§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a further sum, not exceeding £40, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with Colonial Administration, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945, namely:
|Class II., Vote 7, Colonial Office||£10|
|Class II., Vote 8, Colonial and Middle Eastern Services||£10|
|Class II., Vote 8, Colonial and Middle Eastern Services (Supplementary sum)||£10|
|Class II., Vote 9, Development and Welfare (Colonies, etc.)||£10|
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
On a point of Order. Can you let us know, Major Milner, how much time approximately will be taken by the consideration of the Private Bills for which this Debate is to be interrupted later in the day? Will those Bills take the rest of the time of the Sitting, or will there be time afterwards for us to return to the subject of Colonial administration?
§ The Chairman
That is not a matter for this Committee but one entirely for the House, and I aim afraid I cannot take up the role of a prophet. I certainly hope it will be possible to return to Committee of Supply.
§ Mr. Riley (Dewsbury)
This is the second day's Debate upon the statement made by the Colonial Secretary on the 374 administration of the Colonial Office, and I want to associate myself with those hon. Members who, on the first day, congratulated the right hon. and gallant Gentleman upon his cogent and informative speech. I am, however, not so much concerned with offering congratulations, though they are quite sincere. I am principally concerned to offer some comments upon the statement which the Colonial Secretary then made about the machinery which he has now put into operation to carry out the great obligations imposed upon his Ministry by the Welfare and Development Act, 1940. I want also to make two suggestions which I think may be regarded as constructive and to ask for their consideration by the Minister and by the Committee. The only question which I have in mind is whether the machinery which the Minister described to us on 6th June as now being in operation to accomplish the great task before him is adequate for the purpose or is the best that could be devised.
It is pertinent to remind hon. Members, briefly, what that machinery is. On 6th June, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had done, or was doing, three things to meet the tremendous problems which the Colonial situation presents. He said that he had set up local Development Committees in each of the principal Colonies and that these Committees were working under their respective Colonial Governments and were responsible for planning and for carrying through the plans with such assistance as might be available under the Act of 1940. Secondly, he said the plans of these Committees must be comprehensive, long-term plans covering the whole of the development of the respective Colonies, and not mere proposals for a new hospital here or a new road there. Thirdly, he referred to the part to be played by the Colonial Office, and in that connection, in order to meet the difficulties of planning, he is trying to provide experts to assist and advise him. In pursuance of that policy he has set up in London nine Colonial Advisory Committees to report to him upon such matters as he may from time to time refer to them. I think the Minister will agree that that is a fair, if brief, summary of what he said regarding the machinery he has devised in order to deal with what my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) described in the first day's Debate as the 375abysmal levels of existence on which large numbers of peoples are condemned to live in great areas of the Empire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th June, 1944; Vol. 400, c. 1250.]Before commenting on this machinery, I would draw attention to the composition of these Advisory Committees upon which the Minister is largely relying to provide him with the expert information upon which long-term planning can be based. I do so, not because I call in question in the slightest degree the qualifications or the merits of those who compose these Committees. I believe they are doing excellent and valuable work, but the composition of the Committees is typical of the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman to Parliament and to Members of Parliament in connection with his Colonial administration. I am not saying that the right hon. Gentleman deliberately ignores Parliament and Members of Parliament, but only pointing out that he fails to enlist the active participation of Members of Parliament in the immense task of trying to set our Colonial house in order.
What are the facts of the case with regard to these nine Advisory Committees? I recently put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman on the number of these Committees, their personnel, their terms of reference and so on, and he obligingly sent me a detailed statement upon all of them. These nine Committees comprise no less than 118 persons, and of those only four are members of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Riley
Is it necessary to say? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I will mention them if it is desired. First, there is my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, who is a member of the Colonial Advisory Committee upon Education. Then there is my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who is one of two Members of Parliament upon a useful but not very important committee to look into the interests and welfare of Colonial peoples, mostly students, who happen to reside in this country. There is no economic reconstruction about their work; they are a welfare committee. The other Member upon that Committee is an hon. Member for one of the Universities. The fourth Member of Parliament is an hon. Member, a distinguished professor, who is 376 a member of the Advisory Committee on Colonial Research. Those are the four Members of Parliament among the 118 members of those Committees. The rest are all very distinguished men—scientists, officials of the Colonial Office, economists, and so forth—and I make no criticism upon their qualifications. I am satisfied that they are doing valuable work, but they are all busy men, and the most the right hon. Gentleman can get out of them is the odd hours which they, busy men, with many calls upon their time and energies, can spare for this Advisory Committee work.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Colonel Oliver Stanley)
Is the hon. Member now drawing a distinction between busy men, on the one side, and Members of Parliament on the other?
§ Mr. Riley
My distinction is this. Why should 114 men who are not Members of this House—all of them very busy men—serve on these advisory committees, while Members of Parliament, who sit here and give their time and attention to home affairs and Colonial affairs, are not invited? Why cannot the Minister enlist a much larger proportion of the Members of this House, who are competent, to serve on these advisory committees? On six of these committees there is not a Member of Parliament. There are three committees on which there are four Members of Parliament. One of the committees on which there is no Member of Parliament is called the Labour Advisory Committee, which advises the Minister on the labour policies and labour developments and improvements in the Colonies. Many Members, on both sides of the House, are interested in labour conditions and have a wide knowledge of that subject, but they are not invited to serve. When I asked the other day why there was no Member of Parliament on that committee, the reply of the Minister was that he had followed the usual practice of consulting the British Employers' Federation, on the one hand, and the Trades Union Council on the other. As Parliament is the authority concerned, why should its Members not be invited? The British Employers' Federation and the T.U.C. are not responsible for administering our Colonial affairs. This Parliament is. I put it to the Minister that he should recognise that it is to the advantage of his own work, as well as that of the Colonial 377 subjects, that Members of Parliament should be associated with planning and thinking out means of improved conditions in the Colonies.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
May I ask my hon. Friend a question? Is it not possible that the British Employers' Federation and the T.U.C. may recommend men who know something about Colonial affairs, men who have been to the Colonies? On the other hand, it is known that only a small percentage of Members of Parliament have visited the Colonies.
§ Mr. Riley
No doubt those bodies do recommend very suitable men, but surely my hon. Friend does not want to suggest that there are not men on both sides of this Committee with the necessary qualifications, interests and experience although, perhaps, not in large numbers. Unfortunately, it is true that many of us lack the opportunity of acquainting ourselves at first hand with Colonial conditions, but, nevertheless, there are Members with experience. Take the most important committee—the Economic Advisory Committee—with its 18 members. We all realise that economic conditions must be the foundation of any advance in our Colonies. It is fundamental to any kind of permanent improvement and the prevention of the recurrence of the misery that has prevailed in our Colonies that economic standards should be improved. Does anyone suggest that Members of Parliament are not prepared to take part in that work which properly belongs to them? I suggest that the Minister should take steps—and I hope that pressure will be brought to bear upon him to do so—to see that, in future, a fair proportion of Members of Parliament serve on these committees. I am perfectly certain that it is of the highest importance that a larger number of Members of Parliament should have an opportunity of acquainting themselves with Colonial conditions, and should stimulate Parliament in the work which it has to do.
That is the main point I have to make with regard to the committees—the absence of Members of Parliament and the preponderance of outsiders. I suggest that experience is making it very clear that, over and above these advisory committees, there will have to be, if any progress of a substantial character is to 378 be made, a more suitable machine. I suggest to the Minister that he should consider whether this Economic Advisory Committee, which, I have emphasised, is fundamental to any progress and necessary in every step to bring our Colonial territories and their inhabitants to something like a decent level, should not be an authority—not voluntary people giving an hour or two here and there—charged specifically with the duty, under the direction of the Minister of course, of investigating and carrying through necessary and important schemes of economic improvement.
The "Manchester Guardian," in commenting on the Debate of 6th June in a leading article, said that the Colonial situation and conditions correspond to-day to the industrial conditions which prevailed in this country 100 years ago. In other words, we are 100 years behind the times in our Colonial field of work. The House of Commons, when it passed the Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1940, deliberately committed itself to recognising that our Colonial fellow-subjects are entitled to economic, social and political standards which will bear comparison with those on which we insist for our own people. The right hon. Gentleman has advisory committees of a voluntary character which, I say, are not sufficient and will not do. What I want to see on the economic side is an authority vested, under the Minister, with executive powers to get on with the job.
§ Colonel Stanley
When the hon. Member said "vested with executive powers," did he mean powers to override Colonial Governments and Legislatures?
§ Mr. Riley
Certainly not. I was going to add that the authority should work under the direction of the Minister. I quite agree with the point which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman stressed in his speech on 6th June about the unwisdom of trying to impose things on our respective Colonies. That is not the line of policy to pursue.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
My hon. Friend seems to acquiesce in the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestion that we should not override Colonial Governments in any particular, but suppose that expansion and development are desirable 379 in our judgment, and that some Colonial Governments stand in the way. What are we to do then?
§ Mr. Riley
I take it that we should not wish to impose any line of policy or development against the declared wishes of the great mass of the people. We should have to use our persuasion to get their consent. I think my hon. Friend's intervention is somewhat far-fetched. It is inconceivable to me that any Colony would object to being assisted to develop its territories, and to raise its standard of living.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
I think the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) put a very good point. Are we to allow the people of the Barbados, the Bahamas and Bermuda to remain under an oligarchy imposed from the top, with a Constitution 200 years old, unreformed, and the bulk of the inhabitants without a vote, without a say, and without any power?
§ Mr. Riley
My hon. Friend is ignoring the fact that there is no intention, as I understand it, that either Barbados or any other of our Colonies should remain under any system of political rule which is not progressive or equitable and that, moreover, it is the declared policy and intention of Parliament not to go backwards and impose unrepresentative government, but to proceed gradually to self-government, from stage to stage.
I now come to the main point, whether the machinery which the right hon. Gentleman has assembled is going to do the job in a reasonable space of time and bring about a substantial change in the economic and social standards of the people. It will be far better done if, in place of the Economic Advisory Committee, simply reporting to the Minister upon such matters as he refers to them—[Interruption.] The terms of reference are:To advise the Secretary of State on such questions of economic policy in relation to Colonial questions as he may refer to the Committee.
§ Mr. Riley
It does not say so in the teens of reference. It says "including matters arising on programmes of economic development," but again that is qualified by "on such questions as the 380 Secretary of State may refer to them." I want to emphasise the importance of considering the absolute necessity, if this job which the Minister has in charge is to be done in a reasonable period of time, of getting some qualified central body, such as a Colonial Development Authority, at work to carry out the intentions and desires of Parliament with regard to the improvement of Colonial conditions. I am strengthened in that view by what has taken place in the West Indies and in Africa. Under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act we vote a maximum of £5,000,000 a year. Four years had gone by the end of March, and the total that might have been utilised was £20,000,000. As a matter of fact, what has been actually spent is £2,169,000, of which £1,246,000 was spent on improvements in the West Indies. In the West Indies we have something analagous to a Colonial Development Authority. We established the Stockdale Commission with a very big staff of qualified men, who were not coming for an hour or two now and again, but have been at work with a large staff for four years. It is true the Stockdale Commission is always subject to the authority of the Minister, and that is right. We have been able to do work in those four years with the Stockdale Commission in various directions equivalent to 2s. per head per annum of the inhabitants.
In Africa we have a Colonial population of 50,000,000, and in the West Indies less than 3,000,000. In four years, under the Colonial Welfare Act there ought to have been available in Africa approximately £16,000,000. By 31st March this year, we had spent just over £900,000, equal to barely a penny per head per annum. Why should we not have had either a central Colonial development authority or a commission in West and East Africa working for the last four years? I think a sound line to take would have been to get such an organisation as the Central Colonial Development Authority, under the Minister, working of course in liaison with the Colonial Development Committee themselves, but at the same time devoting their time, with adequate finances at their disposal, to developing the economic advancement of the Colonies in a reasonable time. What would our Russian Allies have done? One thinks of what they have done in ten or fifteen 381 years with vast territories and peoples, many of whom were in as backward a condition as our Colonial subjects. President Roosevelt carried through the Tennessee Valley scheme on a huge scale not by employing an advisory commitee, but by giving authority and power to qualified people whose special duty was to see that the job was done.
I do not understand why the Minister is so unsympathetic to the idea of enlisting, in order to assist him in this work, such help as can be got from Members of Parliament and in the next place so careful to retain in his own hands, the supervision of all the details of the enormous task which 50 territories with 60,000,000 people present to him. We have 45,000,000 people in our own country and it takes us all our time to attend to them. Under the present system of machinery, the Minister is trying to do the same work in 50 territories. For similar work in this country it requires a Parliament of 600 Members. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is trying to perform himself the work that is done here by six or seven Ministries—Health, Education, Transport, Economic Warfare and so on. It is not possible to do it. He has to consider machinery which will give adequate power to qualified people engaged for the job, giving up all other commercial or professional obligations and becoming a body of servants of the State in carrying out this work. The proposal I now make is no new idea. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) has raised a similar proposal on several occasions.
§ Captain Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
My suggestions were not found acceptable by the hon. Member's party.
§ Mr. Riley
Not in that form in which they were made. As I understood the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion, it was that there should be a development board or council, financed very largely by outside finance, whereas what I had in mind was a Colonial development authority, entirely under Government administration, with Government finance, responsible to the Government.
§ Captain Macdonald
As I understand it, the hon. Member is not going to encourage private enterprise in Colonial development at all.
§ Mr. Riley
That is not an issue which is germane. In this matter we have assumed 382 the obligation; Parliament has assumed it. Let the hon and gallant Gentleman remember that fact. The Minister knows it quite well. A new conception has come into existence in Colonial affairs in the last 20 years. Formerly we did not accept the responsibility for the economic, social and political progress and well-being of our Colonial peoples. We have accepted it now, and we have voted by Act of Parliament a first instalment of £5,000,000 a year. The Minister himself says that it is not enough, and everybody knows it is not enough, and that it will have to be increased. Why cannot the Minister divest himself of some of the detailed work? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the, Isle of Wight made a pertinent remark in the Debate on 6th June, when he said:I still think that the big decisions on policy, the administrative responsibilities and the wide range of subjects with which the Colonial Secretary has to deal, his duties in this House, his duty to visit the Colonies and be away for a period of time, do not allow him sufficient time to devote to this question of Colonial development. If it is to be done at all after this war, it must be done on a very large scale."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th June, 1944; vol.400, c. 1245.]I entirely agree with that statement, and that is why I am urging upon the Minister that by the mere utilisation of advisory committees he will get very little further. If a move is to be made it will only be made by a properly equipped authority charged with powers to get on with the job. I urge that, in addition to a Colonial development authority, that the Minister should reconsider the question of appointing a standing committee of Members of Parliament to investigate and survey Colonial conditions in a regular systematic way, and to make contact between Parliament and Colonial problems. I know that, hitherto, the Minister has turned a deaf ear to this suggestion. Before the war broke out a half-undertaking was given by the late Neville Chamberlain when he was Prime Minister that such a committee would be considered sympathetically. It was hoped that in the course of a year or two something might be done, but the suggestion was not adopted. I believe that the establishment of a Parliamentary Colonial committee would bring a breath of fresh air into the relationships between the Colonial peoples and this Imperial Parliament. It would be a recognition that Parliament is alive to the problems that the Colonies have to face, and it 383 would be satisfactory for them to know that there was in existence a Parliamentary body which was taking cognisance of its problems.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
This is the second occasion on which we have had the opportunity of reviewing the affairs of the Colonial Empire, and I think we must all regret that Business is to be interrupted at an early hour. The very careful examination of the problems of administration that we have already had from my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) shows what great and general issues, as well as particular issues, there are to consider. My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) raised a point of considerable constitutional importance in the midst of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury. I think it was a sign that the Committee would like to have an opportunity of discussing these administrative questions as well. It was, however, the hope of several hon. Members and myself that it might be possible to concentrate to-day, a little more on the affairs of one particular group of Colonies —the great West African group. However important in general the administrative changes that may be suggested, it is only in their application to particular problems that it is possible for us to see how they will work out.
The African Empire is sufficiently important to have an uninterrupted Session of the House of Commons devoted to its affairs. There are two African Empires—the West African and the East African. Each is of enormous extent and great population, and each is an Empire presenting immediate and clamant problems with which we are all well acquainted. If we attempt to discuss everything at once, it is clear that we shall never arrive at any coherent voice which we can give to the Minister. It is better that we should, as far as possible, take them group by group, and proffer our advice about them to the Minister, and make our comments about them. These Debates are read with great interest overseas, and it is difficult for the editor of a local paper to select matters about his own Colony from a discursive Debate, whereas he would value, with interest, the fact that this Committee had devoted a certain amount of consecutive attention to the problems with which he has to deal every day.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I would deny that in every detail. The problems of federation are utterly different in the West Indies and in West Africa. They are utterly different when you deal with great contiguous groups like the East African Empire, and again when you get to Malaya and the East Indies group. I am sure that if we attempt to apply one broad general principle in all these matters we shall find ourselves continually bogged when we try to get down to practical matters of detail.
On the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury of a central development fund, operated by a body with executive power, my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham put the question, Suppose that our co-operation with the Colonies were hindered by some hang-back on the part of a local government or governor, what would be the case then? The responsibility lies with the Colonial Secretary. He has the enormous constitutional responsibility of seeing that the Colonial Empire is properly administered, and great Colonial Secretaries have, on many occasions, initiated policies of development without much reference to certain local conditions and certainly without any consideration for advisory committes of this House. When Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was Colonial Secretary, he initiated policies in West Africa which were of great advantage to that country, and they were initiated from the sense of responsibility which the Minister had himself. As a former Minister, I look with a good deal of uneasiness on any interposition of some executive authority, ill-defined in scope, between the Minister and this House. I believe strongly that the further we get away from the responsibility of the Secretary of State, the weaker we make the authority of this House. Therefore, I very much hope that such a solution will be carefully looked at, all the more so because such solutions are looked at with great uneasiness by the Colonies.
Take the West African group alone of these great Colonial territories. After all, they have Legislatures of their own and they hope that more and more responsibility will be given to them. One of the great problems before us is the association 385 of the African with his own government. The fact that 118 members in this country, either officials or Members of Parliament, have been given an additional amount of executive authority over his affairs is not necessarily, in his mind, a move towards self-government.
§ Mr. Riley
From my argument, I made it clear that I did not visualise that such an authority would ride rough-shod over the local Colonial Governments, or usurp the authority of the Minister. I said that it would work under the direction of the Minister, and in association and co-operation with the local Colonial Government.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I have no fear of a committee riding rough-shod over anybody. That is not the way committees kill things. They kill them by the Chinese device of "death by a thousand cuts"— by an innumerable series of reports, resolutions, references and re-references, so that eventually, several years afterwards, you wonder what has happened to the project. The people of the Colonies who want action, are uneasy about the prospect of more committees before their representations can be acted upon by the Minister, or before the Minister's ideas can be acted upon.
The West African group of Colonies is big enough to be an entity in itself. Its enormous size, its unfamiliar aspect, both spiritual and physical, cause it to be widely divorced from the people of this country, and it is difficult to give advice about West African affairs when merely sitting in this island. A suggestion which was brought forward in the last Debate was that the resident Minister might, possibly, in the course of time, be replaced by an additional Parliamentary Under-Secretary who should sit there as chairman of a conference of Governors. That suggestion seemed to me to bring up the possibility of vigorous executive action at once, a possibility which is absent from some of the suggestions for committees which I have heard in these Debates.
Africa just now is not only a thing in itself; it is a thing in itself which is beginning to choose which way it will go. It has both Asia and Europe to choose from. Many African Colonies have great Mohammedan populations, and they are all subject to the influence of the East. The interesting thing is that West Africa turns more and more towards the West, 386 towards Europe, towards the Western world, and away from Asia. We may think that a little odd just now. We might think that the Western European record was not so startlingly constructive that people would desire to move towards it rather than towards Asia. Well, it is so. People desire to go where there is action. Whatever else we might say about Western Europe, we cannot deny that there is plenty of action there. They want to go there also, because they want an improvement in their economic conditions. They do not see that improvement coming from the Asiatic side. They want improvement in their own circumstances, in food, clothing and housing, and they do not see it coming from the connection with Asia. Therefore, they turn towards us as a source of ideas and of technical improvement, a source of machines as well as of ideas.
It may be said that that means the industrial revolution. It does. The industrial revolution is coming to the African and Asiatic populations, whether we like it or not. Those people are stretching out their hands towards this enormous new development, and the responsibility on us, of giving counsel, advice and guidance during that enormous change, is really terrific. Agriculture is their primary industry, but agriculture is not enough. The first time you see West Africa, your first impression is that it has got plenty of people, and your next impression is that it has very little else. That is not quite accurate. In some places, the population is scanty and in other places, like the Eastern provinces of Nigeria, there is a population as dense as 1,000 to the square mile, which is 640 acres. Imagine 1,000 people trying to live off 640 acres in this country; and that country suffers from a poor soil. In some of the West African dependencies, for instance, in Sierra Leone, the pressure of the agricultural population on the land is increasing. It may very well be nearly at the balancing point. The traditional method of manuring of allowing a long bush fallow in which the deep-rooted plants can bring up nutrient substances from the soil, is being cut down, and agricultural development is actually falling off. Crops are getting smaller, instead of bigger.
In West Africa, as in India, they desire the industrial revolution—an improvement 387 in their economic affairs. They desire to be allowed to handle the new machines. It is inevitable. Where a woman can make only 3s. 6d. by working hard for a whole week, it is not unnatural that she should desire some easier way of accumulating a few shillings. In a population such as the Eastern or African population, where perhaps half the population die before they are 22 years of age, it is not to be wondered at that they desire the industrial revolution, but, looking from afar off, they see only the good things of the industrial revolution. They do not see its dangers. Those are things in which it will be very necessary for us to help them. We have gone through all those experiences, and we have learned, at any rate, some lessons.
For all that, we must have a much more intimate association of the people with the government than before. A distant association is all right for a static relation. You must have a pretty close association for a dynamic relation. Anybody can look after a motor-car when it is standing still, but you require a pretty intelligent person to watch it while it is moving, and this motor-car is getting under way. This means a development of African thought which will, without any doubt, lead to an increase in African nationalism. I do not mean African nationalism as a whole; I mean the nationalism of different parts of Africa. They say that the other general word for "African" is "native" and each West African regards himself as belonging to a group of people who have clearly marked characteristics, and who are not to be mixed up in a general broth of "Africans." We can see what nationalism has done in Europe. That too, is a phase through which Africa will pass, and of its own desire and its own will, a phase in which the greatest attention will be necessary from this country. Nationalism is the really overpowering religion of our time and it will have just as strong an appeal in Africa as anywhere else. You do not find any desire for federation among West African colonies. They do not want to be federated together. They want, bitterly and anxiously, to pull apart, rather than to go together. How are we to deal with these things? Not, I think, simply on functional lines, and not on commercial lines.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. and gallant Friend. I am trying to learn something about this subject. When he says that "they" do not desire federation and "they" are not prepared to accept this or that, whom does he actually mean by "they"? Does he mean the Africans, taking them by and large, or a few people more intelligent than the average and possessed of some authority?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
It is a fair question. It is quite true that nobody can dogmatise about 30,000,000 people. One can only speak about those with whom one has come into contact in one way or another. Certainly, those personal contacts are of the most elementary character, but I will say this: In so far as I, and I believe others who have had the opportunity of travelling there, or of meeting with Africans either in their own country or outside, are concerned, it appears that Africans, whether primitive or cultured, whether Northern, Southern, Eastern or Western, have as much a sense of individuality as have the different nations of Europe, and that they have no more desire to be mixed up in a general blend of Africans, than anybody in Europe has, in fact, less desire than anybody in Europe has.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I should have thought that the primitive native wanted certain essentials in food and shelter and had some idea, however primitive, about security; and that he did not trouble himself about federation, or independence or nationalism, but I may be wrong.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The theory of the economic man is an abstraction which has done great harm in Europe, and will, I think, do great harm in Africa. The African is very much like ourselves. If he has to deal with people he prefers those who speak his own language, eat his own food and, on the whole, share his own customs. He is no more anxious than we are to throw away those things simply for an increased amount of food, shelter or economic well-being. Very often he will adhere to those things in the teeth of his economic well-being, just as in Europe and even in Great Britain, we have found people adhering to the ways of their fathers, although it may have been demonstrated to them that they would make more 389 money in other directions. Not that I think that is necessarily a bad thing. I believe we have to build on the foundation stones which are there. Take the one point of language. Co-operation among groups that speak the same language is very much easier than it is outside, with people who do not understand one word that you are saying. Therefore I say that in custom groups and in territory groups we shall see an increasing amount of nationalism in the future over what there was in the past.
One of our difficulties is the very small size of the units of government in Africa, the natural African units of government. Sierra Leone, for instance, is roughly the size of Eire, and it contains 221 sovereign States—a record, even compared with Ireland. The chiefdoms are, except for the British administration, practically independent. Roughly, that means that each independent State is a square, with 11 miles to each side. There is not a very great opportunity for developing high administrative qualities in those very small units. That is true of Sierra Leone, and things are not very different at the other end of West Africa, in the Eastern provinces of Nigeria, and even in the Northern province, where the density of population is less than half that in the South, and where the absence of the tsetse fly allows them the use of the horse. You still get relatively small divisions. There are 37 divisions, covering a population of 11,000,000 people in Northern Nigeria, and they are based on the old African units. They are on the average something like a square with a side of 90 miles. That is quite a small field in which to develop the administrative power which is necessary, but which must be made to increase, if we are to lead these teritories into the higher economic state which we all desire.
While the African is uneasy about political associations, he is actively suspicious about the commercial organisations with which he comes into contact, and the bigger they are, the more uneasy he feels about them. He has a much better chance of getting on to the Legislature, the political direction, of his own country, than he has of getting, on to the board of directors of one of the great companies—the Elder Dempster Line, United Africa, or Unilevers, or any other 390 great body with which his economic future is so closely bound up.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I have seen people get on to boards of directors from both sides of this Committee, to go no further, and I have seen a director of the Bank of England arise from a leader of the miners' union. I have not seen any phenomenon like that take place in West Africa.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I do not say whether he went forward or backwards, but I have certainly seen him move from one position to the other. Sierra Leone is the size of Eire, but the Gold Coast is the size of the United Kingdom, while Nigeria is four times the size of England and Wales. Their populations add up to some 20,000,000 or 30,000,000, a figure certainly higher and greater than the population of Canada, plus the populations of Australia and New Zealand—in that one group.
The difficulty of getting the 20th century to these people means that they must have instruction, training and education. It is said by some people that it is useless to consider problems of higher education until there has been a great increase in elementary and secondary education. These matters are being considered just now by a Commission of which I have the honour to be Chairman, and therefore it would be quite wrong for me to make any statement about it at all, save to say that all are agreed that the vicious circle must be broken somewhere, and that the necessity for making an advance is one of the immediate and urgent problems before us. Whether it can wait until the whole of West Africa has had an adequate elementary education is a very doubtful matter. It certainly is not the way Europe made its progress. Progress in Europe, its great achievements, were made long before every separate agricultural labourer's child in England, France or Germany had had an adequate elementary education.
Accusations are repeatedly made against the power of the Africans to absorb and profit by education. In that connection 391 it is interesting to read a recent report on medical education which contained the following passages:We are agreed that quite apart from lack of character and ability that may be avoided by improved recruitment and selection, the average medical graduate has defects which are to be attributed chiefly to the manner of his training. He tends to lack curiosity and initiative; his powers of observation are relatively undeveloped, his ability to arrange and interpret facts is poor; he lacks precision in the use of words. In short, his training, however, satisfactory it may have been in the technical sense, has been unsatisfactory as an education … It is not uncommon for a boy to spend nearly all his time working at a limited group of subjects, and thus on the classical side to leave school entirely ignorant of natural science and on the science side to have no mastery of English … the fault lies in the pressure exerted by boys and their parents to specialise in subjects in which examination success opens the gate to material prosperity …These remarks are not drawn from any report on the students of West Africa but are drawn from the report of the Medical Committee of the Royal College of Physicians presided over by Lord Moran, and reporting on British students. It is the verdict of teachers of all ages as to the unsatisfactory nature of the student.
The problem of education in subjects where the West is predominant is difficult enough. It is, I think, still more difficult in the case of African subjects such as agriculture. It is mainly a peasant agriculture in Africa, but anyone who sets about teaching the peasant agriculture will generally find that the simplest way to realise why a peasant is doing a thing, is to try to do something else. It is all the more dangerous when the African economy is changing over towards an export trade. The flow of foodstuffs oversea raises problems in the exporting country which we are only beginning to realise. It is selling the country. Quite apart from the dangers to the agricultural system by a change-over to unfamiliar techniques, of which the American dustbowl is perhaps one of the most vivid illustrations, there is what one might call a hidden soil erosion not less dangerous than the tearing off of the top-soil of the country by flood waters and throwing it down rivers. I quote from the report of two scientists on crop production and soil fertility problems in West Africa, Mr. Sampson and Mr. Crowther. The said 392it must be remembered that the products with most phosphorus—the grains and seeds of cotton and groundnut—are either consumed as human food or exported. The balance cannot be maintained unless additional phosphate is brought in from elsewhere, either as litter and fodder from bush or pastures outside the farm, or as fertilizers … Much of the phosphorus from the Nigerian farms finds it way back to the soil on British farms, and not on Nigerian ones … In the 1930's British farmers bought in imported feeding stuffs far more nitrogen than in fertilisers, and as much phosphate and potash as in the whole of their superphosphate and potassic fertilisers.That is a danger which we are only beginning to realise.
§ Mr. Wootton-Davies (Heywood and Radcliffe)
Can we get this thing right? The Japanese had just the same problem in Manchuria with soya beans. What did they do? They crushed the seed, exported the oil and used the cake or meal on the land—that was one means of getting protein and phosphatides back on the land. Could not the African do just the same thing? We are exporting the whole seed from Africa.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
My hon. Friend is a great expert on African oil products. I would not like to say what the remedy for this is. A remedy for getting the stuff back on the land is the use of stock, but that is very difficult in a country where, owing to insect pests, ordinary cattle are practically unknown. There is another way of dealing with it. The substance can be exported, and what has been taken out can be replaced in the form of fertilisers of the soil. The export is taking place now and the fertilisers are not being added to the soil.
In addition to the soil erosion which is one of the great problems of Africa, there is thus also an invisible erosion whereby important elements such as phosphoros are being exported, and are not being replaced. That seems to me, in its turn, to point to the great desirability of associating ourselves closely with the people of the land on the basis of theory and practice, which is the motto of the great English agricultural societies, and which I think will need to be the motto of those who are bringing the new techniques to the native African population.
A certain humility will not be out of place in our approach to these people. I have heard it said by African friends of mine that to read the ordinary history 393 books one would think that Africans had never done anything towards the development of Africa, and that it did not really begin until the Europeans arrived. They, naturally, feel a certain sense of injustice about that. After all, they have been there a long time, and they have a good deal of history which they in their turn think has had something to do with the development of their country. I think the arrogance of the Western world in dealing with primitive populations is undoubtedly one of the things of which we shall have to divest ourselves. There are long traditions in those countries which it is necessary for us to take carefully into account. There, too, it seems to me, the line points most clearly towards a sufficient amount of education both on their part and ours to enable us to come closer together and understand each what the other one says.
It is impossible in the short space of time we have at our disposal to-day to do more than touch on some of the problems which will particularly affect this House in its relations with the great West African group of Colonies. I can only say that having had the opportunity more than once of visiting these great areas, I am more and more impressed with the enormous potentialities, both of good and of evil, which lie in the coming of the knowledge of the West to these peoples. I am sure we shall require to devote an increasing amount of attention to them in the near future, because the speed of everything has so enormously increased in these days that a slight error of direction in the steering, which would be negligible if one were going at five miles an hour, may, when the world is going at 50, 60 or 80 miles an hour, hurl the whole vehicle into the ditch and wreck it for good. Our close attention in this House as a whole, not through a committee of expert Members, and not through a committee of expert bureaucrats, will be more than ever necessary in the years to come. I hope very much that, even this Session, it will be possible for us still to have further opportunities of examining these great problems.
§ Mr. de Rothschild (Isle of Ely)
Both the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman who have addressed this Committee to-day devoted some attention to the question that has often been raised in this House at the instigation of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the 394 Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald), namely, that of setting up a Committee of this House to sit separately and Look into Colonial matters.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
Well, a Standing Committee on which this House would be represented by a number of Members, to look into Colonial matters. I entirely share the view of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) inasmuch as I think that to set up any such kind of committee, which would, so to say, put the Minister himself into commission, could not help in any way in the conduct of Colonial affairs. Moreover, I think this system of having outside commissions or bodies with more or less executive powers is one which in other countries has been conducive to disrupting the Parliamentary system, and I hope that it will not be adopted here. An idea that I have put forward before and which I think is constructive, is that there should be an advisory committee called to this country with representatives from the Colonies themselves, elected or chosen as the case may be, according to the development of those Colonies, who would sit here in London and debate either in public or private the affairs of the Colonial Empire in general, and who at their private sittings would be able to invite all the Members of both Houses of Parliament who are interested in Colonial affairs.
Time is short and I should like shortly to address myself more particularly to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. When I addressed a few remarks to him a month ago he accused me in his courteous reply of acidity. I must say that hurt me a great deal. I consider myself to be a very mild man, and I am very sorry if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman detected any acidity in my remarks. I can only put it down to his own political stomach, and I hope he will be able to absorb enough pepsin during the course of this Debate to find at the end of it that my remarks to-day have not been so acid.
The last Debate took place on a very fortunate date for this country, though it was possibly, in some ways, an unfortunate one for the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. It may have been a good omen for the Colonial Secretary's plans 395 that the development of the Colonies was discussed on such an ample scale on the day of our first landing in Normandy on a mission of liberation.
In his speech on that occasion the right hon. and gallant Gentleman very fully described the machinery he has set up for the development of the Colonies. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) has devoted the greater part of his speech to discussing those proposals. He has discussed the method and the machinery which would be applied, and he has advocated that some Members of Parliament should be included on these Commissions. On the other hand, I should like to congratulate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on including Members of Parliament, as he has done, on a few of them already, because I know that formerly members of these Committees have been discouraged, when they have become members of Parliament, from continuing on those committees. The hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), I believe, was a member of the Colonial Loans Advisory Committee, and when he became a Member of this House it was intimated to him, I believe, that he had better resign his function on it. The Colonial Office seems to have changed its method and I am glad to see that a few Members of Parliament have been appointed to these Committees. Perhaps I might congratulate the party above the Gangway that two of their own Members have been appointed to these Committees. When the Minister, in his last speech, described this machinery, he gave us great hopes. He described it in a very general manner, and did not tell us how soon the results of the deliberations of these Committees would be made public, and how soon they could be put into practice.
The most burning topic at present is demobilisation. Plans for providing employment for the demobilised will be needed as soon as the war ends, and we have often been told that the war may end sooner than we expected. I agree that, as regards demobilisation for the Colonials serving in the Forces, the urgency may not be so great as it is for members of the European and American Forces, because they will be serving, no doubt, in the war against Japan, where they are at present doing doughty service. That will give the Minister a little more time. Still, he has spoken of hundreds 396 of thousands of Colonial members of the Forces. Will the machinery produce the plans to cope with this in time?
As regards our own country, the Government claim that reorganisation plans are well advanced. We are now discussing in Parliament the acquisition of land for houses, and the President of the Board of Trade, a few weeks ago, outlined a scheme for the location of industry. We all hope that these plans, ample or meagre as they may be, will come into operation soon after the war, and that they will create occupation for the Homeland. Will the Colonies also have their plans ready? As regards demobilisation, there is no doubt that the Colonial Secretary will have, on the whole, an easier task, because development in the Colonies will have to begin from the ground up. The material background of civilised life must be established in the Colonies. This country has been living and developing for the last 2,000 years against a background of civilisation. The Romans built roads in this country 2,000 years ago, but 100 years ago there were no roads in the African Colonies, and to-day there are not many. There are very few communications of any kind—railways, roads, bridges. It is not surprising that the "Manchester Guardian" was able to say that, in social conditions, the Colonies, especially Africa, were 100 years behind this country. It is only surprising that they are not more than 100 years behind. That is to the credit of the Colonial Power and of the Colonists themselves. The need for this basic development applies more especially to the African territories. The Malayan problem is of a different kind. There, of course, much basic work remains to be done; but we shall have to deal there with a problem akin to the problem of the devastated countries, which we are liberating at present, in Europe. Like the ravaged countries of Europe, the ravaged country of Malaya will have to be rehabilitated: but, obviously, precise plans cannot be made at present.
I hope that the Minister will not think of the demobilisation problem simply as one of finding jobs for idle hands. He will have at his disposal superb human material, such as has never been available in the Colonies before, and I trust that he will use it to the best advantage, to carry out the work which is so much needed. The quality of this material is 397 quite a new thing. The finest of the young Colonials have gone into the Forces. They have seen other countries, they have mixed with people of other lands, they have acquired education and technical training. It is to the credit of the War Office, and of the manner in which these young Colonials have been commanded by their officers, that they have attained such a degree of efficiency and education. They have attained in war-time a degree of efficiency and education which in peace-time the Colonial Office had not been able to give them. The Colonial Photographic Exhibition, which was possibly a paltry affair, was still very interesting, and it showed natives of the Colonies in all the different walks of military life. Nobody could have failed to be thrilled and inspired by seeing all the many occupations which these men have filled. It gave me great satisfaction, in particular, to see the picture of a young man from British Honduras, dressed in the uniform of an Air Force sergeant, who was acting as a navigator, the most difficult, the most highly skilled and technical trade in the Air Force. Besides the men in the Forces, the Minister will also have at his disposal many men who have learned technical jobs and who have displayed skill in the Government workshops which have been set up in the Colonies to fulfil military needs. I hope that his plans will give full play to this magnificent human material. It will certainly give Colonial development a great impetus.
The Colonial Secretary spoke of coordinating development within the Colonies by regional schemes. I was bold enough to interrupt, and to ask whether the colonies of other nations would be included as well in the regional arrangements. He answered that that would came out in the wash. So far as I am concerned, the wash is still in the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's basket.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did use that expression. I took particular notice of it. I was particularly glad to see that he indicated that, so far as our British Colonies are concerned, the largest regional arrangements would be made, 398 that there would be no overlapping of industries, and that they would all be helped to find a place where they were needed and where they would be useful. The Colonial Secretary said on that occasion that we must make certain that a Colony with a more active driving force at its head was not going farther ahead than one which was more supine. I sincerely hope that this was merely a lapsus linguae. I trust that the pace will not be that of the slowest, the most retrograde, the least developed, but that of the most active, with the keenest and most enlightened Governors. I know that there may be physical difficulties, but there should not be a slowing down of those which are doing well, but a hastening up of those which are not doing so well as yet.
The co-ordination of development, which was adumbrated and described by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, involved the question of the location of industry. The importance of this was clearly shown in the Debate concerning the location of industry in our own country. The President of the Board of Trade then gave us an example. He pointed out that the Severn needed a new bridge below Gloucester, in order to solve communication problems with South Wales, and he added that the construction of this bridge was part of a plan to weave all our industries into a national pattern. The same identical problem—on a different scale, it is true, and of a different nature—arises in the Colonies. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will see that the Colonial industries also are woven into a general Colonial pattern, fully integrated with the groundwork of any plan of Colonial development.
Several times the Colonial Secretary and his predecessors have foreshadowed the development of secondary industries in our Colonies, but we have been given very few details. We have heard little about it so far, but gradually information is seeping out about what is taking place in industrial development, in West Africa in particular. For instance, I have been given to understand that a scheme for the manufacture of cocoa butter was started in the Gold Coast. Now this scheme, which was taken up only a year or 18 months ago, has been abandoned. I gather that this is because the equip- 399 ment was inefficient. The Governor of the Gold Coast made this quite clear, in a statement that he made in the Colony he so ably administers. I hope that local industries are not going to be discouraged in Africa because their equipment is inefficient, and the development transferred to this country. Our remedy should be to equip those industries as quickly as we can and to make it possible for them to process what they grow in their countries. The cocoa butter should be processed in Africa, under the best conditions, with the best machinery, and with the best equipment. That is the duty of this country to the Colonies; not to draw from the Colonies their natural products and to process them in this country, even if it is cheaper to do it here at present. Every encouragement should be given to the Colonies to improve their material and their equipment. We also hear that other industries have been started in West Africa—fish curing, the preparation of hides for tanning, starch production, and soap making. I see that the Minister has an able substitute sitting on the Front Bench at present, and I hope that he will give us some information about these industries. The House is anxious to have details, not only general information. We want to know whether these industries are to be part of a unified plan for the development of West Africa, and what chance they have of progressing.
But the most important industry in the Colonies must remain agriculture. The Minister himself has emphasised that. Here, again, we might take an example for the Colonies from the way in which we administer our own affairs in this country. Here the Minister of Agriculture has announced a four-year plan for agriculture. Has the Colonial Secretary a four-year plan for the agriculture of the Colonies? What, for instance, is to happen to the agriculturists of East Africa? What is to happen to the sisal growers? The Minister, in his speech last month, said he had been forced to put great pressure on the sisal growers to expand the output in order to replace manila hemp for the sailors of the Allied Fleets. What is he going to do for the pyrethrum growers? Pyrethrum is essential, as the Minister explained to us, as an insecticide, which is more used in war time than in peace time. I do not say insecticides are 400 more necessary, but they are more used, and I hope the Minister will get in touch, for instance, with the people who are dealing with the liberated countries, where insecticides will be so necessary, and that he will see that these pyrethrum growers and the workers they employ are not thrown out of employment.
Of course, there will be other markets for this produce. There will be the liberated countries. But is the Minister taking this up with the other Government Departments? Is he taking it up with U.N.R.R.A. and with the Department of Overseas Trade? We must recognise our responsibility to the producers, to these pioneers in the Colonies and the men they employ. We have recognised our responsibility to the men in the Forces, and we must not neglect these also. Do not let us forget that, only a few months ago, a shiver went through the minefields of Rhodesia when the Colonial Office announced that they were reducing their purchases of copper, and the men feared that they would be thrown out of employment. These fears must not be realised.
I agree with the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley), and I trust that private enterprise will be given full scope. The Colonial Office could never provide all the necessary finance. Private enterprise can take more risks, and, therefore, embark on enterprises which a Government would leave untouched. I hope that, if commercial firms are encouraged to come in, they will also be able to make preliminary surveys of national resources. This is most essential. It is most valuable to them that they should be able to send men out to inspect and prospect and study the situation, but, better still, I suggest to the Minister that the Colonial Office should do this work for them. Sir Alan Pim, who is very well known in this House and is very well versed in Colonial matters, has pointed out the inadequacy of our information on these matters, and has said that a survey should have a high place in the order of priorities. I think that if a general survey, difficult as it is, of all the resources of the Colonial Empire was made, and the results were placed at the disposal of manufacturers and industrialists in this country, it would be of immense service, and I think the Colonial Secretary would earn the gratitude of the whole commercial and industrial community.
401 But if private enterprise is encouraged, there must be no slackening of the safeguards to prevent commercial firms gaining economic control, and I say this because we have in West Africa, not far from our own Colony, an example which I hope will not be followed in the British Empire. I am thinking of the position of the doubtfully-free Liberian Republic. There, the Firestone Company of America has established a strangle-hold. I am glad that, so far as West Africa is concerned, similar steps by commercial firms, on the scale on which the Firestone Company has put a strangle-hold upon Liberia, have constantly been resisted.
The Colonial Secretary has all the requisites of a successful plan and all the resources and human material to work it, but he will also have resources of inanimate material. The other day the Government published a plan for the disposal of its surplus stores, and I understand that this is to be discussed in this House next week. In this document, which is very exhaustive, the word "Colonies" never occurs, and yet what about the vehicles and machines of all kinds and the huge surplus stocks after the war? The interesting thing about the White Paper is that it states that no goods are to be considered surplus which may be required for any public purpose. I can imagine no better or more useful public purpose than the development of the Colonies, but there is not one word in the White Paper about that. I hope the Minister has not been asleep, but that he has put in his claim. The White Paper states that there are also those goods which can only be used in industry, and I gather that these are mainly going to industrial firms and are not to be disposed of for public purposes. I hope that this is not going to be the case, for these goods should be particularly useful in developing our Colonial industries.
The White Paper refers to a very gradual disposal of these surplus goods. I hope that, if some of them are to go to the Colonies, there will not be this gradual disposal, but that the Colonies will be able to make use of them as required by the purposes of Colonial development uninfluenced by the other considerations put forward in the White Paper. Much of this material will be required for the liberated territories, but Colonial development is a public purpose 402 of the first order, and I hope the Colonial Secretary will see to it that this purpose is not overlooked. I hope he will make full use of this opportuniity, as well as of his other great opportunities, and will satisfy the Committee on this point.
§ Captain Cobb (Preston)
The Debate has lasted for two hours and only three hon. Members have addressed the Committee. One cannot help feeling that those three hon. Members who preceded me have not had a great deal of consideration for other hon. Members who wish to take part in the Debate. I hope to make my remarks as short as possible, so that other people, on this very restricted day, may have an opportunity of addressing the Committee. These Debates on Colonial affairs nowadays are confined almost entirely to future operations of the Colonial Welfare and Development Act and the way in which the Fund should be administered. It is about that, and about its effect on the Colonial Empire, that I wish to speak. Although the purpose of the Act is to effect a great measure of development in the Colonies, and although it will undobtedly have that effect, there is a very real danger that it may restrict development, and for this reason.
The Colonial Development Fund is limited to £5,000,000 a year for 10 years, and this may mean that the Colonial Secretary will find himself obliged to disapprove good and desirable schemes because the cost of those schemes would throw his programme for Colonial development out of balance. The Minister is bound to be influenced, not only by the balance of the scheme affecting other operations within the Colony itself, but also by the balance of programme for the whole of the Colonial Empire. To take an example, if some West African Colony put up a scheme for eradicating the mosquito and tsetse fly, which would take about 10 years to complete and would cost about £20,000 in its first year or two and rise to possibly £200,000, or something of that kind, during the last year or two, while it might be a perfectly feasible proposition to get that scheme started in the early days of the operation of the Development Fund, it would be very difficult in later years, when other schemes of that kind would have also increased their annual cost, for the Colonial Secretary to find it possible to sanction 403 these schemes on account of the enormous cost involved.
The Minister gave a reasonably satisfying assurance on the last occasion when we debated Colonial Affairs that we need not necessarily take it that that £5,000,000 was an absolute limit, but that there was a possibility that it could be increased. That is a very satisfactory assurance, so far as it goes, but one has to remember that the Colonies will not be, by any means, the only competitors for public expenditure. We are committed already to an immense financial post-war programme, and it will, I believe, be extremely difficult to find anything very much in excess of this £5,000,000 a year, to which we are committed. I hope that the House will show, in the post-war years, that it is as actively concerned about the welfare of Colonial subjects as it is about the welfare of the people of this country.
I want to raise the matter of the public debt in the Colonies, because I think the time has arrived when Colonial loans should be raised by the Treasury at the same rate of interest which Government loans carry. I understand it is a general thing for a Colony to pay as much as 5 per cent. on its loans, with the result that there are some Colonies which are paying approximately 25 per cent. of their total revenue in interest on their loans. There is no doubt at all that a great deal could be done by the Treasury to ease this very heavy burden on the individual Colonies.
We have had mention of self-government during the Debate. I hope that we are all clear about this; although we want to do everything we possibly can to encourage the native population of our Colonies so to educate and develop themselves that they may be able to govern themselves in due time, self-government of the Colonies must not involve any abdication of our own responsibilities. I place very high—in fact in the forefront of our responsibilities—the protection of the minority populations within the Colonies themselves. The Colonial Secretary informed us the other day that he is sending out a Commission in due course to Ceylon to inquire into the future Constitution of that Colony. That is a Colony where the minority question is a very active one and I certainly hope—and I am sure that we all do—that whatever 404 Constitution is evolved as a result of this Commission's inquiries, it will be a great deal more successful than was the case of the Donoughmore Commission, whose recommendations were accepted and have been so unfortunate in their effect.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) is a member of the Colonial Education Committee and has recently paid a visit to the West African Colonies. If I may say so without offence, I cannot help feeling that, judging by his last speech on Colonial affairs, that visit of his had a very considerable educational effect upon him, and I do not think there is any question that his journey was not only necessary but extremely beneficial. But if we are—as I hope we are—in the course of our development of the Colonies to improve and widen elementary educational facilities in our African Colonies, I hope that a great deal is going to be done to help our missionary schools. As in this country, so in the Colonies the Churches who have been the responsible pioneers in the work of education have done the job within their limited means extremely well, but they are not able, so I understand, to pay the kind of salaries to attract sufficient teachers or, in many cases, as good teachers as they would like. The best way in which we could develop our educational facilities in our native Colonies would be very largely to increase the financial aid which we give to the Church missions.
University education is bound to be of fairly slow growth but there is no reason, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) said, why we should feel that we can do nothing in the sphere of university education until we have a completely literate and educated population. That does not follow at all. There is a certain amount of education of a university standard being carried on in the Gold Coast and Nigeria at this moment. I do not know what the recommendations of that Commission, of which my right hon. and gallant Friend was Chairman, and of which the hon. Member for Shipley was a member, are likely to be, but I hope that they may recommend that those faculties which exist now in Nigeria and in the Gold Coast may be increased where they are necessary so that they can in time form the nucleus of a full-blooded 405 university for the Colony itself. There is nothing of that kind, so I understand, in Sierra Leone. We would have to start with, I should imagine, one West African university, with faculties distributed throughout the three West African colonies and possibly, when the demand and need for university education becomes a great deal wider, those individual faculties could form the nucleus of a colonial university.
§ Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)
On a small point of correction I would like to say that in Sierra Leone there is the Fourah Bay College and that some of the students of that College graduate from Durham University.
§ Captain Cobb
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend for his information. I have not any doubt at all that it will prove to be a far more satisfactory business for the African student himself to have his university education in his own country rather than to come here, and that applies to the native of any non-European country. Nine times out of ten a period of residence as a student in this country is unsettling. The student goes back to his own country, very often finding it difficult to settle down, and I have not any doubt at all that we should be doing these students infinitely more good if we provided them with adequate university education in their own countries. I want to say a word about recruitment for the Colonial Service. I have no doubt that my right hon. and gallant Friend has this matter very closely in his mind. I am convinced that he will have no difficulty in finding all the really good, suitable recruits he wants. I found during my contacts with the Colonial Service in Africa that it always has attracted the first-class type of Englishman, and there can be no higher praise than that.
§ Captain Cobb
When I talk about England, I always include the suburbs. We want not only to maintain that very high standard, but to increase the number of the personnel. I do not believe it is untrue to say that, for the most part, our Colonies are very much under-staffed where the Colonial service is concerned, and it is essential, especially in view of the immense increase in the responsibili- 406 ties and activities which will take place as a result of the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, that we should very considerably increase the Colonial Civil Service staff.
I want to say, in conclusion, that we have heard on many occasions in these Colonial Debates of the wonderful military effort which the natives of our Colonies have contributed not only to this war but to the last war. I hope that we are going to say, when the war is over, that we are very conscious of the debt which we owe to these subjects of ours for their loyalty and gallantry in many a stricken field. There are a great number of them. They have served in Abyssinia and East Africa, and a considerable number of West African soldiers are now serving in Burma. I hope that when they come home they will come home to something which is really worth while. We are very conscious of the debt we owe to our own British men, and I hope we shall show in the years to come that we are able and willing to repay the very great debt which we owe to these splendid people in our Colonial Empire.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I hope that I shall be excused if I do not follow the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Captain Cobb). Rather would I seek to limit myself in the short time at my disposal to putting a few points to the Colonial Secretary. I have taken an interest in Colonial affairs for a shorter time, probably, than many of those who may be participating in this Debate. I believe that I am only representative of the people throughout the country in so far as they are taking an increasing interest in Colonial matters. I feel that Parliament is taking an increasing interest in these affairs and I hope that the Press will be helpful to Parliament, to the people and to the Colonies in reflecting that increased interest in the affairs of the Colonies. But, with it all, our sources of information are far too limited. We have occasionally a Government White Paper and a report of a Commission, but there are no statistical surveys available to us, and we do not have the necessary information on commerce, trade and population to equip us properly to give the benefit of our counsel and advice to the Secretary of State.
I would ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether we could not have 407 a comprehensive survey of the Colonial Empire, backed by reports from the individual Colonies, at the earliest possible moment. As things are, it is far too difficult to follow the progress of development in the Colonies, though surely there is some progress and development. My hon. Friend who is at present representing the Secretary of State for the Colonies on the Front Bench will agree that even the Colonial Development and Welfare Reports deal only with the special schemes and that a broad picture is left out. Could we not have an annual report on the Colonial Empire relating the work of the Colonial Office and reviewing the progress made? I believe something very like this was done in the years immediately before the war and it is a great pity that war needs compelled the Colonial Office to forgo that practice. I sincerely trust that the Secretary of State will investigate the possibility of re-adopting that practice as soon as possible.
In the last Debate we had on these matters there was a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor), who dealt at length with affairs in Malaya. What concerned me was not so much that the hon. Member should make his observations on Malaya —although I did not agree with him—as that the Secretary of State, in reply, seemed to accept holus bolus everything that he had said. He said it was an admirable analysis of the situation. It seemed to me that the hon. Member had been advising the Government to get back to the whole set-up in Malaya at the earliest possible moment, and when the Secretary of State agreed so whole-heartedly with his speech, that appeared to me to be the policy of the Colonial Office. That was the only inference I could draw from the Secretary of State's reference to the speech.
It may be that there has been some unjustifiable criticism of our Colonial administration following on the fall of Singapore, but I would suggest in all seriousness that there is a lesson to be learned from the fall of Singapore and what has happened in Malaya in this war. I would suggest that the Government ought to be more closely associated with the people. Although there is a racial problem in Malaya, there is no purpose whatever in ignoring it. Although it is there, that 408 does not justify us in continuing as we were, and seeking to get back to the old organisation of government at the earliest possible moment. Having regard to these racial differences, an effort ought to be made to secure a community of interest. Why should not the Chinese, Indians and Malayans have that community of interest extended if at all possible, and surely it is possible? I am sure I speak for hon. Members on these benches when I say we will not condone the restoration of the old set-up, politically or economically, as if nothing at all had happened out there. We want some public control over economic development and the utilisation of natural resources. We want some welfare development and, above all, we want to see better conditions of labour.
§ Captain Gammans (Hornsey)
I hope the hon. Member will excuse the interruption, but is he suggesting that there was no welfare development in Malaya? Does he realise that, in certain directions of social service, Malaya actually preceded this country?
§ Mr. Fraser
So far as my information on Malaya goes, the welfare services were not sufficient and, so far as I can gather, could do with some improvement. The conditions of labour could also be improved.
§ Captain Gammans
But does the hon. Member not think, before he gives this general criticism of Malaya, that he might at least inform himself as to what the social services were?
§ Mr. Fraser
I think I am on fairly sound ground in suggesting that there was something wrong in Malaya when it fell so very rapidly in this war, and it seems to me that the Government were not sufficiently closely associated with the people in Malaya. I am only suggesting that an effort should be made to associate ourselves more closely with the Malayan people, and that we should seek to extend the services there. I think I am justified in making those suggestions. It may be that my hon. and gallant Friend has access to information which I have not, and indeed——
§ Mr. Fraser
I said it was much too difficult for us to get information concerning the Colonies, but I am not prepared 409 to accept the inference that the social services in Malaya were indeed adequate.
I was saying that we do not want to return to the old set-up because that is what seemed to me to be accepted by the Secretary of State when he made his reply to the speech in the last Debate to which I have referred. I do not think we ought to hasten to put the Sultans back as if they were really indispensable to good government. I do not think they are, and I hope we shall all frown on an over-hasty return to the sort of government we had. That is an alternative point of view and I only put it because I believe it had to be put to-day. I hope the Secretary of State will pay some attention to it.
It seems to me that the Secretary of State ought to be able to make a statement one of these days as to the future of Hong Kong. As is known to everyone, this is a matter of concern in China, and has been the subject of comment in America. Apart from being a matter of concern in China and a matter of comment in America, surely it is something to which we in this country should pay some attention from time to time? I would submit that it is very doubtful if Hong Kong has any longer any strategic importance, but it is continuing to be a thorn in the flesh of the Chinese who want the integrity and full unity of their country and, I think, very naturally so. Some decision should be made concerning Hong Kong. At least the Secretary of State could tell us whether we can expect some cessation in regard to the area on lease. We ask, and I think it is a fair question, whether that area could be surrendered to the Chinese before the expiration of the lease. Such a step would surely make for good will between the Chinese and ourselves. I would beg the Secretary of State to tell us something of the attitude of his office to these matters at the earliest opportunity. We know that there again he may tell us that there is a problem arising from the complication of nationalities, and so on, and the establishment of institutions in Hong Kong. However, it would be helpful to all of us in this Committee, and to the House generally, and it would be conducive, I think, to increasing good will between ourselves and the Chinese if the Secretary of State would make some pronouncement on that very important matter.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I have no desire to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Fraser) on his extraordinary ideas in regard to Hong Kong, particularly in regard to our relationship wtih China and in view of the great benefits afforded the Chinese throughout the long period of British occupation. I rather want to press one point and one only on my right hon. and gallant Friend the Colonial Secretary. I yield to none in my respectful appreciation of his policy or in my admiration of the new spirit he has brought to bear in the discharge of his great office but I would, with the same measure of respect, urge him to consider very carefully whether the execution of these policies will have their full effect or will not be at any rate grievously retarded if he does not adjust our Colonial administrative machinery to the new economic and the new social policy which are wrapped up in the Colonial Development Act. Because, if you look at the map, you will find that our Colonies are made up of an enormous number of separate and very often very small jurisdictions. That arose in part from their history, and it was maintained owing to the deficiency in communications. Those conditions, I would suggest to my right hon. Friend, have long since passed. The time has arrived for closer union rendered immediately practicable by the development of communications and in particular the rapid advance of air transport. The outstanding case is that of the West Indies—but I do not wish to touch upon the West Indies at this moment. I believe there are 14 separate jurisdictions in those islands and I am assured by those who have a recent and intimate knowledge of the West Indies that federation is in my right hon. Friend's hands to-day if he likes to take the initiative and the resolution to carry it into effect.
I want to speak very briefly upon those parts of the Colonial Empire which have been specially brought before us to-day, East Africa and West Africa. I would like to emphasise, with all the energy I command, that the federation for East Africa under one Governor-Generalship and the federation for West Africa under one Governor-Generalship are a paramount necessity to-day if our new policy is to find it full and speedy fruition. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) 411 said they—that mysterious "they"—are against federation in West Africa. When he was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) whom he meant by "they", I think he found it very hard to give an answer. My right hon. Friend will recollect reading that fascinating romance by Alphonse Daudet, Tartarin de Tarascon, and how Tartarin was always cautious of "they" lurking behind doors and gates. On the question of West Africa, we were told that units of administration were sometimes so small that "they" did not give an opportunity for a full political life and yet "they" were opposed to the federation, which would open up a larger political and economic life to those communities.
§ Colonel Stanley
My right hon. Friend meant the units of administration inside the Colony, and cited a small number of native authorities. He did not say Sierra Leone.
§ Sir S. Reed
But he was talking of small units of administration, if I may say so with respect, not affording a full opportunity for political activity and, at the same time, he stated that the mysterious "they" were against federation. That, I venture to submit, was a self-destructive argument. If I liked to take analogies from other parts of the British Empire I could show conclusively that small units of administration are always backward and always retrograde, because they do not afford full opportunity, and their best brains always migrate to the larger units where there is a better and freer life.
Touching on the question of East African and West African Colonies and the necessity for federation, it is true that you have Governors' conferences. But what happens if the Governors in the adjoining Provinces are not on friendly terms or cannot agree? Who decides between them? When and where these differences obtain you immediately come to the conclusion that the conferences are sterile and we are forced into the wholly irregular, if necessary, proceeding of having a Minister of State in West Africa in order to find one high individual to whom the Government can appeal and who can give decisions. I feel I must have misheard my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove, who seemed to make the perfectly astounding sug- 412 gestion that when the Minister of State was withdrawn there should be appointed an extra Parliamentary Secretary who would go there and assume his dictatorial functions in his stead. I hesitate to think that that could have been his idea. However, such was the impression that I got, but if on reading the OFFICIAL REPORT. I find that that was not his intention, then I will withdraw what I have said.
Let us look for a moment to inquire how these separate administrations in the same geographical area hold back progress. In Kenya there has been produced a complete, bold and resolute programme for development over the post-war years. The Rhodesians have done the same. I want to ask my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State what has been done in Tanganyika, what has been done with the Report presented by the Governor's own Committee in 1940 urging the importance of a certain measure of non-African settlement in Tanganyika as the only means of effectively producing a rapid extension of agricultural and industrial development in that area? For four years this Report has lain in a pigeonhole, while in the adjoining Colony very substantial progress has been made. It seems inconceivable that if those four territories were united under a single Governor-General there would not be coordinated development rather than unco-ordinated development in one part and stagnation in the other.
We are embarking, with full approval of all parties in the House, on an economic and social policy for the Colonies and we are to try and administer that through a Civil Service. Nobody has a higher opinion of the Civil Service, and especially our Colonial Civil Service, than I have, in its proper function, which is the administrative sphere. But I do not think you will ever have a bold economic and social policy from the Civil Service. It is not their function. Although nobody would deny to civil servants their natural ambition to rise to the head of these Federated Provinces I think it would be a most beneficial step if, on occasion, Governors-General were drawn from the ranks of public life in this country. It would mean that they would take out with them a broader conception of their duties, and the political experience which goes with our public life. In some respects the Imperial Parliament is 413 rich in men with overseas experience but I believe there is only one Member who has ever held high administrative office in any part of our Colonial Empire. I feel that if, on occasion, we could draw on our public life for these Governors-General—which have to be created and will be created; the longer they are postponed the more ineffective will be the execution of our new policies—we should add immensely to the political and economic life of the territories concerned and we should at the same time strengthen our own sources of knowledge on their return to take part in our discussions. I do, in all seriousness, and with great respect, press these administrative changes on my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State, because I am convinced that they are essential to the speedy fruition of his own policies and that without them we shall not find progress is as rapid as he and the House would like it to be.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
There are only nine minutes left before we turn our attention, by the Rules of the House, to another subject, but I think that time will be sufficient for me to put to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies a definite and unequivocal point of view. I have the advantage over every other Member who has taken part in this Debate to-day. I know nothing about the Colonies, except from a cursory reading of the subject. Almost every other Member who has spoken to-day has visited the Colonies at some time or the other, and is fully acquainted with all sorts of matters relative to the Colonial situation, such as federation, higher and lower education, agriculture, and the like. I have no desire to offend, although I think that on occasion it is desirable to be offensive in these matters in order to induce a measure of progress, but those who have taken part in this Debate seem to be suffering from this defect: they cannot see the wood for the trees. In particular, do I complain of those who have dragged in the past. Every one who has studied the history of this country, and particularly the history of our Colonial administration, deplores many of the defects of past administration, but what has that to do with the present situation and with the future of our Colonies, or indeed with the world at large?
414 We must turn our attention to the future and the one question I want to address to the Minister—which it does not seem to have occurred to anybody to put —is, What is the Government's policy for the Colonies? The Minister has been congratulated by some, and others have deplored the fact that he has not done enough. I am not speaking of a policy of setting up committees, of selecting advisers, of a policy relating to education or of inducing the Minister to send a commission to any part of the Colonies. What I am concerned about is what is the general policy of the Government in relation to the situation we envisage when the war is over.
What is their policy in the economic sense? How do they envisage the economic development and expansion of our Colonies? When I speak of the Colonies I address myself particularly to the African Colonies, where there is almost unlimited scope for development. I appreciate the difficulties of illiteracy and of the peasantry with their primitive methods in agriculture. I recognise the difficulties of transport, but surely it is within our province to overcome all these difficulties. We must overcome them if we are to enhance the economic prestige of this country and the Empire at large. I am bound to say that I detect no advanced policy such as seems to be necessary in the circumstances. I am aware that the Minister is working under extreme limitations, that it may be difficult for him to speak—although it is not difficult for me or other Members to speak—and that he is working under a financial limitation which means that at the outside he cannot spend more than £5,000,000 a year——
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am aware of that, even although I do not know so much about the Colonies as my hon. Friend. Members can pick up these trifles but I am concerned with the substance of Colonial development and I link it up with the development of the Empire and this country. As I was saying I recognise the Minister's limitations but I also recognise something else, which ought to be said. My right hon. and gallant Friend and I do not see eye to eye politically, but I recognise that his heart and soul are in the desire to make the best of his job. He has not made the best of other jobs in the 415 past, but I will let that fly stick to the wall. That is the past. I am convinced that he wants to make the best of this job—and a fine thing too—but if he intends to do so, if the Government wish to succeed in putting self-government on its feet, and in ensuring educational advancement, and the like, large sums of money must be placed at his disposal by the Government, even if it means some measure of sacrifice by people in this country in order to achieve what we desire. We cannot have it both ways. We must spend more than a miserable £5,000,000, and sometimes we do not spend all that. The Minister may say that he cannot spend money now, that there is no opportunity at the moment. I am not asking him for that. I am asking him to take the large view, to use his imagination, to bring vision to his assistance and to regard this as one of the largest schemes which the Government must tackle. If the Minister does not gain the support of the House in a matter of this sort then we do not deserve to have any Colonies. The attendance in the Committee at least up to this point, and some of the speeches which have been made, seem to justify the observation that we do not deserve any Colonies.
We want more Colonial Debates. After all, 60,000,000 people are concerned. We are discussing education, agriculture, economic development and self-government, but there are a thousand and one other questions to be discussed. Therefore, the Minister should have courage and go to the Government, and in particular the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with the undivided support of this House and say, "We want more money. We want to promote schemes, we will use expert advice and accept all the guidance that the House can offer us, but we are determined to secure the economic and social advancement of the Colonies at the earliest possible moment." I believe that my right hon. and gallant Friend is prepared to do that. If he does he will be making a contribution not merely to the advancement of our Colonies but to the advancement, social and otherwise, of this country.
§ Mr. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
In the short time which is available before we get on to the next Business, I would like to reinforce what has been said by 416 the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shin-well). I am delighted that he has recognised that this country must make sacrifices for her Colonies and their development, in order to get a higher standard of living, both in the Colonies and in this country. That is a vital fact that all parties in this House should recognise. We have heard in speeches to-day appeals for development. I do not think the Committee sufficiently realise the poverty that exists in the Colonies, especially in the African Colonies, and the little that has been done so far by this country to help forward the development of those Colonies.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) both spoke on this question of development in the African Colonies. It struck me, however, that they were dealing with the matter without appreciating what sort of development the African desired for himself. It is not a great industrial revolution which is required, but an effort to build up the standard of living, not of one or two Africans, but of the whole of the African agricultural producers——
§ It being the hour appointed for the consideration of Opposed Private Business, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.