HC Deb 16 February 1945 vol 408 cc529-33

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

11.7 a.m.

Sir Wavell Wakefield (Swindon)

On this Clause, I would like to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if, under the scheme, facilities can be provided and payments made for the development of aerodromes, and air communications, and technical training connected therewith. Clearly, if aerodromes and air communications are developed in a Colony, that will provide facilities for technical training for natives and others adjacent to the aerodromes. Is that purpose included in this Clause and in this scheme; or is it proposed to use some other fund for the development of aerodromes and air communications?

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Colonel Oliver Stanley)

The answer to the question is "Yes." Aerodromes and all other forms of communication are certainly within the scope of the Bill, and my hon. Friend will be interested to see, if he looks at the schemes already approved for the West Indies, that a good deal of money has been spent. I, myself, had the pleasure of opening the aerodrome at Belize which has been provided out of the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund.

Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)

May I ask the Colonial Secretary a question before we finish with this Clause? This sum of money is to be authorised and spent, and supervised for the Colonies by his Department. Has he any scheme in mind for consultation on a geographical basis, as it were, with the Dominions concerned? As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, his Department was responsible for obtaining this money from the Treasury. There will be no financial contribution by any of the Dominion Governments. Surely, however, that will not exclude the right hon. and gallant Gentleman from taking the opportunity to consult with those Governments, particularly on questions of agriculture, market research and so on?

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that the Prime Minister of South Africa has, from time to time, suggested a scheme for closer co-operation between the Dominions and the Colonies on a geographical or a geo-economic basis. While one did not expect the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to include a scheme of that kind in this Bill, or to set up a Commonwealth Council or a Colonial Council which would facilitate co-operation with the Dominions, the hope is expressed that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, when he has this Measure, will take the opportunity to have the closest consultation with his opposite numbers in the Dominions Governments. It is desirable to achieve the closest co-operation, not only on this question but on the question raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Sir W. Wakefield), the question of airfields and all ancillary communications, such as those referred to by Lord Reith, at the Empire Communications Conference. I feel that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is to be congratulated on this Clause, but I hope he will show some practical vision by trying to deal with this matter as a whole, as a Commonwealth and Empire matter, and not merely within the narrow confines of the Colonial Office in Whitehall.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

Before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman replies, may I raise another point on this Clause? Are we to understand that moneys allocated under this Bill can be spent on agricultural development in the Colonies and Protectorates? As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, a very excellent scheme has been put into operation in the Arusha area in Tanganyika, where many thousands of acres have been laid down to wheat and other forms of foodstuffs for the natives. It is quite obvious that, although we want to develop the Colonies in other directions, it is essential that the basis should be that of a great agricultural community. I am not quite sure, although I think it is possible, that moneys can be voted or used under this Bill to assist the natives to learn the latest forms of agriculture, and, if possible, to assist them in getting the newest forms of mechanical machinery which is so essential now, if agriculture is to be properly developed.

Colonel Lyons (Leicester, East)

Before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman replies to the questions which have been put to him, may I raise this point? We know that climates and conditions generally differ widely, and that what applies to the social and economic progress of one place, may not necessarily apply to another. But, I believe there is a field where there is a good deal of common ground, and in which progress already made in one Colony might be considered in relation to another. I want to ask whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's scheme provides some kind of machinery for such co-ordination; whether advantages already achieved in one Colony, can be applied to another Colony, so that there may be co-ordination on what is common ground between them.

Colonel Stanley

May I reply first to the important point raised by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville)? Of course it is our intention to keep in the closest possible touch with the Dominions upon these matters and already, I think, we have an increasing scale of co-operation. There is an interesting experiment in the Pacific, which we are starting now, of a joint medical service between Fiji and New Zealand, for the Pacific islands, for which they are responsible. Of course, the hon. Gentleman will recollect the statement that I made on behalf of His Majesty's Government now nearly two years ago, that we welcomed the formation of these regional commissions, where exactly the kind of co-operation which the hon. Gentleman wishes, would find a suitable place. It is, indeed, a most important point that he has stressed, and one that we have constantly in mind.

The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) asked whether, under the provisions of this Bill, money could be spent for agricultural development. The answer, emphatically, is not only that it can be spent, but that it must and will be spent; that, in fact, it is one of the chief ways in which, I anticipate, these funds are to be spent. The hon. Member is quite right. Whatever else one tries to do for the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Colonies, as far ahead as we can see agriculture will be their means of livelihood, and the prosperity of the greater number of these various territories, will always depend upon the greater prosperity of agriculture. I think that through the medium of this Fund, by better education, improving water supplies, taking measures to prevent soil erosion, and improving not only husbandry but animal breeding, we can do a great deal indeed to better the standard of life of the peasant cultivator all through the Colonial Empire. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester (Colonel Lyons) will remember that in the Second Reading Debate, I referred to the appointment of Sir Frank Stockdale as Adviser on Development to the Colonial Office. I did, indeed, anticipate that one of his functions certainly would be that to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, namely, bringing to the notice of Colonies either promising schemes or successful experiments which have been carried out by another Colony. Exchanges of that kind will, no doubt, be of the greatest value.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Remaining Clauses ordered to stand part of the Bill.

11.15 a.m.