HC Deb 11 March 1948 vol 448 cc1484-529

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)

I would like to pass from South America to East Africa and bring the Committee straight away to Subhead J, the "Production of Groundnuts in East and Central Africa." This, at least, has the almost unique distinction of being strictly in Order. That comment implies no reflection upon the Chair. The Minister of Food, when dealing with the Argentine Meat Agreement, drew a rosy picture of the possibilities of future Argentine Agreements. Here, while the Debate ranges over East Africa, we shall consider the consequences of an over-rosy picture that was drawn about the African groundnuts scheme some months ago, and the consequences to the taxpayer of that over optimism.

The progress report of this scheme up to 3oth November, 1947, issued recently, shows that £4,250,000 has already been spent on that venture. That, however, is not the whole story. In Subhead J of these Supplementary Estimates we are now asked to provide for the year ending this month a further sum of £3,400,000, making in all £7,900,000 wanted up to the end of this month. The Committee will remember that, when this scheme was commended to the country as a way out of our desperate fat shortage, we were told that it would cost in all some £25 million, but now we see that by the end of this month we shall have spent about one-third of the whole sum which we were told originally it would cost. Yet only a fraction of the projected area has been cleared, and only one-half of the cleared area has been planted. It is a sobering thought to a country, not the least of whose difficulties are financial, that one-third of the money has been spent but only one-three-hundredth of the area has been planted, and it is essential that at this moment the House of Commons should address itself to the stark economic facts of the great African difficulties that are bound to confront this scheme.

Over three million acres remain to be planted and it is true, of course, that the total cost before we have finished with this scheme will be absolutely enormous, so the Committee ought to consider what we have to do about it. It may be said that the £4 million spent by last November was largely on capital equipment, but I shall come later to the fact that, under the particular conditions of Africa where there are all sorts of unknown problems to contend with, the wastage in the machinery already bought is such that no prudent person can really regard the heavy expenditure on machinery as being safely a capital cost.

I would also like to draw the attention of the Committee to this point, and to ask for guidance from the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Lady on it: when commending this scheme to a private association, the Royal Empire Society—a body of patriotic people which has done an enormous amount to help forward Imperial co-operation—Mr. Samuel said that the cost of this scheme was based on what he called "Mr. Dalton's approved interest rates of 2½ per cent. per annum." That has all gone now. We heard this afternoon about Local Loans rising to 3 per cent., and we would like some information as to the price that will have to be paid by the Corporation, which has to run this body on strictly businesslike lines, for any loans that it may get.

Further, when we first heard about this scheme, we were told in September, 1946, in the original Blue Book, that the cost per ton f.o.b. of the production of groundnuts in East Africa would be £14 5s. 6d. Shortly afterwards, the right hon. Gentleman said that the production cost would be £14 5s. 6d. per ton and he has said that today's price for groundnuts is £32, giving us a margin of approximately £17, which, applied to 600,000 tons, will mean a saving to this country of £10 million. Nearly all those estimates have disappeared and can no longer be called in aid. We must now know what the cost of production is going to be. Expert opinion, of people who have come back from that part of the word, believes that with great good fortune and enormous skill the period of harvesting this quickly perishable crop might be spread over 20 days. The combines might each cover 10 acres a day, or 200 acres in the season. Therefore, it is doubtful whether any one combine could produce more than 70 tons in a year, which means—and hon. Members with farming interests will understand me—that the cost of combining groundnuts in East Africa will be about five times the cost of combining corn in this country. One expert opinion has already said that it will cost more to combine the groundnuts alone, without taking any other costs into account, than the original estimate which was given to the House by the right hon. Gentleman, only a few months ago.

I have no wish, and I would be out of Order if I did so, to discuss the merits of the whole scheme, but this Supplementary Estimate enables us once more to see this venture in true perspective and not through the spectacles of party propaganda. If it is going to cost £25 million—and who could now possibly believe that it will cost anything like as little as that? —and produces groundnuts to the value of £9½ million a year, then, on the same assumption the capital value of West African groundnuts produced under private enterprise must be three times as great—£75 million.

At the time of the original Debate we gave our support to this project provided that the whole economy of East Africa is not disturbed, that existing undertakings are not penalized and, above all, that peasant proprietorship in Africa should remain one of our chief aims. We should not find that we had created an entirely wage-earning community in a country that should include peasant proprietors.

We have noticed from the Estimates that a great deal more money is wanted for machinery. I think I am entitled at this stage to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the money now being spent and asked for, the cost of capital equipment, including railway construction and clearing operations, is to provide equipment in East Africa for which existing undertakers in East and West Africa alike are urgently asking. The Committee should see that, in drawing up a design to make this scheme a great success, we are not penalising existing undertakings, on whom also we depend to meet our balance of payments and to feed our own and other people.

When I heard that part of the figure of the cost of capital equipment included Bedford motor lorries, I, a Bedfordshire Member, was pleased at the thought that these vehicles were going out to be used in the groundnuts scheme. But I remembered also a letter which I saw only a week ago from a sisal planter in that same part of the world, in which he said: I ordered a Bedford lorry from our local agents, the Central African Company, two years ago, and there is no sign of it yet. Let us remember that when we are voting this money for this new undertaking.

I gather that responsibility for this scheme passed about a week ago from the United Africa Company to the Corporation, and that operational control was intended to be taken over on 31st March. In anything which I may say about this Supplementary Estimate I would not like to be thought to be unjust, or ungenerous, to the United Africa Company, who are certainly not responsible for the overoptimistic picture drawn in advance; who are not responsible for the delays in supplying the machinery, and who, the Committee ought to remember, made no claim for remuneration for their services as managing agents, so that the cost this year and in this Estimate, although prodigous, is cost price, and not on a cost-plus basis. Nor would I like to be accused of wishing anything but good fortune to the many Africans and above all, the many Europeans, particularly the latter, who are living under rough and difficult conditions. Nothing could be worse for these people than that false hopes of their enterprise should be aroused in this country; or an impossible task been set them in Africa and then the need for periodic post-mortems forced inevitably on a House of Commons that wants properly to discharge its financial obligations.

We were told in advance that this scheme was going to yield big dividends. That would have been called by the Fabian Society the "Joseph Chamberlain school of Imperialism," but at least we would have had the dividends. Now we have great expenses and we are going anxiously to await the dividends, but no one, after a year's experience, would draw too optimistic a picture. I hope that I may be pardoned for quoting a Latin tag, "Ex Africa semper aliquid novi" or, in other words, "Out of Africa something new always comes." This is quite as true now as it used to be, even though we have got also our own unpredictable Government at home. Although the right hon. Gentleman may know that in Africa the unexpected always happens, this is not what we were told when the scheme was commended.

Now, we have the Supplementary Estimates for £3,400,000 more. The Parliamentary Secretary, in an earlier Debate or in answer to a Question, said that the 1948 crop would yield 50,000 tons. Actually, it is going to be only 4,000 tons. The "Daily Herald" went into rhapsodies about an answer to our fat problems. The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Mann) talked as if the fats were now almost on the table of housewives in Glasgow. But the housewives in Glasgow, if they listened to a broadcast a few days ago by someone who had come back to this country, would have heard it said of this scheme: To be quite frank, it would have been better for further clearing had nit the cry 'Nuts at any cost' overruled the better judgment of the men on the spot. and he added: The suggested figures are impossible—not enough account was taken of the difficulties. To our way of thinking, the alarming thing about these confessions and explanations which have now been given is that they cast doubts on the accuracy of all the Estimates which have been given to the public.

The reason for this demand for more money is attributed in the progress report to a number of factors. I will not weary the Committee in going into every one of these but will mention only one or two. These are notably, the delays of the delivery of machinery in England, the delay in unloading owing to port congestion in Africa, and the delay in the Tanganyikan Railways from the port to the sphere of operation. It is our contention that all these difficulties could have been anticipated and that the Government should, and indeed must, have known about them. As for the difficulties in getting machinery, we are asked to vote a great sum of public money now for more machinery.

It should have been realised that machinery is not available here and that it would have to be bought in the United States, and with dollars, and that it is scarce even there. I should like to say in passing that the managing agents, with great ingenuity, have picked up this equipment on the beaches of the Philippines and Honolulu. The machinery is scarce, difficult to get, and expensive in dollars. It is of course subjected to fierce use while out there, inasmuch as it is largely unchartered land, and it is also subject to the not always tender mercies of the African drivers. Two views prevail; some people say, "Give the African the job, and he will finish the tools," and others say that under extraordinary difficulties the Africans are picking up the use of these machines pretty effectively. However, no one could deny that we could not call expenditure on this machinery for the first year's working capital expenditure, for it is most certainly a wasting asset.

Before we vote the money to His Majesty's Government, and while still on the question of machinery, I wish to ask what steps are being taken to get British industry to provide this machinery, in particular the heavy moving equipment and the crawler tractors? A very proper use for the Overseas Development Corporation would be to finance a great deal of this machinery here, and give a guaranteed order, because it is difficult in advance, without knowing how good the return may be, to expect private undertakings to undertake that task unaided suchwise. As for the second difficulty of transport, the right hon. Gentleman told us that existing rail and harbour facilities in Tanganyika could lift over and above any crop likely before 1950, and the figure of 50,000 tons was mentioned in the Blue Book. We pointed out the difficulties but not much regard was paid to what we said. We also pointed out the inevitable congestion at Dar es Salaam and the competition in transport of other minerals already being worked out there and what is still happening in West Africa—the accumulation of a large proportion of the 1947 crop, when the 1948 crop is still coming along.

As to the difficulties in regard to the Tanganyika Railway, we are now given an illustration of what happens when people working on a nationalised scheme fall out with each other, and no one really knows who is responsible for these difficulties. We have the statement of the "Financial Times" recently when it referred to the "somewhat unedifying squabble" between the Director of the Overseas Food Corporation, which is a State corporation, and the Head of the Tanganyika Railways, which are Government railways. I think I am entitled in his absence to remind the Committee of the comments at the time of passing of the Bill dealing with overseas development of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who leads for us on colonial affairs. He made certain observations on which the "Financial Times" has recently made this comment: Only last November Mr. Oliver Stanley warned the Government of the dangers of friction between rival authorities in a territory. Events seem to be proving him only too accurate a prophet. As one who always has believed that colonial development schemes should be in the hands of the Colonial Office, and not in the hands of the Food Ministry, I endorse also the "Financial Times" further comment: Joseph Chamberlain would have known what to do if a newcomer among Departmental officers had presumed to lecture his Department. Another reason for the disappointments is the stubborn nature of the bush, and the great natural difficulties encountered in clearing and planting the land. Private people have been doing this sort of thing quite a long time, and there is a wealth of experience available if the Government would take it from private people. The right hon. Gentleman said a few weeks ago that no local planting association had had any experience of mechanical clearing. But one large estate in the neighbourhood of these operations has made the statement that there is no type of heavy equipment used for the groundnuts scheme of which they not had considerable experience, and they add: At no time have we been consulted. It is perfectly true that the Kongwa area for which this money is now required has proved a very difficult area. But what right have we to assume that the other areas are not just as difficult? They are covered with a different sort of vegetation, but there are bound to be some unexpected snags and difficulties, and I think it is no answer to an English taxpayer or an English housewife to say that the difficulties found in the Kongwa area will be encountered or even surpassed in other areas. There should have been a much more adequate survey of the area before the original estimates were given.

I wish to refer to another aspect of the problem, the problem of native labour. We are being asked for money today for the cost of agricultural operations, including administration and overhead expenses, so it is in Order to make some comment on native labour. We are very glad indeed that there are only very small labour difficulties, and we hope that this will continue. Difficulties are bound to increase as the full labour force of 50,000 is gradually developed. One or two things have emerged. Africans say, "We have enough shillings," but they want something on which to spend the shillings, if we are to get any further effort from them. The whole problem of consumer goods in our Colonial Empire is of the utmost importance.

I hope we shall not introduce too quickly our habits in dealing with each other here in this rather more sophisticated community. I was surprised to see a report from one unit in East Africa that a native labourer has to receive three letters before he can be dismissed, not one of which he is able to read. While we hope there will be no coercion whatever, in the interests of this scheme of the existing undertakings and the African himself, we hope the dignity of labour will be taught, and people encouraged to earn their living, never forgetting that peasant proprietorship must remain one of our aims in our East African Empire.

I was very interested to see that the scheme has been explained to local chiefs and recruitment proceeded with their support. Had there been a private enterprise Government in power and a remark of that kind appeared, that recruitment is proceeding with the support of the chiefs, every sort of dark hint would have been made about the Tory Government using the chiefs to coerce the natives to work in this private monopoly. It is a curious fact that on the very day on which we had the progress report for which the money which we are now debating is needed, the Secretary of State for the Colonies refused to allow the chiefs to organise collections in Sierra Leone for an educational purpose on the grounds that collection by chiefs could not be approved because any such collections sponsored by them would be regarded by the people as a compulsory levy. It is interesting to see how practices which were frowned on in past years are now regarded with favour by His Majesty's Ministers.

In conclusion, this is a great African scheme and 50,000 Africans may one day, at prodigious cost, be employed on this scheme. We believe something more of a future should be offered than being just paid labourers in a Government scheme. I commend to all hon. Members the White Paper on Native Policy issued 20 years ago by the Colonial Office itself, which said at the time that natives should be entitled to live and work in accordance with their own wishes, either in production in the reserves, or as individual producers on their own plots of land, or in employment for wages within and without their territory. The Government are up against a great many unexpected difficulties. This may be a warning to them in the future when they try and snatch quick advantages by drawing an over-attractive picture, largely for political purposes. Had they told the truth as starkly before the last election as they are now obliged to do in regard to this limited scheme, they would not be today His Majesty's Ministers.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)

I count this a fortunate opportunity to be able to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). We have just listened to a speech which has been wide in its range and most constructive in its purpose. I hope that we shall hear some answer from the Minister of Food to the many questions which my hon. Friend has put.

I have had the good fortune, in common with several other hon. Members of this House, of visiting the area where the groundnuts are being grown. Anybody who has been there could not fail, in a speech on this subject, to pay some personal tribute to the very great work which has been done by the men and women who have been responsible for putting this great idea into execution. I feel that there is nothing more remarkable, in looking on this vast virgin forest which has so long defied the efforts of human beings to conquer it, than the fact that this gallant little band—and it is still, both black and white, a little band—has made such progress as they have, in the matter of a few months, in taming these great forces of nature. They really deserve the utmost gratitude, both of this Committee and of the nation as a whole. It is also remarkable to find in these men and women, who have had to face so many disappointments, such a crusading spirit, and such keenness and determination to go on. Those qualities are only too apparent amongst the people who are at present working on this scheme.

It is our duty tonight to lay emphasis on this particular Supplementary Estimate by which we are being asked to vote a sum almost equivalent to the original Estimate asked a year ago. We cannot help comparing the hopes of last year, when we had imagined that 150,000 acres of groundnuts would now be planted and would shortly be harvested, against the figure of 7,500 acres which are now in the ground. Perhaps more disturbing than that is the likely future rate of progress, and it is on the future rate of progress that the whole financial basis of this scheme must rest. I gained the impression that, by the 1950–51 harvest, we shall be most fortunate, if all goes well, if we can achieve an acreage of 700,000 under groundnuts, and that compares with the estimate of 1,650,000 acres which the Blue Book (Command 7030) lays down, and which was published, I think, in February of last year.

That brings me to the main and most forcible point brought out by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford. He stated with great force—and he is quite right—that the whole basis of this Blue Book is hopelessly out of date. In other words, this Committee is debating a scheme of the utmost importance to the nation on information which is totally incorrect, and hopelessly out of date. I feel that that is something to which the Minister should give most careful attention. It is true that last November, during the Debate on the Overseas Resources Development Bill, we heard the Minister give some indication that a severe set-back had been suffered by the groundnuts scheme.

If I remember rightly, amongst the main reasons which he gave for the failure of this scheme to achieve its desired target was the congestion of the Port of Dar-es-Salaam, the lack of spare parts and maintenance facilities for machinery which have been exported to Tanganyika, and the great and unforeseen difficulties that the men on the spot found in clearing the roots from land which otherwise had been cleared of trees and bush. He spoke in rather confident tones, and I felt that those difficulties were in the immediate process of being overcome. Unfortunately, this optimistic forecast which he gave is only partially true in the light of the events of subsequent months. It was some three weeks ago that I was there. The position at the Port of Dar-es-Salaam has improved. That port, owing to the new methods of management and better technique, is just able to cope with the present amount of traffic going through, but if it is increased, and unless deep-water quay facilities are made available, there will recur the same old trouble.

It is true, also, that spare parts for these expensive and rare machines are in fair supply, but, unfortunately, workshop facilities are woefully lacking. When I was there, out of more than 300 heavy tractors used for clearance purposes, not one single machine was engaged in land clearance. They had been called into the workshops for maintenance purposes, and were being slowly repaired. They were to be issued in batches of 20. That gives some indication of the very great delays which have been experienced with the existing machinery, and which have had to be faced. I was given to understand that it would take at least six months before workshop facilities in the Kongwa area would be brought up to the necessary state of efficiency. I feel that it is right that the Committee should know these facts, because it has been one of the main disadvantages of this scheme that we have had to listen to many hopelessly optimistic forecasts of what was likely to happen.

On the point of root clearance the Minister, to use his own words, said: Difficulties of root clearance are being overcome by instruments particularly apt for this purpose being adapted, devised and applied. I regret to say that, when I was there, on 19th February, there was no application. It is true that such a machine had been designed, and it is also true to say that a pilot model of that particular machine was being made in Nairobi. Even if this model is successful in carrying out the functions for which it is designed, how many weeks and months will it take to produce the number of these machines necessary, if the scheme is to go fully ahead, and the problem of route clearance solved?

We are being asked to vote £3,400,000 on a scheme of which the financial basis has radically changed, as the result of less than a year's experience. Kongwa was chosen because it was estimated to be the easiest area in which to start a clearance scheme. It would surely be insane to imagine that in other areas, both in Tanganyika, Northern Rhodesia and Kenya, where the groundnuts Corporation may go, other difficulties created by local circumstances will not also arise. I feel that if the Minister could give us some assurance that in future discussions, such as we are having this evening, he would be prepared to issue a White Paper bringing up to date this Blue Book, on which at the moment most of the nation's information is based, he would go a long way to create more confidence.

Mr. Strachey

Perhaps it was issued while he was away, but is not the hon. Member aware that another White Paper, Cmd. 7314, was issued this winter.

Mr. Hare

I have seen it, but such is the great speed of events that I regret to say that this latest White Paper is also hopelessly out of date, which goes to show the necessity for keeping the House and the nation perhaps even more closely informed than the Minister has been able to do.

We are being asked to vote large sums. I might tell the Committee a short story which reflects the idea which I found among many men who had been in Africa all their lives, and who had had experience in agriculture during the time they had lived in that great Continent. In another country further south, I met a very wise old man who had been a farmer all his life, and who had been Minister of Agriculture in the country in which he lived. He said to me, knowing I had teen to Kongwa, "Young man, mark my words, unless you are careful those nuts will cost you 6d. each before you are through." The point of that story is that we have to avoid that very thing happening. There is a danger that, unless we watch with scrupulous care what is happening in this venture, we may find ourselves in a position which will be quite ludicrous, pouring out vast sums of money and getting no return for it.

That would be a criminal thing for any Government to do in these days, when capital is so precious and when the demand for capital development throughout the Commonwealth is absolutely overwhelming, and when existing industries are calling for more capital. As my hon. Friend said, there is a constant demand for more machinery, and for more capital goods to increase the production of existing industries. For example, in Tanganyika the sisal industry is suffering directly from shortage of manpower and machinery owing to the priorities given to the groundnuts scheme. When I visited the sisal area I was assured that with a comparatively small amount of extra machinery and labour it would be possible for that industry to produce an extra 25,000 tons of leaf this year, available to sell in America, which would bring in the equivalent of some £2,200,000 in hard currency. Further south, wherever one goes in Northern and Southern Rhodesia, there are great deposits of coal, chrome, copper and other minerals, all of which are waiting to be developed and are waiting for the construction of railways and ports, for which capital is urgently needed. Therefore, in granting this Supplementary Estimate, we must take into consideration, with great care, the other industries in Africa which are capable of expansion. We should make absolutely certain that we are not putting ourselves in the position of being accused of placing too many of our precious eggs in one basket.

6.54 p.m.

Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)

Like the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare), I do not want to say anything to detract from the idea which underlies this great scheme. I have always been one of those who felt that its prospects must be spoken of with great caution. That is becoming more evident every day. I would remind my right hon. Friend that the French have some similar plans, and that they are being extremely cautious and are confining some of their experiments to a much smaller acreage, and making their plans on that basis.

I rise to ask two questions. In the difficulties we are having, and must have, today about equipment, it would be interesting to know whether my right, hon. Friend has tackled the question of American supplies, and what success or lack of it he has had? Secondly, in planning for the future—and bearing in mind the conversations which will be proceeding next week in Paris—is the question of any joint plans for the production of machinery suitable for this sort of scheme, both in British and French territories, being kept in mind by us and the French? I know that conversations covering a wide field are being held with the French and other Colonial Powers. It seems to me to be of great importance that the question of machinery for this scheme and other schemes should be borne in mind. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will say a word about it.

6.55 p.m.

Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)

When the Blue Book on the groundnuts scheme was published last February, it caught the imagination of a large number of people in this country. The more one studied it, the more difficult it was to think that the figures and the proposals could be worked out according to the plan. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare), I was fortunate enough to be out in East Africa recently when I paid a three-days' visit to the only groundnuts area which is being developed on any substantial scale at the present time. I should like to pay a tribute to the men and women on the spot who went out almost exactly a year ago, with no equipment to begin with, and nothing of any kind with which to start. They had first to extend the railway for several miles, and then build their own roads and get the equipment up to the spot. They had to face untold problems and bottlenecks. In spite of great difficulties, they have done a great job of work, so far as they possibly could.

Having said that, one must consider why it was not possible to work to the acreages and figures and dates which were put in the Blue Book. My own view is that the Government should never have accepted the Blue Book, as it was quite impossible to work to it, and if they had consulted more people who were experts in tropical agriculture, they would have got very different advice. We shall be told that they consulted one great firm which took the view that this scheme was possible. Many other people who were interested in and knowledgeable about tropical agriculture said from the first that it would be impossible to work to anything like this scheme. When I was there some months ago, I found about 350 English men and women, 150 Italians and 6,000 natives all living in tents. That is only partially satisfactory. Likewise all the offices were tents. At the time of my arrival two bungalows had just been finished. All the buildings, repair shops, etc., were of a temporary nature, and the permanent villages which it is hoped to build in course of time had not even been begun. It will probably be a long time before that work can be commenced. This existing tent town is by no means satisfactory, and the people there are living in trying conditions, especially when the weather is bad.

It will be remembered that it was suggested in the Blue Book that in the first sowing season some 150,000 acres of groundnuts should be sown. In point of fact, only 7,300 acres were planted, which is less than the figure mentioned in the recent White Paper on this subject. Half of that acreage had already been cleared at some previous time by natives for their own cultivation, so that jungle was only cleared on about 3,600 acres. That is the actual area of the African bush which had been successfully cleared and planted. A futher 8,000 acres had been cleared at the time of my visit, but owing to the lateness of the season it was impossible to plant that land.

In the original Blue Book the scheme was estimated to cost about £24 million. We have already seen that the scheme cannot be worked on the figures given in these Estimates. One cannot hazard a guess whether the cost will be doubled or quadrupled. It will be a case of multiplication of the original estimates rather than addition to them. At the time of my visit, I believe that there were 303 bulldozers, and none of them was doing clearing work. Actually, 291 of the 303 were in the repair yards. The others, which were out working, were preparing roads. It was not satisfactory that these bulldozers, which had only been there for a few months, should already be in such serious disrepair. However, that was largely due to the fact that they had been bought on the highways and byeways of the world and the staff had not been able to overhaul them before they were handed over to the native drivers to begin work. The machines could not be overhauled in the time, because neither the facilities, the spare parts nor the skilled men were available.

In the case of other machinery, there were 200 new Massey Harris tractors, beautiful-looking Canadian machines. At the time of my visit, most of them were working well in the fields. It will be remembered that when this subject was mentioned at the beginning of the year, it was suggested that 10 rows or drills would be sown at the same time behind the tractor, and when it came to the job of scuffling out the weeds and cleaning the drills, similarly 10 rows would be done at the same time. I found to my surprise that actually only four drills were being planted at a time. As everyone knows who is familiar with root crops, one can only cultivate the same number of rows that have been planted at the same time. This involves a tremendous waste of power. It is probable that, from a power point of view, those machines were capable of sowing anything from 10 to 20 drills at a time; but it may have been a question of convenience. As a farmer it seemed to me a great waste to use the machines only on four drills. Either the wrong machine or the wrong tractor was being used. The best method can only be found by trial and error after a long time.

It seems a tremendous waste to cultivate hundreds of thousands of acres on an experimental basis before finding out which method will be efficient and economic. I understand that practically the whole of the heavy machinery was bought from America with dollars. I suggest that we could have used those dollars in a much more suitable direction. The farmers of this country know how much we require American implements and tractors here. I have heard it suggested—possibly the Minister will tell me whether or not it is correct—that in order to get the quick delivery of these 200 Massey Harris tractors, the authorities are tied to using that make for two years. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that point. In view of the fact that it is necessary for the bulldozers and heavy machinery to be repaired so soon, it is strange to read in the oringal Blue Book that this machinery is to be depreciated over five years. That is another illustration of what nonsense the original Estimates now appear, when we know that some of the machines were worn out in five months instead of five years.

Mr. Strachey

That is rather an important statement. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that because they needed overhaul after five months, they were worn out in five months, or that that is any reason to suppose that they may not last for five years? Is he suggesting that that is not a reasonable period in which to write them off?

Sir J. Barlow

I believe that some of them will be worn out completely in five months. When I was there, I saw some heavy machinery which had been cannibalised. That may not be typical. I do not suggest that all of them will be worn out in such a short period. I do not wish to convey that for one moment, but I consider that the rate of depreciation is infinitely greater than the suggested five year period. One of my hon. Friends pointed out the unforeseeable difficulties which have arisen. Hon. Members who have not visited Africa may find it very difficult to understand the unexpected problems which arise. I think that it is only Africa which can produce such tremendous difficulties. Those who have had experience of other countries have not, in most cases, experienced the unexpected in such a degree as appears to have been the case with the groundnuts scheme.

I suggest that there is a rate of economic development in all agriculture. If this scheme is pushed forward as fast as the Government originally wished, it will cost the taxpayers of this country a tremendous amount of money. It has been said that the world fat shortage is so serious that virtually any cost is justifiable. I do not agree with that suggestion. Undoubtedly, this scheme will produce nuts in course of time, but if the Government try to proceed with it too quickly, inevitably the cost will be great. For that reason, I should like to see the speed of progress definitely slowed down. I suggest that the Government should experiment first with one large area, say at Kongwa, where things are going as well as is possible. Another difficulty is the question of management. The Committee will remember that for a period of months the managing agents were to be representatives of Unilevers. After a time, the representatives of the new Corporation were to take over. The men on the spot, for whom I have a great regard, have learned a great deal by costly experience. It would be unfortunate if the value of that experience were lost during the change-over. For that reason, I hope that suitable arrangements will be made in order to use the experience which has been bought at a high price. In conclusion, I would say that this may still be a great and successful scheme; but unless the rate of progress is slowed down, undoubtedly it will prove far too costly to the taxpayers of this country.

7.10 p.m.

Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)

Before I refer to the situation at Kongwa, which I visited a few weeks ago, I wish to mention a point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) in connection with a reply given by the Minister to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) a few weeks ago. The Question he asked was what local planting association or other authorities were consulted regarding the problem of clearing the bush at Kongwa, and the Minister replied: Commercial civil engineering firms with considerable experience of mechanised bush clearing or airfield construction were consulted. No local planting associations have had experience of mechanical clearance. The sisal estates were cleared slowly by hand."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1948; Vol. 447, c. 285.] As representing the sisal industry, I should like to say that the Minister was misinformed on that matter. In recent years, since heavy machinery was available, it has been used for clearing on many sisal estates, and it would have been open to the groundnuts people to consult with the sisal people, as they are doing now. Only a fortnight ago, when I was in the Tanga area, two prominent representatives of the groundnuts organisation came there and looked into the question of clearing and other matters, and I would like to say that there is entire co-operation between these various bodies now. I only mention the matter because I thought it would be unfortunate, and I am sure the Minister would agree, that there should be any implication that antiquated methods were used by the sisal industry, which is the best organised industry in Tanganyika, as well as a great dollar-earner.

I was fortunate in visiting the Kongwa area a few weeks ago. Other hon. Members who have been there have told the same story as I could tell, and I will mention only one or two points. There are 4,000 acres which have been planted on what is called "mbuga" or seasonal swamp, which required no clearing, and 3,500 acres which were planted as cleared land. I saw the crop coming up, and I should think that it might be a 60 or 70 per cent. crop, assuming that the rains come at the right time. In addition, approximately 7,500 acres were cleared at Kongwa and other places, and this means that this year about 15,000 acres have been cleared, of which about half has been planted.

I looked up the timetable relating to all this work, and I found that it had worked out in this way. In November, 1946, there was the discussion on the whole project; in February, 1947, there was the Blue Book (Cmd. 7030) indicating the general scheme and in this the estimates were set out. According to a report issued in January this year, large-scale clearing operations began about the end of June or the beginning of July, 1947, only five months after the original scheme had been put before the House. In February, 1948, when I was there I was able to see the result of these operations to date, and I must say, and anybody who has been there will agree with me, that these results were all that it was possible to obtain. All the original survey work had to be undertaken, there was the erection of the tents and houses in the bush, decisions had to be made where planting was to take place, the machinery had to be obtained and people taught how to use it, and all the preliminaries of a pioneer undertaking had to be gone through in these very few months. I entirely agree with what has been said by others hon. Members that those on the spot have done a good job of work.

If we look at the original Estimates, it is interesting to guess what was in the mind of the Government at the time. How on earth could a Government issue a Blue Book in February, 1947, and expect ordinary human beings to plant 150,000 acres, after clearing the bush, in a matter of nine months? As regards the cost, the original figure in the Blue Book should by now have been £2,500,000, but up to the end of February, as is shown in the January report, the figure is actually about £5 million, and there is another amount to be added making it up to £7,900,000 at the end of this month. Of course, part of the expenditure may have been, and probably was, capital expenditure, but it is perfectly true that a great deal of this money has gone down the drain. These secondhand machines in many cases have been cannibalised in order to make a certain number of workable machines, and the victims of this cannibalisation are naturally written off.

All the evidence on the spot and careful reading of the documents which I have seen shows that the whole operation has been forced along at an unnatural pace, and that experience has been gained through trial and error instead of through careful planning and forethought. As a result, the first year is really a pioneer year, the first year of a pilot scheme, which is what I recommended last year in the Colonial Office Debate. As it is, all the estimates can be put back a year or more, but I hope that the Government will cease to advertise the scheme, to shout about it or beat the drum about it, because what is wanted now is that those on the spot should settle down to their work. If they do, it is just possible that there might be a small trickle of vegetable oil in 1950 or 1951, but it is only fair that the people of this country should know that there is practically no chance of any vegetable oil being available for this country or anywhere else before that date. The reason, of course, is that for the first two years, assuming the scheme continues on a large scale, the majority of the nuts produced will have to be used for seed, unless it is found advisable to bring seed from America or anywhere else.

This operation is a warning to the Government not to attempt great schemes without proper investigation, and I would like to make a few suggestions. The first is that they should allow those on the spot to get down to business; the second is that this operation should be treated as a great private enterprise and that the Government should not try and run it from London; it is essential to trust the people on the spot. I would say one or two words, if I may, to the members of the Food Corporation who are, somewhere about this time, taking over the whole operation. I would say to Messrs. Plummer and MacFadden who, I believe, are the idealists on the Board, that they should think a great deal about groundnuts and not at the moment too much about the education of the African population. I suggest they should spend six weeks among the primitive Wagogo tribe, and having seen what it is to work with primitive people, go to the Belgian Congo and investigate how the Union Minière handle their labour and how they teach them to work.

I mention that because in the last report there is a note about education activities. It states that an education officer had been appointed and that someone was being brought from U.N.E.S.C.O. in order to help formulate an education policy. I suggest that the authorities should go and see what is being done in other places, and I have before pointed out that the way in which native labour is managed and the health of the natives looked after in the Belgian Congo should be a model to many. I would say to those who are going to run the finances of the Food Corporation—Sir Charles Lockhart and Mr. Rosa—that they should watch the finances very carefully, and do all they can to prevent waste. This scheme is always referred to as a military operation, and military operations are obviously wasteful affairs, but on this occasion the money is the taxpayers' money, which we are voting today, and expenditure should be watched exactly as if it were a great private corporation.

Lastly, I would say to Mr. Wakefield, a man of great agricultural knowledge who knows all the snags: "Do not be too optimistic." This is a great experiment and I wish it every success. I hope it may be the forerunner of other schemes. I was surprised when I travelled through Africa to find in East and Central Africa that nearly all the Governments have had to buy food, mainly maize, for the natives, at great expense from outside Africa. In fact, in Northern Rhodesia, they were paying £3 a bag for maize from the Argentine as against 25s. to 30s., the local price. This is a ridiculous situation. We have here a huge country, many parts of which are fertile. There is a large population and yet Central and East Africa cannot feed herself. It is our duty to teach, to advise and even to compel the inhabitants of Africa to grow their own food and to be self-supporting. One of the methods we might, adopt is to introduce into native areas or reserves some scheme such as this, because it is vital to this country, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that we should not have to lose maize from the Argentine to Africa.

It is vital to all of us that Africa should be self-supporting and should not have to rely on outside sources for food. In other words, Africa must feed herself before she feeds Europe, and I hope in the future, if this scheme is a success—even though it costs a great deal—it may be possible that something of this sort will improve the whole well-being of the native of Africa and, especially, teach them how to produce not only enough for themselves but extra for the rest of the world.

7.37 P.m.

Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)

I cannot claim, like three of the previous speakers, to have visited Africa quite recently, but some 25 years ago I spent five years of my life in Tanganyika clearing the ground for growing sisal and actually dealing in groundnuts. This scheme has always attracted me enormously, and I devoted a good deal of attention to it during the Committee stage. The difficulty which I foresee—and this is reflected in the very large amount of money involved—arises very largely from the Minister. The Minister feel that he is to a great extent an intruder in that area, and that he has got to justify himself. That is the way in which the scheme is being looked at, rather than objectively, on its own merits.

The alibi the Minister has produced on a number of occasions, when he has had to revise and alter his figures, is that this scheme is full of risks, that there are great difficulties being encountered, and that one can never be quite sure. The smooth and easy way he puts that over is partially convincing. But there are two sorts of risk in Africa: there is the foreseeable and avoidable risk and the unforeseeable risk, and reading everything put out in the series of changing Estimates, it is apparent that i[...] is the foreseeable risk that has cost the extra money and is going to place this cheme, which many of us regard as a pioneer scheme, in great jeopardy.

One foreseeable risk was this question of clearing roots. Anybody who has cleared land for sisal—by the thousands of acres—knows perfectly well that the question of roots is always a difficult one. As evidence, the Minister has heard from the sisal planters. They have huge mechanised methods, which shows there has been progress, but the Minister has never consulted the sisal industry. Here was a foreseeable risk—here is a total absence of planning. It is perfectly clear if the net had been Fast wider, and the Minister had got more practical evidence, that would undoubtedly have saved the taxpayer a great deal of money and reduced these Estimates. There is, for instance, the use of the bulldozer in this lavish way. Of course, the Minister himself has a "psychological" affinity for bulldozers. What is the best description of a bulldozer? It is "a large, noisy, expensive machine used in levelling"—a perfect symbol of Socialism. Even this natural affinity has not avoided the fact that these machines are now nearly all having to be repaired and modified. "Speed, speed" seems to be the watchword—speed at any cost.

Though it is perfectly true that great things may be done by this scheme it ought not to be falsified and ought not to cost tens of millions of pounds by being tackled in the wrong way and at too great a pace. It is important to get the tempo right and to cope with each phase of the scheme quite objectively as it develops. The baobab tree itself is difficult to deal with. It is an anti-social tree that plants itself several times over once it has been originally planted by man, and against the exhortations of the Minister of Food. It is a difficult tree to deal with, but if the right hon. Gentleman had taken advantage of the common knowledge in a wider sphere he would not have to produce, as he will later on have to produce, an alibi which he will, doubtless, seek to establish by saying, "Africa is always very difficult, and I have mentioned on more than one occasion the risks that are involved."

Let us come to a slightly different point. I recently asked a question of the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary who takes the Minister's place when he is away receiving the plaudits of Dundee. I asked her about a matter which arises in these accounts concerning the money expended on planning the harbours and railways, particularly at Mikindani, asking for a lighterage port rather than the establishment of a deep water port. The hon. Lady, following correctly in her Minister's footsteps, produced the smokescreen of experts that we always have issuing from the Ministry of Food. Whenever the Minister of Food is tackled on anything he seeks refuge beneath a screen of 15 experts—"Fifteen men on the dead man's chest"—and I think he is entitled to add, "Yo, ho, ho, and a, bottle of rum," because, I think, he has imported some recently.

Many years ago I was on the Harbour Board at Kilindini when the question arose of making it a deep water port. The ideal thing wanted when exporting bulk produce from Africa, whether it be groundnuts, decorticated or in oil form later on, or again when one finds one is going to export for many years a great deal more than one is going to import, is the use of gravity. If there is a cliff, the best means of loading is to use gravity, arising from the fact that there is a considerable difference between the top of the cliff and the sea level; and the best thing to do is run the produce down to the hold of the ship by gravity. At one part of the harbour of Kilindini there was a cliff, but the experts, like those relied upon by the hon. Lady and the Minister, did not think that was any good. So they carefully cut the cliff away, ran railway sidings down after an enormous amount of levelling—a good Socialist idea—to the bottom, put up cranes and gantries, put in electric power, and lifted the produce into the hold of the ship. That was one of the most wasteful and stupid things ever done anywhere, and cost over £4,000,000.

Mr. Strachey

The hon. Gentleman is presenting a description of a port which he says that my hon. Friend and I developed.

Mr. Fletcher

The port of Kilindini.

Mr. Strachey

It begins next month.

Mr. Fletcher

There is a plan in the White Paper given by a body of people who have gone out there and recommended it. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman must know something about it? Or is the planning not started until the first sod is turned, until the first physical movement is made? He has appointed people to do it and paid them in connection with these Estimates.

Mr. Strachey

I may have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, but he seemed to me to be describing a large-scale operation from which he drew political analogies, and he seemed to represent that it had been done by me and my hon. Friend. It has not been done at all. That is the only point I was making. It seemed to me that he was giving hypothetical instances which he erected apparently to develop a tremendous assault upon me and my hon. Friend, but they are figments of his imagination.

Mr. Fletcher

No, they are not figments of my imagination. If the right hon. Gentleman had not been day-dreaming about snoek or something, but had listened to me a little more, he would have heard me say that this expensive scheme had been produced in Kilindini. It is 300 miles away from Mikindani and in a different country, but probably it does not make all that difference to the Minister. I would point out other in- stances of how expert advice has failed in East Africa.

Mr. McAdam (Salford, North)

Capitalist expert advice.

Mr. Fletcher

I do not know whether the experts label themselves Socialists or capitalists. I wish they did, for then one would be able to judge them a little bit better. The experts' advice in East Africa advocated a railway from Nagadi to the Uganda Railway. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that it is important that he should not waste public money by always believing and listening too much to experts. Out of Lake Nagadi we get soda which is brought to the Uganda Railway. The railway spur line advocated by the experts ran uphill instead of downhill, so that 97 per cent. of the traffic was dragged uphill and three per cent. ran downhill by gravity. Those who know East Africa, not on paper only, know that these mistakes were made. I warn the right hon. Gentleman that he should not build this port which he has paid money to people to recommend, without further advice.

Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)

Who made the mistakes?

Mr. Fletcher

The experts made them. I am speaking of 1909—not the years between the wars; is that not unlucky? I am telling the right hon. Gentleman this for one reason only. If he is going to develop that scheme for a deep water port in Mikindani based on the figure of 300,000 tons of nuts a year, it is going to be a most expensive business which will create a tremendous burden of enormous overheads. We have seen what it can come to elsewhere. The building of a 600 foot lighterage port at Lindi, next door to Mikindani, is a wise start. Until this groundnutsscheme has passed beyond the experimental stage, until there has been a far bigger development up country, I would beg him not to allow these big port schemes that become so grandiose, or these enormous harbours, to be built. Most of the grain that comes out of the Argentine, of which we have been talking today, is carried to "fit-up" gravity ports. He might take a lesson from that.

I would say, with experience of what happens in Africa, and knowing the financial burden hung round the neck of Kenya, for years, he should look at these schemes particularly at Mikindani and Lindi again to see that he is not burdening himself with a vast load of debt that cannot be justified for many years. The right hon. Gentleman may have got to the stage of fright about these schemes, at which he is impervious to suggestions, but I advise him, with sincere desire not to see this scheme overweighted from the beginning by quite unjustifiable overheads, to think again. He did give me an answer a little while ago when I asked a question about the estimate of 950 lb. per acre of the decorticated groundnuts coming forward. It was rather an optimistic one in view of the fact that for the first few years, owing to soil conditions, one is always likely to get a bigger crop than later. He replied that there would be a crop rotation and that something else would be planted later on. It would be most helpful if we could have from him a little more precise forecast of what he means to use as a rotation for his groundnuts as foreshadowed in the reply to that question.

I am not particularly frightened by the large amounts that are being expended if every single piece of that expenditure is being objectively considered, but I have a very uneasy feeling when I recall the optimistic speeches which he has made, and the rather clever way in which he glosses over the West African Kano groundnuts situation; when in a newspaper I see a photograph of him patting a locomotive on the back, I begin to be a little frightened. I begin to feel that he is losing the hard objectivity that he should have. I hope his acquaintance with Swahili has improved; at one time he was not certain whether it was a people or a language, but I think he knows now. He wants to go down to fame as "Bwana Njugu," which means "Lord Groundnut." I fear that he will go down to fame as "Bwana Hapana Viazi," which means "Lord No Potatoes."

7.42 p.m.

Mr. M. Philips Price (Forest of Dean)

In this Debate there have been raised a number of points which I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to answer and about which he will give us a little more information than we have at present. It is quite clear, having listened to many well-informed speeches of hon. Members opposite who have been out to Africa, that much of the information in this Blue Book is out of date. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give us more information about the cost of production, the acreages which have been planted and which are likely to be planted in the near future so that we can have a better idea.

Obviously, difficulties are bound to occur in the scheme at this time. Moreover, original costs must have been affected by the inflationary situation throughout the world, rising costs and one thing and another, which clearly make this Blue Book, which was published just over a year ago, out of date. At the same time, every hon. Member must feel that this scheme is very important, with a dollar shortage in the world, making it absolutely vital that we should seek important raw materials in the sterling areas wherever possible. I have recently been in France, and I find that the French are equally interested in this matter, because they too have African colonies which they are trying to develop and they have this same idea in hand, although not on such a large scale.

Listening to what hon. Members have been saying, I have formed the impression that this is a long-term investment and that we cannot expect returns very quickly. In view of the serious situation, one wonders how much we can afford a long-term investment. I hope the figures will make it clear that we can do so, provided we do not go too far. It is obvious that unless we can get returns fairly soon, it will be rather risky to invest very large sums of money such as those which are involved in this Supplementary Estimate. Therefore, I hope the Minister can throw a little more light on this subject and bring the Blue Book up to date. I feel sure that everybody wants this great scheme to become a success, in view of the situation with which we are faced.

7.46 p.m.

Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)

I come within the category which my hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) described as those who know East Africa on paper only, but a request for more money inevitably raises two questions in the mind of one who has the honour to be a Member for the part of Scotland which I represent. The first is whether we are getting value for the money we have already spent, and the second is whether we are likelyq to get value for the extra money which we are now asked to spend.

Let me say at once that I believe in the development of Africa, and I accept the position that the speed at which this project has been put into operation is responsible for the omission of preliminary investigations which would normally throw some light on some of the more obscure and doubtful aspects of a project of this kind. Such criticism as can be levelled against the scheme falls under three main heads; first, its social aspects, secondly, its technical aspects, and thirdly, its financial aspects. About its social aspects I do not propose to speak, in view of the lateness of the hour, except to say that a project in which we expect eventually to employ about 32,000 men when full production is reached, must require that we should face squarely the social implications of trusteeship. I do not believe we are doing that. I believe there is a great deal of evidence that we have paid far too little attention to that aspect of the situation.

I pass to the second aspect—that of the technical considerations—upon which I wish to speak chiefly this evening. Command Paper 7030 says in paragraph 65: Any suggestion of exploiting the inherent fertility of the land is unthinkable, and in paragraph 71 it says: Soil conservation is undoubtedly the overriding factor. What chance is there that the technical methods which have been recommended, and for which we are asked in this Supplementary Estimate to pay, will secure these desirable ends? The rotation which is envisaged is two years under groundnuts and a two years grass ley, or alternatively one year's grass ley and one year in a sorghum crop. It is true that the possibility of animal husbandry has been given a passing reference in the Report—such a passing reference that, with permission, I will quote briefly from paragraph 14 in which it is mentioned. It says: The good fodder provided by the tops of the groundnut plant and the abundant pasturage provides by the grass leys, which will cover roughly half the total acreage brought into cultivation, suggest that stock farming might in time become an important industry in these groundnut areas. Paragraph 76 of the Report states: It has been necessary to detail the proposed farming system if only to show that other farming operations ancillary to groundnut production, whether alternate crops or animal husbandry, are not essential either to produce or to maintain soil fertility for the production of groundnuts. In any case, neither the cattle, nor the labour, nor the water supplies required for animal husbandry (or for compost making) are available in many of the groundnut localities. The Report says, in effect, that it may be possible, or desirable, or both, to introduce beef ranching at a later stage, but that this is neither possible nor essential in the early stages. For the maintenance of fertility, reliance is thus placed on the ploughing-in of plant residues and of grass leys, without animal waste. I think it is doubtful if a rotation of this nature, which clearly approximates to a system of monoculture, makes adequate provision for maintaining, in tropical conditions, the humus content of the soil. For the maintenance of the fertility of virgin soils of this nature, far too much reliance is placed on the stimulus of artificial fertilisers and of organic matter, and none at all upon the natural means of ensuring the innate fertility of Mother Earth.

What is to happen if the parasitic weed, alectra vogelli, gets a hold in our groundnut crop areas? This weed has its counterpart in India, where it attacks, among others, the tobacco plant. I am advised that where it gets a hold experts would not contemplate for one moment growing more than one tobacco crop every fourth year. If that occurs in East Africa, as it may, the whole of our two years' rotation goes west. Yet the retention of the two years' rotation is the key to the whole financial structure of the scheme. As a matter of fact, the rotation itself is suspect. There was a letter in the "Crown Colonist" of October, 1947, which was written, as the writer said, "to prevent a calamity." It was a letter from a leading authority in. Rhodesia, who had himself grown groundnuts for 30 years, and his experience, as he recounted it in the letter, was that a second crop of groundnuts was not worth planting.

Finally, let me pass quite briefly to the financial considerations—considerations which have been referred to by several Members—and say this: for its financial soundness a scheme of this kind should be based more broadly than upon a single cash crop. It may be that in future we may be able to look to more crops than one single crop; I hope that that will follow. From the bottom of my heart I hope that this scheme will be successful, but at present we can only note that the taxpayers' money is being spent in large amounts, and at very long odds.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. York (Ripon)

Like my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), I am interested in this scheme as a cultivation experiment, and from the point of view of the food which I hope my constituents may one day receive. We hope that that will not be too long delayed. Also like my hon. Friend, I, too, wish this scheme well. I think it is a very big conception, but I am not quite sure for whose benefit it is. The more I hear about it, the more I wonder who will reap the benefit of this scheme. We have heard a considerable amount from the "trippers," and I am glad that we have, because they have been able to bring us the first-hand information which we were unable to obtain for ourselves. It seems that our practical appreciation of the situation, which was founded on the wrong information of the Wakefield Committee, has been entirely wrong.

From the reports I have heard, I am surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) estimated that by 1950–51 we shall have planted 700,000 acres. To date it does not look as if we would get 100,000 acres by that time. I am not exactly clear as to whether this project is really to produce food for this country or whether it is, in a minor degree, to produce food and feedingstuffs and perhaps, in a major degree, to produce raw materials. I am also not clear whether East Africa can afford to grow groundnuts. I have heard one or two of my hon. Friends talk about the effect of this on sisal growing, and I am beginning to wonder whether the net effect of growing groundnuts will not be that for three or four years we shall get less produce, in total, from East Africa than we were getting before. That is my impression, and I dare say that is in the minds of other hon. Members. We have lost a considerable labour force in the sisal growing areas, and have not replaced in the groundnut areas the produce which they would have grown.

I want now to make one or two brief criticisms of the administration of the scheme as I see it from a distance. Like the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen, we have to do it on paper. The first criticism is about machinery. I understand the difficulty of the supply position at the moment, but certain reports I have received disturb me. I would like to know why it is considered reasonable to send derelict machinery out to East Africa? I have two reports, one being about tractors sent to Urambo, which arrived in such a rusty condition that although they have been there for two months, still only 10 out of the 70 sent are in working condition. Of course, there may be the very good reason that they came from some of the fighting fronts in the Pacific; but surely it would have been far more sensible for that machinery to have been landed in, perhaps, India, where it could have had proper repair facilities, been reconditioned, and then sent on to East Africa.

The second report is even more astonishing. This again is at Urambo, and concerns a sawmill which was sent there, a matter of very considerable importance. I am informed that the sawmill came from Devonshire, that it had been used by the Canadians when they were here, and arrived in East Africa with the belts completely worn out, the saw unusable, and the castings broken. It seems to me wholly unreasonable that such a machine should have been sent from this country in that condition. When it gets out there the men on the spot are discouraged by having that sort of stuff thrown at them, and it could easily and quickly have been put into a working condition in this country, and shipped out in a state of proper repair, ready to go straight to work when it arrived.

We all realise that the progress in the Kongwa area has been very slow indeed, yet we hear that no less than 300 miles away, at Urambo, a new project is being started. For all we know the same troubles will start there, which may be a little less difficult to overcome than in Kongwa. Why is it necessary to dissipate our energy and our limited resources? My hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) touched on this point, and I wish he had further elaborated it. We have very limited resources, so let us use them in the way calculated to produce results in the shortest possible time. Our food problem is a short-term one for the next two or three years, but the groundnuts scheme will not help us if we go on in this way. If we concentrated resources upon one area and got a good deal further with that area, I believe we should do far better than by dissipating our forces on several sites at long distances apart.

I wanted to ask a good deal about whether groundnuts were the best crop, but that has been touched on, so I will not elaborate it. It struck me when reading the Wakefield Report, and when following up the White Paper and the points made by Government spokesmen, that the Government are worshipping the groundnut as a god: the Minister of Food and his officials fall on their faces with their heads to the south when somebody mentions groundnuts; it is almost a ritual. I do not know very much about groundnuts, but I am told by those who do that it is a very difficult crop to mechanise. We shall see that after one year's harvest when we get these combines going. On the other hand, I am told that the sunflower crop is a very much easier one to mechanise. Apparently it would grow in that area, and the only snag I can find is contained in the Wakefield Report, which says that the mills in England are not capable of coping with it. There will not be such a supply of groundnuts or sunflower seeds in the ensuing period that the mills here could not convert enough of their capacity to deal with it. I want to make sure that the timber resources of certain areas—such as Mohimbika, which I am told has very valuable timber resources—are utilised. We want timber in this country. If it is of a type, such as teak—which it may well be, although I do not know, because I have not the details—it would be of invaluable assistance to this country now.

My last point concerns the size of the units. From my practical experience in agriculture I am staggered at the size chosen for this unit—30,000 acres of farmland. By all means clear an area of 30,000 or 60,000 acres. That is not important. What is important is that an attempt is made to farm an area of 30,000 acres on an intensive scale. Do not let us be in any doubt that the system which is being put into force in East Africa is an intensive system, particularly when road crop work is being embarked upon. To think that an attempt can be made to farm in units of 30,000 acres is, to my mind, a serious consideration.

This is not factory production; nothing in agriculture can ever be factory production because of the vagaries of the weather, the climate, the soil, and so on. The variations which take place in any area, including that one—and, incidentally, including the prairies of Western America—are tremendous. In all soils with which I have had to deal, not only here but in India, the variations in level in the water-table and in the constitution of the soil itself are tremendous; they vary over very small areas. The manager of 30,000 acres, if he is to be efficient, ought to know every inch of the soil of his farm. He will not and cannot possibly know; nor can he supervise properly and efficiently the farming operations on that vast area. I am speaking from some experience of this matter, because I have worked large estates of 30,000 acres. I know that although such an estate can be managed, it cannot be farmed on that area.

I put two considerations to the Minister about the use of machinery. The main problem in groundnutting is that of planting at the right time, and getting this huge area all planted up in a very short space of time; also, though perhaps not so important, weeding it at the right time. In smaller units that would not be so difficult; but in this vast unit it will be extremely difficult, and if there is an administrative breakdown anywhere, a very big mistake will be made. I ask the Minister to give careful thought to this matter. The sub-units into which these major units are being divided are, I am told, 640 acres—about one square mile. I suggest seriously to the Minister and his experts that about 10 of these units is the maximum number any man can manage efficiently. That would amount to between 6,000 and 7,000 acres. That is a pretty big area for a farm, for a man to manage, but I believe that he could manage and supervise it.

The reason an area of 30,000 acres was chosen was that the overhead expenses and capital costs would require an acreage of 30,000; but it is not based—and this is, I think, the most powerful argument—on the science and practice of agriculture—and we are dealing with an agricultural scheme. I hope the Minister will get his experts to reconsider this matter. Several practical farmers who have been out there have commented upon this aspect. We cannot tell, at any rate for a year, until we have cleared at least one unit, whether there has been a mistake. I ask the Minister to ensure that this question is carefully and closely considered. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree that my criticisms have been constructive. I hope that they will be helpful, and that this scheme will produce plenty of feeding-stuffs for me and for my constituents.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)

I was unfortunately prevented from attending the beginning of this Debate, but I hope that I may be permitted to say a few words at the end. I happen to be very interested in this scheme. I confess a personal interest, because the company with which I am associated is endeavouring to produce the machine which will plant the nuts. It will be a British-made piece of mechanism, which I hope will serve the necessary purpose and save dollars. While criticism is justified, we ought to be fair to ourselves and to the Government. With a scheme of this kind, we are up against three peculiar difficulties. Firstly, we are dealing with virgin soil, in respect of which it is impossible to make any accurate time estimates. It just cannot be done, and it never has been done; the programming is always wrong and is always late. Secondly, we are dealing with native labour and applying it to mechanised methods. That is asking for trouble, and that in itself will cause delay. Thirdly, in this scheme we are using mostly old tractors, that is tractors which have not been used for a long time and are out of condition. Unless there is a proper servicing organisation we shall automatically run into trouble.

I am not going to criticise anyone, because I think that the managing agency have, in the circumstances, done extraordinary good work and deserve everyone's congratulations. But the facts of the situation, as we now know it, must convince the Minister and the new Corporation that something drastic must be done about servicing these machines. As I understand it, there is not yet a proper servicing organisation. I know, from experience of other parts of the world, that unless a really effective staff of trained men is built up, together with the necessary spare parts, everything goes wrong and the programming goes out of gear. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether effective action has been taken in this regard.

I invite the Minister to look into the question of the supply of tractors in this country. I think that he could get more tractors for East Africa if he would take the necessary steps. The Ministry of Fuel and Power have a great many tractors which they do not use. I saw one dump only two or three weeks ago with 20 or 30 big powerful tractors which had not been used for the last two years. They are not being repaired or maintained, and no one will buy them. I can assure the Minister that these tractors could be put right and placed at his disposal. The machines are not useless. There are firms in this country who could put them into first class running order. The dump I speak of is probably typical of others. I shall be happy to assist the Minister in any way in this direction, because I happen to know that there are these graveyards with machines which could be used. I am sure that with the development of an effective servicing organisation and by the use of all machines available in this country much more could be done in East Africa.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Strachey

Before coming to the main part of this Debate, perhaps I might deal with the constructive points made by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) and the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. York). In regard to home-produced tractors, or tractors which are available at home, I am sure that when the officers of the Food Corporation read HANSARD it will make their mouths water. If the hon. Member for East Fife can give any exact particulars, or can indicate where these tractors are accessible and purchasable by the Corporation, I am sure that they will be more than willing to consider the possibility of acquiring them.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I will gladly give the right hon. Gentleman the information, but may I invite him to consult the Minister of Fuel and Power?

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

Tell us where they are.

Mr. Strachey

The hon. Member is absolutely right about servicing, and still more is this so, if secondhand or reconditioned tractors are being used. Even if new tractors are being used, the key to success is maintenance, just as it was with the Royal Air Force, where the amount of manhours put in on this work was probably higher than in any other single activity. I can assure the hon. Member for East Fife that maintenance is written in the hearts of the managing agency, and will be the biggest consideration in the minds of General Harrison and the other members of the Corporation when they take over at the end of this month.

The hon. Member for Ripon raised a very interesting point when he asked why we should not concentrate all our reserves on the Kongwa area, rather than start in the Uramba area and in the south later on. At the cost of incurring the anger of the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher), who dislikes me to consult the expert, the answer of the experts in this case is that if we did that, we should be putting all our eggs into one basket to a very risky extent. The nature of the soil varies very greatly in small areas, and still more in the different provinces. Above all, we should be subject to rainfall in that particular area, and we might have almost a total crop failure if that was the only area of cultivation. It is much wiser to average the risk over three separate areas. The hon. Member also asked whether the most suitable crop was groundnuts, and suggested that sunflowers should not be overlooked. That has been considered. It is quite possible that sunflowers will be experimented with and planted in some of the areas, if the soil proves suitable for them. The disadvantage of the sunflower is not that the production cannot be mechanised—I agree that machinery could be adapted for this purpose, and it will be adapted if it is found to be of advantage—but that you get very much less oil.

Mr. York

Per acre?

Mr. Strachey

Yes, Sir, very much less. That does not mean that it may not be wise to grow sunflowers in rotation in some areas, or to grow them as a main crop in certain areas. The hon. Member then went on to the question of crop rotation. It is quite obvious that there has to be a careful rotation of crops, and cereals and grass leys are what the experts consider best. In all these matters, it would be highly unwise for the corporation to be dogmatic. It would be very unwise to lay down a particular rotation of crops at this stage. The Corporation will have to feel its way. I am sure that the Corporation will not exclude any particular rotation. They have tried a great many varieties of groundnuts in the areas already cleared, and they will try various cereal crops in rotation. They have cereals on trial plots planted with groundnuts in previous years, and they are trying them in rotation.

Colonel Wheatley (Dorset, Eastern)

Is it definite that the experts say that they are going to have a two year rotation? I have found from experience that one year is enough.

Mr. Strachey

The hon. and gallant Member knows that in the Blue Book quoted today they go on record as saying that they believe two years' rotation is perfectly possible. I think they will go by experience. They will not commit themselves.

The hon. Member for Ripon asked about timber. I think that is a hidden asset of the scheme, which may turn out to be of considerable importance. It is timber of the hard wood type that is in question—not as hard or as valuable as teak, but hard wood suitable for furniture and similar purposes. No asset was recorded in the report for any timber production, but already we are shipping saw mill machinery, and I am sure we shall make it work in these areas. The timber will be only a by-product, but it may be an important and valuable by-product of the scheme.

The hon. Member also raised an interesting point on the size of the unit. I do not think that the scheme is committed to management being on the basis of 30 thousand acre units. They will see what works out well, and what is practicable. The scheme was planned on the basis of these large units, but it may be that a unit of a different size, or some scheme of devolution under managers, may prove the wisest course. I think that the Corporation would wish me to say that they are not committed on these proposals. There had to be in the original Report some picture of what they thought should be done, but I think that the authors of that Report would be the first to agree that it will almost certainly be modified very widely in all these particulars of the proposed forms of management as the scheme progresses.

To turn back to the beginning of the Debate and to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), his opening passage suggested that the Committee ought to feel great concern because we are asked to provide in this Estimate nearly one-third of the money which is to be invested in the scheme, namely, £25 million. He contrasted that with a suggestion that far less than one-third of the area proposed in the scheme had been actually cleared. I think that his comparison is quite unreal. We are asked to vote here £8 million. That has not all been spent, but we are asked to provide it. By far the greater part of that sum is to be spent on capital expenditure, on building a railway over 100 miles long and on building a port—the hon. Member for Bury had a good deal to say about that—and on providing the heavy clearing equipment and the agricultural machinery and all the basic plant by which the scheme is to operate. All that initial outlay can bear no proportion at all to the particular area which has been cleared in the first few months of its operation.

I would like to clear up one point. It has been suggested by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford and other hon. Members, that some of this expenditure was high because of 'the delays in obtaining this plant and machinery. It is exactly the reverse, There have been delays which I have described previously in great detail and with great frankness. There have been delays in the speed of clearance per acre, but there have been no delays in acquiring the plant and machinery. On the contrary, we have acquired much more than we budgeted to acquire in the first year, and much more than is actually necessary or than we can use in the first year. We have bought ahead. In saying "we" I mean the managing agents, who have done so with my full knowledge and consent. They have bought ahead on a very heavy scale plant and machinery which we cannot possibly use this year, but shall use in future years. We have done that because the most important proportion of this plant and machinery including all the heavy tractors, bought up to now has been surplus war stores of one kind or another.

There have been several reasons for buying them. The first and simplest reason, was that it was the only thing available. These surplus war stores were the only plant and machinery available in the world with which to get the scheme started, if it was to be started at all at this time. Secondly, if we had not bought it now, it would have gone for ever, and have been dissipated for all sorts of other uses, and in many cases rusting where it stood. We believe that it was an enormous national advantage that a constructive use should be found for this plant and machinery which had already been produced.

The real cost of it was met when we produced it in the war years. A good deal of it was lease-lend, and therefore, it seemed to us a tremendous economy from the country's point of view to purchase it, although we could not use it at once, so that in the years ahead we could use it for the groundnuts scheme. Thirdly, it was remarkably cheap as compared with the price of purchasing new machinery. It is quite true, as many hon. Members have said, that the 400-odd tractors now in the country are probably not quite as good as if they had been brand new heavy tractors, but they were very much cheaper, which is an important consideration. We shall not get quite the same number of years' service out of them, but we bought them for less than half the price in most cases, so surely that was not an unwise thing to do. Above all, if we look at this from the national point of view, and not from the account of the Ministry on this Estimate or of the Overseas Food Corporation, all the money which they are spending on these war stores comes out of one Government pocket and goes into another. It reappears in the Budget as war stores and the real cost to the country is, in a sense, only the cost of reconditioning.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

What proportion of that cost will be dollar expenditure, for which the same argument can not be used?

Mr. Strachey

I am talking of British war stores of all sorts. It is also true that we bought some American heavy bulldozers and tractors in the Phillipines, which was a real cost in dollars, but a lower real cost because these machines were very much cheaper, although not quite so good, as new American bulldozers had they been available which, as a matter of fact, they were not. We get real economy in the purchase of our tractor fleet in that way.

The major expenditures are not on the tractor fleet but on railway, road and port building, the basic neecssities, all of which have to be laid down. It is quite true that the port which is going to be built, Mikindani, will be costly, and I was heavily attacked on that score by the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher). I found it difficult to follow his attacks, because he first accused us strongly of not consulting the experts on the size of these plantations. Then he had a long, most amusing passage in which he accused my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and myself for following the advice of the experts in building the port. He cannot have it both ways. We must be allowed to consult them or not, and if he wishes to know what we have done, we have consulted the experts who are the best that can be found.

In their opinion it is absolutely indispensable to build a port which has some deep water facilities. We have been told by many hon. Members, who are just back, of the burdens on the port of Dar-es-Salaam, and it is because that port has basically no deep water facilities, but is only able to ship by lighter that we are to have the bigger scheme. It stands to common sense that the experts must be right when they say that a deep-water port is indispensable there. The managing agency of the Corporation cut down the size of the port which the experts would like to have. They are carrying on in the interim period with a lighterage wharf which will accommodate tank landing craft and lighters of that size and it will only be about 18 months until the deep water port will be available.

That is basically the object of the expenditure of the money which the Committee is being asked to vote tonight. A great deal of play has been made by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire on the fact that the estimates set out in the original Blue Book must now be out of date. It is quite true that world prices both of the things the Corporation will have to buy and—I would emphasise this to the Committee—of the products which the Corporation will be selling have advanced considerably since that time. He argued that the estimate of the production cost of one ton of nuts in the Blue Book was £4 5s. and that it is obviously going to be higher than that. I should quite agree. A big scheme of this kind cannot be launched in a period of world inflation without everything that has to be bought going up in price so that the cost of production must go up too.

At the same time, if the world inflation has not improved, the income from what the Corporation has to sell goes up too. The Corporation will be selling groundnut oil, and in the estimates, which the hon. Member says are out of date, there is an estimated price of £30 a ton for it. The price we unfortunately are having to pay today is much nearer £50. Therefore, as soon as groundnut oil is produced in East Africa, if both these conditions are still in existence, the actual profitability of the scheme has on paper gone up rather than down. The price of the product will be at least as much as or indeed more than the cost of the thing which it has to buy.

There is one point I should like somewhat strongly to deal with if I may. A number of speakers accused me of making outrageous, optimistic forecasts in regard to the scheme. I ask the Committee to notice that not one of them has been able to quote any words of mine which have been alleged to have been made in these outrageously optimistic forecasts. My hon. Friends will agree with me that if any words of mine could be construed in that sense they certainly would have been quoted in the course of this Debate.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I did quote a remark made by the Parliamentary Secretary, who was speaking on behalf of the Department, that this year 50,000 tons would be exported, while the figure we are now told in the progress report will be 4,000 tons. I do not wish to brag of it, but it was a statement of fact which was 12 times what the reality is going to be.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Edith Summer-skill)

That is not the Minister.

Mr. Strachey

I stand by the Under-Secretary's statement, because what she was doing at that time was quoting from the Wakefield-Martin-Rosa Report (Cmd. 7030). If there is an accusation of being over optimistic, it is, as a matter of fact, in the report which was received, which we printed and which we were not at liberty to alter. That was not a statement composed by the Government; it was a report which we decided to publish and which was given to the Government by these free and, if I may say so, in my opinion very able men who visited East Africa, and who made a report of what they thought was possible, granted, of course, that the scheme could be started at the time which they hoped it could be started.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford said specifically that the United Africa Company was not responsible for the wildly optimistic picture which was drawn of this scheme. As a matter of fact that report—though I make no criticism of that whatever—was signed by Mr. Martin, who is a leading member of the United Africa Company, and the man who has managed the scheme in Africa over the past year, and who has done very great service in that connection. The scheme itself has been adduced and sponsored—again I think with great credit—by Mr. Samuel, the Chairman of the United Africa Company.

If there was an accusation in regard to an over optimistic picture, it would lie against the United Africa Company who—quite rightly in my opinion—pointed out the possibilities which groundnut growing had in East Africa. I would point out to hon. Members opposite any criticisms that they have made of the conduct of the scheme, and very few of them, if any, well founded—not that there have not been mistakes because there have been, and no great scheme such as this could be run without making mistakes—were the faults of the United Africa Company. Let me hastily add that I have great admiration for the work put in by the Company on the scheme. They have made mistakes. They would be the first to say so, but on the whole the Company deserves extremely well of this House and of the country for the work which they have done. I should like to say that tonight—a fortnight before they relinquish control of the scheme, which will be on 31st March of this year.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I say "Hear, hear," to that.

Mr. Strachey

But the criticism of them has come from the other side of the House and not from our side.

Colonel Wheatley

Would the Minister agree that before launching out into a big scheme, it would have been better to experiment first for a year or two?

Mr. Strachey

That is a nice, leisurely prospect, but of course, we have been experimenting for a year or two. After all, we have accumulated much capital equipment in the country and carried out what might be called large scale experiments. Under the large-scale experiments of three or four months, we have been doing clearing work which has cleared this acreage of ground, but that is no more than a fairly large-scale experiment. It will be extremely valuable and it has proved necessary, in effect, in giving the organisation work in the accumulation of materials and in clearing. It really has been an experimental year and I do not think that anything has been lost by it.

I was asked about a very important point, the production of heavy clearing machinery in this country. For the continuation of the scheme and of other such schemes, we certainly do not want to be dependent upon buying machinery from dollar sources. The next source of reinforcement of the heavy tractor fleet will still be a war source, in the form of what is called the Shervic heavy tractor. This is simply a Sherman tank. We have some hundreds of them in use, reconstructed. Its armour is taken off by Messrs. Vickers. Some 350 of these have now been ordered by the Overseas Food Corporation, after extremely successful trials which came to their conclusion only in the last few weeks. Of this tractor tank—a tank made into a tractor—large numbers are working in East Africa. We believe that by the adaptation of these surplus tanks which have no value for any other purpose, we have a valuable instrument for the next phase of the scheme.

In the longest run, specially produced heavy tractors will no doubt be better still. I am not permitted to give the names yet, but I am glad to be able to say that two of the foremost firms in British engineering have now decided to begin the design and production of a heavy, diesel tractor which would be of use in this scheme. That development has been made possible by the order which the Overseas Food Corporation were able to give. It will be a very great credit to British engineering and of great value to the engineering reputation of this country.

A great number of other points have been mentioned and I do not promise to cover all of them. In the field of native labour, rather than difficulties having arisen, it has definitely been a good deal easier to recruit the labour than was feared or expected in many of the published statements—so far, at any rate. It has proved possible to collect a native labour force simply by the attractions which work on the scheme could offer.

I would say one word about a subject which has not been raised this afternoon but which I think is in the minds of hon. Members in many parts of the House. It was just mentioned by two of my hon. Friends. The first point is: what is the real purpose of the scheme? Is it simply to provide food for this country or is it to develop and improve conditions in Africa? The answer is that it is both. I wish to emphasise with all the strength at my command that these are complementary purposes and that the scheme will succeed in both respects or neither. We shall not succeed in increasing our own food supply unless we succeed in raising the standard of life and production in East Africa.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford said that when the Bill was given a Second Reading to set up the scheme it was done on the basis that the economy of East Africa would not be disturbed. I cannot promise him that. The scheme involves something very like an agricultural revolution in Africa.

We have heard expressions of doubt as to whether soil erosion and the like can be guarded against. Nobody can, of course, prove exactly the right methods of doing that, but we can say that we are paying the utmost attention to soil conservation and have on the job the very best scientists who are available. What we can say without fear of contradiction is that without this scheme or some scheme of this sort for an agricultural revolution there, the old native methods of cultivation were producing soil erosion on the most terrifying scale and the whole food supply of this area was coming more and more into jeopardy because the primitive peasant method of cultivation with the hoe was rapidly destroying the fertility of the soil and producing an imminent threat of famine for the natives, as Sir Phillip Mitchell has described in Kenya. However advantageous these schemes may be for this country, they are a matter of life and death for the native inhabitants of Africa.

I would never try to "sell" this scheme as a sort of philanthropic venture, which we are doing simply by providing schools, education and the like for the Africans. It will do so, and is doing so—we have provided on a great scale for education services, welfare services and the like—but these things are of relatively small importance from the African point of view, compared with what this scheme can really do, which is to set their agriculture on a new basis. Without that, the prospect for them is bleak indeed because their agricultural methods, as Sir Phillip Mitchell so eloquently described, are leading to disaster. That is why I would without hesitation before any audience of Africans—there are intelligent and educated Africans taking a deep and critical interest in this scheme, as they should—defend it not as an act of philanthropy but because it gives them new methods of production without which their condition would indeed be difficult. I am, therefore, convinced that there is enormous mutual advantage in the prosecution of this great scheme.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £142,328,498, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1948, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Food; the cost of trading services including certain subsidies; and sundry other services.

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