§ 1.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
Several months ago I had the privilege of spending some five weeks in the island of Jamaica. Almost daily since that time I have been balloting for the opportunity of raising in this House some of the problems that were brought to my attention there. I am extremely fortunate in having been successful in the ballot on a day when other Business finishes early, so that I shall be able to make what, I fear, will be a somewhat widely ranging survey of these problems, and I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for both being here.
I ought, perhaps, to start with a word of apology or, at least, of apologia, since I know that a number of hon. Members of this House, including, notably, my right hon. Friend himself, have earlier and longer experience of the West Indies than I. The itinerant politician who visits some distant country for a few days or weeks, and then comes back to be a self-appointed Parliamentary expert on it, is a stock figure in satire. I do not pose by any means as an expert; I am merely a humble learner, as my recent Questions to my right hon. Friend have shown. None the less, I think also that it is permissible to claim that a reasonably observant visitor who spends five weeks intensively visiting a place, interviewing people of all points of view and in all walks of life, may know a little more about it than someone who has never been there at all. It is also arguable that while his first impressions are fresh he may be able to contribute some comments and comparisons which would not occur to someone who really knew the place better through having lived there for 20 or 30 years, because human nature is capable, no doubt in self-defence, of rapid adjustment. We soon cease to be shocked by something which is at first sight shocking. I well remember when I visited the Far East how shocked I was by the appalling squalor of the housing conditions there, and how equally shocked I was when discussing them with a perfectly humane official who agreed that they were horrible, but seemed rather surprised that I should have mentioned them and said, "Well, that is just the normal native standard of living."
2018 We ought not to get used to acquiescing complacently in conditions which ought to shock us, and none of us who call ourselves democrats or Socialists or, if I may say so, Christians can be content with less than absolute equality of opportunity—in education, in living conditions, and in chances of employment—for all our fellow human-beings, of whatever racial origin, particularly for those for whom, as in the colonies, we in this House have some direct responsibility. If we fail in the imaginative and practical effort that is needed, we shall be failing to make our true contribution to what I regard as the most profound and burning problem of the 20th Century: the relationship between the white peoples of the world and the coloured peoples, many of whom are now awaking for the first time to racial and national consciousness.
It is perfectly true that Jamaica, the colony I am dealing with particularly today, has had partial self-government since 1944 and that, therefore, some of the matters with which I shall be dealing are not directly within the administrative responsibility of my right hon. Friend. But, of course, that Government of Jamaica which was formed in 1944 took over an appalling legacy of poverty, squalor and ignorance, which must in a general way be our continuing concern. The advertising brochures describe Jamaica as a tropical paradise. Indeed, its natural endowments are matchless in their beauty. In many of its aspects, however, it would be truer to describe it as a tropical slum. For that our forefathers and some of our predecessors have a heavy blame to bear.
The conditions that I found so shocking are simply symbolised in a few statistics, some of which I have elicited from my right hon. Friend or from my hon. Friend in the last few weeks. Adult illiteracy, they told me, is now 27 per cent. of the population. That, I should have thought, was an optimistic figure. In 1946, which I understand was in this respect a "good" year, if one may so call it, of all the babies born in Jamaica 68 per cent. were born illegitimate. Unemployment is one of the most acute problems of the island, and my hon. Friend gave me this answer on 17th November about it:It is estimated that there are 64,000 men unemployed of whom 14,000 are temporarily unemployed as is usual at this season in the 2019 sugar industry. The total includes 1,500 ex-Service men and 6,000 of the unemployed are in Kingston. Three thousand three hundred and fifty-one ex-Service men have so far been settled on the land and in industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 42.]Again, I am afraid I must say that those statistics seem to me somewhat optimistic. I do not think they give a real picture of the situation in the island, because such a very large proportion of its 1¼ million inhabitants gets a scanty living picking away at the soil—and, incidentally, denuding it—and are probably not registered as unemployed at all, even though they certainly do not work anything like a full week's work or have anything like a full week's income on which to live. Secondly, I am inclined to think that these figures may be an underestimate because I did notice that in that excellent documentary film which Mr. Rank's "This Modern Age" outfit made in Jamaica, after careful, lengthy study on the spot, the commentary estimated that one in every two adults in Jamaica could properly be described as unemployed.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
I think that the real difficulty in a place like Jamaica is the distinction between unemployed and under-employed.
§ Mr. Driberg
I quite agree with my hon. Friend and am grateful to him for his helpful correction.
The Evans Report, a most valuable document which has reached us recently, deals with the possibility of developing British Guiana and British Honduras and of transferring to those colonies, in that development, some of the surplus population from the islands, including Jamaica.
Even the Evans Report only envisages that British Guiana and British Honduras will be able to absorb something like 100,000 immigrants in the next 10 years, presumably from all the islands. But the population of Jamaica alone is going up at an enormous rate—I think the estimate which is sometimes given is 50,000 a year—so it is clear that the solution in the Evans Report will make no real contribution, in the near future, to the problem of unemployment and over-population in Jamaica. It is often said by one right hon. Gentleman in this House that the long term is always the enemy of the short term. That may be 2020 perfectly true, and it is extremely desirable that there should be good long-term planning, but long-term planning of this kind must certainly seem to be the enemy, or not a particularly useful friend, of those who are suffering the short-term hardships.
In this connection, I want to draw special attention to the case of the Jamaican ex-Service men, because I feel that we in this country, however much we may have transferred some administrative responsibility to the Government of Jamaica, have a very definite, direct duty and responsibility to those ex-Service men, who came here as volunteers during the war and served three or four years, mostly with very good records, in the Royal Air Force and other Services. I am afraid that this situation is deplorable. The resettlement of these men, as far as I could see, has been gravely mishandled. In the first instance, we have, no doubt with the best intentions, wasted an appalling lot of our own public money in giving them E.V.T. courses in all sorts of technical skills and then sending them back to be demobilised in their own homeland, Jamaica, where, for the most part, no jobs were available—no jobs for which we had spent all this money and technical teaching to fit them.
It is a regrettable situation, and I should like my right hon. Friend to be able to say that he can at least consider a proposal I now wish to make, which I realise may be somewhat distasteful, for reasons we can understand, to some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. None the less, I feel that something pretty drastic has to be done about this continuing pool of unemployed skilled ex-Service men, with good war records, in Jamaica, for whom so little is done there. I would like to suggest that His Majesty's Government should consider sponsoring a scheme for assisting those ex-Service men in the West Indies, chiefly in Jamaica, of course, who are willing to do so, to come back to this country and enlist in the Armed Forces again, naturally only on a voluntary basis, and, also naturally, after preliminary screening in Kingston.
It seems to me that under such a scheme we should easily get several thousand pretty quickly—that is, judging by the very large number I talked to who were 2021 desperately anxious to get back to this country. They are, in any case, acceptable in the Armed Forces and in industry if they manage to get to this country, because they are British citizens; but in most cases they cannot afford the fare, unlike the large group that came in the "Empire Windrush" a few months ago. I believe that in a very short time we could get several thousand recruits for the Armed Forces—recruits with some Service experience and training. Men with good Service records alone would pass the screening in Kingston. I cannot see that the possible risk at this end of inflaming racial antagonisms in the Forces, or anything like that—which could be got over by having good West Indian liaison officers, as we did during the war—I cannot see that that risk is not greatly offset by the worse risk of leaving these men to rot in idleness there, where they become a centre and focus of grave potential discontent. In any case, we in this country have a duty to them. I have taken this up before, without success, with my right hon. Friend and, as long ago as 23rd October, he wrote pointing out:This problem springs from deep-rooted economic conditions. In other words, it is a long-term problem.I have already said something about long-term problems:At this end also, we are at present looking closely into the possibilities of employing surplus colonial labour in the United Kingdom.That was an important statement, and. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend can say anything more about it today and if, in particular, he would consult again with the Minister of Defence and the Service Departments to see whether anything can be done on the lines I particularly suggest. Incidentally, if we do bring in large numbers of them here, I should like, well in advance, to ask my right hon. Friend also to consider setting up machinery for allowing them to vote in their own General Election in about a year's time when that comes along—machinery similar to that which our Forces had in 1945.
At the same time I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would look into a somewhat different matter, the undoubted racial discrimination which exists in regard to those serving in the Jamaica Battalion. As a matter of fact, 2022 that was the only instance I found in Jamaica of anything approaching racial discrimination; in that respect it was a most refreshing colony to visit, as Mr. Paul Robeson found recently when he went there from the United States of America and paid tribute to the complete freedom from colour bar, as such, which exists in Jamaica. None the less, in the Jamaica Battalion there is a certain grievance In that respect. I have been having correspondence about this with my noble Friend the Minister of State at the Colonial Office, one of the particular grievances being that Jamaicans serving in the Jamaica Battalion are paid at lower rates than United Kingdom officers and other ranks. He explains that:The position is that the Battalion is on old British rates, which are now out of line with current British rates, following an increase in the latter in 1946. The War Office and the Treasury have been pressing that the Jamaica rates should be reduced in order to make them more in conformity with the local civil standards, and we have with some difficulty obtained their concurrence in the maintenance of the present rates.That seems a most deplorable attitude on the part of the War Office and the Treasury, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend's Department openly admit standing up to them about it. Merely because the civil population are living in a state of chronic pauperism, that is no reason why we should pauperise the troops as well.
Apart from that there are a number of cases of officers in the Battalion who hoped to get regular commissions in the British Army but have been turned down under that old ruling that "only British subjects of unmixed European descent will be accepted." That is now obsolete. It was changed in the British Forces a year or two ago, thanks to the present Government; but the news of that change seems not yet to have filtered through to Jamaica and the headquarters of the Jamaica Battalion—at least it had not last October. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would look into it.
As I say, it was really folly to send back these E.V.T. trained ex-Service men to unemployment in that under-industrialised country. I hope that we shall hear of far more vigorous steps than have yet been taken to provide alternative industries in Jamaica, a country almost entirely dependent upon agriculture, 2023 which by the nature of things is extremely chancy there, in that hurricane and earthquake part of the world. There should be more textile factories, there should be a home-grown timber industry, and possibly factories in which Jamaicans could be trained to assemble consumer goods imported from here, such as radio sets and motor cars. Possibly there might be consultations about that with the motor car and radio manufacturing industries here. That would be quite a useful alternative source of employment.
I have already had some skirmishes at Question Time about what is regarded in Jamaica as one of the most lucrative alternative industries—tourism. I am perfectly well aware of the dollar argument, and the argument that those who build and run big hotels pay taxes and thus contribute to the national economy. The point which I tried to make a few weeks ago still seems to me to be valid: it is that this tourist industry, especially in an area of what is called the "millionaires' playground" type, is not a socially educative or useful industry. It teaches the people servility and not much else.
It is, at any rate, self-evidently a monstrous anomaly that a great luxury hotel, catering for a few score of what are called in the advertisements "discriminating" clients—perhaps an unfortunate term to use in the circumstances—and charging them £10 or £12 a day each to stay there, should have been built at Montego Bay in 1947, at a time when hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants of Jamaica were living in housing conditions far more wretched than anything I have ever seen in this country, in the rural slums of Essex and East Anglia, in Glasgow, or in London. These Jamaican people are living in shacks actually made of old cardboard and bits of old tin just strung together anyhow, in the most insanitary surroundings. It is a monstrous anomaly, too, at a time when, in public hospitals, patients had to be put two or three in a bed, because even that was better than leaving them in the filthy hovels in which they lived. Obviously, these are matters which are largely within the control of the Government of Jamaica. Unfortunately, the present Government of Jamaica is not one which believes in the control of investment, in Excess Profits Tax, in cost-of-living 2024 subsidies, or in other such measures to which we have grown accustomed in this country.
I should like to touch upon the agricultural aspect of the economic problem. I have already referred to the hundreds of thousands of poor people who ignorantly denude the soil which is the source of such meagre sustenance as they have. Soil erosion is, as my right hon. Friend will be aware, one of the most difficult problems in Jamaica, as it is in many other parts of the world. New methods are now being worked out by the excellent agricultural research officers to replace the old-fashioned contour ploughing, but the educational work to be done in this particular field is still enormous. As everyone knows, there is great prejudice and resistance to new agricultural methods in such circumstances. If one drives into Kingston on any Friday night one passes dozens, perhaps hundreds, of carts coming from the country piled high with large and small timber—which is never, or hardly ever, replaced by new trees. That all aggravates the problem of soil erosion. As I say, the educational work of the official agriculturists in Jamaica is excellent, but it is limited in its scope.
I am afraid that the land settlement scheme, under which a number of ex-Service men were settled, has been largely a flop. On 17th November the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies told me:One thousand two hundred and sixty-four ex-Service men have been settled on smallholdings of six to seven acres. It is not possible to say how many had previous experience or training in agriculture. Approximately 35 per cent. of the holdings are at present adequately supplied with water."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 362.]What has happened on much too wide a scale is that they have taken an inexperienced man and dumped him on a holding which is economically far too small and has no water. After a few months the man has given up in despair, unable to "make a go" of it, has sold the holding to some speculator for what seems to him to be a substantial sum of money, and has then drifted into Kingston again to become part of the unemployed "riff-raff"—undeservedly so called—in the waterside slums of the city.
2025 A month or two ago it was announced in the House of Representatives in Kingston that since 1945 the Government had acquired for the land settlement scheme 17 properties, totalling 43,000 acres, at a cost of roughly £500,000. I am afraid that that money must have been largely wasted, or gone somewhere that it should not have gone. A leading local Jamaican newspaper columnist, Mr. G. St. C. Scoffer, commented that much more important figuresmust have been available to the Minister; it is a pity they were not quoted.The most hopeful agricultural development is the co-operative project known as Lucky Hill. I hope that there may be many more such projects, and that many thousands of Jamaicans, and people in other colonies, may be brought to realise that to take a small individual landholding isolated and waterless, is not the most useful way in which to embark upon an agricultural career. I was pleased to note at Lucky Hill that there was not only the economic and technical interest but also a real social basis to the work. One of the people there told me that their message and lesson for their settlers was that a stable and lasting family life was a good basis for a community of any kind or for a country. That is a particularly important lesson in Jamaica. I have already quoted the illegitimacy figures, and it seems to me that many of the economic problems in Jamaica are in the true sense social and even spiritual as well.
I am afraid, for example, that the standards of public life and honesty in the public administration cannot be compared with what yesterday's proceedings in this House showed that ours, thank heaven, still are. A few months ago, as my right hon. Friend will be aware, there were detailed and pressing demands in Jamaica for an inquiry into allegations of graft in which at least one Minister out there was implicated. What happens in England when there is such an allegation is that the Prime Minister, very properly, at once sets up a judicial inquiry to look into the whole business and clear it up. In Jamaica, unfortunately, no such line has been taken.
There was a resolution in the House of Representatives, moved by the spokesmen of the minority opposition party, for a full public inquiry. This was defeated. One of the curious aspects of this Debate 2026 was that the Minister of Communications, Mr. Bustamante himself, and the other Ministers in the majority Government party, voted for the resolution moved by the Opposition demanding the inquiry—after having, however, made quite certain that the back bench majority of the Government party would defeat the resolution. However, as the Ministers concerned did vote for it, I should have thought that that was an occasion on which His Excellency the Governor could intervene and say, "Since you yourselves voted for it, there is a pretty strong case for it to be reconsidered by the Executive Council." I had a letter from my noble Friend the Minister of State at the Colonial Office who told me that he had asked the Governor for a report on this matter. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can say any more about it today, or whether he has received that report from the Governor?
I am sorry to be going on for so long, but there is plenty of time, and I have a lot of things bottled up which I have wanted to say for some time. I was talking of the general standards of morality in public life. I am afraid that they are not very high. Even where there is no actual corruption there is a great deal of jobbery. What I personally found more depressing even than that is that. despite the charm and kindliness of the people, the warm hospitality and the easy laughter, there is a certain widespread fecklessness and irresponsibility, a kind of social apathy in which hysteria always seems to be smouldering. Demagogues thrive in such an atmosphere. In so far as this߰amorality߰and lack߰of a sense of߰social responsibility are really widespread, they are, of course, the continuing consequence of the detribalisation of a century ago. When the slaves were brought from Africa, their tribal customs, sanctions, and taboos were abandoned or destroyed. The tribal community life was broken up. They were not encouraged to marry and form stable family relationships because the slave owners preferred them to be mobile, saleable chattels. That kind of terrible upheaval in the life of a people, of a number of tribes, is bound to have consequences that continue for a very long time. That is why, apart from economic reform, I regard educational progress as really the most important thing to concentrate on in Jamaica.
2027 My right hon. Friend has recently spoken with pride of that great new project, the University College of the West Indies, and I should like to pay my tribute to the vision and ambition of this project and the excellent choice of Principal for it that has been made. But this is yet another of these desperately long-term plans. At present it is only a matter of a few dozen medical students, and, although plans are made for a reasonably rapid expansion, one cannot depend only on the university, even with its extramural department, to cope with the tremendous illiteracy and ignorance that still exist. Incidentally, the experience of the University College provides yet another illustration of the inadequacy of inter-island communications in the West Indies. The college serves the whole of that widely-spread area, and whilst ships are far too few and far too slow, aeroplanes are far too expensive. The return fare between Jamaica and British Guiana is about —75; that is far too much, and provides a real difficulty for students coming from remote parts of the area, whose travel has, of course, to be subsidised by the authorities.
The most impressive work in the sphere of cultural and general education is being done by the Institute of Jamaica, with its Junior Centres, and also by the British Council. I am bound to say that it is regrettable that the work of the Institute and its Junior Centres should be neglected, and even positively discouraged, by those in authority in Jamaica, both English and Jamaican, with the honourable exception of the Colonial Secretary, Mr. McGillivray. I know that my right hon. Friend feels strongly about this matter and has a keen enthusiasm for the Institute and its work. I hope that he will consider carefully some evidence which I shall submit to him to prove what I have just been saying.
One typical example of that neglect is what happened about the West India library at the Institute, which again my right hon. Friend knows well. It is urgently necessary that this library, of tremendous historical importance and value, should be re-housed in a fireproof building. Originally the Institute asked for £30,000 for the building, without furniture and equipment. In the first 2028 draft of the Colonial Development and. Welfare Scheme that was cut down to £20,000. In the final draft it was cut out altogether. My right hon. Friend told me, in answer to a Question, that now an appeal has simply been issued, to which he hopes there will be a good response. I do not think that a mere appeal to charity is enough. We and the Jamaican people hold that unexampled library in trust for the scholars and anthropologists of the world.
There is a lively intellectual and cultural life in Jamaica, perhaps more so than in other Colonies, but it is largely unofficial, and more could be done officially to encourage it. I hope, incidentally, that my right hon. Friend has not forgotten the valuable survey which the Georgian Group made a year or two ago. I hope that some of the buildings are scheduled or about to be scheduled for preservation. Most important of all, educationally, is political education in the broadest sense of the word. Americans, like Mr. Finletter, have repeatedly paid tribute to the social and economic development and recovery of this country. The British Council in Jamaica spends very large sums of money, and quite rightly, in bringing to remote islands an appreciation of art, music and so on—sending round lecturers on Constable, organising Beethoven concerts, which have never been heard of before in those parts. They are doing a very good job. But it is really rather ridiculous that there is practically no way in which the people of Jamaica can get to know of the equally important social and economic experiments now being made in this country.
This need not be done in a narrow, partisan way which would cause annoyance to hon. Members opposite. It could surely be done on A.B.C.A. lines, so to speak. With another General Election coming along in Jamaica, and the demagogues all howling their heads off and bemusing the mob, it is extremely urgent that there should be some kind of political and economic education in simple terms for the Jamaican public. Particularly is this so because, unfortunately, some of the wealthier white emigrés who are settling in Jamaica take all too little interest in the welfare or education of their poorer coloured fellow citizens. One hardly, if ever, hears of any of them 2029 starting a youth-club, a discussion-group, or anything like that. They spend most of their time instead denigrating the Government and the achievements of this country. I must put in one word, by way of exception, of warm praise for the work among women done by the Governor's wife, Lady Huggins.
I should like to say, as I approach my conclusion, that some of these troubles perhaps arise because constitutional reform has not been synchronised with economic and social reform and political education. I am not saying that constitutional reform and partial self-government came too fast. I am saying that the others have lagged behind too far. When we get these processes not going on smoothly at the same time, we inevitably get dislocations of the kind which we witness in Jamaica. Of course, nobody would suggest reversing the process. On the contrary, they must make their own mistakes, and I hope learn by them. But at least my right hon. Friend should do all he can to stimulate economic and agricultural planning and the provision of political education and education in social responsibility.
We cannot in this country interfere in the purely internal party politics of Jamaica; but I think that it is permissible for the friends of the Jamaican people—who have, in Mr. Norman Manley, K.C., a potential leader of the highest intelligence and integrity, perhaps the finest and most brilliant man in the whole West Indies—at least to hope that those people will have the sense to elect the kind of government which will really plan their economy for the welfare of all of them. They need desperately the kind of Government which will impose the financial and economic controls that we have found necessary in this country, the kind of Government which will subsidise the cost of living. If they do elect that kind of Government next year, then they will have taken a great step towards making Jamaica a worthy and leading member of the fully self-governing Federal Dominion of the West Indies whose birth is not far distant.
§ 1.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I am sure that all of us are grateful to the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) for raising the subject of Jamaica. It is on 2030 far too few occasions that we have the chance to discuss colonial matters, and today the Secretary of State for the Colonies will have very much more than the customary quarter of an hour in which to answer the many points discussed by the hon. Gentleman. I must say that I think it most improper of him to attempt to take sides politically in the affairs of Jamaica and to express his wish that any of the parties shall be returned to power at the next election. If this House starts to interfere in that way with the internal situation in Jamaica, we shall do far more harm than good.
I listened to the hon. Member with very great interest. It seems to me that he set out many of the problems quite fairly and exhaustively, but what he did not say was what ought to be done about them. As far as I can see, these problems resolve themselves into two main categories—matters which are within the competence of this House and those which are not within the competence of this House and, what is more, never can be. It is one of the fallacies of this modern age that we believe that we can solve any human problem if we pass enough Acts of Parliament and spend enough money. Many of the fundamental problems of Jamaica are beyond our competence here, and it is as well to say so, otherwise a Debate of this sort in the House, which is certainly not on party lines, can do far more harm than good, because it raises expectations which cannot possibly be fulfilled.
§ Mr. Skinnard (Harrow, East)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree nevertheless that it is important for this House to understand what a wide range of problems cannot be solved by legislation and must be settled over a long period of time by the people themselves, in order that we may limit our activities to that which we can achieve in order to help. It is important that we should understand what a large field is outside our competence.
§ Mr. Gammans
I was not criticising the hon. Gentleman for listing all these problems. My only criticism was that he did not differentiate between those which are within our competence to solve and those which are not.
Let us consider some of the points with which we cannot deal. I would list as the first one over-population. To my 2031 mind, that is the largest single factor in the economic situation in Jamaica. We cannot deal with that. We cannot help it if reproduction outpaces production, and that is the situation. It is no use pretending that it lies within our power to do much about that problem. We cannot do very much either about what the hon. Gentleman referred to as social apathy and all that vast range of matters that come within the social purview rather than the political field. Anyone who has had any experience of the tropics, whether it be in India, the West Indies or Africa, realises that one of the fundamental difficulties is that people set for themselves a too low standard of living. It is not for the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) to wag his head. To quote my own personal experience, I was for seven years registrar of co-operative societies. My job was to try to help people to raise their standard of living, to try to combat the evils of money lending and bad social customs. The difficulty fundamentally was that people could not be aroused out of their apathy. One could not arouse the desire for something better.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
I was not wagging my head. I was indicating dissent in the normal manner available in Parliament. I was doing that because the hon. Gentleman is entirely ignoring the long history of centuries of the East, the long history of the independent East, the history which culminates in some very brilliant writing by Macaulay descriptive of the state of India before we took command there. It is the story of an ancient civilisation, a developing civilisation and a civilisation which is in advance of ours. That was the history before the long and sorry story of imperialism and colonisation came along.
§ Mr. Gammans
I could enter into a very long argument with the hon. Gentleman on the thesis that British rule and British influence have destroyed civilisation and that under independent Governments people in the tropics are prepared to work harder than are people elsewhere. I would only mention to him that last Sunday morning I was in Siam. Siam always has been an independent country, but exactly the 2032 same problem exists in Siam among the peasants as exist in India or Malaya. Or, if the hon. Gentleman wants another example which is directly relevant to the West Indies, why not take the example of Liberia, the independent republic in West Africa to which a large number of West Indians went recently, and the whole lot went back to Jamaica.
The point I wish to make is that anyone who ignores this human problem of people living in the tropics setting for themselves too low a standard and not being willing to work harder to raise that standard, is ignoring one of the great difficulties to which the hon. Gentleman referred. What happens is that when people have more money, the first thing they buy with it is leisure. I do not say that I blame them. If I lived in the tropics, or if the hon. Member did, we would probably take the same view; but to pretend that that is something that can be remedied by an Act of Parliament or by anything we can do in this House is to ignore the whole nature of the problem.
§ Mr. Driberg
The hon. Member says that this problem of social apathy, indifference and illiteracy is something we cannot do anything about in this House. I suggest that that is precisely one of the problems that we can and do tackle. because we help to finance education in the broadest as well as in the special sense of the word.
§ Mr. Gammans
I was coming to that, but I was trying to deal with the things which this House can do. Since the hon. Gentleman has interrupted me, I would say that I agree with him up to a point. The only thing that can be done, without running the risk of doing more harm than good, in regard to what he calls apathy, is for the Government to remove those debilitating diseases which discourage hard work, such as malaria and hookworm. The only other thing is education—not education in itself, but the special education of women. When we get education of the women, I believe we shall get the women demanding a higher standard of living which their husbands can only supply by doing harder work. Do not let us pretend that there is no such thing as a problem of the tropics, because it does exist. Let us face it and deal with it, instead of pretending that it does not exist.
2033 The third thing which very largely lies beyond the competence of this House concerns the evil of illegitimacy. I think we all agree that we cannot have a sound economic life based on a bad social life, and if people do not get married the percentage of illegitimacy in the tropics will be very high, with the result that homes are broken up and children do not get the care which they ought to have—but there is not very much that we can do about it here. Christianity in the West Indies, in this curious transplanted African civilisation which is quite unique, since there is nothing like it in the world, has meant that the people have lost their culture, their religion, and have become Christian, which has meant an effect more emotional than anything else to the West Indies. I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman pay tribute to the work of Lady Huggins. It is only public opinion in the West Indies itself which can help to solve some of these problems.
The last direction in which we cannot do very much concerns the hurricanes and hazards of nature. A large part of the bananas have been destroyed by disease, and there was a hurricane which swept over many hundreds of thousands of acres of coconuts. These things are quite beyond us. I am very glad that the under-Secretary reminded the hon. Gentleman that tropical agriculture is very largely a seasonal occupation. There is not much that we can do about that either. Sugar cultivation is largely seasonal, which means that labour not required on the land has to be unemployed, or at any rate under-employed. All these are directions in which we can do nothing.
What can we do? What lies within our competence? It is in the direction of what we can do that we ought to criticise and judge the right hon. Gentleman and the Colonial Office. We have set aside fairly large sums of money under the Colonial Welfare and Development Act. That was a great act of faith on our part, made at the most critical period of the war, and something of which this House can be proud. I believe we shall always be prepared to increase that sum if necessary and if we are assured that it is being wisely spent. One thing we can do is to offer help in regard to public services—roads, water, hospitals and the like—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what has been done in the difficult 2034 circumstances, and in view of a world shortage of raw materials, during these three and a half years. I hope he will also tell us what is going to be done in the next few years.
We could do a lot to raise the standard of agriculture. It is not merely the case that too much land is not particularly fertile—and there is a lot of that in Jamaica. I agree that nothing is more idiotic than to dump people on smallholdings and expect them to fend for themselves. If we could double the output of the land under cultivation, this would be the best single contribution that we could make, rather than engaging in any spectacular scheme for putting more people on land that may not be suitable. It is in that direction, and in the direction of technical and agricultural education and in administration, that we could do a lot, and I think that we should do so.
There is another direction in which we can help the West Indies, especially in these days of bulk buying, and that is by seeing that the people get a proper price for their crops. We are buying the sugar crop. Are we paying the world price or a fair price? It is on this single crop that the economy of Jamaica depends, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us something about that.
§ Mr. Gammans
The world price is that which can be obtained in the world market. I cannot think of a better definition than that. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the price of sugar, because I have recently seen something in the newspapers to suggest that Jamaica is dissatisfied with the price which she is getting for her sugar. Perhaps we could hear something about long-term contracts for sugar, bananas and so on.
We can also help with secondary industries; but I think the hon. Gentleman must be living in a pretty funny world if he thinks that in an island the size of Jamaica it is possible to set up factories for assembling motor cars. It will not be that sort of secondary industry at all, and it is no good pretending that it will, but rather cement-making, textiles and so on. I think there is scope there, but it will depend in no small degree on 2035 communications and also on something which the hon. Gentleman did not mention—federation. We cannot do much with this small market of 1,500,000 people, but if we could double it by bringing about a federation of the West Indies, I believe that, with assured markets, it would be worth while setting up secondary industries in Jamaica and elsewhere.
I hope also that we may hear something about shipping. The last report on shipping in the West Indies I thought was a most dreary document and completely defeatist. It is a scandal that people have to wait anything up to nine or ten months to get passages to the West Indies. At present there seems to be no hope of things getting better, because not many ships are being built. Are the Government going to do nothing about it? Is it worth while offering something as a subsidy? Cannot we try to improve the inter-island shipping which today is practically non-existent? Only a very small percentage of the population can afford to travel by air. If there is to be federation, it can only be based on good communications. I could never understand why it is that from Singapore there is one of the finest systems of inter-island shipping anywhere in the world—to Borneo, Sarawak and to Siam—and it pays, too. Why does it not pay in the West Indies?
The last point is whether there is anything else that can be done. It is no good pretending that there can be an alleviation of over-population by emigration to British Honduras or British Guiana. It is going to cost a fabulous sum to move 100,000 people, many of whom, especially those who come from the towns—and that is where unemployment is worst—have no desire to be put on the land. There is only a limited hope there.
I liked the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Maldon about the Armed Forces. There we have a pool of very competent and very loyal British subjects. We used to have a West Indian Regiment. Why cannot we have it now? I know this is a matter which does not concern the Colonial Secretary so much as the Minister of Defence, but in every Defence Debate in this House the question of the recruitment of a great Colonial 2036 army has been raised. What has been done about it? Why cannot these men who served the King and Empire in wartime be given the opportunity to go on serving in peacetime? They would be willing to enlist if they were properly encouraged and properly paid. I could never understand why we should have one rate of pay for the Colonies and another for the United Kingdom. The King cannot have two sorts of subjects, first and second class according to colour. If British citizenship means anything at all, it means equality in that direction.
There is one aspect of the military recommendations made by the hon. Member for Maldon which he did not develop—the possibility of a West Indian labour corps. Here we are talking about opening up East Africa; big groundnuts and other schemes are projected. We are told that they are short of labour. Is it not possible to recruit a labour corps? If we are ever going to open up British Honduras and British Guiana, that is the only way we shall do it. Have any proposals been made to the Governor of Jamaica to form a corps of that sort?
Lastly, I should like to refer to the other point made by the hon. Gentleman—emigration to this country. The other day we had the case of the "Empire Windrush." It was not a very dignified affair. Those men paid their own fares to come to this country. Of course, all that could be done for them was done, but that sort of haphazard emigration is unsatisfactory, and, I think, dangerous. There is supposed to be a shortage of labour here. There is, I believe, a shortage of hospital nurses and ward maids. What about offering facilities for girls from Jamaica to come to this country to do such work? It would help us and they would get some first-class training. I hope that there are some such schemes in view.
I will conclude by saying that I think this is a very useful Debate, and I gather that other hon. Members wish to continue it, but do not let us do harm by raising the matter in this House in such a way as to give Jamaica the idea that we can solve all their problems. We can help in some directions, and we ought to help, but a greater part of the serious problems which face them, social and personal, must be solved by the people of Jamaica themselves.
§ 2.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
I am particularly glad to have the opportunity in this Debate of following the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) for particular reasons which I shall make clear in a few moments. I should like to begin by joining him in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) on raising this Debate. I am sure the whole House wishes to congratulate him on doing so. It is quite true that the whole House has shown a little reticence about turning up in person, but I am sure my hon. Friend has done a great service. I congratulate him not only on raising the subject, but also on the admirable speech he has delivered and for the several recent occasions on which he has raised the problem of Jamaica at Question time in this House. I think he has done a good service to the people of Jamaica by his persistence and energy in this matter.
Jamaica occupies a very special position in the British Empire. In this crowded island—with all its social problems, which have been so well described to us by my hon. Friend, and with its highly dramatised politics—are going to be worked out in the next few years many of the political and economic problems which will affect not only Jamaica, but the whole of the West Indies and many other parts of the British Commonwealth as well. Therefore I think it is right that we should have a full Debate in order to make clear to the people of Jamaica how much our prospects of maintaining the Empire and Commonwealth depend on their efforts in the future and on the example they will set to the other peoples of the Commonwealth.
I presume that the people of Jamaica are almost on the eve of something like full responsible government. They are playing a leading part—as was shown by the conference attended by the Colonial Secretary a year or so ago—in the progress towards federation in the West Indian Dominion which we hope to see in the future. As my hon. Friend said, there is a unique situation in Jamaica on the question of the colour problem. They have gone further to solve the problem of racial and colour prejudice than probably any, other country in the whole of the British Commonwealth. 2038 They have successfully dealt with that problem, and I think that they will make a tremendous contribution to solving the question of racial dis-crimination throughout the world. I believe that the British people can play a leading part in helping to make the solution of the colour problem a pacific one, and I am sure that is the special reason why we in this House should be concerned with the affairs of Jamaica. The hon. Member for Hornsey said that we must distinguish between what we in this country can do to help and what must be done by the Jamaicans themselves. I think the distinction was quite clearly drawn in the first place by my hon. Friend, but I agree, of course, with the hon. Member for Hornsey that there is a firm distinction.
I wish to direct my remarks in particular to the economic prospects of the island and what we can do to assist in that matter because, whatever arrangements may be made about welfare, about education and in other respects under the Colonial Welfare Acts, it is the fundamental economic viability of the island that matters; it is that situation which is going to affect the whole future of the island and the whole of its cultural and educational development. Therefore I should like to say a few words on the question of what we in this country can do to assist, in particular, the primary producers of Jamaica in the problems that confront them. What I have to say will not be said in any way in criticism of the Colonial Office because I think that in this matter we are pushing at an open door.
The Colonial Secretary knows probably better than anybody else in the country the kind of problems that face the West Indies, and the primary producers in particular. When the Secretary of State went to Jamaica he saw the problems for himself, but he knew a great deal about them before he got there. In fact, one of the things that most impressed the people of Jamaica was that he had an intimate knowledge of every question that arose. He made a tremendous impression in that island, both by his knowledge and his passionate sincerity. I think it is right that all the people there should know that, whatever their particular party or form of activity, they have in him the best friend they have ever had in any Government in this country. It was 2039 remarkable how he impressed people of different views all over the island.
I come to the specific subject I wish to mention. It was mentioned by the hon. Member for Hornsey. He is not normally a bashful speaker, but I thought he showed a little diffidence in his approach to this subject. He seemed to take one glance at the Press Gallery to see if the "Daily Express" reporter was looking, another glance behind him at the Peers' Gallery to see if Lord Woolton or Lord Beaverbrook were in their places, another glance at the Front Bench to see if the Whips were asleep; then he took one gulp and came out with the words "bulk buying." I congratulate the hon. Gentleman because he has been two years getting those words out. It is approximately two years since the hon. Member went from Hornsey to Jamaica and he has participated in some Colonial Debates since. There were some Debates on the Overseas Food Corporation in which he participated. I do not think he ever got round to the subject of bulk buying then, but I congratulate him on doing so today. He said it boldly and openly. It is quite true that he did not expand it, and he did not go into it in any great detail, but I think he is coming along. He is not my idea of a prodigal son, but I can assure him that when he has given some study to the subject we shall be happy to see whether he can convert the Members of his party.
§ Mr. Gammans
In case the hon. Gentleman is about to kill the fatted calf, may I remind him that I only referred to bulk buying? I did not say that I approved of it and I did not enter into its merits or demerits. All I said was that as long as it continues let us see we do not pay to our own Colonies less than we pay to any other part of the world. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should not invite me as a guest to this love feast.
§ Mr. Foot
No, I will leave the hon. Gentleman feeding on his political husks. I am very glad to have given him this opportunity of intervening, which will put everything right again with the Central Office, and which suits the point that I want to make in my remarks. Starting from scratch, as the hon. Gentleman admits he does in his remarks, I can give him an account of how the 2040 system of bulk purchase grew up. It grew up by accident largely during the war. It was started to a great extent during the war. The advantages of the system were quickly appreciated by almost all the primary producers in Jamaica and in many other parts of the British Empire. In Jamaica, for instance, it enabled the Jamaican banana producers to deal with the most critical situation with which they had been faced; they were to a great extent in the grip of the United Food Company in the United States of America, who were able, in effect, to dictate to the banana producers in Jamaica in a great degree what should be their prospects and their position, and because of the system of bulk purchase the Jamaican producers were able to relax that grip which was being exercised on their country. They were also able to discover that from this kind of bulk purchase arrangements, if they had long-term contracts, they would be able to make provision for the future.
The hon. Member for Hornsey said that we cannot do anything about hurricanes. True, we cannot stop a hurricane; we have not been able to devise a means of doing so yet, but we can make provision for clearing up the mess after the hurricane. What has happened in many cases in the past has been that when the hurricane has come in Jamaica and smashed the banana trees and the different crops, the producers have been thrust back into a bankrupt situation, and very often the Colonial Office, the British Government and the British taxpayer have had to help them out One of the reasons why the producers there want these long-term contracts is so that they can make provision over a period for reserve funds which will enable them to deal on their own account with this problem. and will enable them to feel that the whole future of their industry is safeguarded from the kind of disasters which have befallen them when hurricanes have come in the past.
But it is not only that specific advantage that they saw. They saw the opening out of a wholly different prospect for their industry under the system of bulk purchase. The great question which has arisen in Jamaica is whether or not the system of bulk purchase under lone-term contracts is going to continue. I went to Jamaica a little over a year ago and I saw the leaders of all the producers' 2041 organisations in Jamaica. I went also to meetings in the hills where the producers of citrus attended. The importance of these matters lies not only in the economic future of the island but also in the democratic institutions which grew up in these producer organisations and which can contribute greatly to the political life of the country.
When I came back from Jamaica I spoke in the Committee proceedings on the Overseas Resources Development Bill—my remarks may have been slightly out of Order then, but I am in Order now—and I tried to stress what all these people were saying in Jamaica about the vital importance for that country and the whole of the West Indies to establish a bulk purchase system on a much more sound and permanent footing and to ensure that it should continue in the future. I was pooh-poohed by all the imperial experts from the Conservative Party. The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) reproved me for thinking that I knew much about Jamaica because I happened to be there a week or two, and in the Debate we had during the Committee stage there was not one Member of the Conservative Party who was prepared to say that he believed that there was something in this proposal, or that bulk purchase long-term contracts could make a big contribution to the future economic development of the British Empire.
The hon. Member for Hornsey had been to Jamaica. He must have heard of this, but it is very remarkable that he came back from the island of Jamaica where he must have heard what everyone was talking about on this subject. and did not mention the subject at all to Lord Woolton or to the newspapers here, and did not tell anybody what was the main subject of economic discussion in the island of Jamaica and in many of the other islands in the West Indies. There is great feeling in the West Indies because of the way in which this attempt has been made to prevent people in Britain knowing how vital they think long-term bulk purchase is for them. They are very angry at the suggestions which have been circulated from many quarters—I need not specify them in particular—saying that the primary producers of Jamaica are not interested in it, that they do not care much about it and that it is not a matter of great 2042 importance. So much do they feel about this and so angry are they about the suggestions which have appeared in the Press—the "Daily Express," the "Sunday Express," the "Evening Standard" and many other newspapers—that they called a special meeting a few weeks ago.
I have a letter from the Chairman of the Central Committee of Primary Producers which represents most of the primary producers in the island. The letter said:In order to assist you in combating mischievous and unfounded reports that have been circulated to the effect that producer organisations are not in favour of Government bulk purchase, this Committee has passed a resolution and issued Press statements, a copy of which is attached.I hope the House will pardon me if I read some of the extracts from the report of the meeting of the Central Committee of Primary Producers in Jamaica, which represents pretty well what the producers in Jamaica think of this subject. It was a meeting called specifically in order to rebut the kind of rumours and suggestions that have been circulated in this country. I will read, first of all, the resolution which they passed:Resolved that this Council is unanimously in favour of the system of long-term agreements for the bulk purchase of those export commodities the production of which it is the desire of His Majesty's Government to extend; that the Jamaica Government and the appropriate authorities and political parties in the United Kingdom be so advised:I am taking this opportunity to advise the other political parties who have not woken up to this fact. It goes on:and that the President, Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary be charged with the drafting of an appropriate resolution for submission at the Annual General Meeting on 17th February, 1949, and with taking the necessary steps in connection therewith.It says at the beginning of the report of this meeting:Moving to counter reports circulated in the United Kingdom to the effect that section of the United Kingdom Press appears primary producers in Jamaica are against Government bulk purchasing of island produce, the Central Committee of Primary Producers have taken steps to advise the authorities in England and here at home of the true position.It continues with this long statement:At the last meeting of the Council of the Central Committee of Primary Producers, Mr. Clifford de-Lisser, who has recently returned from the United Kingdom, pointed out that 2043 there has been a great deal of propaganda in that country against the system of Government bulk purchase of commodities. A large to regard bulk purchase as an undesirable form of 'Socialism.' The British public are constantly being told that if bulk purchase were to be abolished foodstuffs would cost much less. Certain English daily newspapers have even given the impression that Primary Producers in the Colonies are not in favour of bulk purchase, and that they would like to return to the pre-War system of a so-called 'free market.' The Primary Producers' Associations of this Island attach the greatest importance to achieving long-term stability of markets, and a system of purchase that will ensure that prices of commodities will bear some reasonable relationship to cost of production under local conditions. As it would appear that bulk purchase of Colonial commodities is the only vehicle wherewith such a policy can be carried into effective execution, it was deemed expedient to make this opinion known to all responsible parties in the United Kingdom.I am sorry that we have no members of the Liberal Party here so that we might tell them, but we have the opportunity to tell four hon. Members of the Conservative Party. I shall not read the whole of this document, which is an interesting account of the advantages which they believe they will derive through this system, but perhaps I might quote the conclusion:Indeed, it is not too much to say that the abandonment of this system would be taken as an indication that His Majesty's Government had found itself unable to pursue the new policy of Colonial trusteeship and betterment which was enunciated concurrently with the voting of large sums for Colonial Development and Welfare; and of which Colonial Development and Welfare grants appeared to provide tangible evidence.It is the opinion or the representatives of all the producers of primary products in Jamaica that they have a right that their case should be heard in this House. They have a right that the facts should be made known and they have a right to ask, as they are asking—it is the reason they called a meeting—what is the opinion of one of the parties which they refer to as a responsible party in this country. They have a right to know the facts and to know what view the Conservative Party takes on this question of the bulk purchase of Colonial products. It has taken two years to persuade right hon. Gentlemen to utter a word and perhaps if we wait a few more years they may make up their minds as to what attitude they adopt. It is not merely a question that the Conservative Party, which claims to favour the Empire, has 2044 not been prepared even to examine the importance of this subject; not merely that, but deliberate efforts are made in this country to suppress the opinions of the producers in Jamaica when they try to state their case in Great Britain. I shall give the House a specific example.
§ Mr. Foot
As everyone knows, the leading newspapers which have attacked the system of bulk purchase most persistently during the past three years are the "Sunday Express," the "Daily Express" and the "Evening Standard." These papers have a perfect right to attack the bulk purchase system if they want to. I am not complaining of their right to do that. What I am complaining about is if they claim to be great supporters of the Empire, that they should suppress protests which come from the Empire to the newspapers protesting against their policy. I have here a letter written to me by the Chairman of the Citrus Growers Association of Jamaica. An article appeared in the "Sunday Express" which denounced the system of bulk purchase as applied to the citrus commodities Thereupon the chairman of the Citrus Growers Association of Jamaica, quite properly as representing all citrus growers in the island, realising how vital the system of bulk purchase was for the members of his Association, wrote this letter to the "Daily Express," and I have been given his authority to quote it here:SIR,Your leading article 'The Answer is a Lemon' was presumably intended as an attack on the bulk purchasing system. You do not appear to have considered its implications to the Colonial Citrus Industry. You quote figures to show that the United Kingdom is paying slightly less than three times as much for oranges as pre-war, but we in the Colonies which produce oranges and grapefruit are having to pay three or four times as much for British exports as was the case prior to the war. You say that growers must bring down their prices.' What about the prices of British exports which we are compelled to buy—are these to come down too? Or is it your suggestion that Britain should once again return to the bad old policy of Colonial exploitation? Is it your desire that England buy cheap from the Colonies and sell dear to them? It is all very well to attack bulk purchasing and to extol the savings that might be made under a system of free enterprise' but, judging by past experience, the savings would be at the expense of the Colonial Primary Producer and result in driving living standards in the British 2045 Colonies down to even lower levels than the present.That letter was sent to the "Sunday Express" and according to information I have received from the Chairman of the Association they have not printed it. I wrote an article in "The Tribune" a few weeks ago in which I challenged the "Daily Express" to print in that newspaper what was the opinion of all the producers of this commodity in the West Indies and to state what were their views on bulk purchasing. It has not happened yet; maybe it will happen tomorrow but at any rate, whatever one may think about bulk purchasing, the British public has the right to know what the whole of the West Indies and their official associations are saying—that if this system were brought to an end it would be a first-class disaster for the whole of the West Indies. If the British people are to make up their minds about bulk purchasing they have a right to know these facts. Therefore it is right that the newspapers of this country, particularly those who claim to be in favour of the Empire, should publish these facts.
§ Mr. Assheton (City of London)
May I ask the hon. Member a question. I think he expressed the view—if I am wrong he will tell us—that the Conservative Party was suppressing information in the West Indies. He has told us that in his view the "Sunday Express" has refused to publish some letter on the subject. I know nothing about that but does the hon. Member think that the "Sunday Express" is an organ of the Conservative Party?
§ Mr. Foot
By the "Daily Express." It is a very generous and magnanimous offer which the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) has made. I am grateful to hear that the Conservative Party is prepared to publish, no doubt officially in one of their pamphlets published by Lord Woolton, the views of the Citrus Growers Association as shown in this document which I have received. However, following the generous offer made by Lord Woolton's predecessor, there may be some 2046 differences of opinion between the two Gentlemen who run the Conservative Central Office. However, he must have sufficient influence left to persuade Lord Woolton to carry out the very generous offer he has made in the House, that he would publish the views expressed. Of course, if he does not carry out that promise my statement that suppression has taken place will have to he extended from the "Daily Express" and the "Sunday Express" to the officials of the party. I shall await with great interest the answer on that point which the hon. Member will give me and I trust he will take the matter up very soon.
The question which faces us on this matter is, is the Conservative Party in favour of the Empire or not? Because you cannot be in favour of the Empire and against bulk purchase. The question for the Conservative Party—
§ Sir P. Macdonald
Bulk purchase in different parts of the Empire depends entirely on local conditions. To say that because bulk purchase happens to suit a particular industry, such as the citrus growing industry, it should universally be adopted by Great Britain is to utter complete nonsense.
§ Mr. Foot
Let us get this straight. The hon. Gentleman gets up and proceeds to say that bulk purchase may be an advantage in connection with one commodity—citrus—in the West Indies, but that does not mean that it can be applied to other commodities. The producers of all the big commodities in Jamaica are in favour of bulk purchase—the growers of citrus, bananas, sugar, and coffee, all of them—and, therefore, it is quite misleading for the hon. Gentleman who claims to be an expert on this subject—
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I know that during the hon. Gentleman's peregrinations in the West Indies there was a repudiation of him while he was there, and of the wild and stupid speeches which he made while in Jamaica. He was repudiated time and again while he was there. It is all very well for him, on a Friday afternoon when there are very few Members in the House, to try to make wild propaganda against the "Daily Express" and the Conservative party because of one letter which he received from somebody in Jamaica. That is just utter and complete nonsense.
§ Mr. Foot
As for the remarks which I made in Jamaica being repudiated, no remarks that I made on the subject of bulk purchase were repudiated. There were some people who argued about the remarks that I made when I happened to take up a statement made by certain people, and referred to by the hon. Member for Maldon, depreciating this country in Jamaica, and I thought that it was my duty as a British citizen to deny those allegations. Before the hon. Gentleman comes here and tries to pretend he knows anything about bulk purchase, I suggest that he should look at the facts, and he will find that all the primary producers in Jamaica are in favour of a system of long-term bulk purchase. Whatever his own views, he cannot get round that. If we had a Debate on Africa, he would find that there are a lot of commodities to which the same thing applied in that continent.
I say that it comes back to the question of whether the Conservative Party, and particularly those who have interrupted in this Debate, are going to put their ideological prejudices before the interests of the British Empire. I congratulate the Government on having gone forward with this policy. I should like to know in particular from the Opposition, at some time when they have looked up the facts about this matter after this Debate, which of the contracts they are going to break in respect of each of these particular commodities. Lord Woolton had an article in the "Daily Graphic" in which he spoke of bulk purchasing coming to an end when the Conservative Party gets into office. Are they going to break the citrus contract or the banana contract? The people in the West Indies have a right to know what is the attitude of the Conservative Party on this matter.
I believe also that the Government must be prepared to go further with the whole of this system and put it on a still more substantial basis.
§ Mr. Foot
If we get back to a free market, as all the primary producers say 2048 in the West Indies, what we are going to have in Jamaica is a return to the situation of 1937 and 1938 when we had slumps and riots and the whole island was in turmoil and disruption. If that is what the hon. Gentleman wants as the result of his allegiance to free market principles, he is entitled to it, but he is not entitled to go round at the same moment and say, "I am a great champion of the British Empire." I say that for years and generations past we in this country to a great extent lived on cheap food produced by sweated labour in foreign lands, and that is now coming to a, close.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
That was the policy of laissez faire which members of the hon. Gentleman's family upheld all their lives.
§ Mr. Foot
It is quite true that my family believed in the principle of laissez faire but my family was prepared to defend its principles. My father believed in it, and I left the Liberal Party because I did not believe in laissez faire.
Those people who support the principles of a free market must be prepared to say whether they are going to view with equanimity the working out of the principles of a free market in the British Commonwealth, and I say that we in this country must be prepared to go further towards a situation in which the Colonial producer is put in something like a comparable situation with that of the British farmer. I thing that that is one of the principles on which we have to work if we are to keep the Empire at all. I am in favour of keeping it. But we cannot keep it, if we think that we can plunge the West Indies into the turmoil in which they were before the war, which would be the result of a free market system. That is a system which all the primary producers of that country wish to avoid. I say that to the Colonial Secretary, and I do not think that there will be opposition to my statement in the Colonial Office.
I come to the kind of way in which these contracts are fixed. An application comes from the producers of a particular commodity to the Colonial Office and perhaps the Colonial Office supports it and do everything that they can to assist the Colonial producers in stating their case both to the Ministry of Food 2049 and to the Treasury. The Minister of Food, I think, has shown a great sympathy with the whole of this project, because he realises how a long-term contract can assist in encouraging future production. Then the Treasury come in and consider the price, as it is absolutely right that they should do. I think that some of these matters are determined there too much by particular negotiations without a full consideration of the broad picture of Colonial development involved in these problems.
I, therefore, suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he might be prepared to consider some form of commission or committee on this subject, which would examine the whole question of bulk purchase from the British Colonies and possibly from the Dominions as well; examine the advantages, the disadvantages and the difficulties, and try to work it out on a planned basis. This system grew up by accident during the war and has expanded greatly since the war, and I think it right that it should be expanded. All the peoples in the Colonies think it right that it should be expanded, but obviously there is a great deal of education still to be done on the subject, and if the commission did not do anything else, it might at least assist in educating the Conservative Party on elementary facts about the British Empire.
The fact is that we cannot have a British Commonwealth in this century except on a planned basis. If we go back to a free market in sugar and in these other commodities, then it means that there is going to be a return to those disastrous days in the West Indies which called forth the report of the commission set up by the Government during the war or just before the war. There will be a return to those conditions if we return to a free market, and if we had the kind of political distress, provoked by economic decay, which would be produced by a free market, then all our plans for Colonial welfare, for the federation of the West Indies, and the rest, will be broken.
Therefore, I believe that if this policy can be worked out in greater detail and presented to the nation more imaginatively than it has yet been presented, this Government will be doing a great work for the British Empire. The system of long-term bulk purchase is in fact the 2050 biggest single economic development in Imperial and Commonwealth relations that has taken place during the past decade. It puts out of court most of the old systems, and it does, as the people in the West Indies have unanimously stated in this document which I have read to the House, offer them, if the Government will abide by their principles, better hope for the future and the prospect that they will be able to play the part we want to see them play in our Commonwealth.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
I had no intention of intervening in this Debate; in fact I did not know it was going on until a few moments ago, when I was amazed, on coming in, to hear the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) upholding the British Empire and a policy of Imperial Preference for the British Empire. In my recollection of nearly a quarter of a century in this House his father and other members of his family have, all their lives while Members of this House, done nothing but uphold a policy of laisser faire.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
Let me develop my point, and then I will give way. They voted against every Motion or Bill dealing with Imperial Preference; they opposed it all their lives in Parliament. I am very glad, therefore, to find this new disciple of the doctrine of imperial development. I am amazed, though, to find that he has discovered in his new home, in his new party, support for the policy of Imperial Preference, because we have yet to hear in this House whether or not the Labour Party really believe in Imperial Preference.
§ Mr. Foot
What I said about Imperial Preference was that the system of long-term bulk purchase contracts makes the whole issue of Imperial Preference largely irrelevant for many of these Colonies. I am not saying that I am opposed to Imperial Preference, because I am in favour of Imperial Preference as well, if it is required. But this is a much more important issue than Imperial Preference.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I happen to know something about the conditions in and the problems of the West Indies. I have 2051 made a particular study of them for a great many years; I have visited these Colonies, and I know what their problems are. As the hon. Member says, they are having difficulties today, as they have had since the war, in disposing of certain commodities. Sugar, of course, is no difficulty, because every ounce of sugar is sold through the organisation in Washington. But that is because at the present time the world production of sugar is below the consumption demand, so that it is not difficult for the Government to say, "We shall buy all the sugar you produce," and to give the producer in Jamaica a reasonable price—not what he expects or asks for, because it rarely is.
I also know the problems of the citrus growers, because when I was in Jamaica only two or three years ago they put their problems to me. After all, the Citrus Growers' Association is a private enterprise organisation; the citrus growers are private growers. They mostly went into citrus growing because the banana disease forced them to abandon banana production. It was put to me that the citrus growers were let down very badly because the British market was being flooded with oranges and other fruits from Palestine, to the detriment of the Jamaican citrus and fruit growers. I took that up when I came home, and of course it was true. The reason was, not because the British Government, which was a Coalition Government at the time, did not want to help the Jamaican citrus growers; it was entirely a question of shipping. It is very largely a question of freights and shipping today, and getting the citrus fruits to this country in time. I am sure that we should be very glad to have the fruit if we had the shipping to get it here in a proper condition for sale on the British market. We have had whole cargoes of bananas coming here and being rotten on arrival. All those factors must be considered.
To try to charge the Conservative Party with opposition to Jamaican growers selling their commodities in this country is utter and complete nonsense, and the hon. Member knows it. When Jamaican sugar or fruit growers are in trouble it is not to him or his Socialist friends that they write: they write to me and to other hon. Members on this side of the House. I have a copy of the resolution he read 2052 out, and it really has nothing to do with the question. This party does not form the Government of the day. The Colonial Secretary has the answer to all these questions, and I think it will be found that the answer is very largely what I have said. Today it is a question of supply and demand. It is not a question of Conservative Party policy versus any other policy. We on this side would welcome every opportunity for Jamaica, Trinidad, or any other Colonial peoples selling to this country every commodity they can produce.
What happens in the Empire today? The hon. Member talked about planning. If he wants to see planning he ought to have travelled in Nigeria last year when I went out there with a Committee from this House and saw some of the Government planning. I saw 320,000 to 350,000 tons of groundnuts piled up as high as Nelson's column because there were not enough railway engines to take them down to the base. That still persists in Nigeria today. What are the Government doing about it? I can give many illustrations of this Government's planning in the Colonial Empire. If hon. Members like, I will discuss the groundnuts scheme—that wonderful scheme which was hailed in this House as the means of saving the British Empire, and as an example of what this benevolent Government are doing for the Colonial Empire. Just wait until a few days' time when the Minister of Food produces his report on that project and we shall hear what the results have been. We are just waiting for that; then we shall hear how hon. Members opposite boast about developing the Colonial Empire.
§ Major Bruce
The hon. Member seems to derive some pleasure out of anticipating an unfavourable report. Will he explain how he intends to defend that attitude of anticipatory pleasure at what he seems to think will be shown as the shortcomings of that scheme
§ Sir P. Macdonald
Believe me, I am not pleased about the facts. Why should I be pleased? When that scheme was introduced to this House by the Minister 2053 of Food I supported it. I am only too sorry that it has been bungled as it has been. 1 could not be more sorry than I am at the way in which it has been handled by the Government.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
Yes, we shall see. I am all in favour of Imperial development, even if in the initial stages it is costly. I was certain that the groundnuts' scheme would open up territory and provide essential commodities for our daily livesfats and so on—and I supported it in this House and outside. But when the story is told I do not think we shall hear so much about Socialist planning because it will be the most awful exposure of planning ever heard—and not planning by private enterprise, which was taken away from the job.
I end as I began. I did not intend to speak in this Debate, and I hope that have not upset those who had intended to and had come prepared to speak. However, I trust that I have said enough to refute the utter stupidity of the speech of the hon. Member for Devonport, who tried to uphold Imperial Preferences and Colonial development while at the same time charging the Conservative Party, of all people with its neglect. For centuries the Conservative Party has upheld the British Empire against attacks by people like the hon. Member and his family. That is why I intervened today. I want to hear from the Colonial Secretary what he has to say about the charges which have been made against us, but which ought to have been directed at the Government.
§ 2.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
After some of the fatuous and irrelevant incoherencies of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald)—which at times made me feel as embarrassed as a glowworm which has proposed to a cigarette end in the dark—let me return to the real point at issue. I consider that his speech had nothing to do with the real issues, which until he intervened had been discussed constructively by both sides of the House, and we had not had introduced the rather bitter personal cut and thrust of debate.
§ Mr. Davies
I cannot give way now. It is not often that I refuse to give way, 2054 but I want to speak for only a moment or two. I will give way at the end if necessary.
We are not discussing Nigeria or the groundnuts scheme but in passing I should like to say that only this week I travelled on a train from the North and a gentleman sitting opposite to me was reading a derogatory article about the scheme in a newspaper. I heard him say, "I wish these papers would get someone who knows something about it to give more constructive reports. I happen to be one of the contractors on the scheme. I know there have been mistakes and difficulties, but this has been the greatest project any Government has undertaken." He concluded with these words, "I hope the Labour Government"—and he was not a Labour man—"will maintain its courage to go on with this scheme, which, in the future, will be a blessing not only to Britain but to the whole of Europe."
I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) raised this Debate. I want to take up a constructive point mentioned by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) and my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). It is the question of inter-island communication and shipping. As Rudyard Kipling said, transport is civilisation, and whatever schemes we in this House put forward, none of them will come to fruition unless we have better shipping to the West Indies.
I should like to refer to the report of the Commonwealth Shipping Committee, which first sat in 1938. Owing to the interruption of the War it only made its report in October or November, 1948. I want to emphasise to the Secretary of State for the Colonies that we do not want to see a return of the old days when reports were pigeonholed and no one took any further interest in them. This report is a constructive report on something which we can do, something which can be done within the legislative capabilities of this House, so as to encourage British shipping companies to take a hand in transport development in the West Indies.
The Report says that in the first place in the West Indian area the provision of transport is difficult now because of geographical factors. Secondly, it points out that the products—fruit, sugar and eventually petroleum—are varying and 2055 seasonal, and all need different kinds of ships. Thirdly, there is no British passenger service between the United Kingdom and the Eastern Caribbean, for instance, to the Leeward Islands, the Windward Islands, the Barbados, Trinidad, Tobago and British Guiana. There is at present—I say this subject to correction—a limited Dutch and French transport system available, subsidised I understand by this Government.
The Report suggests the establishment of a regular passenger line, which should be monthly if possible and ultimately should become fortnightly, with accommodation for some 50 to 75 passengers, the ships to be capable of carrying citrus fruits as well as passengers. The suggestion is made here, and was hinted at, I think, by the hon. Member for Hornsey, that we may be prepared to subsidise British shipping lines in this development. I should like the Colonial Secretary to tell us whether British shipowners have been invited to take an interest in the development of this trade along the lines of those recommendations.
The recommendations which I want hon. Members to note, and about which I wish the House ultimately to press the Colonial Secretary to take action, are those relating to improvements in shipping facilities between the Honduras and the United Kingdom, an extension of the United Kingdom—Jamaican service and, eventually, suitable passenger accommodation in the existing Caribbean services.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
In case there should be any charge of neglect against this side, let me say that for three years I have been pressing for these very services to the West Indies but nothing has been done.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he was the only hon. Member who pressed for action?
§ Mr. Davies
The Colonial Secretary must be fully alive to the urgency of these questions and I hope that we shall be given an opportunity of discussing this Report in the House.
I should like it to be understood by the hon. Gentleman that the government of that country was taken on by us in what I term almost a climacteric in human affairs. Yet we are expected ultimately to 2056 put the country on its feet, to develop the Empire and agriculture and to organise social, economic and health schemes, all within four years. But the Liberal and Conservative governments had charge of this country for some 150 years and it is from them that we have inherited most of these problems of lack of transport and communications in the West Indies.
I hope that encouragement will be given as much as possible to the development of shipping along the lines of the recommendations of the Clement Jones Report, for without those services, as the hon. Member for Maldon pointed out, we cannot develop, amongst other things, our universities. Air transport is too expensive for people in the islands. If we neglect them our competitors, American and others, will beat us in those markets because of their better transport facilities. This question, therefore, is not a party issue but one of social, economic and strategic importance. We should encourage by all the means within our power the development of British passenger and transport shipping services in that area. The Clement Jones Report, at Page 38, deprecates—The lack of cold-storage space at British West Indies ports for fresh citrus fruit awaiting shipment. …which, it argues,is one obstacle to developing the industry.One practical step that could be taken at once is to develop that cold storage space. By so doing we should save fruit and help to overcome the conditions of the slump and the boom by the storage of fruit over a period of time. All these are points to which I draw the attention of the Colonial Secretary and I hope that when he replies he will give to both sides of the House his views on this Report and the prospects of undertaking these developments in the near future.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)
I am not surprised that hon. Members opposite feel rather uncomfortable in Debates of this kind. They have always posed as great champions of the Empire but, although there were several days' notice of this Debate, for a large part of our discussions only two hon. Members have been sitting opposite. It is no good their posing and continuing to pose in that way if when these subjects are debated in 2057 this House, as they all too seldom are, hon. Members opposite have not sufficient interest to attend and put forward their points of view. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald), it is true, did come in more than half way through the Debate, but he made what I thought was one of the most deplorable speeches I have ever heard on a Debate on the Colonial Empire.
§ Mr. Crawley
I think that when the report of the Debate is read, there will be no doubt about which way it has gone. I would make one comment on the hon. Member's speech. He was apparently deprecating planning in the Empire, I suppose, therefore, he is at the same time throwing overboard all the carefully laid schemes in which such a large part was played by his own Colonial Secretary, all the 10 year plans for the colonies, which are all Government plans and are assisted by this Government. Before he made his speech, I had understood there was general agreement in this House and between the parties on that matter.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I certainly upheld all the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. Not only did I uphold it, but when I came back from the West Indies I very strongly recommended in my report to the House that the assistance should be continued for another 10 years, because the war had intervened, and that was done. I am wholeheartedly in favour, as is everyone on this side of the House, of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, If that were not so, there would not be such an Act. But I deplore the planning of the Socialist Government during the last three years.
§ Mr. Crawley
I suggest that the hon. Member should not make such large generalisations about the evils of planning. In fact, the first development plans were made by the Labour Government in 1929. Apparently, the hon. Member tried to maintain that many primary producers in Jamaica were not in favour of, or were not interested in, bulk buying, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) pointed out, about 90 per cent. of producers of sugar, bananas and other things in the West Indies were in favour of bulk buying—
§ Mr. Crawley
The hon. Member has interrupted a great deal and I cannot give way again, as there is not much time. This fact should be made known over and over again in this House. Another point mentioned by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) is very important. He asked my right hon. Friend whether he was sure he was paying as good a price for sugar as the world price. When I asked the hon. Member to say what that price was, he said that it was the price normally paid for sugar. The fact is that there is no such thing as a world price for sugar. The countries which buy a vast proportion of the sugar of the world, the countries of Europe and the United States of America, buy at highly protected prices from Cuba, the Philippines and the Islands of Hawaii, and Europe pays highly protected prices for sugar made from sugar beet.
What has been called the world price for sugar is the dumping price of surplus sugar left over when the main consumers of the world have had what they want. I ask hon. Members opposite whether they advocate that we should pay the West Indian producers what is normally known as the world price for sugar. It is a very important point. The hon. Member for Hornsey seems to suggest that that is what they advocate. If so, it would involve the West Indies in a reduction of £5 per ton for sugar. I can only believe that the hon. Member made the remark hoping to score a party point and in entire ignorance of the facts of the situation.
I wish to raise a point which will often be raised in coming colonial Debates. I think hon. Members opposite know that there can be no proper colonial development without underwriting the prices over a long period for primary producers as we do in this country. I am sure that, whatever they like to say now for electoral purposes, they would have to continue such a policy were they ever in power again.
We have to do much more than that. If we are to take advantage of the offer which Mr. Truman has made to help us in developing these tropical territories, we have to begin to gear their production and their whole economy into the economy of Europe and of the Western 2059 Hemisphere. European intervention in these tropical countries has in so many cases, mainly through ignorance and hurried development, resulted in serious despoliation of the soil, which is continuing. The fact is gradually being learned that the circumstances in which the soil in these tropical areas can be cultivated are much different from those in the temperate zone; that there are, in fact, only certain crops which can, with our present knowledge, be grown there. If the area of the temperate zone continues to produce as many synthetic products to take the place of tropical products as is the case today, we shall not, even with bulk purchase, be able even to maintain the standard of living at what it is today in most of those countries.
I could give a long list of synthetic products, which, if they are further developed, will knock the bottom out of the market for many of the products which the tropical countries produce, and which are the only products they can produce. Rubber is an immediate example. Sugar from sugar beet in Europe is another. We produce such sugar far less economically than the sugar cane countries do. There are all the plastic products, dyes and quinine, and an almost innumerable list of products which the countries in Europe and America are producing synthetically, the expansion of the production of which—usually far less economically than the production of the natural product in tropical countries—if allowed to continue, will cause the market for colonial countries to disappear.
It is no use our saying that we intend to develop the territories of colonial peoples and raise their standard of, living if at the same time we adopt an autarchic economic policy which leads us at a much greater economic cost, to produce substitutes for the only things which those territories can sell us. Consideration of this problem, which must be on a very broad scale, is most important for the next ten years. Only if we are prepared gradually to modify some of our own policies, beginning with rubber in the United States and sugar in Europe, shall we be able to provide any basis for an improved standard of living in those sub-tropical countries. The solution of the problem of over population depends upon that. 2060 In the coming conversations with America on colonial development, of which I hope we shall hear something in the near future, the whole problem of what the tropics can grow and what products in Europe and America should be gradually cut out in order to allow an increased market for this tropical produce will, I hope, be dealt with.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I must apologise for not having been here for much of this Debate, but I have heard sufficient to make it impossible for me to refrain from speaking. If I was not here before the Debate started, I must say that I am following good examples, because this week Ministers have shown the same absenteeism. The other day we had a Debate on Board of Trade affairs when none of the three Ministers involved was here. So at least we can cast stones both ways. I would say to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) that there is a tendency on Fridays to think that the Debate on the Adjournment is likely to last for only half an hour. Often it consists of one speech by the Member raising the subject and 'another by the Minister who replies. However, the number of speakers on this side of the House is now increasing, and I do not think that is a bad showing, considering that only about eight speeches have been made.
I would say, with reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Buckingham, that one lovable characteristic of the party in power is their belief that civilisation and all the virtues of history began in 1945. One would almost think, to hear them talk, that they invented the British Empire and that they invented the social services. One would think they hold a hundreed per cent. interest in human virtue. There are times when the sanctimoniousness of hon. Members opposite makes us on this side of the House quite sick. It runs all through the fabric of their thought and philosophy. I do not expect you, Mr. Speaker, necessarily to agree with that, at least not in public, but nevertheless I believe that it is true.
I would say quite honestly, however, that I welcome the interest that the Socialist Government and Party are showing in the Empire. It is true that theirs is a two-way policy. They are trying 2061 to give it away with one hand and develop it with the other. While it is still dwindling, they are trying to develop it, and I am glad to see it. Nor do I pretend for a moment that the Conservative Party has an unblemished record on Empire development. I thought long ago that we should develop things on a much larger scale than private enterprise could carry out. I believe that while deep down we have a great love of the Empire and a great pride in it, on many occasions we have not had a practical policy. All that I concede most openly.
But we must realise that in this virginal rush of enthusiasm about the Empire the party opposite has made mistakes, such as the groundnuts scheme. It was, no doubt, a splendid idea and a move in the right direction, but it would have been better if they had thought it out a little more clearly and not rushed at it so impetuously. It is going to be a costly business, but, after all, they tried to do something, and we can give them credit for that.
I would urge upon the Socialist Party that it would be a good thing if we could, as we did yesterday, come together as a united House. If we can do that on the question of corruption, surely we can try to come together on the question of Empire development. It is not really a party issue. It is an inheritance from our past and a responsibility which we cannot avoid. I, for one, do not care what methods are used, whether they are Socialist means or Conservative means. If bulk purchasing suits one thing, let us have bulk purchasing, but do not let us have bulk purchasing as a philosophy. Let it be a necessity.
I must say one more word about the party opposite. Between the two wars, especially after the time when Hitler and Mussolini had risen and attracted so much attention, we had a series of Debates. Whenever there was a Debate on foreign affairs, the House was crowded. Whenever there was a Debate on Empire affairs, there were 30 or 40 Conservatives who always took part. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) and myself got to know our speeches so that we could have interchanged them, because we made so many. We both were there all the time. as were many developers of the 2062 Empire, some of them great figures like Sir Henry Page Croft and Mr. Amery. But the absenteeism of the Socialist Party almost reached 100 per cent.
§ Mr. Baxter
No. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. There were Lord Allen, the right hon. Gentleman and a few others; but there was in the Socialist Party a sense of shame, expressed undoubtedly by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his famous speech when he said he looked forward to the liquidation of the Empire. Somehow the fact that there were undeveloped races and backward races under our responsibility seemed to hurt the idealism and conscience of the Socialist Party. They expressed it by almost complete non-co-operation in our Debates. Therefore, if we are to point the finger of scorn, let us remember that, just as in the preparation for the war we had to arm for war in spite of the Socialist Party, so in the development of the Empire we had to do that in spite of the cold detachment of the Socialist Party.
When hon. Gentlemen opposite feel self-righteousness going to their heads and they get a bit dizzy, I ask them to look back over three years. The world and all therein was not created in 1945. The Empire which this Government have a glorious opportunity to develop was made by the sacrifice of the pioneers, by the genius of this country. I urge the Party opposite not to look back upon the past with such contempt and not to be too certain that the three years which the present Government have been in office have done nothing but good to this country. There are many things which are being tested now. We do not yet know what the cost will be. I will not bore the House with the question of the Moyne Commission, the Development Fund, and all the other things done by Conservative Governments.
I had reported to me what was said by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) in connection with the "Daily Express." I ask his pardon for not being here. Apparently it appears that some document was sent from the West Indies and the "Daily Express" or the "Sunday Express" refused to publish it under the orders or influence of the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Foot
I said that the "Sunday Express" printed an attack on the whole system of bulk purchasing and that the head of the Primary Producers' Association in Jamaica wrote a letter to them protesting about this. They failed to print it, and he sent me the letter saying that they had not printed it, that he wanted the facts to be known, and that I had full liberty to make use of the letter.
§ Mr. Baxter
I understood from a colleague on the Front Bench that in some way the Conservative Party came into this. The inference that the Conservative Party had some influence with the "Sunday Express" was interesting. That would be a big scoop for "Crossbencher" this Sunday if it were true. I have no knowledge about it. It may be as the hon. Gentleman says. There are many occasions when I disagree with the actions and the policy of the "Daily Express," as I disagree with those of most newspapers at times; but the hon. Member, who is a former editor in the group, will know that on balance there are few papers more willing to publish a case which goes against them than "Express Newspapers." [Interruption.] There is an example. The hon. Member for Devonport nods and the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) shakes his head. Does the hon. Member for Maldon want me to give way?
§ Mr. Driberg
I was merely saying that I know by long experience just how much of the opposite case they will publish.
§ Mr. Baxter
We must not make this a Shoe Lane controversy. All of us have been in the organisation and we take different views. This is not a hundred per cent. case either way. I am sorry if the "Sunday Express" did this, because it is against their own tradition.
I am grateful that the House has listened to me so patiently. I trust that when next Socialist Party Members 2064 speak on Empire development, as well as other matters, they will be good enough to leave their haloes in the dressing room and not always wear them here, to the bewilderment of our envious eyes.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
Perhaps the House will allow me, as one who has not merely paid a temporary visit or visits to the West Indies, but who actually lived there for 16 or 17 years in my youth, to say how much I have differed from many of the speeches from both sides of the House. It is becoming most serious when Members with practically no knowledge of our colonial possessions start to speak as if they were quite authoritative professors, telling us all about these colonies. when they have only gained their knowledge from reading either a Blue Book or the report of some packed or picked Committee, as is usually the case.
I want to say that the first thing that is required in the West Indies is the proper establishment of the co-operative movement. Instead of the Government trying to run the West Indies through any of these Colonial Finance Corporations, using private business for their development, they should use the democratic cooperative movement. They talk of doing so, but will they do it? We ought not to allow the development of these islands to be placed in the hands of people who went out there only to exploit the people of the Colonies. As for the remarks about shipping, the local shipping can supply all the needs of inter-island transport and all that our shipping can do is to engage in the transatlantic traffic.
§ Dr. Morgan
No. because they have not got the finance.
I am now going to answer the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), who is pretending that the Colonial Office and the Conservative Party knew all about the proper development of the British Empire. I have been propagating these ideas inside the Labour Party for the last 40 years, but could not get anyone in the three parties in the House—there were Liberals then—to take the slightest interest in them. Hon. Members opposite talk about what they have done in the West Indies, but I would urge them to read the evidence, not the Report, of 2065 the Moyne Commission. I was there at the time; indeed, I prepared the evidence of the Trinidad Labour Party for the Commission, based on local information and introducing the general political principles from Great Britain. It was shocking evidence, though we minimised it as much as posible, because we did not want the world to know the way in which past Governments had treated the people in the West Indies. It was shocking and disgraceful to read how the people lacked medical services and suffered under many social and economic disabilities.
I have raised this matter in the House before, but I want to ask the Colonial Secretary again today if he will do something to prevent exploitation by British business interests of the basic industries in the West Indies. Take the case of the island of St. Kitts, where there is a large sugar refinery. Will my right hon. Friend do something to help the people of St Kitts, who suffer from capitalist exploitation by people in Great Britain? Me original private capital of this company in St. Kitts was £3,250 and now it has assets of £750,000. Of the 18,000 inhabitants of this small island, which measures only 10 miles by 22 miles, 16,000, or more than 90 per cent., are directly or indirectly involved in this sugar economy. Last year this watered capital company, not a local company, paid a dividend of 700 per cent. free of Income Tax.
Could not the Government cast their eyes towards this transatlantic area and consider the possibility of nationalising the sugar refinery at St. Kitts at a price fixed by arbitration? Would it not be a good idea to make clear to the people there that, at long last, we propose to save them from this exploitation from which they suffer year by year? I suggest that would be something practical, something real, and a real gesture. I could go on for a long time more, but I do not wish to keep the Colonial Secretary from answering the questions put to him, and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to say what I have said.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I think the Debate has served a most useful purpose, and even if the responsibilities of this House are more limited than they were, I think the Debate will be read with considerable 2066 interest in Jamaica and the West Indies generally, and that a great deal of good will result from the flow of opinion on Jamaican affairs. I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) for introducing this subject for discussion in this House today. I thought that his speech was admirably constructive, very suggestive in regard to constructive purpose, and one which will be of great encouragement to the people of Jamaica.
At the outset, however, I want to put one point to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) who suggested that Colonial development was a somewhat belated discovery by the Labour movement. I should only like to point out to him that there is a great and honoured tradition in the Labour movement in regard to Imperial and Colonial problems. Some of the most stimulating literature on the problems of Colonial administration has been written by people who have been Socialists or who have played an important part in the Labour movement for the last 20 or 30 years. No party has been more stimulating in criticism of administration and policy generally than the Labour Party.
It is largely because of that criticism and the stimulus given to liberal opinion in this country that many reforms have followed in our Colonial territories, and that the work of reconstruction is going on at the present time. It is not that one would wish to assume haloes because obviously, in many respects, it is desirable that Colonial development should be kept out of party controversy. But, on the other hand, I want to say that the contribution which has been made by the Labour movement is not a small one, and that its stimulus, its continuing criticism, and its analysis of the problem account very largely for the widely felt sense of responsibility in this country at the present time.
I would add that it may be an easy taunt on the part of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald) in respect of certain of the policies pursued by the old Liberal Party, but at least that party did make a very considerable contribution in the field of Empire building. They helped to maintain peace throughout the world by the policy that was pursued. There was freedom of access and non-discrimination 2067 in the economic policy that they advocated, and if, in these modern times, a different economic, social and political policy is imperative, that is no reason why we should jeer at the efforts made by the Liberal Party to establish trade, freedom of access and the flow of raw materials from territories in order to enrich our own national life. Modern times demand new policies.
I revert to the subject of Jamaica. We are hampered somewhat in this Debate by the fact that we have made very considerable concessions to Jamaica in respect of responsibility. One of the abiding problems, in the process of transition and transfer of responsibility to a territory, is how far is it legitimate for the British Parliament to intervene? How should those charged with responsibility by the British Government in respect of policy, direct and intervene in the management of the affairs of such territories? I submit that sometimes it is a very difficult task which we impose on our Colonial Governor, Sir John Huggins, in trying to permit of no pressure which would in any respect undermine the self-reliance and growing responsibility of the people in Jamaica. We have, nevertheless, tried to help the developing life of Jamaica in a number of practical ways.
We sometimes, perhaps, grow a little tired of the idea of partnership, but at least we are able to render some important services to the people of Jamaica, and also the Colonial Office can be of great assistance by making available certain kinds of essential service on which the future growth and development of the economic and social life of the island depends. But the problems of Jamaica are the problems of the West Indies as a whole. That is to say, there is the fundamental difficulty of finding a permanent economic solution to the difficult problems in that region. Secondly, there is the complicated social problem created by a considerable population which is outstripping the economic basis on which good life depends, and there is this problem of unemployment and underemployment.
We have, therefore, basically to solve this problem of how to stretch the economic resources sufficiently to meet this rapidly increasing population, and at the same time maintain a high standard 2068 of social services in order that good life shall be possible. Of course, it can be argued that there has been a great deal of neglect in the past; but while greatly conscious of the responsibilities of Britain in helping in the development of the West Indies, I do at the same time want to stress, now that the people of Jamaica can enjoy a real degree of responsibility, that a great deal depends on their own initiative and enterprise in building up the social life of the people of that country in order that a good life shall be possible for all. Too frequently we neglect the other side of the picture when we are stressing our own responsibilities and obligations to these people.
One hon. Member said that a solution of the economic problems of Jamaica must be difficult; he said because the respective territories of the West Indies are so small, without some bringing together of these territories the solution of certain economic problems must prove impossible. One of the reasons why we are most anxious to promote federation is that the economic and social problems of the individual territories in the West Indies can never be solved on the basis of their narrow frontiers. One has to pool those resources if there is to be anything like a reasonable standard of efficiency and economy in the work of the respective services which are necessary for social and economic development. Accordingly, we are actively engaged in trying to encourage the various Governments of our territories in the West Indies to face this problem of federation and to see in governmental grouping some alleviation, at any rate, of some of the problems which afflict them just now. We are helping in a number of directions, as has been said this afternoon.
I have not the time to give very much detail as to the way in which practical assistance is flowing from this country and I shall content myself with a number of generalisations. First, there is the assistance which is being given under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1945. Out of the moneys available under that Act Jamaica has received an allocation of no less than £6½ million. Accordingly, Jamaica has prepared a ten-year programme on the basis of an expenditure of something like £20 million. Therefore, the development plans in Jamaica are not plans which are being supported only by the British taxpayer; the people 2069 of Jamaica themselves are making a substantial contribution. Obviously there must be the corollary that if the people are making so big a contribution, then it is through their institutions that the planning and control of these schemes must to a great extent lie. Of that sum of money, no less than £4¼ million will be devoted to public health. A fair number of new housing schemes have already been started. No fewer than 45 schemes are concerned with water supply, to the cost of £1¼ million, and of course a great deal of attention is being paid to preventative and curative medicines and to the building of a few new hospitals.
In the field of education to which reference has been made the basic problem again is teacher training and suitable buildings in which teachers can work. Although it may be that we were possibly open to criticism in regard to the technical training of some of the ex-Service, men received in this country, we feel that in the growing economic life of Jamaica it is imperative that there should he some trade and technical instruction and accordingly plans have been laid for technical and trades schools.
In a moment I shall say something about communications, shipping and the rest, but we must accept the fact that the basis of the economy of Jamaica is agriculture. There are a few minerals and it may be that certain ancillary industries can be established, but it is essentially in agriculture that the prosperity of Jamaica will lie. It is here again that considerable attention must be paid by the local government. Already some important soil conservation schemes are under way and better methods in agriculture are being taught, credit facilities are being opened to the people in the villages, water supplies are improving, amenities for rural life are also receiving attention and as has been pointed out, we are trying to secure for the producers of Jamaica certain markets for their goods and the purchase of their products at a fair price.
Here I should like to give, with all the emphasis at my command, the completest support to the view which has been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) in the importance which he attaches to bulk purchase. It is of immense importance to the producers of Jamaica and, indeed, of the other West Indies that such a system 2070 should be fully worked out. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to make a pronouncement at the end of last Session in which he made it clear that, so far as British Government policy was concerned, he would be attracted to the creation of long-term contracts in the hope that Colonial producers could go ahead with capital developments, with reasonable certainty in regard to markets and prices.
That is the position which the Government would seek to take: to give the utmost encouragement to producers to group in their associations and for the local government, as it has already done, to maintain the system of purchases. The Government machinery available for the discharge of that particular function and proper marketing, should be in a position to give reasonable assurances that if capital is sunk in development in order to assist the Western world in particular to meet shortages which encumber our economic recovery at the present time. If that is done, the producers can look ahead to a long period and should be able to consolidate their production.
It is in these fields that the British Government here can give a great deal of help. Not only that, but we have been trying to give encouragement in regard to the solution of some of the problems which have overtaken Jamaica in recent years. We are all familiar with the ravages of the Panama and leafspot disease of bananas, and how a production of something like 27 million stems just before the war has been reduced to something in the neighbourhood of six, seven or eight million. By research, a new kind of banana has been produced—the Lacatan—and there is every hope, particularly as the Minister of Food has undertaken to purchase the crop which can be produced of this disease-resisting banana, that until the solution of the Panama and leafspot disease has been found, this new kind of banana will take its place and find a ready market.
There is also the effort being made to found new industries. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) that it is important that, where possible, we should build up both agricultural and economic development on the basis of the free co-operation of 2071 the peoples in the industries. That is not always possible, particularly where we are most anxious to press on with certain new development plans. The chairman of the Colonial Development Corporation is at the moment in the West Indies discussing the possibilities of founding new industries or stimulating some of the industries at present there which are now languishing, and I have before me a list of some of the big projects which are contemplated. I would point out, however, that one cannot expand the field of industry too much by the various schemes which are economically practicable in the West Indies at present.
In order to meet the problem of unemployment and under-employment a great deal of new enterprise is going forward. I have also a list of new ancillary industries, but I shall not weary the House by reading out the list of factories concerned with the new developments which are going forward. There is this basic problem of unemployment which needs to be met, but I am afraid that even with the plans that have been arranged for agricultural expansion, for the work of the Colonial Development Corporation and the projects they have in mind, and for the new industries which are being encouraged to start in Jamaica, we cannot hope to increase the amount of new employment in order to come anywhere near to coping with the vast increase in population.
That brings me to certain aspects of unemployment and under-employment referred to by my hon. Friend. Basically there is the problem of population, and it is no good trying to run away from the social menace which this problem creates for the West Indies. Something must be done to stimulate public opinion in the West Indies in regard to family planning, otherwise all our efforts in the economic and the social fields will be defeated. That, again, is a point which I cannot elaborate here.
§ Mr. Gammans
This is a very important question. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the efforts being made to encourage family planning, does he mean that the Government are going to start a campaign for birth control? Exactly what does that phrase mean?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I know that this matter is one of very great delicacy, which possibly arouses a great deal of religious feeling. I merely point out that public opinion in these territories needs to be aroused in regard to the size of families and the danger of over-population, in order that there may be a social opinion which will bring this problem into control. I did not say that this was the responsibility of Government. I merely indicated that this is a social problem of an extremely threatening character, and unless it is tackled by the people themselves there can be no real solution—
§ It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed without Question put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. R. Adams.]
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Do we understand from the statement made to the House just now that the Government will lend themselves to any proposals in the West Indies or Jamaica to establish some system of birth control?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I have not said any such thing, or anything that can be capable of that interpretation. What I said was that we are faced in the West Indies with a great problem in which the population is outstripping the economic resources of those territories, and if the people are to enjoy a reasonable standard of social living and if their social services are to be maintained, then it is imperative that this problem should be solved, or at least that this question of over-population should be brought into control.
We cannot hope to have any escape from this problem by large-scale emigration to other parts of the world. In the past, Jamaica was relieved to some extent by the ability of Cuba, Panama and the United States to absorb some of the surplus population. That is not the position at the present time. A small section of workers may find employment in the United States under a regulated 2073 scheme, but it is not possible to hope for a flow of any large number of people away from these territories. We have been anxious to find what can be done in this field. It is quite true that the Commission in regard to British Guiana and British Honduras has made recommendations, but as my hon. Friend has said, the number of 100,000 over a period of 10 years will make very little difference to the essential economic problem at all. While we will go full steam ahead with the majority of the recommendations of the Report on British Guiana and British Honduras, we cannot hope to secure for Jamaica for a long time to come, any substantial relief as a result of the application of these recommendations.
We have set up a Committee here to discover to what extent colonial labour can be absorbed into the industries of the country. That work will go forward. We are also giving attention to the possibility of development schemes in Africa and elsewhere, and whether in such schemes there will be openings for skilled and semi-skilled West Indian workmen. That project, of course, presents very considerable difficulties, but it is one which is actively engaging our attention.
The real hope for employment in Jamaica is in the expansion of agriculture, because from the figures I have had before me I cannot hope for a very large absorption of labour into the small and ancillary industries. The success, therefore, of agricultural expansion depends very largely upon our ability to make good the loss in the banana industry. Sugar production has been to some extent expanded, new crops are being introduced and an expansion is taking place also in citrus fruits; but unless we can make good the enormous loss in bananas, we cannot be too encouraging about the future.
We have undertaken insurance schemes against hurricanes and other acts of God. In Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, for example, we adopted an insurance scheme to safeguard sugar producers in such cases. Jamaica was badly hit two or three years ago by the hurricane which demolished about 40 per cent. of its coconut palms. After events of that kind it takes a long time to get back to normal. We are fully conscious of the considerable amount of underemployment in Jamaica. Less than two- 2074 fifths of the field workers are engaged for only two-thirds of the year, which means that for a greater part of the year a big section of agricultural workers are hopelessly under-employed.
Shipping and communications have been referred to. As with all reports of Commissions during the life of the present Labour Government, the greatest attention is paid to the recommendations contained in these reports. There will be meeting in Barbados in a week or so, a conference which will bring into review the whole question of inter-island communications. Since the publication of the Clement Jones Report, we have had many representations from interested firms and people putting forward proposals for overcoming the deficiencies. These proposals have been referred to the West Indian Governments for consideration and, as a result of discussions which have taken place, a conference will meet in Barbados this month to resolve what better can be done. I hope that some, at least, of the difficulties will be largely overcome.
The question was raised of discrimination regarding commissions in the Jamaica Battalion. I am informed that there is no case of an application for a King's commission having been refused. Certainly the records in Jamaica produce no evidence. If, however, such evidence does exist, I should be very pleased to have it and to inquire into it. The Jamaica Battalion, of course, is a colonial battalion and not a normal corps of the British Army, and the commissions of men of Jamaican birth are Governors, or emergency, commissions, and not King's commissions. There have been seconded for service in the Jamaican Battalion officers from the British Army who naturally hold the King's commission. I appreciate the point my hon. Friend has put forward and I can assure him that the whole question of Colonial Forces and the difficulties associated with commissions, is receiving much careful thought.
The point has been put whether it would be possible for Jamaicans to be recruited in Jamaica and brought to this country for training to help augment the Services in this country. As will be readily appreciated, there are very considerable difficulties in that proposal, but we are giving it some attention because 2075 the whole problem of the Colonial Forces is under very careful consideration and we appreciate the contribution they can make to the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth. Certain difficult problems, for instance the cost and so forth, are being discussed.
§ Mr. Baxter
Is the system of differentiating between the King's commission and a Governor's commission widespread in the colonial territories?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
In the case of West Africa, it is possible for a King's commission to be given, but where there is a colonial battalion it is customary for the officers of that battalion to receive the Governor's commission, or an emergency commission arising out of the state of emergency of the war period. It presents very considerable difficulties as my hon. Friend will agree, but we are looking at the whole problem of discrimination and the structure of the Colonial Forces. I can assure my hon. Friend that the suggestion he makes in regard to possibilities over here will receive consideration.
§ Mr. Gammans
If there is no difference in West Africa, why is there a difference in the West Indies? Is it not possible to clear up this state of affairs more quickly? What is the difference between West Africa and Jamaica?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
If the hon. Member had followed the history of the matter, he would know that there has been considerable pressure in this House brought particularly by my hon. Friends that any discrimination in regard to some of the Colonial Forces on the question of commissions should be abolished altogether. The matter was raised on the West African Forces and substantial steps were taken. That is all I can say at the moment, but I wish to give the assurance that all the problems that have been raised in regard to commissions, discrimination and recruitment of Colonial Forces are receiving attention.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Is anything being done in the West Indies to encourage junior organisations for defence, such as the A.T.C. Air Cadets and Army Cadets? Is it not very important that in the West Indies these junior units of organisations should be encouraged in every possible way?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
That opens up another problem. The possibility of securing the allegiance of young men and women in secondary schools to one or other of the local colonial corps receives the active attention of the local government. Here we are concerned with the larger problem of the structure of our Colonial Forces and the question of whether there should be any discrimination between persons born in the Colony and persons who come from outside to take the responsibility of a commission.
I wish further to say how much importance I attach to what my hon. Friend has said about the cultural and social life of Jamaica, and the contribution to that life which is being made by the Jamaica Institute and the British Council. The scene in Kingston is really one of great encouragement, and I would pay tribute to the work done by Jamaica Welfare. I hope that that work will continue for a long time. I also think that the cultural activities associated with the Institute and the British Council are worthy of the fullest support which the Government can give.
I have been asked to speak about the question of encouraging co-operation in Jamaica. The position is that we recently sent our adviser on co-operation to Jamaica to discuss with the local government what further could be done to encourage the co-operative movement. As a result of that a registrar for a new Co-operative Department will, I think, be appointed within a very short time, and there will also be a new Co-operative Ordinance. The movement has already taken root and there is the beginning of a wholesale society. The consumers' side of co-operation has increased during the last few years, and it is the policy of the Government to give the utmost encouragement they can to the growth of co-operation in all its forms, whether on the producers' or consumers' side, or on the thrift side, or whatever it may be.
My hon. Friend made reference to the Lucky Hill experiment with the ex-Service men. I agree completely with his view that settlement along the old lines is altogether inadequate and that something in the nature of communal resettlement must be the basis of future planning. The illustration which he gave is an example of the production of fruit, of vegetables, of cattle, etc., and of how 2077 a group of men can come together with the support and under the auspices of the Government and, by co-operative methods, achieve a substantial measure of success. It will be our policy to give the utmost encouragement that we can.
I have tried to cover most of the points that have been raised. I have probably omitted some of them but I assure the House that although we can only work within a limited responsibility now that Jamaica enjoys a very real measure of responsibility, we shall, within our limits, give all the practical help and assistance that we can. It is not a picture which is altogether depressing. My hon. Friend referred to the beginning of the West Indies University. There we have something that is symbolic, which is being widely supported by the people of the West Indies and which has stimulated a great deal of enthusiasm. It is a hopeful sign. It will be our policy, with the central services which we have created at the Colonial Office, to help forward the progress of Jamaica in every way we possibly can.