§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The main purpose of this short Bill is to improve naval defence arrangements in the British colonial territories and to modernise the Colonial Naval Defence Act, 1931. The House will be aware that Colonial naval forces, whether regular or part time, are raised in the Colonies themselves on their own authority by means of their own ordinances. The Colonial Naval Defence Act, 1931, authorises Colonies, with the approval of His Majesty in Council to provide for the maintenance and use of vessels of war, for the application of United Kingdom enactments regarding discipline, for the liability of members of any forces to service and training in any territory in which the force is raised, and for the forces to become part of the Royal Naval Reserve or the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, but the Act of 1931 applied only to the Colonies. It did not apply to Protectorates or Protected States or Trust Territories, nor does it enable Colonies to act together in raising naval forces in each other's territorial waters.
Obviously these are difficulties in these modern times, when Colonies act together and also when alongside Colonies, contiguous with them, are Trust Territories and Protected States. Uganda is a Protected State and Tanganyika is a Trust Territory and such limitations hamper the creation of those services which they regard as an essential part of defence. Since 1931 there have been developed in the Empire organisations for the better government of groups of territory and for the creation of common services, and there is in at least one case already a common legislature for certain defined purposes, including defence, created from a number of territories, one a Trust Territory another a Protectorate and another a Colony.
The creation of the Central Assembly in East Africa, for instance, which has 1706 some responsibility for the High Commission which is charged with the defence arrangements in respect of East Africa, has not suitable power, so far as the naval aspect is concerned, to undertake its responsibilities in that particular regard. It is important, therefore, that Parliament should give the requisite powers so that where necessary there can be a combination of territories to undertake this kind of defence and that Governments, through the new organs which have been created over regions, may be able to fulfil their responsibilities in regard to this provision.
In the Bill we propose that a number of Colonies may jointly raise a naval force and that the power of raising a force should not be limited to a single Colony. It is also obvious that where territories are too small and their resources limited, sometimes the naval requirements can be better organised by a joint effort of a number of Colonies together. It is something of an anomaly that, in making these arrangements, Protected territories and Trust Territories are not covered by the 1931 Act, The principal Act of 1931 is, therefore, under this Bill made to apply to any territory not forming part of His Majesty's Dominions, but which is a territory in which His Majesty has jurisdiction. It is also necessary, where defence can itself be better organised, that the principal Act should apply to a group of territories enjoying a common legislature with powers to legislate for the defence of that group. Moreover, where such provision for defence is made, the Act should include any inland waters as well as territorial waters. That is to say, in the case of Uganda, where there is Lake Victoria, or Nyasaland with Lake Nyasa, it should be possible for efficient and effective naval forces to operate on those lakes.
There are two other points in the Bill which I should mention. The first concerns the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. It should be possible for any such Colonial force created in this way to form part of any division of these two Reserves, that is, that they may form part of the Royal Fleet Reserve. That was not made plain by the 1931 Act. The second point is really a matter of procedure. Under the Colonial Naval Defence Act, 1931, the Colonial legislature must first provide for raising the force, and only after 1707 approval has been given by Order in Council can it provide, by a further ordinance, for making the members of the force subject to the enactment and to the regulations for the enforcing of discipline in the Royal Navy, for making them liable for service and training outside the limits of the Colony, and for providing that they should form part of the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
After such an Order in Council has been made there has to be a further enactment embodying what is provided for in the Order. We wish to avoid this duplication of enactment and to prevent undue delay in the granting of these powers. It is suggested that by naming the powers of Section 2 (1) of the Act of 1931 in advance of, but subject to, the approval of an Order in Council, the appropriate provisions can be enacted in the Colony in one enactment. Thus the procedure in the Colony can be shortened and simplified. Instead of the matter being dealt with in the legislature by two enactments, one under its inherent powers for raising the force and the latter one for applying to the force the provisions of the Act of 1931, it need only be dealt with once by a single enactment, but no legislation applying the provisions of the Act will have effect unless and until it is approved by His Majesty in Council.
We are anxious to improve our naval arrangements in the various Colonial regions of the world. Particularly in East Africa, in Malayan waters and in various places, the people are eager for new opportunities for securing efficient and effective defence services. During the war some of the Colonial naval forces played a very important part, and were of great assistance to the Royal Navy. We are not suggesting that the present responsibilities and powers of the Royal Navy should be lessened in any way. Rather, we want to create effective supplementary forces, and we wish the Colonies to have the power to see that these services are created as efficiently as possible. As I have said, this is a short Bill. It has already received approval in another place. I have tried to explain its principal purposes, and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)
We on the Opposition benches welcome this 1708 Bill and are glad that the Government have introduced it. This is not the first Bill to be improved in another place, and we are glad that that improvement has taken place. Those of us who had the privilege of serving in the war in the British Navy alongside our fellow-subjects in the Colonies are glad that this Bill will give increased opportunities of Imperial service to many of our fellow citizens in the Empire.
It is the logical successor to the old Colonial Defence Acts of 1865, 1909 and 1931. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, in part it cleans and tidies up the 1931 Act, and it allows for new and changed institutions in the Empire which did not exist in 1931. Above all, it recognises the development of Imperial grouping. It recognises in the existence of joint legislatures which now, by one Act, instead of by the old difficult system of parallel legislation, can create joint naval forces. Secondly, it enables a Colony to operate and have discipline over Colonial forces in the territorial waters of another Colony. Also, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it now applies for the first time to British Protectorates the principle of this Bill.
Lastly, instead of the old and rather cumbersome administrative process, we now have provision for a single Act of the Colonial legislature, and there is no longer any doubt that an Order in Council is not necessary before a Colony can legislate in naval matters, though, of course, that is still necessary before the legislation can become effective. Of the results of the Bill, much the most important from the Imperial point of view is the recognition of Imperial grouping. We have, in East Africa—in Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika and Zanzibar—the East African Central Assembly. As a result of this Bill, to which we wish every success, it will be possible for a single Act of that Assembly to set up an East African Naval Force.
At the moment, when we have just heard about increased provision for the British Fleet our attention is largely turned upon our Imperial naval responsibilities. We wish every success to our fellow-citizens in East Africa, who will for the first time be serving in their own naval forces as part of the Royal Navy, but recruited and disciplined by their own Government, and who will, we believe, 1709 will be based on Mombasa. I hope that when the Minister replies to the Debate he will give us more details of the form which this fleet is likely to take, and some information of the progress which has been made.
As the Secretary of State has said, this Bill will allow an inland territory like Uganda, which is so close to the affections of so many hon. Members, including myself, to join in raising and disciplining a force actually serving in Tanganyikan waters. Let us hope that it will not be long—we should be grateful for information—until a similar force can be created in West Africa. To indicate the many opportunities that lie ahead, there is the defence of Sierra Leone, which played such an important part in the last war. These considerations apply in vital measure to the naval needs of Malaya, Fiji, Hong Kong and other Colonies.
As the House well knows, the British Colonies have in previous years substantially helped the Empire with men and money. All sailors will remember H.M.S. "Malaya," and all of us also remember the enormous monetary contributions by the Colonial Empire to our joint defence in the last war. No less than £14 million was subscribed by the Colonies alone. Large forces also were raised. The local troops raised in the British Colonies increased in number from some 40,000 when the war started to nearly half a million when the war ended. Of this half-million some 15,000 were seamen, most of them, of course, being land forces.
This will give them a navy of their own. In addition to the knowledge that they have subscribed to the Imperial Navy, they will have the ever-present fact of the ships bearing local names, and being manned locally and, possibly, in the case of Hong Kong, built locally—certainly, we hope, serviced locally. That will be an ever present reminder of our Imperial heritage and of our joint interest. We in this House and in the country remember vividly what happened through our temporary loss of sea power in the war and the effect of this temporary loss on British Colonies. Not least was this so in Burma where the tragic consequences of temporary weakness remains in this and future generations as a warning to us.
We wish good luck to all who are to serve in these fleets. We welcome those 1710 of our fellow subjects who will from now on serve in the Royal Navy as members of their own Colonial Forces. They and we can help the British Empire to recover its old position in the world. Together we may once more find the truth of the lesson of Napoleon, that if England sticks to the sovereignty of the seas she may send her ambassadors to the courts of Europe and demand what she pleases.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
No one can cavil at the apparent intent of the Colonial Secretary as contained in the Bill, to further the self-supporting form of government in the Colonies. Alongside all those other provisions in many other directions, industry, welfare and betterment, this Bill falls into its natural place. But with all respect to my right hon. Friend he has not told us very much. In fact, he has told us as little as émerged from the Debate in another place.
As I understand it, the original Bill enabled the Colonial Governments to provide for the maintenance and the use of warships and general Service matters, and now we seek to amend that by enabling the Colonies—and bringing in the Trusts and Dependencies—to make a larger contribution. I am afraid that my own contribution now must be in an interrogatory form. What is the larger contribution that we are to ask the Colonies and the Dependencies to make? The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) commented on the setting up of forces in West Africa, in Fiji, Hong Kong and so on. The question which naturally arises is of what character are these forces to be? There is this point to be borne in mind. If we are to go on with our intention—and it is a very commendable one—of helping the Colonies and the Dependencies to prosperity and self-government, as this Government is already doing, we must watch very carefully that the financial burdens of this Bill, and perhaps other defence matters that may fall to be considered in the near future, will not cripple the programme that the Colonial Secretary envisages.
My first question on the Bill itself is, who will be responsible for the training of these Colonial Forces? I understand from a brief reading of what has 1711 already been discussed, that certain retired officers and ratings of the Royal Navy are to be seconded to help in the training and administration of these Colonial forces. There is this point to be considered; if they are retired men they may not be quite as conversant with up-to-date methods as those who have served in the Navy recently. In regard to the training of the natives themselves, is there to be some form of interchangeability? Are these natives to be permitted to man their own ships? Are they to be permitted to come to this country under a training scheme and to be introduced—I do not suppose in any great volume—to Dartmouth; and will those who are fitted, go to Greenwich and Portsmouth, and other naval establishments, to undergo a sound basic naval training in this country?
What is the programme envisaged in these Colonies. What are the ships to be? What harbour provisions has my right hon. Friend in mind? What are the forms of dockyard development that he envisages and what is the scope of duty? I am rather at a loss to account for the services for which these Colonial forces are intended. Are the activities of these small naval forces to be coastal patrol, or harbour duties or anti-piracy duties in the Far East, or is it intended to expand our overseas naval activities on a full scale basis? Are we to see the development not only of aircraft-carrier stations in the Colonies but the development of a naval air arm, with landing grounds and all the ancillaries, in certain parts of the Colonies? These are important matters. Are we to see the development of completely new submarine stations in the Far East and in certain parts of Africa?
Then one must ask, in view of the proposals in the Bill, and the discussion which has already taken place on it, is the cost of all this to be met by the Colonies? In the circumstances of today I cannot imagine the Colonies being able to pay for the necessary development envisaged in the Bill. Can we say that Uganda, or the West Indies, in their present economic state, can afford to pay? There has been no mention by the Colonial Secretary that this Government is to share the responsibility for the financial burden that will fall on these Colonies and Dependencies. 1712 I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend, when he replies, will tell us something of the financial liabilities that these Colonies and Dependencies are to undertake, and whether it is intended in the future to help them in shouldering their part of the burden and their share of the responsibility.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I hope that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin) will not mind if I follow him, because in point of fact a good many of the things he has raised I shall be discussing and my speech may to some extent dovetail into what he has said. One point he raised was on the question of finance. He will remember that in the main Bill there is provision for this Parliament to vote the money, if necessary, to assist in certain ways in the development of naval activities in the Colonial Empire.
Like every other hon. Member in the House, I welcome this Bill. The only criticism I have of the speech of the Colonial Secretary is that he said it was a short Bill. That is so, but it is a very important Bill. I think it must be realised by the people in the Colonies that we in this House of Commons regard it as a most important Measure. The Colonial Secretary, perhaps inadvertently, put a somewhat wrong interpretation on what this Bill actually has done. I read the original Bill—now the Act of 1931—and the Debate on it, and it appears to me quite clear that many of the main things that this Bill now does were considered by Parliament to have been done by that Measure when it was first introduced. I noticed an interruption by Admiral Beamish who was then a Member of the House and who is the father of a present Member. He asked whether Protectorates were considered to be included. There was no answer from the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. What a pity he did not answer then. This Bill is of great importance. The fact that we are members of a great Empire gives us tremendous strategic advantages if we take note of them and make our preparations carefully. But those very same advantages may turn terribly to our disadvantage if we do not pay sufficient attention to them now.
I should like to know what arrangements it is proposed to make in the form 1713 of a central advisory committee to advise Colonies how best to integrate their forces for the defence of the Empire as a whole. The old story in Aesop's Fables applies here. The sticks when divided were broken; together they were unbreakable. That will always be the story of the British Empire. Much money and effort may be wasted by Colonies under this Bill if they do not have a central, wise, advisory direction from this country. We who have served in the Royal Navy understand and know the Colonies probably better than most people. We know the great affection which the people of the Colonies have for this country. We are sure that if wise advice is offered, it will be accepted and understood. At the moment the Colonies are clamouring to be taken into the secret on the subject of defence. We in this House sometimes clamour about that too, and we seldom get the information we require. In taking the opportunities which this Bill offers, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take the Colonies into his confidence.
We shall be responsible very largely for the training of these Colonial forces. I want to know exactly how we are to tackle that problem. Are we going to give them new and decent equipment? If we do not, a great deal of our effort will be wasted. There must be plenty of good equipment available. It is no use trying to train men with out-of-date stuff. I hope, too, that it will be possible to take large bodies of men, similar to the old R.N.V.R. groups in the days before the war, and give them full training in the British Navy. That would be of great advantage both to ourselves and to them. They would gain a great educational experience. Their minds would be widened by service in the Navy. I am sure that training on those lines would be of great benefit to the defence of the Empire as a whole. If possible, I should like to see ships of sufficient size lent to those Colonies which are large enough to be able to take advantage of them so that training may be given on board ship. From some points of view, that is rather expensive, but it might well be worth while.
It would be excellent if the Colonial navies themselves could take over to some extent the part of messengers of the Empire which the Royal Navy has performed for so long. Then, through 1714 service in the Navy, the men of different Colonies would get to know each other as members of an Empire team. Also on the subject of training, I hope that it will be possible for active service officers and instructors to be loaned to the Colonial navies. The Army has a scheme of that kind in the West African Rifles. Surely the Navy should not fall behind. I should like to see officers and men frequently changed so that an interest and understanding would be set up between the Colonies and the British Navy.
The Royal Navy is becoming ever more closely interlinked with the Royal Air Force. I have not been able to discover whether similar arrangements to those contained in this Bill, have been made with the Royal Air Force. I know that there is an annual Army and Air Force Bill which may cover this, but I should like an assurance on the point. Where defence is concerned the duties of the Forces are closely intermingled. It is no good setting about this business in regard to the Navy only, if the scheme does not include co-operation between the three Services. Aircraft carriers are becoming much smaller. The air is becoming more important to the Navy and in the future we may see the Colonial navies operating small aircraft carriers or, at any rate, constructing seaplane bases. I should like to know whether provision is made to overcome any difficulties which may arise if Colonial administrations have no power to raise their own Air Forces.
I should like an assurance that though this is a small Bill, it goes a great deal further than would appear. I want to hear the Government tell the House that they are taking seriously the question of bringing the great advantages of our Empire to succour this country and the Empire itself in defence. Most of all, I want to hear that the Government intend to take the Colonial Empire into their confidence in this matter and to tell them exactly what is expected of them.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)
I agree with much that was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland). I agree with him particularly when he denies the suggestion which appeared to be made by the Front Bench, that this is a very little 1715 unimportant Bill. I agree wholeheartedly with him and with the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin)——
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I hope that nothing I have said suggested that the Bill was unimportant. I said that it was a very short Bill, but it is extremely important.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I am extremely glad to have that assurance. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not use those words earlier. Now he has told us that this is a very important Bill. It was introduced in another place as being a small Bill, but that statement was rather revised later by the Minister, who admitted that it was a Bill of some importance.
We are entitled to a good deal more explanation from the Minister when he replies, about the basic policy behind this extension of Colonial naval power. The Bill itself is not quite as modest as the Minister seemed to me to suggest. It is called:An Act to make further provision for the naval defence of overseas territories.That is not anything which is minute and merely consolidating. It makes further and wide provision, and we are entitled to know more about it. As the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle said, it would be something of a slight to the Colonies if we passed over this Measure too lightly and too easily. I think the Minister referred to building up Colonial naval power, but he really told us very much less about the Bill as a whole than we can learn by reading the Debate in another place.
Apparently, what we envisage is the building up of naval forces in various spheres of the world. East Africa has been mentioned in particular, and I am not quite sure where we are getting to in all these matters. It seems to me that we are to have the development of warships on Lake Nyasa and Lake Victoria, and that a naval force is also to be built up in West Africa. There is also talk of the Malayans building up a naval force at Singapore, with assistance from this side of the world; and there is to be a naval force at Fiji, if there is not one there already. Hong Kong and the West Indies are also mentioned.
All these things taken together amount to something which is very far from 1716 being unimportant, and I want to know where we are getting to in this matter, what is the policy in regard to the building up of these Colonial naval forces, and, indeed, how that policy is to be integrated into the Colonial and naval policy of the Government in the widest sphere. I am rather alarmed where all this is leading, because we were assured in the Debate in the House of Lords, if we have not been here, that there is to be the most up-to-date equipment of these forces. If that means all the most objectionable and undesirable features of naval warfare, if we are going to have natives linked up with submarine warfare and deep-sea fighting——
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain what he means by "natives"? I am a native of this country.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
The residents in the various Colonies, if that is preferred. I, too, am a native, and I do not mind a little bit, but I am surprised that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is so touchy about it.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
We are told that there is to be the most up-to-date equipment, and the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) has referred to the possibility of naval aircraft, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin) mentioned landing grounds. These are matters which we want to hear more about and. certainly, in the Debate in the House of Lords, we were given to understand that the latest technical developments will be brought into play in regard to these Colonial naval developments.
There is also the question of cost. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford assumed that all the cost was to be borne by the Colonial Governments, although I think that is not the case. If I read the House of Lords Debate correctly, it certainly seems that a degree of the cost will fall upon them, but I gathered that the cost of equipping new naval units will be borne by this country, although I should be glad if the Minister would further enlighten us on that subject. We ought to know something about the cost to be borne by this country and what 1717 part will be borne by the Colonial Governments. Those Governments themselves will also want to have this information.
With regard to the developments in Fiji and elsewhere in the Pacific, Hong Kong is involved there, and, in a secondary way, Singapore. We are kept very much in the dark in regard to our policy in the Pacific generally, and more particularly with regard to our naval policy. I have tried on more than one occasion to get some glimmer of light or information from the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Defence in regard to our policy in the Pacific, and I am rather alarmed about it. At a recent Commonwealth Conference, I tried to get the information, and I asked our friends from the Commonwealth to tell me their views on this matter. I tried to get the delegates from Australia and New Zealand to talk, but I could get nothing from them. It may be that they also are very much in the dark, because we are very elusive in regard to our policy, and that is a bad thing. We ought to know more about it.
What did emerge quite clearly from that conference was that our friends from the Commonwealth—Australia, New Zealand, and, indeed, India—seemed to feel that we were relying very much on American naval power in the Pacific. That may be necessary, as has been suggested in other quarters; I do not know whether it is or not, but we should have some more information about it from the Government. Certainly, it is closely related to this matter of building up in these Colonial territories our own local naval forces. We should not be left in the dark whether our new Colonial naval forces are to develop in isolation or are to develop with the backing of the Royal Navy or that of the American Navy.
We ought to have more information on that point, particularly in view of the undoubted naval strength of America in the Pacific. I have in mind particularly the strategic areas of the Marshall Islands, the Marianas and the Carolines, which were formerly Japanese mandated islands, and which are now specially protected under Article 83 of the Charter. That is only one indication of the enormous American naval power in the Pacific, and, if we are to take these steps of building up Pacific naval bases, 1718 we should know more about it. Incidentally, in the Debate in the House of Lords, we were informed that our own Navy will always be suitably disposed to safeguard the Colonies. That seems to indicate a line of thought in regard to the Pacific as well as elsewhere, and we ought to be told more about it. The Governments of the Colonies will also expect to know something about it.
Finally, although this Bill is in some ways a small matter, it is in other respects very important, and, in asking for this information and in expressing fears where this Colonial naval policy is to lead, I yield to none in my admiration of what was done by the Colonial forces in the last War. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) expressed his admiration for the support which they gave us, and I entirely agree with him. But we must legitimately ask for a good deal more information on where our policy is leading, and, particularly, how it is to be integrated with our general naval policy, whether in the Pacific or elsewhere.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain) seems to be very alarmed about this Bill, and I am not quite certain whether he is in favour of it or against it.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
May I make it quite clear that, although there is nothing wrong with the terms of the Bill, I do ask that the background policy behind it should be more clearly explained?
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
There are many questions which will no doubt be answered by the Minister who is to reply, but the general policy surely is—and there can be no doubt about it—that we desire and shall be very grateful for the help of the Colonies in rendering such assistance as they can on the general question of the naval defence of the Empire. It has been said that this is a very small Bill, but I would reiterate that it is a most important Bill as regards the future policy of our Imperial defence. It is going to have a beginning now, but no one can foresee how far it will spread, or how important will be the units which the Colonies provide. We hope they will be most important, and I am sure that, as time goes on, they will render more and 1719 more assistance in Imperial defence in general. We know what immense help the Colonial Empire gave us in the two great wars. We also know what help we received from the Colonies in peacetime. The fact has already been mentioned, as far as Malaya is concerned, that it presented the magnificent battleship "Malaya" to this country. It also gave an immense donation towards the construction of the base at Singapore. Other Colonies, also, have made contributions in kind to help Imperial defence.
We are now going farther in this Bill. The position is being changed, and a very good thing too. The Colonies have recognised their responsibility for doing all they can to assist in Imperial defence, and in order to do that they will now create naval units of their own, individually or in combination with each other. They will thereby create real naval forces in peace time so that training can be carried out, and so that, if war should unfortunately come, they will be ready to take their place and to play their part in Imperial defence. It has been asked what advice is being given to the Colonies as to what they should do and how they should do it. There can be no suggestion that each Colony will go off on its own and do this or that. No doubt they will work in the closest co-operation with the Imperial Government in that respect.
The question of training is one of the utmost importance. The Minister gave the House very little information about training, equipment, and so on. I am sorry he did not give a great deal more. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) said that he hoped active service officers would be employed. It is of the utmost importance that special officers should be chosen for this work. They should not be too old but young men, able and keen on their work, and to educate and control the Colonists in the naval work they will have to carry out. I should like the Minister to tell us what equipment is to be provided for the Colonies. It is absolutely essential that they should have the latest equipment. They should have craft of all kinds necessary for their particular work, minesweeping, etc. It is no good their being trained merely in barracks ashore; they must have practical training at sea in order that they may become 1720 efficient in the work to be carried out by them in time of war.
Pay and conditions of service must be such as will attract the very best recruits. We want the best officers and men we can get. I hope that the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horncastle with regard to training will be carried out. As in the R.N.V.R., the units of these Colonies should be sent on board H.M. ships. When I was at sea, we constantly had R.N.V.R. units coming aboard for a fortnight or three weeks training. Those officers and men took part in the work of the ship. It did them an immense amount of good; it increased their efficiency, and it increased the liaison between those in the R.N.V.R. and those in the Regular Service. As far as the Colonists are concerned, it is of even more importance that those in the Royal Navy and those in the Colonial Navy should get together in that way. In that respect, of course, the training can be carried out on board the ships at the various stations. I hope that will be done because it is a very important thing. I also think it is important that there should be repair bases provided by these units in order that they may carry out running repairs, docking, and so on.
From a strategical point of view, the formation of these naval units is of tremendous importance. These units and their bases on the West and East coasts of Africa—Singapore, Hong Kong, the West Indies, and the Pacific—are of the utmost importance, scattered as they are all over the world, and, in my opinion, it becomes of more and more importance that the Colonies should work up these naval units of their own in view of the fact that the British Empire is being so drastically and quickly reduced. The more it is reduced, the more important it is that the Colonial Empire should play its part in Imperial Defence.
We all welcome this Bill; it is of transcending importance. It is the first step towards the Colonies rendering practical assistance in time of peace, so that they will be ready in time of war. I congratulate, and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will congratulate, the Colonies on having undertaken this direct responsibility—and a very heavy responsibility it is—for assisting in the general Imperial Defence of the Empire.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
I join with the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain) in asking further questions about the broad strategical aim of this Bill, because we had an exposition by the Secretary of State for the Colonies which seemed to be more metaphysics than naval strategy. I should like to know whether the authorities in the Colonies have been suitably consulted about this Bill, and whether the Secretary of State for the Colonies has taken advantage of Earl Baldwin's presence in London at the present time to find out whether this Bill is in any way necessary for the future safety of the Leeward Islands.
I, like the hon. Member for Norwood, would like to have some idea of who is to incur the financial obligations, and what are the financial obligations which we are incurring under this Bill. Is what is visualised under the Bill to be paid for partly by the Colonies and partly by His Majesty's Exchequer, and to what extent are the citizens of these Colonies to be taxed for the purpose of providing this potential navy? Judging from what I have heard and read about the social conditions in the Leeward Islands, I suggest to the Secretary of State for the Colonies that at the present time those islands are in no way fitted to incur further expenditure on a potential navy. I suggest, too, that with our commitments, as shown in the alarming increase of the Naval Estimates which have been submitted today, instead of holding out prospects for further expenditure for the Navy by this country we should be undertaking drastic reductions.
I want to know whether hon. Members who had distinguished careers in the Navy are not thinking too much in terms of the last war. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) talked about naval power and went back to the time of Napoleon, but surely in the years 1949 and 1950 we have to face an entirely new theory of strategy. Why is it necessary to spend money in defence of Sierra Leone? Who is proposing to attack Sierra Leone?
I have heard the defence of our various strategical conceptions repeatedly in this House, and it is always on the assumption that the next enemy is going to be the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. 1722 But nobody has yet argued that the U.S.S.R. has anything like a navy which is likely to be of danger to Sierra Leone. Are the natives of Sierra Leone to be asked to tax themselves in order to fight Leninist Communism? Is there not far more danger to the natives of Sierra Leone from disease, poverty and hunger? Why should we say to the natives of Sierra Leone, "Go on; build a big navy; it is just the sort of thing that is needed in the world of today, because we had something like it in the time of Napoleon"? Take Fiji. Why do we need to encourage the natives of Fiji to embark on new naval expenditure? I see in the statement on the Naval Estimates provided today, that the last of the Japanese Navy has been liquidated.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
The hon. Member is confusing the Debate with the Debate on the Naval Estimates. He must not go too wide.
§ Mr. Hughes
I have raised these points about various Colonies because they were dealt with by previous speakers. I want the Under-Secretary, if he is to reply, to tell us exactly why we need to encourage naval expenditure in Fiji, Uganda, Hong Kong and the West Indies. We were told about the temporary loss of sea-power during the war, but as far as I can make out these are preparations against some sea-power which is nonexistent. I could understand increasing expenditure in the Antarctic, but I do not know of any great Power which has a navy that wishes to attack Sierra Leone or any of these other Colonial territories.
The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) asked, quite reasonably, what advice we are giving to the Colonies. I say that the advice of the Government to the Colonies should be, "Spend your money on things which are needed." We should not urge backward peoples, who need all their budget expenditure for education and for dealing with problems of that nature, to spend their money on a navy which is not required on any facts of the present situation.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Before the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) sits down, may I explain that on the question of the advice given by the Government to the various Colonies I was asking in regard, of course, to what 1723 naval units they should provide and in regard to training and ships. It had nothing to do with the general questions he has raised outside naval defence.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
We all welcome this Bill, and I think the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will forgive me if I say that I am quite certain it will be welcomed by all Colonies, even Sierra Leone and Fiji, because there are certain advantages in being associated as individual Colonies in a great scheme of this kind. As far as co-ordination is concerned, there is, of course, the Overseas Defence Committee, and I take it that this Committee will be the body which will be made responsible for co-ordination of effort between the various Colonies. Naturally, contact between that Committee and the Chiefs of Staff Committee is very close. I think it is, and I hope the hon. Gentleman, in his reply, will tell us that it is, because it is a point which has been made in various parts of the House and because nobody wishes to see the idiosyncracies of one particular Colony pressed to such an extent as to spoil the unity of the whole.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary a question upon which I hope he will consult with his colleague the First Lord of the Admiralty. Good as is this Bill, I want to know whether it can be made to include the question of sea cadets. Not very long ago I was in West Africa, where I had an opportunity of meeting some of the leaders of the Boy Scout movement and the junior movements generally in those Colonies. They said it was of the greatest importance that we should try to provide for these lads in the Colonies a form of technical training which I believe the Services can give. It is very unfortunate if, in introducing this Bill, we have forgotten the youth side of the problem.
If I may turn to the Naval Estimates for one moment, in reference to this point, I note that in Vote 7, grants are to be made by the Admiralty, but they are apparently limited to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I want to know whether an Amendment could be made to this Bill to make quite sure that under 1724 Clause 1 (4), power will be given for contributions to be made in accordance with the wishes of the Legislative Councils in the separate Dominions so that technical training can be given to boys which will encourage them, as they are encouraged in this country, to serve efficiently at sea. If that is done, I believe we shall make a tremendous contribution to the assistance of those devoted men who are out there trying to help with the education of youth. It is pathetic now to see little troops of sea scouts, sometimes with an African who served in the Navy or Air Force, trying to introduce those things which are common to boys all over the world. They want to go to camp and to mess about in boats. They want to do all these things. I found two camps established not far from Lagos which Were crowded with African boys. They told me they had asked the Admiralty for an old sloop or something of the kind as a sort of headquarters, but it had always been denied.
We have to do something for youth. Do not let us be mean about it. Not only should we send out technical people but we should send out equipment which interests them, radar and radio for instance, to enable these boys to take their places in the Mercantile Marine. In all this talk of training for defence we are training men to be technicians in a way which will be extremely useful in their careers. I have taken advice and I am afraid that this Bill, as drafted, does not permit assistance to be given to the Colonial youth. If so, that is a tremendous drawback to the Bill. There must be an attempt to put it right on Report stage and, knowing the right hon. Gentleman's interest in these matters, I am quite sure he will see that is done.
The next point I wish to raise with the right hon. Gentleman concerns what contacts, if any, are being made with the shipping companies which trade out to the various Colonies. One of the things which would help these boys very much would be that, after they had attained a certain proficiency, they should be taken into these ships to learn the business of seamanship. When they come to ports in this country, do let the House see that they are properly looked after. It would be a good way of making contacts and recruiting boys for promotion in vessels of the companies 1725 and concerns which are trading with the Colonies.
It is also very important that depôts should be established at suitable strategic points throughout the Colonial Empire. In some cases this has already been done, but what is particularly important is to make individuals in various Colonies feel that they are not only part of the Colony but are part of the general scheme, and that they as individuals can be brought in with confidence to understand what it is all about. No harm will ever be done by telling people what all these things are about, but a great deal of suspicion can be produced by secrecy and pulling down the blinds when it is not necessary.
This is a great Bill, and we should go forward with it, for if we miss this chance we shall be greatly at fault. We are inclined to be rather too anxious over problems of security in these matters, especially when dealing with people who, perhaps, are not as advanced as some of us in this country think we are. They are people who wish to learn and are longing for these opportunities. I suppose there has been nothing of more importance within the last 15 or 25 years than the educational advance of our fellow citizens in the Colonies. Some of us, perhaps, think that the speed has been almost too great, but, at any rate, great as the speed is, it does need help and direction. One of the ways in which that can be done is by a form of discipline to youth which youth accepts as part of the game. That is why, if we can do that, we shall be training up—
§ Sir R. Glyn
I am delighted to hear that the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is all a game, but that is not the impression that some of us have got. If it is a game, let us be able to play it with the same efficiency as some of the hon. Member's friends who regard it as more than a game. We have reached a stage when I believe we can do something to encourage technical education and help youth so that they can go forward to the next stages—to the Fleet Reserve, the Naval Reserve and all the openings which exist. Let them feel that we want them to come in and play their part fully without any question of colour, creed or anything else.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I like this Bill. In fact, I like anything that strengthens the Empire. We are pouring money into the Empire to provide food for ourselves. We should protect the Empire with all our peoples. There are one or two points to which I should like to refer because I have been in those parts fairly recently. I have had discussions with statesmen in Africa, and I should like to draw the attention of the Minister to Zanzibar. If Zanzibar were to fall into the hands of any enemy, it could be a terrific danger to the military arrangements which we are now making in Kenya.
§ Mr. Follick
That is a fair question; there are great movements at present in Asia. Within the next 25 to 30 years the Indian Ocean may very well become of more strategic importance than the Atlantic. That is the reason I am talking about potential enemies.
The Minister has mentioned Mombassa, but he has not mentioned Mikindani, which is a port now in contemplation, and which may be of the greatest importance in African development. There are a couple of important Colonies which were not mentioned and which will probably become of great imperial importance in the future. I refer to Mauritius and the Cocos Islands. If we are to establish an airways service between Australia and South Africa it will have to be over the Cocos Islands and Mauritius. At least one of those Colonies is hardly known; in fact, if I were to ask many hon. Members about the Cocos Islands they would not know anything about them. These two Colonies may become of the utmost importance on account of aviation. I therefore beg the Minister to give his attention to the importance of strategic aviation developments in that part of the world.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
As the hon. Gentleman seems to think that we are all ignorant about the Cocos Islands, may I ask him whether he knows that there has been a telegraphic station there for 25 years and that I have visited it?
§ Mr. Follick
I did not say that all hon. Members were ignorant about those places. I am pleased to see that we are making preparations for naval development on Lake Victoria. There has already been one naval battle—a very important battle—fought on an African lake in the 1914–1918 war, and there is no reason why a battle may not be fought there at some future time. We are going to build up one of the most important hydraulic systems in the whole of Africa at Owen Falls, and it may very well be that at some future time, we shall have to defend that part of the world. We should not merely consider what enemies we have now; that is not the way to build up our protection. We have to look forward 25, 30 and 50 years, because it takes that time to develop one's defences.
§ Mr. Follick
At the moment, with the Atlantic Pact and with other sorts of pacts, it looks as if we are going to have enemies.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must point out to hon. Members that this Bill is really authorising Legislative Councils of the Colonies to contribute to the naval defence of the Empire. There are other subjects which are somewhat germane to that, but the hon. Gentleman is going rather wide now.
§ Mr. Follick
I understood that this Bill related to Colonial and naval defence. However, I submit to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think I have already brought out the most important facts I wanted to mention.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I point out that this Bill is:to make further provision for the naval defence of overseas territories?It begins with that categorical statement.
§ Mr. Follick
You have been very lenient with me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. There are a good many other Members who want to speak, but as I have been in those parts so very recently, I thought I would bring this matter to the attention of the House.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
I appreciate that the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) wants to deal with these matters as part of a long-term policy, but I hope he appreciates the fact also that the strength and efficiency of the Royal Navy cannot be brought up to their highest point in a few weeks. That takes many years of training, with hundreds of years of tradition behind them. For that reason, we want to make sure of the naval defence of our overseas possessions against any possible or probable enemy who might come in a year's time, or in 10 years' or 100 years' time.
The interesting thing is that although the Bill is brought in by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, after the Bill has been passed, the Colonial Office will not take such an interest in the situation, as far as I can see, as will the Admiralty. The actual administration of these naval units in different parts of the world will be far more a source of interest from the naval point of view. I fully agree with the numerous questions that have been asked, and I hope they will be answered. I agree with all that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin) said, but I wish he would not bring in those Army expressions. What do we know of "seconded" in the Navy? We have plenty of words in the Navy for everything. Let us stick to them. Apart from that remark, I have no fault to find with what he said.
The different Colonies will be glad to build up manpower for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Naval Reserve, that is, for men who have actually served in merchant ships, and for the Royal Fleet Reserve, of men who have actually served in the Royal Navy. Those men will all come in. In addition to serving in their own countries they will be able to serve overseas as they may be directed. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) brought up the question of sea cadets. That is a movement with which I have been associated for many years. In this country, we allow a total number of 50,000, for which a capitation grant is given, but we have not reached that figure yet. Surely we can raise another 50,000 in our numerous Colonies. There are sea cadet units and branches in practically 1729 all the Dominions and Colonies, as my hon. Friend and I have seen for ourselves, and there are many units which one cannot exactly call sea cadets but which are formed for the purpose of getting young boys and giving them some form of naval training, and, which is far more important, naval tradition.
What is the Navy going to do about all this? As has already been said, we must give them good equipment and good instructors. I fully group myself with those who object to the promise, perhaps rather rashly made and without much thought, that the instructors would be retired officers and men. I do not think that we want a rigid hard-and-fast rule. There might be some retired officers and men who would fit in, but these matters have a psychological effect with the Colonies. When we are making this movement and bringing in this Bill, let us tell the Colonies straight that we will give the very best we have, whether it is in men or material. It works both ways. If we send the younger officers through the Colonies to spend a couple of years as instructors they will come back to the Fleet, after having imparted the latest forms of training to the units, with a good knowledge of what those units can do. I ask that on our part we should send out the very best we have. In return, we should ask that they provide men trained up to the highest pitch of efficiency which our Navy wants and seeks.
I do not think that for a long time to come the ordinary Colonial Forces will be able to send ships far away from their own shores. I remember after the last war that distinguished officer Admiral Field was sent to advise on the protection of the British Empire, as we then called it. His advice to most places was: "Don't be too ambitious, but be sure you keep your doorsteps clean" by which he meant that wherever there was a port there should be a safe passage for any ships that might wish to enter. Certainly there could be no more comfortable thought in the mind of commanders of the Fleet than the happy knowledge that those ports are free for our ships to enter, to refit the ships and to refresh the crews.
The chief duty is minesweeping. We do not want out-of-date methods with minesweeping. Mines are the chief threat 1730 now. Mines will be laid, generally speaking, not from minelayers but from aircraft, going in frequently at night and dropping acoustic mines, magnetic mines, and so on. We need the most up-to-date methods of detecting and sweeping mines out. We need these units to ensure a safe passage being kept in all our ports, and that will be a very considerable contribution. I do not suppose that they will get many ships to go overseas for many years yet. Their next big contribution is manpower. That is where the Bill comes in. We can get men for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and other reserves to the best of the Colonies' ability. On top of that, they can go for training in our own Royal Naval ships. When war comes, as we hope it will not, there will be a pretty solid lot of efficient sailors on which we can fall back and who will help to man our Fleet.
I do not know who is going to reply to the Debate. I see the Civil Lord there with a large bundle of briefs under his arm.—[Interruption.]—A, he is not going to do so. What a pity. The chief question in which we are interested is one which he alone can answer. The Colonial Secretary, I say with due respect to him, gives the regularised and legal position and rather informs us of what might be done. What I should like to know is: What will be done?
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
If I followed the argument of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) correctly, he seemed to be making a case for this Measure out of the fact that it will enable us to provide for the inhabitants of the Colonies, a technical and scientific education which would be extremely useful to them. That appeared to me to be a very long way round to make a short cut. Surely we are not to assume that in order to give to the natives of our Colonial Empire a technical and scientific education we have first of all to create a Navy and then, by means of that Navy, to provide the technical and scientific education. It seems to me that the straightforward way would be to go ahead and expand the technical education which they are now getting, apart altogether from creating a naval force.
In his interesting contribution, my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough. (Mr. Follick) pointed out that we ought 1731 to take a long view of this question and should be looking 25 or 30 years ahead. That is a very long time in these days, in a world where international relationships fluctuate very much indeed. If my hon. Friend looks ahead in his preparations as far as that he may find that by the end of 30 years the Navy he desires to create today to safeguard the Empire has become the Navy which might be used against that very Empire that he wanted to safeguard. He has pointed out that we are pouring millions of money into the Colonies but he did not point out that we have already taken far more millions out of them. If we had acted fairly by the Colonies in days gone by, we might not need to be creating this force now.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) was out of Order in some part of his speech. The hon. Member who is now addressing the House must not fall into the same error.
§ Mr. Follick
May I point out to my hon. Friend that the name of my constituency is not pronounced "Loborough" but "Lufborough"?
§ Mr. Rankin
I would say that the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) put his finger on the heart of the problem: manpower is what we are after. Time and again it has been shown in Debates on the Adjournment that the problem of Colonial manpower is agitating a great many people here. We have lost much of the manpower that we used to have. Now we are seeking new fields of recruitment and are looking to sources which, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) pointed out, are sources that could be more usefully and constructively employed than in building up a navy. We are looking for new manpower.
I said previously in an Adjournment Debate on this subject, that I should have no objection to the recruitment of this manpower if my right hon. Friend would assure me that the people who are to he used for this purpose—the strategic defence of the Empire—will be consulted about the type of policy to be pursued in 1732 the use of these forces. That, to me, is an elementary proposition. We are not, I hope, to put them to purposes which are ours, and about which they are not consulted. If we are to have these forces, if it is necessary to have them, then at least I submit it is equally necessary that we should take the native peoples fully into our confidence, and that we should fully consult them in any policies which involve the use of those forces.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
The Government are very grateful to hon. Members for the cordial way in which they have welcomed this Bill. They believe that the policy they are following with regard to Colonial Forces is one which commands the approval of hon. Members on both sides of the House, namely, the policy of enabling people in Colonial territories to take that part in their own defence and in Commonwealth defence which they ought to take. As my right hon. Friend has said, the time has come when it is due to the dignity of the people of those territories that they should take their due part in the defence of their own territories, and not for ever rely on other people to defend them. We are grateful for the help which the Royal Navy has given and will give in this sphere.
I would point out to hon. Members who have introduced a somewhat critical note—the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. E. Hughes) and the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin)—that nothing in this Bill forces a Colony to do anything. It only enables a Colony or a group of Colonies which so desires to set up a naval force for the protection of its own area. There is no question of this being forced upon them. I can assure hon. Members that unless it is desired by the people of the territory the legislative council will not pass the necessary legislation. This Bill in itself, of course, does not set up any naval forces. It is an enabling Bill permitting Colonial legislatures to do so.
Let me reply to some of the points put and some of the questions asked. I shall answer as many of the questions as I possibly can. The Secretary of State and I are very grateful to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) for the way in which he spoke for the Opposition. He spoke with all his usual 1733 lucidity and none of his customary asperity, and we are grateful for the way in which he spoke on this occasion. I cannot give him in full the details of naval forces for which he asked, because, as he will understand, many of them are security matters, but I can give him a fairly good idea of the scope and purpose of the contemplated arrangements.
So far as the East African Naval Force is concerned, the four East African Governments have agreed, and made the necessary preliminary financial arrangements, to combine in the raising and maintenance of a regular, full-time naval force based on Mombasa. The main functions of the Force will be coastal patrol, minesweeping, and harbour control duties. That, I think, fits in with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) as being the probable scope of the duties of such a force as is proposed. The Admiralty have agreed to assist in the provision of craft and to the loan of personnel for command and administration. As soon as this Bill becomes law it will be possible for the East African Central Assembly to legislate by one ordinance for the raising of this Force.
As to the Malayan Force, it has been agreed in the Far Eastern Dependencies generally that Singapore should bear the main responsibility for naval forces. This, however, will not preclude the employment of personnel from the Federation in the Malayan Force, and in fact, I have no doubt, such personnel will be employed to quite a large extent, because the Malays, as everyone knows, are first-class seamen; and so, in fact, I am glad to say, are the Arabs and many of the African races who border the water line. But so far as this particular Malayan force is concerned, a number of Malays will be attracted, even though the main burden of responsibility for the Force will fall on Singapore and not on the Federation. The Federation, of course, is raising a number of battalions in the Malay Regiment, and that is how they are dividing the expense and the burden. Here, again, it will be minesweepers, launches, small craft and, possibly, frigates which will form the Force. Their function will be, in addition to minesweeping and harbour control duties, anti-piracy patrol.
I would remind the hon. Member for South Ayrshire that the world is by no 1734 means as quiet as he would have us believe. Pirates are always likely to operate in Far Eastern waters, and if there should be a breakdown of the Royal Navy then no ship would be safe in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, or the China seas. In my view, the work that the Royal Navy has done in the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, the China seas and the Pacific has never been adequately appreciated by the world at large. We have borne the main burden—the Royal Navy and the British taxpayers have borne the main burden—for many many years—one could almost say, for centuries—in this anti-piracy work. This will be one of the duties in which the Singapore Squadron will co-operate with the Royal Navy.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Would my hon. Friend not agree that this function of protecting the ships of the world from piracy should be the duty of the United Nations Organisation, and not of the British Empire?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
Whatever it may be in the realms of ethics, we are dealing with it in the realms of practical politics, and as no force has yet arisen to take its place, it is for us to make the necessary arrangements so that British ships flying the red duster and other ships may proceed on their lawful occasions without any harm. Legislation is now being prepared in Singapore for this force, and again this Bill will make it easy for them to legislate.
So far as Mauritius is concerned, there again full provision has been made for a small force which will come into operation when this Bill has passed through Parliament. I was asked about Fiji. Plans for financial arrangements have recently been made by the Governments of New Zealand and Fiji for co-ordination of their defence, and a small force of minesweepers and other small craft has been under consideration and will shortly, I think, be set up. As to Hong Kong, approval has been given for the formation of a combined volunteer force of all three Services. This includes a small naval component for harbour control, minesweeping and anti-piracy duties. This is particularly important in this area.
As regards the West African naval force, the West African Government are considering a proposal to form a force 1735 on something like the same lines as that for East Africa, but, as yet, it has gone very little further than that. If I may answer the point raised on West Africa by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I would say that the example which he chose of Sierra Leone is particularly unfortunate? If the great harbour of Freetown had not been carefully protected and properly safeguarded in every way during the last war, possibly neither he nor I would be here today.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
One has always to make the necessary preparations for another war. That is the whole purpose of defence. We found in the recent war that Freetown was of vital importance not only to this country but to the Allies, and consequently to democracy. Probably the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and I would now be working in a salt mine if Freetown had not been there and the necessary arrangements had not been made. There is a small marine force in Freetown now, and I bad the honour of being conveyed across the harbour on more than one occasion during the last couple of months by the members of that force. I was particularly struck, if an ex-soldier may say so, by what appeared to me to be the fine seamanlike qualities of the personnel of that little marine force. I am sure that those in Freetown and Sierra Leone would not take the same view of the question as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire has done.
Finally, we come to the West Indies, and it is probable that there will be a small volunteer force there, possibly based on Trinidad, but as yet, no concrete proposals have been made. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin) asked me who was responsible for the training. The responsibility for training will be, of course, on the commander of the force in each particular place, but the Admiralty is prepared to furnish equipment on indefinite loan to these various forces, and they will approve all officers and instructors. They are also considering the question of the loan of ships, and they have agreed that Colonial seamen may have training courses and cruises in His Majesty's ships. The Admiralty cannot at present supply serving officers 1736 or ratings owing to their own commitments, but reserve officers and ex-officers and ratings will undoubtedly be made available. That is as we know a difficult question at the present time owing to the training programme of the Admiralty, but it may become a little easier later on.
I was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) as to the financing of these proposed extensions. I may say that the same provisions will apply as apply in all these matters of defence. The extent to which the proposed force will take its share in Commonwealth defence as a whole depends on how much the Colony can bear and what help they need from His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
It was made clear in another place that the cost of up-to-date equipment would be borne by this country. There seemed to be a clear line drawn there. Is that the case?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I have said that the Admiralty will be prepared to lend equipment on permanent loan. To that extent, it will be borne by this country, but there is no additional expense. I take it that they have that equipment now. Financial matters are always a question for negotiation and one cannot lay down a general rule because each case depends upon the scope of the force and the amount of help needed. Regarding the question asked by the hon. Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), appropriate machinery already exists for the co-ordination of defence, and this machinery will be constantly in operation with regard to all these forces. There is no question of any part of the machinery going out of gear, as it were, in relation to the remainder of it. I think that I have answered the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain) and that I told him what our policy is in the build up. I can assure him that there is no question in any of these developments of neglecting the economic, social and educational projects which we have in mind.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I think that the hon. Gentleman missed the point. I asked specifically what would be the relationship between these forces being built up, particularly in the Pacific, and what backing they would receive. Are we to have Royal Naval forces in the Pacific? At the moment, I gather we have none at all 1737 and that we are relying on the American Navy. Will that be the state of affairs in the coming years?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I have given the House the scope of the various forces contemplated, and the question now asked me is really outside the limits of this Bill. That is a broad question of naval and defence policy which has nothing to do with this Bill. This Bill is necessary for the purposes which I have indicated, and I should have thought that the matter to which my hon. Friend referred was one which could have been discussed more accurately on the Estimates on another occasion.
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) asked me a question about sea cadets. No amendment is necessary in this Bill to make provision for the formation of sea cadet units. That is entirely within the existing powers of the Colonial Governments. Their attention will be directed by my right hon. Friend to the speech by the hon. Baronet, and they will be asked to do what they can to meet his wishes in that respect. We appreciate the point made, and we quite agree with the necessity of training these boys in the way that he has suggested. My right hon. Friend and I are also fully in accord with his suggestion as to public relations and telling the people what is happening. We are trying to do that in every case, not only with regard to naval provisions, but also in connection with the educational and economic projects which we have in hand. In these days it is essential, not only that we should do the work, but that we should let our works be known amongst men, and before we do them. That is not the actual Biblical quotation.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I realised that the hon. Member was watching me very closely. I am obliged to him for the correction.
Several points were put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey. We cannot admit that the Admiralty have a greater interest in this matter than we have. My right hon. Friend is the person primarily responsible for all these matters, whether of defence or otherwise, in the Colonies, and, while he will be 1738 very pleased to consult with his noble Friend the First Lord, he must insist that he is the person primarily responsible, and not the Admiralty.
I think that I have covered all the matters raised in this brief, but I think we can say valuable, Second Reading Debate, and I therefore ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Mr. Austin
On a point of Order. Before my hon. Friend sat down I rose to ask whether I might put a question to him. Might I do so now?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did not see the hon. Member on his feet. The Motion "That the Bill be now read a Second time" has now been carried.
Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Mr. Hannan.]