HC Deb 16 February 1945 vol 408 cc533-52

So much of subsection (2) of section one of the said Act as requires the Secretary of State, before making any scheme under that section as respects any colony, to satisfy himself, in a case where the scheme provides for the payment of the whole or part of the cost of the execution of any works, that the law of the colony provides reasonable facilities for the establishment and activities of trade unions and that fair conditions of labour will be observed in the execution of the works, shall not have effect unless the law of the colony provides also reasonable facilities for the natives themselves to be trained for and to share in the carrying out of such works either alone or under European supervision.—[Sir W. Wakefield.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Sir W. Wakefield

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The purpose of this Clause, which has the support of my hon. Friends the Members for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and Greenock (Mr. McNeil), is to ensure that there will be reasonable facilities for natives themselves to be trained for, and share in, improvement works, either alone or under supervision, which may be carried out under the provisions of this Bill. Its purpose, also, is to strengthen the 1940 Act, and to give power to the Colonial Secretary, which he does not appear to have under that Act, to ensure that where money is being spent on any scheme in any Colony, adequate vocational training facilities should be provided for the natives there. Not only ought there to be such training facilities for natives; there also ought to be proper opportunity for the natives to carry out the technical work for which they have been trained, and which they are competent to carry out. For example, in Kenya there are vocational and native training facilities and opportunities for natives to carry out the results of their training—some of them, for instance, are driving engines—and the same thing exists in the Belgian Congo.

If, as my right hon. and gallant Friend has said, money is to be spent on communications, then quite clearly it is desirable that in all Colonies there should be opportunities for vocational and technical training, in order to do the kind of work that is done successfully elsewhere. In such technical trades as house-building, there are splendid training and vocational schemes for the natives in certain Colonies and, having been trained, the natives are able to carry out all kinds of work on house-building. If there are not these opportunities, first for training and then for achieving the results of that training, the full scope of this Bill will not have been fulfilled. I realise that the wording of this Clause may not be such as to achieve what my hon. Friends and I have in mind, but, if that is so, I hope appropriate words will be included in the Bill to provide the natives with such facilities and opportunities as I have described.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

I wish shortly to support the Motion which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Sir W. Wakefield). As he properly pointed out, what we desire to do is to increase the powers of the Colonial authority, and to lay upon it the additional obligation of seeing that, as and when money is being spent on works, natives should be able to participate in those works, either after preliminary training or by actually sharing in them. The wording of this Clause, as my hon. Friend has said, may appear to be a little obscure, but we understand that it is the only possible way in which we can ventilate this matter to-day. We are by no means wedded to this form of words, and if the Minister accepts our suggestion, we have no doubt that the Parliamentary draftsmen can put what we desire into much better form.

I, personally, have no bias against Colonial trade unions, because they are led, in the main, by able and extremely intelligent men, but I find that many European members of these unions—perhaps not unnaturally—are extremely anxious to preserve their standard of living as against that of the natives. That kind of thing, however, must not be allowed to stand in the way of the development of our Colonial territories and the forward march of the natives who live there. We suggest that the authority of the Governor of a Colony or Mandated Territory, or whoever happens to be responsible, should be strengthened by the knowledge that there exists in an Act of Parliament a provision to allow natives to be drawn in wherever possible, before public money is spent. In our recent journeyings through Africa, we talked with a large number of people, natives and Europeans, and we found that this was a burning question. In some of the areas where it was essential, for example, that houses should be built, the European trade unions insisted that they themselves should build them, even though the houses were for the natives.

Colonel Stanley

Was that in the territories to which the Bill applies?

Mr. Hall

Not altogether. It certainly applied to Southern Rhodesia, which does not come under the Bill, but we also found it in Kenya, which definitely does. I saw a housing estate at Mombasa where the houses erected for the natives were some of the worst we had seen, though they cost several hundreds of pounds. In another area, in a self-governing Colony, which would not come under the terms of the Bill, the natives, under European supervision, had built the houses at a remarkably low cost. For less than £100 a house average, a beautiful estate has been built which impressed us very much.

We suggest that the authority at Whitehall should be behind what is the desire, I think, of every Member of the Committee, to see that in these territories, where money is being spent, the natives are drawn in to the full. They may not have reached the standards of craftsmen here, or even in South Africa, but after training they can do extremely good work and it seems unfair that they should not be allowed, by the circumstances that I have described, to learn to take their full share in the work that will be done. I press the point for this if for no other reason that it is essential that their economic status and purchasing power should be raised. That cannot be said if they are continually kept down and not trained or helped. Whether these words are accepted or not, I hope that words can be embodied in the Bill to assist towards that very desirable end.

11.30 a.m.

Mr. McEntee (Walthamstow, West)

I am not sure about the wording of the Clause, but the hon. Members who support it have said that that is of secondary importance to the desire that is behind it. If the Minister agrees with the desire, I am sure that he will find a way of giving expression to it. The short experience that I had in Tanganyika and Uganda, gave me the impression that the purpose of the Clause is a sound one. I saw a very high standard of education achieved by the natives who were fortunate enough to get admission to a certain college, but the opportunity was too limited. As far as I could judge, those who attended were the sons of chiefs. They seemed to have a monopoly. There were, in addition, some technical colleges or schools where those who attended were not all the sons of chiefs—perhaps some were the sons of minor chiefs—and they also achieved a high standard of technical skill. I can speak with authority in regard to those whom I saw in the woodwork section. I am certain that, if a wider opportunity were provided, they could achieve a standard of skill equal to that of the Europeans. I saw work done of which any of the young men in our best technical colleges might be proud.

The only thing that impressed me unfavourably was the narrowness of the scheme, and the lack of opportunity for a larger number of natives to get the benefit which it appears to me the Clause would offer. I am sure, if the opportunity could be provided, the natives would profit by it and would be able to take full advantage of it. I met one native in Uganda who was a man of outstanding ability, and many of those working under him showed very great promise. A high standard has been achieved in training accountants and medical men, and I am sure that, given the opportunity on a wider scale, they could achieve very great things indeed on the industrial side of life.

Captain Cobb (Preston)

I am sure everyone agrees on the desirability of extending such suitable technical and vocational training in the Colonies as exists now, and of providing better facilities. I stress the word "suitable," because we might, possibly, go rather too far in our enthusiasm, and end up by doing mom harm than good. Suitable technical and vocational training is desirable in most of the Colonies that we administer. I imagine, however, that the Secretary of State would find himself in a great difficulty in accepting the Clause, because it seems to me that he would be precluded from giving his consent to any scheme unless vocational facilities and training were available in the Colony. The result might well be that he would be obliged to withhold his consent from a development scheme, in a Colony where such a scheme is most urgently needed. I imagine that it is his intention to provide, or to increase, facilities for technical and vocational training, and this will come within the purview of educational development.

Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)

It would be unfortunate if the proposed new Clause were adopted in its present form. There are many schemes which are desperately urgent at present and these would be unduly delayed. Apart from that, the effect of the Clause would be to weaken the existing provisions, under the 1940 Act, in regard to trade unionism. That Act has, on the whole, worked reasonably well, and it would be unfortunate if anything were done to weaken its effect. I am in complete sympathy with the trend of the discussion, that we must go all out for the training of Africans and other Colonial peoples so that they can build up their own countries and have at their disposal all the technical resources that can be made available. The problem we are up against is not only the extension by legislation of technical facilities, but also certain social conventions, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) has referred, under which Colonial peoples who have the skill and technical resources are not permitted to operate in their trades and use their skill to the advantage of their country. That is a social convention which certain European trade unions have established and it must be destroyed. I doubt whether mere legislation will help in the breaking through of that convention. I agree with the general trend of the discussion, but I hope the Colonial Secretary will not accept the proposed Clause in the form in which it is presented because it would weaken the position with regard to trade unions established by the 1940 Act.

Mr. Edgar Granville

I am sure that the Colonial Secretary will welcome this Debate, although, it the Clause were passed, I am not sure that it would secure the object which the designers intended. I am sure that the Colonial Secretary will interpret the general sense of it, and give expression to it, the best way he can. I imagine that some of his difficulty will be a shortage of instructors in some of the Colonies. We have seen during the war, the large number of men who have come here from the Colonies not only to serve in uniform, but to study engineering, technical research, and so on. They will go back to their countries with the knowledge they have gained. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is anxious that the general idea behind the new Clause shall be carried out, and to see that men in the Colonies are given the fullest opportunities for vocational training, he will require a larger number of instructors from this country. The reverse process may also be necessary, and students may have to be given the fullest opportunities to enjoy the facilities for the highest form of instruction which can be gat in this country.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

It seems to me that I have given a wrong impression to the Committee of what we have in mind in this new Clause. It is true that we have emphasised the words "training for" as well as "use in" in connection with the works that are to be set in motion as the result of the moneys which will be granted to Colonies through this Bill. We do not, however, by any means imagine that everybody has to be trained under this new Clause before he can take part in any work which has to be done. All we ask is that, wherever possible, and where the job is a technical one, natives should be trained if there are not enough of them to take their proper share of the work. The last thing we want to see is work held up, while natives are being trained. We are going to open up many of the Colonies by the building of aerodromes and so on, and possibly there will be repair shops set up in many places. The fear is that the Europeans may keep the natives out of these shops and that the natives may be confined to menial jobs, with no chance of making progress. In that sense we want to see more of them trained. There are very many schemes and works that may be undertaken which natives, with very little training, or by simply working under European supervision, can be fitted to undertake. I hope that the Secretary of State, who is, I feel sure, sympathetic to the idea, will find some form of words to strengthen the hands of the authorities in the Colonies in this direction.

Colonel Stanley

I am glad that we have had a Debate on this interesting subject, but I hope that the hon. Gentlemen who supported the new Clause, will not press it. I assure them that it would have exactly the opposite effect to that which they desire. The only effect of the new Clause as it stands would be to relieve any Colony which provided no vocational training of the obligation that already exists with regard to trade unions and the payment of fair wages. I, therefore, regard the moving of the new Clause as providing the Committee with an opportunity for discussing the twin subjects of vocational training and the variety of jobs which are open to the inhabitants of the various colonies. On the question of vocational training, no addition to existing legislation is needed to carry out the obvious wishes of the Committee. We all realise the paramount necessity for technical training. Colonial administrators in the past have done what they can in the matter. Their trouble has not been lack of will and of desire; it has been lack of finance. It is exactly that lack which this Bill will remedy. I am certain that one of the things which we shall do first in examining the ten-year programmes of the various colonies, is to see that, in those programmes, sufficient allowance has been made for this extremely important branch of development.

It is interesting to realise that, certainly in Africa, the war has brought a good deal of assistance in regard to this subject. A great many of the Africans who have enlisted in the Army, have been trained as tradesmen. I had the pleasure of visiting military trade schools, in both East and West Africa, and a very good foundation has been made in army training for work after the war, in some technical employment. I regard this as one of the main functions of the new Fund. It would be a pity if we took individual developments, however desirable, that certain hon. Members have in mind, and emphasised them above all the other competing claims for this money. We want to see the over-all picture for each Colony in which all these developments fall into their proper places. That we shall try to ensure.

11.45 a.m.

With regard to the other questions which hon. Members have raised, as to when these people will be trained, and the openings available for them, I am sure hon. Members who have spoken would be the first to explain to the Committee that the experience from which they were speaking, though recent and interesting, was a limited one and that there are large areas in the Colonies to which they were not referring and where conditions such as they mentioned, do not exist. The picture which they drew really comes down to the actions in one Colony of trade unions. I can only say at once, that it is the policy of His Majesty's Government that a full and fair opportunity should be given in all these trades to the inhabitants of the Colony. Wherever there is any difficulty, it arises not from the social legislation of the Government, but from trade union agreements with employers. Although I am grateful that the matter has been raised, hon. Members opposite who have taken an interest in it, will find an even better way of expressing their feelings because there happens to be one of the representatives of those trade unions in this country now, being received at the world trade union conference. He would, no doubt, be extremely impressed to hear the views of his colleagues on those Benches.

I can assure the Committee that I attach the greatest importance to this vocational training, and all Governors whom I have visited, are interested in it. I have no doubt that when the Bill has become an Act, and the money is available, one of the most prominent features in the programme will be a wide extension of the facilities which already exist.

Sir W. Wakefield

In view of the statement just made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman I wish to say on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself that we do not propose to go further with the suggested new Clause. Before asking leave to withdraw the Motion, I would say that we, of course, realise that throughout the Colonial Empire very great advances are being and have been made and the widest opportunities are being given to native people. It would be wrong if any other impression went out to the world. At the same time, we are anxious that all those natives who have been receiving such first-class training are, in fact, given an opportunity in peace time to use training which they have had for war. Every opportunity should be given them to continue the use of the technical training they have had, with full scope for the development of those qualities which they have now got, but which they did not possess before the war. If this short Debate has done nothing further than that, it will have achieved its purpose. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

11.48 a.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)

I have not taken part in the previous Debates on the Bill although I have listened to all the discussions. I want to make an observation now of a very short character. I am aware that, on the Third Reading, one can discuss only what is in the Bill, but may I be allowed to say that while I think the whole House, irrespective of party, is grateful to the Colonial Secretary for what he has done in this regard, I hope it will not be thought in the Colonial Office, in the War Cabinet or anywhere else, that this is the end of the interest and assistance which may be given to the Colonial Empire. I regard the proposals of the Bill as a very good beginning of what I hope will be a longterm policy to do something to remove a stain from the escutcheon of British policy, which has for so long left the Colonial Empire in a state of stagnation and arrested development.

11.50 a.m.

Mr. Creech Jones (Shipley)

It is a commonplace of American criticism in respect of British Imperialism, as it is called, to demand of us the liberation of the Colonial peoples, and the liquidation of Colonial status. It is significant that the purpose of this Bill is to achieve these very purposes. I doubt if any Imperial Power has ever before embarked upon a policy of deliberately disintegrating its Empire. That is the effect of this Bill in the long run. It will contribute to training the Colonial people for complete and responsible self-government and fitting them, socially and economically, to discharge their responsibility in the world. They will thus, in due time, make their own independent decisions, in regard to their future inside the British Commonwealth. I believe, of course, that we are helping to unify the Commonwealth by the Bill before us.

Nevertheless, it is important that we should realise that there can be no real political liberty unless the economic and social conditions of the Dependencies are built up. Accordingly, the Bill has set in the forefront this main purpose of building up the economic conditions of the Colonies in order that the people may as soon as possible be able to play an effective part in the larger life of mankind. I feel that we may not be generous enough in the period of time allowed for the long-term planning, as visualised in the Bill. The House will recollect that the West Indies Royal Commission did, when it made its recommendations, suggest a period of 20 years for development schemes. We have limited that period by the terms of this Bill, virtually to a 15-year outlook, in which our administrators and the Colonial Office can plan. But there are many big schemes which will have to be embarked on in the Colonies and for which a longer period than is prescribed in the Bill will be necessary.

There is a further point. It may be contended sometimes that we are undermining by these contributions the self-reliance and independence of the Colonies in their growth. I think it is true that we have to be extraordinarily careful, when making grants, to do nothing which will in any way prejudice the growth of self-responsibility, or weaken the urge to develop the local resources of the Colonies, necessary for the social services that the Colonies require. It must be obvious to us all that there is a desperate need at the moment throughout the Empire, for heavy expenditure of money. Even in the field of social services alone, the immediate needs are likely to cost colossal sums. Those of us who have had the opportunity of looking at some of the educational estimates relating to primary education for all children of school age, and reasonable facilities for secondary education, are aware that the estimates of cost far outstrip the capacity of the countries concerned, to provide the necessary money for that educational expenditure. The same is true of public health development, and so on.

Therefore, I hope that in the administration of this Bill nothing will be done to prejudice the independence and the responsibility of the Colonial peoples. I wish them to be closely associated with all the plans and schemes of development. But also, alongside that, there should be the fullest development of the economic resources of the separate Colonies, in order that they may be able to sustain their social services and economic development, and carry on should some British Government, at any time in the far-off future, be obliged to withdraw any of the grants which the Government are now prepared to make. Equally serious consideration should be given to the question of how far measures can be taken for the retention in the Colonies of a great deal of the value of the wealth which they now create and which is now drawn from them. I would also like the further implementation of the pledge which was given at the time of the passing of the 1940 Act, that there shall be a steep increase of direct taxation in the Colonies. The building up of taxable capacity should go on, and the work of development accelerated, but that direct taxation, already started in many of the Colonies, should as a policy be more vigorously pursued.

My final point is that under the 1940 Act, it was provided that there should be recognition in the Colonies of trade unionism, and that there should be fair standards of remuneration. Many development schemes had been adopted, before the Colonies themselves had adopted suitable trade union legislation. I believe there are still a number of Colonies which have been enjoying the benefits of the 1940 Act, and will enjoy the benefits of this Bill when it becomes an Act, and where suitable legislation has not yet been enacted. I beg the, Secretary of State to do all in his power to press for the implementation of suitable trade union legislation, in order that we may feel completely satisfied that all that can be done, is being done, so far as Colonial labour is concerned. There are many other observations I would have liked to make in regard to this Bill. It is epoch-making legislation. Many speeches have been made and many books written about it. It marks an enormous step forward in the development of British Colonial policy. I think we should congratulate the Secretary of State and the Government on providing more money, and making it possible still further to carry on this work of building up the social and economic life of the Colonies, while not neglecting the development of political institutions, and the movement towards complete political responsibility.

11.59 a.m.

Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)

It is obvious that the House will, unanimously, give a Third Reading to this Bill. I support the Bill, and I felicitate the Secretary of State on its very easy passage through the House. So far as it goes, it is a good Bill, but I think it is essential, before we give it a Third Reading, to try to see the Bill in something like proper perspective. I desire to say a word in support of the point of view advocated by my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton). My mind goes back to the Third Reading of the Colonial Development Act, 1929, which was introduced by the then Lord Privy Seal. He described the Bill as a contribution to the solution of the unemployment problem in Britain. I remember very vividly that, under that particular Bill, one of the things we were going to do was to build a new bridge over the Zambesi. The contribution which that Bill made to the solution of the unemployment problem in Britain was negligible, and its contribution to the solution of the Colonial development problem was almost equally negligible. This Bill represents some advance. We now have a figure of £120,000,000 instead of the £5,000,000 of the original Colonial Development Act.

I do not think this House should give the Bill a Third Reading without addressing to the Secretary of State the admonition, that if he regards this as a final, or even a main, contribution to the solution of the Colonial development problem, then he is taking a wrong view of the problem. It is inevitable that at this stage we must make moneys available from this country for the development of industry and enterprise in the Colonies, but I do not believe that that alone will bring us within even striking distance of the solution of the Colonial problem which properly rests upon our shoulders. I cannot develop that point at great length, within the rules of Order, but I took the opportunity of sending the Secretary of State some time ago a book entitled ''Soviet Light on the Colonial Problem," which I hope he has studied, marked, learned and inwardly digested, because it raises issues which do not even begin to be touched by this Bill. Therefore, I say this Bill cannot be a final, or even the main, solution to the Colonial problem. The point of the book I will not develop, because if I did, I should be outside the range of this Bill, but the main point is that if we do not solve the Colonial problem, we cannot justify retaining one quarter of the earth's surface as a preserve of the British Empire. We can only justify it on the ground that we do as well as, or better than, in those territories either the people there could do for themselves, or other Powers could do for them. That is the only real justification for the Empire.

If we are to solve that problem what we have to do is not merely to provide more money. So far as the Bill does that I give it my whole-hearted support. But if the Secretary of State regards this as a final or main contribution he is wrong. He has to alter the whole approach to the Colonial problem. Instead of conceiving of the Empire as something to be administered by the British Government through Governors working in conjunction with councils of local chiefs—which is roughly the Colonial set-up in the British Empire—he has to develop a policy such as that through which the Soviet has made such striking and tremendous changes in the less developed portions of what used to be the Russian Empire. I beg the Secretary of State again to read that book, study it and digest it, and to think in much the same fundamental terms, rather than in the mere making of large sums of money available. He has to set himself to raise the whole standard of life of the Colonial peoples throughout this Empire. He will not do that merely by confining his relations to the Governors and native chiefs. He must get in touch with the peoples of the Colonies, and look to them to formulate the demand for the higher standard of life which is the only solution to the Colonial problem, and a very potent contribution to Britain's trade problem after the war. So while I felicitate the right hon. Gentleman, and give the Bill my blessing—for what it is worth—with that of the rest of the House, I beg him to re-assure the House, before we part with the Bill, that he does not regard this as the summit and crown of his distinguished career, but only as one very small step, a nine-inch step, no more, up the ladder which we hope he will continue to travel, with benefit to himself and to the Colonial Empire.

12.5 p.m.

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

I am very sorry that attendance at the Manor House Hospital on a serious case prevented me from being present at the appropriate hour, to move the new Clause—[Reports to Parliament]—standing in my name, upon the Order Paper. Seeing that the opportunity of moving my Clause has, unfortunately, been lost, through no fault of my own, I want to ask the Colonial Secretary at least to give an assurance in the spirit of the Clause, having regard to the fact that a comparatively large sum of British taxpayers' money is being spent by his office on the advice of his bureaucratic officers, whether in the Colonial Office or in the federal scheme. I ask that information should, as frequently as possible—say twice yearly—be submitted to Parliament On the scope and nature of the schemes, especially with reference to public money which is given to help either private or public companies in the Colonies.

These remarks are apropos of what the Colonial Secretary himself said on the Second Reading. He said that he proposed to give help to companies run by Colonial insular Governments. He stopped there. Are the Colonial insular Governments going to run these companies for themselves? Are they to have local directors? Are the directors to be officials, or are the companies to be private companies, run by joint boards? I wish the Colonial Secretary would tell us in what way he proposes to ask these Colonial companies to do this. Under the West Indies Welfare and Development Fund he has imposed a federal bureaucracy which is advisory, it is true, at present, but they can settle the terms of the grants to individual Colonies. If he is going to set up companies under insular Governments, is he going to bring in his federal advisers, and are they going to be advisers to the companies? This is important, because when I asked the question about a company which has sustained losses, the Colonial Secretary mentioned the loss on a big railway track in Bermuda. I would like information about this matter. Some companies do not lose, but gain. I would again impress upon the Colonial Secretary the case of the St. Kitts Sugar Company. I know he is tired of hearing about it, but it wants explaining. If we are to help development companies in future, is it to be on those terms? I think we should say that companies should not be allowed—

Colonel Stanley

On a point of Order. Shall I be allowed to deal with the case of this company when it is not in the Bill?

Mr. Speaker

I was wondering whether the hon. Member's remarks were in Order. He can give an illustration, but he may not go into the history of the company.

Dr. Morgan

No, Sir, I do not want to go into the history of the company—it is too long. But I was hoping that the Colonial Secretary would not use the British taxpayers' money, under this Bill, to help sugar manufacturing companies of that description. In this company an original capital of £3,250, unpaid, because it came out of the commission of the loan, has now developed into a capital value of £750,000.

Mr. Speaker rose—

Dr. Morgan

If, Mr. Speaker, you say I am out of Order, I will leave it at that. I only want to prevent the Colonial Secretary from helping companies of that description without some check on the huge profits they might make. I want him to see that the wages of the labourers are not kept low owing to the stranglehold that the companies will have on the labourers on their estates. Welfare is not enough, and development is not enough. It is all very well for the officials to be operating under this scheme, but I ask the Colonial Secretary again to see that he uses this money, as far as he can, under democratic institutions. That may be out of Order too, because the whole thing is mixed up. I am not against this money being spent, but I want to be sure that we are not going to regard this as a settlement of the problem, either from the Colonial Office point of view, or from the point of view of the insular Governments. I hope that not only health schemes, business schemes, and development schemes will be advanced, but that money will be used on cultural schemes, which will be of use in relation to welfare.

12.12 p.m.

Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)

There have been Debates on Colonial welfare when the House has not been overcrowded, but it was obvious, when this Bill was given its Second Reading, that there was a growing interest among Members in Colonial affairs in general. Now we have the Third Reading Debate, including a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), who has come down here on a Friday morning in order to place upon my right hon. and gallant Friend the Colonial Secretary the mantle of the tradition of the great Colonial Secretaries of this country. I think everybody congratulates the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the Bill. I agree with the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) that this must be regarded as an opportunity. It must be be only a first instalment. Resting upon the shoulders of the Colonial Secretary, the Dominions Secretary and the Secretary of State for India at the present time is a very great and serious responsibility for the future. When the Prime Minister said, in his Mansion House speech, that he did not become His Majesty's first Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire, the concern of a great number of us who take some interest in these Empire problems was: What are the constructive proposals of the Government; what will they do to tune in to the climate and opinion in the Empire and make the Commonwealth and Empire a great democratic responsibility?

It is not enough to make these after-lunch and after-dinner speeches: a great opportunity resides with the Ministers today to plan boldly and well. I believe that after this war, a great number of men and women who are serving in the Forces will want to make their future in the British Dominions and the British Colonies. I, for one, would have preferred to see something in this Bill which would have given the Commonwealth and the Empire machinery for democratic co-operation to plan these future schemes for development as a whole. That has not been possible, but I accept the assurances which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has given this morning, that it is his intention to have the closest co-operation with the Dominion Governments, in order to develop agriculture, trade and communications throughout the Colonial system.

I hope that when the Colonial Secretary gets going on the practical implications of this Bill, he will use not only the Press, but the B.B.C. to make it known all over the Empire, right through the Forces, and in this country generally, exactly what the Government have started to do and the opportunities which this Fund provides. Anyone who has discussed this with the troops during the war has found that there is a strange uncertainty about the whole question of Colonial expansion, and I am sure that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, in the contacts he has made with our gallant Allies from overseas, has been astounded by their conception and the limited responsibilities of this country. Therefore, I hope that in this Bill provision will be made for adequate publicity. I hope he will take the opportunity of making contact with his right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for Air to see that they are enabled to convey to all those serving in the Forces factual information as to the opportunities that will arise after demobilisation. I, for my part, wish the right hon. and gallant Gentleman well, and I hope that he will seize his opportunities and that he will go down in our annals as one of the great Colonial Secretaries.

12.17 p.m.

Colonel Stanley

I am, of course, very grateful for the way in which this Bill has been accepted by the House. I know how sincerely Members feel about our responsibilities to the Colonial Empire and had no doubt that it would be universally accepted. Indeed, the list has become complete, because all parties in the House have now expressed their approval and if I may I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) upon having ceased to be a Member and become a party. I believe it was an ancestor of mine in the reign of Queen Victoria who once said that an independent Member of Parliament is one who cannot be depended upon. I am glad the hon. Member no longer comes within that category.

To answer first one or two of the special points that were raised: The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones)—who, unfortunately, was prevented from being here for the Second Reading of the Bill, because he was ably carrying out in the United States of America some very necessary educational work in connection with the Colonies—raised the question of direct taxation. Hon. Members will be aware that in almost all the Colonies direct taxation has been introduced during the war. It has not always been on the same scale as in this country, although it is on a scale which in those happy days before the war we should certainly have thought severe. Conditions are not always the same. The incidence of indirect taxation, especially for Europeans in the colonies, is very much higher than it is here, and I think the hon. Member can be satisfied that there is to-day at any rate a fair level of taxation, and the certainty that out of any profits made in a Colony the Colonial Government has an adequate share. He also referred to the trade union provisions of the Act of 1940. It is true that both my predecessors and I did give a period of grace. One could not expect, all over the Colonial Empire, to prescribe trade union laws to be passed immediately; and to have enforced the full rigidity of the law would merely have meant that the inhabitants of the Colonies might have lost some very valuable assistance. That period of grace is now over, and I satisfy myself that these provisions are carried out before grants are made.

To come to detailed points, there is the question, raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan), about the supply of information. I shall not attempt to follow him in the other parts of his speech, because I confess that I have not got the technical skill which enabled him to keep within Order, but the point he raised that we ought to provide the House and the public with the fullest possible information is an important one. It is right that when we vote sums of this magnitude whatever is possible should be done to enable the House to judge both how the money is being spent and what results are being achieved. Under the old Bill for an annual return has to be made of the schemes which are approved. For the progress of the schemes and to some extent the results, it will, I think, be necessary to look to the annual reports when their publication is resumed after the war. It is there, I think, that we can judge best of the progress in each Colony and how these schemes are working. When the time comes to resume their publication, I will certainly consider what suggestions I should make to the various Governments as to the form in which the information on the progress and development of schemes within the area shall be given.

Dr. Morgan

That refers only to annual reports. I was asking for more frequent information, and Mr. Speaker said, I think, that I was within the rules of Order.

Colonel Stanley

What I am proposing will, I think, afford the amplest information consonant with the proper execution of this work. With schemes of this magnitude one cannot pull them up by the roots every month to see how they have grown. People must have a little time in which to carry on with a scheme. The hon. Member's proposed new Clause, which he was not able to move, would have provided that twice a year every single scheme passed under the old Bill and this one should be reviewed not only as to its progress but as to the effect it was having. Already in these years hundreds of schemes have been passed, and under this Bill there will be thousands. It really cannot be suggested that every six months thousands and thousands of individual schemes, some of them only amounting to £100, should be submitted to Parliament. That would be an intolerable strain on those who have to do the real job, which is to get the schemes going, but I think the suggestion I made, when the hon. Member interrupted, that in addition to the annual return of schemes approved we should include in all the annual reports of the Colonies a special chapter, perhaps, or at any rate information in a prescribed form, as to the progress of the schemes, would prove to be valuable.

The general sense of the Debate, showed, I think, a generous acceptance of this Measure but a feeling that none of us can say that, by what we are doing to-day, we are finally closing the problem of Colonial development. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) and the hon. Member for Rugby—and close as they are in physical proximity they are far apart in political philosophy—are agreed upon this: that in the future we may again have to look at this Measure. I would remind hon. Members that the Act of 1930 did not prove to be final, and the Act of 1940 did not prove to be final, and it may well be that the Act of 1945 will not prove to be final, and that subsequent Ministers and subsequent Parliaments will have to consider in the light of the circumstances of their day whether the provisions of this Act are a full discharge of their responsibilities. Certainly in dealings with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, one step at a time is enough for me, and I regard this step as a valuable one. It gives those facilities which we wish to give at the moment, and does not preclude subsequent Governments from reconsidering the matter when the time comes.

I have only one word to say in conclusion. No one can prophesy that the coming into force of the new provisions of this Measure will produce an immediate and dramatic change in the Colonial Empire, that we can clear up in a few months, or even a few years, the immense number of things that have to be done; but I do believe that this extension of the great step which this House took in the dark days of 1940 places in our hands an adequate weapon for our task, a task which I do not for one moment consider, to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Shipley, as a task of disintegrating the British Empire. I believe that the effect of these provisions and of this new outlook will be not to disintegrate but to consolidate the 60,000,000 people in the Colonial Empire.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.