§ 4.5 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
The Committee will have received, during the last few weeks, a number of reports concerned with Colonial affairs.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
On a point of Order. Is it not possible to stop the hammering that is going on outside. I do not normally hear very well and at the moment I cannot hear anything at all of what the right hon. Gentleman is saying.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
We have tried to inform the Committee by producing this year the first of a series of regional reports—a report concerned with the Far East. We hope in following years to cover different regions of the Colonial Empire, and that will be in addition to the report which is normally received from the Comptroller of Development in the West Indies. Other reports are in the hands of the Committee—one, the report of the Colonial Development Corporation and another, a White Paper setting out the schemes under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. I hope that in a day or so a further paper will be available concerned with colonial research.
The Committee's attention will undoubtedly be concentrated today on the general survey which has been published on the Colonial Territories, 1948–49. I think it will generally be agreed that, as a people, we may take a reasonable pride in the work going forward in our Colonial Territories, and the work described in the general report is, I think, a great tribute to our colonial officers overseas as well as to the staff of the Colonial Office itself. I would hasten to say that, obviously, we are not satisfied with the situation as it is at the present time. We are all guilty of shortcomings and inadequacies of treatment of some of the problems confronting us in our Colonial Territories. Nevertheless, I think the work which has been done is sound and will bear the test of time.
It is not my intention this afternoon to cover the ground of the report before the Committee. I want only to refer to some of the features of the past year and to 1393 some of the problems confronting us today in regard to our development work. But I would ask the Committee in considering colonial development, to keep in mind that, while this House must exercise responsibility in regard to the shaping and development and application of policy in the territories overseas, we are, at the same time, devolving to those territories and their local governments a great deal of responsibility, and consequently they are in charge of the detailed administration of policy in their own countries. We cannot unduly interfere with that administration without to some extent weakening their own responsibility for the administration of their country.
I would add that most of our Colonial Territories are going through a state of transition in regard to political, economic and social changes, and we cannot expect that those changes will be carried through without trouble, difficulty or disturbance. It is natural that we should do all in our power to create conditions for orderly development by reducing so far as is possible the internal strains and securing not only the internal co-operation of the peoples in the territory itself, but also their full co-operation with us in the work which we too are trying to do.
It is a welcome fact that in this country in recent years there has been a great quickening of interest in colonial affairs. Following on that very great stimulus to public interest, the meeting of the African Conference in the autumn of last year, we have been able to stage during the past month not only an exhibition of some merit, but also a Colonial Month which in various quarters has roused considerable curiosity and interest. So far as the exhibition is concerned, there has been a record of attendances for an exhibition of that kind. No fewer than 211,000 persons have been admitted to that exhibition. The demand and the interest are so great that the exhibition has been extended and will probably continue for another month.
Apart from the extraordinary response of the public so far as attendance at the exhibition is concerned, there has also been a very remarkable demand for literature, reports and publications about the Colonial Empire itself. Some of our stocks of literature, some of the reports by the Colonies, have been completely 1394 exhausted by the demand; and nearly all of this literature has had to be purchased. I would thank the various learned societies, public bodies and commercial undertakings who have played so active a part during the Colonial Month. We are indeed indebted to them for the work they have done in getting over to a wider public the problems confronting us in our Colonial Territories. In the last few years we have tried to expand our information services to the public, and the Committee will be well aware of the work now being done in regard to the making of films about colonial life; in extending knowledge through broadcasting; in the work in the schools and through the Press and in other ways.
What is the broad purpose we have in mind in regard to colonial policy? None of us in these days seek the mere satisfaction of colouring red great areas on the map. Our effort is to bring stability, good order and mutual prosperity to the world; to do this with the co-operation of the colonial peoples by building up in the Colonial Territories responsibility and the conditions of good living. Hon. Members will recognise that this laudable purpose can be achieved only in so far as it evokes the response, understanding and the confidence of the colonial peoples themselves. We wish them to appreciate the values which actuate us in our own affairs. Consequently we are anxious in our relations with the colonial peoples that there should be a steady elimination of all discrimination and full co-operation with them in the great tasks which have to be performed.
That brings me to a consideration of the problems of the Colonial Service. The Committee is well aware that during the last three or four years following the war we have recruited for the administrative and technical staffs—the professional staffs of the Colonial Service—no fewer than 5,000 men and women. In addition, the Crown Agents have recruited something like 3,500. During the past half year we have filled 663 vacancies and the Colonies are demanding each month no fewer than 130 places.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
May I call your attention Mr. Chairman, to the fact that your instructions with regard to the noise outside, which I am sure were urgent, have not been very successful?
I am sorry, but I am afraid I cannot wave a magic wand and stop the hammering at once. I understand from the Serjeant at Arms that the necessary instructions have been sent out, and I hope that they may now be complied with.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
There are at the moment no fewer than 1,395 vacancies in the administrative and technical services. We want 163 doctors, 150 agriculturalists, 38 veterinary officers, 160 teachers, and 170 engineers; and we are sometimes in despair as to when some of the work in the Colonies can be proceeded with at all, because of this shortage of the necessary skill and technical knowledge on the spot. There are signs of an improvement in certain of the technical grades. We are getting more geologists and a few more engineers and teachers, but in many of these important classes of work there is need for more people to volunteer.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman so early in his speech, but the figures he has mentioned are 130, or 160, or something. Surely those vacancies are not hard to fill? They cannot represent a large amount of human endeavour?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I can assure the hon. Member that they are very difficult to fill. It must be remembered that we are filling a very large number of places in these technical grades; but there is this backlog, and although we have adopted various devices, so far we have not been able to overtake the demand. We are, of course, endeavouring to meet the situation by improving the conditions of service; by improving the amenities enjoyed by the colonial servants; by shortening the period of service; by improving the pensions; by providing facilities for children in respect of their education; by improving housing, and by a whole number of other things in order to make the Service more attractive to the Colonial servants.
We are also making a very strong appeal to the universities, the public schools and other schools. We are trying to make known the technical vacancies in the respective professional journals. By paying visits to a large number of organisations and societies, the Colonial Office are trying to arouse the interest of young men in the most attractive prospects which exist. In addition, we hope 1396 to arrange with certain of the services for periods of secondment from this country. Already we have come to an understanding with the Ministry of Education. We hope that a similar arrangement will be possible with the medical service. We have a scheme for probation officers, and we hope that before long a number of secondments will be arranged with other technical services. These arrangements will preserve seniority, pension and salary rights in the British services when the people have finished their duties in the territories overseas.
We are trying to create an intermediate class of assistants to the principal technical grades. We are endeavouring to train more people locally for the kind of work which needs to be done. We are trying to establish a number of technical institutes where the necessary instruction can be given so that local people can be trained more suitably for the work. Apart from that, we are doing everything possible to introduce new facilities for colonial servants in regard to the professional aspects of their work by opening new courses and providing new opportunities for study. In the past year we have arranged a series of courses of special instruction for certain technical grades.
For instance, we have just finished a course for labour officers under the Ministry of Labour. Another course for co-operative officers is in progress at the Co-operative College. We have arranged a course for the training of police at the Police College. There are also arrangements for refresher courses for members of the nursing service, and there are facilities at one or other of the colleges here for people engaged in social welfare work. In these ways we are endeavouring to improve the quality and experience of the various technical grades.
At the same time, we are trying to improve the local facilities for discussion, conference and training in the territories themselves. We hope that the local universities now springing up in the various regions of the Empire will contribute a great deal. I should like to express our sincere thanks to the universities of this country for the tremendous enthusiasm with which they have entered into the training of our cadets and members of 1397 technical staffs who return here for further training.
I wish to make some reference to the work which we are doing in the Colonial Office. As I have already informed the Committee, in recent years there has been a considerable change in the functions of the Colonial Office. While we have tried to give political guidance in the building up of political institutions in the territories overseas, we have also developed, on the social and economic side, a whole series of functions which are of great importance to the territories and upon which they can call for assistance at any time. I have already referred to the training of colonial servants and to the development of information services.
I should like to refer to the higher educational arrangements which are fashioned and guided by the Inter-University Council in my office. The Inter-University Council can now see the fruits of some of its work over the past few years. The charter for the West Indies University has been received. I am glad to say that Princess Alice has kindly consented to act as the first Chancellor of the West Indies Universities. She will be visiting the university at the beginning of next year. I was present at the opening of the Ibadan University in West Africa. That is progressing well. In Malaya the preliminary steps have been taken for the university college there. We hope that that college will start its work in October of this year. Likewise, very satisfactory progress can be reported from the college in the Gold Coast set up alongside Achimota.
§ Mr. Follick (Loughborough)
Would the right hon. Gentleman give a few details about the work at Makerere College?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
If I cover every one of the colleges, my speech will be of tremendous length. I could say a lot about the Makerere College and about other higher educational institutions. I merely wanted to convey to the Committee that satisfactory progress was being made in almost every region where these colleges are established.
A further duty which the Colonial Office has undertaken is the building up of the survey service for mapping the Colonial Empire and for discovering its mineral and water resources. The Committee will have seen from the report that 1398 in East and Central Africa in the first half of this year no fewer than 140,000 square miles were photographed. The programme for West Africa for the photographing of 156,000 square miles is now proceeding. Very good work has been done in Borneo and Malaya, and maps are now being issued. I believe that no fewer than 64 new maps have been published covering 20,500 square miles. We hope before long to have available maps covering an area of 115,000 square miles. In addition to the topographical surveys, geological surveys are proceeding. Ground surveying parties are at work in Central and East Africa.
Another function of the Colonial Office is concerned with the welfare of students who come to this country. I should like hon. Members to appreciate that the policy pursued is shaped by an advisory committee for the assistance of the Secretary of State. Certain hon. Members of this House sit on that committee, and we are grateful for the advice which they have proffered.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I believe that they meet once every two months. I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman the date of the last meeting. Our policy would incline away from the establishment of hostels for Colonial peoples where they are segregated from people of other races. We are most anxious that, as far as possible, in the universities the halls of residence should not be exclusively halls for Colonial students. We are also anxious that the hostels which we ourselves provide should be no more than temporary places through which the students pass before they go into private accommodation.
The respective Colonial Governments are taking a very keen interest in this work, and they have now assigned to the Colonial Office a number of liaison officers to meet the students, to give advice about the homes to which they go or the hostels to which they are assigned, and advise in regard to their studies and also to try to open up amenities for them. Colonial Governments are now contributing to an amenities fund in order that sporting and other arrangements can be built up for the students here. In addition, East Africa and Malaya have founded centres for 1399 social activities for their students here, and, generally, a very close liaison is now kept as between the local government and the student and the Colonial Office. I think I can assure the Committee that we are mindful of the vital importance of seeing that constructive and healthy influences surround the students who are here, and also that every opportunity is taken to show them the interest in British homes, and, if possible, to arrange for them actually to live in British homes.
Passing now to the further functions of the Colonial Office in planning and organising research, a Bill is before the House at present, and I need not trouble the Committee about it now. The way in which research work is organised, the medical research, the educational and sociological research, the inquiries into the agricultural use of colonial products are all well-known to the Committee. This is an important function, like many others which the Colonial Office performs. Finally, there is its work on the economic side, on which I shall have something to say in a moment. It does already help the economic development of our territories, and tries to assist in the supply of capital goods and consumer goods which those territories require. It helps to encourage new enterprises, and helps with the marketing arrangements of the products of the territories, it assists in trade negotiations and also in supervision regarding the working of exchanges, taxation and so on.
During the past year, in order that a close relationship can exist between the Colonies and ourselves, so that the most up to date information shall be available both for the use of the Colonial Office and the territories themselves, we have appointed four liaison officers to travel between London and the regions for the purposes of trying to keep each side acquainted with all possibilities and new developments. In this connection, I should also like to pay a tribute to the other Departments of Whitehall which have co-operated with us so excellently in the work which we are trying to do in the matter of supplies for our territories.
Coming now to economic policy in the Colonies themselves, I feel that I cannot do better than refer hon. Members, not only to the report which is before them, in which we have tried to set out as com- 1400 pletely as possible the breadth of our economic interests, the new developments that are going forward and others that are projected, but also to the summary article which appears in "The Times" this morning on the subject of colonial development. It gives an admirable account of what is being done, and I think serves an extremely useful purpose so far as the general public are concerned.
The Colonies, as we all know, have made a very considerable contribution in regard to our dollar savings and dollar earnings in the past few years, and that contribution, I am afraid, is not appreciated to the full, but it is and has been of the very greatest importance to our country in trying to secure the health of the sterling area. As we look at the figures set out in pages 48 to 60 of the report, we appreciate how considerable has been the expansion in the production of raw materials, metals and foodstuffs, how exports have risen in most of the important commodities, and how all the revenues of the respective Governments have also increased to enable them to cope with their increasing responsibilities.
We have at the moment reached a somewhat difficult period. The demand for and the price levels of some of the principal commodities have slumped, and I can assure the Committee that, in respect of each of these commodities, everything possible will be done on the Government side to help to re-adjust the situation arising from this recession. Temporarily, we have been obliged to lower the dollar expenditure in the territories, or rather, I should say, we are negotiating with the local governments to secure that effect, but we are mindful that the development work and the expansion of essential products should not be prejudiced by this fact, nor, if possible, should the standard of living be lowered in any way. We submitted the whole of this problem the other week to an influential conference of supply officers of all the territories, and their co-operation on behalf of all their governments was readily acceded in trying to meet the difficulties of the present financial position.
What, then, are we trying to do to meet the fundamental services on which our economic expansion depends? First of all, there is transport and communications, and hon. Members will be interested 1401 to know of the new work which is going forward at Dar-es-Salaam. I mention the ports first—the deep sea quays in Freetown, the building of a port at Mikindani, the new contract for the extension of the port of Takoradi. Similarly with the railways, we are anxious that we should open out railway communications between Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Tanganyika and Kenya, and already we have discussed with Messrs. Gibbs and Company, and they with their American subsidiary, how the technical survey—we have already done the economic survey—can be quickly carried out. That means that we have two or three big projects in mind for opening out central Africa and for relieving the pressure in Northern Rhodesia and Lower Nyasaland. Likewise, in regard to air transport, new airfields are being built or are planned to be made at Hong Kong, at Livingstone in Northern Rhodesia and in Singapore.
The Committee is also aware of the new developments in regard to hydroelectric power and electricity generally. The scheme for Uganda has already been announced. At Owen Falls, we hope to harness the water from Lake Victoria and to produce power to a capacity of 121,500 kilowatts. That means that this scheme, with which we are pushing on as fast as possible, is not likely to come into operation until 1952. Similarly, plans are being made and investigations are going forward in regard to power from the River Volta on the Gold Coast, from the falls in British Guiana for development there, in Borneo for aluminium and industrial mining development, and also in Rhodesia.
There has also been a marked increase in the development of public works and utilities in the territories during the last year. Most of the territories have now sent forward their 10-year plans and the schemes have been vetted. I should like to express the thanks of the Government to the Colonial Economic and Development Council for the work they have done in studying the schemes submitted, in making recommendations for the guidance of the territories, and, generally, in preserving a balance as between the social and the economic projects under the 10-year programme.
The supply position has become very much easier during the past year. It is quite true that there are a number of things still in short supply, such as sheet 1402 steel, tubing, piping, and a certain type of agricultural machinery. Nevertheless, the position is very much better than it was, and so far as indications go we think it will continue to improve, and that this backlog of requirements in the territories will be quickly overcome. Apart from supplies, we have been handicapped, of course, for the reason I have already mentioned—the absence of sufficient skill and of technical people for the work which must be done.
In speaking of the facilities with which the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1945, provided us, perhaps I ought to say that with this acceleration in regard to public works, utilities, and services in the territories, it may be necessary, sooner than we had anticipated, to revise the terms of the Act itself. It may be that the ceiling which we have only recently asked the House to adjust may have to be further adjusted because, in the light of changing circumstances, new demands are emerging, and, unfortunately, most of the money provided by Parliament under the Act is likely to be allocated sooner than most of us foresaw a little while back.
§ Mr. Stanley
Is the right hon. Gentleman referring to a Bill which is not yet even through another place; and, if that is so, would it not be easier to amend it during its passage rather than pass it, and then in a few months time pass another Bill?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I said the indications are that that ceiling may prove to be insufficient, but it all depends, of course, on the facility with which the Colonies are able to go ahead with the various projects they now have in hand. Anyway, in the course of a year or so, the Bill may be somewhat restrictive in regard to our development proposals.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is proposed to adjust the date of the 10-year development plan which, under the 1945 Act, should be completed by March, 1956, or does he expect that the increased spending will swallow up the money before then?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
It is difficult to give an exact answer, but the indications are that we shall have allocated all the money which was provided by Parliament under the 1945 Act within a comparatively limited time ahead. That will probably mean that urgent projects which the Colonies want may not be possible because there are no funds available, and that may create a situation in which the Government will need to consider whether a new Bill should be asked for.
I come now to the other essential in regard to economic development—the provision of technicians and of suitable institutions for technical and trade training. We have come to the end of the period of the training of ex-Service men, and we are adapting the various training institutions in the different Colonies for the purpose of coping with the late adolescent and young man from the village who can profit from such trade training. There is now going on in all our Colonies a systematic working out of plans for technical education. The departments have, of course, always trained people in the Colonies for the jobs of the Department, but that, obviously, is inadequate for the needs of the territories at the present time.
Accordingly, a great expansion in technical and trade instruction is going on at Yaba, if I may take the instance of Nigeria. Yaba College has been reformed into a technical institute, with boarding accommodation for 250 boys, and there will be facilities for studying for 1,000 or 1,500 other students. Alongside the technical institution at Yaba there will be a trade school. In addition, there will be trade training facilities at Enugu and Kaduna. Over and above that, there will be the regional colleges foreshadowed in the report of the Committee on Higher Education which the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) appointed when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. Those plans are steadily unfolding in every one of the territories. On the Gold Coast, in Fiji and in Malaya there is also a big expansion of technical instruction.
I now wish to refer to the encouragement, both of a public and private kind, being given in the territories. There is the extension of industry. Mining 1404 development has not been nearly sufficient, but, nevertheless, there have been, as the report shows, some very remarkable developments in regard to secondary industries and mining development during the last year or so. But it is important that more enterprise should be encouraged in our territories. While it is true that there has been a great deal of public enterprise in respect of public works and utilities, and so on, there is, nevertheless, very considerable room for private enterprise as well. Therefore, we hope that capital from both the United Kingdom and from foreign States may be available in order that the development of some of these backward regions may go forward.
A few weeks ago we had the report of the Colonial Development Corporation. That indicates that this Corporation is prepared to enter into arrangements with private undertakings in regard to important works. There are many important jobs in our territories which private enterprise is not prepared to undertake because of the risks involved; but the Colonial Development Corporation, by giving a hand, can get them under way. Some suggestion has been made that perhaps Whitehall is not giving sufficient latitude to the Corporation in regard to jobs which it is anxious to get on with. I want to say that it is our desire that the maximum freedom should be enjoyed by the Corporation in order that its work should be done no less efficiently and certainly with as great freedom as is enjoyed by big private concerns. There may be restriction on the supply of raw materials, on currency, and on capital goods, which are outside our control; but these restrictions will not be more onerous for the Corporation than for private enterprise.
It is also our intention to give all possible encouragement in the Colonies to the small producer, the peasant, and the farm worker. That is being done by building up co-operative societies and co-operative facilities for them, by trying to release them from the oppression of the moneylender, by encouraging them to apply better and improved methods of cultivation to their crops, by securing their co-operation in the conservation of the soil—there are parts of Africa where remarkable progress has been made in the last few years through the co-operation 1405 of technical assistants and the tribes concerned—and also by land resettlement. There are some notable instances of the resettlement of peoples in new areas in Kenya and Nigeria, which have resulted in greater health in the cultivation of the soil and in the lives of the people.
We have given a great deal of attention to the marketing of colonial products. I should like to refer to paragraphs 301 to 312 in the report which deal with the subject. The method of bulk purchase in respect of certain primary commodities has proved of tremendous service to the people overseas. Coffee, cocoa, bananas, citrus, oilseed, sugar, hides, timber, tin, and copper are all commodities which are purchased either in whole or in part by the United Kingdom Government, at a negotiated price and that gives stability to the producer. Moreover, there has been an expansion in the number of longterm contracts which it has been possible to enter into on behalf of the producers. These include coffee, oilseeds, bananas, sugar and copra, so that producers can look well ahead and feel that they have an assured market with a prospect of reasonable prices. These arrangements are bringing back into the territories a great deal of money which previously was lost to them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) had some responsibility for the cocoa produce scheme and the building up of a considerable fund, which has been of great social value in the last year or so in the Gold Coast It will also prove to be the case in Nigeria as well. In the Gold Coast, it has not only made provision for a cushion for the maintenance of a good price level to the primary producers, but it has also provided money for the founding of the university of the Gold Coast; for compensating farmers for the cutting out of the diseased cocoa trees; and for necessary research work into the problems of the industry. It also brings into the country a very considerable capital, which conceivably might be available for other development work.
There is, of course, the other work which we do in the Colonial Office in regard to research. I mentioned research just now, but the Committee will recall that we hope to apply antrycide to the cattle of Africa, and by this and other arrangements such as better water supplies, better feedingstuffs and so on, 1406 to build up a meat supply in that great continent. We think we have found the answer to the problem of sudden death in Zanzibar in regard to the clove industry.
§ Mr. Stanley
The right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "the answer to the problem of sudden death in Zanzibar." Does he mean a cure, because I understood that in the latest report it was stated that eradication was the only thing to be done.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I understand that the scientists have discovered some method of treating the particular grub or pest which is responsible for the disease, but whether it will involve cutting out the trees I am not competent to answer.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
Is that the report of the scientists sent out by F.A.O.? Has there been any report from those three gentlemen?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
We were talking about Zanzibar. My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) refers to the swollen shoot disease which is found in the Gold Coast. The report was published by the International Commission and that report recommended the complete cutting out of the cocoa plant. That is rather different from the clove industry in Zanzibar.
There is much more I should like to talk about in our Colonial policy, but I must refrain. The last part of what I have to say I should like to devote to political development. We all accept the view that if political development is to be soundly conceived, there must be adequate social and economic development in order to support it. If we look back on the last few years we are able to see in political development the signs of a number of interesting experiments. Ceylon has Dominion status; Malta has acquired internal self-government; the West Indian British territories under Sir Hubert Rance are discussing the problem of federation and some substanial progress is being made; the East African authority has come into being for co-ordinating the economic activities and services of that vast region of Africa; the 1407 Central African Council has done excellent work on behalf of the two Rhodesias and Nyasaland; and the West African Council has also resumed its work and a number of common services, particularly in the field of communications and research, are being performed for our four territories in that region. There is still a great deal of discussion going on in regard to these groupings. In some cases the House may in the next few years be called upon to form some judgement as to how much further some of them can be tied up in effective government federation or new government machinery.
Apart from the constitutional development which has been proceeding in many of our territories in respect of the central organs of government, we have been very active in trying to create in the territories a sound basis of local government as well. It is not for me at this stage to discuss what is happening in regard to the transformation of indirect rule into effective local government organisation, nor should I at this point discuss the increasing demands in some parts of Africa for greater responsibility by Africans in the control of their executive councils.
What I do want to say is that I do not think we can proceed fast with political development until we expand the social services and the conditions of good living, and until we build up in the territories a sound economic basis to sustain the social services which we are trying to create. That means that an enormous amount of work is being done in the field of social service, in improving housing and bettering community living, in improving educational facilities and in trying to make for better conditions—so that more and more, as responsibility grows, it can be exercised with knowledge and understanding from the point of view of social service.
I had hoped to have time to discuss the problem of internal security in some of our territories which has caused us a great deal of anxiety during the past year. I know that the Committee is very anxious to be assured, in regard to certain of our territories under the Trusteeship Council, that their integrity is not being prejudiced by the supervision exercised by the Council. I can assure the Committee that we have tried to act in 1408 all these matters in the spirit in which the House has expressed itself from time to time.
On the whole, I can give a very good and healthy record of the progress being made in almost all our territories. We are conscious that more and more have we the loyalty and good will of the peoples concerned. In my recent visit to Central Africa, the African people came forward everywhere to express their profound loyalty to the throne and to Britain, and also to make it perfectly clear that they do want to live under our flag and to co-operate with us as they become increasingly conscious of their own responsibilities and build up the ability to exercise those responsibilities.
Our job, as I have said, is to build up good living conditions and responsibility in these territories overseas. I believe that the recent drive in economic development is calculated, not only to meet the needs of the external world, but to provide the colonial peoples with the wherewithal to build up their services and meet their own demands for development. I therefore feel that we have before us today a magnificent record of work of which we can be justly proud and in regard to which we owe an enormous debt to those who have brought about such remarkable changes and progress. I end by paying my tribute again to those officials of the Colonial Office and of the Colonial Service who have contributed so much to the progress in these territories.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)
The House will sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman because of the vast scale of his canvas and the comparatively short time he had to paint it. I think we all would have had tolerated an even longer speech had he been able to deal more fully with the subject to which he referred at the end of his remarks, namely, the question of internal security in our Colonies, which is a matter that has disturbed Members on both sides of the Committee. I hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will be able to give us the information which the right hon. Gentleman felt he had not the time to give.
This may be the last major Colonial Debate we shall have before the General Election. No one can say with any accuracy, not even the hon. Gentleman, 1409 when the General Election will come, but it may be that before we discuss these affairs again on such a broad scale there will have been much controversy between us and many hard knocks exchanged. But the one thing we are entirely agreed upon is that we are anxious to do all we possibly can for the prosperity and welfare of the Colonial Empire.
Indeed, so clear and unequivocal are the statements in this most excellent Blue Book that the right hon. Gentleman could subscribe to one of the main declarations of faith of our party announced some 10 days before this book appeared: We declare that we on this side intend to develop to the full the resources of the Colonial Empire, to work for a higher standard of living for its inhabitants, and to guide its peoples along the road to self-government within the framework of the British Empire and Commonwealth; that we shall give priority to the development of the material wealth of the Colonies and will do this because, without firm economic foundations, there can be no improvement in social conditions nor can there be any real political advance. We add that a country cannot be master of its own destinies until it is financially independent and possesses a sound social and economic system.
To help the House in this discussion we have the Report which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced this afternoon. I am sorry that the title has changed. It used to be called "The Colonial Empire," but it is now called "The Colonial Territories." As the Fabian Society have changed the name of their monthly journal from "Empire" to "Venture," I suppose that this concession has been made by the Secretary of State to parry some of the broadsides which have been levelled at him by his late Fabian associates. I agree that this Blue Book, to which I should like to pay the fullest possible tribute, provides a basis on which all parties can work.
We have deliberately left out one or two Votes which might have been thought relevant to this Colonial Debate. But, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said, we are hoping to have further discussions on the more detailed problems of Africa before we adjourn. Many of us hope also that 1410 it will be possible to have further discussions on the groundnuts venture in East Africa. We have left out, therefore, the Ministry of Food Vote, the West African Produce Vote and the High Commission Territories Vote so these problems and the affairs of the Trusteeship Territory in Africa and the ill-informed and unbalanced report by an international body and the misuse made of some of their resolutions—will fall to be discussed later on.
None the less we have here enough to show us within the scope of this Debate a good deal of guidance as to how we can in our Empire, in the words of His Majesty a few weeks ago when he opened the Colonial Month, make a world "nearer to our hearts' desire." I should like to congratulate the Government on this report and the Secretary of State upon the Colonial Month, which has offered so much to interest and educate our people in one of their prime responsibilities.
I should like to refer also to a subject to which the right hon. Gentleman referred and to which the Minister of State has referred elsewhere—the need to look after our colonial fellow citizens in England, and give them the help we can when they come to our shores. It looks as though we have at the present time a colonial community of at least 30,000 people living in the United Kingdom. Many are living in deplorable conditions and we look to private individuals and to national voluntary institutions to help to make their life better and more worth while. I agree with the Secretary of State as to the particular importance of doing something worth while for the nearly 3,500 students, which is the figure in the Blue Book. There are probably more, of whom more than half are in London, under one-half of these being here on scholarships. There are 1,300 students from West Africa and 1,000 from the West Indies.
We look to the time when the development of colonial universities will provide a better background for many of these men of undergraduate age than we can provide here in the United Kingdom, and when those who wish to do so and are qualified to profit by it come on here afterwards for post-graduate training. We of the Opposition join with the Government in wishing every success to the 1411 various universities mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman—the Royal University of Malta with its new constitution, the new university formed in Malaya out of the Raffles College and the King Edward VII College of Medicine, the university college at Ibadan in Nigeria, the university colleges of the Gold Coast and the West Indies, and in East Africa the college—which is not yet a university—at Makerere. We wish every success to technical education in the Colonies themselves, without which there will be no chance of economic progress in our Colonial Empire.
Meanwhile, many of these people are living here and it is up to us to see that they are given the best possible facilities. We notice with interest that as from the beginning of next year the British Council will take the responsibility for co-ordinating welfare work for colonial students. It is no reflection on a Government Department to say that we think that an unofficial body of that kind is more suitable to do that work. Private individuals and voluntary institutions can also help by sustained hospitality.
That is one thing which we can learn from the Colonial Exhibition. We can also learn, and many people are abjectly ignorant of it, of the vast economic wealth of the Colonial Empire if we could devote the money, men and materials to develop it. Under the sovereignty of His Majesty today, and including, of course, the United Kingdom and the British Dominions—and a great part of this wealth is in the Colonial Empire—we have in the mineral world alone, as shown by the recorded figures, 70 per cent. of the world's nickel, over 60 per cent. of the gold, one-third of the diamonds, a quarter of the aluminium, a quarter of the tin and a quarter of the copper.
In raw materials we have nearly all the jute in the world, nearly two-thirds of all the rubber, and already three-fifths of all the groundnuts in the world, most of which come from private sources, one-third of the linseed and one-third of the wood pulp. That is a pretty big heritage. In the realm of food we have four-fifths of the tea, half the rice and nearly half the cocoa, one-third of the sugar and a quarter of most of the cereals. If some part of the energy which has quite rightly 1412 been put into building up European unity could be put into building up Empire unity and developing that heritage for the benefit of all who live within it, there is no limit to the possibilities that lie before us.
If it is true that we have a lot to learn by exhibitions of this kind, it is also true that our colonial fellow citizens also have a lot to learn. Some hon. Members have no doubt read a remarkable article by Mrs. Huxley in "Time and Tide" recently, when she referred to the need for the colonial peoples to be educated in certain realities. These were that independence without self-defence and self-support is a myth, that no social improvement or political advance worth having can take place without substantial increases, through their own exertions, in their national income. She added that these unpalatable truths had to be told.
I hope that it will not strike too discordant a note in the general harmony prevailing today to say that some of the people who have disguised those harsh facts are not always the best people to teach the colonial people these truths today. Mrs. Huxley wrote in the article to which I have referred:All over the Colonies people are growing restive because the blessings they have been led to expect with little or no effort to themselves do no materialise.She said that it was no use blaming them, that they have been:taught to look for a Land of Cockayne"—which hon. Members interested in mediaeval legend will remember is the imaginary land where one gets everything without doing anything for it—and they wake up and find themselves in the Twentieth Century.It is not entirely their fault.
There are words in this report which even the Minister of Health could profit by if he would read and take them seriously. I hope, incidentally, that the alarming reports in some colonial papers that he is about to exchange portfolios with the right hon. Gentleman are wholly inaccurate. In page 1 of the General Survey it is stated:A dependency is no different from any other country in this that in the long run its living standards must be those it can pay for.1413 I commend those words to us all for we are all guilty from time to time of forgetting their obvious implication. I think that a Government which allows those words to appear in a report have learned and their chief spokesmen have learned from the lessons of the last few years. I think they agree, too, that we are applying the principles of justice to a wide variety of races, the impartial and uncorrupt justice for which this country is rightly famed. I join wholeheartedly with the Chief Justice of the Seychelles in denying the right of any spokesman of the Executive ever to question the decision of a court of law.
Those are not the only lessons which emerge from a careful reading of this Blue Book. It is quite impossible, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, to deal with all the various aspects of Colonial policy with which we should like to deal. One is obliged to pick out things which particularly interest one or which appear to represent a trend running through the whole report. The first thing one realises when reading the report is the acceptance by the Government to day of the fact that colonial development is not necessarily colonial exploitation and that all the things they want to see the Colonies enjoy cannot be brought about without colonial development.
There is much more danger now of exploitation than ever before because the Government are now a great employer and are not standing as they should do and as they usually did previously, impartially holding the scales and seeing that no injustice is done to the native peoples. The Government now desire to get many commodities out of the Colonies which the Government buy themselves. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley), who not long ago was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State himself, stated a few weeks ago—it was printed in one of the African papers, "West Africa," on 6th June, that he feared that hard bargaining by purchasing Ministers might defeat some of the good work of the Colonial Office. He added:The Minister of Food is trying to buy food all over the world as cheaply as he can.That would be a very commendable object if the Minister was not applying those principles to our own primary producers in the Empire. The fact that 1414 the Government are now the largest employer—for example, in Tanganyika—does mean that we have got to be scrupulously careful to see that suggestions of exploitation have no justification.
§ Mr. Edward Davies
Is it not a fact that the Colonies are getting much better prices under this arrangement, and that there has been no question of giving the ridiculous figures they used to have?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is a little early to say because we have not got the groundnuts yet. When we have the groundnuts we shall be able to judge whether the people who grow them are getting a proper return. But to convince the hon. Gentleman still further of the real danger—and this is not a party point—I have only to draw his attention to a statement made a few weeks ago by the chairman of a large company operating in the Far East, who said publicly that Ceylon was getting a better price for her tea than Malaya was getting for her produce because Ceylon was an equal of the purchasing Government—not a very pleasant description of the United Kingdom Government—was the equal of the purchasing Government, whereas the Malaya Government were subordinate. This does give another illustration of the dangers that lie ahead when the Government enter into trade.
Another thing that, I think, emerges from a close study of this Blue Book is that the real development of the Colonial Empire will be brought about only by a proper partnership between the native peoples and European settlers. I was delighted that the right hon. Gentleman gave a warm welcome to private enterprise in the Colonial Empire, and I hope that he will use his influence with his colleagues to see that industries built up through many preliminary difficulties are allowed to flourish in the hands of the people who first started them, and who took the risks, and that they do not find themselves treated as some of their United Kingdom brethren have been—to hasty and ill-considered schemes of nationalisation.
I am very glad indeed that the right hon. Gentleman has vigorously answered the Trusteeship Council which tried to suggest that we have been exploiting the people of Tanganyika. Quite frankly, what the Chinese and the Costa Rican members of it know of the problems of Colonial 1415 Government have not yet been disclosed. But I think we must congratulate the Government on a real change of heart, for in their reply to the United Nations Trusteeship Council they used these remarkable words, which it is inconceivable to think the right hon. Gentleman would have used five years or so ago. These were the words:The productive capacity of the African peasant is at present far greater when in paid employment than when left to cultivate for himself as a peasant farmer.We are glad also to know that the same things apply to the Trusteeship Territories. The right hon. Gentleman said of the settlers, that the Europeans had rendered great services to the development of our own Colonial Empire, and that what they were entitled to expectis a sense of security, a sense of stability, and a sense of solid achievement.While on that subject of the joint partnership, I should like to say how much I welcome the stress laid in this report on the small cultivator and the need to build up the prosperity of the little man. Although, undoubtedly, large scale mechanised farming will have its place in Africa and elsewhere, the peasant proprietor will still remain an essential link in the chain. What we have to do is to see that he has better and more up to date tools, better seed, and better advice all round. The report of the Oil Seeds Mission which came out in the year we are now discussing bears out what can be done by a better use of fertilisers.
The third lesson that, I think, is running through this report is that political development must not race ahead of social and economic development. In this field of social development and technical development, the essential prerequisites to any real economic development, we know there are tragic shortages in personnel. I was impressed by what the Secretary of State said as to the very large number of people who have been recruited, and we recognise that the recruitment before the war was not continued during the war, and that many other difficulties have added to their task. The vacancies amongst professional and technical people to the tune of some 1,200 at the moment are really too many. The engineering establishment in Malaya of only 130 is 30 short. There are 150 1416 doctors short of an establishment of 400, and 21 surveyors out of an establishment of 58.
The right hon. Gentleman gave some reasons why there is this shortage. There is another reason, and that is the sense of insecurity as to the intentions of the United Kingdom in regard to long-term loyalties between her and her Colonial Empire, and we welcome wholeheartedly any robust statement such as that made today by the right hon. Gentleman and the statements in still more vigorous fashion of our spokesmen at the General Assembly of the United Nations. While on the question of staff, I think we all regret that the excellent system of sending our people from the Colonial Office here to see the territories in which they have such great responsibilities should be discontinued, and we very much hope, not least because it will alter that unhappy fact, that we shall see all necessary vacancies soon filled.
There is one point in regard to the social services of those technical and professional people who are working in the Empire. No one can see the spectacular decline in maternal and infantile mortality in Singapore and Hong Kong—the really spectacular decline—and the records of the people who have virtually eliminated malaria in Cyprus and British Guiana without the keenest satisfaction. These are worthwhile contributions and those responsible deserve all our congratulations.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the sterling area depends very largely on the Colonial Empire. Certainly, that is true. The needs of the sterling area today are the opportunities of our Colonies, and only through helping in that way are they likely to help themselves to the fuller life that they need. Some of them complain that they do not get the dollars that they earn applied to their own particular purposes, but I am sure they recognise that the dollar rate of the cost of imports that they might have had from the United States is based on the trade and resources of the whole of the sterling area, and that in most cases they would not be able to have such a favourable rate if they stood entirely on their own. But we must, I think, consider the psychological aspect of this, and see what we can do to prevent the Colonies from thinking that, however fast they earn 1417 dollars, they get no appreciable personal or local gain.
We have had the report of the Colonial Development Corporation and I should like to touch upon that. Some of my hon. Friends will deal with that in more detail than I shall. I hope very much that in further reports we shall have more precise details of the cost of various specific schemes. We welcome the improvements in the exports to the Colonies and a definite steel allocation. We wish we could do more to speed up locomotives where they are desperately needed in Africa and elsewhere, and home production of tractors and heavy earth moving equipment which they will need for a very long time ahead. We welcome the increase in consumer goods to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I am afraid that some part of that increase is due to the sales resistance our people are finding in other parts of the world. Nevertheless, it is a gain to our Colonial Empire.
There is a further point leading from the question of economic progress with which I should like to trouble the Committee. One part of the Blue Book deals with Malayan rubber and another with West Indies sugar. These are both vital commodities if we are to close the dollar gap in the one case, and to build up a prosperous Empire in that and in the other. The Blue Book tells us that the production of rubber in Malaya reached the record total last year of 698,000 tons. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the dollar earning capacity of the Colonies. I am sure most people realise—he, most of all—that we have not at the moment got many big dollar earners. There is a number of vital minerals and other things of which there is great need in the United States and Canada, and I hope that the development of these will be pushed on with, but, at the moment the chief dollar earners anyhow are rubber, tin and cocoa.
How long will the present record in rubber production continue? There are one or two sinister signs. The herculean task that has been achieved of great production under appalling difficulties, with the gangster warfare continuing around the plantations, must draw from all sides of this Committee our fullest admiration and praise for our fellow citizens, whether British. Malay, Chinese or Indian, who 1418 are out there carrying the brunt of that today. The profits for the year 1947–48 of the rubber companies only give a very small margin of profit, and that only to the best men. As hon. Members know, the bulk of the cost of rubber production goes in labour—some 70 per cent. Any fall in the price for rubber must have considerable consequences on the whole of our economy and on the people who are producing the rubber themselves.
Why has there been this fall? Indonesia is now sending large quantities of rubber to the United States and Canada, so that between January and May of this year their share of the total exports from Indonesia and Malaya has jumped from 14.9 per cent. to 32 per cent. That will have a very considerable effect upon our dollar earnings this time next year. There are also, as many hon. Members have pointed out, widespread leakages through neutral countries to dollar sources. And above all, there is the synthetic rubber requirement of the United States, demanding a certain proportion of synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber costs are higher than natural rubber. It does of course have an adverse effect upon our own Malayan business.
In the first six months of last year we got 90 million dollars in the sterling area from the sale of Malayan rubber alone. It will not be the same this year. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give us some reassurance as to the prospects of that industry, and that steps will be taken to help people who deserve well of us for their contribution to the sterling needs, and still more for their immense courage under most formidable difficulties.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
This is of paramount importance, because here is one of the possibilities of helping to close the dollar gap, and I do not think it is quite right to put the blame on the Colonial Office for the low price of this rubber. We have had to take into account the pressure from America. While the price of rubber is up only 25 per cent., world prices generally are up 300 per cent.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I was at pains to attach no blame whatever to the Colonial Office. They are affected by world circumstances, and all those three circumstances could happen, whoever was in 1419 charge of the Government of the country. But they are factors which should be brought forward in this House, because if they are not tackled they spell more serious trouble for us in the future.
As for West Indian sugar, to which reference has already been made, we wish for a closer union, and one day for federation in the West Indies. But there are certain essential prerequisites to be fulfilled first, and there seems to be no immediate sign of their having been fulfilled. We wish every success to the people coming here, whether they are expert traders or more politically-minded people, from the West Indies to urge the case of the West Indies sugar trade. We remember very well that before the war one-half of our imports of sugar came from British Empire sources. Since then, largely through the work of the World Food Board and its successor, we have been having a much higher proportion from foreign countries, and last year the Empire sent us only 20 per cent., while Cuba sent us 60 per cent. The most recently published figures for this year, which are not in the Blue Book, show that the figure has jumped from 20 per cent. to 38 per cent. from the British Colonial Empire.
The United States has a ban, under their Sugar Act, on sugar imports into the United States unless they come from Porto Rico, Hawaii or the Philippines. I hope that we shall find some good reason why we should not have a quota ourselves unless, as I hope, the Government eventually decide to have this system ourselves. This sugar is bought on long-term contracts, and the view of our party is that we dislike State trading, not on any ideological ground but because almost invariably it works out to be more expensive.
However, we do support long-term contracts and guaranteed markets, and remunerative prices to be paid, as much to the West Indian sugar producer as to our own home agriculturist here. After all, it was a Minister of the party to which I belong that first introduced guaranteed prices to the home agriculturist, and we have always taken the line that the home agriculturists and the Dominion and Colonial farmer must be given equally good consideration.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
Would the hon. Gentleman develop his argument and give us some indication of how he proposes this should be done?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I wish the hon. Gentleman would not be quite so impatient. I was not proposing at this hour to go into details of the exact mechanism that would have to be carried out. It is the responsibility of the Government to put forward proposals. We have it quite clearly in our own minds how it could be done so that there would be no inconsistency whatever between the State guaranteed prices and the handling of produce by private traders, just as in the case of home agriculture. No doubt there will be many other opportunities in a Debate properly linked with that subject when I could develop the whole theme. We reject altogether the view that long-term contracts, or even bulk contracts, demand State trading. We do not regard that as an essential corollary at all.
I have left a great deal unsaid, but I am conscious of your plea, Mr. Bowles, that Members should cut their speeches short, although there is a vast field to cover. We believe that the British Colonial Office is doing remarkably well under extremely difficult circumstances. I was reading, as no doubt most hon. Members have, that book on African life called "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," and in particular the chapter which describes the discovery on Lake Victoria of the jaw of an Early Man whom the discoverer named "Proconsul," and who may be 20 million years old. The concluding thought of the author of that book is something which we should bear in mind:Twenty million years from Proconsul to the Stone Age, 100,000 years from the Stone Age to modern times, and 50 years of British rule in East Africa. Yet in that half century the lessons of all recorded history are supposed to be well on the way towards delivery and assimilation.I do not think we are doing at all badly, and to all in the Colonial Service, whether in Whitehall or overseas, we of the Conservative Party wish the success they deserve.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Heywood and Radcliffe)
I know that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) will acquit me of discourtesy in 1421 not following his interesting but at times provocative remarks; but my time is very limited, and I want to address myself to a rather narrow aspect of the problem of the Colonial Empire.
I think it is one of the weaknesses of our Colonial Debates that all of us tend to be interested in different aspects of the problem, with the result that there is no general principle running through our discussions. The same weakness, I think, is revealed in reports of the kind we are discussing this afternoon on the Colonial territories. That report covers a great deal of ground; it says a lot; but parts of it do not really mean a great deal. It seems to me that there is no real underlying principle behind the construction of this report. It is almost as though a kind of Civil Service magpie had looked around for a collection of bits and pieces which appealed to him personally, and had gathered them together without any underlying principle of selection, or any apparent pattern. The weakness in the report is not the fault of those members of my right hon. Friend's staff who composed it; the fault really lies in the fact that they have not got the factual material upon which to work.
That weakness is particularly obvious in the treatment of tuberculosis in this report. Indeed, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hanley (Dr. Stross) on tuberculosis in Africa, in an Adjournment Debate on 1st July, taught us a great deal more about tuberculosis than we learn from this report. In the report there are only four references to tuberculosis. In paragraph 466 we find a reference to the isolation hospital for tuberculosis in Trinidad being opened in August, 1948; in paragraph 467 we are told that 100 beds are now available in Aden; in paragraph 469 there is reference to the "alarming spread of tuberculosis in recent years in Singapore"; and paragraph 474 speaks of the visit of tuberculosis consultants to West Africa.
Of the Colonial Development and Welfare Report, which was published only 48 hours ago, I shall speak in a moment. Although there are so few references to it in the report, it is indisputable that tuberculosis is growing alarmingly in the Colonial Empire today, especially in Africa. Conditions for its growth are particularly favourable at this stage in Africa. We have increasing 1422 urbanisation which is intensifying every year, the gathering together of native peoples in schools, mines and offices, the intermingling of infected persons with natives who are not immune to the disease, and also the continuing problem of malnutrition, to which my right hon. Friend so rightly referred, and towards a solution of which the Colonial Office are now doing so much. All these factors have contributed to the spread of tuberculosis during the last few years.
I think it is a great pity that the report does not provide more statistical evidence of the incidence of tuberculosis in the Colonial Empire. Only two sources are available to us. There are the annual reports of medical officers in the Colonies—which sometimes show little grasp of the problems involved, and only the scantiest knowledge of the proper use of statistics—and there are our personal contacts with medical officers returning from the Colonial Empire on furlough to this country. But from both these sources it is clear that there is little ground for doubt about the high incidence of tuberculosis and the high mortality rate that that disease brings in its train.
In Lagos, for instance, the tuberculosis mortality rate is 128 per 100,000 as against about 40 per 100,000 in this country. Of the deaths in Government hospitals in Nigeria in the years 1944–46, the last period for which I have been able to find statistics, 7.5 per cent. were attributable to tuberculosis as against less than 5 per cent. in this country. The Director of Medical Services in Kenya, in his last annual report, says:The position in respect of tuberculosis is disturbing, and gives rise to anxiety. There would appear to be no doubt as to its increasing spread in the non-immune native population, and the virulence of its type, while the existing facilities for its treatment are inadequate.In other Colonies there is very much the same state of affairs. In Tanganyika, the tuberculosis mortality rate has doubled in the past six years.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have not got the figure with me, but I can let the hon. Gentleman have it in the course of the Debate if he wishes.
In face of these disturbing figures it is a little depressing to turn to the Colonial 1423 Development and Welfare Return and find that out of more than 300 schemes only two have a direct bearing on tuberculosis, although a further eight will do so through the provision of increased hospital accommodation. Out of all the research schemes covered by that report, none has any reference to tuberculosis; indeed, medical research schemes rank far below research schemes for agriculture and fisheries in the amount of money which is to be spent.
§ Mr. Baxter
We are listening to the hon. Gentleman with sympathy, but when he quoted the statistics for Lagos as being 128 deaths per 100,000 as against 40 in this country, does he consider that that is a high figure, having regard to its development and civilisation? We do not feel that it is a high figure.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
Is my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) aware that development schemes are a means of attacking tuberculosis, the chief cause of which is malnutrition?
§ Mr. Greenwood
That is true, and I also agree with the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). I do not say that the proportion is unduly high in the circumstances, but I do not think we can be complacent even though we appreciate the causes which give rise to this high incidence of tuberculosis. The fact that the rate there is three times as high as it is in this country should spur us to get down to the problem on a more comprehensive scale than we have been able to do in the past.
My right hon. Friend referred to the difficulties of buildings and obtaining trained staff, which I appreciate, but we must remember that in considering this problem we do not need ambitious sanatoria or large-scale hospital buildings in our Colonial Territories. If we have large sanatoria there would be a tendency for the most seriously ill to be sent there to die; the sanatoria would get a bad name and from then on few people would be prepared to go into them. What we need more than anything else are small dispensaries, mobile units, and trained staffs. My right hon. Friend spoke of training 163 doctors, which, I admit, is a considerable advance, but we have to plan on a far larger scale than that if we are 1424 really to get down to the problem of colonial health The real difficulty with which we are faced is the lack of information on which to plan We do not know how many doctors, health visitors or radiographers will have to be trained because we do not know the incidence of the disease.
I believe there are two essential steps we must take in this campaign. First, there must be a real assessment of the problem, which means that we must undertake tuberculosis surveys wherever it is practicable to do so. On a previous occasion I was glad that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary paid tribute to the importance of tuberculosis surveys. Second, we need a tuberculosis unit in the Colonial Office which will give guidance on methods of surveying the disease and on the use of statistics and, still more important, will act as a pool of information about the prevention and treatment of the disease.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) rightly paid a tribute to the Colonial Office, and I offer my criticisms not in any sense as applying to my right hon. Friend, because I know he takes a great interest in this question of tuberculosis and has rendered great service to the tuberculous on many occasions. I believe that my right hon. Friend has done more to improve the welfare of native races in the Colonial Empire than anyone in the history of the British Empire. I hope he will go ahead in tackling this problem, and that next year he will be able to tell us that he has taken more comprehensive steps than seem to be evident from the report which is before us today.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Sir John Graham Kerr (Scottish Universities)
I am sure everyone in the House must have listened with great attention to the Minister's fascinating speech. I consider the right hon. Gentleman's politics to be deplorable, but I would not be honest if I allowed that to blind me to the great work which he has performed and on which we must all congratulate him.
In the short time available to me, I have to concentrate on just a little of the enormous subject which presents itself today, and the particular bit I have chosen is scientific research bearing on fisheries. I do not do that merely because 1425 research on fish has been the great work of my professional career; nor do I choose it because I have just vacated the office of Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Fishery Research, of which I have been a member from its beginning, in 1919. These personal reasons are not enough to justify taking up the time of the Committee. What does justify it, however, is the fact that we are confronted with a period in which the population of the world is rapidly overtaking the possible supply of food. The waters of the earth constitute an immense reservoir of protein food materials, the investigation of which is simply in its very infancy. The right hon. Gentleman has made a great beginning in this work of investigation and development of fishery. He has dotted all over the Colonial Empire centres of fishery administration and research, and he is staffing them with enthusiastic young men furnished with a good foundation of biological training. They will do great work.
Already, some of those stations have done great work. I will cite the first of them, which is the pioneer fishery department in Malaya. First of all, it has developed greatly the methods of fish culture. We are all aware of the great advances that have been made in the modern science of agriculture, but what we may call the science of aquiculture, has just begun. The fishery scientists bring down carp fry from China in sealed vessels so that they arrive in Malaya with practically no deaths at all. There the scientists rear the fish in their fishponds and produce a splendid return, two or three tons, perhaps, of good food material per acre. Of course, these fishponds are not necessarily confined to fresh water. It has been shown in Norway and in Loch Sween in Scotland how we can produce a great amount of fish in a properly fertilised salt water pond.
The particularly interesting thing about the Malayan fish pond is that the scientists have hit upon the use of brackish water. They introduced a little fish from Africa called Tilapia that does not mind particularly what is the salinity of the water in which it lives. They made fishponds in the mangrove swamps. Mangrove swamps, as we all know, occupy a great extent of the coast of our Colonial Terri- 1426 tories. If anybody were asked the most absolutely useless type of environment, I think he would answer "a mangrove swamp," yet in Malaya the fishery department has made ponds in the brackish water of the mangrove swamps. They have encouraged the natives to build their houses on stilts over the ponds so that the domestic refuse falling down into the water provides abundant nourishment for the fish. They have produced great results. So much for fish culture.
Of course, the product of fisheries is not always consumed as soon as it is caught, nor is it always consumed in the locality where it is caught. In fact, there is a great trade of carrying fish produced in one region to be consumed in another and sometimes distant part. That trade involves the necessity of fish being preserved in such a way as to remain eatable. I need not go into the various methods of preservation, but I will mention one, that of simply drying the fish. Dried fish already forms a large trade such as that between the North of Europe and the tropical regions of the world. Mere ordinary drying does not at all exhaust the possibilities of this particular method of preservation. What the real possibilities are was forced into my mind half a century ago when a bit of skin was found hanging in a cave, a dry cave, on the Eastern slopes of the Andes. That bit of skin belonged to no living animal but to an extinct creature. For how many decades, centuries or thousands of years that skin had hung in that cave no man could tell, but there it was, perfectly preserved; and why? For the simple reason that all the processes that destroy food and make it useless are due to the action of living microbes. The body of a microbe, like that of a Member of Parliament, is composed to the extent of more than half of water, and it cannot exist except in the presence of moisture.
I would commend to the Minister of Food the fact that proper drying is the great method of preserving food. Drying is what nowadays, with our fondness for long words, we call "dehydration." Methods of dehydration have been worked out in the Torry laboratory at Aberdeen, and some of its product has been exported to tropical Africa where it met with great acceptance. There we have a method which will be used in the future for the pre- 1427 servation of all kinds of food material. We must remember that perfect dehydration means that the protein material is preserved. It means also that the food is greatly reduced in bulk and weight, which again is of the greatest importance in transport.
I have a minute or two left, and that is certainly not enough to say all I would like to say about marine food material. There are those creatures which constitute the plankton, upon which subsist mackerel, herring, tunny and the large whalebone whale. These all live entirely on plankton. When we consume a bit of herring or mackerel, or a whalesteak, we really eat plankton indirectly. We have employed fish or whales to collect it for us. Why cannot we human beings take a little more bother to develop our methods of tracking down the plankton in the oceans, collecting it, and preserving it in a form suitable for human food. I have said enough to emphasise the point that in the oceans of the world we have an immense storehouse of protein food material waiting for us.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
I do not want to answer the view put forward by the hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Graham Kerr), but I wish to deal a little with the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). He welcomed the Debate and approved the Government policy for the past 12 months, but he had to say his little party piece. We had all the old conceptions of Tory imperialism brought up again. I hope that our colonial friends will be somewhat amused at the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford lecturing them on the evolution of political democracy in view of his nostalgia for the old empire of Spain.
With regard to guaranteed prices for colonial primary producers and domestic producers here, I would remind him that in the past the Tory Party never gave them security. It has been a Labour Government which, particularly in the sphere of home agricultural policy, has for the first time provided a system of assured markets and guaranteed prices. It was a Tory Government which repealed the Corn Production Act in 1921. It was the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford who started to make a political speech. I 1428 hoped that he would praise Government policy because of its valuable contribution to colonial development. I think we agree—
§ Mr. Baxter
So many hon. Gentlemen opposite do not know even their recent history, much less what is going on at present. Hon. Members are constantly referring to a Tory Government, but in 1921 Mr. Lloyd George was head of the Coalition Government.
§ Mr. Peart
We all agree that we have to speed up colonial development. The Economic Debate on Monday emphasised that point of view. It is rather unfortunate that a balance of payments problem and a serious dollar crisis should be necessary to make the British people think of their responsibilities to the colonial peoples. If our serious economic situation makes the British House of Commons and the British people realise their responsibilities to the colonial peoples and the importance of speeding up colonial development in every field, the crisis may well have served a useful purpose.
I want to deal with a specific part of colonial development—soil erosion. I raised this matter on the Second Reading of the Overseas Resources Bill some time ago. That problem is mentioned in the blue book time and time again. I want to know more specifically what development plans we have for research in that direction. I believe soil erosion to be perhaps the most important and most difficult problem facing the colonial peoples. It is not just a colonial problem; it is a world problem. On a previous occasion I quoted some figures given by the head of the United States Soil Conservation Service, who estimated that the percentage of productive land damaged or ruined for further practical cultivation by soil erosion was 50 to 60 per cent. in North America 28 to 35 per cent. in South America, and 35 to 60 per cent. in Africa. That is an alarming position, for these figures apply to the colonial territories, where we have some responsibility.
1429 The blue book mentions that research is going on in this direction. We are very glad to know that in November last year this country participated in an inter-African soil conservation conference held at Goma in the Belgian Congo. It was also attended by representatives from Belgium, France and Portugal. The conference recommended the setting up of inter-African soil conservation committees which would go into the whole question of soil utilisation, soil classification and soil analysis. I want to know from the Parliamentary Secretary what progress has been made. Have those committees begun to function? Have we, through our responsibilities in Africa, participated in further regional schemes?
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary further questions about finance in regard to soil conservation in the Colonies. In Appendix III B of the admirable blue book, under heading (f), "Soil Conservation," we have a total of £3 million allocated for a scheme for the whole of the Dependencies covering 10 years. The figure for Kenya is £2,250,000 and for Tanganyika £200,000. I want to know why there is no comparable figure for Uganda and other territories. Why is there a concentration only on these areas? Surely soil erosion and soil conservation is a matter which does affect all the areas which are included in the 10-year development plan. More than that, would it be possible to break down the figure of £3 million into the amount for research and the amount for actual work which will be completed?
I agree with my right hon. Friend that one of the problems facing the Colonies is the provision of good technical men able to do the necessary research and surveys in the sphere of geology, soil conservation work and all the other specialist services which we require in the field of agriculture. While the figures which my right hon. Friend gave are excellent in themselves, I hope that his Department will continue to encourage men and women to go out to the Colonies to serve in technical jobs. Our Colonies today do not need lawyers and teachers; they need surveyors, agricultural specialists and technicians. The main problem in the Colonies is still how to increase productivity, how to end the poverty which is still there and how sensibly to exploit those rich resources which were men- 1430 tioned in great detail by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford. If the Colonial Department can encourage good men and women from our universities to take up positions in the Colonies we shall not only be helping ourselves but helping the colonial peoples to develop their rich wealth.
I trust that the colonial development sketched so admirably in the general survey will proceed quickly. There is no time for delay. If we delay this development, I say in all seriousness that we shall be sowing the dragon seeds of a war which is now sweeping like prairie fire over the Far East and Asia. We have to solve the fundamental problem of poverty. It is still there in the Colonies. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has already made a good start. The old conception of exploiting our Colonial wealth, bringing in cheap food which ruined British agriculture and at the same time ruined the primary producer in the Colonies, has ended.
§ Mr. Stanley
In order to enable us to answer, could the hon. Member give actual instances where cheap food, brought in from the Colonies, ruined home agriculture?
§ Mr. Peart
I should have thought that the history of British agriculture in the 19th century was sufficient evidence—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name one."]—when the policy pursued was one of cheap food which enabled industrialists to pay cheap wages. It was the policy of a British capitalism of that period and also the recent policy of the Tory Party between the wars. This Labour Government believes in developing our own home resources and at the same time the resources of the Colonial Empire. The Colonial Dependencies can make a great contribution to the world problem of ending poverty and enabling men and women to live in peace and security.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Donner (Basingstoke)
My purpose in intervening in this Debate is to invite the Under-Secretary to add something to the account of educational activities included in the Report of the Colonial Territories, 1948–49, because, admirable as it is, this blue book contains no formulation of educational or social aims and objectives; indeed, it gives a somewhat 1431 blurred impression of piecemeal and haphazard educational progress. Certainly it gives no assurance of a true balance having been struck as between, first, the claims of vocational, functional and technical education in relation to the flow of investment in each Colony now or in the foreseeable future, or secondly, between general business and non-academic education and, lastly, higher or university education. Unless this balance is planned, there is almost bound to be native disappointment because there will be insufficient numbers of technicians to fill the jobs created by industrial development, as well as native disappointment if, as may well happen, there are too few jobs for people with literary training.
Reference has been made this afternoon to the danger of political advance outrunning social and educational advance. Certainly the speed of political and constitutional advance during the last 10 years has been such that we must now face up to the fundamental question as to what kind of civilisation we desire to try to build up in each area where the ultimate responsibility is still ours. On that important point the report is silent.
I wonder whether the Colonial Secretary has thought out the principles on which this or that element of our culture, and of indigenous cultures, should be fostered and preserved, because that decision will effect the time schedules of every school and educational institution in every Colony throughout the Empire. It seems to me that provisional objectives are necessary in view of the greater tempo of change in the world in these post-war years, a tempo which is unlikely to give us time to consider the results of experiments one at a time, and to discern between the good and the bad in each. Therefore, we must now fall back upon ascertained experience and when we do that, I hope the Colonial Office will consider also Dominion experience in this field because, for example, New Zealand experience in Western Samoa can provide some valuable lessons.
In the long run, of course, the peoples themselves will decide what structure of society they desire. Meanwhile, it would seem as if the Government were hesitatingly moving towards a provisional aim, namely, an amalgam of what is best in native traditions plus the moral values 1432 of the West, where these are applicable, though it would seem that to that aim might be added also a rational understanding of colonial economic relationship to the rest of the Empire and to the world.
There is quite clearly a duty upon the Government to provide guidance and leadership wherever self-government is not yet complete, and to exhibit to the peoples of the Colonial Empire the moral and material benefits of Western civilisation. Otherwise, if in many Colonies there is vigorous and sustained Communist propaganda, the peoples themselves will be deprived of fair conditions in which to form a judgment. If, indeed, some of these peoples remain without direction, it may well seem to themselves that they have no choice, and we will then have a clamour for so-called "sovereign" independence based upon ignorance of the overwhelming benefits of the Imperial fellowship. The world in that case will see a large part of the Colonial Empire reduced to small, weak, inefficient and uneconomic units, a source of unhappiness to themselves, and a danger to the peace of the world.
I think the Colonial Secretary will agree with me when I say that most of our serious mistakes in the past have been due to over-simplification, to over-application of the principle of uniformity, and that, similarly, most of our successes have flowed from a recognition of the opposite principle; as, for example, from recognising the Islamic character of the Emirates in Northern Nigeria; and of how utterly different they are from the gregarious and teeming life of the cities of Yorubaland in the south-west; which are again wholly different from the fragmented and democratic Ibibio peoples of the south-east, where real chieftainship is impossible, and where the structure of government cannot correspond to the life of the people unless it is conciliar.
We have in this world a great reputation for practical adaptability and experimental open-mindedness, but in the sphere of education this is not wholly possible, because we must now look ahead to the kind of unit which is likely to exist in 10 or 20 years' time. The Colonial Secretary must plan his education not for the African or Oriental boys and girls to play their part as children now, but as men and women when they have grown up, and 1433 when they will have to fit into the evolving societies which they themselves will later on mould and to which they will make their own contribution.
Whether, therefore, we are thinking in terms of such widely different territories as Cyprus or Aden or Swaziland, there seems to me to be a danger of over-planning and of over-simplification in the educational sphere, a danger of making peoples and tribes, who are centuries and continents removed from ourselves, conform to our ideas and our conventions and to the prescriptions of remote planners in Whitehall.
I hope, therefore, that the Colonial Secretary will agree that in this sphere three factors must be taken into account: first, the local facts and the psychological subtleties. That means acquiring on the spot. Secondly, the group-mind to which all social objectives must be applied, and the normally plural society in which those objectives must be pursued. Thirdly, we must, of course, know the political set-up and the range of the economic possibilities which are open to us in each area. That also involves questions of tribal and of European law, and of polygamy and monogamy; questions of differences of religions; of democratic indirect rule or of oligarchy under the forms of democracy; questions of Christian ethics, and of pagan or Islamic ethics; and, finally, questions of agricultural life, and full or partial industrialisation. The point to which I am leading is this. We cannot educate vaguely; we must know what we are educating for.
If the Colonial Secretary can provide clear answers in every area a great step forward will have been taken; but if it transpires today that these matters have not been thought out—that there are no definite social and educational policies for Islamic and non-Islamic areas, for settler and non-settler areas, and for plural societies of various kinds, where there are not only communities on different levels of civilisation but communities which are themselves divided by differentiation of function, then an overwhelming case has been made out for the establishment of a Royal Commission to consider future educational and social objectives in every area of the Colonial Empire.
In the Islamic areas every educational objective must be formulated in relation 1434 to Moslem law and custom and to the differences of Moslem law and custom in the different areas. In the non-Islamic areas, there are degrees of backwardness, where the formulation of any social or educational objective must take account of the relationship of their relative progress in self-government to those degrees of backwardness. Again, in settler areas, it is very important that all European children should be taught not to regard themselves as a caste apart but rather as natural leaders within and as part of a single community, who are ready and willing to share that leadership—
§ Mr. Donner
—with other races now or in due time as the case may be. These complexities reveal the need for a Royal Commission to study the requirements of education in the Colonial Empire. Meanwhile, however, the lack of clear aims precludes, first, full co-operation with missionaries. Secondly, it precludes the full use of the much-neglected potentialities of European women, including the wives of officials, by enlisting their services on a part-time, but paid basis, for social service work amongst native women, who, in their turn, will influence the transitional generation. Thirdly, the lack of clear aims obviously does not make the training of the Civil Service any easier. Fourthly, it makes the publicising to the world of British colonial, social and educational aims and objectives much more difficult, since it is by no means an easy matter to give publicity to a vague or non-existent policy.
I should like to ask the Colonial Secretary some questions. Will he explain the Government's plans for education in the various plural societies? Has his aim during the last four years and now been one of uniformity and domination by the majority community? If not, is each minority to control the education of its own members? If the latter, is an educational safeguard for the maintenance of this control by minorities to be incorporated in all future colonial constitutions for plural societies? If so, is the authority of Governors to be reinforced in order to make that educational safeguard a reality and not a sham?
Secondly, what is the policy of the Government for mixed Moslem and 1435 pagan areas? Is there a general educational policy covering pagan, animistic and non-Moslem religions? Are all these to be tolerated? Is education to be adapted to all of them, or only to some of them; and, if to some of them, to which of them, and upon what principles is the selection made? Are, moreover, Voodoo and some of the darker cults to be suppressed in the West Indies but tolerated in Africa? It is easy enough for the Colonial Secretary to enunciate general principles in the House of Commons, but practical difficulties arise when those principles are applied to the actual facts and circumstances. What are the main educational principles which are taught in the Pacific to the Polynesians, Melanesians and the Micronesians regarding attitudes to the race problem? Are those principles such as would make those peoples condemn the White Australia policy and, if so, what precisely are the anti-Australian policies which have been inculcated in the last two or three years in the Pacific region?
These are but a few of the deeper questions which ought to be asked. Parliament should know what is being done and where we are going. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will recognise the intricacy and delicacy of these problems, and that he will move cautiously and will, therefore, appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into all this difficult problem of formulating the social and educational aims of widely different areas.
My final point relates to mass education. Paragraph 409 of the report, fills me with deep concern. It contains a sentence which reads:… two regional Literature Bureaux commenced full operation in East Africa and Central Africa respectively, to co-ordinate and promote means of supplying literature both from official and unofficial sources for these territories.The operative word is "promote." Is the correct interpretation of that sentence that the Colonial Secretary has instituted mass education in various territories before he supplied, or was ready to supply, the new literates with appropriate literature? If so, he has entirely overlooked the grave warnings I ventured to express in the House in 1946 and in 1947, when I emphasised that it was important that as mass education was begun there 1436 should be a concomitant supply of good and religious literature and of an adequate local vernacular press, because otherwise the result would only be to foster, help and assist Communist propaganda, while at the same time we would witness the degradation of the African mind by a yellow press of an appalling kind. Neither does paragraph 446 of the report, which refers to the state of the native press, reveal any sense of urgency in the minds either of the Colonial Office or of the Colonial Secretary. Yet the picture is painted in ominous colours.
If I have interpreted all these paragraphs correctly, the Government are guilty of folly and neglect in this sphere. I beg the Colonial Secretary to assure us tonight that he has not started mass education without taking the necessary preliminary and simultaneous steps by the provision of adequate supplies of suitable reading matter. My final question is to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is being taught as a result of the introduction of mass education in the way of principles of ethics and of loyalties, and particularly of loyalties in those areas of the Empire where federation is now being considered.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary stated that the Colonies were passing through a stage of transition. I would rather describe it as a period of revolution, which began in the various Colonies because of the impact of white civilisation upon the more or less stagnant civilisations of those countries. Since the war, of course, this trend has been accelerated at a violent pace. I have been in many of these Colonies and I have the greatest sympathy for the natives thereof, whose lives have been impinged upon by an alien form of civilisation which has disturbed the even tenor of their ways.
What has been called the "simple" life of the native is anything but simple, as is revealed by history. Civil and tribal wars and other things took place, but, whatever it was, on top of this simple life the white man has impinged upon their civilisation. I have the greatest sympathy for those peoples. I am very pleased, therefore, to find that all over the Colonial Empire the native peoples have not fallen down before this impact of Western civilisation in the 1437 same way that the Red Indians did in North America. It is a sign of the vitality and virility of the colonial races when they begin to jib at white domination, and I do not resent their doing so.
We have provided in the Colonies an administration unsurpassed anywhere for ability and integrity and humanitarian feelings. But, in spite of that, a very small intelligentsia grows up. It is made self-conscious by education and, in spite of all the benefits our Government bestows on these Colonies, those people become discontented and then move for self-government, and the demand for self-government continues to grow. Also, whatever their ancestors' ways of life may have been, they desire a Western standard of living. But the Western standard of living, or anything approaching it, cannot be provided by a man working with a hoe or a buffalo. Therefore, science has to be applied to provide the wealth required to provide a Western standard of living or something approaching it. That requires an enormous amount of money, not £120 million, but thousands of millions to provide or approach the standard of living of ourselves, the French; the Belgians and others.
In spite of that, the intelligentsia demand self-government straight away regardless of their country's poverty. We hear statements made such as, "Ceylon has got self-government; why should we not have it?" To show how absurd that is, we should remember that the revenue of Ceylon which is not as large as Ireland, is bigger than that of Nigeria, which is as big as nearly the whole of Europe, yet some Nigerians claim to be in the same position as Ceylon. I agree with what my right hon. Friend said, that self-government must be based on a stable and prosperous economy. Very few of these Governments could pay the cost of running a modern printing press to print the proceedings of a proper Parliamentary institution.
In my opinion, the changes which have been made, the recent big change in our policy initiated by the Colonial Development Fund of £120 million passed by the Coalition Government, and the setting up by the Labour Government of two Colonial Development Corporations to meet the needs of the Colonies have 1438 come only in the nick of time because millions of these peoples were faced with starvation.
It is only by investment of capital on a huge scale and a radical change in the economic life of these countries that starvation can be avoided. The reason is that in these territories the birthrate is generally something like 40 per 1,000 as against our rate of 13 to 15 per 1,000. As they reject any form of birth control in their customs or teachings, many of these Colonies are moving towards famine and epidemics. It remains to be seen whether we can check that process.
People who deal with this problem say that education is the remedy for this large increase in population. But it is a great mistake to think that remedies which work in the West will work elsewhere. There is a thing called the tropical sun, which has a very enervating influence, and it remains to be seen whether education will correct this tendency and bring in some form of birth control. I have my doubts, but if education could be provided, I do not agree with the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Donner) who recommends that a Royal Commission should go roaming about the colonies. I can assure him that a lot of educationists who have worked for years there, know their jobs and know the people and are much better able to frame an educational policy than a roving commission sent from England.
If education is to be the remedy—and it is necessary even for economic reasons, because we cannot develop the economy of Colonies as long as people are in gross ignorance, and a certain amount of intelligence must be developed to produce even mechanics—who is to pay for the education of 60 million people? We have 50 million in this country, and I ask the Committee if the idea is entertained that in addition to providing education for our own people which costs an enormous amount of money, we should supplement enormously the revenues of the Colonies to educate 60 million people there as well. I do not think it can be done.
I am in favour of the Government pressing forward as quickly as possible with the development of self-government in these Colonies, because as long as they look to the British taxpayer, as they are doing today, to provide for every emergency and to provide tens of millions of 1439 pounds, they will not have a sense of responsibility. That is one of the great evils of our rule in these Colonies; that it destroys a sense of responsibility in the people themselves, however good that rule may be. I agree with my right hon. Friend in saying that the policy is to train the people in self-government and to lay the foundations of an economy on which sell-government can be built. I say more power to him; proceed with it as quickly as possible. I have lived in these Colonies and I know the risks of breakdown, but the risks should be taken and the responsibility placed on the educated leaders of the peoples themselves.
The Trusteeship Council's report on Tanganyika was quite irresponsible and largely propaganda. It recommended enormous capital expenditure on the Colonies. Of course, people on this sort of international council are always extremely generous with American or British money, but I suggest to them that they should urge U.N.O. and the member States concerned to put up money for the development of the Colonies for the good of colonials and the good of the world.
A year ago I stated in this House that in my opinion we cannot do the job for our enormous territories. It must be done by international help and international co-operation. We simply cannot do it unaided. The taxpayers of Britain cannot do it. Therefore, I urge my right hon. Friend in his dealings with U.N.O. to stress the fact that the United Nations must come to the rescue of countries battling for the good of the colonial peoples.
We acquired colonies often at the request of the peoples in them, and old Liberal Governments in the days of Gladstone rejected time and time again the requests of native peoples who wished to come into the British Empire. Other colonies came to us as a result of wars, and generally of wars in Europe which we won and thereafter took over French or Dutch possessions. Sometimes our colonies were acquired for strategic reasons by conquest. The African possessions were acquired often not for motives of gain, but for strategic reasons. I would remind the Committee that British Somaliland, which has cost us money annually and is nothing more than a desert, may have great strategic importance.
1440 Our previous history has landed us with enormous territories, and those territories are absolutely defenceless. We cannot defend them. Unfortunately, in the recent war, in spite of the fact that we were geared for war, Malaya and Burma fell, and if another world war occurs, we cannot defend these colonial territories. There, again, the key to the development and to the destiny of the Colonies in the future is that they must have international collective security. It may be regional collective security, but that is the only way of preserving them from the aggressor in the future.
Our commitments, economic, strategic and humanitarian, in respect of the colonial territories are colossal. We have more than 60 million people who depend largely upon us. They are helpless people in a backward state and in extreme poverty, looking to us to save them. It is quite natural that these people as they develop, resent alien domination, and, above all, they resent white domination. Whether that is right, or wrong, it is a fact. Then Communist imperialism comes on the scene to cash in on this colour problem, trying to persuade all these people to become Communists. If ever that occurred, it would mean that they would all become political serfs.
We have to meet an appallingly serious situation in the Colonies because of this population problem, because of poverty and all the rest, and we have embarked upon a vast outlay through the Overseas' Corporations. Not only that, but we have enabled the Colonies to float very big loans on the London market and elsewhere—I think some in the Colonies—and although we do not legally guarantee these loans, as everyone knows, they are in reality guaranteed by the British Government. Everyone well knows how often in the past we have had to waive these loans because the Colonies could not pay back the principal. In addition to that, we have undertaken another big responsibility. The Colonies are to borrow money from the International Bank of Reconstruction, but the International Bank of Reconstruction will not lend money to the Colonies unless the loans are guaranteed by Britain.
I ask my right hon. Friend to realise that we are entering into enormous financial commitments over the Colonies, and I urge him to see that our guarantees 1441 do not in the future land us in bad debts. In an answer today, my right hon. Friend said that since 1944 we have given, in free gifts to the Colonies, about £300 million sterling. These are huge figures, commitments and terrific responsibilities, and I urge my right hon. Friend again to appreciate that we simply cannot continue at this pace. My right hon. Friend said today what we all knew was bound to happen—that the £120 million granted in 1945 as a free gift to the Colonies is quite insufficient. A sum of £1,020 million would be quite insufficient. What is to happen when the £120 million is exhausted? For the first time Colonial administrators have a chance of doing really constructive work in the Colonies owing to this gift, since in the past, except in some richer Colonies, they were handicapped because they could not make bricks without straw. They never had the capital or the revenue to pay for the services they would like to provide to win the race against the birth rate.
I ask the Committee to face the facts of the enormous commitments and the enormous responsibilities we have undertaken for the future. I want to put in a word for the British taxpayer who, according to the American newspaper, "The Washington Post," is at present burdened with "savage but equitable taxation." There are limits to the taxation which the British taxpayer can or will bear. When we look at the Estimates we find that every year the expenses of the Colonial Department go up, just as do the expenses of other departments. Let us take the Middle East services, excluding Palestine, the winding up of which cost us £13 million last year and £2¾ million this year—a tidy sum; but leaving that out, the expenses of the Middle East services have shown an increase of £2 million this year over last year and the grants in aid to Colonial Governments, which last year were only £1½ million, have this year gone up by £2 million and are £3¾ million. There are two items.
Again, the taxpayer has to pay and the taxpayer is already overburdened. I ask my right hon. Friend if he would ask the Governments of the Colonies to try to run their own Colonies without coming to the British taxpayer for aid. It is perfectly easy, as any administrator knows, to do a wonderful job if some- 1442 body provides the money with which to do it. The real administrator is the man who, with limited means, develops a territory and makes it pay for itself and more than that.
I stress again that the terrible problem of the Colonies is this question of population. I do not think it has been mentioned in previous speeches, but anyone who knows India knows that the population there is increasing today by five million a year. In Japan, in spite of the war and the devastation following the war, the population is increasing by one million a year—though Japan is now living on American charity. This is the problem of the tropics, and Mr. Nehru, whom I saw the other day, when he was over here, knows it well. Every Colonial administrator knows it, and it is the problem which we have to face. As time goes on this House will be asked from time to time to face this problem and the problem of how to provide the capital and revenue which the Colonies need, I suggest, again, that we cannot do it. France cannot do it. The only solution to this terrible population problem in the Colonies is for the United Nations and its members to put their hands into their pockets and, following Mr. Truman's lead when he indicated that America would be willing to help, to offer their help. If the nations of the world do not solve this problem I suggest that we alone will be unable to do so.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
The only point I wish to raise is one on which I hope the Under-Secretary, when he winds up, will be able to give me some not unfavourable answer. It is the position, the grievances and, I would say, I am afraid, the sufferings of the ex-Service men of the First World War in Jamaica. So far as their grievances are concerned, I have information in which I have confidence from a British officer, whom I have known for many years and who has been resident in Jamaica, from a representative of the British Legion, who went to Jamaica recently to investigate, and from a body about which I know less but which wrote to me and which is called the Jamaica ex-Service Trade and People's Labour Union. All these are agreed as to the grievances of the ex-Service men in Jamaica.
1443 What they say is confirmed by Mr. Bustamente, who is Minister of Communications in Jamaica and who told me, when he was over here last year, that he considered these ex-Service men had a genuine grievance. A letter written from him to the ex-Service men's union which I have mentioned was sent by them to me and I will read one or two short extracts from it. This is what Mr. Bustamente writes:Rest assured that I will do everything humanly possible, as a Member of Government, to try and help the ex-Service men.A little later he goes on to say:The ex-Service men … should help … a little by not only organising now, but to keep on organising and stay out of politics.I do not know what that refers to, but at least Mr. Bustamente is urging them to stay out of politics. His letter concludes:Up to now you have behaved in a most exemplary manner even though you have so many grievances. … I still maintain that we have some obligation to you as a body.I give that as Mr. Bustamente's opinion which, after all, he gives in writing to these people. I will leave it at that.
The facts are as follow. In the First World War there were nine battalions of the British West India Regiment raised and these battalions served overseas in France, in Egypt, in Palestine and elsewhere from 1914 to 1918. The men were all volunteers and certain promises of benefits on demobilisation were made to them when they enlisted. Amongst those promises were, in the first place, that each man would get five acres of fertile land together with allowances for a house, and for tools, and £100 as Colonial bonus. They were also told they would get a further bonus from the Imperial Government and in 1916 the then British Government sent a message saying that they would be responsible for each man who went overseas from the West Indies. Thus, at any rate, some degree of responsibility for these men rests not only on the Jamaican Government but on the Government of this country as well. These ex-Service men claim that the promises made to them by both Governments ought to be fulfilled without further delay.
Actually, the promises have unfortunately not been carried out. In Jamaica the public appears to be just bored with 1444 the matter, whilst the Government of Jamaica constantly evade the issue, and certainly do not appear to be friendly to the claims of the men. In this country no one, not even the Colonial Office—except for such information as it has received from me—appears to know anything about the matter whatever. The principal grievances of these ex-Service men are as regards the scheme for settling them on the land. In actual fact the smallholdings on which they were settled, and which were given to them, are in most cases impossible to cultivate. They are barren, stony and in many cases waterless. No assistance or advice, still less any technical advice and the training referred to by the Secretary of State today, or, what would have been really useful to them, agricultural training, was ever given and they were left to do the best they could for themselves. Huts which they built for themselves are ramshackle and dilapidated. The men have insufficient clothing, they are often underfed, and it is hardly too much to say that in many cases they are practically destitute.
To inquire into the grievances of these ex-Service men a committee was appointed in 1946 under the chairmanship of Major Curphey. This committee was to review the arrangements made for the settling on the land of ex-soldiers of the 1914–18 war, with particular reference to the possibilities of exchanging for more suitable holdings such land as in the opinion of the committee could not be cultivated. The committee reported in November, 1947, but their report has never been published.
The Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a letter to me on 2nd December, 1948, which was giving me further information with regard to a Question which I put in this House in September, 1948, said it was not considered advisable to publish the report at this juncture since it would only tend to encourage false hopes to the ex-Service men concerned. That was the gist of a much longer letter after the Secretary of State had consulted with the Government of Jamaica regarding my Questions. But various stories have got about in the island to the effect that in the main the report was favourable to the claims of these men and this discontent among them has been greatly increased by its non-publication. It is, therefore, 1445 most desirable, I would submit, that it should be published and published at once. I most earnestly urge that action should be taken to redress the grievances of these men. They were volunteers from an island whose people we should remember were far removed from the horrors of war.
Though the men in question are not of a high educational standard and are certainly not very young now, they are decent men who left their homes and occupations as volunteers and made sacrifices to serve the Empire. It is far from creditable to the Government and people of Jamaica that they should completely disregard both the sacrifices and the claims of these men. I say again that the British Government are not without responsibility in this matter and they should bring strong pressure to bear on the Jamaican Government to take immediate and effective action to assist these men and certainly to put into effect the recommendations of their own Curphey Committee.
While my plea is primarily on behalf of the 1914–18 men, my information is that men of the Second World War are not in a very much better plight, and, in view again of what seems to me to be the almost callous disregard of the interests of these volunteers of two wars, I cannot help wondering what would be the response should there be another call to Jamaica to send large forces abroad to help this country in her need and to serve the Empire. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to give me an answer which will not be un-favourable to the case I have put forward.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) raised a particular subject about which it is not possible for back bench Members to know the rights and wrongs. I would only say that, so far as Mr. Bustamente is concerned, he has a powerful position inside the Jamaican Government, and his interest in the Government is not entirely, confined to the country's communication system. Therefore, if he thinks there is a real grievance in the case of these ex-Service men of both the First and Second World Wars, then it is his business to raise the matter in the Jamaican Government. I am not saying this because I 1446 know anything about the matter; obviously I do not, but I think it is only right that it should be said, and it should not be thought that the responsibility for this matter, if there is one, rests entirely with the Government of this country.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) said that this had been a very harmonious Debate. When such an aggressive individualist as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford sings in tune there is an obligation on the rest of us to do the same. I propose to introduce hardly any controversial notes into this discussion, because there is one subject which I wish to raise and discuss with the representatives of the Government. I would say only one thing about the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford. He paid some very generous and just compliments to the Colonial Secretary and to the administration of the Colonial Office during the past year. I think all those compliments were well deserved. But because the hon. Member paid them, he had to find some criticism to make and he directed his criticism to ideas advanced by the Colonial Secretary some 10 years ago.
Perhaps more than any other member of the Government—and that is saying a lot—the Colonial Secretary has had the opportunity of carrying out what he did say 10 years ago. It must be a great gratification to him that during the past three years there has been a much bigger expansion of trade in the Colonial Empire than ever before in British history. We are exporting capital goods to the British Empire on a far bigger scale than in 1938. It was 10 or 15 years ago that the Colonial Secretary was telling us in many pamphlets and speeches of the necessity for fighting the root evil of poverty in those countries—sheer, naked poverty; not poverty introduced by any particular exploitation or anything of that kind, although exploitation had often played a part, but the root cause of sheer, naked poverty. The right hon. Gentleman was urging that there should be a greater capital investment in the Colonies, and today we are investing in the Colonies on a greater scale than ever before. That must be a great gratification to him.
The particular subject to which I wish to refer is West Indian sugar. It was discussed by the hon. Gentleman, and I congratulate him on the contribution he 1447 made today on that subject. It is a great advance on the stand made by the hon. Member and his party about a month ago. He has not come quite to the full position of reality yet. I hope that he will explain in greater detail at some later date how, in fact, he is to work a system of long-term contracts and guaranteed prices while he abandons the whole system of purchase by a single department in the country. He has not explained that point. It is not explained in the Imperial policy put out by the Conservative Party. We will await further information about how it is to be worked out. But we should not be churlish in congratulating the hon. Gentleman on having come the distance which he has come since the last Debate on this subject took place in the House of Commons.
I do not apologise for a moment for raising again the question of West Indian sugar. I do not believe that any of our projects of colonial development, or any of the work of the Colonial Development Corporation as it applies to the West Indies, can be of comparable importance to the question of what we are to do to ensure an expanding sugar production in those islands. Every Royal Commission has confirmed that almost all the islands are entirely, or almost entirely, dependent upon sugar production. Therefore, it is vital to the whole idea of advance in education and health, and in every other direction, in the West Indies in particular, that there should be a healthy sugar industry.
The question is much more urgent, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford suggested, because of the delegation which is now in this country negotiating on this subject with the Government. I am sure that the Colonial Office will do everything in their power to assist the delegation to state their views to other Government Departments. But I do not think that this concerns only the Colonial Office. This is a Cabinet matter. I am sure that the decision about what we are to do about the sugar industry in the West Indies is one which should be brought before the Cabinet, because the whole future of the West Indies depends on the decisions we now make.
If we do not make wise decisions about the sugar industry in the West Indies now, we shall be faced with incalculably 1448 dangerous political consequences later on. Even on the narrow issue of finance we might try to save a few million pounds now and be landed with a much greater expenditure three or four years later. I believe that the need to present the case of the West Indies before Parliament is made the more necessary because of misrepresentations about their case which have appeared in this country. I do not at the moment attack hon. Gentlemen opposite about this matter, although I could on other occasions or if I had more time. But misrepresentations about the case of the West Indies have been put about in the Press of this country.
There was a disgraceful article in the "Evening Standard" last night which gave a totally false impression about what the people of the West Indies are asking for. I wonder if the people who write this kind of drivel really understand what happens in the West Indies when that kind of story is sent back to the West Indies.
§ Mr. Foot
It should be appreciated what a disastrous effect it has in the West Indies when quotations are made from a newspaper article published in this country suggesting that the people there are asking for something quite monstrous and absurd. The "Evening Standard" suggested that the sugar producers were asking for the subsidisation of inefficiency and wastefulness, and for a purely monopoly price. The article attacked the producers' organisations in the West Indies for having put up these kind of claims.
It is monstrously unfair that it should be suggested that they are asking for anything of the kind. What they are asking for are what they consider as fair prices for an industry which has been held by several inquiries to be the most efficient agriculturally in the West Indies. Every Royal Commission has said that. They are asking for a structure of prices which will offset political action taken elsewhere to maintain uneconomic sugar production. The "Evening Standard" argues that what the West Indies and the sugar producers need is not bulk purchase, long-term contracts or guaranteed prices, but Imperial Preference. Imperial 1449 Preference is really totally irrelevant to the problem. It is totally irrelevant for this simple reason. It is possible for the Cuban price of sugar to be forced down by a lot of different developments which may take place. If Cuba bas certain tonnages of sugar which she must sell at any price—and that has happened on many previous occasions—then the higher the preference that we offer, the lower the price at which Cuba has to sell. Therefore, Imperial Preference does not protect the sugar industry in the West Indies.
All the members of the delegation now in this country recognise that fact. All the political leaders in every party in Jamaica and in the West Indies generally recognise that fact. It really is absurd to suggest that Imperial Preference can solve the problem which the sugar industry in the West Indies must face. It is ludicrous to link the price which the British West Indian producer has to accept with the price which Cuba receives for her surplus. That is exactly what Imperial Preference does, if it is Imperial Preference by itself without anything else. I do not say that I am against Imperial Preference. In certain instances I think it is necessary, but as applied to the sugar industry in the West Indies it does not begin to meet their problem. It is a misrepresentation of the whole position to suggest that it can solve their problem.
What is exactly the position which faces the Government of this country? We have agreed to take all the sugar which the West Indies can produce up to 1952. But what they are asking is that there shall be an extension of that contract to a period of 10 years, with some method of negotiating prices annually and periodically, and with some possibility of expanding their industry to supply larger quantities to us. They also want an assurance that the calculation of those prices shall not be directly linked to the Cuban price or to the so-called world price. This fixing of the prices is a complicated problem. No one pretends it is easy. I think that the people in the West Indies have a very powerful case in this respect, because on 17th September, 1948, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his famous statement on the way in which he thought the Government would be able to deal with the purchase of primary commodities, not only 1450 from the West Indies but from other parts of the Empire as well.
It was said specifically in that document that in some cases these contracts should be for up to a period of 10 years. If that statement were to apply to any commodity I should think that it should apply to sugar, because the whole of the West Indies is dependent upon sugar. There is probably no single commodity on which a great part of the British Commonwealth is so dependent as the West Indies is dependent upon sugar. Therefore, I think that it was legitimate for the people of the West Indies to assume that that statement of 17th September, 1948, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have given at least the general principles on which the Government were to act in the matter.
What the Government must decide—and I am sure that the Colonial Office is in favour of this—is whether they are to carry out the principle underlying that declaration of 17th September or whether they are not. What are the objections which might be raised to pressing forward with this policy of long-term contracts, in particular for the sugar industry? Is it the case that the Government's advisers—either the advisers to the Ministry of Food or to the Treasury—are considering a return to free market conditions in sugar and allegiance to the idea of a world price after 1952 when the present contract comes to an end? We should be able to try to discover whether that is in their minds.
I have referred to this matter in Parliament before, and I have argued that the world price for sugar is a fiction. Every Royal Commission which we have set up on this subject has agreed that it is a fiction. For instance, the Royal Commission appointed just before the war which was sent to the West Indies discussed the subject at length. Throughout the discussions it referred to the "so-called free market in sugar." It said that precisely because it believed that there was no such thing as a free market in sugar. It proved conclusively that no such free market in sugar existed before the war. Almost every country in the world was at that time subsidising sugar. The amount of sugar which, in any sense, could be called "free market sugar" was, at the outside, 12 per cent. of the total world production.
1451 After setting up a Royal Commission which examined this matter in the greatest possible detail and which concluded that it was hopeless to think that there was any such thing as a world price, what would be the use of returning to the idea that after 1952 we should allow that world price to settle the price we should pay to the people in the West Indies? Of course, if no world price existed in the 1930's it is even more fantastic to think that there is a world price for sugar today or that there will be a world price for sugar in any foreseeable future.
I say it is a callous thing that we should ever hint or think of talking in terms of a world price when the whole future of the West Indies is at stake, and when every West Indian believes passionately, and that belief is confirmed by every Royal Commission, that no such thing as a world price of sugar exists. It is an immoral thing that we should think of lecturing the people of the West Indies about world price conditions when we are maintaining a far less economic industry for producing sugar in this country, and maintaining it in defiance of the advice given by the Royal Commission which was set up to consider the advisability of maintaining a beet sugar industry in this country in 1935.
If we return to free market conditions in sugar, we would in fact be doing it in defiance of all the advice that has ever been given by every Royal Commission which has ever studied the subject, and not only the Commission in 1939, but also that which went out there in 1930 and was presided over by Lord Olivier. It went there when the so-called free market conditions were supposed to be operating, and the remedy which Lord Olivier proposed for the disease is exactly the system we are now operating in bulk purchase by a single agency on a long-term contract. Lord Olivier proposed that as the remedy for the free market conditions which existed in 1930, and if I had more time I could quote the actual words which were used in the Commission's report. Surely, we should be accepting the advice of all these Royal Commissions rather than continuing to lengthen out the process of these negotiations as to whether we can maintain this contract for a further period.
1452 I should like to mention two other objections which may be raised to maintaining this system of a long-term contract. Is it because of our agreement or likely agreement with the Americans that we are afraid to make a longer term agreement? The hon. Gentleman opposite referred to it, and nothing could be more grotesque than that this country should fail to make a long-term agreement with the West Indies because of what the Americans might say. The Americans' record in this matter is not clear at all.
I do not complain about the Americans doing it, but it is no use the Americans lecturing us about discrimination and subsidising and all the rest when they have for years discriminated in the matter of sugar production in particular, and on a far bigger scale than we do. Before the war, whereas we were paying the British colonial producer, with preference, £11 5s. per ton, they were paying the Cuban producer about £16 per ton, which was a huge discrimination in favour of the Cuban producer. Therefore, there can be no reason why the Government should fail to go ahead in making this kind of agreement because of fears of what the Americans might say. I think we might welcome an argument with the Americans on that point, because it might clear up some other difficulties and misconceptions.
The final objection is that there may be complaints from the Canadians or Australians. The Australians produce only an infinitesimal small amount of sugar, and it is fantastic that we should hold up an agreement with the West Indies, which is absolutely dependent on sugar, because we have not been able to get agreement with the Australians, who are only dependent on it to one or two per cent. of their total exports. As for the Canadians, I have got with me the exact quotations of what they have been saying. I have not the time to quote them, but some of them have been saying that it will be possible for them soon to return to the world price for sugar and that they will not be tied by long-term contracts, as in the past. That is really a bit thick. If Canadian wheat is purchased on a long-term contract, the Canadians have no right to insist that the long-term contract for West Indian sugar should be 1453 abandoned. I do not think we need consider very seriously the argument from the Canadian point of view.
Finally, I would like to quote a few words from the Bishop of Barbados in a remarkable speech which he made a few weeks ago and in which he touches on this subject. After saying that he hoped all ideas of a return to decisions according to the world price would be abandoned, he said:I must frankly admit that I cannot consider any West Indian problem without bearing in mind that history of these Colonies. The ancestors of the major portion of West Indian people were brought to this part of the world under conditions which were an insult to their status as persons and a sin against God. The present generation, whether in England or the West Indies, as well as present-day Governments, whether in the West Indies or England, are not responsible for that, but we are all responsible for doing all that is possible to prevent the future of the West Indian people being sacrificed to what I can only call a piece of sordid and cheap-jack commercialism.He makes a tremendous plea to the British people that we should understand how important it is for our own country and for our relations with the West Indies. I am sure the Colonial Secretary is doing all that he can to ensure that we do carry out the ideals which we have expressed on this matter, and that we do make such agreements with the West Indian producers. I hope that what has been said in the Committee today will assist my right hon. Friend in the business of getting the Government to examine this matter at Cabinet level in order to recognise that the whole future of the West Indies is at stake in this issue.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) in the detailed case which he put dealing with a commodity of which apparently he has considerable knowledge, because I think it unwise to follow an hon. Member on such a subject unless one has similar knowledge of it.
I should like to refer quite briefly to the most interesting speech of the Secretary of State, and I say it was most interesting because of its great emphasis on welfare and education throughout the Colonies. I realise that it is most important that we should go ahead in both these directions, but I suggest that, in these difficult times, it is probably 1454 more important to get the economic side settled first and working in a satisfactory way before we can go very far ahead with the welfare and educational work which we all wish to see developed in the future. After all, a settled community in the Colonies largely rests upon a full and satisfied tummy in the native. That is the most important thing which we have to achieve in the Colonies at the present time, and I suggest to the Minister that he should consider much more carefully the economic side of the Colonies before he goes so fast with the welfare side.
I was likewise interested to hear his reference to the new Colonial Development Corporation, and we shall look to the future of that Corporation with great interest in order to see how it develops in the different countries, commodities which have not been adequately developed in the past and which are not particularly suitable, for various reasons, for private enterprise. I hope the Under-Secretary will give us some indication as to the amount of dollar exchange which is being placed at the disposal of the Development Corporation. It has come to the attention of some of us that dollars are possibly being expended unnecessarily; for example, in Gambia, the poultry scheme, we are led to suppose, was started in an extravagant and wasteful way, because many dollars were expended in securing employees, poultry and hatching eggs for future stocks which could well have been secured in this country, with a saving of a substantial amount of dollars.
I should also like to ask how we are encouraging private enterprise to develop in the Colonies. Is it the policy of the right hon. Gentleman's Department to encourage the Colonial Development Corporation to participate with private enterprise; that is to say, do they give a concession to private enterprise for a particular object; or is it part of the policy of his Department to say, "Yes, we give this concession, but we demand, and it is part of the concession, that we shall have 25, or it may be 50 per cent. interest in it financially and so many directors on the board"? I suggest that that would be unfortunate if it became at all widespread because there are many things which we believe private enterprise could develop very much better alone, and, unless they 1455 definitely ask the Colonial Development Corporation to go in with them, I suggest it should not be a necessary part of the bargain that they should participate.
The Minister referred to the large contribution which the Colonies are making, particularly some of them, in the saving and earning of United States dollars. I am thinking particularly of the contribution being made by the rubber industry in Malaya, in which I have some interest, as I am a director of various companies producing rubber, and have other commercial interests in that country. Malaya has probably been the greatest single dollar-earner throughout the Colonies. Between January and June of last year, Malaya exported some 228,000 tons of rubber to America at a value of 90 million U.S. dollars. That was a very important contribution. In the same period this year they exported only 170,000 tons at a very much lower value—57 million dollars. That, unfortunately, was due to the very much lower price existing for rubber this year than last year.
If the rubber value in Malaya is allowed to diminish, it will prejudice the quantity of dollars which that country can earn for itself and us as well. It is interesting to note, however, that apparently the Colonial Office allows Malaya to keep for her own use approximately half the dollars she earns. That is a rough and ready figure, but a reasonably accurate one. Last year, the Colony earned—when I say the Colony, I mean Malaya as a whole—some 229 million dollars, and she used in purchases for herself just over 100 million dollars—very nearly half. In the period from January to May this year, Malaya earned 83 million dollars and spent 48 million dollars. I suggest that, in the circumstances, that figure is too great.
About a year ago I travelled through the Colony, and I found that one could purchase almost any kind of American car at a moment's notice, as well as British cars, and that one could buy many American textiles and other American goods which were not necessary to be on the market at that time. There were sufficient British cars available, and very nearly sufficient British textiles and other goods. It is no real service to the Colony, and a great disservice to the Empire as a whole, if 1456 it is using a greater number of dollars than is reasonably necessary. I made representations about it at the time, and as a consequence the dollar expenditure was reduced in certain directions. I hope the Minister will look into that point.
Although everyone likes to spend dollars these days, I feel sure that if the matter were approached in a suitable way, the Colony would realise how very short of dollars we are today and that we deserve a greater proportion of the dollars which Malaya is earning at the present time. It might even be desirable to bring Malaya into the consultations concerning dollars which, I believe, are going on at the present time. After all, if one Colony earns an enormous quantity of dollars, it has some right to say how those dollars shall be spent. At the same time, I feel that we might get greater co-operation and much more sympathy in regard to this matter if Malaya were consulted more carefully.
I would also urge the Minister to see whether he cannot stop up some of the holes through which dollars are leaking in that part of the world. We know that a great deal of rubber and other commodities are shipped to neutral markets and then re-sold to America, whereby the neutral markets get the benefit of the dollars. We also know that a substantial trade is being done in rubber between Siam and America. Siam is probably shipping far more rubber than she can possibly produce, which leads us to suppose that there is a very lucrative trade being carried on in shipping rubber from Malaya to Siam.
§ Squadron-Leader Kinghorn (Great Yarmouth)
How does the hon. Gentleman propose to get over that difficulty?
§ Sir J. Barlow
I do not believe it is an insuperable difficulty, and some such activities have already been stopped. I can suggest some ways of doing it if the hon. and gallant Gentleman likes to discuss the matter with me afterwards.
§ Sir J. Barlow
Rubber dealers in Siam receive great benefit from shipping this rubber, because, I am informed, they are allowed to retain 80 per cent. of the dollar exchange for their own use and are required to pass only 20 per cent. to the Government. That is a very great 1457 incentive to them and the business is likely to grow. Similarly, I believe that quite recently it has been decided that Indonesian estates must sell 50 per cent. of their rubber to dollar markets. These two sources alone greatly prejudice the Malayan rubber market. I feel sure that the Minister knows quite a lot about this, and I urge him to try to stop some of these leakages. There are others even more flagrant which, perhaps, are best not mentioned here.
I would also urge the Minister to try to negotiate with the Americans that the synthetic rubber which is produced in such large quantities at the present time should not be produced at its present rate. I believe they manufacture between 200,000 and 250,000 tons of synthetic rubber a year. They say that they can produce it on level terms with plantation rubber. If that is so, it is quite unnecessary to pass legislation requiring that small motor tyres shall contain 65 per cent. of synthetic rubber. There, again, I feel that it is one of those things which, by a sympathetic approach between the Colonial Office and the Americans, could be overcome. In any case, it is of vital importance that Malaya should continue to earn as many dollars as she has been doing and even to increase her earnings, if possible; but I seriously suggest that the distribution of the spending of those dollars should be considered by the Secretary of State.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) is so full of information about rubber, that I shall not venture to follow him in his argument. I wish to draw the attention of the Committee, first of all, to the larger aspects of the matter in regard to the statement of the Minister and with regard to the blue book which I believe to be one of the most important publications that the House has had before it in recent years. The plan for the development of the Colonies is really so magnificent in its outline, so thorough and so complete, that I feel I have never read a Government document which has given me such great pleasure, remembering as I do the 1920's when those of us who were then interested in Colonial affairs were propounding what are now accepted by this Government as maxims of Government policy.
1458 This report is one of concrete achievements, and the plan behind it a greater one still. It is a plan to deal with the basic necessities of life in the Colonies. We know that in so many of the territories in Africa the level of nutrition is very low. In Malaya and in other eastern areas a similar low level is unfortunately characteristic, and is accompanied by a very serious amount of disease, including tuberculosis, worm infestations, leprosy, and a whole gamut of tropical disease. One hon. Member who mentioned the subject of tuberculosis seemed to think that this Debate was dealing with a medical report on the Colonies, instead of the question of the development of the Colonies as a whole, which is a much bigger and important subject. A great deal has been done by way of preventing disease in a manner which should have been tackled before.
There is also the question of the health of animals and the application of veterinary science, while the great geological and timber surveys, which some of us have been advocating for years, are now being undertaken and will be of great benefit to the Colonies and to ourselves. The foundations of very great developments in the Colonies have been well and truly laid. On the political side, too, we have a great record, but I will not develop that.
There is one point to which I wish to refer in detail in the report, which I hope the Colonial Secretary will accept. In page 95 of the report we have statements about visits paid to West Africa by consultants in obstetrics, tuberculosis and social and preventive medicine. These visits were of great value to the Colony. I mention that because in the report it stresses the fact that doctors are required in the Colonies, and up to the present sufficient numbers have not been obtained. It was suggested that efforts were being made to obtain them by improved terms of service and conditions—by competition in the open, free market against the demand for doctors in this country. The Colonial Office, however, must remember that the doctors do not exist in those numbers today. I say that with some knowledge of the medical situation. We have actually a shortage of general practitioners both here and in the Colonies. There has been no increase in medical schools in this country in recent years.
1459 It is true that colonial medical schools have been set up at Makerere in East Africa, at Ibadan in West Africa, in the West Indies and at Singapore and Hong Kong, but these schools cannot begin to supply any large number of medical officers for something like eight to ten years. It will take a long time before the number of medical officers increases. Therefore, there is no practical possibility of getting any large increase in the medical establishment of the Colonies in the immediate future.
I believe that if the Colonies go into competition in the open market for specialists and general duty doctors in this country it would be a cardinal error, and would be no real advantage at all. It would be very much better to treat the colonial medical service as a whole as a branch of the National Health Service of this country. Doctors could be sent out, not necessarily for long periods in the Colonies but like the consultants mentioned in this report—not for a short visit but for six months or a year, and doing work in the medical services out there. When they return, other doctors from the National Health Service could take their places. That is a practical proposition, by which we would get more medical work done in the Colonies than at the present time by having a separate service.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
What the hon. Gentleman is saying seems revolutionary, but my experience is that most doctors feel they have not much knowledge of tropical diseases until they have been in the country for at least a year.
The question of tropical diseases can be quite adequately studied from the point of view of giving doctors sufficient knowledge, in this country, but that is not by any means the most important matter in the colonial field. The matter of nutrition is more important than tropical diseases. Such great advances which have been made in the treatment of tropical diseases show that it is not now the only important question. It is quite true that this is a revolutionary suggestion, but in this country we shall have to get used to revolutionary suggestions with regard to the medical profession, because there is no other way of dealing with our needs in view of the limited number of doctors.
1460 My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary knows perfectly well he cannot get all the doctors he wants, and I think in future he will have to get them through an arrangement with the National Health Service. He referred to that when he talked about seconding. That would mean seconding from the National Health Service in this country. That may also be required in other spheres outside this country where doctors are required, because otherwise they are difficult to get.
I should like to know how far the Colonial Secretary can go with the doctors he has when dealing with the problem of malnutrition, tuberculosis, leprosy, and other tropical diseases. If he adopted another revolutionary suggestion, which I would venture to make, he could go a very long way to meet the situation. My right hon. Friend must face the fact that if medical treatment in the Colonies is to be effective it must be carried out on a different system to that by which it is carried out in this country, as there will not be for a very long period of years—certainly not within the lifetime of those now living—the number of doctors to deal with people in colonial areas in the same way as the people at home are treated. There will not be in the next 50 years in the Colonies the proportion of doctors to the population that there is in this country. They cannot be educated in sufficient numbers.
Therefore, we will have to adopt the system of employing medical auxiliaries, who will carry out the medical preventive work without themselves being medically qualified but able to do it under medical direction. Take, for example, the very great leprosy problem of Nigeria. I do not know how many lepers there are in Nigeria now, but when I visited the country some years ago there were over one million there. There may be more now or there may be less.
The main part of the cure is to segregate the people, look after them, make them clean and prevent them mixing with other people, because in that way the disease is spread. All this can be done by having a large number of people of the home visitor or sanitary inspector type to go amongst them and give them the necessary medicines under the general directions of a medical officer. In that way a doctor could supervise not only one centre of segregation serving an area, 1461 but perhaps half a dozen different centres. But it should be done by the Government. The Government should undertake the responsibility. I do not know what is now being done in Nigeria, and perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us that the Government of Nigeria are accepting responsibility for the treatment of leprosy. On the other hand, it may still be left in the hands of missionaries, as it was when I visited the country some years ago. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to tell us something about that.
§ Mr. Sparks (Acton)
Can my hon. Friend say something about the possibility of training the native population to assist in the medical services?
I am sorry if I did not make it clear that I am talking not about medical auxiliaries from this country but medical auxiliaries in Nigeria and the other Colonies. I am confident from what I have seen of these people—and I have seen a good deal of them, including those in the Far East in recent years—that it is possible to get an ordinary person, not necessarily a man who can read and write but a man who is intelligent, to do this kind of work which is the spade-work in clearing a country of leprosy and also of worm infestation, which is often very much worse than some other diseases. There is great medical work to be done in the Colonies, work which can be done on a large scale by employing medical auxiliaries rather than doctors.
I am very glad to see that not only in this field but in other fields great work is being done, both in survey and research, which is certainly making a revolution in the life of our Colonies. What in the past was a great dream is now becoming a great reality. I say quite deliberately that a large amount of the credit for this is due to the policy that has been adopted by the Government. Many of us some 20 years ago had these ideas, but other Governments did not put the policy into operation. This Government is putting the policy into operation.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)
The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) will excuse me if I do not follow his particular topic. As I am fortunate enough not to have made any big de- 1462 mands on his profession, my knowledge on his subject is somewhat limited. I will deal with one point, however, and that is his remarks about turning out doctors from Makerere College. I had the privilege of visiting that college some years ago, and my impression was that, although it did a good job as far as doctors are concerned, it was better that they should concentrate more on teaching for the profession of a doctor than on turning out people who eventually became disgruntled black-coated workers. From that point of view, I think that their policy might be improved.
I want to deal with a subject which has not been touched upon to any large extent in this Debate. The Secretary of State rather slid over a problem which has to be faced and on which some plain speaking is necessary, namely, the problem of political development. I am one of those who believe the first thing that is wanted for our Colonies in Africa is a clear statement of what we intend as to political development in that part of the world. Until we get a declaration as to what the political development is to be, we shall not get the economic development which is necessary. The Secretary of State has stressed the shortage of recruits in the Civil Service and other departments, but I say that he will never get young men to join the services for the African Colonies until they know something more about what their future is likely to be.
A few days ago I had the privilege of a conversation with an eminent visitor from South Africa, and in the course of that conversation we turned rather naturally to the question of racial discrimination. I was very impressed with his final words, which were: "You in this country must believe that South Africa is sincere in her attitude towards the native population." He illustrated that by saying: "You people may go to bed with your problems, but you always wake up next morning knowing very well there will always be an England, but we go to bed with our problems never sure that there will always be an Africa." That is something we should keep in mind if we are inclined to criticise the action they are taking there.
It is my impression that the fears expressed by that African are creeping up into East Africa. There is a fear 1463 about what the future of that part of the world is to be. A certain amount of trouble is brewing up there, and it is just as well that we should face it and make a clear declaration of what we intend to do. We want to know from the Secretary of State whether it is the policy of the Government to have an Africa that is black, white or a combination. Statements which are sometimes made by responsible Ministers are giving the impression to the Africans that we are on the way out. That is not the way to get long-term development. The result is more lawlessness and crimes in Africa than ever before. I wish the Secretary of State would come out with a forthright statement, such as that made by the Governor of Kenya, Sir Philip Mitchell:This is a British Colony for better or for worse. The choice has been made, and this Kenya and all its people are for ever British.I should like the Secretary of State to say whether or not he endorses that statement. On another occasion, Sir Philip said:It is a fact that there are people today with the fantastic idea of the creation here in Africa of an entirely native African self-governing State. That is as practical a proposition as it would be to set up in the United States an entirely autonomous, self-governing, Red Indian republic.That is a statement made by one of the greatest governors we have had for some time. It would help the development of Africa and the natives if we in this country were a little bit more forthright and followed the example of Sir Philip. Let us make a declaration and realise that the development of Africa is a long-term policy. I have corresponded with a young English farmer who went out there two years ago.
§ Mr. Baldwin
Kenya. He expresses the feelings which many settlers have at present He wrote:I have done well since I have been out here. I have ploughed back whatever profits I have made and I am borrowing from the bank in order to develop by farm. I am now wondering what my future is. We hear of these various statements made in your country as to what the future of Africa might be. What do you advise? Should I pull out and go elsewhere and exploit the position or am I safe if I continue with the policy I should like to do, that is, to develop my farm?1464 He was expressing the opinion of many men in East Africa today.
There is the case of Tanganyika. Why should we not make up our minds about where we stand? How can Tanganyika be developed on the basis of a 33 years' lease? Let the people there know whether they are to build a hut of wattle and daub or a house of stone, which will last. I do not wish to be thought reactionary in what I have said, but I believe in facing the position and not hiding it from the people of this country or Africa. I believe that if East Africa is to be developed it has to be developed by the European for many years. We must rule that country with kindness and firmness; we have to lead the African native.
We must build steadily and surely, and what we require is leadership for those men. Many hon. Members had experience of these Africans in the late war, and would all pay tribute to the discipline and good citizenship of those men when they were led and when they were properly treated, with kindness. That is the policy which we should continue. We must rule them with authority. It is important for us today to get away from the distant rule of Whitehall. More authority to make decisions must be given to the people on the spot who know their job. Lord Milverton described the present method as the "Bureaucratic merry-go-round of Whitehall." I am glad to know that local government is to be set up and developed. I hope that that means that the African native as well as the European will help on the local government councils and will be given responsibility. If that country is to be developed they need that responsibility.
As an example of the benefit of doing away with distant control, I would instance the Sudan, which has gone ahead by leaps and bounds since it got out of the control of Whitehall. Another example is Southern Rhodesia which now practically has self-government, and it has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. One of the reasons that country has gone forward is the fact that it now recruits its government officials from men on the spot, as far as possible. The civil servant in Rhodesia is expected to regard Rhodesia as his home. I hope that in future, when recruitment to the Civil 1465 Service or to any other department is necessary, it will as far as possible be from men who look upon Africa as their home. The idea of sending young men from this country to do a tour of service there, and being moved about from place to place, is out of date. That system served its purpose well in the past. There are many men in this country today who have given the best part of their lives as district officers, etc., in the development of Africa, but it is time for a change from that principle. Young men should now be recruited who represent the second and third generation born in that country, who look on Africa as their country, to carry on the work of that country.
In order not to exceed the length of time which I promised I would speak, I will omit some of the things I wished to say. Africa has only been partially developed. To develop it properly a vast amount of finance is necessary. Before finance is attracted to Africa, the people who could put up that money must have confidence in the future. If their impression is that the British are on the way out, the necessary money will not be attracted. I suggest that if we have the confidence to show the people of the world that we intend to stay there and develop that Africa, we shall attract there some of the wealth which United States citizens now have in their country and do not know what to do with it. I am one of those who believe that America has to play the part which the British played in the 19th century and invest the money they have now lying idle in the development of backward countries and virgin land. Africa is the only territory where that can happen. If they would adopt that policy, it would assist in the solution of the financial troubles of the world today arising from the shortage of dollars, and might lead to the system of multilateral trade which is necessary before we restore our economy.
I do not wish to see the African native spoiled by the sentimentalist and the unpractical ideologist. I want him to be treated in a practical way; I want him to be treated fairly. I have met the African native and I am fond of him. I realise that, if he is to get where we want him to get, he must be led properly, with firmness and kindness. I say to him that he must have patience, and then the slogan which he is so fond of displaying of "Africa 1466 for the Africans" may well come about, but it will be an Africa for Africans of all colours.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
Many of us on these benches would agree with the view expressed by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) in the closing remarks he made, that Africa must be developed to a large extent by the Africans and for the Africans. He said earlier that we ought to declare our policy. The Government's policy has been clearly stated on many occasions, namely, the aim of self-government for the colonial peoples. As we all know, however, the problem of mixed races and religions makes the problem difficult and complex.
I wish to speak tonight more particularly about staff, to which my right hon. Friend referred. He was glad to tell us, and we were pleased to hear, that so much had been done in recruiting, over the last 12 months or so, 5,000 men to the Colonial Service. He recognised and reminded us, however, that there was still a great gap to be filled. Some of us who have a nodding acquaintance with colonial affairs know that in the realm of medicine, agriculture, teaching and engineering this problem is seen in its sharpest form.
I would remind my right hon. Friend that the Select Committee on Estimates, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) issued a report last year and had some comments to make on those very points. It may be useful to remind hon. Members what the Committee said. It stated:The limited number of fully qualified technicians available should concentrate on training local staff for technical positions. Schemes should be adopted for the recruitment into the forestry, agricultural and veterinary services of men without academic qualifications but of good personal qualities and natural aptitude. Such schemes should provide for their academic training at a later stage.Men and women, both European and colonial, who have not passed through a university, but whose attainments are of a matriculation standard and whose personality and abilities are promising, should be admitted to the Colonial Service.I think that those recommendations are still sound, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend is giving some attention to them. My right hon. Friend reminds me that they are being put into operation.
1467 Certainly, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) said a few moments ago, it would be a hopeless task to try to provide for the millions in Africa and elsewhere, doctors all of whom we had to train in this country. The same thing is equally apposite to technicians and engineers. I was very glad to hear so much stress placed on the necessity, not of having people in the white-collar grades, lawyers and clerks, and so on, but technical people. We must help our friends overseas to get proper training to do the engineering and technical jobs with their own hands. Similarly, so far as doctors are concerned, we must get men in the Colonies to train as doctors or medical auxiliaries. We saw at Udi something of the great work which is done by such men, with a relatively small amount of money, in maternity and water services. I am glad to hear that opportunities are being given of seconding skilled people from this country, but I do not think that that is the complete answer to the problem which confronts us.
Study of the Report of the Colonial Development Corporation, which came out a few days ago, shows there is a very creditable list of small works going ahead. I say "small." They are bigger than anything that has been put in hand before, but small in relation to the dimensions of the problem. I am glad to find so much attention being paid to the geological surveys, because it seems to me that, as the Colonial Territories Report so clearly brings out, we must know what are the possibilities and potentialities of the several countries before we can go on with large-scale developments. I see from the summary that there are no fewer than 14 schemes, and that a lot of money is provided for geological surveys. I feel sure that there are many rich deposits of ores which would be useful in building up the economy of the Colonial Territories, and which would make possible the establishment and development of primary and secondary industries in some of the Colonial Territories.
There is a point, however, about the schemes to which I draw the attention of the Committee. We are told that, in the nine years from 1940 to now, schemes costing £51 million have been approved, 1468 but that the actual payments amount to £25.6 million, about half the amount of money for the schemes approved. One wonders whether we are sufficiently keeping pace with the needs of the areas. I was glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman today that there is likely to be a big speed-up in the delivery of goods and in the progress of the schemes. I put to him the question whether he thought it would be necessary to adjust the time factor as set down in the 1945 Act, which provides that £120 million should be earmarked before March, 1956. He rightly reserved his views upon that matter.
The need for development surely is accepted in all quarters of the Committee. The Report of the Colonial Development Corporation gives interesting figures about the standards of living in the Colonies, which are in general low. Measured in terms of productivity per head of population, and taking the national net productivity of the United Kingdom as 100, the index of productivity in the Colonies ranges from less than five in most African Colonies to something like 25 in the most developed West Indian Colonies. Measured in terms of the capital amount invested per head of the population in the most developed Colonies, it is not more than 10 per cent. of the national capital per head of the population of the United Kingdom. In Africa it is less than two per cent., which clearly shows, if any reminder is necessary, that there is a great field of work to be done.
While the £120 million is a very great sum of money, and while it is being paid over at very great sacrifice from these small islands, and while it would be pretty impossible to do anything of a more substantial nature, I cannot help thinking that it is quite inadequate for the job in front of us. I am glad that, in another place yesterday, reference was made to the possibilities of using the resources of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but I see from the Debate in the other place that a snag arises in that the rate of interest which is charged is rather prohibitive compared with the facilities which this country is able to give in other cases. For example, 3 per cent. interest is required, and 1½ per cent. commission is required, a total of 4½ per cent. One 1469 of the snags is, I assume, that if application is made to the International Bank for some assistance of this kind, it is accepted only on guarantee from the home Government, and really that does not get us very far, since we have so many burdens to carry.
I think that this problem, if it is to be resolved within any measurable period of time, should be a matter of consideration by the United Nations. My time has expired. I promised to speak for a short time so that my hon. Friends might speak. I should have liked to refer to Mr. Truman's fourth point, in which he gave an indication that he was prepared to give some consideration to the development of backward areas. I know that the British Government have some hesitation in accepting that offer. After all, we should require to know what political strings were to be attached to any offer of that kind. If it means that the Americans would make available to us scientists, research workers and geologists to conduct surveys, it would be useful, but I think that, when we are putting money into the Empire or into any undeveloped area, it should not be on a national basis or by loan from any one country. I should prefer it to come from an international source, so that all the nations of the world would feel there were no political wires attached, and that they could have access to the development, and be able to work in co-operation with the principal country concerned.
Despite my slight criticisms, I think the right hon. Gentleman and the Colonial Office are to be congratulated upon doing a fine job of work. Despite the criticisms which came from the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd)—I do not think that "criticisms" is quite the correct word, but he did in a slight aside talk about the dangers of State trading in buying primary commodities—I think that the people in Africa and elsewhere would acknowledge that the guarantee of a decent price for their commodities is a much better arrangement than that which they experienced some years ago, when very often they did not get anything like the real value for their goods. If we are to help these people forward, if we are to engage in long-term purchases of their primary commodities, let us as far as 1470 possible give them the best price, and let us try to come to some arrangement whereby the world price is not so much in excess of the price paid to the primary producers. That has happened with cocoa, and it has caused some disgruntlement. Having said that, I hope that my right hon. Friend will continue with the good work and bring us another report very soon.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
Tonight I want to speak very briefly, because it has been admirable to see the way in which the Debate has been conducted, and in which everybody has condensed what they had to say in order to allow more hon. Members to speak. First I wish to deal with only one slightly controversial point, and that is the accusations against the Conservative Party—not many, only two—of neglect of the Empire in the past. In the years between the two wars, when Empire Debates were held in this House and my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) put forward many constructive and challenging plans for the Colonies, the Labour Party benches were nearly always empty. Well, there has been a good attendance today.
Some hon. Gentlemen opposite are newcomers to these Debates, and I suggest that if there is any accusation to be made, hon. Gentleman opposite should point to the Liberal Party, which has at no time had one single Member present in this Debate. It may be that the Liberal Party has discovered a revival somewhere and has gone, like a water diviner, to find its depth. How the Liberal Party decided that not one Member should turn up on this Colonial Debate should be put to the country, and if it is in Order to challenge a newspaper—with great respect to newspapers—I should like to see whether tomorrow the "News Chronicle" publishes the statement that not one Member of the Liberal Party turned up for this Debate on the Colonies.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I am sure the hon. Gentleman would like to add that, despite the defection of the Liberal Party, the Liberal Nationals were very much to the fore.
§ Mr. Baxter
The discovery of virtue in Liberal Nationals is an old 1471 Conservative custom, and we gladly acknowledge that we have had a valuable contribution from those benches. However, I will leave the "News Chronicle" to its conscience and to Mr. A. J. Cummings.
Let me now say—because I am determined to come to the point of what I have to say—that this is a non-party subject. The development and the Government of the Colonies is something which I am certain is as much the concern of hon. Gentlemen opposite as of ourselves. We may approach the subject differently, but I am delighted—and I say this without reserve—to see the interest of the Socialist Party in the Colonies since 1945. I am delighted, considering the long years when they were as indifferent to it as the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was in the old days. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I do not want to put it too highly, but I assert that the Socialist Party in Opposition was almost as indifferent to the Empire and the Commonwealth as was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in those days.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
As I myself was in this House during those years I can vouch for the fact that I was always present at those Debates, and a good number of my colleagues always supported me in the observations I had to make about Colonial policy.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
Fortunately the right hon. Gentleman has changed his policy since then.
§ Mr. Baxter
Wherever he may be tomorrow, he was there in the Empire Debates. So was the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). They formed a litle nucleus. Let me add, since I am in a completely fair mood tonight, that there were not as many of our crowd as there should have been. But I say that in those days the attitude of the Socialist Party was like that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wanted to liquidate the Empire. They are a little ashamed of that, and I think that 1472 they, like him, have changed, and we are delighted to welcome them into the fold.
I should like to congratulate the Colonial Secretary on the success of his Exhibition, which was imaginative and constructive. I was a little worried in his speech about his use of the phrase that in the Colonies there was "room for private undertakers." That seemed against the best instincts of nationalisation. Of course, it may have been a little verbal slip; or perhaps it is an approach to us, and that by saying there was room for private undertakers he was referring to a system of burying the hatchet. At any rate, it was an unfortunate phrase, which probably just slipped out. I must not allow my congratulations to go on too long, but I must say that I personally think this whole report is fine, human and constructive; and lastly, I congratulate the Colonial Secretary on his speech.
I now want to speak for a few moments on the somewhat wider aspect of this subject. The Colonies are today assuming an importance which goes beyond the British Empire and beyond the sterling bloc. They have become of tremendous importance. We are seeing in the world today—as I think the Foreign Secretary said the other night when winding up the Economic Debate—the almost inevitable division of the world into two sections. The terrifying thing is that it might divide into three sections. I do not speak at all facetiously when I say that if we look back into history and then look at the present day we see that we are beginning the third British Empire. I use the phrase "British Empire"; I cannot be bothered with the word "Commonwealth." The first British Empire ended with the loss of the American Colonies; the second British Empire began with the inclusion of India; and, broadly speaking, the second British Empire ended with the withdrawal of India as we knew it and its achievement of republic status. I am not at all certain that the third British Empire will not see the return of the American Colonies. I do not say that facetiously, although I agree that it will not be in terms of status.
To my mind, the Americans are faced with a problem they cannot solve: how to sell goods to the world when there are no dollars to buy them. My own native country of Canada, having done well in a material way, having suffered much in 1473 other ways in the war, and having been as generous as they could be, but nevertheless having done materially well becaues during the war they had Lend-Lease orders, and also money from this country to build up their industries, will find themselves as a dollar country with an outside world with no dollars. Now the Americans, who can think deeply, know this. I myself think that there is only one solution to the approaching world economic disaster, and that is for the Americans and the Canadians—and I hope the Canadians will come altogether into the sterling bloc—to find some way to come into the sterling economy with free interchangeable currency, as this country in the 19th century went into America after the Civil War and built up the American economy. Therefore, I think that the Colonies had become of enormous political and economic importance, quite outside development.
We oppose each other and say harsh things; some of the harsh things are true, especially when we say them. But I would like to pay tribute to a man who is not an easy fellow-traveller for any party—Lord Beaverbrook, who preached night and day, especially on Sundays, Empire free trade. Whether he put it over in such a way that it was not easy to get on the band wagon I do not know, but we are coming to it today. There is no other solution, and we must pay our tribute to Lord Beaverbrook. He is not a great favourite with the Conservative Party, so that if Members opposite want to cheer it will be in Order. Let us give him credit for what he did—
§ Mr. Baxter
So far, I have made a non-controversial speech, and I trust that what I am about to say will continue to be non-controversial. The Colonies today offer themselves to the agents of unrest, to the agitators. They are a natural soil in which to breed trouble. While I believe implicitly in Imperial Preference, and dislike bulk buying in the ordinary sense of the term, I see no reason why Britain and the United States should not find some means of guaranteeing prices of commodities for a short period—say, five years. It would have an enormously steadying effect on economy and trade everywhere.
§ Mr. Baxter
Rather than spend too much money on armaments, although that is important, spend it on killing Communism in the only way in which it can be killed—by creating conditions in which it cannot grow.
§ Mr. Baxter
I felt that the hon. Gentleman would have something to say about this. I do not believe that we can destroy Communism with bombs or guns. We can only destroy it by creating world conditions which will make trouble and unrest impossible.
§ Mr. Baxter
I cannot give way; my time is limited. I believe that America, Canada and the Empire generally might agree to a system of guaranteed prices of commodities, even if it costs them money, which would steady the world and save Colonial territories from being a natural breeding ground for trouble.
Lastly, I wish to refer to the problem of welcoming visitors to this country from our Colonies. It is not an easy problem to solve. I wrote an article as a result of which a Nigerian student, in turn, wrote to me, calling me "My Lord" because I understand that that is their custom. He said he was coming here to attend a university, and I asked him to visit me. He came to my house and brought me an ebony carving of a Nigerian head, not a very valuable gift. He said, "It is our custom that when we go away we should take presents." I thought it a pity that he could not teach us similar politeness. During the war the West African students who came here became very bitter. They were being educated here, and when they left with that feeling of bitterness, it meant that they would go back and possibly make trouble.
I know that the Minister is a humanitarian and an understanding man, and I would ask him to try to ensure that so far as possible these men are welcomed properly when they come to this country. If it were possible I would like them to see the inside of English homes, because I am sure that would help. There is an old saying that racial equality is a policy only put forward by a country that has 1475 no colour problem. There is some basic sense in that, but I would like to think that we would give more thought to the problem of welcoming Colonial visitors, so that when they go back home they can take up the great task of building up the British Empire.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Awbery (Bristol, Central)
Listening to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), I wondered whether we ought to consider ourselves as being a colony of the United States or whether the United States should be considered as a colony of the British Empire. I have read the blue book, but I find nothing in it about either of those things. Today, some hon. Members have stressed particularly the political development of our Colonies and others have stressed their economic development. I want to talk about the social welfare of our colonial peoples—the human side which we are apt to misunderstand.
Before doing so, however, I should like to wholeheartedly congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the wonderful speech he made in the opening Debate. It showed me, at any rate, that during the past few years there has been a change in the method of our approach to colonial problems. I am sure that our Colonies will give a warm and sincere welcome to my right hon. Friend's words. My right hon. Friend spoke of what we have done during the past few years and what we intend to do. As a Celt, I would say that there was little fire in his speech but that it was full of interest and facts. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), who opened for the Opposition, praised my right hon. Friend for his work and also made a fine speech, but there were too many "ifs" and "buts" in it.
I want to deal with colonies generally before referring particularly to the colony or dependency I know. There have been. great changes, politically, economically and socially, in our Colonies. We cannot ignore the changes which have taken place, but we can adapt ourselves to them. If we refuse to recognise those changes it will be dangerous for us and will be the first step to losing our Colonies to Communism or to some other "ism." We are directly responsible in this Parliament for the administration of the 1476 Colonies, and we must give effect to the changes on democratic lines. We can then hold the Colonies and Dependencies. If we hold them for the purpose of exploitation only, there is a danger that we shall lose them altogether. It is our duty to create in the Colonies a sense of responsibility and to help them in every respect. We should do all that we can to develop a democratic spirit in the Colonies and to help the people to adapt themselves to changing circumstances.
I have read with great care the Report of the Colonial Office, and I think that it is one of the best that has emerged from that Department. We are not trying to justify the actions of the past, but to make some amends for what we have done. With zeal, patience and plodding, the Colonial Secretary is achieving his. objectives. His performances in office correspond to his promises when he was in Opposition. He has carried out his promises and has put them upon the Statute Book. Nothing in our whole colonial history is equal to what we have done during the past few years for the colonial people. We have written some splendid pages of colonial history as well as some sombre and dark pages, but this is one that will impress itself upon the Colonies and upon the nations of the world.
Now I should like to say a word about Malaya. Whenever that name is mentioned, people immediately think of tin and rubber and of the profits that they make out of those commodities in the markets of the world. If we are to hold Malaya only for the tin, the rubber and the profits, it would be a very sordid basis, and we should lose the Colony in a very short time.
§ Mr. Awbery
We do not hold Malaya only for tin and rubber, but they are important and helpful to this country to get us dollars at the present time. We must not remain there only for that reason. There is a greater and higher responsibility upon this nation than to make profits out of tin and rubber. We have opportunities of service there to uplift the social condition of the people. Nature or fate has given into our hands a power which we have to use for the natives of our Colonies.
§ Mr. Gallacher
May I ask the hon. Member whether it is not for the tin and the rubber that we are in Malaya? Did he ever, when the Tories were in power, hear that we were in Malaya to look after the interests of the natives?
§ Mr. Awbery
The title of the report is "The Welfare of the People of the Colonies." The primary objective of the Colonial Secretary is to uplift the people of the Colonies. I am concerned about the spending of money on the Colonies. Are we spending enough? We are told that a number of young men come to this country to be trained in order to go back and train other social welfare workers in the Colonies. Are we spending enough money, or are we going to say later on that what we spent was too little and too late? Malaya is a three-in-one nation. The Malays form about 40 per cent. of it, the Chinese 40 per cent. and the Indians, Eurasians and others 20 per cent. Those three nations have to be bound together. There is at present an attempt by some of the Chinese to bring the Malays together with them. Many of the Chinese were born in Malaya and regard Malaya as their home. They are trying to bind together the Malays, the Eurasians, the Indians and the Chinese to work together for the good of Malaya.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
Will the hon. Gentleman say what percentage of the Chinese in Malaya are Malayan-born?
§ Mr. Awbery
I do not think we have any figures of the percentage of Chinese who come from China and the percentage born in Malaya. I know that the forbears of some of the Chinese in Malaya came there 400 years ago. Their descendants are still regarded as Chinese. Some of the Chinese who come there from China bring certain philosophies and ideologies with them and try to convert other people in Malaya.
I also want to speak about the democratic election of the Assemblies in Singapore and the Malayan Federation. We must not persuade the people of this country that these Assemblies are democratically elected, because they are not. A small proportion in Singapore are elected on a democratic vote. I am not condemning the Colonial Secretary. This was started last year and it is a step in the right direction, but I want him to develop this so that presently all the 1478 Assemblies will be democratically elected. In the case of the Malayan Federation, all are appointed and not elected. I suggest that we can allow the people to elect a gradually increasing number until there is full democratic control. I understand that the Singapore Municipal Council had an election a month or two ago. That is another step in the direction of democratic control by the people.
Another subject which I want to raise is education. There are schools for children on the plantations, but the system is not satisfactory. The planters are doing as much as they can to develop education, but the State must take control of elementary education and develop it right up to the university which will be built in Singapore. As regards social welfare, young men are coming here to be trained and mention has been made of what happens to some of them when they are in this country. Some have got into the clutches and control of undesirable people.
There is room for great development in health arrangements and hospital treatment. The Colonial Secretary ought to have some regard for the forgotten people, the lepers. Just outside Kuala Lumpur, the capital of the Malayan Federation, there is a settlement of about 2,300 lepers. I asked the doctor there what we could do to help, and he replied that if he could be supplied with sulfa-tone tablets he could probably purge the place of leprosy. I hope the Secretary of State will consider that.
With regard to factory inspection, went through several factories and saw the machinery, some of which was unguarded and in a filthy condition, with examination taking place only once a year. I think it is necessary to increase the number of factory inspectors and to improve legislation. Workmen's compensation is almost unknown as we understand it, and I ask the Secretary of State to give consideration to that matter. On the question of trade union advisers, we have a few men out there doing the best they can under difficult circumstances. There are probably half a dozen in a population of 5½ million. I say, send the right men out there to train these people and we will get the right kind of organisation.
I close with this: nothing done in the past will equal what this Government 1479 have done for the colonial people during the past five years and I say to the Secretary of State, quite honestly and sincerely, "You have done magnificently. Carry on with your work. By your work for the colonial people you can blot out many of the things of the past which it is desirable that we should forget."
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
The warmth of enthusiasm which greeted the speech of the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery) will, I fear, dwindle in the rather more cold and practical light which I hope to throw on matters in Malaya. I believe that the outstanding speech made from the benches opposite this afternoon, amongst some very good ones, was made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), because it has at last dawned upon him, and I think upon many of his colleagues, that all the desirable things mentioned by the hon. Member for Central Bristol—education, roads, improvement in health services—will be possible only if the economic future of the Colonies will permit it.
This Debate is taking place under the shadow of the two days we have devoted to the dollar crisis, and therefore it is important not to give full and free rein to what our hearts desire but to concentrate our minds on what is possible, or how we can make it more possible by a correct economic policy. I believe, therefore, that it will not be amiss if I devote the time at my disposal to studying the Malayan question, particularly in regard to tin and rubber which, for many years to come, in spite of what the hon. Member for Central Bristol has said, and even with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, with which we all agree, of spreading away from those two main crops into others—at any rate, as long as the present dollar crisis lasts—must be the two main factors. Possibly, in examining them closely under the microscope, instead of taking the usual gallop upon one's hobby horse around the horizon, we may learn the lesson for other things, too.
I will not deal with the document referred to this afternoon, but the one issued in May on the British Dependencies in the Far East, which is parallel in its use and value. I know that confession is good for the soul, but Governments, 1480 having no soul, do not go in for confession and, therefore, certain confessions which they might well have made in it have been omitted. I do not propose to go over, as we have done in previous Debates, the reasons for the recent troubles in Malaya because, fortunately, they are to a considerable extent passing away, but they have left behind them, on the wrong side of the balance, great financial burdens on Malaya, and they are the cause of the acute economic crisis which has overcome that country.
We refer to Malaya all the time as being the dollar arsenal, but we take the dollars. Nevertheless, I am not one of those who wish to encourage among any community of Malaya any spirit that might be arising at the present moment that they can contract out of the general difficulties in which the sterling bloc of the Empire finds itself, on the rather narrow basis of saying that, because they produce the rubber and the tin and because they are the direct means of earning the dollars, they should be given a much more favoured-nation position than other Colonies.
At any rate they have before them at the moment the example of the Dominions—a status which they themselves may reach one day—who, in an extremely self-sacrificing way, have come forward and said, "We in the sterling bloc stand or fall together." South Africa, producing diamonds, hides and skins and great quantities of gold, could put up a very good, narrow, selfish argument. Australia with its wool crop could do the same. They have all come together because they begin to understand—and Malaya understands, I think, or should understand—that here in the centre just now sterling has to be supported by the whole force of what there is inside the sterling bloc, and that means the British Empire. Actually, Malaya has not had a very bad deal about dollars. She has had, I think, more than the average allocation. The important point is what can she contribute, and what are the chances that she will contribute, in dollars over the next few months, when the crisis will become more acute?
Reference was made by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) to the rubber industry, but I should like to develop it a good deal 1481 further and to mention some of the dangers into which it is running and which will affect other Colonial development schemes in years to come when they reach, as they will, in the ordinary curve of ups and downs, the same situation. The development of rubber—this was omitted from the hon. Member's speech—has become rather more a matter of the small native Asiatic producer than of the European estate owner, and in these days, when we talk of producers of rubber, an illusion seems to be prevalent.
There is only one producer of rubber, and that is the man who taps the rubber tree with a knife and gets latex out of it. Everybody else, whether it be the European estate manager, the house which helped to finance and run the estate in between, or the collecting and packing station of native rubber or the shipper, everybody else between the tapper and the man who drives the motor car with rubber on its tyres, is an intermediary in one form or another. Therefore, in considering the rubber problem in Malaya, one has to bear in mind that there is an absolute, joint and equal interest between the native producer and the European estate manager. It is possible that rubber is running into a situation where new methods of production will have to be considered, where we shall test in the great open space, in real competition against the new form of synthetic rubber, what is the most economic method of production.
The situation in rubber is undoubtedly this. Malaya has made a magnificent effort since the end of the war. The figures which have been published show that it has been the biggest individual dollar producer, for various reasons. First, because in the sellers' market the whole world wanted rubber and was willing to pay a price which, incidentally, never rose to the same level as the prices of commodities in the rest of the world. This fact has always been damped down to some extent. This damping down has been due to the main cause which worries the rubber producer, and which comprises two, or possibly three, things. The first is the appearance of synthetic rubber. For the first time synthetic rubber, cold rubber—it has no relation to the "cold" war; I must disappoint the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher)—
§ Mr. Fletcher
The fish are rising tonight. Cold rubber is undoubtedly, for the first time, a really good and efficient substitute for raw rubber. The price at which it can be produced is unknown because at present it is being produced in factories which the American Government have put at the disposal of manufacturers. Factories were built during the war on a non-economic basis, and to some extent, therefore, it is being slightly subsidised. But the history of all synthetic products, from the days of indigo, with the harm it did to India, has always been that they improve in quality and diminish in price as time goes on. Therefore, the warning signal has been issued to rubber perfectly clearly.
Then there is the competition from the Dutch East Indies. That great area, as we all hope, will fairly soon be pacified and a new form of government—let us hope, a really satisfactory and permanent one, with both Indonesian and Dutch elements in it, because both can contribute—will undoubtedly tend to produce more than it has produced in the disturbed conditions under which it has been working.
There are certain other factors which hit heavily against rubber. These I must bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman, although he is not actually the culprit in this matter. The chief of these is the great attack there has been not only on rubber, but on a great many other things inside the sterling bloc, by the very unfair practice of what has been called the dollar leak in the sterling area. It has had a disastrous effect. It has had not only the effect of robbing the sterling area of dollars for wool from Australia, hides, skins and diamonds from South Africa, and rubber from Malaya; but it has been the main factor in breaking down the price structure of what we produce inside the sterling bloc—in the Empire—far faster than the price structure of commodities we have to buy in the gold and dollar area is breaking down.
That is one of the main causes of disequilibrium working against us. It has been one of the main causes of making the gap as great as it has been and as great as I fear that it will continue 1483 to be. The decline in prices of our products which should have been sold in the dollar area by us has been forced for this reason. I will explain how it works. I will not give the names of any nations. A member of the non-sterling bloc obtains his sterling in the open markets of the world. There are dozens of them. Sterling is obtainable there at very much cheaper than the official rate. It is no use blinking that fact. The Treasury and everybody else admit it. With that sterling they go in a perfectly legitimate way and buy rubber from a dealer, a broker or a producer in Malaya. He, by putting his form perfectly correctly through the Exchange Control, gets a permit to ship the rubber to that particular European country. It is a perfectly legitimate transaction. But when the rubber gets to that European country it is immediately re-routed and shipped to America. Rubber has been sold in America at a price very much lower—taking the official rate of exchange as a basis—than it could be bought in the country of origin.
For months and months, rubber and many other commodities have been selling more cheaply in America than they can be produced. Sometimes they have been as much as ½d. per lb. cheaper, which is a great deal. This continual drip, drip, drip, flowing from these illegitimate sources—sources which have transgressed arrangements made with His Majesty's 'Government—has gradually broken down the price structure. It has made it quite impossible for the legitimate flow of trade to go through channels where it can be properly controlled.
The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he would produce some figures for which I asked, but he did not do so. If those figures had been produced they would have shown the position. During the last year or more, others and myself have been pointing this out to the Chancellor. If he took the manifests of ships arriving in America and examined the markings on the cargoes, that would be a practical way of seeing where the cargo came from and where it had been since it was despatched. If this leak was stopped, the Chancellor would save six or seven times the amount he is saving on the sugar cut, but at present it is flowing through his fingers. 'This matter simply must be tackled.
1484 If the price structure of rubber, which is today at a level which barely pays the cost of efficient production, goes very much further, then the new form of government which the Colonial Secretary has set up in Malaya—the new attempt to make a rapprochement in an atmosphere of goodwill which only exists when financial and economic considerations are working well—will be brought to nothing. If that is destroyed by the same process taking place in tin, to some extent, as in rubber, then the whole of what the Colonial Secretary has said about carrying on the policy initiated before of creating a new feeling in Malaya, a new Federation, will be brought to nothing.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
Many of us on both sides of the Committee are interested in these dollar leakages. Can the hon. Gentleman suggest a practical way of stopping them in the international field? This ought not to be put at the door of the Colonial Office.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I can suggest many practical ways. I have said that the blame is not at the door of the Colonial Office, though it is a direct concern of theirs even if they do not happen to be the Ministry affected in carrying out the remedy. There are many ways which I have put to the Treasury in which this could be stopped. The Colonial Office has taken one step. It has placed a strict embargo upon the shipment of rubber to Siam. Nevertheless, rubber has been flowing to Siam in about twice the quantity that it should. This is a most difficult problem. Pressure must be brought on the nations which transgress. But let the Secretary of State bear in mind that as long as the world's assessment of the value of sterling differs from the official rate—and it will continue to do so for some time until confidence is restored—there will be available in the world great quantities of unofficial sterling which can be used for this purpose.
I believe that many things are being studied at the moment, and there was some kite-flying in one of the papers the other day as to whether some form of bulk selling of tin and rubber to America, in exchange for cotton and sugar, may not take place. I have an instinctive dislike for that sort of transaction, but in the situation with which we are dealing, with certain safeguards, the 1485 rubber producers and distributors would be the first to come along and assist. But the Secretary of State and the Committee must remember that rubber is a very different article with which to deal than some of the foodstuffs, particularly sugar, which have been mentioned. In these commodities, the fluctuations are to some extent foreseeable, but over a period of 21 years from 1910 to 1931 there was variation in the price of rubber from 13s. 6d. per lb. to 1½d. per lb. There is considerable room for errors of judgment there.
We have to study in Malaya the importance of efficient production, and we also have to reinfuse into the whole rubber-producing industry—and this applies equally to tin—a new sense of confidence. The Malayan loan issued not many months ago, which was a Government loan, stood not so long ago—I do not know today's price—at six discount. That is within a few months of issue. For any loans to stand at six discount within a short time of being issued is an adequate sign of a dangerous lack of confidence.
There are certain remedies which should be applied fairly soon. First and foremost, there is the very important question of a settlement of the war damage and war insurance claims of Malaya. We all know the history of this question—and it is referred to in this particular document—which is now just coming to the point of decision by the Legislative Council out there. I do not say that the Government have done everything which they should have done, but they have at least made an effort to produce a balanced scheme which will share the burden—although everybody will suffer, and nobody will be paid out in full—fairly evenly between all parts of the community.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether he is aware that there has appeared quite recently a new idea—though really it is not so very new—among certain sections of the community out there that they would like a little bit more, and that the other chap should get a little less. I believe that scheme was worked out by people sent out by the Colonial Office, and I happened to be in Malaya when they were there. They took the utmost pains to see every part of every community, and they reported back that, with a little extra effort 1486 by the Government, the scheme would produce exactly what they were trying to make it produce—sufficient rehabilitation for industry to reform itself, instead of the unease and lack of confidence which there is at the moment.
We need a new surge forward in creating new industries, and that means that a great deal of expensive pioneer work has to be done. The Government, even with the Colonial Development Corporation, cannot do that. The suggestion was put forward today that there should be a partnership between private enterprise and the Government in order to help these Malayan people—and I am one of the 8,000 claimants. If out of the total of £150 million, about £55 million under this scheme is distributed fairly under the Government plan, it will probably be sufficient to bring about this surge forward again towards a new economy in Malaya. Tin is not so vulnerable as rubber, and is not in the same serious situation as is rubber at the moment. Modern science about which we very often talk in this Chamber, often produces violent reactions. Time and time again we find that long-term schemes which look admirable when they are started are knocked endwise by some new influence. During the war it was not only synthetic rubber, but new uses which took the place of certain materials.
I now come to the point raised about the United States coming in as a partner in the development of the Empire. It is a very attractive suggestion, and one's first impulse towards it is favourable, but it may have certain unforeseen results which would not be palatable to the right hon. Gentleman or to anybody else, because, in nearly every part of the Colonies, there is today such a delicate balance in the political structure that it could very easily be upset. Singapore, for instance, is still separated from the rest of Malaya. The right hon. Gentleman has stood on the brink of the Johore Causeway and has been rather afraid of getting his feet wet for a very long time. He must try to join the head to the body in Malaya very soon, but he will find his problem infinitely more difficult if the entrepôt trade of Singapore declines. Singapore's natural function is that of distributor to the great East Indies. It was the place where most goods were collected from the whole area. But the 1487 Government are responsible for the decline of the entrepôt market in Singapore owing to the bilateral agreements they have been making with the Dutch and others.
Unless the greatest care is exercised, what will happen? There are 700,000 Chinese in Singapore who think in their hearts that by some skilful manœuvre they have been cut off from the mainland and disfranchised. I am not saying that their view is right, but it exists, and if the situation in Singapore declines as rapidly as it is at present, what will happen? Those 700,000 Chinese will not go back to China at the moment; it is not a very tempting centre to which to return even for the worship of one's ancestors. What will probably happen is that they will sweep across the Causeway into the Federation. If we get a couple of hundred thousand Chinese doing what the squatters are doing to some extent in the Federation, they will upset the balance which is so precariously being maintained at a period when the new form of self-government is only just beginning to take shape. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, with his sincere desire to see the new political set-up in Malaya work, must realise that that would be a very dangerous thing to happen, and I hope he will pay attention to it.
How are we to remove some of these things? First of all, by avoiding such mistakes as the Government made at Geneva, because the difficuty and the danger of the rubber situation arose from the grievous error made at Geneva which led to the passing of the Crawford and Schaffer Act and set going the whole of the over-production of synthetic rubber which has had such a harmful effect on the production of raw rubber. Secondly, let the Government settle the Malayan claims once and for all, and let us hear from the Under-Secretary of State, in winding up this Debate, a statement that the scheme which the Government have put forward for the settlement of Malayan claims is, as they have actually said in this document, the final offer, and that, subject to small alterations which may be necessary, it is not to be put seriously out of balance by the vociferous claims of one lot of claimants against the others. It was put forward as being subject to minor alteration. Though the 1488 elected councils there have new powers, nevertheless these losses were incurred when this was a Crown colony, and the main responsibility still rests on His Majesty's Government. They have realised that in the better offer that they have made.
There is one small point in connection with that, and it is that on top of the claim which has been very badly treated., there is the denial claim of the Services My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) and I have put forward cases which show that when goods were taken during the war and signed for, the Services would come along and say that these were taken for purposes of denial, and, therefore, the claimant could not be paid. There is no appeal from this, and it is a gross travesty of justice that it should be allowed to continue. It is not a great point, but it is one which is causing widespread concern and upset.
There are certain other things which might well have to be done. The first is to grasp this difficult question of the Federation and Singapore being brought together. There is being created now something which is bad for that part of the world—a Singapore mind and a Federation mind. There is no logical or economic reason for the separation of those particular areas. In fact, they are indivisable economically and in every other way. But if there are two governors—and I know the governors make a great effort to get on together—and two sets of people, as well as a different economy for each part, a great deal of unnecessary trouble is being created; and the production of rubber and tin to earn dollars will not happen by themselves.
What is to be the positive policy? When the representatives of His Majesty's Government go in September to America—because this is mainly a dollar problem—let them, in contrast with what happened at Geneva, be perfectly well documented and know the whole of that which they did not know on that occasion. Let them realise that if they appeal to America to assist them in the right way, they will get a good response. The wrong way is to attack America for producing synthetic rubber. We benefited during the war from the almost miraculous way in which in a very short while synthetic rubber was produced. America cannot for 1489 strategic reasons allow herself to be put in the position of not having the resources for the manufacture of synthetic rubber. If she is attacked she needs to be ready, and what is in the end, from our point of view, very important is to remember that we shall get very much further if America is made to realise, as she is beginning to realise more clearly every day, that it is no use her upsetting the whole economy of the Far East and the sterling bloc, whether by dollar leakages, which do not help her much in the long run, or by keeping down the artificial price of an article which upsets the whole of the balance of the economy of this area and causes a widening of the dollar gap. If our representatives remember this, there is every hope of a successful outcome.
Finally, there is no doubt about it that the practical experience of the way we in Malaya particularly are handling a difficult economic problem will be a classical example of whether progress inside the Colonial Empire is going to be possible in its present form. Therefore, while we hope to build a great superstructure in social services, we must remember that it depends in the long run on what economic progress we make.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
In the brief interval that is left I should like to take up some of the points made by the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher). We all listened with great interest to him because of his expert knowledge, but I should like to point out that when we are discussing this crisis in relation to the dollar situation, there are other factors which we take into account. Here is what Sir John Hay, Chairman of Guthrie and Company and a director of 17 rubber, tin and palm oil companies, said last June:Our American friends' devotion to the system of private enterprise and free competition is not so unqualified as to prevent them departing from it when it serves their interests to do so. Synthetic rubber has been put under the shelter of protective legislation well beyond the reach of the cold, blasting winds of free competition.If rubber prices had—and this point has been made on both sides of the Committee—been higher immediately after the war instead of being, as they were, only 25 per cent. above pre-war prices when other commodities were almost 300 per cent. higher, I believe we should not have 1490 had this huge dollar gap problem that we are now experiencing. I believe that some kind of negotiations could have taken place with the United States over that issue, and I believe that that kind of negotiation could take place at present.
There is another point. If, coupled with the expansion of the Indonesian rubber industry and the expansion in the whole of South-East Asia, a gradual development which I saw coming along in that part of tine world, we can, by planting a new type of rubber tree on one million acres instead of on three million acres, produce the same output of rubber, a social problem will eventually face the Colonial Office. What are we to do with that labour and how are we to meet the social and economic problem with which we shall be confronted if we can produce on a million acres what we formerly produced on three million acres?
I remember asking some two years ago in the House whether a Royal Commission could be set up to investigate the economic situation in Malaya in order to try to get a balance of its industry. Too many of the eggs of Malaya are in the rubber and tin basket. I believe that there should be a balance of the economy of Malaya, and I am delighted to see that the Colonial Office are proceeding with experiments—I know it is only in a small way—in the production of cocoa on a small island off Singapore. I believe that when they have made certain that these cocoa trees are free from disease—Kew Gardens might take part in the experiment, as they did in the rubber experiment—there might be a possibility of the development of that industry.
While the hon. Member for Bury was so well-informed about rubber, I do not think that he offered any concrete or practical approach to this problem of leakages of dollars or on how to cope with that situation so far as South-East Asia is concerned. I know that we are losing dollars over the Japanese trade agreement. It is difficult to deal with these matters in the time at my disposal and in this Debate, and it is a problem which should not be left in the hands of the Colonial Office. It should not be left merely in the hands of Britain. It is a problem which the world must face at the United Nations or at an international conference.
1491 The economy of South-East Asia will completely collapse unless we increase the rice allocations in that area. Burma, Siam and Indo-China are fairly well supplied with rice, but the rest of the rice area is not. I believe that the interim report of the Colonial Primary Products Committee, paragraph 217, on rice growing possibilities, should be implemented by our Government as far as possible. The Food and Agriculture Organisation state that in this area there will be a shortage of 3½ million tons of rice in the 1950 period. Because of that, I am delighted to see, in the Evans Report on British Guiana, that we are trying ultimately to extend the rice acreage and hope to get an extension to provide a surplus of 40,000 tons of rice in that area. One of the basic tasks in the economy of Malaya is to settle the rice issue. I believe that that matter—the shortage of food—plays a bigger part than anything else in the disturbances that are taking place there and is a bigger cause of them than the alleged banditry and Communism.
So far as President Truman's fourth point is concerned, there are references to it in this report, which I have now no time to mention. Here I think we must take the warning of the hon. Member for Bury. We do not want to go into this without examining carefully the results of this kind of dollar investment all over the Colonies, and, therefore, there must be careful discussion before we have this investment. The time has now come or an examination into the disturbances, in Malaya. Many in this Committee, I know, do not agree with me on this, but I believe that we could come to some type of settlement if, instead of calling in the United Nations organisation, we persuaded one of the small nations of the world to take the responsibility of investigating them, so that the people of Malaya might see that we do not desire to exploit them.
One of the greatest problems of the Colonies is that of population, and an intelligent method of birth control will one day have to be faced by the people in the lower food areas of the world.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
Only a short time remains to me, and I am not, therefore, able to follow the hon. 1492 Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) in the particular problems with which he has been dealing. I should, however, like to say that he, with my hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher), although they may disagree upon some details, did seem to show an extremely realistic approach to the great economic problems that are facing Malaya; and although, perhaps, some of the difficulties to which they referred are not wholly within the province of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, yet the effects of them must be causing him great concern.
The chief impression left upon me by this Debate has been one of a considerable consensus of opinion in the Committee. I never thought to see an occasion when my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) would almost frisk together in a Debate. It was really the lion and the lamb lying down together, although I am not quite certain which of the two I would cast for the role of the lamb. Even the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), when he found it necessary to introduce a little synthetic party heat into the Debate, in order to find it had to go back to 1921, and then to something which had to do with home agriculture.
I am glad that there should be this community of feeling among the majority of people on both sides of the Committee. I know that in this Chamber we eschew references to one's own personal feelings, but I do feel most deeply upon this matter. I believe that about the most important thing for this country over the next 10 or 20 years will be the development of its relationships with its Colonial Empire, and I feel that about the most important element in its success or failure will be the maintenance of some unity of purpose between the various parties in the State. Whatever the line, whoever is right, I cannot conceive of success coming from a programme and an objective liable to be altered at intervals largely as a result of considerations which have really nothing to do with Colonial matters at all.
I am not interested in who has been responsible for bringing about this closer proximity, whether it is that the right hon. 1493 Gentleman has moved far from his early Fabian theories, or whether it is that we on this side have moved far from earlier conceptions of Colonial relationship. The fact I am interested in is that we appear to have arrived, at any rate, at some community of purpose and some unity of purpose. That does not mean for one moment that we do not disagree with each other. It does not mean for one moment that whoever is in power will not be criticised by the other side, or that we shall not have differences as to tempo, administration, or detail. I hope and believe that it means now, and will continue to mean in the future, that on the general broad details of Colonial affairs, we are and shall remain united.
Before I come to one or two of the broader points that I wish to raise I should like to ask one small detailed question. In the course of his speech the Colonial Secretary referred to the sudden death disease in the clove industry in Zanzibar, and I thought he gave the impression—he certainly did to me—that modern science had found a cure for this disease. I do not know whether the Under-Secretary could say with a little more precision what is the position. My own understanding was that no cure had been found; that the cause of the disease had been found but that no cure had been discovered, and that eradication still remains the only remedy. If this is so, then, as we know from West Africa, it will be dangerous to give the impression that there is an alternative. I should be glad if the Under-Secretary would deal with that point.
The main emphasis of this Debate has been, quite rightly I think, upon the economic side, and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, together with the Colonial Report, now gives a fair picture of the economic machinery for the future. It will fall, as I hoped it would and as I believe it should fall, into three parts: the Colonial Welfare and Development Act machinery, the machinery of the Government Corporations, and thirdly private enterprise. I believe all those things to be complementary to each other, and I do not believe that the work can be covered without all three of those things participating. I naturally have a greater personal interest in the Colonial welfare and development side, because I was re- 1494 sponsible, not for its introduction but at any rate for its increase. However, I recognise that, although I believe it will play and is playing the most valuable part in economic development, there are some sides that it cannot touch.
Incidentally, on the Colonial Welfare and Development Act I should like to get more precisely from the Government what was meant by the right hon. Gentleman's statement that Parliament would soon have to consider the amendment of this Act. Up till recently all of us had been disappointed at the slowness with which the allocations of money under this Act had been translated into materials, work and progress. That, I am glad to, say, has in the last few months been remedied; the work is now proceeding at a much faster rate. When the right hon. Gentleman says—I think he almost said within the next few months—that this would have to be considered, does he mean that he has under consideration a new Act which will either extend the life of the Colonial Welfare and Development Act, or is intended to give more money? Once the statement has been made that what I gathered to be a major amendment might be necessary in the near future, I think that the Committee should be left under no doubt as to what that amendment is to be.
As I was saying, I feel that there are parts of economic development which could not be covered by this machinery, which is devised essentially to meet the Government contribution to enterprise—the background which Government creates under which enterprise can flourish. I, therefore, welcome the setting up of these two Corporations, and I think Members on this side were sincere in their congratulations and good wishes for the success of these two bodies. Of one of them I will say nothing; we shall be saying something next week, and of the other I will say only this: we have had a chance of reading through the report, which goes up to the end of 1948. Reading it casually one might think it did not disclose very much, but I am not in the least disappointed with the progress they are able to report up to that date. I am glad they have approached this problem in a way quite different from the way in which it has been approached by the other Corporations.
1495 I believe that the slower approach at the beginning will turn out to be the faster in the long run. Colonial development is never fast; all kinds of problems which have never yet been experienced, particularly in connection with any large-scale agricultural development, turn up. I believe that time spent at the beginning in a certain amount of experimenting and running model operations, will be found to be time gained. We shall expect, in another 12 months, more concrete performance but, meanwhile, I think their report discloses the right outlook and progress.
On this subject, I was extremely glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's pronouncement about the place for, and, indeed, the need of, private enterprise in Colonial development. I firmly believe that it has a part to play—a major part. When the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) talked about international help he was quite right. We cannot ourselves hear in the next few years the full cost of the capital development necessary in our Colonies. I believe that that international help will most likely be given in the form of private enterprise rather than in the form of State loans. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's welcome to private enterprise, and also to note his determination to see that conditions are such as to make private enterprise possible.
On the economic side, I want to say a word or two on a subject which has occupied a considerable part of today's Debate—bulk buying in the Colonies. Ever since my time in the Colonial Office I have always realised that there might be, in certain cases, a need for this bulk buying. I agree with the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). Although I am in favour of Imperial Preference in the narrow term of the pure fiscal machinery, I do not believe that preferences can give to the Colonies the priorities they need in all cases. The particular case of sugar, which he quoted, is one in which preferences by themselves are probably the least effective. I am, therefore, in favour of this system in certain cases for the very good reason that I am against it outside the Colonial Empire. I am against it outside the Empire because I think it usually gives a hard deal to the consumer. Inside the 1496 Empire, it may well be that people in this country will voluntarily assume a deal bad for themselves in order to help, by that, the people in the Colonies for whom they are responsible.
But when talking about bulk buying do not let us ignore the great dangers and difficulties which have to be faced in that policy. They have not had to be faced yet. The references which hon. Members opposite make to the success of bulk buying in the Colonies up to now ignore the fact that during a world boom a system of this kind is, of course, successful. But, as a matter of fact, bulk purchase in the Colonies, in a large number of cases, has consisted of buying produce not above world prices but under world prices. The cocoa, the oil seeds of West Africa, the cotton of Uganda, have been built up because the bulk purchasers from this country bought Colonial produce not above but below world prices. We sold at the world prices, and we were quite right in doing so, not to feather our own nest but in order to avoid the dangers of inflation in the Colonies.
The whole test of the help we may give by long-term contracts at fixed prices in certain commodities is coming as and when prices fall, and that test has not yet come; or if it has come, it is in the particular instance to which the hon. Gentleman referred, of sugar in the West Indies or sugar in any other Colony in which sugar is a monoculture. I say frankly that I am not dealing with the one case which the hon. Gentleman mentioned in particular because I do not know enough about that commodity, but I firmly believe that there are cases where it is right for the people of this country voluntarily to assume a heavier burden in order to help the Colonies. Help given in that way through their normal economic machinery may be more valuable than the alternative help, just as expensive to us, which would have to be given through grants either as deficiency payments or under the Colonial Welfare and Development Act.
My time will not permit me to deal with certain other points upon which I should like to touch. I should, therefore, like to say in conclusion that I wonder whether the people of the Colonies, by which I mean particularly those people who are educated and who are 1497 beginning more and more to take an interest in their own political and economic affairs, fully realise the difficulties that lie in front of them. I wonder whether we are not giving them much too easy an impression of the road that they have to follow. I am not always certain that all of us realise the difficulties that lie in front of us. I had that feeling strongly when the hon. Gentleman who temporarily shares with me the representation of Bristol, the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery)—
§ Mr. Stanley
I will back myself against that happening. What did the hon. Gentleman say about Malaya?—that we ought not to worry about the profits on rubber and tin because that was a sordid matter for this country to be worried about, and we ought to give the Colony more schools, hospitals and social services, and this and that. I would ask him how we are to give all those things unless somebody has to worry about the profits we make out of the produce of the country. Somehow or other we must try to bring home to the people the difficulties which face both them and us. It is no good their thinking that this country, however good and generous it is, can solve their problems and that somehow or other a Secretary of State for the Colonies or the British taxpayer can bring to them in a short time all the blessings of democracy and prosperity with little or no effort on their part. We cannot do so, and to pretend, and give them even the idea that it is possible, is to deceive them.
The road to the goal towards which we have set out is long and hard. Success will depend not upon us but largely upon them, upon their willingness to face realities and make sacrifices, on their willingness to put all the effort and skill in their country into it. Only so can we hope to reach, and then not in a few years, the goal that we have set before us. Difficult as the task is, all of us on all sides of the House agree on its immense importance. It may well be the deciding factor in the continuance of this country, not only as a world Power but as a country which can offer to its people a respectable and decent standard of life. Therefore, whatever the difficulties, we are all determined to offer these 1498 people all the help we can, and more and more to take them into partnership with us in order that we may together reach a solution which will redound as much to our benefit as it will to theirs.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
We have had an interesting and valuable Debate, and a Debate which has been remarkable for the harmony displayed on both sides. Except for small domestic disputes from Bristol and one or two other matters like that, we have had great harmony and a great consensus of opinion.
What has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and many other hon. Gentlemen will be of great encouragement to the members of the Colonial Office and the Colonial staffs at home and overseas, as well as to the Ministers, officials and the many others who occupy some position in this great work. I want especially to pay tribute to the staff of the Colonial Office. In the last two or three years they have gone through a very difficult time. They have had to bear burdens and seek new methods which were not contemplated years ago. The economic drive which has taken place, the formation of the new Corporations and the many other activities which are novel in scope and in kind have imposed a great burden upon them. Those who think that civil servants have an easy life these days would have those views dispelled if they spent any time in the Colonial Office, because these officials have put in long hours and worked extraordinarily hard. We owe them a word of thanks for what they have done.
I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, whose sincerity in these matters we all appreciate and realise, express thanks and appreciation to the Colonial Development Corporation. Last Friday the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) made an attack upon the Corporation, which I felt was quite unjustified. I was, therefore, glad to hear—
§ Mr. Stanley
That was only on one point—a point which I hope they will rectify—namely, the way in which they show their accounts.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
Yes, but I thought the right hon. Gentleman put it in its proper perspective today. I felt that the hon. Member for Hornsey made an unjustifiable attack upon the Corporation.
§ Mr. Gammans
Does the hon. Gentleman still say that I made an attack upon the Corporation, or is he prepared to admit that the only part of the work of the Corporation which I attacked was the way they keep their accounts?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I should say that keeping and presenting the accounts is part of the work and the duties of the Corporation, and that if one attacks that one attacks the Corporation. I do not think we can distinguish between the two.
There has been an enormous increase in interest in Colonial affairs, as is exemplified in this Debate and by the many thousands of people who have been through the Colonial Exhibition. I am glad to say that the sales of literature at the Exhibition, which will have a lasting effect by being handed around, are also remarkable and constitute a record for such an exhibition. Old soldiers will remember that it used to be said in the Army in the old days that the British Army had the best textbooks in the world but that they were the least read. At one time I thought the same thing applied to the Colonial Office books, papers and reports churned out year by year, but that does not apply today and the sales we have had recently are encouraging.
We have to realise that in the Colonial Empire there are certain age-old enemies we have to attack, and many have been mentioned today. I was speaking some time ago to a film director on the possibility of making commercial films in the Colonies for showing in this country to give our people a better idea of the colonial territories. He said to me, "One colonial film is just like another because all you can show is that there is poverty, ignorance, disease and over-population and the necessary measures to overcome those problems. It is difficult to make anything new in the way of a colonial film." It is perfectly true that those main problems are present in most, if not all of the colonial territories—not the over-population but certainly the other factors—and the series of reports published recently gives an indication of how 1500 in these difficult circumstances today we intend to tackle this problem.
There are one or two examples of the way in which we are tackling it which, in my view, have not had sufficient publicity in this country. As an instance of what one officer can do with a bit of initiative, and as an instance of how the age-old problem of soil erosion can be overcome, I would draw the attention of the Committee to a strip of desert in the Aden Protectorate at Abyan. There a young agricultural officer in 1940 noticed that rain was pouring away into the sea without being utilised or stored. Absolute desert has been turned into a market garden, and this year it is producing 3,000 tons of food, not as a result of any large scheme but because of the observation and efforts of one agricultural officer, helped by the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund.
In 1951 the project is intended to produce 10,000 tons of food and a cotton crop to the value of £257,000 from 60,000 acres of land which was absolute desert a few years ago. The cost to the British taxpayer has been a grant of £20,000 in 1946 and a loan of £250,000 in 1948, both under the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. Now we have more than 1,000 small farmers working this area where before there were a few Nomad Arabs riding across the land on camels. I instance that to show what can be done and is being done to tackle the great problem of soil erosion of the barren land which is prevalent in so many of the countries and which is being extended to East Africa, where we hope much the same results will follow.
We have in all these Colonial territories certain psychological problems to meet. In the old days, before we went into these territories, the people lived a life which was undoubtedly brutal. Life was short and dangerous, but it had a certain amount of colour in it while it lasted. It certainly had a factor which is not present today, that everyone had a certain status in the community. It was only a very small pond but every man as he grew older, became a big fish in it. With the coming of Western civilisation both those factors have gone. I was talking only the other day to Mrs. Elspeth Huxley, who has been mentioned today, on this very problem. No one knows more about it than she does. I think 1501 that in "Red Strangers" Mrs. Huxley has written the finest book on native life ever to be written; and people much more competent than I to judge say the same thing.
In some way we must overcome this difficulty, which is at the root of all the troubles we are meeting in the Colonial territories, namely, how we can restore to these people the colour which has been taken out of their lives and how we can give back to them the feeling that they are persons and that each of them is not merely one of a large number of quite indistinguishable units.
I should like hon. Members to study our plans for Sarawak, which, as hon. Members know, is our latest Colony. We are trying as far as possible to maintain the old traditions and ways of life and at the same time to import into those ways of life the progressive measures we wish to see applied. First, we want to establish improved methods of agriculture and sanitation. We do not take people away from their own surroundings or destroy their existing systems. We have built a model longhouse to which people from the various longhouses—native villages—go for two years. In the longhouse they get exactly the same background as that to which they are accustomed and they learn how new methods can be applied to many of the old ways. Similarly, we do not take people dozens or hundreds of miles away from their homes to go to hospital. We have 18 mobile launch dispensaries which travel about and treat people on the spot, thus not breaking up their pattern of life or expecting them to paddle dozens of miles down rivers to a central hospital.
The right hon. Member for West Bristol asked a question about the raising of the ceiling in the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. My right hon. Friend did not intend to imply exactly what the right hon. Member thought he implied. The point is that at present practically the whole of this fund has already been allocated. Thus, in a year or two's time, if this structure or machinery of colonial development and welfare is to continue, there will arise the question of a further fund from which fresh allocations can be made. The right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, appreciates this and realises that accordingly it may be necessary later to come again to Parliament.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
It may do so. When the time arrives we should have to come to Parliament and present the proposal. I assume that such a course was contemplated when the Act was passed and that it was not assumed that the original fund would be the final amount available for colonial development and welfare. There is no immediate intention of coming to Parliament to amend the Act, although that may be necessary in due course.
The other point upon which the right hon. Gentleman asked me to elaborate was the question of the clove disease in Zanzibar. As he knows, the only certain method of killing the virus which causes the disease either in cloves or in cocoa is by cutting out the affected trees. Certain suggestions have been made, but none of them has proved effective. It is very important that it should go out from this Committee tonight that the only certain method of dealing with either swollen shoot or with the sudden death in cloves is by cutting out.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) asked several questions, which I will try to answer in the short time available. He asked about sugar in the West Indies, a point which was raised also by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). At present the West Indies have a three years' contract for sugar, and their deputation which is now in this country is negotiating for a further period extending, they hope, to 10 years. I support what was said by the hon. Member for Devonport about that extraordinary article in the "Evening Standard." The fact is that the British Government are paying more than the Cuban price plus Imperial Preference for West Indian sugar. Therefore, to suggest that the way out of the difficulty would be to restore Imperial Preference is just nonsense. That means nothing. At present the West Indians actually get more than preference plus the Cuban price.
I was also asked about internal security. With the "cold war" and the livening of political conscience in many countries since 1945, this has become an important question. We have gone into the organisation of the police forces and internal security arrangements in almost 1503 every Colony. The lessons that we have learned, and those that we are learning day by day in the "cold war" in Malaya are being studied, so far as they can be, in all Colonial territories. We have appointed a police adviser with the necessary staff. He has already paid a visit to Cyprus and to the four West African territories, and he is now in the Far East. The object is that he should visit all the territories in the Colonial Empire. He will consult with the Governors and the commissioners of police about how best they can tighten up their security arrangements. Most of the colonial police forces have been asked to improve their systems of wireless communication which, in most territories, were in a bad state. They have also been asked to improve their system of mobile police squads.
I have been asked by several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford and the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) about the Malayan rubber situation especially as it is affected by synthetic rubber in America. I say this, and I know that I say it with the full support of my right hon. Friend: in our view there is no greater danger to the stability of the Far East than a bigger fall in the price of rubber than there has been already. We consider that the price of rubber is as low as it can go with safety. If it goes any lower, there will be very great danger in the Far East. It will be difficult to maintain any security in that vital area. I hope that those who are concerned with this matter will realise that I mean what I say in this respect.
The hon. Member for Bury also asked about war damage. He knows very well that Mr. Bourdillon from our office went to Malaya and proposed what we thought—and I think what any impartial person would have thought—was a very reasonable scheme. That was put to the Malayan Government and we were most disappointed when the Select Committee did not accept it. We hope that they will reconsider the matter and accept the scheme which has been proposed. We hope that the various persons and firms who lost their money and goods at the time of the occupation will be compensated in the way in which Mr. Bourdillon suggested.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
Might I remind the hon. Gentleman that I asked him to say whether, in the view of the Government, that offer that they have made, subject to minor alterations is a final offer which they stand by?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
Yes, of course. We said that at the time.
The hon. Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) asked about tuberculosis. He did not actually refer to my reply in the Debate which he mentioned, but, as he will see, we are by no means satisfied with the position. In the circumstances, with the resources available to us, we have done what we can. We intend to do a good deal more. The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) asked about soil erosion. We have taken, and are still taking, steps throughout the Colonial Territories to deal with this matter. The figures mentioned in pages 130–131 of the report related to new schemes. The existing schemes, such as those in Kenya and Uganda, will continue. The money has been voted in past years.
During the past year, I am happy to say, and particularly in Kenya, that there has been a great response from the Africans on this question of soil erosion, and some of the work done by Africans under the supervision of the agricultural officers was mentioned only recently by Sir Philip Mitchell, the Governor. He told me, when he was over here on duty, that the response which they had made in the last year to this problem has been remarkable, and this is very encouraging to those of us who feel that this is one of the problems of the day.
The hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Graham Kerr) asked me questions about fish. There has been a very interesting report by our adviser on fisheries, and I would recommend all hon. Members to read that report, which is available to them, because it shows the enormous amount of work that we are doing in fresh water and salt water fish and in fish farms.
The hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (General Sir G. Jeffreys) asked about ex-Service men in Jamaica. We would like to do everything we could for ex-Service men, whether of the First World War or the second, but the question today is one primarily for the 1505 Jamaican Government. They have got a very large measure of self-government in Jamaica, and it is primarily their responsibility. I have no doubt that members of the Jamaican Government will read the report of this Debate and will be suitably impressed by the very strong case which was put up by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
May I ask the Under-Secretary one question? Will not the Government impress upon the Government of Jamaica that it is their duty to deal seriously with the matter, and to publish the report of their own committee?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
We will indicate to them the very strong case which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made. I cannot promise what they will do.
The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir G. Barlow) charged Malaya with taking too many dollars. The hon. Member knows that there is now a temporary stop order in force, and he must remember two factors. I am not going into the question whether Malaya takes too many dolars or not. The first factor is Singapore's entrepôt trade, which is very important, and the second is that the Malayans have to buy rice from outside and over the price of which they have no control at all. It is necessary for them to purchase 70 per cent. of their consumption from other countries. When considering how many dollars the Malayans spend, we must take those two factors into account. I have been asked questions about rice in Malaya and I have mentioned previously that we have a very big scheme for additional acreage of rice both in Malaya and Borneo.
There is nothing more I can say at the moment, but I do assure the many hon. Members who have spoken and whose questions I have not been able to answer that their points will be considered most carefully, and if by no other way I will give them an answer to their questions in writing.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ Put and agreed to.—[Mr. Snow.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.