§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)
I beg to move "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I believe that when the Measures which have come before this Parliament and will come before it, are seen in perspective, the Bill which I have the great honour to commend to the House this afternoon will be seen to have been one of the more significant. What the House is asked to consider this afternoon are new Measures for the development of underdeveloped territory, and this House has ultimate sovereignty over a great many of these under-developed territories. It is true that the Bill is wider than a Colonial one, but it is with the Colonial aspect of the Empire that I would like to deal first of all. Indeed, Britain has sometimes been accused of neglect of its Colonial possessions. Hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite have been accused, sometimes from these benches, and sometimes from a vocal section of their own party of such neglect. I would be the first to agree that that accusation is not universally valid.
There are many parts of the Colonial Empire and many particular commodities in respect of which there has been a great deal of development. One has only to mention the large quantities of British capital that have been invested in Malayan tin and rubber and Rhodesian copper. I could give many other examples. But all this development and investment has been of the old traditional type. That is to say, it has been undertaken by private entrepreneurs seeking, in the first instance, as they must and as a condition of their own survival, profit for their own firms. A great deal of this development has undoubtedly been highly successful from a balance sheet point of view I agree, therefore, that any charge of neglect of development in the Colonial areas is by no means universally valid.
What I am putting to the House this afternoon is this: This old type of development, 2017 which I have just defined, has become decreasingly desirable and even decreasingly possible in the case, at any rate, of many arcas. The whole tenure of world influence today in the areas themselves and generally is making it less and less possible to rely exclusively on that form of development. I am not saying, of course, for one moment that there is no place in the future for private enterprise and profit-seeking in Colonial development. On the contrary, the organisations, the instruments, which the House is being asked to set up this afternoon will, undoubtedly, use private firms in many cases in every kind of partnership and contractual relationship with themselves. In East Africa one of these enterprises is already under way, and many private firms are already being used to play an active part in that way. Neither would I say, for one moment, that the day is done for individual private enterprise in Colonial territory.
I would put it to the House as a fact which cannot be gainsaid that the peoples of the world—the Colonial peoples and the world generally—will never again regard the old private enterprise type of development as the sole or even the main target or method by which undeveloped territories can have their development undertaken or hastened. If that is so, and if the old type of development is insufficient and in many cases inappropriate today, we are under the obligation to find some effective settlement or substitute for it. We are the greatest of Colonial powers, and we cannot afford a deserted Empire. We cannot do so for two reasons. First, the whole world, including ourselves, is crying out for an ampler supply of primary products—foodstuffs, minerals and the rest—and many of these primary products can be made to flow from areas on the map which are painted red. The world's trade, as we know only too well, is out of balance today, and the rest of the world is apt to fall more and more deeply into debt to the undamaged Western Hemisphere. One of the most important ways in which that balance can be redressed is by an ampler flow of primary products from hitherto underdeveloped territories. Secondly, the Colonial peoples themselves desperately and urgently need new development of their means of production and of their resources.
2018 Therefore, the Government have deemed it essential to devise new, more effective, and less objectionable methods of overseas and, in particular, Colonial development. We are putting before the House this afternoon what I would call the "public corporation" method of development. We believe that characteristically British institution, the public corporation, is the instrument of the future in this sphere. The public corporation in its structure is very like any large private organisation and public company, but it has this essential difference, that its capital is publicly-owned, and, in the last analysis, therefore, it works for public purposes, and is not open to the charge of exploitation for private profit. We have hitherto thought of the public corporation as essentially an instrument for taking over the great basic industries, or some other enterprise which has been developed a long time in private hands. We believe that there is now a place, and an indispensable place, for the public corporation actually to initiate productive activity in hitherto undeveloped areas of the world. We believe that this new departure—and it is a new departure—is essential because the world would not tolerate much longer the leaving fallow of undeveloped areas, and because, as we see it, the Colonial peoples themselves will be the first to benefit from such development.
The truth is that the Colonial peoples, at any rate in some areas, cannot wait. It is not too much to say that ruin and starvation in some areas in our charge may overtake the Colonial peoples unless some methods are found for the rapid development of their methods of production. That, at any rate, is the opinion of some of our most distinguished Colonial administrators. They believe, and publicly put on record, that unless what I would call "heroic" measures are taken to break through the vicious circle of growing population, waning fertility and primitive methods of cultivation, diminishing returns and growing malnutrition, the future of these people would be dark indeed. I quote in that connection from one of the classic despatches of Sir Philip Mitchell, Governor of Kenya Colony. Sir Philip wrote:Primary production by African peasants is already on the decline. Populations working under that system are going to find it increasingly difficult in supporting themselves at their present level. There have accordingly to be found measures to enable the African 2019 cultivator in appropriate cases to break away from his economically weak and primitive form of cultivation. Where this cannot be achieved no amount of benevolent assistance for social services can avail to improve the lot of the people…I want to emphasise that last sentence. If is in this sphere of methods of production as the basic element in the economy of these regions that we believe is to be found the key to this difficult problem. What is the use of providing schools for people whose primitive methods of production condemn them to evergrowing malnutrition? What is needed is, as Sir Philip Mitchell put it, this breakaway from methods which form no basis on which to extend and develop life. I would add that it is that decisive breakaway from these primitive methods which has actually started in East Africa.
I will describe in a moment the work that has already been started in Tanganyika on the groundnuts scheme. But perhaps I may illustrate the contention that I have made that the first fruits of this initiative in the economic field will go to the native population themselves with a description of an event which happened in the last few weeks in the Southern province of that Colony. It is in the Southern province that the layout area for the groundnuts scheme has been selected, but a port and a railway have to be built before any large scale development can take place, and all that is in this part of the field is an advance party of the managing agents. It is an exceedingly remote area, and hitherto it has not been possible to have the services of more than three medical men in a vast area of country. It so happened that in the last few weeks one of those terrible epidemics, in this case smallpox, swept the native population of that area.
§ Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
I understand that the Minister is referring to a mandated territory. Is not that included in the word "Colonial"?
§ Mr. Strachey
I am obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for the correction. I should have referred to Tanganyika on each occasion as a mandated territory or a trustee territory.
As I was saying, in the last few weeks in this area a most dreadful smallpox epidemic swept the native population, and there has been over an 80 per cent. rate of mortality of those who contracted the 2020 disease. It so happened in this advance post of the groundnuts scheme project that there were no doctors, but it did contain a sanitary inspector, a Mr. Reid. He must have been a man of the greatest energy, courage and resolution, because in the last few weeks he vaccinated no fewer than 11,000 natives, and I am told by Mr. Plummer, the chairman designate of the Overseas Food Corporation, who has returned from this area, that the epidemic appears to have been broken. I only give the House that as a very small example of what we believe, namely, that on a firm economic basis of whole new methods of production, immense benefits to the native population can be built. The managing agency of the corporation has already initiated a whole range of medical, administrative, educational, housing and general welfare work, and that will be enormously extended by the Overseas Food Corporation when they take over this work. The point I am making to the House is that it would be impossible for these benefits to be available except on the basis of introducing wholly new methods of production.
I come to the provisions of the Bill. The first two Clauses are concerned with the setting up of a body to be called the Colonial Development Corporation. This is the larger of the two bodies it has been decided to set up. As will be seen from Clause 12 of the Bill, it is to be financed by loans or advances from the Exchequer up to £100 million at risk at any one moment. If hon. Members turn back to Clause 1, they will see what are the functions of this Colonial Development Corporation; that it is intended to undertake every kind of development within Colonial territory. The methods by which it will be worked are detailed in Subsection (2, a and b) (a) details the direct methods of work, for it will undertake schemes itself; and (b) the indirect methods. I should like here to read (b) which says that the Corporation is enabledto promote the carrying on of any such activities by other bodies or persons, and for that purpose to establish or expand, or promote the establishment or expansion of, other bodies to carry on any such activities either under the control or partial control of the Corporation or independently, and to give assistance to such bodies or to. other bodies or persons appearing to the Corporation to have facilities for the carrying on of any such activities, including financial assistance by the taking up of share or loan capital or by grant, loan or otherwise.Paragraph (c) actually envisages the corporation, if it so desires, becoming the 2021 managing agency for any Government in such territories. We are particularly anxious that this provision should be fully recognised, because it gives the widest possible scope for any form of participation by minorities or majorities in the work of the scheme, and there will be many with which the Colonial Development Corporation will be concerned.
The Colonial Development Corporation, as the Bill shows, will not be confined to the production or promotion of any one type of commodity or project. It may be that coal or minerals are some of the other great primary products that will be high on this list of priorities. On the other hand, it will be capable of and empowered to go into agricultural production and to produce foodstuffs or agricultural products. I do not know where they will be undertaken, but I understand from my hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary to the Colonial Office that one under consideration is concerned with the canning of fish from the Indian Ocean, and, another the growing of rice in Borneo. I give those examples to show the variety and the wide geographical distribution of the schemes under consideration.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
I should like to ask whether the growing of rice in Borneo comes under the Overseas Corporation or the Colonial Development Corporation?
§ Mr. Strachey
The growing of rice in Borneo is being considered before these instruments are set up, and I think it would be quite premature to assign it to one or the other of them.
§ Mr. Strachey
It is being considered by the Colonial Office in this case, but we in the Ministry of Food are certainly interested in any project which will in crease the food supplies of any part of the British Commonwealth and that is what we believe this will be calculated to do. The Colonial Development Corporation, as—
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point I think it would be very helpful if he would give us some guidance on the ground on which the determination is made and whether this is a matter for the Colonial Secretary or the Ministry of 2022 Food? If we could get some definition it certainly would assist us in considering the whole matter.
§ Mr. Strachey
The next part of my speech is devoted to that particular topic. The Colonial Development Corporation, as the name implies, will be responsible for the undertaking or the promotion of all these schemes within Colonial territories. I think it will tend in general to undertake in Colonial territories all those schemes which involve the improvement and developing of existing methods of production in which the product in question is already produced in the area, but in which it is a case of improving the methods of the natives or of the white producers in that area. It need not be confined to that sphere but it will undertake all general schemes of that character.
I now come to the second corporation which it is proposed to set up under the Bill, to be called the Overseas Food Corporation. If the House will turn to Clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill, they will see the provision under which it is proposed to establish this corporation. Subsection (1) sets out the difference and differentiation in its function from that of the Colonial Development Corporation. The Overseas Food Corporation is to be a small body. Under Clause 12 it is to be provided from the Exchequer with advances up to £50 million at risk at any one time. As its responsibility to the Ministry of Food entails, it is confined to the production or the promotion of production of food and agricultural products. It is not confined to working in British Colonial territory. That is the main reason—I will expand this point in a moment—why it is necessary to have a second corporation and why the whole job cannot be done by the Colonial Development Corporation.
The Overseas Food Corporation may work in Colonial territory. Indeed, as we see, the first job which it is proposed to entrust to it is the groundnuts scheme which, although it is not in Colonial territory is, as an hon. Member has reminded me, in a British trusteeship territory. The corporation will tend to work in general in Colonial territory on schemes of that type, that is to say, very large schemes on virgin lands, where it is not a matter of the promotion and development of existing forms of production, but, as in the particular and somewhat special examples like the East African groundnuts 2023 scheme, where the production is based very largely on virgin soil.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
What will be the relationship of the corporation to existing schemes of production, such as the production of cocoa in West Africa? Will that be taken over, or will it remain as it is?
§ Mr. Strachey
There is no suggestion of it being taken over, certainly not by the Overseas Food Corporation. It will be for my hon. Friend to deal with the Colonial Office side of this matter, but I think I am right in saying that there is no suggestion of the Colonial Development Corporation taking over such a scheme.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
Would the Minister be good enough to elucidate that point further before he leaves it? The Overseas Food Corporation is to have power to work outside the United Kingdom. The Minister has stated that it will not be confined to the Colonies. Will it be confined to the British Empire and to trustee territories? Will it go anywhere it is needed?
§ Mr. Strachey
I will shortly deal in some detail and at some length with that point, because it is obviously important. Before we leave the Colonial aspect of this matter, perhaps hon. Members would look at lines 41 to 45 of Clause 3, because those lines contain an important proviso that the Overseas Food Corporation will not operate in any Colonial territory except at the express invitation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
We can now define the functions of the two corporations. The Colonial Development Corporation will be confined to Colonial territories, but it will not be confined to food and agricultural production. It will undertake no doubt the great majority of the schemes, and all of them which involve the promotion and development of existing forms of production, within Colonial territories. The Overseas Food Corporation, on the other hand, is not confined to British Colonial territory. In answer to the point made by the hon. Member, that means exactly what it says, that it is not confined to British Colonial territory and that a Dominion Government or a foreign government may invite its co-operation in one form or another as 2024 a managing agency on a technical contract, for a scheme in any part of the world. It does not mean that the corporation would necessarily accept such an invitation, but there is nothing to debar it from accepting. On the other hand, it is confined to food and agricultural production and it will operate only in colonial territories at the invitation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
I come to the question why it is necessary—because in spite of that differentiation of function we may be asked in this Debate why it is necessary—
§ Mr. Strachey
I am not leaving the point of differentiation of function. I am going to deal with it. We may be asked why it is necessary to have two corporations and why the job cannot be done by one corporation responsible to the Colonial Office, or why we could not have two corporations and make them both responsible to the Colonial Office. I quite understand that that point may seem to be a point of substance, and that it may seem odd that we should have these two instruments and one of them should not be responsible to the Colonial Office. I submit to hon. Members who take that view that they have not quite realised the scope and the width of the proposals under consideration in this Measure. It is true that the first job—no small one-envisaged for the Overseas Food Corporation is that of the East African groundnuts scheme, on which a managing agency is already heavily engaged in bringing many hundreds of thousands of acres of African bush under cultivation, but it would be a complete mistake to think that we are setting up the Overseas Food Corporation simply and solely to manage the East African groundnuts scheme.
On the contrary, some of what may prove the most promising of possibilities are opening up for that corporation, even before it is brought into actual existence in a Statute by the passage of this Bill, outside the British colonial territories. I will only describe one which I think is likely to be a most important one. As the House already knows, we have been in discussion with the Australian Government for some time as to the possibility of the rapid—we hope at any rate the 2025 steady—increase of the supply of Australian foodstuffs to this country, and, of course, the supply of British goods to Australia to pay for them. Our Australian friends have suggested to us that in regard to particular products, especially groundnuts and beef, it may be useful to find a way of mobilising British capital resources for the job of developing production rapidly in Australia. It seemed to them and to us that the Overseas Food Corporation might well be the instrument chosen for this purpose. It is, of course, entirely for the Australian Government to say if, and if so in what form, they would be interested in the work of the Overseas Food Corporation on Australian territory.
I use the words "Australian territory" advisedly because we are not only thinking—and the Australian Government tell us they are not—of Australia itself but of Australian Colonial territory and trusteeship territory in New Guinea especially, in connection with groundnuts. The development of beef, which requires large capital resources, in the Northern territories in Queensland and in Western Australia is also being considered. It may be, though it is again for our Australian friends to say, that if they desire, as they tell us they may, British capital resources to be applied to those purposes, they will prefer them to be provided by a non-profit making public corporation of this sort. In any case, as the House knows, the Australian Government have asked that a mission should go out from my Ministry to Australia in the immediate future to investigate the possibilities of increasing the production of foodstuffs, and-that Mr. Plummer, the Chairman-designate of the Overseas Food Corporation, should go out, too.
I have described these Australian possibilities in some detail because they make it clear why there have to be these two corporations and why the Overseas Food Corporation must be wholly distinct from the Colonial Development Corporation and cannot be responsible to the Colonial Office. I need hardly say to the House that the one thing which would make the development of which I have spoken in Australia or Australian territories quite impossible would be if the corporation was called the Colonial Development Corporation or was responsible to the Colonial Office. The Australian possibility is by no means the only possibility outside 2026 Colonial territory which opens up before the Overseas Food Corporation. No, Sir, I believe the more hon. Members look at the matter the more they will see that the provision of these two corporations is in dispensable to the scope of the Measure now before the House. Undoubtedly, it would have looked neater and tidier on paper to have one corporation responsible to one Minister alone, but it simply would not have enabled us to cover the ground of the various possibilities of development which are already apparent; and many more will become apparent when these corporations have been established. When the House examines the remaining detailed provisions—
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
Can the Minister explain now the principles upon which he would decide which of the two corporations he would employ in any one Colony for the production of food?
§ Mr. Strachey
If the scheme in question were within Colonial territory and only so, it would be open to either of the corporations. If it were not connected with foodstuffs or agricultural produce, it would only be open to the Colonial Development Corporation. If it were a scheme for food or agricultural produce, it would by Statute be open to either corporation, but as I tried to indicate, it seems to me that the main criterion would be whether it was a scheme for the development of existing methods of production, such as giving processing facilities and plant to the present production of groundnuts in West Africa, which goes on on a great scale, and schemes of that sort. I have no doubt that the enormous repository of experience and knowledge of the Colonial Office would mean that such a scheme would obviously be a matter for the Colonial Development Corporation, but the Secretary of State for the Colonies is not stopped by Statute if he so desires, and only if, from calling in the other instrument, the Overseas Food Corporation. If any other scheme of the East African groundnuts type were practicable and desirable in Colonial territory—
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
Certain recommendations were made in the Third Report of the Estimates Committee. May 2027 I take it that until the Overseas Food Corporation is set up, the Ministry of Food is not debarred from using the Colonial Research Organisation for any development within the Colonies?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I suggest to the House that it would be an advantage if the Minister were allowed to continue his speech without so many interruptions.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because I have a good deal of ground to cover. I will try to make the position clear but, of course, a great many things can come up on subsequent stages of the Bill. The House will see that the remaining Clauses of the Bill for the most part follow precedent; that is to say, they set up these two public corporations with relationships to their respective Ministries analogous to their relationships of the other public corporations which have been set up by this House in this Parliament and in preceding Parliaments to their respective Ministries. I have no doubt that the House will want to examine these provisions most closely, but I should imagine that the House will consider that more appropriate occasions for doing so are the Committee and Report stages of the Bill.
I now turn to the work which has already started in East Africa on the groundnuts scheme. This will constitute the first major job of the Overseas Food Corporation. At an early date, I shall be submitting a written report to Parliament on the work so far as it has gone, but I would like to say a few words about it this afternoon as well, because I am not sure if it is fully realised—perhaps it is in this House, but not outside it—that here we are not dealing with any project of the future or any paper scheme, but a very great enterprise which has already been launched, on which thousands of men are already working, in which large settlements have been built, hundreds of bulldozers are engaged in flattening the African bush, and the construction of a port and railway are just about beginning. It is true that these are beginnings, but they are beginnings in which this country can take a certain pride.
2028 I would like to give the House the timetable of what I would venture to call "Operation Groundnuts" so far as it has gone today. Mr. Frank Samuel, the originator of the scheme, to whom the House owes a debt of gratitude, proposed it to the Government in the spring of 1946. The then Secretary of State for the Colonies immediately appointed a mission which arrived in East Africa to investigate the possibilities in June, 1946. The report of that mission was placed in the hands of the Secretary of State and my hands on 20th September, 1946. Governments are very often accused of moving slowly. A great deal had to be done when we received that report. It had to be meticulously examined by more than one Department, and after it had been examined and a conclusion reached that action should be taken, we had to secure a Governmental decision and Treasury sanction and to appoint the United Africa Company as managing agents before any public corporation was there to do the work.
§ Mr. Strachey
The United Africa Company, through Mr. Samuel, were the originators of the scheme and I was most anxious to pay them a tribute. I do not quite follow the gravamen of the right hon. Gentleman's point.
§ Mr. Stanley
It was only a poor joke. The right hon. Gentleman was speaking of the time it took to find the United Africa Company and to appoint them. I thought they were quite easy to find.
§ Mr. Strachey
Perhaps I should have used the words "decided to select the United Africa Company," if the right hon. Gentleman prefers that. In any case this action was all done in time for the advance party of the United Africa Company to pitch their tents in Tanganyika Territory on 20th January, 1947, just four months after we received the report, and that was in time for them to start clearing operations on a very small scale on 1st May and seriously on 1st July this year. Since then they have flattened 15,000 acres of African bush.
§ Mr. Strachey
Almost entirely the Kongwo area in Tanganyika territory. That is the timetable of the launching of 2029 the scheme, and I suggest that very little time was lost.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am coming to all those points if the hon. Member will allow me. It may be asked if there are not perhaps faults, not in the launching of the scheme but in the work done in East Africa in the few months they have been there. Have there not been faults, and are not difficulties being encountered today, and mistakes being made? I would remind hon. Members opposite that if they criticise, as they no doubt will and should, the way in which the scheme has been conducted so far, they will be criticising the work of the United Africa Company, which is a thoroughly experienced and thoroughly commercial organisation. I am, perhaps, a less wholehearted admirer of these great business enterprises than some hon. Members opposite, but I would say in this case that any such criticism of the conduct of the United Africa Company as managing agents in this case would be ill-founded. I am not saying that no mistakes have been made. Good heavens, I cannot imagine an operation of this magnitude and scope being possible without mistakes being made; I can as well imagine a large-scale military operation being launched without mistakes and without delays and setbacks. For example, the report on which the operation was founded originally expressed the hope that it would be possible to clear 150,000 acres for the 1948 crop, but that was on the basis that machines could be found and placed on the site and their operations begun in February last. In fact, as the timetable I have just put before the House shows—and I do not think it shows any waste of time—the machines could not be got going on the site until July of this year.
We have had to cope in the launching of this scheme with the collection of heavy tractors and other heavy equipment of all sorts literally from all over the world and, owing to the shipping shortage, we have had to wait for ships to take it into the port of Dar-es-Salaam, for its movement up country and, with it, the enormous quantity of spares, building material and other equipment needed in the first few months of such a scheme. Let me give another instance. The report 2030 based its calculation of timing on the provision of new heavy tractors and other clearing equipment. It has turned out that no such new equipment is available, and the managing agents, with great enterprise, have picked up the heavy tractor equipment which they have got largely on the Pacific beaches of the Philippines, Hawaii and Honolulu—equipment which is very good but which had played its part in the Pacific campaign and is not, therefore, the equivalent of the new equipment envisaged and which, in the nature of things, requires a still greater supply of spares than new equipment. However, it would be entirely untrue to say that we did not expect these and similar difficulties in the launching of this scheme. To quote the phrase used in the White Paper:Serious difficulties and delays, many of them unforseeable, may arise in the course of the undertaking.I recall saying to my colleagues, in proposing that this scheme should be undertaken, that the one thing which we could say with certainty of it was that when it had been launched it would encounter obstacles, or else it would be totally different from any other major scheme in history.
In fact, I am assured—and I have taken great trouble to inform myself on this that the difficulties being encountered in East Africa today are by no means of an unexpected kind. In the last two days I have had the benefit of long discussions with Mr. Plummer, Chairman-designate of the Board of the Overseas Food Corporation, who returned last Sunday to this country from East Africa, and with Major-General Harrison, the General Manager-designate who will be the manager on the job in East Africa when the corporation is set up. They report, as does the managing agency, that the main problems are running-in the brand new teams of tractor drivers and tractor maintenance men, the erection of adequate workshop facilities and, above all, the getting of greater quantities of spares—in other words, those problems which were summed up in the war as problems of serviceability. Every one connected with the Royal Air Force in the war will know what a vital word "serviceability" was. But are not those precisely the teething troubles which any great mechanised enterprise always encounters in its initial stage?
2031 Again, just as the agricultural experts said it would be, it is proving difficult to get the roots out of the ground after the bush is flattened and partially cleared, and the problem of uprooting the tangled mass of roots left in the ground in some but not all of the bush has caused delay in these particular areas while instruments, particularly apt for this purpose, are adapted and devised and applied. However, I am assured, both by Mr. Faure, of the managing agency, by Mr. Plummer and by Major-General Harrison that none of these problems even look like being Insoluble. After all, Major-General Harrison, who will be the boss on the job in East Africa, was Lord Mountbatten's chief sapper officer in the Burma Campaign, and I hardly think it probable that these East African roots will prove more of a problem to him than the problems which he surmounted successfully in the reconquest of Burma.
It would be quite wrong to say that all the eventualities which have occurred in East Africa in these initial months have been on the debit side. On the contrary, some of the things which we thought would be the most difficult are proving decidedly less difficult than we had supposed. For example, we had been warned that the recruitment of African labour of a suitable kind would be the most difficult thing of all, but so far, this problem has proved considerably less difficult than had been anticipated and 5,000 men are already at work. Again, I am assured by the men who have just come back from the spot that the standard of skill and output of the African labour, with just under a few months of training and taken from very primitive tribes, has been far more encouraging than was anticipated, and has come as a most welcome surprise even to extremely well-informed observers such as the Governors of Kenya Colony and of Tanganyika Territory.
Again, an unforeseen eventuality, which is certainly not on the debit side—I gave it as an instance, there are others—is that it was supposed that the timber which would be obtained in the clearance of the bush would be completely valueless. We now find that the timber being cleared contains hardwood of great commercial value. Sawmill equipment has been obtained, and I am assured that in a reasonably short space of time there 2032 will be produced and exported from Tanganyika Territory a very significant value of dollar-earning or dollar-saving hardwood timber. So these new possibilities open up before the managing agency at present, the corporation in the future—substantial items on the credit side as well as items of delay and difficulty, such as certainly must be encountered and certainly will be encountered in the course of a scheme of this magnitude. It has been under way for a very short period and, quite frankly, probably difficulties much greater than any we see at present may be encountered in the future.
In these short months the most that can be said is that it may be possible there has been some delay in getting the scheme fully into operation. In the report it was thought just possible that if we moved with rapidity we could get large-scale operations going in 1947. Certainly, in one sense, we have started large-scale operations in Tanganyika Territory in 1947, although it has needed extremely rapid movement on the part of the managing agency to do so, but we must regard this year's work as largely exploratory and experimental, and from the production point of view real operations will be carried out in the 1948 season. Although we shall get an appreciable tonnage of groundnuts in the spring of 1948–the crop is reaped in the spring—the real crop from the point of view of production for the world market will be in the spring of 1949, which I think was not unexpected in the timetable of the scheme from the beginning.
§ Colonel Dower
How will the right hon. Gentleman transport the timber, because that will be one of the most difficult operations?
§ Mr. Strachey
The right hon. Gentleman will not transport the timber, of course. Naturally the point occurred to me, but during the whole of the year when the crop is not moving there is an inward flow of goods on the railway which is carrying in stores of all kinds. The railway very much welcomes a load to carry out, so that timber will go out on the trucks which bring up the equipment.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how the timber can be moved through the port of Dar-es-Salaam, which at the moment is clogged almost solidly?
§ Mr. Strachey
It is true that port facilities is one of the limiting factors, and two things must be done about that. Dar-es-Salaam must be improved, and the port organisation improved. To get the scheme going on a great scale, a new port must be built in the Southern Province, because Dar-es-Salaam could not cope with the crop coming from a large part of the area.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a labour force of 5,000 people. Is that to represent the people at Kongwa, or is it only the beginning? What is to be the optimum figure-of the labour force?
§ Mr. Strachey
If the hon. Member will look at the White Paper, he will see the figures set out in great detail, and I have no reason to modify them. We felt there was no doubt that a right decision was taken to employ the managing agency to plunge in with the scheme in 1947, and gain experience of operations during that year, because that experience would be invaluable in the far larger scale of operations in 1948 and subsequent years under the control of the corporation, when set up. After all, time is the essence of this contract. As I ventured to say in a message that I was asked to give to the men and women working there in the camp at Kongwa:On your success depends more than one any other single factor whether the harassed housewives of Great Britain get more margarine, cooking fats and soap in the reasonably near future.I believe that the United Africa Company and all those who have been officially and unofficially responsible for the very rapid launching of this scheme of "Operation Groundnuts," as I have called it, deserve well of the people of Great Britain. One inevitably uses a military term such as operation "in describing this scheme, because almost the only analogy of an operation on this scale is provided by the military sphere. The East African Groundnuts Operation is a great expedition, and I can never help comparing and contrasting it with the other great expedition in North Africa, the landings in 1942. Like many other hon. Members, I had the good fortune to play a part—in my case a most humble part—in that operation. When I was preparing this speech, I turned back to a description of the start of that operation which I wrote in 2034 1942 on board a ship of one of the convoys going out to North Africa, and I will read it to the House, because I think it is not irrelevant. I then wrote of the North African expedition:A score or so of ships, in close company, so that the half-dozen nearest are only three or four hundred yards from each other, must impress the onlooker with a sense of weight and purpose. It is visibly an expedition. Thus far it has been possible to produce these major collective efforts for the purposes of war alone. What could not be done if an expedition of this scope could be fitted out, not in order, as this one is, to decide who should have the right to develop Africa, but in order actually to develop Africa?It, therefore, gives me peculiar satisfaction to have some association with this new peaceful groundnuts expedition which is sailing, and will sail, actually to develop Africa. True, this also is in one sense an expedition of war, but the enemy in this case is not other human beings. The enemy is the tsetse fly, the climate, the stubborn African bush, the ignorance of the cultivator, and the lack of communications. True, these are formidable enemies, and will not be overcome without the sustained effort, courage and grit of the men and women at this new front. These are enemies who will give us difficulties or setbacks and even moments of heartbreak, just as the Afrika Korps did six years ago, but they are enemies, again like the Afrika Korps, which will be overcome. I believe with my whole heart in this groundnuts expedition. It is the first major scheme of British Colonial or overseas development of the new type, and I can promise the men and women engaged on it that they will be firmly and un-shakcably sustained by His Majesty's Government and that the enterprise will be carried through to success.
I commend this Bill to the House. It is of far wider scope, of course, than the groundnuts expedition. It may before its provisions are all done, and the schemes that flow from them completed, directly or indirectly affect every continent of the globe. In its international aspect it is a major British contribution to world development. Here is the redemption of the pledge that we gave at the Hot Springs Conference and reiterated to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations that we British mean to play our part in increasing the world's foodstuffs and primary products. Here is proof that we shall use a portion of our strictly 2035 limited stock of resources, our precious stock of trained labour, tractors, steel, and the rest, for this purpose, in order that the world and ourselves and the Colonial peoples themselves shall, in a few years time have more food, more coal and more of all the products they need. Needless to say, we on this side of the House will welcome the most vigilant criticism and consideration of this Bill and of the schemes which are to flow from it, but I feel justified in appealing to all sides of the House for an attitude to the Bill itself which makes it clear to the world that this is a united national effort on behalf of the British people, irrespective of party, and that it will be carried through to success.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
It is not unpleasant, after the furious Debates of last week and the still more furious Debates we may expect next week, to have this lull, even though it may be a temporary one. Here undoubtedly is a Measure on which it is possible for all sections of the House to unite. It is, at the same time, something which is constructive, which is designed to help our present economic position, and which is not of a party character. We can, therefore, offer to the right hon. Gentleman not only our support for the passage of this Bill, but our friendly interest and a wish for success for the schemes which will be promoted under it. Indeed, it would be ungenerous to refuse to the Government credit for the initiation of this Bill. It was a new opportunity—I use the words "new opportunity"—and it did require a considerable amount of confidence in order to run the risks which are undoubtedly involved in an operation of this magnitude, undertaken at this speed.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not think it anything personal, or will for one moment think I am depreciating the military metaphors which he used so imposingly at the close of his speech, if I say that I wish that the task of moving this Bill had not fallen to the Minister of Food. I was not sure until today who was going to do it. I happened to see in the "Daily Herald" the other day a paragraph which at the time distressed me intensely. It said, discussing this Debate, that when the Billcomes before the Commons, John Strachey "—2036 I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon—Hugh Dalton, Ernest Bevin and Creech Jones (if he is back from America in time) will speak on it.I began to wonder whether, if all those Ministers were going to speak on the Second Reading of this Bill, there would be much opportunity for anybody else. At any rate, we must be thankful for small mercies, and that we have now been spared all that oratory. But I think it was a mistake that a Bill of this nature should have been entrusted to the sponsorship of the Minister of Food. This is proclaimed as a great act of Colonial statesmanship. The right hon. Gentleman, at the beginning of his speech, emphasised the immense value which this would be to the Colonies. If that is the main purpose of this Bill it should have been introduced, not by a home Minister, whose primary responsibility is not to the people of the Colonies but to the consumers of this country, but by a Minister connected with the Department within whose responsibility lies Colonial advancement. It is, in a way, a small point, but it is not without danger—because this is a matter to which I wish to refer at some length later in my speech. There is a danger—let us face it—that suspicion of this corporation will arise in Colonial territory, and we need to do everything we can to dispel suspicions which, I am perfectly certain, would in fact be ill-founded.
There are only a few points I wish to make about the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The first is that he ought not perhaps to create this idea that a corporation is quite such a new departure as he proclaimed it to be. In fact, under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act we did, of course, encourage the setting up of different corporations in the major Colonies. They have this difference: they were set up in the Colonies and were manned either by the officials or inhabitants of the Colonies themselves, and were not, as in this case, a rather larger development corporation, set up in Whitehall.
Secondly, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman did not, in his speech, join in the unfair, ungenerous and untrue party propaganda which has been manufactured out of this Bill. On the contrary, what the right hon. Gentleman said will provide us with most valuable ammunition 2037 for refuting the statements which are being sedulously spread by the less knowledgeable or perhaps the less scrupulous members of his party machine, because the word has gone round, "You must contrast this great spirit of enterprise of this Government with the neglect of the Colonial territories in the past. You can trust this Government." One sees it "flagged" in the "Daily Herald"; no doubt it was circulated in notes to speakers; one can trace its use by the publicity agents of Ministers when they are preparing their Ministers' speeches.
§ Mr. Stanley
Hon. Members should not be quite so enthusiastic about having incurred the approval of Lord Beaver-brook. It is comforting while it lasts, but it is apt to be transitory. Let them ponder the sad case of the Foreign Secretary. Only a month ago, owing to a sentence which the Foreign Secretary used in a speech, a sentence the meaning of which has not yet been revealed to the world—to anyone with the possible exception of the Foreign Secretary himself—he was inducted by Lord Beaverbrook into his private Valhalla of statesmen. But only last Sunday, I regret to say, he was expelled again, and that Valhalla is to be left once more to the secure but solitary occupation of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). If I were an hon. Member opposite I should not go too far in claiming the support of the "Sunday Express" on a question in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman has now given a denial.
Of course, nothing could be more unfair and ungenerous than this so-called comparison. The right hon. Gentleman, as a matter of fact, has in his own speech, used so many arguments that I should have used myself that I am prepared to leave it there. I would only add that in all this talk about comparisons, no mention is ever made of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, which was passed when I was at the Colonial Office. Perhaps it is wise not to make a comparison 2038 between that Act and this Bill, between an Act which represented a £120 million free gift of the taxpayers of this country to be used exclusively for the benefit and development of the Colonies themselves, and a Bill representing £150 million which is to be used on a commercial basis primarily for the benefit of the consumers in this country.
§ Mr. Strachey
Oh, no. I think the right hon. Gentleman should qualify that statement. I think that the primary benefit will go, as I think the right hon. Gentleman said himself, to the Colonial peoples. The consumers' interests here and the interests of the primary producers there are mutual. I do not think there is any conflict.
§ Mr. Stanley
Of course, that depends upon the answer to two questions. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will answer them. If the primary purpose is to benefit the Colonies themselves, this money will be spent in developing those commodities which the Colonies want. Is that the case? Is not the choice of the commodity going to depend upon what is wanted in this country?
§ Mr. Strachey
I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman's economics. Surely, the Colonial territory in question will be most benefited by producing the commodity of which there is the greatest world shortage, for which there is the greatest world demand, and for which, other things being equal, they will get the best price. Therefore, the development will benefit both us, the world, and the primary producer of the commodity.
§ Mr. Stanley
I do not deny that. I agree that indirect benefit will flow to the Colonies, but let us be frank about it. Under other headings, this is put forward as something which is going to be of great benefit to the consumer. In fact, the choice of the product is to depend upon what is wanted by the consumer here, and the choice of the locality will depend upon where that product can be grown. It is true that, inevitably, in the particular area where the development takes place, it will be of great benefit indirectly to the economics of the Colony upon whom the lucky choice falls for the development.
2039 As I say, I do not want to go on with the argument which the right hon. Gentleman has already refuted—that there has been neglect in development before. The fact is that under private enterprise in the past, just as under these public corporations in the future, what was developed was the thing that people wanted at the time. In prewar years development was largely concerned with copper, tin, the metals and the rubber which were wanted. It is true that this groundnuts scheme was never envisaged. Indeed, had anybody attempted before the war to submit a scheme of this kind to the House, he would have been considered a lunatic. At that time our difficulty was to dispose of the vegetable oil products which the Colonies were already producing. West Africa were experiencing a continuous decline in their exports of vegetable oil. Now, of course, the conditions of world demand have entirely altered. There is a new emphasis and, quite rightly, therefore, the Government are responding in this Bill to the new demand. They are developing new supplies which were unnecessary or un-needed before.
I have only two general remarks to make on this Bill, two warnings with which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be in agreement. The first is: Do not let us, in discussing the future of these schemes, raise people's hopes too high, either as to their magnitude or, still less, as to the speed at which they can be carried out. Essentially these must be long-term projects. The very nature of what it is intended to produce necessitates that. The Minister for Economic Affairs, when speaking on the Address, drew the distinction between the short-term crisis which we are facing now and the long-term difficulties which are stretching out beyond. People must not expect, they have no right to expect, from any schemes under this Bill, any relief from the immediate crisis over the next two years. The relief these schemes offer, and which I believe they will bring, are those for our long-term economic position. Not only must people not expect anything immediately, but they ought not to be led to expect too much.
The groundnuts scheme is a project of considerable magnitude. It will absorb about one-third of the total capitalisation under the Bill. But if all the forecasts 2040 are achieved—I prefer to say "when" because I think that they will be achieved—the amount of production will be only equal to about 14 per cent. of our prewar consumption, and that will be in a good many years' time. It is substantial, it is helpful, but we must not lead the people to think that as a result of this there is going to be a sudden miracle and that all our difficulties over fats and soap will disappear overnight. In that connection, I was a little worried by a statement made by Mr. Plummer when he returned from East Africa the other day. Interviewed at the airport, and talking about Tanganyika and the development schemes there, he said:In my view, it is comparable only with the opening up of the Western States of the U.S.A.The Western States of the United States of America include among them some of the most fertile soil in the world. They have a complete diversity of climate, they suffer from none of the tropical ills, they have many mineral reserves, and they are today supporting something like 50 million people on the highest standard known in the world. Really, I do not think we ought to hold out the idea that we are going to do something of that kind in Tanganyika. I make every allowance for the gentleman's previous newspaper experience, but I think that over-statements of that kind are likely to be damaging in the future.
§ Mr. Strachey
Would the right hon. Gentleman forgive me? Mr. Plummer can speak for himself, no doubt, but I would say, as I understood it, that the remark was that the development of East Africa as a whole, and perhaps of Africa as a whole, in our century might be comparable to the development of Western America; and the groundnuts scheme is simply playing a part. In that context, I should not have thought that the remark was necessarily exaggerated.
§ Mr. Stanley
He may have been referring to that; the only thing is that it was not reported. I am not making an attack. I am only saying that it is advisable for the people most intimately connected with 2041 this matter not to use too high flown hyperboles, and not raise too high people's hopes and expectations.
The second warning I want to give—where, again, I know the right hon. Gentleman will be in entire agreement—is that, in passing this Bill and providing the money, we are undertaking the first and easiest step in the whole of this business. The real difficulty is coming when we translate the money that we vote under this Bill into equipment, machinery, tools and the skill which will be required to develop the project. That will involve the most difficult and delicate questions of priority, because nearly everything that either of the right hon. Gentlemen will want for their schemes will be in direct competition with things wanted elsewhere for other schemes of beneficent economic development, and it will not be at all easy to balance on the edge between starving these projects or, perhaps, slowing down other less dramatic projects which might in fact bring economic results earlier even than these.
What I have particularly in mind is the position in West Africa, where I understand that, already, from last year's crop, 100,000 tons of groundnuts have been built up which it has not been possible to move, and that, when the new crop is in—because West Africa has a different cropping time from East Africa—there will be a further carry-over from that. It might well be that some small fraction of the railway material to be devoted to this great new scheme, if given to the existing production in West Africa, might produce the groundnuts we want considerably earlier. Therefore, it will be necessary for us, not only to use vigilance to see that we get the necessary priorities for this scheme, but also to see that, in getting these priorities, they do not damage smaller and more normal schemes which might have a more immediate economic benefit.
There is one more point on that subject, which, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman who will speak for the Colonial Office has in mind. It is quite true that a considerable amount of this money will be spent in the Colonies, and will be paying Colonial wages. To that extent, it will not compete either with our labour requirements in this country or our requirements in machinery, but there is a 2042 danger that it might compete with other labour requirements in the Colonies, and also a considerable danger that, if we pour in a good deal more money into the Colonies, without putting in, at the same time, some proportionate amount of consumption goods, we might create in those particular Colonial territories a very severe inflationary problem. That, I am sure, is a matter which the right hon. Gentleman will have in mind.
Now I turn to the mechanism of the Bill. Although I approve of the method of the corporations as the way of running a business of this kind, I find that the actual definition of these corporations is both illogical and incomprehensive. If I might descend for one moment into the vernacular, I have never in my life seen a more cock-eyed set-up than that contained in this Bill. I can quite see that there may be the need for two corporations. I can understand a division by which one corporation does everything of an agricultural nature and the other everything of industrial nature. I can understand a division by which one corporation does everything in the Colonics and another corporation does everything outside. But I simply cannot understand a division of function and region between these corporations which leaves some areas and some functions which are common to both and leaves other functions and other areas which, so far as I can see, neither of the two can undertake. If it is a question of rice in Borneo, it can be done by the Minister of Food, or by the Minister of Food's corporation, or by the Colonial Office corporation. It is going to depend, apparently, on whether any rice has been grown there before, in which case it will depend on the Colonial Office.
§ Mr. Strachey
It depends on the invitation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It can only be done by the Overseas Food Corporation if consent has been received, but so much has to be done by the Colonial Development Corporation.
§ Mr. Stanley
That strengthens the request that I shall make later. Nothing in the way of industrial development can be done outside the Colonial Empire by either corporation. Really, it does seem to me extremely difficult to explain on any logical basis this particular choice of function for the two corporations, and I am afraid 2043 that we have to look not for logical but for personal reasons. The fact is that the Minister of Food is the cuckoo in the nest. He got into the groundnuts nest pretty early, and he is a big and loud bird, and all the flustered flutterings of the hen birds from the Colonial Office have never managed to get him out. I think it is not only wrong administratively, but psychologically, it is deadly. I ask him to consider again whether it is not possible to put all developments of any kind under the Colonial Office. Let us make them responsible for development in the Colonial territories. I am perfectly certain that that would have a good effect in the Colonies.
There will be some suspicion of these big corporations operating from London, which, I think, will be increased in all cases where it will be the responsibility of the Minister of Food. Where it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, there is at any rate, some link with the Colonial Government. At the present time, in increasing numbers, the people themselves are linked up with the Governmental machine in the Colonial territories. I feel very strongly that the people will feel that these corporations are closer to them, and that they have more influence over them, if the authority at the head is the Colonial Secretary and not the Minister of Food.
There is this other very potent argument. Any major developments of this kind are going to create innumerable difficulties and dangers to other Colonies, which can be overcome but which will need tackling. There is nothing so easy to ignore as the difficulties which somebody else has to face, and I do not like the position in which the Minister of Food creates the difficulties and the Secretary of State for the Colonies has to solve them. I would much rather make the Secretary of State responsible for solving himself the difficulties which he himself has had to create. Certainly, from the Parliamentary point of view, this would be very much better. At present, or in future, if we want to ask questions about groundnuts in Tanganyika, and it has anything to do with the development of the scheme, we have to ask through the Ministry of Food. If it has nothing to do with this development, but has to do with the native population, we have to ask the Secretary of State for the 2044 Colonies. I feel it would be far better if it was under one head, leaving to the Development Corporation developments within the Colonies and to the Overseas Corporation all developments outside. I entirely accept the right hon. Gentleman's argument that it would be quite impossible to have a Development Corporation and expect it to extend its activities to other Dominions or to foreign countries.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the safeguard of the invitation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I really do not see that that safeguard is either very strong or very valid. Let us examine what would happen in practice. The right hon. Gentleman would write a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and he would say to him, "Dear Comrade, the Overseas Food Corporation desire to invest £5 million in the cultivation of passion fruit in the Isle of St. Helena as a means of varying the diet of the under-privileged. This is entirely in line with the policy of my Ministry. Yours fraternally." The Secretary of State writes back to say that this project is unsound. What happens then? Is any more heard of it? Not at all, because what happens then is that the Minister of Food goes off to the Cabinet, the battle is joined, and the victory goes to the loudest. I have a feeling that, in a very short time, St. Helena would be growing passion fruit. By far the best safeguard for the people in Colonial territories is to make the Secretary of State for the Colonies, whose prime responsibility is their welfare, responsible for the schemes which take place in those territories.
In conclusion, I only want to say a few words on the groundnut scheme. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is going to publish a full report. It is a pity that he was not able to do that at the time he promised; it would then have been available before the Debate, instead of after it. As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there have been a considerable number of rumours of long delays, difficulties, and breakdowns in the development of this scheme, and it is just as well that we should know, as soon as possible, all the facts and all the difficulties, so that we can see exactly what they amount to. They have, of course, been serious. The programme called for 150,000 acres to be cleared by now; in fact, 15,000 have 2045 been cleared. If that merely means that, because of this, one year has been lost, well, it cannot be helped. It is a pity, and it is disappointing, but, as the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly says, when one does, and has to do, this kind of operation, when, in fact, one is ordering an aeroplane off the drawing board, one has to expect that delays may occur through nobody's fault.
But, of course, what we want to be sure of is that there are not delays which are going to run much further through the scheme than that—delays and difficulties which are going to have not merely the effect of postponing the scheme for one year, but, perhaps, of seriously altering the quantity which it is expected to obtain, or the cost at which we are going to obtain it. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, could, perhaps, give an answer to one question. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that, in comparison with the programme of 150,000 acres, the total cleared is 15,000. Could he give us the same comparison for the cost figure as well? In the report there is an estimate of the cost which will be incurred in this first season, and I think it will be useful to know whether, in fact, that estimate has proved to be an accurate one. I certainly will not go into any more details of this scheme until I have seen the report which we are promised.
All the criticisms which I have been raising—and which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will seriously consider—when put together, are all matters of detail. They do not affect the general purposes and objects of this Bill, which is one which we all applaud and which we all approve. Not only shall we facilitate, and assist in, the passage of this Bill, which is, as I say, the easiest part, but, when we come to the more difficult part, the turning of the paper provisions of an Act into the actual results of a scheme, then, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, we shall follow the progress, not only with interest, but with hope and with sympathy. He can count on us to give all the support we can to the men, from the top to the bottom, who will be engaged on a programme which is likely to be of such great benefit to us in this country and of equal benefit to those for whom we are responsible in the Colonial Empire.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has made, as we might have expected, a witty and constructive speech in which the only defect is that he has said many of the things which I should like to have said in following him. A Bill must be very good in these days of rising party feeling when the Opposition can commend it so warmly as the right hon. Gentleman has done. It has been pointed out that, in this general chorus of approval, Lord Beaverbrook joins, and it has been suggested that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food may feel some embarrassment thereby. I suggest that he is in the same position as the butcher in "The Hunting of the Snark."Hon. Members will remember the situation when the butcher and the beaver found themselves marching" shoulder to shoulder."But the very same plan to the beaver occurred.It had come to the very same place;Yet neither betrayed, by a sign or a word.The disgust that appeared on his face.We are discussing a Bill, the main feature of which is that the State proposes to step into the place formerly taken by private enterprise, and which, owing to the increasing rate of taxation, private enterprise can no longer occupy. It is proposed to make no less than £150 million available for capital investment in the territories concerned, mainly in Colonial territories. This sounds a large sum of money, but I must point out that it is not large in relation to the total needs of those territories, nor, indeed, is it large in relation to the sums already invested by private enterprise in these fields. It is large in relation to what the Treasury normally agrees to give, and that is the significance of the figures we are now discussing.
I should like to agree with the right hon. Member for West Bristol that what matters is not so much the £150 million which we are now discussing; the Chancellor will give that money with "a song in his heart," and even "with heart in his song." What is important is that this should be followed by equipment in this country, and by productive labour in the territories concerned. As far as equipment is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out with truth that this is a question of priorities. I am a little 2047 cautious in speaking about this subject because I read with interest, as many hon. Members will have done, a letter in "The Times" of this morning in which a gentleman asked, "How can one plough with priorities?" But they are an essential step towards getting something done, and the really important question is what will happen around the Cabinet table when the national joint is carved up.
I have noticed with interest the names of the backers of this Bill, and I am encouraged in the hope that the corporations concerned will get a substantial share of the available equipment. I see on the Bill the names of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They are, of course, Labour Imperalists of long standing. There also appears the name of the Minister for Economic Affairs. He is a more recent convert and, therefore, there will be more joy in Heaven over seeing his name on the back of this Bill than in seeing the names of my other right hon. Friends. I hope that the appearance of his name means that the two corporations concerned will get a high priority for the very little equipment that is available. The right hon. Member for West Bristol has pointed out, with great truth, that the diversion of even a small quantity of equipment to necessary tasks, such as the clearance of the groundnuts stored in Nigeria, can make a very great difference to the position of this country. It is certainly the case that we can hope for a far more immediate alleviation of our fats position from such a measure than from the great groundnuts scheme to which so much time has been devoted this afternoon.
I have said that it is necessary also to translate this £150 million into labour in the territories concerned. It is the case that in many of the territories labour is available, but that labour must also be a productive labour, and we shall not get the highest productivity from labour in the territories concerned, especially in Africa, unless a much larger quantity of consumer goods is made available for them. This is one of the most important questions to which we can address our minds in considering Colonial production. In particular, the Government must be prepared to make available to Colonial territories a far greater supply of cotton textiles than 2048 is at present going to those territories. That is the great need, and in default there will not be the production that we desire, however much we may plan it on paper. The trouble with the planners is that they plan everything except human nature, which they cannot control. I draw no lessons for our domestic economy, but it is certainly the case in Africa and in other Colonial territories that unless the workers can get supplies of goods on which they can expend their wages they will not work for those wages. They do not have the habit of saving which is ingrained in this country. They want something on which they can spend their money, and unless we provide that something they will not produce the goods which this Bill is designed to produce.
The Bill, in describing the two corporations, follows precedents that have been set. Little by little, I suppose, we are discovering the ideal form for a public corporation, and this Bill embodies much discussion in this House over the past two years. There are, however, a few questions on which I should be grateful to have assurances from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies who, I understand, is to reply to this Debate. If I may, I should like to congratulate him very much on his accession to the office which he holds and to which he has come at a most interesting time. I wish him the best of success in it. The first question which I will ask is the same one as that developed by the right hon. Member for West Bristol; namely, the position of the Minister of Food in Colonial territories. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Food will understand that I should certainly not wish to raise any personal questions. He knows that I shared much work with him; I even shared a room in this Palace of Westminster with him, and there will certainly not be anything personal in the questions which I shall raise. These matters are greater than our own personalities, and I feel, as the right hon. Member for West Bristol felt, that it would be a great mistake for the Minister of Food to have any responsibility in Colonial territories.
Clearly, a corporation responsible to the Minister of Food is necessary for projects outside the Colonial Empire, but inside 2049 that Colonial Empire I am sure it would be a great mistake if he had any responsibility. There is already, in West Africa particularly, a great suspicion of large-scale business enterprises such as the United Africa Company and the Association of West African Merchants. It is impossible to move about those territories without encountering those suspicions wherever one goes. In my view, they are largely unjustified suspicions, but I understand how they have arisen, and I am very much afraid that the Ministry of Food will incur a similar suspicion. After all, what is the primary duty of the Ministry of Food? It is, surely, to secure for consumers in this country the maximum possible supplies of food at the lowest possible prices, and if it failed to do so it would be failing in its duty. I know that there have been "occasions, publicly announced, when the Ministry of Food has urged higher prices for Colonial products with the object of increasing production. But if that object is not there, if we were living in what may be called normal times, then it would certainly be failing in its duty if it did not aim at getting the lowest possible prices for the consumers in this country.
The Colonial Office, thanks to hard work by devoted servants over many years, has achieved a reputation as a trustee for the interests of people in the Colonies, and that reputation is due very largely to the work of the right hon. Member for West Bristol and the right hon. Gentleman who holds the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies today. In these past few years particularly, the Colonial Office has won a great reputation in the eyes of Colonial peoples for fairness in looking after their interests. I think the Colonial peoples will be far more satisfied that their interests are going to be safeguarded if all enterprises in the Colonies are undertaken by the Colonial Development Corporation responsible to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It may be argued that, if my thesis is sound, even the groundnuts scheme should be transferred to the Colonial Development Corporation. Logically that is so. I am not revealing any governmental secrets, because I was out of the country at the time when this act of departmental baby-snatching took place, and I have no knowledge of what passed behind the scenes; but logically 2050 this groundnuts scheme also should be in the hands of the Colonial Office.
I should not press for the transfer now for several reasons. The custody of the child has been given to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food, and it would be very disturbing to his upbringing if he were now transferred to other hands. Moreover, the scheme is taking place very largely on virgin soil, and complicated questions of land tenure and local custom do not arise as they would arise in more developed areas. In addition, rather extravagant expectations of the groundnuts scheme have been raised, and I think it might not be fair to the Colonial Office to pass it over at this stage. There seems to be some doubt about what Mr. Plummer said, but I think it can hardly be doubted that he described the part of East Africa where this scheme is taking place as being an El Dorado. I do not know much about El Dorado. It is not a territory for which I ever had any responsibility. But I took the trouble of looking in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and I found it described as "a mythical country" whichinduced many … explorers to lead expeditions in search of treasure, but all failed.I hope that there is no such significance to be read in this use of the term El Dorado. That is the first question which I wish to raise about the Bill itself.
My second question is rather delicate, but it is one about which I have felt strongly in the past two years, and I feel that I must raise it. That is the salaries to be paid to members of the two corporations. I do not know whether my hon. Friend will be in a position to make any announcement tonight. I should, however, like to urge strongly that there be some abatement of the salaries which have been paid in the past to the chairmen, deputy-chairmen and members of the public corporations. I think these large salaries are not necessary to attract the right men, and I think that they do great harm in several directions. In these days of high Surtax the salaries do not mean very much to those who receive them in terms of hard cash. Whether a man's salary is £5,000 a year or £10,000 does not make very much difference, but the payment of high salaries does mean that everybody else insists on having an increase in his salary, and the total sum that has to be paid is very large indeed in consequence.
2051 Moreover, the payment of extravagant salaries in public corporations cannot fail to have a most injurious effect on the Civil Service. The permanent head of a first class Department of State receives a salary of £3,750 a year. The political head of such a Department receives a salary of £5,000 a year. No doubt, the loyalty of those who serve us so well in the Civil Service is such that the present holders of the chief posts in the Departments would not wish to leave them for the public corporations, but if such salaries continue to be paid all along the line, then, inevitably, new entrants will be induced to look to the public corporations rather than the Civil Service for their careers. I do not think that such salaries are necessary to attract really able people, because I do not believe in the doctrine of the superman in relation to these public corporations. I am bound to ask, have we in the past obtained supermen in charge of our national corporations? Of course, we know that they are all fallible, like the rest of us.
It has been urged that such men as Lord Nuffield are worth any salary that we care to pay them; and, indeed, there is an element of truth in that statement; but the time when Lord Nuffield was doing his great work in our economy was when he was plain Mr. William Morris, and probably did not know how he was going to make ends meet from one week to another. It has always been in such times that the creative work of our captains of industry has been done. I hope we shall put a stop to the practice whereby these high salaries have been paid in the past. For myself, I consider that the salary paid to a Minister of Cabinet rank should be the standard, and that a salary of £5,000 a year for full-time work in these corporations should be what we set ourselves, and no more. I believe—indeed, I know—that for such a figure one can get some of the ablest persons in the country to give their services; indeed, I know of persons who would give their services free, although I think that practice equally undesirable, because it might be invidious to those who cannot afford to do so. In these days of austerity let us be austere together, and let austerity start at the top. I suggest that we make a salary of £5,000 a year the standard for these public corporations.
2052 I wish now to raise the question of the commercial freedom of the two corporations we are setting up. This is a question that is often debated in this House, and the House is almost unanimous in demanding that public corporations shall be just as free as commercial enterprises in their work. But too often we find that when a corporaton is set up it is subjected to what I must call a series of nagging questions in the House. We really must decide whether we are going to give birth to these twins or not, and we must decide definitely to cut the umbilical cords that bind them to Whitehall. I hope that we shall very definitely resolve that these corporations are to have the same freedom in their work as an ordinary business house would have.
I ask this question for a particular reason. These corporations have enjoined upon them the statutory duty of making a profit. I have no doubt that a private investor would be very glad if he could say, "I will lend you £5,000 at 3½ per cent. on condition you do not lose it, but will guarantee the interest." Of course, merely writing such a provision into an Act of Parliament cannot ensure that profits will be made. In undertaking the great tasks that are now being undertaken, or will be undertaken under this Bill, it is certainly the case that no profits will be made for a considerable time. I think the House must accept that fact, and not come back in a year's time charging the corporations with making great losses. We all know that every successful industry today which has started in virgin territory had a very difficult time in its first few years. The experience of these great corporations will not be different from the experience of private enterprise in that respect, and we must give the corporations commercial freedom, and not insist too early upon returns from them in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.
While I am on this subject, may I take up the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol to refer to the Colonial Development and Welfare Act which was passed when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies, but when also, I believe, a Coalition Government, in which Labour shared, was in office? The Colonial Development and Welfare Fund is a very great institution which has been of immeasurable help to many 2053 Colonial territories. I have had a lot to do with its detailed administration, and I know the benefit it has given in thousands of different directions. One reason why it differs from the proposals in this Bill is that it is devoted to welfare as well as to development. In the last resort, I know no hard and fast line can be drawn between welfare and development; but there is a real difference between schemes which will yield results only after a lapse of many years and schemes which will yield results in the near future. Another difference from the present proposals is that any grants under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts come under meticulous Treasury control, and that does limit their usefulness. I hope that when we give the £150 million we shall not attach too many strings to the money.
There is another matter concerning which I shall be glad if my hon. Friend can give an answer. It is laid down in one of the - later Clauses of the Bill—in Clause 19–that the expression "colonial territory" means aterritory to which section one of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940, applies at the commencement of this Act.I can see that those words are very well chosen, because they mean that once a corporation starts work in a territory it will not be forced to leave it when that territory marches along to its constitutional destiny. But it would be useful, especially in the territories concerned, if my hon. Friend would make clear what is the position of Ceylon, Malta, Southern Rhodesia, and the High Commission territories in South Africa. He might also refer to the position of the Sudan where, I think, great work can be done by one of the corporations.
I have not time to refer to any particular projects which might be undertaken, but I should like in a general way to emphasise the importance of transport in the development of Colonial territories. In the work I have had to do in this field, time and time again I have come up against the impossibility of doing it because of the inadequate transport. The right hon. Gentleman has already mentioned the railway in Nigeria, which is unable to carry away the groundnuts.
That is only one of several score examples which could be given. We need a great improvement in transport facili- 2054 ties in the Colonial Empire if its full potentialities are to be realised. I am inclined to think that in the Colonial territories we can very often by-pass the railway age; and I could wish that it might be possible, with all the experience we have of tracked and half-tracked vehicles, to develop something on those lines. We could also make far greater use of the waterways in the Colonial Empire than we are doing. However the problem is tackled, this question of transport is most important. As Lord Trefgarne, who is chairman-designate of one of the corporations, has had experience as a member of the British Overseas. Airways Corporation, I should hope also that the air requirements of Colonial territorities will not be overlooked.
In my judgment, this Bill marks an epoch in Colonial development, for it marks a new attitude in our thinking about the Colonies. It is true that the first breach with the old philosophy—the philosophy that the development of a Colony must be financed out of its own revenues or by private investment—came with the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, of which the right hon. Member for West Bristol was the sponsor. But this is a new attitude, in that we accept the fact that the State must now take the place formerly taken by the private investor. If the old regime had continued, then the Colonies would inevitably have remained at their medieval level of productivity. I doubt whether the House fully realises the lowness of that level; the hoe is still the chief agricultural implement in the Colonial Empire. There are almost limitless possibilities of improvement. Thanks to this new departure, I think it will be possible to lift the Colonial Empire to something, approaching European and American standards.
Let us make no mistake. This Bill will bring its own problems with it. I thought—if I may say so with respect—that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food was putting the cart before the horse, to some extent, when he suggested that these developments would solve many of the problems, such as over-population, which we have in the Colonial territories. The measures now being taken in hand will inevitably lead to a big increase in the population of the territories, and that increase in the population will bring 2055 its own problems with it. we know how in India, for example, British rule, with all that it did in the way of irrigation and health, led to very large increases of population. The same course will be followed in Africa, and we must be prepared to face those problems in the light of the experience that we have gained in the past.
I believe this Bill also marks a landmark in the economic development of our own country. Again, I make no animadversion upon the measures being taken at home to tackle our economic problems, but I do say, taking a long view, that there are only two foundations upon which the economy of this country can be soundly rebuilt: one is the development of our home agriculture; the other is the development of the great untapped resources of the Colonial Empire. We must build on both of those foundations, and this Bill is one means by which we can hope to develop our Colonial resources, provided that we do not find ourselves estopped by some other measures which we are not now discussing. For example, I shall await with the closest interest the revelation of the tariff concessions we have made to see whether we are, in fact, not prevented from developing our Colonial resources to the utmost.
I should like to look even farther. One of the most hopeful signs of our time is the way in which we are drawing closer together, through necessity, in Western Europe. It so happens that the nations of Western Europe are also the great Colonial Powers, and in uniting Western Europe we shall also be uniting Africa. I see dimly through this Bill a time when a United Europe, or at any rate in the first stage a United Western Europe, will have Africa as its hinterland, developing a great agriculture and a great flow of raw materials for the industries of Europe. It is in that spirit—in the spirit that I believe this Bill to be one of the great landmarks in Colonial history and in the economic life of our own country—that I give the Bill my warmest support.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
I am sure the House listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), and to the constructive and helpful speech which he made in welcoming a Bill which comes from a Department with which he was associated, and I know 2056 the House would wish to congratulate the hon. Member on the contribution he has made today. I think the appeals of the Minister will be answered from all sides of the House, and I have no doubt that this Bill will be supported by all hon. Members of every party. At one stage I thought that this might have been a Bill from the pigeonholes of the last Coalition Government, but the only reference which the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) made in that connection was when he suggested that the Minister of Food could have referred to the files with regard to the United Africa Company. I hope we shall not see a controversy over whether this great experiment is to be handled by the Minister of Food or by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Perhaps there will be a good deal of trial and error and experiment before we know. My own view is that a great deal will depend upon the two corporations before we see what happens to this scheme, with its enormous possibilities, and its possibly enormous expenditure.
I hope that the Government will appoint the right men to these two corporations, because they will have the spending of tens of millions of pounds. They may have the power of life or death over almost every new idea and enterprise connected with this project in these areas. However well a scheme is estimated to work on paper, that is how it really works in practice today. Therefore, I hope that the Government will benefit, in the larger sense, by their previous experience in the appointments to these public boards, and will see that for these two corporations we get the right men on the boards. I hope the Government will not make the mistake which I think all Governments have made with these public boards. Take, for instance, civil aviation. I would have said offhand that today the civil aviation industry is almost in a state of chaos. Vast sums have been handled by inexperienced boards and individuals. I repeat that it is of great importance to see that the men appointed know something about the job.
Whichever Minister is responsible for the appointments, I trust that he will have the courage to get men who know something about the business they are running—even if he has to go to ordinary businessmen who would understand fully 2057 the types of industries connected with this large Colonial area, and get them to work, as the hon. Member for Keighley said, for a proper salary. I am perfectly certain that if that is done they will be found willing to serve and to carry out this great enterprise. It is absolutely essential to have experienced men who can take decisions on vital questions of policy and administration when they arise.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman made a good attempt in introducing this Measure, but I cannot visualise him as a great Empire builder. Frankly, he terrifies me when I think of what he might do if let loose. In his description of this operation, I thought he was going to bring in the Eighth Army, and send for Monty, or that he was falling back on his broadcasting days and looking for gremlins among the groundnuts. I am not at all sure that the noble Lord, who I understand is chairman-designate, strikes me as a great pioneer or a man with a mission. He does not appear to me as someone who is filled with a great purpose to carry out the spirit of the scheme, which is absolutely necessary if it is to succeed. The noble Lord distinguished himself in past days in this House, and we all respect him and his record. Nevertheless, is he the great Empire builder who can make this scheme succeed, ready to devote his whole life and energies to it? Because only in this way, with such leadership, can we make this scheme succeed. We need individuals with vision and courage to work these public corporations. If the men who are put on these boards do not know their business from the practical point of view, they have to depend on their permanent officials. It is not altogether fair to the officials to ask them to take decisions on administration which touch upon almost every aspect of these problems. In my view, that is where we get the bottlenecks.
Reference has been made to paper planning, and I tell the Minister of Food that if this scheme fails—and we all hope it will succeed—it will be because it has been planned on paper; because there is no practical administration and experience to carry it out here and on the spot. If the men who are to carry out this scheme think in terms of paper planning, and consider that all that is necessary is to dictate a memorandum to someone whose secretary puts it in a file for reply, there will not be the necessary 2058 drive for success. I am hoping that the Government will consider this an appropriate time to reconsider the personnel of all these public boards—electricity, civil aviation and now this Empire scheme. Let the Government go to. men who have proved themselves already. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that a public official can foresee all the snags which will arise, ports, equipment, production, soil and so on. If one fundamental blunder is made, not only will this House and the country be disappointed, but millions of pounds will have gone into an enterprise doomed to failure.
Why not do what the late President Roosevelt did in the case of the T.V.A.? He found men with knowledge and experience who were prepared to sacrifice themselves and give their time and skill to work that scheme. I say to the Government: find the men with experience, or your scheme will not succeed. The Minister of Food referred to the ground nuts scheme, and consultations which have been taking place with Australia, New Guinea and elsewhere. I should like to feel that this is a Commonwealth plan. I believe that we have to bring the Dominions into this. Have the South African Government been consulted on an economic and geographical area and co-operative basis in regard to this scheme? I imagine that they have a great deal of experience with smaller similar schemes. We have now appointed a Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. Are the Government really going to give us a progressive and forward-looking policy, and is this to be a plan for a democratic Commonwealth as a whole? This is an opportunity, and I hope that the Government will go forward on that basis.
A statement was made recently by Sir John Boyd Orr, in which he said that we are facing a world shortage of raw materials and food. He envisaged a crisis situation in regard to food in the near future. This scheme is a long-term plan, but we may have to adjust it, suspend it, or supplant it for an emergency Colonial plan for food. I hope that the Government and the Minister of Food are giving that matter some consideration. The Minister for Economic Affairs has said that we have to export our manufactured goods in order to get our raw materials and food supplies, but foreign markets are dry- 2059 ing up, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for foreign customers to import and to get import licences. The Government may shortly find themselves in a position when their export drive may be in danger because of currency shortages and the difficulty of getting licences due to adverse balance of payments. We may have entirely to redesign our export policy, and we may be forced to adopt an emergency programme to import food from the Colonies and Dominions.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, in considering these long-term plans, is not losing sight of what was referred to by the right hon. Member for West Bristol, namely, that there are areas from which we can get groundnuts today. There are areas in the Commonwealth and Empire which, with a little bit of planning by people who understand the job, could increase our food supplies in the immediate future. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who is to be responsible for the administration of this scheme, will bear in mind the necessity for these emergency adjustments.
The House will, of course, give the right hon. Gentleman a blessing, but I say to him that speed is an important factor. I would ask the Minister to get good men to help to run this scheme, or it will fail. Get good organisers, builders, and business men, who have had practical experience. Get those men to help see it through, and the scheme will be a success. Bring in the Dominions and, if necessary, the civil engineering capacity of the United States of America. They may be able to help with some of the difficulties; they may be able to help with machinery and the building of the port. I expected the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government would set up a Mulberry harbour. If there is a bottleneck in port facilities, it might be necessary to do that and, here, America could help us, because they have the steel and the skilled men. It was help like that, from America, which enabled us to win the North African campaign. I have always understood that the Labour Party wished the Empire to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. That being so, why not bring in every country which can help?' After all, it is a world problem. Above all, speed is the essence if we are not to be too late for this generation.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville) at one moment in his speech praised the Bill and at other moments voiced criticisms. As always with Members of his party, I am never quite sure which side they are on—
§ Mr. Granville
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that all sides of the House intend to support this Bill. An appeal was made by the Minister for national unity. This is a free House, I hope, in which constructive criticism is invited.
§ Mr. Peart
I hope it always will be a free House, but some of the remarks made by the hon. Member in criticising some of the personnel who will function on these public corporations were most unfair, as they are not in a position to answer any criticism. I hope that if support for this Bill is to be given it will be generous support.
The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) raised some important constructive critical points which have already been dealt with from this side of the House. I, personally, would agree that from a psychological point of view it would be better if this matter came under the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and that it should be his entire responsibility. But there it is; the Bill is now before us, and we must try to work out its details, particularly in relation to the groundnut scheme. The right hon. Member for West Bristol paid a tribute to this Government, but I think he rather spoiled that tribute by the love of his own dialectical skill, which led him into other paths. He said that we were emphasising in this Bill the interests of the consumer. Surely, the interests of the consumer and of the primary producer in the Colonies coincide. If we can, through this Measure, improve productivity in the Colonies and mandated territories we shall not only enable ourselves to have a supply of products from those parts of the world, but we shall be able to improve the standard of living of the native peoples.
In this modern world we should regard the consumers' interests as complementary to the interests of the native primary producers, whether they work in mines or fields or as loyal servants in the operation of the new groundnut scheme. I thought 2061 the right hon. Gentleman's criticism was rather unfair. It is true that we must not raise too high hopes but, on the other hand, we must not damn the scheme before it has got under way. I am certain that all Members of the House, Conservative, and even Liberal, will, with members of the Government, wish the Secretary for the Colonies and the Minister of Food well in this new venture in the field of public enterprise.
This Bill is one of the most important Measures which this Government have initiated in this Parliament. I have not had the intimate connection with Colonial affairs that many Members of this House have had as members of the Colonial Service, or through official contacts in the field of commerce, or privileged visits from this House to parts of the Colonies. Nevertheless, I am a Member of this House, and I too, with others, have a responsibility to the Colonial peoples. For that reason, I welcome the establishment of the two corporations referred to in this Bill—the Colonial Development Corporation, under Clauses i and 2, and the Overseas Food Corporation, under Clauses 3 and 4. The Bill has undoubtedly a short-term value. We are faced with an economic crisis, and the general world dollar shortage, which reflects the disparity of production between the new and old world, strikingly emphasises the importance of the resources of the Colonial Empire. There within our reach, not in the old rapacious sense, are vast untapped resources of mineral and agricultural wealth, resources which, if efficiently and speedily exploited, would bring lasting benefits not only to this country but to the indigenous native populations. The East African groundnut scheme which has been described in detail by the Minister, and which is now the responsibility of the Overseas Food Corporation, indicates what we can do if we will it. This scheme, when it reaches maturity, will ensure to this country an important and valuable supply of protein feedingstuff.
This year most of our imported protein feedingstuff will come from Argentina. We need more supplies. The world is short of feedingstuffs, and as our old prewar sources of supply, India and the Near East, are now no longer available, it behoves us to do all we can to stimulate production in other areas under our direct control. Here, I agree with the hon.
2062 Member for Eye that we must take notice of the recent words of Sir John Boyd Orr. Speaking before the World Food Council, at Washington, Sir John warned the world of the dangers of a complete breakdown in food production and distribution. As he eloquently stated, it may well lead toa complete breakdown of the structure of human society.So we must go full speed ahead with food production schemes as envisaged under this Bill. That is what the Government are doing. Then there is the long-term value. This Bill has an important long-term asset. Wise development of our Colonial resources in the various fields of productive activity will also make a contribution to that necessary social and economic revolution which must come to the Colonial peoples. We owe much to the territories in the Colonial Empire. They have made a particular contribution to Britain's industrial economy. By their exploitation we have enjoyed a comparatively high standard of living. Now we, in turn, have our obligations to fulfil.
So I regard this new venture, the use of public corporations in the field of Colonial development as an opportunity to fulfil some of those obligations which we owe to the native peoples. It must not be a repetition of that one-way traffic which took place at the end of the 19th century—a one-way traffic of goods, products, raw materials and valuable minerals, but rather now a stimulation of native productivity which, in turn, will improve the standard of living of the native worker and the native primary producer. As the standard of living of the native worker and primary producer increases, so will his-demands. With increased production in our Colonies there will be increased consumption of other goods which can be supplied by this country. The needs of the Colonial peoples are complementary to our own needs. I sincerely hope that the two new corporations will not be white bureaucracies superimposed upon backward peoples. I am certain that the Government will see that it does not occur, and I am glad that the Bill, in Clauses 7 and 8, makes detailed provision as to how the corporations should work. Local interests will have to be considered, and the native worker protected. Clauses 7 and 8 are important safeguards. I trust that they will be carried out to the letter.
2063 May I deal briefly with one major problem in the field of Colonial affairs. The greatest enemy facing the Colonial territories is soil erosion. Today the Colonies face many problems but soil erosion is the most urgent and pressing. It must have the immediate attention of the Colonial Development Corporation. Soil erosion is now a major world problem. The Colonies are particularly affected and there is need for immediate and speedy action. Hugh Bennett, head of the United States Soil Conservation Service, has recently estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of the world's available crop land are subject to damage, or have already been damaged in some degree by soil erosion. He has some interesting figures which partly cover the Colonial territories. The estimated percentage of productive land damaged or ruined for further practical cultivation by soil erosion includes the following: North America, 50 to 60 per cent.; South America, 28 to 35; Africa, 35 to 60. In South Africa, according to General Smuts:Erosion is the biggest problem confronting the country, bigger than any politics.His words are applicable to every British Colony. So I ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies—who is concerned with the Development Corporations—to try to deal effectively and quickly with this most important, pressing problem. If soil erosion persists, and we fail to take preventative measures, world food production will suffer irreparable damage. If one reads that authoritative work, "The Rape of the Earth," a world survey of soil erosion by G. V. Jacks and R. O. Whyte, we see how soil conservation in the past, particularly in the Colonies, has been handicapped through the failure of Governments to provide the necessary financial assistance and staff. Under Clause 9 the Minister can give directions to these new public corporations. I ask him to prepare his brief now. Soil erosion is priority No. 1. Let us remember that if we as a nation,. in any part of the world or the Colonies, neglect the soil, we do it at our peril.
I welcome this Bill. It is an ambitious scheme of public enterprise conducted in a field of activity which, if the right hon. Member for West Bristol will forgive me for saying so, was once the verbal prerogative of the Conservative Party. Despite what he said rather good humouredly 2064 in relation to the criticism of Lord Beaverbrook, and despite the gibes he made at Socialist propagandists, I still assert that this is the first Government that has really demonstrated to the Colonial peoples that it wishes to do something practical in the field of Colonial administration. [Interruption.] I know that hon. Members opposite will not accept that, but I believe that this important Bill is a great step forward, and an advance from that old Tory imperialism which was supported so much by hon. Members opposite in the past. We shall wipe the slate clean and start afresh. The first test of Colonial policy is: Will it help the native peoples to secure their social, economic and political emancipation? This Bill will do much in the economic field. That field is important. I remember some past words of the present Colonial Secretary:You cannot talk about political freedom until you end economic servitude.This Labour Government is making further steps towards world progress, because we believe that no nation can be free which enslaves another.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Sir John Graham Kerr (Scottish Universities)
The few remarks which I have to offer this evening are centred around a single word, a word which occurs once in Clause 1 and once in Clause 3. That single word is "investigation." I am relieved to see that word in substitution for the greatly misused word "research," that has been so misused that it has ceased to have almost any meaning, like those other words in the English language—"sterling," "Socialist," and, possibly, "nepotism," of which we have heard so much today. I venture to say something about the importance of investigation and research in these developments that are foreshadowed, and I would take, first of all, and as the main point in my remarks, the health of the native peoples upon which, of course, everything in the way of their productive capacity ultimately depends. I will take first one of the great accomplishments of tropical medicine, that great science of which the father is recognised as Patrick Manson, a graduate of a Scottish University—the cure of malaria, the most destructive of all human diseases.
I remember so well in the old days in the tropical swamps of South America 2065 when I first came into contact with malaria, we used to look on it as a kind of miasma due to the pestiferous air of the swamps, and so the whole world understood it to be. Hence the name mal aria—bad air—which the Italians gave it and which we still use in ordinary English today.
The first great step in the solution of the malaria problem came from an officer of the Indian Medical Service, Ronald Ross, inspired by Manson, and his great discovery was that malaria is not a disease merely of human beings; it is a disease shared by human beings and a particular type of mosquito, which is very easily recognised because when it sucks one's blood it more or less stands on its head to do so. This attitude gives the warning of what kind of a mosquito it is as it takes its draught of blood. Ross found that it was by this mosquito that the disease was spread from one human being to another. That bit of research was not merely interesting as an additional detail of science. It was interesting and important in a far more practical way, because once the disease was known to be conveyed by that particular type of mosquito, then steps could be taken to eradicate it from a particular district, or at least greatly lessen its numbers and so diminish the risk of infection. That was done. Malaria became immediately reduced all over the world, but it was by no means beaten; in some parts of the world it was still liable to cause a tremendous death rate.
Among some of our Colonial troops in the Far East during the recent war there was an appalling death rate from malaria, attaining as much as 30 times the death rate in battle. Research stepped in again. There was a great research centre started in Cairns in Northern Queensland. Various drugs were experimented with and the final result was that it was found possible not merely to cure malaria in the individual but to make his blood an impossible medium for the microbe to live in. That was one very great achievement of tropical medicine based on research.
I take another instance, due again to a graduate of a Scottish University, David Bruce, whose work began with a deadly disease in cattle and horses—practically always fatal to horses and nearly so to cattle—in certain districts of Africa. David Brace found this disease was due to another kind of microbe that lived in the 2066 blood of those animals, a creature of the trypanosome type which wriggles through the blood. Again he found that this trypanosome was passed from one animal to another by the bite of a particular kind of fly, the tsetse fly. This again was no mere additional detail of science but an advance of great practical importance. Just about the turn of the century there developed a most frightful epidemic of sleeping sickness in Uganda, one of our Colonies. In the first two years of the century, about a quarter of a million natives were killed. Research showed that this disease again was caused by a trypanosome and spread by a biting fly closely allied to the tsetse.
Had tropical medicine done nothing more than those things that I have quoted it would have done a great thing, but actually the progress which research has made has shown a great variety of dangerous diseases that attack people, especially in warm climates, caused by animal microbes, some of them allied to the malaria microbe and causing great losses of domestic animals in some parts of the world. Certain diseases which again cause immense destruction of life have been caused by those creatures called spirochetes which are like slender trypanosomes. They cause many diseases, including syphilis, and various diseases of warm climates. Finally there is the kind of microbe which have been given the rather stupid name of virus, which is the cause of many familiar diseases, and are also responsible for some of those deadly forms of typhus which are to be experienced in the warmer climates and which are spread by ticks and mites. Had research done no more than what I have quoted—research by the way carried out in great part by people of our own race—it would have been of immense service to humanity. I wonder more and more as time goes on at that sublime ignorance—or it may be at times some queer, twisted mentality—which fails to acknowledge that what we used to call the British Empire has been the greatest instrument in the whole history of the world in bringing benefits to the nations in the tropics.
I might have spoken on other things than public health. I might have taken the vegetable products of those warmer countries. Anyone who has lived amongst primitive men remote from civilisation 2067 knows how they gather in the recesses of the forests various kinds of fruits unknown to us but which in these days of plant genetics will in time be developed by research into valuable foods and made available to us. In such remote places one may come across a fruit which looks most appetising but on taking a bite proves to be filled with acrid poison. There again we have another type of vegetable product awaiting research which will be able to prepare these fruits or vegetables, remove the poison and make them available as food for mankind.
Many of us know a familiar case of that sort of thing, namely the plant called the cassava or manioc with its two varieties sweet and bitter. In each case we have a plant with its roots greatly swollen up by containing nutritious food material, but in one case we can eat it at once, and in the other it is permeated by a most poisonous juice, which has to be extracted. When you do extract it, in that particular kind of cassava we get the material which we all know as tapioca. There is the example of a vegetable which is poisonous in its native natural condition, but which research has made available to man. I would conclude by expressing the hope that these two great corporations at whose birth we are assisting will follow the inspiring example of our Colonial Office and will see that scientific research is made one of the great priorities, as we call it now, in developing the resources of these territories.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Skinnard (Harrow, East)
I have listened with very great attention indeed to the examples of medical and botanical research adduced by the scholarly Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir. J. Graham Kerr). I did hope that he was going to suggest to the research department of the Colonial Office that they might go a stage further in the production of tapioca and make it appetising for the consumer. I suffered very much from tapioca when I was a boy. At that time it seemed to me to be as poisonous as the other variety of manioc.
It must be very gratifying to His Majesty's Government that this very important Bill has been received with such unanimous agreement in all parts of the House. They feel, and all of us feel on this side, that one of the major contri- 2068 butions that we in Britain can make in the British Commonwealth is to redress the unbalance of production to which the Prime Minister alluded so forcibly in this House and in his broadcast address. We must do all we can to redress this unbalance of production and to raise the productivity of the world, which has suffered so sadly through the incidence of two wars and past neglect, as well as from the unkindnesses of nature in late years and the folly of men in not tending the greatest of all their inheritances, the land itself.
I was very glad indeed to hear the stress laid by one hon. Member upon the subject of soil erosion. The conservation of the land is the first matter to which anyone who has a feeling of concern for the Colonial territories must address himself. The beneficial character of the advantages to be gained by the Bill cannot be overstressed. The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who opened for the Opposition in his usual witty, and on these occasions kindly, manner, pointed out the danger in overemphasising what we in this little island will get out of it. I believe that primarily this is a step in the restoration of productivity for the world as a whole. In that restoration of productivity the first advantage will accrue to the peoples of the colonial and trusteeship territories and other lands, where the Overseas Food Corporation will go into operation. I wish to add that the productivity encouraged by the other corporation will also be of world benefit. We welcome it, and we do not deny that we shall profit by it, but the advantage will be shared by all the inhabitants of this planet.
The opening of great new markets for our own industries will result from greater purchasing power among Colonial peoples. That is very important, but I do not think of it chiefly as a way of providing markets for our own goods. It is a way of providing a higher standard of life for the peoples of the Colonies. In some ways it is a pity that provision for both corporations has appeared in the same Bill. There is a feeling in the Colonies that, to reverse Dickens, "Short is the friend and not Codlin." The Minister of Food is looked upon by the primary producers and their elected representatives with a great deal of suspicion whereas they regard the Secretary of State 2069 for the Colonies as a sort of benevolent uncle. There is some justice in the complaints which have been put forward by the primary producers in our Colonies, especially during the recent war. For that reason I could have preferred that the whole of the development work within the dependent Empire should have been in the hands of the Colonial Office.
Judging by the rather plaintive remarks of the Secretary of State himself recently, when he was in the West Indies, he and, I think, his predecessor have had a pretty hard tussle. They have been rather like Mr. Pickwick between the rival editors, because they have to fight both the Treasury and the Ministry of Food. Perhaps I should have put them the other way round and said the Ministry of Food first. When the Ministry of Food has seemed likely to be worsted, the Treasury has come to its assistance. This modifies the humorous picture of the right hon. Member for West Bristol in a sort of episode of the cuckoo and the flustered hen. Evidently the hen was not so flustered and did win eventually.
§ Mr. Skinnard
The cuckoo had to call up reinforcements. The Secretary of State said in the West Indies that the Colonial Officealways drives the hardest possible bargain with the Ministry of Food, which naturally tries to obtain its supplies at the lowest prices. liven when agreement has been reached between the Colonial Office and the Ministry of Food in certain cases the British Treasury has a way of intervening and doing its best to lower the cost to the Ministry of its purchases, which renders the task of the Colonial Office more difficult.In sheer humanity this House should unite to do its best to give the Colonial Office one opponent only. Let it fight for its Colonial Development Corporation against a single adversary and not against the Ministry of Food and the Treasury together.
One aspect of the Colonial Development Corporation has not so far been touched upon. What will be the position of the primary producer when the secondary industries envisaged as part of the work of the Colonial Development Corporation come into being? We have already had a lot of experience in the Colonies of what happens on the farms 2070 and plantations when a new and attractive industry is provided. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol was quite right when he said that there were in the Colonies, dating from his time at the Colonial Office examples in a small way of some of the things it is hoped to do in a big way through this corporation.
The difficulty has always been that the processor of raw materials and those who work in the factory or even on the job of transporting raw materials from the farm to the factory have a higher standard of living and a greater wage than the actual primary producer. This is worrying the primary producers in the Colonies very much. It has always puzzled them why they should get such a raw deal. The usual reference in the West Indies is to cocoa and soap, but of course similar conditions apply in the case of almost every tropical crop. There is a fear that the Colonial producer will be exploited in the interests either of British or Colonial processors and consumers. The small farmer is afraid that his own brother may be one of his exploiters in the new factories, and added to that he fears the consumer will assist in that exploitation and that the concentrated buying power of the Colonial Development Corporation may increase the pressure on the Colonial producers to sell their crops at a price which does not enable a decent living and bearable working conditions to be maintained.
This is no idle fear, no fancy. Why is Kingston today full of unemployed and people living on sporadic relief? It is because it is impossible for them to get a living on their few paternal acres. They find that with their utmost endeavour and with the whole family working on those partly eroded hills, if they get 7s. a week for their cash crops they are lucky. That may be for a man, a wife and six children living in a ramshackle hut made of banana trash and odd bits of scrap iron. It pays a man to send his daughters into the tobacco factories to roll cigars and it pays him to go into Kingston and do odd bits of work on relief. That way he can at least make up to 22S. a week.
In the past we have not paid sufficient attention to priorities. They have been mentioned today. We come back to the oldest priority of all, the fact that the man who grows or digs the raw materials we need is as deserving of as full a life 2071 as the secondary manufacturer and processor who treats or transforms what he initially gets for us. I beg the Colonial Development Corporation to look into this. It has a very practical application for them if they neglect the warning. They will have plenty of potential railway drivers, harbour diggers and clerks, but no farmers to provide the groundnuts or rice. First of all, the farmer, the miner and the forester must be given a fair share of the profits made by their labour. That share must be at least equal to that of the middle men—I am not using that in any invidious sense—between their work and the consumer.
The Colonial Development Corporation must have a care that it does not deal in scraps. If there is one criticism that those of us who spend a lot of time looking into these matters have to offer of the Colonial Welfare and Development Act, it is that the plans produced are scrappy and that they do not try to concentrate the maximum effort and money granted to them on one, two or three projects but try to spread what is in effect for each Colony very little money over a very great field of activity, welfare, education, health, research—as the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities mentioned. Instead of concentrating on processing plants, renovating railways and other productive priorities, they all want to get into the first ten years something for every Department of the Government and something for every ameliorative idea in, the Colony. It just cannot be done. The concentration ought to be on the most productive activity producing the quickest results. That has not been done.
It is not the fault of the Act. It is the fault of old traditions in the Colonies where the commissioner for this expects at least as much out of the kitty as the commissioner for something else. There have been first-class rows in most Colonial Legislatures and in the Departments for reasons of prestige when they should have been thinking of the Colony as a whole. Perhaps this Colonial Development Corporation will solve that difficulty, and the Act of 1940, with its amendment, will be directed chiefly to welfare, such as health and education, which have an indirect bearing on the work of the corporation. The money can be divided so that the corporation shall do the development 2072 work which will lead to income while the Commonwealth Development and Welfare Act will leave the local administration to provide healthy intelligent people to do the work of producing and processing.
We must apply the priority I have just mentioned, of picking out one or two things at a time and devoting all one's money and resources to them, or we may be in the unfortunate position of some local authorities in this country who granted too many housing licences at once, with the result that they have a large number of houses which are half way up and not one house which is ready to be lived in. The same warning might apply to the corporation—make one big project succeed. Let them prove that they can do what they set out to do under this Bill and then they will get the heartiest co-operation of the Colonial peoples. At the moment, however enthusiastic this House may be, they are inclined to view the Bill with suspended judgment. They are waiting to see whether it will disappoint them as many other things have done in the past. This measure has to be proved. We know that it can work, but we must not try to bite off more than we can chew, because the first failure will be considered proof that all future development will also fail.
The priorities of home-produced goods to enable the corporation to do its work have also been mentioned. I would plead with the Secretary of State for the Colonies to be adamant against any attempt to cut down what he considers to be the absolute minimum requirements of the Development Corporation. It was said to me in one Colony that they had had so many disappointments that, in despair, even if it was second rate stuff, they would turn out their own. There is a great deal of initiative in the Colonies, and there has been a good deal of making bricks without straw which has turned out to be extraordinarily effective. I have in mind a reservoir supplying a town and a large section of railway line which was constructed by—I was going to say a disheartened engineer, but he was anything but disheartened. This young engineer, who had been disappointed time and time again over getting materials which he had ordered from England, constructed with his ordinary gang a reservoir of 800,000 gallons at a net cost of £30 apart from the wages of his men, which would have 2073 been paid in any case. That is an example of the energy and initiative ready to be harnessed in the Colonies by the Development Corporation. I would urge on the Corporation itself the example of the United Africa Company which, as has already been said, has gone to the beaches of the Pacific for derelict lorries and other materials in order to make up for what they could not get new.
I have not yet grasped the scope of the Overseas Food Corporation. Several other hon. Members, as well as myself, tried to get a specific answer from the Minister of Food when he was opening the Debate, but I do not think he gave us a very clear picture of what it is to be. I have already said that, like other hon. Members, I would like to see the scheme looked at again so as to exclude the Food Corporation from the Colonies themselves except at the request of the Secretary of State in certain eventualities—one can envisage the possibility of the Secretary of State wishing to have some technical assistance—but I can see that the Food Corporation in the Commonwealth outside the Colonies has a future, with the co - operation of certain Dominions. For instance, I can see that the Sudan and India may present opportunities, but I cannot quite see where the line of demarcation comes between the two Corporations.
I wanted to ask this question: supposing that a crop entirely new to a Colony is being developed, for instance in British Guiana, British Honduras and Gambia, or such a project as the clearing of mangrove swamps and experiments with crops new to the district in Sierra Leone; will that be for the Development Corporation or for the Food Corporation to manage? I would like an answer because it would be fatal to the economy of (he Colonies concerned if two corporations "muck about" with their development. There is a great deal in the plan that the Development Corporation should be the responsible agent for all development in the Colonies. These new crops in some cases are not cash crops, they are subsistence crops with which we are experimenting to raise the nutritional standards of the people. That is definitely a case for the Colonial Government, the Colonial Office, and for the corporation responsible only to the Colonial Office, for they are trying to grow new crops for old in 2074 reclaimed areas, and that surely is a matter for the Colonial Office.
I have expressed a certain disquiet as to the functions of the two corporations. I have intimated that I would have preferred to see the Development Corporation entirely under the control of the Colonial Office, but those criticisms, which are minor, apart, I feel that the Bill is deserving of the support of the whole House, which it seems it will have, and if it is put over in the right way I feel confident that it will have also the support of all the peoples of the Commonwealth, both Colonial and in the Dominions.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food, in introducing this Bill, appealed for the support of all parties in the House, and so far as I and other hon. Members on this side of the House are concerned, I am convinced he will get that support. I have always tried to keep Colonial and Commonwealth affairs outside party politics, and therefore I deprecate the amount of ballyhoo and boasting indulged in by Members of the Government recently as a result of the launching of this scheme. I exonerate the Secretary of State for the Colonies from that, because, when he introduced the Measure originally in this House, he was commendably modest and did not even claim originality. Nor indeed could he do so, because it is the same scheme as I put before this House 10 years ago, and many times since and, I may say, I always had the support of the Colonial Secretary when he was a back bencher.
I welcome this scheme because I have always felt that a Colonial Development Corporation or board was the proper method of developing the Colonial Empire. I supported it for reasons that I thought were obvious. In the first place, I have always felt that Colonial development must be a long-term policy and, therefore, there must be continuity of policy. I have always felt it would be fatal, as it has been in the past, to have a change of Colonial policy with every change of Government, or even with every change of Minister.
Then I have always felt that all development projects should be linked up with private enterprise and private capital, because it is obvious that this home Government cannot for all time 2075 be prepared, as it has been in the past, to hand out financial assistance to the Colonial Empire. It has to be done on a much bigger scale than is possible under grants from the Colonial Welfare Act. Although that Act—which was introduced by a Conservative Government in 1935 and continued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), and he should have the fullest credit for extending it in 1945 for another 10 years—although that Act has contributed very greatly to the development of the Colonies, it is obviously not the proper means for Colonial development. I have also felt that Colonial development should be run by business men who understand business and finance. I have the greatest admiration for civil servants, especially those who give their lives to the Colonial Civil Service. I have met them in all parts of the world and I have always had the utmost admiration for them, but I have always felt, and still feel, that civil servants, by their training and by their tradition, are not fitted to run business, nor do they wish to do so. They are first-class administrators, and know how to look after the welfare of the people in the Colonies, but they are not fitted nor trained to run businesses.
I also felt, and still feel, that Colonial development of the nature suggested in this Bill should be linked with consumer needs. I do not agree with those who say that when development takes place only the people in the Colonies should be considered. I think it is a mutual thing because, after all, the capital for these development schemes is put up originally by this country, and by the British taxpayer. Why should they not have some benefit in the way of the products which this scheme envisages? I do not agree with those who say that it should be for the Colonies alone, but it should be for the mutual benefit of the colony and this country. I hope that this question of consumer needs which, after all, means markets for the products, will be linked up at every stage. It is no good encouraging a Colony to produce, unless there is a market for what they produce—a ready and a profitable market. Mistakes have been made in that direction before, and I hope that factor will be well considered in any future projects of this kind.
2076 The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Graham Kerr) mentioned research. That is an aspect which should be given more consideration in this scheme. In the Select Committee on Estimates, of which I had the honour of being a member, an investigation was made into research and a report was issued to the House. We reported that not enough money or attention was paid to Colonial research. I know that when he was in office my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol appointed the Colonial Research Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Hailey. No doubt they have done a certain amount of work, but I do not think they have done enough. It is vitally important that before any project where a large amount of capital is involved is undertaken, that research should precede the development. I hope the Government will pay more attention to the findings of the Select Committee on Estimates on the question of research, and will see that in future more money is spent on, and that the right men are engaged in, that aspect of Colonial development.
Like others, I have very serious doubts about the Overseas Food Corporation. Why the Ministry of Food should be brought in, and why they should be allowed to run the scheme, is, I am told, because the Ministry of Food might require similar schemes to be developed in other places. For instance, there was an idea of having a scheme in Northern and Southern Rhodesia. It was asked if one part would be operated under the Dominions Office, and the other under the Colonial Office. There was also a suggested scheme for the Sudan, and there it was asked if it would be run by the Foreign Office. It was decided that it would be better for the Ministry of Food to be responsible. But I still have doubts whether this will work out in practice. Many serious complications will arise because the people in every Colony which I have visited have always wanted their own Government to be responsible for any projects developed in their own Colony. There is likely to be conflict between the three Departments, the Colonial Office, the Ministry of Food and the Colonial Government concerned, and, I am afraid, great complications will ensue.
2077 I am pleased that the Ministry of Food, when they undertook the development of the groundnuts scheme, had the good sense to hand it over to the United Africa Company, who obviously were the people who knew more than anyone else about that kind of scheme. In fact, it was their own scheme, the Samuel Scheme, and if it can be made a success I am convinced that they are the people who will make it a success. They have tremendous experience of Colonial development, and have always been successful. They have had setbacks in this scheme, but I am not sure that that was always their fault. I do not know who set the target for production next year, but obviously it was too optimistic. Even so, I think it might have been possible, if certain things had not happened. For instance, I am told that a great deal of equipment was lying on sidings in this country all through last winter because of the breakdown in transport arrangements, owing to the coal shortage, and the severity of the winter. That delayed the delivery of a great many tractors and other equipment, and upset the target. After all, a good many targets were upset in this country last year, and this year, and we cannot complain if this effort has not come up to expectations.
Far too much optimism has been expressed as regards the scheme. I have doubted whether it would not take longer than two years to produce a crop. Obviously a scheme of this nature, in the heart of Africa, is not so easy to develop as it would be in a more civilised part of the world, where there are transport facilities, communications, and all that is required for success. However, I am convinced that the United Africa Company will make a success of the scheme, and will produce a crop, not next year—next year's crop must obviously go for seed—but in the following year, and that by 1950 they will show results. So long as we do not fix the target too optimistically we are bound to get results. Otherwise, people would be discouraged by being led to believe that overnight miracles were possible.
I am all in favour of this Bill, and all in favour of Colonial development, but I wish to comment that a great deal of British taxpayers' money is involved in these schemes, and I hope this House will keep some supervision over them. I hope there will be some review by a 2078 Committee of this House every year in order that people may be kept informed how these projects are developing, and how their money is being spent, because every taxpayer in the country, and every consumer who looks forward to more food as a result of these schemes, is an interested party.
I do not want the enthusiasm for this new development to be responsible for existing developments in the Colonies being completely neglected. One or two cases have been mentioned already. I have in mind the case of Malayan tin, which is a great dollar-earning product. Today that industry requires to have its plant renewed and all its enterprises rehabilitated after the Japanese occupation. Strong demands have been made for rehabilitation equipment for that industry. Last week, in this House, we were told, in reply to a question, that that industry is still 50 per cent. short of the amount of equipment required for rehabilitating the tin mines and the industry. The estimated tin production there this year is 28,000 tons, which at present prices is the equivalent of 45 million dollars. If the industry had all the plant and equipment it required, it could bring its production up to 60,000 tons, the equivalent of 100 million dollars.
I know that the Colonial Office have said that they are doing what they can to hustle this equipment forward, but it is not the Colonial Office but the Ministry of Supply which is responsible for priorities of machinery and equipment. I hope that every pressure will be put upon that Ministry in order to see that proper priority is given to the people in that industry for its re-equipment, and that they are not completely neglected because of these new projects. These enterprises are in being, and are providing great dollar earnings today and they are things which we cannot afford to neglect at the present time. I support this Bill and wish it well. I am convinced that, apart from the few criticisms I have made about the Ministry of Food aspect it will have the wholehearted support, not only of this House, but of the country as a whole.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)
I feel very pleased at having caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I think someone should say something about the effect of this Bill on the home and on the house-. 2079 wife. For a great many years, I as a housewife have been much perturbed for our little island because we never produced what we consumed, because we were always dependent on some force or other beyond our own shores. I believe it is true to state that of our population of 47 million, 20 million only are provided for by our own efforts, and 27 million are awaiting the hazards of world harvests, or even a loan from some country or another. As a Scot, I like independence, and I like anything passed by this House which aids us to stand on our own feet, dependent neither on the U.S.A. nor the U.S.S.R., but as free Britons, with a free mind, and with the capability and capacity to "dree our own weird," or, in other words to feed ourselves and as I say to stand on our own feet.
I feel like obeying that injunction which the Minister for Economic Affairs gave over the wireless on Sunday night, and in pursuance of your own spirit, Sir, which you tried to inculcate this afternoon I really think we ought to throw a party, so pleased ought we to be over the launching of this proposal. Provided that we excluded that parlour game, "Twenty Questions," we could even invite the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) and the hon. and gallant Member for East Renfrew (Major Lloyd). We ought to welcome this Bill with both hands. I, as well as women in other constituencies, have been depressed by the fact that we have had to think, before we could buy, whether we could afford dollars; that when food was offered, if it required hard currency, we could not have it, and that those countries where we could not get it were soft currency countries. We welcome the groundnuts scheme. There have been criticisms. Some of our opponents have called it "a mere monkey nuts scheme." On the other hand, we have the "Daily Express" welcoming it in these poetical words:Breathe that ampler air—that is very good advice tonight—Refresh your eyes with the happier scene. For a while turn your gaze from the spectacle of despair to a landscape bright with hope and destined before long to be busy with constructive energy.Far be it from me to throw cold water on to this happy party, but I must recall what the "Daily Express" added: 2080All this might have been planned and accomplished by the Tories, but they would not listen to sound counsel. They were too busy or too timid.
§ Brigadier Mackeson (Hythe)
Was there, in fact, any point in embarking upon such a project as this at a time when the world was suffering from a considerable surplus of these commodities?
§ Mrs. Mann
I think it is problematical whether the world ever had a surplus of anything, or whether the so-called surplus, the apparent surplus, was simply a symptom of the inability of the masses of people to buy. I, as a housewife, am greatly concerned with the shortage of food. As a matter of fact, quite often I think of throwing a party at home, and every time I think of it, I cannot get fat for the chip pan, so we cannot have chips. We cannot even have fat for that tapioca which the hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) so dislikes, and which can be made so much more tempting and appetising if it has been cooked with a little fat. I cannot even have fat for the plentiful supplies of fish that are now coming along, and one does get exasperated to read cookery recipes every week telling one just to "dot with margarine" when one knows that the whole week's ration is only a dot of margarine.
There is just one thing which I should like my right hon. Friend to make plain. He does not need to make it clear to me. Neither he nor the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies need make it clear to me. But I would like them to make it clear to all that they regard with great apprehension the shortage of fats. I would like to point out to my right hon. Friend that throughout the country, especially among the housewives, there is a widespread misrepresentation of his attitude to this question. The misrepresentation is that he thinks that we have enough and that he has said time and again, "You are better fed than ever you were." I am sure that my right hon. Friend has never said anything of the kind. I am sure that it is a complete misrepresentation and distortion of something that he did say; but it has got so far abroad that on 13th October we actually heard the Medical Officer of Health for Edinburgh say:I disagree with the person who tells me that we are adequately fed on the present minimum. The main factor is the inadequate sufficiency.2081 I think by these words, "the inadequate sufficiency," he means "shortage"—The main factor is the inadequate sufficiency of fatty foodstuffs, and I believe we will be forced to put up with an increased infantile mortality rate until these facts are understood by the powers that be."—in other words, if the powers that be merely get the right slant on this position—merely understand—then somehow or other the fats will be forthcoming. Whether the fat comes out of the fire or this speech throws it into the fire, I am not quite certain. I wrote to this man on 15th October and asked him who exactly were "the powers that be." I am still waiting for the reply. I think that the Bill is the reply. The very fact that our Minister has taken this step to provide us with extra fats is a sufficient answer to all who have been going up and down the country during the last year misrepresenting the speeches of the Minister and pretending to the housewives that the Minister thinks we are better fed than ever before. If the right hon. Gentleman had thought so, he could not possibily have devised this Measure and consented to the expenditure entailed.
I confess that I do not know sufficient about Colonial development to argue which Department ought to handle this Bill. I can only say as a housewife that if it produces the goods, if it brings that extra fat to the table, we will not worry whether it is the Colonial Office or the Ministry of Food, we shall be eternally grateful. Therefore, I say God speed the Bill.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann), like a sensible Scotswoman, has put her finger on the heart of the problem. Primarily this is a Bill designed to meet the acute world shortage of fats and, in particular, the more than acute shortage of fats in this country. In the course of the operation of the Bill it is hoped that the Colonial Empire will benefit also, and I am quite prepared to believe that it will; but let us be frank with ourselves. This Bill is designed primarily to get more fats here. That is its purpose. Indeed, the Minister of Food would not be concerned in this business at all were not that the case.
It is easy for any of us to realise what has been in the mind of the Minister of Food in recent months. He has said to 2082 himself, "There is a world shortage of fats." From where in the past have we obtained large supplies of fats? We obtained them from the Far Eastern countries, from India, China and other countries thereabouts. Everybody knows that because of the war, because of the immensely increasing population of India and China, and the political disturbance of those great continents we look in vain for an increase in supplies of vegetable fats from there. It is not going to come. The Minister has said to himself, "We are going to be short anyway. We must look to some other land masses, some other sources of supply." Where do we look? Clearly, we cannot ourselves supply sufficient fats. It is not possible to produce vegetable fats here, and we cannot produce the animal fats we need. We have not got the dollars to buy sufficient fats from hard currency areas. Therefore, we turn to the only two land masses in the world that are left. One is Australia and the other is Africa.
I do not think that Australia has the indigenous population available to produce vegetable fats in the quantities we want in the time available. Therefore, for practical purposes, the Minister was bound to look to Africa. There is no other place in the world where he could look. He must have asked himself, "Where in Africa? In East Africa?" Then he gets a suggestion from the head of a great private enterprise concern, upon whom great praise has been showered today with perfect justice. It is to the credit of the Minister that he accepts readily the suggestion from that source and he himself takes the initiative. That is probably the way the Minister argued, and I think he argued properly. It is far better to be frank about it and to say, "That was how we argued—because it is so much to our advantage to do this." I repeat that it will probably have great advantages to the Colonies but, because it is so much to our advantage, that is all the more reason why we must take extreme care to see that the administration of this scheme is supervised by the Colonial Office for the benefit of the Colonial people.
That is the point which disturbs many of us. Everybody has welcomed the general purpose of the scheme but, with one single exception, every hon. Member who has spoken has criticised the methods proposed by the Minister for achieving 2083 his object. The Minister has not satisfied the House, nor his own supporters, that the machinery he has proposed is the right machinery.
I suppose that it would be unwise, because it would hold up the whole scheme, if we were to suggest that the Food Corporation should not take a part in this business. I think it would be wrong to do that now, but I would like to move an Amendment during Committee stage on those lines; I would like to ensure' that the introduction of the Ministry of Food Corporation into a development in the Colonies will not happen again. I think that this is a very dangerous precedent. It should be remembered that here we are proposing a Measure for the benefit not merely of East Africa but of all the Colonies. Anyone who has been to the Colonies—and I was one of those fortunate Members who had an opportunity to go during the war—knows very well that these countries have a peculiar attachment to the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office, in a sense, is their Government. Their local government operates in association with the Colonial Office, and I am quite certain, from my own knowledge of the Colonies, that the extended activities of this Commission as a body apart from the Colonial Office, will not work, but will cause distress and a great deal of division and criticism. I do not like it, and I feel that the Government ought to reconsider this matter.
I asked the Minister in the course of his speech what would be the principle guiding him in deciding, in any one Colony which required food or agricultural development, which of the two corporations he would use. I think I am right in saying that he replied that, when it was a new proposal, the Ministry of Food Corporation would probably operate, but, when it was a concern already in operation, such as the groundnuts scheme in West Africa, probably the Colonial Development Corporation would function. That is not really satisfactory. Take East Africa. It produces sisal. Let us suppose that this Overseas Corporation is handling agricultural production, as I hope it will, with great success, and it is then suggested that sisal needs some development, too. Is it suggested that the Minister would say, "According to my definition in the House of Commons, 2084 my organisation cannot do that, because it is an established concern. I must bring in the Colonial Development Corporation." That does not make sense, and, with the greatest respect to the Minister, I do not feel, on examination, that his present plan can make sense either.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is not the intention. I think, in the example which the hon. Gentlemen gave of sisal, it would not be for me to settle the matter at all, but for the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and he would only call in the Overseas Food Corporation if for some special reason he desired to do so—say, proximity, or something of that sort. If the hon. Gentleman will read the Bill, he will see that the Secretary of State acts only when the Overseas Food Corporation cannot undertake any other scheme in the Colony.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am quite well aware of the terms of the Clause, and the right hon. Gentleman has answered according to his book. But I ask him what would happen in practice, and I suggested that it will be very difficult from that definition he gave to make the thing work.
I am rather inclined to take the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) that we should have one body responsible for developments in the Colonies and another body responsible for developments outside. In this connection one thing disturbs me about Clause 7. The Colonial Development Corporation working in a particular Colony is not required to establish committees of local people to advise it and guide it; it need only do so if it thinks proper. I can see that that might work in the case of the Overseas Corporation working in some other country, but I think this House ought to insist that, in any work done in a Colony, it ought to be accompanied, inspired and assisted by a committee appointed under mandatory powers in this Bill. It is not enough to leave the Corporation to have the choice to appoint a committee; the Corporation ought to be told that it must appoint a local committee to guide it.
I would like to put to the Minister another point which has not been raised here at all. I disclose to the House, as is the custom, my interest in this matter. I am interested in the British agricultural machinery industry. When 2085 this scheme gets going, in three, four or five years' time, a vast amount of machinery will be employed. In the early stages, as now, we can understand that the East African Company, who have shown great organisational energy in this matter, had to obtain machinery where and when they could, and they have obtained it, as the Minister himself admitted, in a most remarkably successful way. But British agricultural machinery manufacturers are quite able to provide nearly all the types of machinery that will be required, and they must be given the first chance to do so. Before this Debate ends, somebody from the Front Bench must give us a clear guarantee upon this point, because the industry, at the moment, is very concerned about it. They see American machines going to East Africa and they know that nothing else is available at the moment; but it must not turn out that, because some American firms have been in this sort of business for many years and have great organisations, their services and theirs only are going to be employed.
§ Mr. Strachey
If the hon. Gentleman would like, I will give him that assurance right away. If for no other reason than pressure from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we should always use British machinery and machinery purchasable with sterling in preference to dollar machinery wherever it is obtainable.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am very grateful to the Minister for that assurance, but the problem goes a little further, because certain American firms have established themselves here and have done great work, and we recognise their great services. Nevertheless I hope the Minister will always give the indigenous British agricultural machinery industry the first chance to produce the great number and variety of machines that will be required.
One hopes that this scheme will go forward and be a success. In the case of East Africa, I recognise perfectly well that we had to do something, anyway. The state of the soil and the primitive character of the industry there are such that we should have been obliged sooner or later to take an initiative. It is splendid that we are able to do something in the way of development, not only because of some clear benefit to ourselves, but because it serves 2086 that double purpose of helping the Colony as well, and, given the right kind of machinery, the whole House, I am sure, Welcomes this Measure.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
It is seldom that hon. Members on this side of the House can find themselves in a large measure of agreement with the hon. Member for East Fyfe (Mr. H. Stewart), but I find myself in that position, and with very much of what he said I am in complete agreement. I would also like to say that I do not think any good is done by any recriminations at the moment about what Tory Governments did or did not do in Colonial development before the war. There is no doubt that they did not do enough, but no Government ever did enough, and even in the case of this particular Bill before us, I doubt if it is enough to produce the great results which all of us want to see for the Colonial people in the immediate future.
This Bill is of vast importance, both to the Colonies themselves, to this country and to the world at large. I do not think it is profitable to argue which came first—the Minister of Food, for the food which it will bring in, or the Secretary of State for the Colonies from the point of view of the advancement of the Colonial people. The really important thing is, now that we have got this Bill, to see that it is in operation at the earliest possible time. It is quite clear that, by abandoning the old methods of Colonial production, we are making a large-scale attack on the low level of Colonial productivity, and that is perhaps, the greatest consideration which we shoud bear in mind now. The low state of productivity and the poverty of the Colonial people have been the greatest drawback to progress in the past, and so, by raising the standard of living through this Bill, we shall achieve a great measure of success for them.
As regards this country, the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) made quite clear the benefits of this Bill in bringing in essential food which we so badly need now, and, as well as this, the more food we bring in from the Colonies the more dollars we shall save and the more dollars we shall have for the essential food which we can only obtain from the United States. As regards the overall world situation, it is quite clear that, if we can produce more at home, more 2087 in the Colonial Empire and more in the Dominions, we shall be going a long way towards that world of plenty which all of us want to see. I think that we have, perhaps, spent too much time today in discussing potential developments in Africa. Of course, the reason for that is that this great groundnuts scheme is of such importance at the present time. I remember that, as a boy—and that is not so very long ago—we had great pleasure in eating monkey nuts or peanuts, or whatever they are called, and in crushing their shells beneath our feet. They cost us practically nothing. I did not realise then that a few years later this commodity would be almost as valuable as gold. It just shows how one's ideas of values can change within a comparatively short time.
The Minister this afternoon gave us a very vivid picture of what is happening in regard to this great scheme in Tanganyika, and he showed the kind of vision which all the men engaged in this scheme must show in order to make it a success. The scheme, as we all know, is to relieve the acute world shortage of fats. It is an exciting experiment, but it is something even more than that; it is a great historic scheme at the present time. I would like to know from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary tonight, or, if he has not the information now, when the full statement is made upon this scheme, how exactly the model settlements for the employees are being worked out, because this scheme can be a model to all future development, not only in Africa, but elsewhere. They should set a pattern which will be of great value in the future.
I would like to ask whether, in stressing the importance of the groundnuts scheme in Tanganyika, this territory will depend upon one major export crop. That was a serious objection in the past when great colonies were solely dependent upon one such crop for export. We must safeguard against that in the future. It is quite clear that amid the tremendous activity going on in East Africa, in the turmoil and upset of uprooting all these trees, and getting the scheme working, that civilisation, which used to follow the Army and the flag, must, in this case, follow the bulldozer. In actual fact, I hope that the African people are being bulldozed into civilisation. This is a long-term pro- 2088 gramme but I think that the beginning, as indicated by the Minister, is showing great promise.
I also wish to mention something else of which there is a very great shortage at the present time, and which, unless it is corrected pretty soon, will cause great misery and hardship in this country. It is the timber shortage. In the Gold Coast we have the opportunity to get more hard timber than we can use, because there are great untapped reserves there which are completely dependent upon transport at the present time. If we can use this corporation to develop the Gold Coast, and can provide a first-rate harbour, good rail transport, saw mill machinery, and even, perhaps, set up plywood factories, we shall be able, in a short time, to relieve ourselves of our dependence on timber imports from dollar countries. I would like to see such a scheme pursued as quickly as possible. There are other possible developments which have not been mentioned in this Debate; for instance, tobacco in Central Africa, rice in Sierra Leone and Borneo, and manila hemp in Borneo. I hope that these possibilities will not be lost sight of because of the urgent necessity of getting the groundnuts scheme into full swing.
The difficulties, as I see them, in the whole of this plan are twofold. First, there is the question of the availability of manpower throughout the Colonies. Can we be sure that we have both the quantity and quality of manpower to do these jobs? Without a great expansion of education and so on, can we be sure that we shall find the right kind of skilled labour on the spot? Secondly, there is the availability of machinery. Can we be certain that we can get sufficient bulldozers, scrapers, ploughs, and so on, when, at the same time, we have to provide for the opencast mining plan at home and for the great expansion of home agriculture? Any enlightenment that we can get on those points will be welcome.
Perhaps the greatest danger of all is an organisational one, which has been touched upon by most hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate, and that is the overlapping of the two corporations and the overlapping of responsibility between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Minister of Food. Even after the opening statement of the Minister 2089 of Food, which convinced me of the need to have two corporations, I was not convinced about the actual division of functions which he described. I am more in sympathy with the remarks of the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), that we should have a clear-cut division between all the Colonial developments and all the developments outside the Colonies. That would give far greater scope and clarity. That point can be discussed at a later stage, but I am a little sceptical about the work which the Overseas Food Corporation will have to do. The Minister mentioned Australia, but I thought the suggestion was intangible; there was nothing hard and fast about it. Apart from Colonial ventures, where exactly is the Overseas Food Corporation going to find scope for its activities? I suppose it could tackle whaling or something connected with the sea.
§ Mr. Strachey
I would not like my hon. Friend to call the Australian development intangible. After all, it has already reached the point when we have had an invitation from the Australian Government to send the Chairman-designate out to Australia. It is quite true that no tangible work has yet been done, or could be done, but it is a quite definite plan, even before the corporation is in existence. It would be a great mistake to think that a great many more approaches both from Commonwealth Governments and from Governments outside the Commonwealth will not flow in the very moment the corporation is established.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I am very grateful for that reassurance. It alters one's conception of the scope of the work of the Overseas Food Corporation. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will explain why one corporation has borrowing powers up to £100 million, for instance, and another corporation has borrowing powers up to about £50 million. Is it expected that one will have twice as much scope as the other one?
In this great venture there is a need for more and more extensive research in the prevention of disease, the raising of nutritional standards, housing and sanitation, increased land fertility and the prevention of soil erosion. All those points have been discussed in the course of this Debate, and there is no need to dwell upon them, but there is an obvious need for the most extensive research if 2090 we are to get the best out of these two corporations. The conditions for the success of this scheme are: first, that there must be the closest co-operation and co-ordination between Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Minister of Food and also between the two individual corporations. Secondly, we have got to reconcile the essential needs of the Colonies with the economic needs of this country and of the world at large. I think that can be done. If the scheme is to succeed it must be as free as possible from the control of this House, other than essential financial control. The members of the corporation, the men on the ground, must be encouraged to use their fullest initiative in this scheme. Thirdly, I believe that the native population themselves must be convinced of the desirability of this scheme, and must be brought into it at all levels. If we can be assured of those conditions, then I am convinced that there is a better economic future, not only for the Colonies themselves but for us, too, and that we shall lay in this one Measure a great basis for social progress in the Colonies.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
I am pleased to find that we are all of one mind tonight. That is in accord with what I have wished for many years—that Colonial affairs should be outside party politics. I welcome this Bill. It is a logical outcome of the necessity for expansion, brought about partly by the war and partly by the improvement of the standard of living throughout the world, which has taken place in the last 10 or 15 years. If the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) were here I should tell her at once that she was quite wrong when she suggested that there were no surpluses in the past. In the sisal industry with which I was connected there were large surpluses at one time, resulting in a fall in prices to an uneconomic level. I can remember the difficulties of the tea industry, and the propaganda which they had to make throughout the world in order to take up a surplus of tea which was expected. I have been up the San Paulo railway in Brazil, and seen piles of coffee burning. The situation now is quite different. As the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said, anybody who had thought of producing the groundnut scheme before the war would have been regarded as a lunatic.
2091 Before I come to the few questions and caveats which I wish to put, there are one or two matters I should like to mention, and particularly the limitation of the Colonial Development Corporation to Colonial territories. I am convinced in my own mind that its activities should extend to Colonial and Commonwealth territories, at any rate. I will give an example. Let us take the case of Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia. There are wonderful opportunities for development there, wonderful opportunities for the production of dollar earning and dollar saving commodities—for instance, tobacco, chrome, copper, and coal. But all the traffic goes on one single line to Beira, which, as hon. Members know, is a port belonging to the Portugese. They are doing their best, but there is always congestion.
I will make only a passing reference to the coal. The Wankie coalfield has an area of 400 square miles, with great seams of coal quite close to the surface, but any hon. Member will recollect from the map that Wankie is about 800 or 900 miles from Beira, and there is no other outlet for its coal. Suppose it is necessary, as it probably is, to build a railway to the west, perhaps to Walvis Bay. That will be approximately a distance of 1,000 miles, and the railway which would have to be built, about 600 miles, would start in Southern Rhodesia, go through the Bechuanaland Protectorate, and end up in the Mandated Territory of South-West Africa. Who would undertake the provision of funds for that railway? Obviously, it should be operated by Southern Rhodesia; but Southern Rhodesia has many other schemes and, apart from anything else, has a population of Only about 100,000 people. They cannot provide the capital, and it seems to me that in that case the capital should be provided from here; and I can see no object in the formation of a corporation such as this if it is not able to deal with a proposition such as I have suggested.
It is important that this Colonial Development Corporation should proceed with imagination and care, in exactly the same way as if it were a business corporation. I would here mention a comparison between two schemes which are already in the course of preparation in order to show hon. Members the im- 2092 portance of care when a great scheme involving public money is being attempted. In Southern Rhodesia there is a huge scheme, partly railway building, partly hydro-electric, and partly the building of steel works; the Southern Rhodesian Government will put up £9 million, the Northern Rhodesian Government will put up £9 million, and private industrialists will put up £5 million. That scheme, which involves the damming of the Zambesi in the Kariba Gorge, will produce 570,000 kilowatts of water power. When the scheme was put forward it was said that a great dam could be built only if a market could be found for large supplies of electric power at cheap rates. In fact, the whole idea is to sell this great quantity of power at ¼d. a unit to industries in Southern Rhodesia. That scheme has been worked out, it is well balanced, but is still not ready because a further sum of £75,000 is being spent in order to investigate the iron ore to make quite certain that steel of the right quality can be produced.
Against this, there is a scheme to dam the Owen Falls in Uganda outside Lake Victoria Nyasa. That is a proposition which started as a £5 million proposition; then they thought it may cost £6 million; now they think it might cost £8 million. As far as I know, there are no careful estimates of the users of power once the scheme has started. If this Colonial Development Corporation is to take up that scheme, I hope it will look into it further, especially if the phosphates deposits, which should take a considerable amount of power, are proved, to see whether there are other factories also able to take the power that can be produced. In any case, it will be taxpayers' money. I mention those schemes so that hon. Members may realise the importance of these new corporations working out schemes in a businesslike way.
I have two or three caveats to put forward, together with one or two very simple questions. The caveats are these. First, I am not at all sure from what we have heard tonight that we are right in putting this Overseas Food Corporation under the Ministry of Food. I think it is becoming more and more evident that this House feels that it would be far better, either to split up one corporation according to localities—whether operating in the Colonies, or in the Dominions and elsewhere—or, if the food scheme is 2093 operating in the Colonies, to have it under the Colonial Office. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind me saying so, but after all there is the possibility that we may not always have a Food Ministry with us, and so why tie it up with this corporation?
My second caveat is this. When new schemes are launched, it is absolutely vital that existing schemes shall be taken into account. I would also point out that existing other industries come into this question. I am not going to repeat what I said in the last Colonial Office Debate about the impingement of the groundnuts scheme on the sisal industry in East Africa. I happen to have a newspaper from Dar es Salaam containing a speech by the right hon. Gentleman. It had been prepared here and was a speech of encouragement to what are called the "ground nutters." He was followed by General Harrison, who said that the priority at home was coal, agriculture, cotton and groundnuts. From General Harrison's point of view, and from the groundnut point of view, it was a very good thing to put that across, but it would have been equally important had it been pointed out that the sisal industry, by its sale of sisal to America, might earn between 10 million to 20 million dollars. We should always remember in any schemes like that in the future the effect on existing industries.
The Minister of Food painted a picture of the African changing quickly from his present habits and customs into a modern fanner. All I wish the House to note about this, and especially hon. Members opposite, is that if we are going to try and hurry the native out of his present frame of mind and of thinking, we are going to put an end to indirect rule and interfere with native customs generally and especially in regard to land holding. If we are trying to advance the natives quickly, we must be prepared to meet criticisms which certainly would have been rather difficult to meet before the war, although times may have now changed.
Lastly as far as my caveats are concerned, I should like to say a word about the way accounts are kept in respect of these new corporations. This was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald). I hope we shall get an assurance that there will be proper balance-sheets and profit and 2094 loss accounts—exactly the same as with companies under the present Companies Act. Nothing should be hidden. I would point out how especially important it is that this should be done, because of the criticism which is always likely to arise in the future especially from the partly educated African. Lastly, what happens if the groundnut corporation makes a profit? Will it inure to the corporation or will it inure to the territory in which the groundnuts are grown. I hope very much that the latter will be the case. Also will the groundnut company be subject to Income Tax? If so, I suggest that it should be formed in Tanganyika, where Income Tax is not so severe as in this country. It is most important that as much profit as possible should go back into the territories where it is earned.
I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) on his speech. Perhaps I might also condole with him that, through force of circumstances, he has moved a little to the right from the Treasury Bench to a seat below the Gangway.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
I have little to quarrel with in the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Seven-oaks (Colonel Ponsonby), and I should like to go back to a remark by the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). He described the Minister of Food as "the cuckoo in the nest." Let me say that if the Minister lays a few more eggs of the size and quality of the one produced today, he will come to be regarded as more valuable than "Tons of Money." Having just completed a tour of South America, I return more convinced than ever of the need for the development of all the resources of the Dominion and Colonial Commonwealth at the earliest possible moment. Latin American good will for Britain, maintained and cultivated by loyal British communities, is immense, but good will alone butters no parsnips and it would be foolish to overlook present trends in that part of the world.
Much has been said about nuts. I want to say something about meat. Before the war-one-third of the meat coming into this country came from South America, but with the big changes now taking place there, within five to ten years Britain may be unlucky for South American food surpluses, for this reason: What happened 2095 in Europe towards the end of the 18th century is today being experienced in South America. They have a social and economic revolution running in double harness. These people, fed up with having their supplies of manufactured articles interrupted by European wars, are henceforth going to make their own suits, shoes and shirts. In consequence there is migration from the land into the towns for the greater amenities and higher wages to be found there.
Industrialisation proceeds apace and from this development flow consequences of vital importance to us. Just as internal demand for beef, hides and cereals is rising rapidly, production of agricultural products is falling because of the stripping of labour from the land. The trend is reflected in some figures which I should like to give to the House. In 1944, exports from Argentina Frigorificos were 528,921 tons; in 1946, they were 336,900 tons; exports of frozen offals, canned and dried meats, in 1944, were 260,041 tons and in 1946 176,600 tons.
Mr. Deputy - Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member in his speech, but I fail to see the relevancy of his remarks to the Bill.
§ Mr. Strachey
I must point out to my hon. Friend that in my speech I said that one of the things which the Australian Government had been in communication with us about was the possible use of the Overseas Food Corporation for the development of cattle herds and beef production, in the North-West Territories and in Western Australia. They are very interested in this matter.
§ Mr. Evans
I accept what my right hon. Friend has said. I thought I listened to his speech very carefully. There could have been only a very brief reference to this matter. I must be guided by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but it seemed to me that the fact that there was a great danger of one-third of our meat supplies—which we have been getting from South America—being cut off was an important 2096 item in the discussions about Colonial and Dominion development.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not mind the hon. Member making a passing reference to the matter, but we must discuss the Bill, and not the general food situation.
§ Mr. Evans
I must not get involved in an argument with the Chair, but I believed that on Second Reading we were free to discuss the causes which have led to the necessity for the Bill. I thought there would be a general discussion on our food needs for the next few years, and it was on those lines that I proposed to build up my argument. But perhaps I may complete the figures I was quoting. I was saying that the export of frozen offals, canned and dried meats from Argentina, in 1944, amounted to 260,041 tons. Last year, that figure had dropped to 176,700 tons. That seems to be very material to the task which faces the two corporations which are to be set up under this Bill. I would suggest that one of their most urgent tasks, if we are to get away from the shillingsworth of meat a week, is to find lands within the British Commonwealth which will feed cattle and sheep which up to now, we have been able to get from South America. That can only be done on the scale necessary by such corporations as these, and that is why all who are bent on keeping the British people free from dollar thraldom and Eastern ideological pressure welcome these proposals. As a nation we are getting a bit down in the dumps at the moment.
§ Mr. Evans
I will wind up. We have within this British Commonwealth and Empire all the resources necessary to keep the British people free, fed and influential. This is not the time to bemoan our fate or look back over our shoulders to the good old days. With British guts and enterprise, like our ancestors before us, we can solve all our problems. Out of the virgin forests and plains of the United States, Canada, Australia and New 2097 Zealand they created new nations and prosperity. Out of the trials of today we will build a third and more glorious Empire for the mutual good of all.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I hope the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) will forgive me if I do not attempt to follow in detail some of the points he was raising. I ventured to seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in view of the fact that I have spent some two months in Eastern and Central Africa. In fact, on Monday I had lunch at Victoria Nyanza and on Tuesday I had lunch here. Such is the speed of the modern magic carpet.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) on his speech, and there is general regret in those large parts of the world where I have been that he should have had to leave the office in which he did so well for the Colonial Empire. In the very few minutes I have, there are one or two points I should like to make. I think an hon. Member has already said that the question that is important at the moment is that of priorities, and I think there is a need in all this question of development for a proper overall plan. Because of what I have seen, I am going to refer particularly to East and Central Africa. So far, Southern Rhodesia is the only territory which has got down to priority, and it has invited Sir Miles Thomas, of Morris Motors, to preside over a commission to set priorities for Southern Rhodesia. It is an important task which he has undertaken, and I hope that the Government will sec that the precedent set thereby shall be extended to the contiguous territories of Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and the East African territories.
Before I come to that, I also would like to feel that there were in the Ministry concerned individuals who had studied some of these great over-all plans that have been made for development, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Nile Projects Commission, and such great undertakings as the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, which is developing some two million acres for the benefit of all concerned, and which is, I believe, one of the best examples of a combination between government and enterprise and 2098 the African landowner. I suggest to the Government that there should be someone to plan on that sort of level, and that then there should be worked into the plan those other projects of immediate development, such as the groundnuts project, which we have largely been discussing today.
I would point out to the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, who is to reply, that there already seem to be very obvious opportunities for the use of this fund, over and above the important production of food. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) pointed out, expansion is to a large extent a question of transport and the development of already existing industries. If as one flies north from the Union of South Africa over the valleys of the Zambesi, the Limpopo, the Shari, up to the Great Lakes, one sees a great framework for transport purposes, and one sees there is already provided water for hydro-electric power and waterways, which can be developed for the proper exploitation, in its best sense, of all these territories.
There is needed another network of roads, railroads and ports. At present, development has gone so fast in the postwar rush that already the railroads, roads and ports are inadequate to the traffic that is being offered, quite apart from the superimposition of the groundnuts scheme. When one thinks in those terms, it is not a question of five or 15 years ahead, but of 50 years; and of hundreds of millions of pounds which can usefully be used for future development. It is wrong to think of that part of Africa becoming another Western United States, but it has tremendous possibilities which are as yet unexplored, and which will benefit tens of thousands of Europeans and hundreds of millions of Africans who can live in that often fairly temperate climate.
Within that framework of river valleys, roads and railroads that will, in course of time, be set up, there are great opportunities not only for public corporations such as are being set up under the Bill, but also for private enterprise to develop further, for co-operatives, for European settlement and enterprise and for African co-operatives. I am not going to argue which particular form of activity I believe in.
2099 As to the groundnuts scheme, I would like to add my tribute. The Minister has already stated that efforts are being made by those on the spot to carry out this very important task which is I believe—let us be frank about it—primarily for the benefit of those of us here at home. There is no reason to believe that we cannot turn it to the great advantage also of those who are out in Africa. By all accounts, a very excellent task is being carried out by Mr. Plummer. He has shown the tenacity, enterprise and bonhomie that one would expect from one who was associated with the Beaverbrook Press. I hope that the work he has put in will produce the result it deserves. I should also like to pay a tribute to those who are operating existing industries out there and who can show a very substantial effort at production at the present time. I interrupted the Minister to ask him a question about transport. Several million dollars worth of sisal are held up in the country and might be shipped out. There is grain lying there, too. The people are short of gunnies. They have not enough of them to get the grain out. Because of the shortage of transport, the buyers have suspended buying. Next season there will not be so much demand and therefore not so much grain grown. It seems a pity that already existing industries should be adversely affected by the superimposition of this groundnuts scheme.
I suggest to the Minister the formation of a priorities committee in Tanganyika, with representation back here in London. It could perform a very useful task in seeing that priority shipments, for instance, of fertilisers, from this country is taken in its due perspective and that we do not try to ship all the supplies immediately as they are available. In the brief moment or two which I have, I would mention two further points. As has been already mentioned by the hon. Member for Keighley, African labour, I believe, has great need for incentive goods. There is no savings movement out there, and it is no good paying people in money for them to save it against some future chance of spending it. Unless they can spend it immediately they will not work as hard as we wish them to do. It is more necessary in Africa than it is here that there should be an adequate supply of consumer incentive goods.
2100 Another point already mentioned by one or two hon. Members is that of mechanisation. It is quite obvious that all over the world agriculture and mining are becoming increasingly unpopular as forms of activity. There is a tremendous outlet for British agricultural machinery, tractors and so forth, throughout Eastern and Central Africa and wherever else these schemes are put into effect, whether as public corporations or whether some existing private company is given an opportunity, as on the lines of the Sudan Plantations Syndicate. I suggest to all concerned that there is a very good opening there and that experts should be sent out to study the type of machinery needed. It was found, for example, that a lot of useful small agricultural tractors in this country which can be used for hoeing and so forth are not of sufficiently high horsepower to be used at heights between 3,000 and 7,000 feet as they are required to be used in Africa. Research and investigation into that kind of problem could do good.
Finally, I ask the Minister if he could give us some indication, from the mists of the future—in which it is most improbable that the present Government will be in power—that there will be an assured market for all these products which will start to pour out five, ten or fifteen years from now. Several hon. Members have pointed out that if these great schemes had been in operation, it would not have been possible to absorb their output at the economic level of this country in the 1930's. It may be that an era of cheap food will come again, and there may be demands in certain directions that we should absorb their output rather than that of the territories we are now developing. Whether there will be Imperial Preference or some form of customs union as mentioned by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is a question I am not raising now, but I ask the Minister if he can give us an assurance that every effort will be made as time goes on, to ensure that markets will be found in the United Kingdom or even in the Empire for the products that one day we are sure will pour out of East and Central Africa.
§ 8.58 p.m.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
Since I have only a minute or two at my disposal I will confine myself to two short points. The first is that it seems to me that the 2101 primary bottleneck we have to face is in the production of equipment for carrying out these schemes. What shall we need? Transport equipment comes first and foremost, agricultural equipment and, very possibly, mining equipment too. We produce these things in our own country for use at home and for export. There is bound to be overall shortage. I was rather surprised at what the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) said earlier when he asked for an assurance that these corporations would buy all the equipment that could be made by British factories. Of course they will buy it, but the difficulty will be in buying in sufficient quantity. Unless we can obtain supplies of this equipment from some overseas market we shall not be able to bring these development schemes into working order until perhaps 1960. I do not know what our American friends might be able to do under the Marshall scheme, but I feel that we can reasonably put it to them that we are here engaged in Colonial development which will ultimately promote a greater volume of world trade and that on these grounds it is reasonable for us to ask what they can do.
The next point is whether we shall be able to provide a sufficiency of technicians from this country and a sufficiency of labour in the Colonial territories. There will be very considerable difficulty in getting a sufficiency of technicians. It is most important that this kind of work should be looked at in the form of a military operation. In the light of that I want to make one suggestion. Would it be possible for the Forces to take some part in developing these Colonial territories? What shall we need? We shall need survey work. We shall also need skilled direction in the building of railways, the making of roads, the development of irrigation, the making of ports and harbours, and so on. I believe that we shall have very great difficulty in obtaining the necessary technical and skilled labour. I put that point to my hon. Friend and I should be interested to hear what he has to say.
With regard to labour, I merely want to stress what has already been said by one or two hon. Members, and that is that we shall have considerable difficulty in getting the labour for these Colonial territories unless we can give the labour the goods to buy in order to satisfy their 2102 needs. I am sure that is a tremendously important point, and if we and the rest of the world are to get exports from these Colonial territories, we and the rest of the world will have to send in imports of manufactured goods that will satisfy the needs of the local population.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)
I would like to join with other hon. Members on both sides of the House in congratulating the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. Rees-Williams), who has become the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, on his appointment, and to wish him every success in the important task which falls now to him to do. I join also with my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) in deploring what I feel sure is but the temporary departure from the Front Bench of the hon. Member who preceded him. We knew him very well, and all who knew him liked and respected him. But the ways of Socialism, even in the making of Governments, are beyond our comprehension. However, one good thing has resulted. We have had from the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) a speech of great lucidity and also of wit, and he undoubtedly brought to bear on the problems he discussed a slightly more independent turn of mind than he would have been able to do had he been speaking from the Front Bench.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman who has now become the Under-Secretary has any quarrel with the course this Debate has taken. It has been an almost unanimous vote of confidence in these proposals and of high hopes that our confidence will be fulfilled. I should like to congratulate the officials at the Colonial Office, particularly the people who have been working on the research side of these plans for a long time—perhaps even for 10 years or so—on the paper success that their schemes have achieved, and I hope that the actual working out in practice of these various plans will be equally successful.
It has been, as I have said, a unanimous vote of confidence and good wishes, and every newspaper in the country I think, with one exception, has approved of these proposals and wished them well. The one exception is a newspaper with which at one time the right 2103 hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food had a slightly more friendly association than he has now; that is the "Daily Worker," which sees in it further evidence of the capitalist exploitation of subject people. I do not believe that any Government supporter will deal harshly with the "Daily Worker, "for, after all, if I may be forgiven this note of controversy, the language that the "Daily Worker" is now using is only the sort of language that they picked up in past years from some of the Socialist Members themselves.
We all agree in supporting these proposals and I hope that this unity will be preserved. I join with my hon. Friends in hoping that this unity will not be disturbed by any ungenerous or inaccurate references to those in whose hands responsibility at Whitehall for our Colonial Empire has hitherto rested. The Socialist Government have produced admirable paper schemes, but they have to go further than that in order to deserve some part of the credit that their predecessors are entitled to enjoy. The whole country-wishes these proposals well, but I think we are entitled to reflect that if the population of this country, of what until last Saturday the "Daily Herald" called "the most educated democracy in the world," is now Colony conscious, they did not learn all their lessons at the hands of their Socialist masters.
From time to time people have asked why these proposals have, as they say, been so long delayed, and for the records and for historical accuracy, it is well to deal with that point. The chief Colonial expansion in the British Empire was in the latter half of the 19th century and those territories with which we are dealing now, and in particular the African territories, never had any real contact whatever with our Western way of life or our manner of doing things until the lifetime of a large number of people still sitting in this House. It would have been economically and socially disastrous to have attempted to jump the centuries before the people were ready for these developments.
The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann), whom I am sorry not to see in her place, quoted with great glee from an article in the "Daily Express". May I say in passing that of course the "Daily Express", with its loose loyalty 2104 to the Conservative Party, is quite free to write exactly what it likes. The only newspaper in the country which would not be entitled to have a leading article of that kind now is the "Daily Herald," which by its terms of association with the publishers, is bound to support the. party policy. The hon. Lady said she did not believe that there had ever been a period when there had been a world surplus of any foodstuff. If she really believed that she could believe anything. It has been said a number of times tonight that to have embarked on a large scale scheme of groundnuts development at a time when there was a difficulty of disposing of those already grown would have qualified the promoters of that scheme for a lunatic asylum. It would have been as foolish as if the corporation were to spend ten million pounds on growing Brussels sprouts in the Cameroons, freezing them, and bringing them back here at a time when in my constituency they are being ploughed into the ground, because people cannot sell them. These things ought to be remembered in the interests of accuracy.
We ought also to remember that the Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1945, for which my hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) was responsible, was the parent of these Measures. We should remember that there has been vast capital development in the Colonial Empire in the lifetime of most hon. Members of this House. The former Under-Secretary was quite fair about this, and pointed out that this capital expenditure far exceeded anything with which we are dealing tonight. I think the emergence of two great Government sponsored corporations should be taken as an opportunity of paying tribute from these benches to some of those private corporations, which, in the face of innumerable difficulties, blazed the trail in Africa and elsewhere—companies like the Royal Niger Company, the Imperial British East Africa Company and the British South Africa Company. If people are inclined to be critical of some of these companies, on insufficient evidence, let them remember the East Africa Company and Sir William Mackinnon.
If it were not for his initiative and drive, the Germans might well have seized all the mainland between the Sudan and Portuguese East Africa, and if we are 2105 now in a position to reap groundnuts in East or West Africa, it is largely due to the foresight of private enterprise. We ought also to remember the vast capital expenditure in a little more detail than is generally realised. The value of our Rhodesian rubber and Rhodesian tin assets are at present valuation about £250 million, leaving out of account altogether that 60 per cent. of the production which is native production. These are very important figures, but if one looked for a moment at the groundnuts figures, equally significant lessons can be learned. Last year West Africa, quite quietly, and without any Press hand-outs, exported groundnuts to the value of £5 million, or 316,000 tons, which is one half the total of what is still only a "paper crop" in East Africa.
I do not want in any way to belittle the value of this new investment, or to add to any of the difficulties of the pioneers who are carrying this scheme through, but it has been calculated that if the Government scheme is to cost £25 million to produce a crop of, say, £9½ million, the existing West African enterprise, which at the moment is producing annual crops to the value of £50 million, must have some £75 million of capital investment. In the "years of neglect" as they are called, when we are supposed to have done little about groundnuts, taking one Colony alone—Nigeria—exports from there grew, from just before the first world war to the outbreak of the recent war, from 2,500 tons to 300,000 tons a year. While we wish every success to this new venture, we feel that in fairness past history should be remembered.
I do not want to descend from this note of harmony into criticisms, save in a manner which will smooth the path for these corporations and make an Opposition contribution to what I agree is a united national intention and a united British interest. The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge appeared to me to give a vivid illustration of precisely the wrong approach to these problems. I cannot help asking what would have happened had she been speaking from these benches and had the Secretary of State for the Colonies been on the other side of the House to hear her speech. She seemed to think that there was some chance in these new proposals of saving dollars, and so getting ourselves, in part, 2106 out of our present difficulties. We ought to remember that the principal Colonial exports are products of which the United States is an importer, not an exporter, and it would be a great pity if we raised too highly or extravagantly the national hopes in that regard.
The hon. Lady went on to refer to Ministerial responsibility for these proposals. We have taken the view that the Minister of Food should not be the Minister responsible for any corporation activity in the Colonies, and that any activity here should be the responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Our view has been supported by everyone on both sides of the House who has referred to the matter, except the hon. Lady. We hope that the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able to give us an undertaking that the matter will be looked at again, and that in view of the almost unanimous disapproval and disquiet of the House consideration will be given to whether any corporation activity in the Colonies cannot be made subject to Colonial Office authority.
The introduction of this Bill by the Minister of Food, and the importance the Minister of Food has in regard to the finance of one of these corporations, shows the stress that the Government are laying on Colonies as sources of supply to the United Kingdom. We believe that psychologically this stress is very unwise indeed. The hon. Lady said it did not matter at all—I thought she was going to say that it did not matter a "tinker's cuss"—which Minister had the responsibility, provided that the British people had an increase in their fat ration. That is an old and bad approach to this problem. It matters very much indeed that we should get all the support we can in Africa in particular for these projects. Psychologically, there is great danger of the African people thinking erroneoushy that we are using our present desperate shortage in order to induce them to get us out of our difficulty.
Many hon. Members may remember that when the Nile Dam was built through the engineering skill of the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald) the fellahin in Egypt were encouraged by agitators to believe that the purpose of the British Government in supporting and financing this project was to divert the waters of the Nile by a secret pipe to 2107 London, where their enormously valuable properties would be captured by British exploiters. We might possibly have done that with the River Jordan, but certainly not with the River Nile. However, that gives an indication of the psychological importance of making it perfectly clear to the natives whom we are anxious to benefit that this may be—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not say that we could have done it, but the waters might have been slightly more valuable when they arrived.
So much for my first objection. I very much hope that the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able to give us some reassurances that the matter will be looked at again. I think I am right in saying that every hon. Member who has expressed any view at all about this is in favour of the Secretary of State for the Colonies being the responsible Minister.
My second criticism of these proposals is that they look like having far too much of Whitehall in them. I would have preferred the sort of corporations envisaged by the 1945 Act where the real authority would have been in the hands of the Colonial Government; but the Bill has taken the form that it has taken and obviously it is impossible to amend it drastically. Naturally, we will give it our full support, but we are most anxious that these corporations should not take a rigid or a bureaucratic form. Naturally, the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State will get those whom they consider to be the best people to serve on the corporations. I do not want to revive memories of Question time today, by any reference to the methods in which some people feel that high nominations are made to corporations, but I would like to express the hope that these corporations will not be used as places of quiet retirement—in particular, this applies to the Colonial corporations—for Members of Parliament or other public servants whose period of active usefulness may be drawing to an end.
Also, I urge that there should be the fullest possible disclosure in this House of 2108 all information dealing with the work of the corporations, and that some of the attempts to hide the activities of the National Coal Board should not be reproduced in the case of these corporations. This applies especially because of the Colonial implications. There is one illustration I would like to mention in passing. I refer to the question of the actual amount paid in salaries. I do not altogether agree with what was said by one hon. Gentleman about the rate of remuneration. However, I think it extremely important that if people try to find out what the officials are paid we should not be told in this House of Commons that this is a confidential matter which cannot be disclosed here. The reaction in the Colonies among the native peoples might be that they would say, "Our efforts are going to pay large, secret, undisclosed salaries, to people who receive all that money because they are United Kingdom people and not native subjects of the Crown." It is most important that we should have the fullest possible disclosure of information.
Again, I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able to give us a renewed assurance that existing undertakings in the Colonies will be used to the fullest possible extent and that nothing will be done by these new corporations to drive old-established businesses, which have acquired technique over a number of generations, possibly even out of active work in the Colonies. It is by no means impossible that if the full force of Government subsidised competition confronts existing undertakings with impossible economic conditions, they may pack up in British Colonies and transfer their activities to the Colonies of some other European Power. This would be highly unfortunate, when one thinks of the accumulated experience of these old British companies. We believe that the corporations should concentrate their main direct-action work on these developments which private enterprise either cannot or will not undertake, in particular as a first consideration, on the improvement of communication on which everything else eventually depends.
I believe that there is danger ahead if the Government continue with these corporations in their policy of bulk purchase. I do not want to deal with that 2109 point in any detail, and I am not sure that I should be in order if I did, but, obviously, the products of the result of the activities of these corporations are going to be bought by the United Kingdom, and, presumably, bought in bulk, as the Government is wedded to the policy of bulk purchase. The Government will be buying the products of these great corporations, and there is a danger of endless friction and possibly a head-on collision between the Colonies and Whitehall, and it will require a great deal of skill and diplomacy to arrive at prices which will give a proper return to the cultivator and enable the corporation to carry on their work in an economic fashion.
So much for my criticisms. There is only one other thing I would like to say, and that deals with the actual human problem of the African native, or the native of any other part of the world where these corporations may carry on their activities, and the labour problem that will confront the corporations when they get seriously down to business. There is nothing whatever to be ashamed of in seeing that, along with our proper care for the natives, we look after our own consumers here in the United Kingdom, for, without the United Kingdom's money and enterprise, as the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) pointed out, these natural resources would have remained dormant and untapped. Yet our first duty is to the people who live in these territories, and we have to make it perfectly clear to the corporations that they must make this their first consideration.
How are we going to raise the standard of living of our Colonial fellow-citizens on the eve of this vast new undertaking? All the experience of this generation, with one or two exceptions, has gone to show that, as the wage-rate rises in certain Colonial territories, down goes production and there is very little improvement in the standard of living. The reason is obviously that very little money alters so completely the style of life of the African native that there is no incentive to earn a little more by increased production. Incentives can be provided by a larger export of consumable goods, and I think we should concentrate on this in a bigger way. Exports here are doubly valuable, and I hope the House as a whole will 2110 press the Board of Trade to see that the Colonies get cotton and other goods to the fullest possible measure of their requirements. We want also to encourage industries in the Colonies, gradually and slowly, but adapted to the people for whom we are trying to cater so that their purchasing power will increase.
I am told, and I think we have had the testimony of the late Governor of Nigeria, that the average Nigerian in 1945 was spending 5s. a year on imported goods, half of it, incidentally, from the United Kingdom. It was always his view that that figure could be increased to £5 given improved agricultural methods, smallish industries, and the patience and understanding which our Colonial Office people have always shown. I agree with the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) that one real difficulty is the problem of soil erosion and shifting cultivation, and all the evils which this brings in its train. We have to do all we can to support any scheme to cure these obvious evils. What we ask from the Government in return—though it does not seem likely at the moment—is that, later on—though I doubt if they will have the responsibility at that time—as the world food problem improves, we shall not leave these territories and their new agricultural production in the lurch. At the moment, I believe that 67 per cent. of our imported food comes from the Empire. We want to increase and maintain that figure, and, if we are going to do that, we must be allowed to maintain our system of Imperial Preference. Article 16 of the draft Charter appears to come perilously near to preventing our doing that.
I was interested to read in the "Manchester Guardian," when commenting some months ago on the groundnuts scheme, the following words applied to East and West Africa alike:In our purchases from these territories, we should be free to pay more than we would have done in buying from hard currency countries.I should like the hon. Gentleman, if he can, to give an assurance that we shall be free, if we think it desirable to do so, to pay more for those purchases than we would have paid had we bought them from the hard currency countries. I cannot see how these new industries of agriculture, or any other form of enterprise, can prosper unless we have freedom to protect them in their early years of 2111 growth. We are undoubtedly on the eve of a great expansion of agricultural production in the Colonial Empire, and also, let us hope, of an industrial production attuned to the temper of the people and to their present state of development.
I did not like the phrase nor the suggestion of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) that we should "bulldoze" the Colonial Empire into civilisation. I have no wish to see some of the attributes of civilisation in Europe transplanted straightaway to the African Colonies, where some of the virtues of the age of innocence still survive. What we want to do is to get the best that they have got to give, and to give them the best that we have got, to give our experience in the social services and our belief that all men are equal, and that, eventually there should be full economic and political liberty.
In Africa, we have an immense opportunity. It is a pity, as one hon. Gentleman said, that there should be too much concentration in this Debate on the African problem. I hope that other Colonial territories will not think that they have been neglected, or that they do not equally matter; it is only that this scheme, applied as it is in its groundnuts aspect exclusively to Africa, has naturally concentrated this Debate on our African opportunities. But Africa is the touchstone by which our Imperial competence and our right to have an Empire, and to weld it and lead it up to self-government will be judged. Africa is a pretty big proposition. As far as size is concerned, Europe, India, China, and even the great Dominion of Australia as well, could be placed inside Africa. That is a pretty big heritage and a pretty big undertaking, and, though, naturally, it does not fall to us to develop the whole of that great continent, we have a great deal of work to do there, and it might well occupy some of the people who are spending all their time trying to set the world to rights, or, rather, to their own conception of what constitutes rights. They could join with those who want, first of all, to improve our own Imperial heritage.
East Africa in particular has an immense future, not least in that sphere of Empire, defence, to which no reference has been made tonight, but in which it will not be capable of playing a full and 2112 effective part if it is economically unsound. Because of Imperial defence on which all else depends; because of the chances here to improve the diet of our people who are entitled to better times and but for whom civilisation would certainly have collapsed; and because, above all, of the Colonial peoples themselves, we wish these corporations success, and, as my right hon. Friend said, we will give the Government every aid in seeing that their work is successfully accomplished.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
We have had an interesting Debate which has been characterised on every side of the House by a feeling of good will towards this Bill. I think that the original speech, that of the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), set the standard in this behalf, which other hon. Members have followed. In the first place, I must apologise tonight for the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He would have been here if it were not for an accident, and he has cabled to me to ask me to convey to the House his very sincere regrets at not being here tonight. We all know his great interest over many years in these matters, and I personally feel that his absence is a considerable loss to our deliberations. However unworthy, I can only do my best to act as a substitute for the Secretary of State.
Before answering the many questions which have naturally arisen, I would like to put the Bill and its proposals in their true perspective so far as we at the Colonial Office see them. First, the object of economic development in Colonial territories is to improve the general standard of living and the welfare of the people. That is our first and primary object. In addition, it is our object to increase the supply of products in the world. I put those objects purposely in that order. At first sight, there may be a conflict between these two objects. It is not always possible to have economic development on a large scale and, at the same time, social stability with ever increasing self-government. It has not been possible in many other countries, but we hope that in our Colonial territories we will solve this particular problem—that there need be no real conflict between the two, and that good will and adjustment 2113 both in Whitehall and on the spot will prevent difficulties.
What are the means of carrying out our economic policy? First, we intend to improve the efficiency of the existing cultivated areas; and secondly, to bring new areas into agricultural production of all kinds, both in regards to crops and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) has pointed out, animal husbandry. Then we intend to develop the mineral, forestry, fishery and all other known resources of these territories. Next, we intend to institute research, as the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Graham Kerr) pointed out, and to survey the Empire in order to locate new resources. This aerial survey is already in progress. Lastly, we intend to establish secondary industries for processing local products to supply food for local consumption.
I want hon. Members to realise that there is a vast plan in our minds, and this Bill forms a necessary part of that plan. Subsidiary to those means of carrying out our economic policy which I have described there will be the development of public services by road, rail, water and air. There will also be the necessary development of power—electrical and water power, and so on. Finally, we must not neglect education and health services, because without those everything would be quite fruitless and the people would neither be able to participate in carrying out the economic policy I have described, nor would they be in any way able to benefit from them.
What are the requirements for this development? I lately had the privilege of being a delegate at the conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations—which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol knows very well—at Stratford-on-Avon. I was one of the United Kingdom delegates. At that conference we surveyed the whole broad area of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The problems that we are facing in our Colonial territories are, in fact, being faced in every other territory in that immense area. I have no time to go through those problems tonight, and even if I had, I do not suppose that the people of those areas would be particularly pleased if I were to point out the various difficulties they are up against; but I shall be very interested to know what solutions 2114 the other countries, apart from the British, are going to find to solve the difficulties that we and they share in common.
It was obvious from the broad survey, the objective survey that we made at the conference, that there are traditionally two ways of developing a non-industrial country; and most—indeed, practically all—the countries in our Colonial Empire, are, of course, non-industrial. The first way is by exploiting the producer of primary products—the farmer. I do not mean now necessarily foreign exploitation. But it does mean that the Government have got to have both the will and the means to take from the producer all that he can produce surplus to his own requirements and sell that abroad to obtain the necessary goods or to obtain foreign exchange in order to purchase the capital equipment to industrialise their country, or even to raise the standard of living in their country. The second way is the introduction of foreign capital. This usually means what is colloquially known as "strings"; that is, foreign capital invested—in Asiatic countries, particularly—is always invested on condition that certain requirements to protect the money are met. I do not say that that is an unreasonable safeguard.
Those are the only two ways as yet in which a country with a fairly low standard of subsistence has been able to raise its standard of living and to industrialise itself. There is none other as yet. What we are suggesting tonight is the third way—a very interesting innovation in these fields of economics in the Far East and in Africa. It is the provision of capital to mechanisms such as these new organisations, these new corporations, and the other similar ones which have already been set up.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that it is proposed that money should be invested there without the safeguards which were required in the past?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
No. I am just giving a broad survey of what has happened in the past. I say it is not unreasonable for people to have safeguards, but they have always been necessary in the past. There are many means which will have to be taken to meet, the various difficulties that arise, apart from these corporations, in order to raise the 2115 standard of living of the people. There will be necessary increased supplies of skilled labour, new methods of organisation of management and enterprise, enterprise by co-operative societies and the like, improved marketing—
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
There is nothing wrong with it in its sphere. As I was saying—improved marketing, such as the West African Cocoa Board and the West African Producers Board that are already in existence. All these are methods which will have to be worked in cooperation and conjunction under this Bill.
What are the objects of the Bill? They are two-fold. First, to provide for the establishment of the Colonial Development Corporation. This, I think, will answer some of the questions that have been asked on this particular point. The purpose of the Colonial Development Corporation is to do anything necessary for the starting up of any legitimate productive enterprise which is likely to pay its way in the Colonies. I hope I have made that clear. The purpose of the Overseas Food Corporation is to produce food and other agricultural products outside the United Kingdom but in the Colonies only at the invitation of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Member for West Bristol gave us a fanciful picture, coloured with his usual wit and imagery, of what would happen if there were any dispute between the two. His experience of Cabinets is much greater than mine, which is practically nil, but I would imagine that it would be a very bold Cabinet—and I admit Socialist Cabinets are bold—to go against the wishes of the Colonial Secretary and the local Government. If they were foolish enough to do so, then they would have to take the consequences.
§ Mr. Stanley
Have they not already done it on the question of who should run the groundnuts scheme?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
No, they have not. Certainly not. The right hon. Gentleman must not listen to every wild rumour that is going around in the Palace of Westminster in these matters, or in the newspapers. That is not so at all.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
There is one other thing I should say to clear the minds of many hon. Members tonight, and it is about the link-up between these two corporations and the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. It is not finally settled yet, but this is how I see it. I may say that, since I have had the honour to be a Minister for but a very short time, I have not had the opportunity of speaking to the Secretary of State, and therefore, I do not quite know what is in his mind on this matter, so I hope he will forgive me if I put into his mind something which is not there.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
The Colonial Development and Welfare Fund must provide the basic economic and social services; it cannot undertake commercial development. It will be remembered that I said that, in addition to these corporations, there would have to be services of various kinds—water, electricity, and so on. That is how I see—again with reservations—the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund acting on the development side. It will, in fact, undertake to provide basic social and economic services, and not commercial services.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
The Cameroons? Well, there is already in existence a Cameroons Board, but that has nothing to do with either of these corporations. That is a quite separate thing, with which I dealt a little while ago when I said that these other organisations were already in existence. That has nothing to do with either of the particular matters we are now discussing. The Colonial Development Corporation is the main instrument for development in the Colonies.
I want to emphasise here that the cooperation of the local governments is not only desirable but essential. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would never agree that any scheme should take place in any of the Colonies—either by the corporation responsible to the Ministry of Food or ours—unless the local government wanted it. The Colonies can take that as absolutely certain. We would not agree to anything else. In fact, as hon.
2117 Members will see, there is provision in Clause 7 that local feelings must be considered, and committees must be set up to furnish the corporations with local views.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
With great respect, the Bill does not say that. It is only if the corporations feel so disposed.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
This is a really important point. Does the Under-Secretary of State mean to say that he proposes to amend the Bill at a later stage to make it mandatory to set up these bodies?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
No, Sir. I say that the type of people we appoint to these Boards will not do otherwise. With regard to finance, both corporations are financed by responsible Ministers with the consent of the Treasury, but they may obtain capital from other sources. For example, the Government of a Colony may contribute a loan if they think fit. I was asked, in regard to the Colonial Development Corporation, whether it is to pay its way. We say that it should break even over a period of years. We quite understand—and this is important from the point of view of the board—that in the first few years we shall be dealing with crops, and that very often there will be a loss. They need not take it to heart so long as they break even over a period of time. I must give a warning against expecting quick results from this scheme. We are up against the years which the locusts have eaten, and it is not our fault that much of this has not been done in the past.
§ Mr. Stanley
Does the Under-Secretary of State disagree, then, with what his right hon. Friend said, namely, that there has been no neglect in the past, or is he merely trying to make the thing controversial?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
No, I am making my own speech. I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to some words in a semi-official pamphlet:Equally, no one who reads this pamphlet will remain ignorant of the great advance that has been made in recent years, and the more dynamic spirit with which these problems are being tackled.Those words are by the right hon. Gentleman, and if these problems are now being tackled in a more dynamic spirit, it shows 2118 that they were not so tackled in the past. Therefore, I call the right hon. Gentleman as a witness of what I am saying. We know what was the 19th century policy, as is shown by hon. Members opposite. It was to ensure internal peace and justice in exchange for foodstuffs and raw materials. The consequences were slow and haphazard economic development, and a large share of commerce and private enterprise was taken by European share holders. I am grateful to hon. Members for the courtesy with which they have received these remarks. I wanted to put the general picture so that they could see how these corporations fit in. We are very glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol will support and assist us, and we value the offer he has made. With regard to his point that there was ample excuse for not doing this before the war because there was no need—
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
Any scheme. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I lived in two parts of the world before the war. One was in South Wales, and the other in Malaya, and in both of those countries there was hunger and destitution, and where there is hunger, it means there is need for food. Therefore, this should have been done years ago. When we are accused of not putting this country on its feet, in respect of coal or other things, remember the years that the locusts have eaten.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I am not taken in with all this talk of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol and the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), which amounts to one for us and about six for them.
§ Brigadier Mackeson
On a point of Order. I wish to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that up to now this Debate has run on civil lines. If it goes on like this, it will not do so any longer.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I admire the debating skill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, but I am not taken in by him. I say that, with regard to West Africa, we will see that priorities for normal schemes are not overshadowed by new schemes. I know there is some anxiety on the part of the people there—and in Malaya, too—but I can assure him that we will take care to ensure that their fears are groundless. The inflationary danger has been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, and by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), and we shall do our best to see that there is a sufficient supply of consumer goods. It will be realised that consumer goods are extremely scarce everywhere, but the Colonies will get their fair share. We cannot give the cost of the first four months' working. It will be quite impossible to do that. Neither my right hon. Friend nor I could ask either chairman to give the cost of the first four mouths' working. What business man could be expected to do so, and so, why should we?
§ Mr. Stanley
There is an estimate, in the report, of the cost up to this planting season. I was only asking whether, on the experience they have so far, that estimate appeared to be accurate, or whether there was likely to be any great difference from it? The hon. Gentleman need not be so suspicious.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
It is far too early to say what the cost will be. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford talked about getting something on the record. I want to put something else on the record. We have heard that it was the right hon. Gentle man the Member for West Bristol who started these schemes of Colonial development. As a matter of fact, the first scheme was started in 1929, under a Labour Government. No mention has been made of that tonight from the other side of the House—
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
Never mind how big it was. It was the first scheme, and it cost £1 million per annum. There was bound to be a small beginning. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford also said, quite wrongly, that the second scheme, in 1940, had been started by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol.
2120 Well, in 1940 I happened to be a student at the Senior Officers' School, and at that time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol was a student at the Staff College. It seemed to me very odd that he could be at the Staff College and Colonial Secretary at the same time, so I made inquiries. I find that it was Mr. Malcolm Macdonald who was responsible for this scheme, and that it was brought in by the present Viscount Hall. So that, I think, will dispose of that.
With regard to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), I was touched by his reference to me, and I thank him. I hope that he continues to have a very happy time in this House. I thank him for his generous good wishes, which I appreciate. I can assure him that we shall watch the interests of the Colonial people. We have their interests in mind every moment of the day. They know that they can rely upon the Colonial Office. They sometimes complain a bit about us, but they know in their hearts, as may be seen from the Colonial Press, which we study, that we are their friends.
With regard to the corporations, I think, we on these benches dislike large salaries. [Interruption.] Oh, yes we do. May I say that some of the people who are helping us on these boards have come on to them at much reduced salaries. I will give the salary of the chairman now. I see no reason why the other salaries should not also be given when the appointments are made. The chairman's salary is £5,000 a year. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a surprise for them."] That is the amount which the hon. Member for Keighley suggested, so we are following his advice. The part-time members will be paid on a part-time basis. There is no reason why every Member of the House should not have the fullest information about these salaries, and, so far as I am concerned, that will be given. Furthermore, with regard to other hon. Members' suggestions as to reports and the like, in the Bill it is incumbent on both corporations to furnish reports annually, which are to be laid before Parliament, and also to furnish financial statements and auditors' reports annually, which are also to be laid before Parliament. We have nothing to hide. All the information which we can give 2121 to the House, we want to give, because we are proud of these schemes.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I do not say the prices paid in every case because there are business matters which one cannot divulge, and which it would not be right to divulge; but everything we can legitimately give to the House, we shall give, and the House cannot blame us for that.
Finally, the object of these corporations is development for the people and more and more by the people. The new dynamic spirit, which the right hon. Member for West Bristol admits, animates us in these matters. It is only, in fact, Socialism that can develop the Empire. We have grown up from the past, and we are going forward hand-in-hand in cooperation with the Colonial peoples, facing all difficulties together, and finally rejoicing and benefiting from the results of our labours.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.