." That memorandum is a record of the activity of the Colonial Office on labour questions since 1937, and it shows how very much is being done. I do not want to anticipate what my hon. Friend will say, but this review of building up and of supervision in the Colonies during the last four years of the promotion of labour legislation and of legislation on trade disputes, and the encouragement of the creation of trades unions, workmen's compensation, the ratification and application to the Colonies of the International. Labour Convention and so on makes a splendid record.
Again I repeat, and I know that my hon. Friend agrees, that that gives us no ground for complacency. It is only a small beginning. Two years ago in this House the then Secretary of State said that although we were making progress in the establishment of social services, our progress was almost insignificant com pared with what we should like to see it. The other day the present Secretary of State said that large parts of our Empire were in a neglected state. Lord Bledisloe has said of the territories in which he led his Royal Commission,The conditions really were more than depressing. It was almost sickening to think 517 that within a territory over which at least for the time the Union Jack was flying there was such an immense amount to be done both in the matter of education and elementary agriculture.In too many Colonies there is far too much poverty, ignorance and preventable disease; there is too much exploitation of labour and far too much wasteful exploitation of national resources. We know that in our modern world we are finding out year by year that poverty, unemployment, ignorance, cheap labour and exploitation are not only social crimes; they are a social waste, and the nation will not tolerate them any more. In Durham and South Wales there are people—the best and the most industrious people in the country—who are being properly fed for the first time for 20 years, because we are at war. People will not let that happen again here, and it must not happen in the Colonial Empire. In vast areas of the Empire there is still great mulnutrition. Of all social follies we know that by far this is the worst, and I am glad that the Secretary of State said in a recent declaration that he will give special attention to this matter. No doubt the development of subsistence agriculture and the reduction of the dependence of the Colonies on export products is one of the most important changes that can be carried out.
The Colonial Development and Welfare Act, which we passed last year, was our first effective step to cutting out these social wastes and making possible the kind of thing I have suggested. For that reason I wish it had been more generally and rapidly applied. The late Secretary of State told us when the Bill was first introduced that its operation was sure to be slow and that it would take probably three years before there was an actual expenditure of £5,000,000 per annum. I know the Colonial Office have done a lot of work, not under the Act, to protect the economic interest of the Colonies during the last two years. They have spent a lot of money on citrus growers in Pales tine, banana growers in the West Indies, and cocoa growers in West Africa, and I would welcome anything the Under-Secretary could tell us about that work, particularly about the West African cocoa Board. I would like to know whether he can assure us that he is satisfied with the Board's work and about the prices that producers are receiving for the cocoa they produce? I know that nothing must be done under this Act which will divert 518 material or man-power from our war effort or which may reduce the contribution of the Colonies to the war effort, but I cannot help thinking that more might have been done, which, by increasing the output of our "neglected estate," would actually have helped towards the war effort we have made.
I regret that the Secretary of State's first circular to the Colonial Governments, urging the preparation of schemes under the Act, went out only in June last. I wish that a larger number of concrete schemes had been submitted and approved. I believe I am right in saying that the total so far is not much more than £1,000,000. I wish, also, that in the West Indies Sir Frank Stockdale, the Comptroller, had been able to attack his work in a more ambitious way. He has advisers on education, health, labour and welfare who have begun with agriculture, -which I am sure is right, but it will often happen that even steps for transference to a different kind of mixed agriculture can be taken only if they are part of the wider economic plan. It will not be possible unless fundamental problems of production, marketing and long-term economic stability can be tackled. I think Sir Frank Stockdale ought to have economic and financial advisers also to help him. I hope he will not only deal with schemes but with each Colony by itself and co-ordinate schemes by which the large resources of a number of Colonies may be pooled for planning purposes. If he is to make plans of the least value in the Caribbean, he ought to have United States co-operation as well. I wish there were Comptrollers like Sir Frank Stock-dale, with his kind of assistants and powers, working in West and East Africa. I am sure there is work for them to do. It is urgent that proper planning in Africa should be begun.
After the war, the Government have told us, we are to have world economic planning. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said so time and time again. The Colonies must play their part. It is very good that in the Colonial Office eminent experts are already engaged in preparatory work, but there must be preparatory work on the spot as well. There must be an estimate of potentialities, a survey of essential needs, and blue prints of specific plans. Of the two, this is the more urgent task. There are, however, things which can be done at once. Let 519 me give one small but important example. Lord Hailey told us that in Tanganyika two-thirds of the whole territory is infested with the tsetse fly and that in Northern Rhodesia five-eighths of the territory is so infested. The tsetse fly is an African problem. Why not let us try to co-operate now with our Free French and Belgian Allies, put up a sum of money from our Colonial Development Fund, call in the health section of the League of Nations, which is now working in the United States, and ask them—with their much wider resources in expert scientific man-power than we have at the moment at our com mand—to organise research and make a start, if they can, on practical work? Everyone knows what they have done about malaria in almost every corner of the world. They have done a splendid job.
I hope the Government will also approach the labour and welfare problems on the same broad and ambitious lines. Now is the time to quicken the pace. Very much has been done during the last four years, and the pace has been quickened in the last 12 months. Labour departments and supervisors have been appointed; there are about 100 officers at work, which is a big result. In Britain, with our great industrial population, we have only 360 factory inspectors. These 100 are scattered over 50 Dependencies in Africa and cover vast areas where the workers are ignorant and unorganised. We need more, and I hope the Government will draw more on trade unionists from here. About 160 trade unions have been started, but mostly they have only a few hundred members each, and, again, they are scattered over 50 Colonies. The thing is still on a tiny scale, but I am sure the Under-Secretary will not forget that the principles of organised trade unionism will do more than any other single thing to help the progress of the Colonies to-day.
A big start has been made in labour legislation, and the influence of the Inter national Labour Conventions has been great. But again, the thing is only starting, and I believe that more could be done. I urge in particular on my hon. Friend that we should now ratify the Penal Sanctions Convention, as it is called, which was prepared by the Inter national Labour Conference in 1939. All 520 this labour legislation and labour super vision is of special importance now be cause, as I hope, industrial war production is beginning in the Colonies on a considerable scale. But by far the most important remaining measure to be taken in respect of labour is that the Secretary of State should immediately create the Labour Advisory Committee inside the Colonial Office itself, with outside Colonial experts, and trade union and co-operative representatives, which has been so often talked about. I hope my hon. Friend will now be able to tell us that this is to be done, and if not, I urge upon him that the Government should once again consider it.
I have covered a very wide field of subjects, dealing with general principles rather than particular solutions. I have urged on the Government the more vigorous prosecution of a policy on which, as I believe, the whole House is substantially agreed: The promotion of political freedom for the 60,000,000 de pendent people, and the protection of their civil liberties; the tentative beginnings of democracy in backward places, and bolder steps towards self-government where the people are more advanced; the full maintenance of our own vital principle of trusteeship; the pro motion of political freedom by building up our system of democratic control through Parliament here, and by strengthening the system of international supervision, and, after the war, by doing what Lord Halifax very tentatively suggested in 1939, applying more widely the principles of the Mandate system. I have urged the promotion of economic freedom, by keeping natural resources as a treasure for the community as a whole; by constructive schemes, under the Colonial Development Act, of engineering, drainage, and agricultural education and co-operation; by the fuller application of scientific research; by more advanced labour legislation, more trade unions, more effective labour super vision; by the building up of hospitals and schools. It is an inspiring task, and I count my hon. Friend a happy man to have the chance of taking what I think is his admirable share in its execution. I hope he will remember the many millions who look with confidence to him. I hope he will remember that our standards, what we are doing, will have a supreme importance not for them only, but for all man kind, when the war is over and we make 521 the post-war world. I hope, when he meets opposition and difficulties appear, he will remember what was said by a great Socialist, now nearly 20 years ago: Albert Thomas, the first Director of the Inter national Labour Office, who did so much for the Colonial peoples and had their cause so passionately at heart, in a speech once asked this question: ''What is needed for carrying out the work of peace and justice of which glimpses were seen at the end of the last world war?" And he replied, "The answer is the same as it always was: simply faith and determination."
§ Mr. de Rothschild (Isle of Ely)
I am sure the House is very grateful to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) for initiating this interesting Debate, and also for the very humane and fair survey he has made of the Colonial question. The Debate is welcome also, because it gives the House an opportunity for the first time of hearing the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies speak from the Government Front Bench. I should like to congratulate him on his appointment. Since the present Government took office, a great deal of interest has been shown in the affairs of the Colonial Empire, but there has been no discussion in the House on Colonial affairs for the last 18 months. Now that these matters are at last to be discussed, it is particularly fitting that the occasion of the Gracious Speech should have been chosen, because in the course of that Speech the ancient Colony of Malta is singled out for special commendation and praise for its amazing fortitude in the face of destructive air attack by the enemy. Had any other Colony been in that position, no doubt it would have shown the same heroic endurance, but at the present time the honour and glory go to Malta. The attitude of the Maltese typifies the spirit of the Colonial peoples. Loyalty is its keynote. Ever since the beginning of the war, the Colonial peoples have given overwhelming demonstrations of their loyalty. We first heard of this from the late Lord Lloyd, who gave some admirable broadcasts, which were listened to with emotion and interest throughout the country.
The struggle in which we are now engaged is regarded by the Colonial peoples as their own struggle. "Our King is at war, and so are we," a Basuto 522 chief is reported to have said. We are at war, they are at war. There has been no faltering on their part. Gifts of money have poured in from all parts of the Colonial Empire, not only from the Rajahs and Princes, not only from Para mount Chiefs, but from the humble workers in paddy fields and sisal plantations. The Colonies are making munitions of war. The Secretary of State has himself told us that they are important manufacturing factors in our war effort. They are making anti-gas respirators, steel plates, nuts and bolts; in fact, they are building ships. Native workers are also coming to this country from the West Indies and the West Coast of Africa. They are leaving good jobs in their own countries to work in our munitions factories. Numbers of native seamen are coming from the West Indies to Liverpool, London and Cardiff, in order to man our merchant ships and share the perils of the sea with our own sailors.
As for the native soldiers, they have come forward unreservedly, as we know, and they fight with the greatest valour. Native African soldiers have been fighting in Abyssinia since the beginning of the campaign— members of the African Rifles, the Somaliland Camel Corps, the Northern Rhodesian Regiment, and other units. The quality of these troops is magnificent. It is to them that the final surrender of the Italians in. Ethiopia will undoubtedly be made. These troops come from many parts of Africa. They have different tribal traditions, different local allegiances, but on this occasion they fight side by side, united by a common purpose, sustained by a common loyalty. Not only tribesmen stand side by side with other tribesmen; black men and white men fight together, acknowledging a single devotion. Let us consider whether we have not here the beginning of really important developments. This community of black and white should do much to break down what is known as the colour bar, which is a danger to-day in so many places where black and white are contending unequally for the goods of the earth.
The question of a federated Africa has often been discussed. The unity of feeling which is engendered by this war may well be the beginning of such an establishment in the near future. Federation may well be necessary as a foundation for future political development in Africa, 523 and when this foundation is firmly laid, the long and arduous climb from the ground floor of indirect rule may lead eventually to the roof garden of self-government. There is also a close con tact with other Powers in Africa— a closer co-operation than has ever existed before with the Belgians in the Congo and with the Free French. So far we have only seen some small trade agreements set up, but no doubt the future will lead us into closer collaboration and co-operation. Unfortunately, a large part of Africa still lies under direction which does not walk hand in hand with the Allies, and the situation is fraught with possibilities of various kinds. We have heard of the German infiltration into Morocco and Dakar, and we see now that a new orientation may take place as a result of the dismissal of General Weygand. It may be that that part of Africa may become a field for very important political activities, reminiscent in many ways of those of the Minister of State in Cairo, or of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Far East. I am glad to see that the Government have recognised this and that Sir Alan Burns has now arrived in Freetown. There could be no better choice than this highly trained, intelligent diplomatic official for these very difficult duties at the present time.
There can be no doubt that since this Government came into power a great impetus has been given to Colonial development. The Colonial Development Act was passed 18 months ago, and it goes further than any previous Measure carried in this House. The main and the ultimate object of this Act is to raise the standard of living in the Colonies, and this policy, I am glad to say, is to be pursued in spite of the war and during the war, as the Secretary of State declared in his momentous despatch to the Colonial Governors last June. I hope the Secretary of State will continue on these lines, and I feel sure that in that he will have the full support of the Prime Minister, who wrote one of the most impressive pages in his own political career when he was at the Colonial Office in 1906. This Act marks no novel-departure; it is simply the development of our Colonial policy of trusteeship, and may I say, there can be no better answer 524 to the miserable allegations of Dr. Goebbels and his propaganda.
The Secretary of State declared in his despatch that it is the Government's desire that as full advantage as possible under war conditions should be taken of the financial provisions of this Act, and added that Lord Lloyd had shared these views. It will be interesting to know —and I look forward to the speech of my hon. Friend — what schemes have already been sanctioned. There are certain schemes which I hope will receive special encouragement — these are the schemes to increase and extend production of subsistence crops. The production of such crops is absolutely essential if the standard of living is to be raised. There is much chronic ill-health among the native peoples, which is largely due to diet of low nutritive value. After all, proteins and vitamins are equally necessary to black and white, and unless this deficiency is remedied, the work of doctors, nurses and hospitals stands little chance of success. Sound home-grown food is the only effective remedy for this deficiency; it is the primary and essential basis of an improved standard of living.
There is another aspect which I should like to touch upon in this connection which arises out of war conditions. The Colonies are now cut off from their foreign markets through the lack of shipping facilities, or because the markets are in enemy hands. The supplies from the outside world are therefore reduced and home-grown crops are needed to take their place. Sir Frank Stockdale is now dealing with this question in the West Indies, and it would be interesting to know what progress he is making, because we have not as yet had any information on this subject. If this appointment justifies itself, perhaps the Secretary of State will make similar appointments in some of the African Dependencies.
By encouraging the production of subsistence crops, we shall also do something to alleviate economic depression in the Colonies. This can, however, be only a partial solution to the economic depression, which is largely due to low prices. We understand that Lord Hailey's Committee is inquiring into this question of prices, but a complete solution must wait, since this matter must remain a matter for agreement between producers all over the world.
525 But there is one great opportunity of economic improvement which offers itself now. If the Colonies have been deprived of many markets, the United States offers new ones. America needs many products which our Colonies can supply. No doubt an enterprise of this sort will be very welcome to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose financial stomach has developed special juices for the digestion of dollars. Since 1938, American imports from the Colonies have more than doubled. In 1938 they amounted to 160,000,000 dollars, and, in 1940, the figure was 350,000,000 dollars. But there is room for a great deal more.
The bulk of these imports consist of rubber and tin from Malaya, and that part of the world has always supplied the American market with these commodities; but there are many other commodities which America used to obtain mainly from other countries which are now closed by the blockade. For instance, British Colonies can produce metals, cobalt, manganese and tungsten and vanadium. Not only that but the production could be augmented in order to meet new demands. This may require fresh and new geological surveys, and I suggest that the Government should undertake some of these, or help local and private individuals who are prospecting in those countries. There are also good prospects for both vegetable and essential oils. America used to get vegetable oils mainly from the Mediterranean and Japan. Olive oil she took from Greece and rape seed and soya bean oil from Japan. As regards essential oils, lavender and almond oil used to come from France, cinnamon oil from Germany and bermagot oil from Italy. Oils for the manufacture of perfumes were obtained from the East. Many of these oils can be produced in the West Indies, Africa and the Eastern Colonies.
Gums and resins are another commodity for which there would be a ready sale. These are needed for making varnish and many other articles at present in great demand. Malaya already supplies certain varieties but others came from Europe, and these we could supply. Rough fibres were formerly obtained from Europe. These could now be supplied by East Africa and Ceylon. Drugs and herbs came from Continental Europe and Japan. The East African Colonies have already begun to share this trade and no doubt it could be still further developed. Jamaica 526 already supplies a considerable part of the American spice market. This trade also has great prospects of an increase at present now that spices are no longer available from France and Madagascar. As regards tea, India and Ceylon are already the chief suppliers, but there is still some scope if Japan loses her place, and other markets could be developed. Dried beans and succulent mushrooms, much favoured in America, are produced in Hong Kong, sago and tapioca come from Malaya, and ginger and limes from British Honduras and the West Indies. I believe there is already an official of the Colonial Office in America. I do not know how far his powers go, but I feel that his position should be made one of greater scope. After all, we have attached to the British Embassy at Washington legal, commercial and financial advisers. Why should we not have a secretary who would take under his wing the interests of our Colonial Empire, a man who could deal fully with all matters pertaining to the development of the Empire? Men of great distinction have filled similar offices as financial advisers in Embassies. Mr. Rowe Dutton, who fills a very important office in this country, was a financial and legal adviser in Paris.
I hope everything possible will be done to encourage this trade with America. It would have a beneficial effect on our Colonies and would do much to ensure their greater economic well-being. There is a lesson which the war has brought to the people of this country. It has under lined the harmfulness of policies of trade restriction. Mr. Sumner Welles, in a recent speech, described American tariffs as one of the most important causes of the war. We now see in the Press that an agreement is to be concluded between the United States and the British Empire under which we will abandon Empire preference and the United States will lower prohibitive tariffs. I do not know how true this news is, but I hope it is correct. We can make a beginning in this direction now by developing the flow of trade between the Colonies and America. This will be entirely in the spirit of Article 5 of the Atlantic Charter, which declares that both countries seek to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field in order to improve labour standards and secure economic advancement and social security for all. 527 Could there be a better way of beginning this task than by stretching out our hand to the backward peoples in our dependencies at this time when their loyalty is so striking and so helpful and their need is so great?
§ Sir Annesley Somerville (Windsor)
The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) deprecated the introduction into this vital problem of anything that would tend to cause dissension. He said that on behalf of the Labour party. I thoroughly agree, and my object in rising is to ask the Government and the Labour party and all whom it may concern always to remember that good advice in our dealings with the Colonies. He spoke also of the policy that has been adopted by one Secretary of State after another of being a trustee for the natives, a policy with which I heartily agree. The stage of development at which the different Colonies have arrived varies very greatly, and what may be wise legislation for one may be premature, and therefore harmful, in another. The Under-Secretary of State has recently made an interesting tour in the West Indies. I am sure he will admit that the natives there are in a far more advanced stage of development in the matter of self-government than those of East Africa, and that means that legislation which might be very useful and necessary for the West Indies may be premature and harmful in East Africa. It is on that point particularly that I wish to speak.
Let me make one or two remarks before I introduce that subject. The hon. Member for Derby spoke of indirect rule —a most interesting subject. We took over Tanganyika at the end of the last war and there we had a clean slate. The Germans had destroyed tribal rule as far as they could, and they set up bomas all through Tanganyika to control the natives. Twelve years after we took over Tanganyika I had the privilege of being chairman of a delegation from the Empire Parliamentary Association which was sent out at the invitation of Sir Donald Cameron, the Governor, to inquire into the progress of the indirect rule that we had introduced into Tanganyika. We revived tribal rule so far as it contained whole some and useful elements, and we began to train the natives in a sense of responsibility in administrative government. The bomas are now used for purposes of justice 528 and as places where the natives could go for friendly consultation and advice. We were most favourably impressed with the progress that had been made. We visited the most important forms of life in Tanganyika, the mines, the workshops so far as they existed, the native courts which were extremely interesting, the schools and the road system. The result was that we saw much to encourage us, but it was obvious that all this was a beginning of British guidance which was very wisely given. It was also obvious that the process of rendering Tanganyika fit for responsible government would take a long time and that it was no use trying to hurry.
If we are to rule wisely, we must take into account the actual facts of the situation. The fact is that the native, with a very few exceptions, in Tanganyika and in East Africa generally is not yet in a state of development intellectually or morally that would fit him for immediate self-government. Some of these reflections were contained in the report that was made to the Association. One of my colleagues, who is not now in the House, was on the delegation, and he would probably not agree with me. I have heard hon. Members discuss Colonial questions when obviously they were not giving due weight to the facts of the position. For instance, I have heard the wages paid to natives in East Africa com pared with the wages paid here, but it is ridiculous to make any such comparison. The cost of the necessaries of life there is almost infinitesimal compared with the cost here, while the tailor's bill of the native is insignificant. Such comparisons leave out of account that the employer, the British settler, has to feed the natives and he is under statutory obligation to give them medical help and treatment. These points are omitted in such comparisons and their effects ought to be taken into account.
People have been blamed who did not deserve it. Lord Delamere was one of the most strongly attacked people in regard to the treatment of the natives. I stayed with him once at his house near Nairobi. One morning three natives came to see him. They were obviously on the best of terms. One was a Masai, a member of a fighting tribe, whose property in cattle per head is the greatest in the world. There are only 40,000 of 529 them, and they have an immense extent of territory. Lord Delamere spoke to him in his own language. The second was a Kikuyu who conversed with him in Swahili. The third was a Kavirondo, who also spoke Swahili. All three came to him to get advice. When one finds people on those terms one realises the true position. I have personal proof of the regard in which Lord Delamere was held. He drove me a couple of hundred miles south into Tanganyika, and we came to the customs border. Lord Delamere had a rifle and was asked to pay duty on it. He said, "I am coming back in two or three days; you had better keep it." We were then in Masai, and a head-man went to the Customs officer, who was an Indian, and said something to him. The Indian said to Lord Delamere, "You can take it with you." The head-man had said, "This is Lord Dela mere, and he is all right." That was a proof of how he was regarded in that district.
I am raising the point that I want particularly to mention on behalf of the Joint East African Board, of which I am a member. A Uganda Trade Unions Ordinance was passed in 1937, and lately there was passed an amendment Ordinance, of which Section 3D was as follows:An action against a trade union, whether of workmen or masters, or against any members or officials thereof on behalf of themselves and all other members of the trade union in respect of any tortious act alleged to have been committed by or on behalf of the trade union, shall not be entertained by any court.The Uganda Chamber of Commerce opposed that section, but the Governor of Uganda has been informed by the Secretary of State that His Majesty will not be advised to exercise his power of disallowance. Therefore, Section 3D is the law in Uganda. The absurd thing is that there is no registered trade union in Uganda. In the next territory, Kenya, there are two registered trade unions and a similar amendment ordinance was pub lished in draft for discussion. The Nairobi Chamber of Commerce strongly opposed Section 3D and it was dropped. Therefore, we have the position that in Uganda, which is peaceful and loyal and has no registered trade union, the ordinance was passed, while next door a similar ordinance was opposed by the Nairobi Chamber of Commerce and was dropped. That is an instance of legislation which 530 was premature and might be the cause of dissension in Uganda and of upsetting that unanimity which is so vital at the present time.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to be kind enough to give some explanation of this state of affairs. Legislation on those lines was passed some years ago for the West Indies. I suppose there was a desire to make legislation in such matters uniform throughout the Colonies, but I submit it is going too far. Is it not wiser to be patient, to postpone these things till after the war? It is sometimes said that after the war Labour will be all powerful. My answer is that I would rather fall into the hands of British Labour than into the hands of Hitler. I have confidence in the good sense and patriot ism of British Labour, and therefore I appeal to the Labour party, to the Government, to every one whom it may concern, to remember always the overpowering and vital necessity of maintaining unanimity. I regret that this system was introduced into peaceful, loyal Uganda, because it is liable to cause dissension. Let us wait. Surely we can wait till the end of the war before raising questions such as this, which may have repercussions here. If we do not, it is certain that grave damage will be done to our great cause. If we remain unanimous, is it not more probable that we shall be able to settle more successfully and for the country's good the great political and social questions with which we shall have to cope at the end of the war?
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
Whenever I hear speeches on colonial affairs, as I have heard them during the last 20 years, whether as a member of the House of Commons or not, I sometimes wonder whether I am dreaming, and dreaming of an historic story connected with the 30 pieces of silver. We have just heard a speech on Colonial Affairs asking us to be patient and to wait. I hope that, before I have finished, the House will realise that, far from waiting, we should have speed and yet more speed. I heard, too, the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild), and really it is simply the speech of big business and subsidies; in other words, let us do anything for the indigenous populations of the Colonies rather than get off their backs and allow them to try and govern themselves, which would be in 531 accordance with the traditions of the British Commonwealth. I have heard, too, the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who was rather optimistic. At this time one does not wish to be too critical or to say things that might do harm rather than good. It is a difficult situation for Members of Parliament to deal with, but we have a duty to perform. If this was a question affecting miners, I am quite sure that the hon. Member on the Treasury Bench, whose position may be a little embarrassing, would be pressing that question hard, even though it arose in the middle of a great crisis.
The optimistic speech of the hon. Member for Derby rather perturbed me, because just before the war I was in the West Indies, at the time of the visit of the Royal Commission, and I saw things there which made me ashamed of our Colonial administration and which made me very pessimistic about any benevolent policy unless the local people were given a chance, with whatever reservations, to have some say in the control of local affairs. What really is wrong? I think that the Colonial Office should be in the dock. After all, they have had nearly 300 years in which to do what they are doing to-day, and it should have been done long ago. Because they produced a Colonial and Welfare Development Act two years ago they are being showered with praise. But why? The policy has not been changed. I hope the hon. Member for Derby will forgive me, but as a doctor I have seen too many people playing with bandages rather than dealing with the general conditions which underlie the sores. The policy adumbrated to-day is the policy of a continuance of the old method of welfare, of subsidies—
§ Dr. Morgan
You wait until I have finished. Trinidad has been given a Constitution, but the Parliamentary Secretary has said that there is no intention of changing the Constitution of Barbados. At present, 1 in 37 of the population in Barbados has the vote. Out of a population of over 200,000, 6,000 are at present allowed to govern that country according to methods which I am going to mention. There has been no constitutional change. 532 They may be given welfare conditions and subsidies, but these voteless, helpless, hopeless people cannot do anything themselves to change their conditions, because they have not the power to introduce any legislation to change their social or economic conditions. I think the Colonial Office is to blame, and I am fortified in that view by the fact that no less a personality than the Minister of Labour, before he went into the Government, stigmatised the Colonial Office as the most ignorant Department in Great Britain. I am also fortified in my opinion by the fact that at a recent summer school at Oxford of the Colonial Fabian Bureau an ex-Colonial Governor said that we should not blame the Governors, because he could say that during his régime as a Governor he had time and time again warned the Colonial Office of the deplorable, the shocking social and economic conditions in the Colony with which he was concerned, and that the Colonial Office, so far as he knew, had paid no attention to what was said to them unfil after a riot took place. Then the Governor was sacked, being blamed for conditions over which he had no control, and for saying that the men who were called agitators were doing a good thing in agitating against such disgraceful conditions.
There was the case of Grant. He was condemned for asking his fellow workers to join in a trade union. His speech was regarded as a seditious speech, and he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, and is still serving that sentence. I hope the Under-Secretary is doing something to remedy that state of affairs, because surely even in the Colony of Barbados— "not a Crown Colony, having representative but not responsible government," where the ex-legal adviser to the Colonial Office has gone as Governor— the King's Pardon can be asked for in the case of a man on whom a harsh and vindictive sentence has been passed for asking his fellow workers to join a trade union. I can speak feelingly, because I nearly found myself in a similar situation in Trinidad. I was there in November, 1939, when a new Sedition Bill was announced by the Government. I was asked to speak against the new Sedition Bill. I made a very mild speech, but I mentioned an incident which occurred in the garden of the Governor's house, when a man had been shot. I was tricked 533 deliberately into the presence of the Governor by the acting Colonial Secretary. After having come to my hotel and partaken of food with me, he tricked me by saying the Governor wanted to see me. I thought that as he had been to my hotel he wished me to pay a return visit. When I did appear at the Governor's office the Governor started to attack me about my speech and wanted to "tick me off."
I soon put him in his place. I asked him to whom he thought he was speaking, and I said that if he had asked me to come to see him in order that he could talk to me about my speech, I disputed his right to call me there in those circumstances. He turned to the acting Colonial Secretary, and he said, "Does Dr. Morgan know why I wanted him to come here?" He had to repeat that question three times before the acting Colonial Secretary admitted reluctantly that I had not been told why the Governor wanted me. I told him that if I had known what it was all about, I would not have gone, and I said that if I was to be charged with some offence in the making of that speech, I wanted to have the advice and assistance of my legal representatives as well as trade union representatives, and I wanted to get into touch with my friends in Great Britain. Finally, I declined to discuss the subject if there was to be anything but a friendly talk.
I wondered what my position was likely to be. The Governor invited me to lunch, subsequently, and I said that I should be very much obliged if he would allow me to decline the invitation. So when visitors are asked out there by the workers, for the specific purpose of helping them to prepare their evidence for the Royal Commission, they get treated in that way. Doctors in other islands were allowed to give evidence before the Royal Commission on conditions existing, but in Trinidad the doctors said, when it was proposed that they should give evidence, "Have we the Governor's permission to speak about these conditions?" An Order was issued warning them that they were not allowed to make any statement in public before the Royal Commission about their work. An appeal had to be made to Sir Walter Citrine and others for the doctors to go before the Royal Commission to give evidence.
The hon. Gentleman tells me to be patient and wait. Have we to be patient 534 and wait in these conditions? The Colonial Office have the deliberate policy of governing the West Indian Islands, which are a special group with a special proletariat, Christian in outlook, and European in culture, who long ago cast off all traces of their African ancestry and absorbed modern European culture. The people are loyal and law-abiding, well-behaved and anxious for education. The people who are putting on the brakes are the Colonial Office, because their policy is government for business, of business, by business. It was said in a previous Commission that the policy was government of sugar, by sugar, for sugar, but now the islands all have different crops, such as bananas, cocoa and cotton. Nevertheless, the same basic principle is there.
The local people are deprived of land. They have no opportunity of securing tenure on the basis of peasant proprietorship. The Colonial Office have an economic and social policy designed for the degradation of black or coloured workers. The policy is to export crops in order to make money, and then to import food into the island. When I was in Saint Lucia I saw advertisements for Cow and Gate, and forms of condensed milk, for the benefit of Swiss manufacturers and of English manufacturers of dried milk, notwithstanding that the islanders could produce their own milk. I noticed also that Irish potatoes were being imported, although the islands grow their own sweet potatoes, yams, tannias and other things which are much better for them and much more nutritious than imported food.
The land is used for exportable crops to be sold here at higher prices. These crops have to stand up against world production and manipulation and a whole series of business enterprises surrounding such crops. On the other hand, people who are willing to work are unable to get land and to grow their own produce. They have to work on the big plantations for wages and consume foods which are less nutritious than those which could be grown on their own land. As a result of this remarkable policy these people are suffering from malnutrition, because the imported food is less nutritious than local food.
The hon. Member who optimistically talked about development and welfare should realise that you cannot do any- 535 thing for a basic change in the islands unless you throttle the private land monopoly and until you follow a policy which will give the people some say in the government of their country. You must also reverse the policy of exported produce and imported food. These imported foods are liable to taxation. So, in addition to all the things I have pointed out, there is indirect taxation of food. The Income Tax in the various islands varies from 3d. in the £ and never goes higher than 2s. 6d. in the £ for incomes of £10,000 and over. Should not this policy be abandoned first, instead of merely instituting welfare schemes? Welfare is necessary, certainly, but only because of the deliberate policy which has been carried out. I sometimes wonder what would happen if you told people in the constituencies in Great Britain that their sugar has to be paid for at higher prices than are necessary because the people in the West Indies are not given the chance to grow their own produce and to have decent food, and that the high prices of sugar and other commodities are used, not for the benefit of the poor workers, but in the interests of a lower Income Tax in the West Indies. In Jamaica, Barbados and elsewhere the Income Tax starts at 9d. in the £ and goes up to 2s. 6d.
The deliberate policy of the Colonial Office is that the islands are treated differently. They could be made fairly uniform for legislation, but the Colonial Office wishes to retain in its own hand the patronage of selecting officials with the right school tie, the right masonic introduction, and the right accent from Great Britain. These are higher officials, and not the lower ones. Local men who are regarded as safe for the Government are selected for the lower positions. The higher positions are always reserved for the Europeans from English public schools and such classes. The Colonial Office treats the islands differently. In one island there is a Constitution allowing for a certain number of elected members. Other Constitutions are different. Trinidad is the richest Colony in the Commonwealth, owing to oil, plus other things, which save the situation. That is a Crown Colony, and the proportion of voters there is one in 17. The proportion of voters in Saint Lucia is one in 162. These Colonies are governed by the 536 officials. The officials, plus members nominated by the Government, have in their hands complete control over the legislation of these Colonies.
The other Colonies are different. In Barbados, which has a Constitution 300 years old still unchanged, there is a miniature of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons. They have a House of Assembly, like the House of Commons, elected on a high franchise. Only one in 37 has the vote. There is a Legislative Council nominated by the Government. But what are the conditions existing behind this mockery of democracy and mimicry of the House of Commons and the House of Lords? No one who knows anything at all about the work is ever appointed to the advisory committees, because they may be troublesome and may know more than the officials. There is not even a Colonial Bureau at the Colonial Office. I have put down Questions and have been told that they must be referred to the Governor for answer. Conditions may have changed in two years, but I think that the Colonial Office should have a file on every subject —maternity, nursing, land, housing, etc. —from which information could be given except perhaps when the very latest details are required. I sometimes put down Questions with the object of being informative rather than of seeking information, because I want the House of Commons to know what is happening in these Colonies, but when I ask these Questions I am told that they have to be sent to the Governor for answer. I wish the Colonial Office would not be afraid of democrats. The hon. Gentleman opens his mouth in surprise, but I issue this warning to him: Let him tell some of his officers to be very careful what they say about certain people, because if they query their sanity in places in which they are liable to be overheard, they may find themselves liable to actions for slander.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)
I am very reluctant to interrupt, but I really must, ask the hon. Gentleman, if he is going to make charges of that kind, to furnish me with the necessary information so that inquiries can be made. In connection with the collection of statistics, I always endeavour to give up-to-date information when Questions are put in the House. We have the kind of bureau to which my hon. 537 Friend refers, but it is almost impossible to give up-to-date figures unless the matter is referred to the Governor. It is only for the purpose of assisting hon. Members that we refer certain Questions to the Governor in order to have the most up-to-date information.
§ Dr. Morgan
The hon. Member's interruption is a compliment to me. I thank my hon. Friend very much; if he wants information from me about any question I have raised in the House, I will give him that information so that he can make inquiries. One of my Questions referred to housing in Trinidad. I asked whether it was true that up to 1939 the Government had built no houses at all, while the local authority had built a certain number, although they had no statutory authority to do so, and could he tell me whether any changes had taken place? He gave me the answer that he was referring the Question to the Governor for information, but he could have told me that up to 1939 the position shown in my Question was accurate. As a matter of fact, the local government in Trinidad is doing very well, but I do not want the hon. Gentleman to put me off my subject.
Let us see what are the conditions in Barbados, where they have a Constitution which it is not proposed to change at present. These are the conditions which exist there. "Milk consumption is exceedingly low, and in the majority of places condensed milk is used instead of fresh milk. There is a great shortage of eggs and fresh vegetables. There is no reason to doubt that many households are living on the borders of extreme poverty." What were the conditions in Barbados when I left in January or February of 1939? What changes have taken place since in this Colony, with responsible but not representative government? Is it a fact that although the Government made a grant of £22,000 to the hospital, there was only one Government representative on the Board; that poor patients were not easily admitted, though the paying wards were always full; that the six doctors who were operating there could always get their patients in; that no maternity cases were admitted, but had to go to the workhouse; that there was no ante-natal clinic attached to the hospital; that there was only one district nurse in the whole island, 538 and that she was employed in the parish in which the chief town is situated?
I do not mention these things because I want to, but in the hope that they will be changed. I do not think they can be changed until the Constitution is changed as well. The wages of agricultural labourers in Barbados are 1s. a day, just what they were in the times of slavery. They have not been changed since. Let me quote some information about the bakeries. Bakers were usually employed for 11, 12 or 13 hours a day, sometimes up to 22 hours a day. In the principal town they were locked in their bakeries all night and could not get out. Was not that stated to the Royal Commission? Was not the Royal Commission shocked, and when he was sent for did not the proprietor say that it was quite true—he locked them in because he did not want to get up to let them out, and that if the door was open, they would not work? And is it not true that the latrines were actually inside the premises into which these men were locked? Is it not also true that girl shop assistants received wages of a £1 a month—[An HON. MEMBER: "What did they spend it on?"]— and that no sanitary accommodation was provided for them? There were no rest pauses, no canteens, no facilities of any sort in a Colony in which at that time there was no workmen's compensation, although thousands of estate labourers worked in sugar factories with unprotected machinery. There was no factory inspectorate, no factory legislation.
Is the House of Commons going to say that we must wait patiently for that sort of thing to be changed? I am sorry if I become heated on this question, but I feel strongly about it. I was brought up in the West Indies, and I lived with the people for 12 or 13 years before I came to this country. I know the people, their ambitions and urges, I know the sufferings they have gone through, and I know these conditions, which exist with no hope of change. I would not mind if the Colonial Office said that they were going to be given self-government gradually, first parochial self-government and then island self-government with certain reservations. The Governor would have certain powers respecting finance, the Civil Service, etc. I could understand all that, but not to leave these people in the blackness of despair for 300 years, and say that 539 you are not going to change it any more, because it is not an ordinary Crown Colony. Colonies are isolated, and there is no exchange of views and there are no ideas of federation. You cannot even get vital statistics. Your figures of population are all guesswork, because, to take Barbados, for example, no census has been taken since 1921. In many other Colonies it is the same. What I am appealing to the Colonial Office to do is really to see that, without any harm to the British Government, all these people should be given a chance to live a decent life. I will leave the subject of Barbados, because it is really too terrible.
I wish to take health conditions in the West Indies. I went out there primarily as a representative of the local trade unions and also from the health point of view; I represent the West Indian doctors on the British Medical Association Council. That was the only way I could get in. If I had tried to do so in the ordinary way, I do not think I should have got in. I got in by the grace of God, help of democracy and by way of the West Indies. I went there to see conditions for myself and found these people, in addition, to be under-nourished and badly governed, with Governors who were real Czars, doing things which would horrify the British House of Commons. I wish I dare mention them in time of war, but I will not do so with radio propaganda going about. There are such things as a chief medical officer sometimes acting on a pure basis of favouritism, and a Government officer in a district which is very good being moved without cause to the poorest parish in an island. That happened to a person connected with myself.
In 1928 I was standing as Labour candidate for North-West Camberwell. A chief medical officer came on leave and came to see me and said, "If you do not drop your Labour politics, I will make your brother suffer for it." My hon. Friend need not look surprised. I could give the name.
§ Dr. Morgan
It was Dr. Sutherland Richards, a chief medical officer. I think he is retired now. My reply was, "I am very sorry, but I cannot interrupt my Labour politics for any Colonial official." Did not my brother suffer for it? He was 540 moved from the main island into one of the worst parishes in a satellite island. Recently a similar change was proposed for him. I do not wish to make a personal matter of this. I could mention crowds of doctors who have been treated in the same way. I found the people in the West Indies living in a black cesspool of disease—yaws, hookworm disease, syphilis, malaria, tuberculosis and infectious diseases in addition; diseases over which they have no control—such as leprosy. When tuberculosis occurs in a patient in the West Indies it is of a galloping type. As they say, entrance into the tuberculosis hospital means entrance into the death house. They have no control over these diseases. Take hookworm disease. Is it not true that the Rockefeller Medical Commission found instances of hookworm disease in two or three parishes in Trinidad amounting to 80 or 90 per cent. of the agricultural population? It is in the records of your own Commission. In certain places syphilis was rampant to the extent of 60 per cent. of the population. Hookworm disease spread because the Government would not insist on preventive measures. You have yaws, typhoid, there. There is syphilis, for which little treatment is provided. You have malaria, which cannot be controlled because it requires to be put down by getting rid of swamps and mosquitos.
So these poor workers, with wages varying from 1s. a day to 1s. 9d. or 2s. a day, are not only surrounded by this grave economic policy hampering them at every turn, but their food is heavily taxed, while the Income Tax on the rich is low. The bulk of the land in the West Indies is taken up with these plantation crops. These people, with all their undernourishment through food taxation, find themselves faced with all this disease and are perfectly helpless. The doctors are blamed for a medical policy with which they have nothing to do. A doctor cannot move from one parish of a district to another. That is the situation, instead of the Island services being unified. I went to Trinidad and saw certain hospitals there. I will mention two. I went to a hospital in San Fernando. I never saw a more disgraceful one in my life, and I have had some experience, because I went out to Spain in the Civil War, and saw some very bad hospitals. At San Fernando I saw a hospital on a bad site, surrounded by overcrowded buildings, 541 very badly built, and the hospital itself very crowded. I saw the kitchen and food arrangements next door to the latrines, and I saw no decent accommodation for the medical superintendent. It was absolutely disgraceful.
For years and years the people have been asking for a decent hospital and cannot get one. I went to a district hospital and saw filthy mattresses, dirty beds, with the nurses' quarters also attached to the hospital ward. I saw nets that were called mosquito nets on beds. I saw holes in those nets big enough for a lion to get through, let alone a mosquito. I asked whether this hospital had been visited by any official. Neither the medical officer nor the Governor had visited that hospital for four or five years.
§ Dr. Morgan
I mean the chief medical officer, not the district medical officer, because the latter was there. I could go on telling the House about the disgraceful condition of houses. Here is a description of a housing site in Trinidad:A … conglomeration of unsightly, ruinous houses and privy cesspits, badly placed, helter skelter, on a hill side … a danger to the health, life and limb for the local residents, and a nuisance to the surrounding population.I could give examples about the conditions for women. Women have no vote. Although there are scholarships for boys, there are none for girls—and I saw certain elementary schools for 200 to 250 children with only one water tap. There are no women on the Legislative Council in most islands. In other ways, the women are kept in a state of subjection. Frequently in these Colonies when there is legislation it is not implemented. There is an Act in Barbados saying that children must not be employed during school hours, but after school hours they are employed for eight or nine hours a day, at a wage of 8d. a day. Even a Commissioner has said, "I have seen children performing tasks which they should never have been allowed to perform." There is a compulsory education Act, but these children cannot go to school, and their parents cannot be fined for not sending them because they are too poor to buy them clothes in which to go to school.
A few days ago, in another place, the adjective "pestilential" was used with 542 regard to a certain individual's views. The conditions that I have known in the West Indies are pestilential. On behalf of the women, who can do nothing for themselves, on behalf of the children, who are helpless, on behalf of all these people, who are willing to work, who are asking for progress, who are asking for education, who are asking for health services, who are asking for social legislation, who are asking for protection, I urge that this pestilential system should be changed, that the Colonial Office should sweep this whole system in the West Indies with democracy. Knowing the difficulties, knowing of the hardships of officials, I ask that there should be a decent system of democratic government, with a possibility of federation, with uniform legislation if possible, and with uniform conditions throughout the islands, irrespective of whether some constitutions are 300 years old and some are only recent. I ask that the conditions now rampant should be changed, not slowly but radically. The only way that they can be changed radically is, not by passing welfare legislation, but by giving the people the right to govern themselves, with whatever reservations may be necessary to save British sovereignty.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
After the medical storm which has just descended on the Under-Secretary, my contribution must be only "a still small voice." I am looking forward to the speech of the Under-Secretary, because I hope that he will say that, notwithstanding the war, he is looking to the future development of the Colonies especially from an economic point of view I know that he has recently been to the West Indies, and that he has an economic adviser there, and perhaps he will suggest economic advisers elsewhere. I know that there has been planning. But planning is not enough, and advisers are not enough. I read somewhere thatthe history of human government is full of examples of well-laid plans which have failed through weakness of administrative machinery.I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether he is satisfied with the machinery? During the last few years an enormous amount of detail has come back to the Colonial Office. Is it possible that the Colonial Office has got clogged up by this over-centralisation? Are not unnecessary details submitted for 543 decision here, and is it not possible that, as a result, the Governors in our Colonies are turned into robots, and that even the junior administrative officers may be deprived of their initiative?
Is the Under-Secretary satisfied with all the financial arrangements in the Colonial Office? I expect hon. Members have sometimes studied the pensions lists. I think they would say that it requires an expert accountant to understand the pensions system. I ask the Under-Secretary whether he is absolutely satisfied, or whether he would consider an investigation into the Colonial Office and the Colonial Service? I believe that other Departments which have had similar investigations are beginning, notwithstanding the war, to put the results of the investigations into practice. Would the Under-Secretary consider the advisability of doing something of the same kind? Again, is he satisfied with the method of administration abroad? Are we getting the best value from the energy and intelligence of those people in the Colonial Service? I know that in the last 15 years or so the entry into the Colonial Service has been extraordinarily good, but we want to make the best possible use of that good entry.
We should take an especial interest in the question of the movement of higher officials. As the House is aware, it is possible now for the Chief Secretary in Fiji to be removed, after years of service there, to a position in, say, Nyasaland. He may be a success there, and, for that reason, be removed to the West Indies. In all these places, he has to acquire knowledge, and after he has acquired knowledge he is moved away. This matter was referred to by the Commission to Rhodesia and the Commission to the West Indies, and I hope that the Minister will again consider whether it would not be more advisable to group the Colonies so that the higher officials could serve in a territory where they know all the important subjects and problems. A very good example of this occurred in the case of Sir Philip Mitchell, who was Chief Native Commissioner in Tanganyika, then went to Uganda as Governor, and after that became Vice-Chairman of the Governors' Conference in Nairobi. In this way his unrivalled knowledge of problems was of the greatest 544 value, and, in addition, he knew the native language and was able to talk to the natives in their own language. This naturally was a great advantage to him and to them.
The Colonial Office in its report splits the Empire into groups, and I suggest that the Colonial Secretary should again consider whether, with regard to the movement of high officials in these groups, there is not a great deal to be said for it. Times and methods are changing, and I would like the Colonial Secretary also to consider the question of the unification of these territorial groups under something in the nature of a Governor-General. It would avoid a great deal of detail being submitted to the Colonial Office, while it would make for continuity in the government and policies of the different groups of territory. It would save the Colonial Office from undertaking a mass of detail and would co-ordinate the work of the group of territories. An instance has been given by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir A. Somerville), where in Uganda a certain ordnance was put through and in Kenya exactly the same ordnance was withdrawn. A similar case occurred in connection with the War Risks Insurance Ordnance, which was accepted in Kenya and Uganda and not accepted in Tanganyika, although in these countries the conditions are practically similar. There are comparatively few white people, a large number of Indians and a larger number of natives. There are tribes of all kinds in all stages of development. Conditions are very much the same, and in that particular case in East Africa the organisation would be vastly improved if there was a Governor-General to pull the different countries together.
We must look upon the Colonial Office as a huge business in which we are all interested, and if we do not organise that business well, we shall not be worthy to undertake it. We are all shareholders and I entirely agree with what the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) said in connection with the Parliamentary Committee. I am sure that a non-party committee dealing with Colonial matters would be of the greatest value to the Colonial Secretary, and I hope it may be possible for something to be done along those lines. Also, in order to train our successors to take an interest in Colonial affairs, I would make an appeal to the 545 Colonial Secretary to improve the propaganda in the schools of this country. I hope that it may be possible in the schools to give understandable, pictorial, geographical and human pictures of the Colonies. If the children in the schools take an interest in the Colonies, ultimately, when they come to take part in the government of this country, they will know much more about them than they do at present.
The Colonial Office has established lately a number of research departments in various parts of the Colonial Empire. In other Nations which own and control Colonies research is also going on. I hope that it may be possible to pool such research, and I suggest that in the future it would be a good thing to concentrate at Geneva the research of all nations that have to do with Colonies so that all might benefit.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
There is only one reference to the Colonial peoples in the King's Speech, and I am sure we all join in the expression of admiration of the bravery and courage of the people of Malta during their long ordeal. The Debate to-day indicates very clearly that Parliament ought to have greater facilities for the discussion of Colonial policy. We are responsible for the well-being of from 50,000,000 to 60,000,000 Colonial peoples living under something like 50 or 60 different administrations, yet the opportunities of discussing policy are very rare, and the problems of these territories become increasingly complex. They are up against the stresses and strains of the modern world, and accordingly Parliament, as the final place of responsibility, should have the opportunity of debating from time to time the policies which operate in these territories. I hope, therefore, that the plea that has been made by the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) and my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) will be heeded and before long, as was promised on the eve of the war, we shall have a Standing Committee so that greater attention can be given at Westminster to the problems of the Colonial peoples.
I deplore the decision of the Colonial Office in not publishing the reports of the Colonies and not printing, as we are required by international obligation, the reports of the mandatory territories, and 546 finally, refusing to publish what this House clamoured for over a period of years, namely, the annual survey of affairs throughout the Colonial Empire. I stress the importance of these reports. It is impossible for us to exercise proper responsibility unless we are given correct information and Government policy is explained to us.
Further, I also deplore what has already been indicated, the absence of a great deal of reliable information and statistics in regard to the Colonies themselves. Report after report brings out the difficulty of our knowing anything at all about the economic and social problems of these Colonial areas, because statistics are not kept, there are few census figures and little heed is paid to vital statistics. I would emphasise that this aspect should be given far greater attention by the Colonial Office than has been the custom in the past.
We have heard a great deal recently about the new approach to our Colonial problems. The Government are to have a new outlook. Trusteeship is not only to be political but also social and economic. It would be unfortunate if, in stressing the importance of social and economic problems, we neglected the political development of the people concerned. There are certain political points which I think must be made to-day, because they are fundamental and because of their gathering urgency. We have to answer a very difficult question in regard to Africa. Is the civilisation of Africa to secure the white in political and economic denomination, with the black people menial and segregated. Or are we out for a future Africa in which black and white advance and co-operate in freedom and citizenship? I put that question because of its urgent importance.
Before the war is over we must answer the question: What is to be the future of the Rhodesias, Kenya and the South African Protectorates? Already the demands of the white minorities that they should enjoy full self-government are increasing in intensity, and it is our weakness and disposition to give way to clamour for self-government for our own kith and kin. In the past, when we have ' experimented, we have been inclined to adopt the method of reservation in the hope of safeguarding majority interests— the interests of the black people. But I 547 think experience shows that the exercise of the powers of reservation is seldom effective in the interests of the people who are being governed. Therefore, it is important in these formulative years that we should decide what is the place in Africa of the African as we develop the social, political and economic life of that great Continent. The manner in which we discharge our responsibility in giving effect to this decision is being watched most carefully by black people in Africa at the present time. The Government cannot shelter any longer behind the fine sentiments and fine phrases of Colonial policy when discrimination, the colour bar, land segregation and white paramountcy are deliberately pursued in certain Colonial territories.
The Under-Secretary has already declared in this House that it is the Government's policy to oppose the colour bar, but I should like to ask the Secretary of State himself whether he will also declare that full equality, in African civilisation, of the black man with the white man, and nothing less than this, will guide our policy in days to come. I am certain that if he will do that, he will harness the moral and religious opinion and sentiments of the world and will make it clear to our own kith and kin in the Colonies that our liberal ideas are not just pious phrases but compelling principles of action which will guide us in settling the political, social and economic development of Africa. After all, that, I take it, is the meaning of the Atlantic Charter, which says:We seek no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the people. We respect the right of peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live. We desire collaboration between all nations for obtaining improved labour standards, economic advancement, and social security—a place which will afford assurance that all men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.I submit that what is good for Europe is also good for Africa.
I am sure that we desire to express our gratitude to the Colonial peoples for the manner in which they have flung themselves into the war effort. They have given all their wealth, hard work and men in battle, and they realise the significance of the present struggle. But there seems to me to be a danger in certain quarters that political advancement may be 548 checked while we are dealing with the social and economic needs of the people. Therefore, on the political side, I would like to suggest that we should give increased representation to the Colonial peoples in all legislative and advisory bodies and other authorities. I would like to stress the importance of opening out the highest posts in the Colonial Service to the Colonial peoples themselves. I would like to suggest that sometimes a Governorship might be given to an African, as the French have done.
I welcome the recent announcement of Lord Moyne that several Africans will now serve on the administrative staff of the Colonial Office. I hope that this is the settled policy of the Department. More attention should be given to local government and municipal development in West Africa, as in the West Indies. Moreover, I think we ought to be more sceptical in regard to the view that the black people should be satisfied with parallel development and parallel institutions which, in effect, deprive them of all influence in effective government. That is the position in Northern Rhodesia to-day. As has been pointed out, there ought to be some revaluation of what is clumsily called indirect rule. It must be made even more flexible and more democratic, in order that it shall meet the strains and changing needs of social and economic life. That is particularly true in Nigeria.
I would also stress the importance of greater respect for civil liberty and civil rights. There has been an unfortunate amount of irritation shown at new popular movements in our Colonial areas; it has led to unfortunate detentions and imprisonments, but these are growing pains of a Colonial people whose only wish is that they might take their place in the forward move of mankind. Therefore, we must be tolerant when seeking to apply the restrictions of the Defence Regulations and the Sedition Acts.
I rejoice that in these days more emphasis is being put on the social and economic needs of the colonial people. We hear phrases about "neglected estates," "distressed areas" and "depressed regions." It is a recognition that our Colonial Empire is an extension of the problems that confront us in our own Islands. The fundamental problem is that appalling one of disease, ignorance and poverty, but one must recognise that 549 such a problem is not the wicked work of man only but is also very largely the effect of the fierce and harsh environment which nature creates. But when all that has been said, it must be recognised that many of the troubles are due to the inadequacies of our policies and our past indifference. We are entitled to congratulate ourselves on passing the Colonial Welfare and Development Act, but I hope that greater speed will be shown in the application of that Act. I congratulate the Secretary of State on the excellent circular which, in June, he sent to the Governors and in which he asked for a revision of economic arrangements, a greater understanding of social problems, and the preparation of programmes of public works over a period of five years. All those are steps in the right direction. But I recall to hon. Members the whole series of reports which were presented to us just before the war, and the West Indies report since the outbreak of war. In those reports there is a dreadful story of public health neglected, bad housing and poverty of a very intense and indefensible kind, mulnutrition—a whole range of social neglect—and the reports offer us a great series of programmes which need to be started immediately. Obviously, economic and social programmes are extremely difficult to execute, for a great variety of reasons, and I do not wish to minimise the magnitude of the problems; I want, however, to make a few constructive suggestions in regard to social and economic development.
In the first place, I hope the Colonial Office will expand their Social Services Department. I would like to see a larger number of expert women, with understanding and drive, brought into that Department of the Colonial Office. Indeed, I support the plea made by one hon. Member in regard to the utilisation in the Colonies and in the Colonial Office of the very best men and the best brains. In this respect, there has been something of a dearth in recent years. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will go all out to discover, enlist and train the best people that can be found to act as Governors and play their part in the Colonial Office. I hope also that people who have experience and a real understanding of Colonial problems will be brought into the Colonial Office to help in the administration. I think it is a good thing that in future the Colonial Office 550 intend to leave less to the men on the spot, to give greater direction and insist on deliberate planning, and to make more money available for the jobs that have to be put in hand. I had hoped to say a few words about certain medical aspects of the Colonial problem, but after the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan), I will leave that matter alone, except to say that there ought to be greater vigour shown in the whole field of preventive medicine. The importance of creating dispensaries on labour routes and in remote areas, the importance of special clinics, as an eye clinic, in West Africa, the importance of measures in regard to hookworm and malaria and attacking the tsetse fly—all these are questions in connection with which action ought not to be delayed.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby that in the development of the social services, in the attack on diseases and in trying to safeguard and improve public health standards, there ought to be the greatest possible collaboration with other Colonial Powers. There ought to be inter-Colonial work. At the present time, when the representatives of other Colonial Governments are in London, there is a great opportunity for developments in that direction.
The same applies in the field of education. There is an excellent Advisory Committee at work in the Colonial Office, composed of distinguished men and women who have given a great deal of time and thought to educational problems. What is appalling is that we are still on the fringe of tackling the education problem. It is literally true that it will take a thousand years before we see Africa literate at the present rate of progress. Schemes of work have been submitted, but unfortunately, they have not been endorsed because the money has not been forthcoming. The disparity in education costs between Africans and Europeans ought to be brought to an end. More attention ought to be paid to the education of girls. The position in Northern Nigeria, for instance, is perfectly indefensible. There is need for more community centres, and for a greater extension of adult education. Here, again, I suggest that if we could get a body of energetic women behind the-present Educational Adviser, Mr. Cox, almost a revolution could be effected in 551 a very short time. When one meets Africans, what do they say?—"The Russians have abolished illiteracy in their country. What are you doing about it inside the British Empire?" It is difficult for us to answer that question. Therefore, I ask that there should be a great drive for the provision of educational facilities for the Colonial peoples. I want, however, to congratulate the Colonial Office and the Ministers on the creation of the Films Department and on the excellent work that is being done by the film unit, by Mr. Sellars and Mr. Pearson. I hope that an opportunity will be given to hon. Members some time to see some of the Colonial films that have been made. There are here great possibilities, and I hope that when the war is over this work will not be dropped.
I want now to say a few words concerning labour policy. The Colonial Office have responded magnificently to the public demand for the creation of effective labour supervision. I should like to congratulate the Under-Secretary on the help and the attention he has given to this aspect of Colonial work. An excellent survey has been distributed to the Press —and I understand it will be in the Library of the House—showing what has been done during the last four or five years. It is an extraordinarily interesting and valuable survey, and I regret that the Colonial Office declined to issue it as a White Paper which could be seen and read not only by the House, but in libraries throughout the country. I hope they will seriously consider the publication of this document, together with the circulars sent out by the Colonial Office from time to time on the basis of which all this fine labour work has been developed. Why do they hide their light under a bushel? We are constantly criticising the work of the Colonial Office, and yet, when they have great achievements to show, we have to implore them to give publicity to these achievements.
The series of reports produced by Major Orde-Browne and the work of Mr. Hibbard in the labour department are magnificent, and they are on the right lines to curb excessive exploitation of labour inside the Colonial Empire. I can only express the hope that the Colonial labour department will implement the ordinances which are cumber- 552 ing up the Statute Book, and that the gaps in legislation will be filled. I hope that the restraints on labour activities will be removed, and that more and more trade union men with experience will be appointed as labour officers. I congratulate the Colonial Office on the development, and for seeking out men of the right type in the trade union movement to help them in this very important and useful work. The time has come when, because of the rapid industrialisation which is taking place throughout Africa and elsewhere, there ought to be a labour department inside the Colonial Office which could give its full time, thought and attention to the complicated economic and industrial problems. I also suggest, as is the case with education, that an advisory committee should be set up to survey the legislation and give some sort" of direction. Such a committee could encourage local Colonial Governments to get on with the good work. We attach great importance to these matters.
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby in expressing gratitude for the way in which the I.L.O. have put the Colonial labour problems on the map, and for the work they have done in framing conventions. I hope that some of the laws which have been made as a result of these conventions will be more fully implemented, especially in the case of employment of children, minimum wages and an adequate standard of living. I only wish to make one specific reference to labour—this is in reference to the problems which have arisen in the West Indies in connection with the establishment of the bases. Is it not possible for the trade unions to secure effective recognition there so that they may settle conditions of labour and wages direct with the contractors? There is another important development on the welfare side to which I can only make passing reference. It has been an excellent thing that the Colonial Office have, in connection with welfare and amenity problems, been able to meet people who have come from the Colonies to help us here in our present struggle—people from Jamaica, Honduras, Trinidad and British Guiana.
Fundamentally all development depends on economic planning. Problems have accumulated because we hoped the free play of economic forces and unregulated production would secure economic pros- 553 perity and general welfare for the peoples in the Colonial Empire. To-day we are convinced that we cannot run a Colonial Empire on these lines. We have to think out our economic problems and deliberately plan. It is true we have abandoned the old laisser faire policy under the Colonial Development Act. After all the Colonial Empire has contributed much to our material well-being, and, therefore, we must respond by playing our part in building up their social services and developing their natural resources for their own advantage. No one wishes to make the Colonies financially dependent on ourselves, and I submit that it will pay them and us if we help to build up their social services and improve their economic life. In the West Indies, for instance, if we can have advisers for labour, for health, for education, for welfare, and if the economic problem is fundamental, we should have an economic adviser as well.
Likewise, with regard to the development of the African Empire, there are great areas where development boards ought to be established and great stress given to the importance of their economic development and further co-ordination and association on the economic side. Just as you have appointed a controller and an advisory board for the West Indies, a similar course should be followed in these regions of Africa so that continuous attention could be given to their needs. I appreciate that in this economic development certain interests will stand in the way. I regret that some of them are corroding and corrupting. Many companies have retained a grip on the land. They extract royalties, enjoy taxation privileges and exercise considerable political influence. There are Colonies in which the majority of the darked skinned population are suffering from acute land hunger while absentee companies hold vast areas and keep them uncultivated. One-fifth of the area of one Colony is owned by a single company, registered in England, which does not cultivate a single one of its 1,250,000 acres, while the inhabitants cry out for cultivable land and cannot get it. That sort of thing must end. We all know the power and influence of certain trading and owning concerns in the West Indies, West Africa and elsewhere. Vested interests are not always, of course, manufacturing and trading interests, otherwise probably more attention would 554 have been given to the manufacture of cotton in West Africa. I do not understand why it is that we exploit bauxite in British Guiana and have to send it to Canada to be worked. Why can it not be worked in the Colony? Why cannot there be processing factories in West Africa and the West Indies?
I take the view that the object in mind must be economic development by better planned internal economy, the development of internal markets, the encouragement of small industries, as well as concentration on exports—more concentration on internal food and subsistence development. The importance of cooperation in production and on the retail side should also be stressed. I think that industrial development should be cautious and should be very deliberately planned, otherwise it may have a most disturbing effect on the social life of the peoples concerned. Anyway, a beginning has now been made in regard to the marketing of goods. I should like to see the economic arrangements which have been built up during the past year or so continued, giving the small producer a guaranteed price and a guaranteed market.
It is monstrous that we have allowed so much land to deteriorate in various parts of Africa and we have denuded the staff of our conservation services instead of allowing them to get on with this important work. I hope that we are now on a new road, with new conceptions of government and administration. I hope that a start will be made in the research work promised under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, and I would like to know what plans are being made to carry that work forward. I am glad that Lord Hailey is being employed to gather information in order to give us the necessary knowledge on which to act in the days to come and that the Nuffield Research College is assisting with that work. At no time have our problems been more intricate and complex than they are at present. We are in the midst of war and we address ourselves to these Colonial problems conscious that, however good our intentions may be, there are very real limitations to the kind of progress that we would hope to make. I hope that the policies which have been announced mark the end and the disintegration of the old imperialism. America warned us 150 or so years ago 555 that freedom is the inalienable right of all peoples, that by its achievement the peoples should enjoy life and liberty and the opportunity for the pursuit of happiness. "Where freedom is, there is my country," said Benjamin Franklin. "Where freedom is not, there is my country," replied Tom Paine. That is the position of Britain to-day and in this House. We remain free, and yet this House is the battlefield for freedom for the peoples in our control. It is for this House to give a living and dynamic expression to our Colonial policy and to that freedom which is synonymous with political liberty, social development and economic progress.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
It is striking how the procedings of Parliament progress from time to time. When I was a Parliamentary Private Secretary it would have been considered rather odd if I had crossed the House and given 40 minutes' good party stuff from the Benches opposite. That, however, now seems to be a thing that nobody seems to mind at all, so it is perhaps fortunate that we can progress. I listened with great attention to most of the speeches given to-day from the other side, and the one impression that seems to be implicit in them is that every encouragement should be given to the peoples in the Colonial countries inside the British Commonwealth of Nations to move towards self-government. You can be certain that those referred to are not people of British stock, because the only exception are the Rhodesians. Where the people happen to be African or of African stock, there is a singular optimism opposite that they are going to do everything right, but if they are of British stock, they are viewed with the greatest suspicion.
I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who said he would treat the matter on the broadest lines. He showed an encyclopaedic erudition but entirely neglected what at the present time I should have thought was the most important feature of the whole Colonial question, namely, the question of Defence. If we do not succeed in defending the Colonies, hon. Members can cease troubling about their development on democratic lines, for there will not be any development. There 556 will be Colonies run in a very different way from the way in which we are trying to run them. I think I shall find the speech of the hon. Member for Derby, when I read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT, as I shall, as good escapist literature as it is possible to find. He mentioned the war only twice. Another thing which was very puzzling to me was the fact that he thought the mandatory system was largely a success. That rather shook me. Does anybody else think the mandatory system a success? Is Syria an example which shows how well it works, or Iraq, or the situation in some of the islands in the Pacific which were given to other Powers? Are our own experiences in Palestine so very satisfactory, to us or anybody else? I do admire optimism—I think it is one of the greatest qualities—but surely it is a little overdone.
As regards the development of our Colonial possessions, owing to the singular oratorical ability of some hon. Members who have spoken to-day I have very little time at my disposal and cannot deal with many of the points I should wish to have gone into on the analogy of the places I know best which have got self-government. There is one thing which must never be forgotten, and that is the interest of the Commonwealth of British countries as a whole. There is so much intention— honest intention—to benefit the inhabitants of particular localities that the interest of the whole community is frequently forgotten. A noted instance of that was the perfectly fatuous abandonment of the ports in Eire because Eire has self-government, something which has cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of ships and has not done Eire one iota of good. Once territory which has been under direct British rule is given the power of self-government the British Government become so sensitive towards it that they dare do nothing whatever, even in wartime. We all know that it was regarded as essential to remove accredited German agents from Persia and Afghanistan, but the accredited German agents living in Dublin have not even a boundary between them and the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland. I think that is probably due to the sensitiveness which British Governments have always shown to a country which has self-government.
I do not know of anything so absurd as putting on the censorship between us here and Northern Ireland. We have our 557 letters read; we cannot even receive copies of so innocuous a document as a parish magazine. Parish magazines are returned at once and so are wedding photographs. But from Northern Ireland we can send communications down to the South. It was said that an official from the German Consulate in Dublin used to go to Belfast after air raids to see what had been done already and what remained to be done, but that was really a useless journey, because there is no censorship and they could have written and saved themselves the trouble. On the other hand, if I write from Northern Ireland to any hon. Members opposite living over here my letter will be opened, and any letters from them to me will also be opened.
Perhaps I am getting a little far from Colonial matters, and so I will return to them in the very few minutes which are at my disposal. I would suggest to all persons interested in Colonies or countries in which they do not themselves live that it is very dangerous to think that the man on the spot, if he is well disposed to this country, must inevitably be wrong. I was amazed when the hon. Member for Derby alluded to the white people of the Rhodesias. There is this to be said for them, that no troops—bar none—have more distinguished themselves in this war than have the white Rhodesians, particularly in that desperate battle against tremendous odds in British Somaliland, where the Italians outnumbered us by about 20 to 1. They are people who deserve the very best of this country. I would respectfully suggest that the white inhabitants of Rhodesia are just as well disposed to their black fellow countrymen in the same area, just as anxious for their prosperity, and know a great deal more about them, than do most hon. Members opposite. I do not think this is a time for changes in the Constitution anywhere. Win the war first, and then let us indulge ourselves as best we may in what, I hope, will prove to be a better time.
I have constantly found that where people are well disposed to Great Britain their advice, and even their suggestions, are ignored in this House. On almost every major topic in connection with Irish policy, the opinions of Ulster Members have been set at nought from the time when the Treaty was not excepted from the Statute of Westminster right down to 558 just before the war, when, in spite of our request, and our dividing the House against our own side, National Service was not extended to Northern Ireland. I said at that time that it would be found to be impracticable to put it into operation during war-time. In Colonial policy there must be attention to the interests of the community as a whole, call it what you will, the British Empire or British Commonwealth of Nations. People who live their lives in countries far away, like the Rhodesias, must not be looked down upon by hon. Members of this House and dismissed with smug phrases as would-be exploiters of the other people who live in the country. Those people probably know a lot about the subject, and, in nine cases out of 10, their opinions are just as honest, sincere, and well-informed as those of hon. Members of this House.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)
From the interest which has been displayed in this Debate, it was evidently fitting that a day should be set aside during the Debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech in order that we might discuss the Colonies. My Noble Friend and I are pleased that this opportunity has presented itself, not only to inform the House of the contribution which the Colonies have made to the war effort, and to place on record the work done, but to hear from hon. and right hon. Members any criticisms, preferably constructive, which they have to offer. I trust that those criticisms will assist a solution of the many, varied problems which will have to be faced in the future.
Very little criticisms can be made of the speeches which have been delivered. In the main they have been constructive. I quite understand my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) indulging in a good deal of Colonial history in order to bring up many of the matters which he placed before us. I should like to assure him that no one in the Colonial Office, and no one who knows the conditions which exist in many of the Colonies, is satisfied with those conditions. We want to bring about an improvement as rapidly as possible. In the course of my remarks I shall endeavour to satisfy the House that the Colonial Office, in conjunction with local Governors and Governments, are, notwithstanding that 559 we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle, doing their best to bring about that improvement.
The war has awakened an intense and universal uprush of loyalty to the Throne and support for our cause in all the places of the Empire. That thought should make us not only grateful but humble. This is not an occasion for complacency; on the contrary, that thought should stimulate our efforts to preserve that loyalty and friendship and to make such return for it as we can to those partners who, in our darkest hour, stood manfully and nobly by us. That is the approach which the Colonial Office, and the Governors and Governments in the Colonies, are endeavouring to make to the difficulties with which we are confronted.
Very little has been said during this Debate about the contribution which the Colonies have made to the war effort, and I will not spend very much time upon that to-day, but I would like to say that in Africa a very great expansion has been effected in the two African regiments, the King's African Rifles and the Royal West African Frontier Force, and units of Colonial troops have rendered the most distinguished service in the East African campaign. It is no longer correct to think of the African as an infantryman with rifle and bayonet only, important as they are; the Africans now supply man-power for heavy and light artillery, anti-aircraft guns and for all the engineering, signalling, transport and ordnance units which are found in the establishment of a brigade or divisional group. Palestine, Cyprus and Malta have made their contribution, which is as well known to hon. and right hon. Members of this House as it is to the nation at large.
Elsewhere throughout the Colonial Empire, in Malaya, Hong Kong, Fiji, Ceylon, Mauritius, the Seychelles, the West Indies and in remoter dependencies like St. Helena and the Falkland Islands, units formed from Colonial man-power stand on guard, disappointed that it has not yet fallen to their lot to take a more active part, but trained and ready to meet any eventuality which might arise. Reference has been made not only to those who are serving in the Army but to those Colonials who are rendering service in the Royal Air Force. There is a substantial proportion from the West 560 Indies, some of whom have paid their own expenses, and various others from all parts of the Colonial Empire are taking their part with the gallant men of the Royal Air Force. We find also that the Colonies are making their contribution in the munition works, working side by side with British trade union friends and making a very gallant contribution to equipping the British troops for the struggle in which we are engaged. They include not only technicians but others; we have hundreds of woodcutters from British Honduras, many of whom are at present in this country making their contribution to the nation's needs. If I say no more about this contribution of man-power, I trust that my inadequate words will be taken to show that there is a great appreciation of the Colonial contribution to the war effort during these dark days.
The Debate has centred very largely round the economic conditions in the Colonies, and I trust that the House will allow me to deal with economic conditions, because general standards of living depend to a very large extent upon the economic situation. Many of the difficulties to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale referred were conditions which, as he admitted, existed at the time of the Royal Commission, and he ought not to complain so much when, in reply to a Question which he put to me about certain conditions in the Colonies, I said that we were referring it to the Governor. He knew the conditions up to the time of the Royal Commission, and it was no use for me to give him information which he himself possessed. I wanted to give him something much more up to date than that.
§ Mr. Hall
Many of the conditions which my hon. Friend mentioned are responsible for what has been referred to as the new Colonial outlook which has appeared during the last three or four years, as made manifest in the Colonial Welfare, and not only Welfare, should I say, but Development Act as well, and the fact that the House of Commons has on behalf of the taxpayers of this country agreed to an expenditure not only of £50,000,000 in 10 years, but, as was promised at the time the Bill was going through the House, if more money than the £50,000,000 referred to in the Act is required, there 561 would be no hesitation on the part of the Colonial Office to come to Parliament and ask for an increased expenditure.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why do you not use it?"]—If the hon. Gentleman will just wait, I will indicate to him that it is being used notwithstanding the fact that we are engaged in a war.
In connection with the economic situation, I should just like to say a word as to what the Colonies are doing and how they are faring in the economic field. They continue to bear their share in the economic tasks and responsibilities and disabilities common to us all. Many things, such as the exchange and trade controls necessary for blockade and other purposes, have dropped into matters of routine. The Colonies are keeping up a steady flow of generous financial contributions from Governments and private individuals by way of gifts to the Exchequer or interest-free loans and, like people in this country, many are cheerfully bearing increased taxes and reduced supplies of consumption goods. If I pass over these as part of the now accepted incidence of war-time economy, I hope I shall not be thought lacking in appreciation of the sacrifices the Colonies are making. I want to go on to other matters in which the Colonial position differs from that in this country or which are less widely known.
Much has been said in the past about the things which the Colonies are producing for our war-time use, and I need not make any attempt to catalogue them. In the main, they are things which the Colonies were already producing before the war. All I need say in that respect is to mention by way of illustration that in all three of the commodities which are the subject of effective international control schemes, that is, tin, rubber and tea, the international committees concerned have, in order to meet war-time demands, raised the quotas of release to unprecedentedly high levels. The hon. Member for Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) referred to the opening up of the American market for the surplus products of the Colonies. He can be assured that every possible step is being taken not only to approach, but to work in conjunction with, America not only in connection with tin and rubber, which are so essential to the war effort, and tea but many of the surplus products which come from many other parts of the British Empire.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not going to restrict the trade to America only to surplus products.
§ Mr. Hall
That is being considered in conjunction with committees which I think the hon. Member knows have been set up in this country. In addition to the things to which I have referred, since the war new mines have been opened up, for the exploitation of untapped mineral wealth, and Colonial production is expanding in the field of manufacturing industry. I should like to give the House full details as to what the Colonies are doing in producing war supplies, but I think that the House will appreciate that it is not possible to go into too much detail in connection with that very important matter, but I think I can say that the general economic situation of most of the Colonies is satisfactory. The loss of prewar markets has in many cases been offset by increased activity in other spheres, and in some the total value of production and export reaches record heights. Palestine is an illustration of how the loss of a very large export market has been offset by increased activity in the territory owing to the fact that there has Been a considerable development in connection with the war effort and that many troops are stationed in that area. I am not suggesting that there are no economic difficulties: there have been very acute difficulties in particular branches of Colonial trade; but I would make bold to claim that the various measures of assistance devised by His Majesty's Government to cover the necessary adjustments to war conditions have successfully shielded the Colonies from many serious consequences, and have retained for the inhabitants such a standard of life as they enjoyed during the pre-war days, notwithstanding the loss of a very large proportion of their markets.
In July, I gave a list of the measures undertaken by the Government for the purpose of maintaining, to a very large extent, the economic life of the people. In this matter, I should like, on behalf of my Noble Friend, to pay a tribute to the generous way the Chancellor of the Exchequer has always met demands for assistance to distressed Colonial industries. The willingness of His Majesty's Govern- 563 ment to come to the rescue in every necessitous case has, I feel sure, done much to prove the sincerity of our policy of improving the standards of our Colonial Dependencies, and has shown how real is our feeling of unity of purpose and of interest with them. I believe I am right in saying that all of these claims for assistance have turned out to be less expensive than we thought they would. It has sometimes been found that the mere readiness of His Majesty's Government to assume responsibility has been sufficient to restore confidence in a particular trade, and that little actual assistance has been needed. That is only another proof of the way in which a difficulty resolutely tackled fades away.
Will the House forgive me if I deal briefly with the cocoa position? My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) referred to it. There has been no opportunity for explaining what has been done in connection with this very important commodity so far as West Africa is concerned, although Questions have been put on the Order Paper about it. In 1939–40 the Ministry of Food rightly decided to purchase the whole of the cocoa crop in West Africa. Many of the European markets have been closed to this product owing to the war, and it was anticipated that a very large proportion of the crop would be unsold. It was anticipated also that a very large proportion would be destroyed. Fortunately, the financial loss and the destruction of cocoa were very much less than was anticipated. The scheme was so successful that it was decided that a Cocoa Board should be set up, of which I had the honour to become Chairman, with a view to purchasing and selling the West African cocoa. That scheme has been in operation.
Some complaint was made about the reduction in the price of cocoa to the consumers last year. The Cocoa Board commenced work with the anticipation that a large proportion of the 1940–41 crop would be left on its hands; but, fortunately again, owing to an increased market in America and to the availability of shipping, the major portion was sold, and sold at a price which relieved us of any financial anxiety. I would ask the House not to mix up the West African Cocoa Board with the scheme of the Ministry of Food for 564 distributing cocoa in this country. We merely purchase from West Africa and sell the cocoa to the Ministry of Food or to America. In taking the decision to reduce the price of cocoa last year, we were influenced by the fact that it had been agreed that any ultimate surplus on the operations of the Cocoa Board could be set aside and regarded as being in trust for the producers. After setting off the loss made by the Ministry of Food on the purchase and sale of West African cocoa in the cocoa year 1939–40 if there is a profit in the year 1940–41 onwards, it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to seek Parliamentary approval in due course for an equivalent grant of the profit made upon the transactions of the Board either to the West African cocoa producers or, in agreement with the Colonial Governments concerned, towards expenditure on purposes designed to be of benefit to those producers. The Board were therefore able to feel that, if they conducted their operations on a conservative basis, they were not piling up profits for the benefit of His Majesty's Government—and, I hasten to add, neither did His Majesty's Government desire that—but only holding back something in reserve against a rainy day for the producers.
The actual outcome of the sale of cocoa for the year 1940–41 was even more favourable than the Board itself anticipated, and the result is that, after writing off the cost of the loss during 1939–40, and taking into consideration the cocoa in store at the end of the cocoa year, there is a substantial surplus of something like £1,300,000. This money is held in reserve. It may be that as a result of lack of shipping facilities much of that money will be required to meet the increased price of cocoa which the Cocoa Board has agreed with the local or the West African producers. I want again to emphasise that any surplus which is left over by agreement with the producer shall be set aside for the benefit of the West African cocoa growers of the Colonies.
§ Mr. Hall
I cannot give the figure offhand, but I will let my hon. and gallant Friend know. The figure in 1939 was round about £13 or £14 a ton, but I prefer that I should let my hon. and gallant Friend have the accurate information.
The last matter I wish to mention in connection with economics is as to what has been done with regard to bulk purchase. Bulk purchases of the essential commodities have been carried out by the various Governments, such as Malaya, Jamaica and other of the Colonies, so as to do everything possible to protect the standard of life of the people. It is interesting to note that the import of flour into Jamaica has been reduced for the reason that a lot of the surplus bananas of Jamaica are being turned into banana flour. In Malta we have the extreme case where it has been necessary for the Government to take over practically the whole of the import trade. It has been the policy of His Majesty's Government to divert many of the Colonial demands to the United States in order to save manufacturing capacity in this country and to avoid the necessity of goods having to be shipped unnecessarily through dangerous waters. It is necessary, however, to work through the American system of priorities and the control. For that purpose the Colonies are working in close collaboration with the British Purchasing Commission, and a special organisation known as the Colonial Supply Liaison has been set up in Washington in order to deal with Colonial requirements. The whole system is still in its early stages and is developing rapidly.
The establishment by the Colonial Office of the Colonial Supply Liaison Organisation in Washington leads me to a point to which I, personally, attach considerable importance. That is the encouragement of officers of the Colonial Office to proceed overseas and examine problems on the spot. I have myself had very recent experience of the great value of personal contacts of this kind, and even during the war it has been found possible to send officials of the Colonial Office abroad quite frequently.
The Assistant Under-Secretary of State in charge of the African Division of the Office recently completed an extensive tour covering practically all our African possessions. The head of the Economic Department has visited America in con- 566 nection with the setting-up of the Colonial Supply Liaison and attended the West Indian Import Licensing Conference, as a result of which severe restrictions have been imposed on all non-essential imports into the West Indies. Similar action has been taken practically everywhere else. An officer of the same Department is now in charge of that supply organisation, and other members of the Office are at the moment stationed at Delhi, in connection with the Eastern Group Supply Council; at Cairo, on the staff of the Minister of State; and in Malta. Meanwhile, the Labour Adviser, Major Orde Browne, has just returned from a tour which embraced Ceylon, Malaya and Mauritius. I am convinced that after the war it will be essential in carrying out our great programmes of Colonial development to extend more widely still the habit of overseas visits by members of the Colonial Office.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the officials who go on these visits are given power to solve local problems on the spot, and whether it has been found, as a result of these visits, that time and correspondence have been saved?
§ Mr. Hall
There are many problems which can be discussed and possibly solved, but if it is a matter of policy, they bring back a report and their views to the office to be decided upon. In other cases they have been in consultation with Governors and Governments on the spot, and many difficulties have been overcome as the result of their visits. In addition to the many questions arising out of the war, I think I should just touch upon what it is proposed to be done in connection with preparation for post-war reconstruction. It has been reported that a Departmental Committee has been set up with that very distinguished Colonial servant, Lord Hailey, as chairman, and he has presided over an office committee which is dealing with post-war problems. Under his guidance, the Committee have been engaged for some months in drawing up a list of all the problems that are likely to arise, as live issues, in relation to the Colonies at the end of the war, and in assembling the facts, as far as they are known at present, which will have to be taken into account in dealing with and solving these problems. The investigations of the Com- 567 mittee range over a very wide field— economic, social, political, financial and constitutional. The work of the Committee and of the many official and unofficial persons and bodies who are helping, or will help, them by supplying information and opinions, will be of invaluable assistance when the time comes for practical action.
All this can be regarded as being supplementary to the Stockdale Committee. I hope hon. Members will realise that the appointment of the Comptroller and his advisers is not in any way an attempt to sidetrack expenditure under the Colonial Welfare and Development Act. It should be remembered by those hon. Members who were complaining that progress is not being made as rapidly as they think it ought to be that Sir Frank Stockdale and his staff have only recently completed what they regarded as a kind of preliminary investigation; but notwithstanding that preliminary examination, a very large number of schemes have been sent to the Colonial Office and have been approved, schemes amounting to some hundreds of thousands of pounds. We are hopeful that those schemes will not in any way fall short of other schemes which have already come in. I also beg hon. Members to understand that not only are the departmental officers here deprived of many of the members of their staff owing to the war, but that there is not a Colony which has not made its contribution of technical and skilled men for the purpose of fighting this war. The result is that we cannot proceed as speedily as we would like, when there is this lack of technical knowledge and skill, in carrying out the schemes.
I ask hon. Members to read carefully the despatch to which my hon. Friend has referred. There is in it a declaration by my Noble Friend and the Colonial Office of the intentions of the Colonial Office. Where it is possible, we want to proceed not only with welfare work, such as that referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, but with development. The hon. Member for Derby and the hon. Member for Rochdale referred to the absence of an ecomonic and financial adviser working with Sir Frank Stock-dale. That matter is being considered. But here again, it is almost impossible to get hold of the right type of man to 568 give the advice that is necessary in a place like the West Indies. I am sure, however, that my noble Friend will consider the suggestion which has been made. We can claim that Sir Frank Stockdale is doing very important work, and I am pleased to hear that his work is so appreciated that my hon. Friends think that a similar committee or commission might be appointed to deal with the problems which exist in Africa and in other Colonies at the present time.
As time is short, I shall deal only briefly with the labour survey, which has been referred to by my hon. Friend, but I assure the House that there is in it an indication of the earnest desire not only of the Colonial Office but of the Colonial Governments to see that there is an improvement in the general standard of life of the people in the Colonies. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale is rather suspicious.
§ Mr. Hall
Let me tell the House that without the co-operation of Colonial Governors and Colonial Governments we could not have produced the results indicated in the survey. I ask Members to read the survey, and, if they do so, I am satisfied that they will not be so sceptical and critical of many of the activities of the Colonial Office. My hon. Friend raised the question of a Colonial Labour Advisory Committee. Consideration has been given to this question from time to time—that is the strengthening of the machinery of the Colonial Office for dealing with labour questions and the appointment of a Colonial Labour Advisory Committee. As I have already indicated, Colonial labour matters have received serious attention at the Colonial Office during the last few years, and I think I may claim that considerable progress has been made. A Labour Advisor was appointed in 1938, and he worked in close co-operation with administrative members of the office staff who specialise in this work. While my Noble Friend and I see no reason for making any changes in this part of the office machinery, which works smoothly and efficiently, we feel that it could with advantage be strengthened by the appointment of a Labour Advisory Committee on the lines of the Colonial Advisory Medical Committee, or the Ad- 569 visory Committee on Education in the Colonies. It has, therefore, been decided to set up a committee forthwith. I would ask hon. Members not to press me to give details of the personnel of the committee. Here again, owing to a shortage of suitable persons, it has been decided that the committee in its inception shall be a small body, with representatives of the Office, and representatives nominated by the T.U.C. and any employer organisation interested in Colonial affairs, with a definite promise that the question of expanding the committee will be considered when the time comes.
Reference has been made to the welfare of coloured people in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend rightly mentioned that we have appointed advisers to help us in connection with this matter. At the Colonial Office we have appointed not only a member of our staff but a West African, and we are now considering the appointment of a West Indian to assist in this very important work.
Reference has been made to our close association with America. My hon. Friend referred to the establishment of naval bases in the West Indies as an indication of the close co-operation which exists. He asked whether during my stay in the West Indies I satisfied myself on the working conditions and wages paid by the Americans to the workpeople employed on the construction of these bases. I do not suggest for one moment that I did not hear some complaints, but on the whole there was general satisfaction with regard to wages and working conditions; so much so that I read with interest an article which appeared in a paper called the "Labour Advocate," which is published in British Guiana. The following article was published just before I arrived there:We have been receiving commendable reports from workers on the naval and air bases. Except for the fact that in a project of this kind there will be preliminary difficulties in accommodation, etc., workers maintain the Americans are excellent employers.It also said:The Americans are prepared to treat our people as man to man.This article is, in itself, a commendation from those who are in charge of one branch of the trade union movement in British Guiana of the American treatment of native labour employed on this work. I have no reason to think that what could 570 be said of the treatment by Americans of the natives in British Guiana could not be applied in Jamaica, Trinidad and other parts of the West Indies.
§ Mr. Hall
The only difficulty that I experienced was in Jamaica, and I am not suggesting that all the fault is on the side of the Americans. As far back as February last an advisory committee was offered to be set up by the Government of Jamaica to those who were speaking for the trade unions, but this offer was not accepted. It is true that the United States authorities were not prepared at that time to come into the advisory committee.
Again, much has been said concerning the question of civil liberties. I know there has been a good deal of apprehension among Members with regard to this question, but the House ought not to feel as anxious as some hon. Members appear to be. Let it be remembered that, out of more than 50 Dependencies, criticism has only centred on two, namely, Jamaica and Trinidad. [An HON. MEMBER: "West Africa."] There is only the one case that the hon. Member referred to. If my hon. Friends would see me, I think even they would be satisfied that there is no cause for the anxiety that they appear to display.
I regret that it is impossible to refer to all the questions that have arisen in attempting to deal with no fewer than some 50 territories. But the Debate has been well worth while. At the beginning of the war we were rapidly approaching a critical period of Colonial history, and the war, while it has in one sense delayed the crisis, has in another sense hastened it. We have reached a point at which the public conscience has been awakened to the need to take a far greater and more constructive interest in the social, economic and spiritual welfare of the Colonial peoples, who are now solidly behind us in our war effort. Our duty is now to improve the lot of all the Colonial peoples, to help them, guide them to prosperity, to develop their resources so as to raise their standard of living and enable them to take an ever-increasing responsibility in ordering their own affairs. That is the policy of my Noble Friend, myself 571 and those of us who are working at the Colonial Office.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Can consideration be given to the publication of reports in order to inform the House, and will my hon. Friend consider recommendations which have been made in several quarters for a standing Parliamentary committee?
§ Mr. Hall
With regard to reports, it is not only a question of shortage of paper but of shortage of staff. The curtailment of reports applies not only to the Colonial Office, but to every other Department as well. The question of a Parliamentary committee has been considered, but I should not like my hon. Friends to think that the principle was conceded two years ago. It was then under consideration by the Colonial Office. I would ask them to realise that even the Colonial Office has quite a lot to do, owing to the fact that the war has intervened.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put and agreed to.—[Major Dugdale.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.