§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
I beg to move, in Class IX, Vote 2, Ministry of Food, to leave out "£239,580,863," and to insert instead thereof "£239,579,863."
It has been decided to use part of today for a discussion of the East African groundnuts scheme. It is perhaps particularly appropriate that we should be discussing a matter such as this in the weather which we are enjoying at the present time. At all events, we have some slight idea as to the conditions in which the people on the spot are continually working. The House will recall that there have been several Debates on this subject during the last three years.
2486 If I may be personal for a moment, I should like to say that my own interest in this subject is two-fold. I am slightly interested in British agriculture; I have some experience in tropical agriculture. Obviously I have no direct interest in the production of groundnuts, but because this scheme is rather a half-way house between the two, and as it is quite unique in its idea and conception, I studied it most carefully from its beginning following the Wakefield Report early in 1947. It will be remembered that the whole idea of this scheme was to produce large quantities of fats by mechanised methods in as short a time as possible in order to relieve the shortage in this country, and indeed the world shortage, of fats, which was very real at that time and is considerable today.
I have had the good fortune to visit East Africa twice since the scheme was started, the first time in February last year and again last month. In fact, I visited the estates just a few days before the Minister, and I had the pleasure of meeting him as he arrived and as I was leaving. I should like to thank the board of the Overseas Food Corporation for facilitating my visits to their properties, and also the staff, who made me so comfortable and gave me so much information at the places which I visited. Obviously they must have known that I might be rather critical in some ways, but they gave me every facility for seeing and finding out what I wanted.
I shall be most careful to endeavour to give accurately figures as they came to me, because there is no point in having any real difference on figures. The House will know that the greatest development has taken place on the Kongwa Estate which was started rather over two years ago. In order to allow the House to understand how little I know about this—or how much—I stayed three nights at Kongwa and I landed on the other estates, but only for a very short time. I know how dangerous it is to try and form conclusions during a very short visit, and it is only right that hon. Members should know the limitation of my experience and knowledge of that part of the world.
Before I describe what I saw and found there I should like to put right one thing which has entered into this controversy, I think entirely wrongly. The Minister 2487 of Food and many hon. Members on the other side of the House consider, I think, that this has become a political issue. I deprecate that idea. If the Minister of Food would recall the Second Reading of the Overseas Resources Development Bill he will find it had a very kindly reception from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). In fact he said:Here undoubtedly is a Measure on which it is possible for all sections of the House to unite. It is, at the same time, something which is constructive, which is designed to help our present economic position, and which is not of a party character."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th Nov., 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2035.]That is very definite indeed, and I think it is advisable to point it out at the beginning of this Debate.
I studied the original White Paper, commonly known as the Wakefield Report, most carefully, because of my general interest in that type of thing. I came to the conclusion that while it was undoubtedly politically wise to try and develop the Colonies in every way of this sort, the figures in that report were quite impossible to accomplish or to work to. I had that opinion at the beginning and I have it today. Whether I shall be right in 10 or 20 years' time remains to be seen; the Minister may have caught up with his production figures; but it is most important to study that original White Paper. That was put before us and the Government adopted it.
It was like a prospectus. Many people have had experience of prospectuses, sometimes good or sometimes bad, but that was the Government prospectus of a new enterprise. I decided then that I would not like to become a voluntary subscriber to that prospectus, but fortunately or the reverse, the Minister has made us all subscribers through taxation. Very generally speaking, I thought then, and I think now, that if the costs in that White Paper had been doubled and the time element at every stage had been trebled, they would have been very much nearer the mark.
Let us see exactly what the scheme propounded and how it is going along. Hon. Members will remember that the idea was to clear the bush, to develop and plant up with groundnuts, but not entirely, Some 3¼ million acres over a period of six years at a cost of about 2488 £25 million. It was estimated that they should begin gradually, work up to very high figures and then tail off again in the preparation of the land and the planting. The sowing time for groundnuts is about Christmas time and the raising time is about May or possibly June following. According to the original estimate they were to clear and plant in the Christmas season of 1947, 150,000 acres; in actual fact they have planted 7,300 acres. For the Christmas period of 1948 the estimate was 600,000 acres and they have planted about 50,000 acres. The original estimate for Christmas, 1949, was that they would plant about 1¼ million acres, and I think that it is fair to say that they will probably plant about 120,000 acres with crops of various kinds.
Let us consider the crops themselves. According to the Wakefield Report, the crop to be harvested in May, 1948, should have amounted to 56,000 tons. In point of fact it is very small indeed, probably just enough to supply the seed for the following year. The crop which has just been harvested, a month or two ago, should have amounted, according to the original estimate, to about a quarter of a million tons, whereas in fact it would amount to rather over 2,000 tons; and there will be a certain amount of sunflower in addition.
I wish briefly to describe some of the things which I saw at Kongwa where the development has gone ahead most quickly. They actually planted there some 50,000 acres last season, very approximately half with groundnuts and half with sunflower seed, and 2,000 acres of maize. The actual crop on hand this year of groundnuts will amount to round about 200 1b. per acre—it may be a little more or a little less, but round about that figure—compared with the estimate of 750 1b. per acre, so it was actually about a quarter of the crop.
In a Debate on this subject last March, the Minister told us that the crop would be small owing to the very severe drought in that part of the world this year. Apparently the drought was quite unprecedented. But we find mention in the Wakefield Report of droughts in Africa, and in this part, in previous years. In fact, the report mentions the years 1943 and 1944 as suffering from severe droughts indeed. The report says they 2489 were supposed to be "the worst on record," but according to the Government figures of that year, the average crops amounted to some 615 1b. per acre, which is three times as much as the crop this year.
I suggest to the Minister that possibly one reason for the very small crop which has been garnered is that the machinery for getting it is not entirely suitable. I know that it is difficult to raise this crop mechanically, but I saw them lifting and combining it, and so far as one could see the machinery was not by any means suitable. I think that too many nuts were left on the ground.
As regards the town of Kongwa itself, I think I am right in saying that whereas three years ago there were no Europeans in the district, and very few natives, now it is the second largest town in Tanganyika. There are 1,300 Europeans and a great many natives. All the Europeans, of course, are employees of the Overseas Food Corporation and are working in the groundnuts scheme. Breaking down that figure, they amount to about 200 women, 200 children and 900 men. Of those 900 men some 350 are employed by what they call main contractors; those are the firms out there employed very largely for clearing the bush. Most of those 350 men will have moved on to another district or come home by Christmas, so that the number will diminish.
There are very large repair shops in which about 170 Europeans are employed. There are 50 storemen, and another 120 are occupied in the vast amount of administrative, hospital and sanitary work and in labour supervision. The headquarters staff for the whole scheme is also situated at Kongwa and that embraces about 100 people. It is interesting to see that the three large agricultural units at this place, which consists of about 30,000 acres each, require between 15 and 20 Europeans for supervision of the agricultural activities. Thus, only about 60 Europeans are employed on the agricultural side, compared with hundreds in the town. I am sure that the Minister will agree that there are far too many Europeans there.
In addition, there are about 11,000 natives, rather more than half of whom are skilled in some way. Many of them are becoming skilled or semi-skilled 2490 mechanics. There is a fine hospital at Kongwa which has about 400 beds. On an average about 400 out-patients are given treatment every day. At the time of my visit there were 174 adults and 41 dependants in hospital. That gives some idea of the size of Kongwa and the services connected with it. Those working at the hospital are doing a fine job. As the fame of the hospital spreads, people are beginning to walk hundreds of miles to get treatment. It is not part and parcel of the job of the Corporation to provide this service, but doctors cannot refuse treatment to people badly needing it especially when they have walked for hundreds of miles to get to Kongwa.
The provision of adequate water presents a great problem. Apparently they built the town and then they looked for the water. The main part of the supply is 180,000 gallons a day from bore holes and the water is saline, brackish or not very good for various other reasons. Approximately 48,000 gallons of drinking water are required daily. That amount is transported by tanker lorry an average distance of 12 or 15 miles. In the district there are some 500 miles of dirt roads to enable communications to be kept up between the various parts of the large estate. These roads will carry four lines of traffic and, being dirt roads, they need continual repair. In Kongwa there are about 150 houses for European use. The rest of the people live in tents, and most of the offices are in tents.
There are about 400 bulldozers, a quarter of which have never been used because they have been cannibalised or because there were not sufficient spare parts or mechanics to put them in order. Most of these bulldozers came from the ends of the earth—often from the Pacific Islands—because they could not be secured elsewhere. The Corporation decided to use these machines rather than none at all. I am told that often they arrived on the estate full of sand and requiring an overhaul which it was most difficult to arrange in the circumstances prevailing. There are about 1,000 lorries, cars, jeeps, land rovers and tankers of various sorts. Without doubt a very large amount of transport is available there.
There is a large supply of agricultural machinery including a quantity of agricultural tractors and other equipment 2491 required for working the land. It has transpired that some of the soil is of an abrasive character. The result is that implements are worn out very quickly. In those parts, disc ploughs are used instead of mould board ploughs. A large disc measures 32 inches in diameter, and in bad parts the soil will wear four inches off that disc when it used to plough 200 acres. That is a most severe depreciation.
At Urambo some 2,000 acres were planted last year and the crops were poor. A further 20,000 acres are ready to be planted this winter, and it is hoped in the next 12 months to clear a further 70,000 acres. At the Southern Province Estate, which most people told me will probably be by far the best and largest eventually, the work is in the very early stages. About 600 acres were planted experimentally last year. I am told that the crops were good, but I cannot say exactly what they were. An oil pipeline from the coast to the estate has been completed and it is said to be in working order. The railway has already reached Sixty-Mile Point which is about half way to the coast. It is hoped to have a sawmill in operation this winter and to make extensive use of the heavy timber which will be made available.
I ask hon. Members to consider the whole scheme, which was to cost £25 million. I am informed that it has already cost £25 million. The cost at present is approximately £1 million a month. The expenditure has exceeded expectations and the crop has disappointed expectations. I wonder whether the Minister or the Overseas Development Corporation has worked out an estimate of the cost for the next three years. If expenditure continues at the rate of £1 million a month, a very large amount of money will be lost in the next three years. It is obvious that the revenue from nuts and other seeds will gradually improve, but I do not believe that it will anything like meet that very great expenditure.
In a Debate in the spring the Minister of Food laid great stress on the fact that the price of groundnuts had increased very much indeed in the last three years and that at the time it was about £50 a ton. I agree with that, but I would point out that the cost of production had also increased very much indeed. 2492 I suggest that if far higher prices had been offered to the native producers in West Africa the nuts would have been forthcoming much more quickly and much more cheaply. I understand that the actual producer in West Africa receives about £19 a ton, which is not a large figure. The difference in the price is made up by the costs and the profits made by the West African Control Board who buy and handle the commodity and sell it to the Ministry of Food.
I should also like to ask the Minister whether he can give any idea of the number of Canadian and United States dollars which have been spent on materials for the project. We know that a large number of bulldozers have been bought from America and a certain amount of agricultural machinery from Canada. I should like to know how many dollars have been spent on this during the last three years.
Another point mentioned by the Minister in his speech in the Spring referred to criticism of the scheme as a whole and the effect it had on the personnel in East Africa. During my last visit, I found much less grousing and far more contentment than I found 18 months earlier. Obviously, in a great new scheme of this kind there must be many difficulties, but I think that the position is improving. I think that perhaps the Minister was rather ungenerous when he referred to the… unending series of attacks in which theythat is, the men in East Africa—are told that all their efforts are useless, that the scheme is a total failure and that the whole thing is a wicked ramp."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1785.]Perhaps it was ungenerous to say that at the time.
It seems to me that whereas this was originally a scheme to produce groundnuts cheaply with the secondary idea of developing the Colonies, the position has been completely reversed and it is now looked upon primarily as an experiment in Colonial development with the secondary idea of producing fats. I regard that as most important. Are we right in pouring millions into East Africa in this way? That is a matter for the people to judge for themselves, but I ask the Minister to tell us whether he looks upon this as a scheme for producing these groundnuts economically. In his speech in the last Debate which we had on this 2493 matter, he said that he would approach it in a very hard-headed and business-like way. Does he still feel that? Does he still look upon this scheme as a method of relieving our fats shortage economically or not? We want to know exactly where we stand about this scheme.
Before leaving the question of the criticism of the personnel on the spot, I would say that many people who are doing very good work out there are very capable men in their own spheres, but there are many who are not very capable, and I imagine that they will naturally fall by the wayside in the course of time. It is very wrong, however, to criticise these men and damn the scheme and blame it all on them from here, when the real reason is nothing of the kind, but a matter of high policy for which the Minister is primarily responsible.
I was most interested when out there to hear the queries which everybody put to me concerning what was to be the result of the next General Election in this country. I told them, to the best of my knowledge, which was very little indeed. The second question invariably was, "What will happen to this scheme?" I said, "Obviously, if there is a change of Government and the present Opposition come in. I cannot answer for what the Conservatives will do. I can only say what my party would do." Obviously, when a great deal of money has been spent on this scheme, no right-thinking person would throw it away. It would have to be continued in some form or other; the policy might be changed, and there may be other alterations, but we cannot shut down a great scheme of this character because of a change of Government. I believe my Conservative friends probably think very much the same way, and though I cannot speak for them, I hope that somebody will speak for them authoritatively this evening.
This scheme needs serious overhauling and looking into. It was not, in the first place, the most economic method of producing fats. According to the original estimates, the production of oil per acre was to be about 350 1b. from groundnuts, and, from sunflower seeds, about 250 1b. per acre. If the Minister had cast his eyes in other directions, he might have looked into copra, which gives 10 cwt. of oil per acre, or oil palm, which very 2494 often gives from one to two tons from the best varieties.
He might also have considered some special encouragement for the enlargement of our existing properties, from which he would have obtained much quicker and cheaper results. It is quite true that coconut trees take about four or five years to produce. The Minister may say that the period is seven years, but improvements have been made and it is now about four years. It is far more economical, and, as we shall see in the long run, infinitely quicker to produce fats by these other methods than by the production of groundnuts.
I am afraid I have spoken for a long time, but I appeal to the Minister to look at this scheme in a realistic way. It may be rather a pet theory of his, and he may have wanted to show what production can achieve by these methods. I can appreciate this point of view, although I do not agree with him, but it is far too big and too serious a matter to continue in that way. In the early stages it was largely dominated by ex-Service men, and now I am inclined to think that it is rather dominated by the Civil Service type. I may be wrong, but that is my own view. In any case, there is great waste going on and it is not economical, and I therefore ask the Minister to review the whole position most carefully.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hurd (Newbury)
I beg to second the Amendment.
It is my view, formed after a visit to Tanganyika and after a consistent and close study of the development of this scheme for mass producing groundnuts, that the Minister himself has proved the worst handicap to its success. It really is time that the Minister discharged himself from the post of public relations officer for the groundnuts scheme and behaved as a responsible Minister of the Crown. As a quick-time, margarine producing project, the groundnuts scheme is dead, and we are not likely to see in our lifetime the 600,000 tons of oil seeds or the extra 10¼ 1bs. of margarine per year for everyone in this country from this scheme.
I do not think it is necessary to hold a detailed post-mortem on the scheme, 2495 because not even another Socialist Government would repeat the folly of putting hundreds of bulldozers and other heavy machinery to beat down the African bush before they discovered what the rainfall was, what the soil would grow, whether it would grow a succession of crops and whether there were any—
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. John Strachey)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? Surely, he is not suggesting that we have not discovered the rainfall? It is published in the Wakefield Report, and we must do justice to the authors of that report.
§ Mr. Hurd
I shall try to do justice, but I was misled by an answer which the Minister gave on that point a few weeks ago. It is true that some very sketchy rainfall figures were obtained, particularly for the Kongwa area, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will inquire of those who kept these records, because I think he will find that the job was not taken very seriously, and that sometimes the record was taken on Christmas Day and that had to suffice for a long period. I do not think there were any reliable rainfall records at all, but, if there were, the Minister's fault in leading his Cabinet colleagues into accepting this project is all the greater. I cannot believe that the Minister and his colleagues really knew what the conditions were.
We must also agree that a few pilot schemes and the practical caution which any individual or private company would take in order to safeguard its funds would have saved the British taxpayer many millions of pounds. We should have found out which were the right areas to develop and the crops which could be grown before we had battered ourselves so expensively against the thorn at Kongwa, which now appears to be the least promising area. The land of promise is now in the southern area, where there is a land of bananas, a land flowing with milk and honey, according to the Minister. I hope he is right, but I would ask him to tell us quite frankly whether he or the Government have any clear idea about the future use of the land which they have cleared in Tanganyika. It has been done at great expense, and we have extended the railways, provided some hard roads and built a lot of houses.
2496 I put this point to the Minister. It is the feeling, not only among hon. Members of this House but among the general public, that we cannot place any faith in the advice of the Overseas Food Corporation itself. The Minister made the initial mistake of appointing a friend of his to be the chairman—Mr. Plummer, who is now dignified by a knighthood—and I think the Minister's other appointments to the board have given the Corporation an ill-assorted team. I do not like saying this because some members of the Corporation are friends of mine and I have known them for many years. They have admirable individual qualities, but they have not the qualities needed to run a show of this kind. They have one quality in common, which is that none of them, so far as I know, has any practical experience of commercial agriculture in the tropics. I just cannot believe that in the present Overseas Food Corporation we have a working team capable, by distant control from London, of making a success of this scheme in Tanganyika.
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend when he says that we cannot afford to go on pouring £1 million a month into this scheme. Already, every man, woman and child in the country has 10s. invested in the scheme, and we are putting in another £1 million a month. I am sure it is common sense now to call a halt to any further clearing and to the starting of further road and railway making until Parliament has some reliable guidance on the best way of turning to account what we have already spent in human effort and material resources in connection with the development of the scheme up to its present stage. I pay the highest tribute to the men on the spot. I found them fine fellows; they had their hearts in the right place, and wanted to make a success of the job.
Will the Minister tell us quite frankly whether he now sees this scheme as a general farming scheme, with groundnuts as just one of the crops in rotation? If that is so, would it not be better business to turn the scheme over to the Colonial Development Corporation under the Colonial Office? This Corporation seems to have wider terms of reference than the Overseas Food Corporation, and the Colonial Development Corporation is already running a groundnuts scheme in 2497 North Nigeria. Their scheme is one which appeals to me more than the idea of mechanised mass production of groundnuts. They are creating holdings of 30 acres to be worked by the Africans themselves, of which 10 acres will be groundnuts, 10 acres cereals and 10 acres fallow. They are encouraging peasant cultivation and helping the peasants by the use of good husbandry and fertilisers to get high yields. The yields in West Africa are considerably higher than even the Minister has projected for his scheme in Tanganyika. Such holdings represent one likely long-term solution to this problem and are preferable to any further extension of mass production methods.
I am sure that for the sake of our good name in Africa and for the sake of our purse here we must take this Tanganyika scheme away from the Minister of Food. I know that the Minister has tried very hard to make a success of it, but he has set about it in the wrong way and with the wrong mentality. It is because I think that we must take the scheme away from him that I second the Amendment.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
The speech of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) has encouraged me to reply to one or two of the points he made. I was told the other day by an official of the Overseas Food Corporation that after each of our Debates in this House they expect to receive a considerable number of letters from Englishmen who had applied for jobs cancelling their applications owing to the statements and allegations made by the Opposition. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) made a speech which was completely responsible, and which would not have had that result in any way. But I must say that the speech of the hon. Member for Newbury was precisely what was expected.
It is surely worth thinking over, that with regard to a scheme of this sort it is of some importance that speeches should not be made here which make it more difficult than ever to recruit men for the job, in the same way that newspaper articles containing wild allegations against the scheme should not be written. It will not greatly encourage the people visited by the hon. Member for Eddisbury to hear that things are so desperate that 2498 the scheme may be taken away from the Minister of Food, and that road and railway development will have to be stopped altogether.
§ Mr. Crossman
If the news reaches Africa that things are so desperate as to stop further development in this way, it is not going to help the morale of the people concerned which the hon. Member for Eddisbury was so keen to maintain.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
From the point of view of the House of Commons, will the hon. Gentleman enunciate a little further the remarkable doctrine he has put forward? Is it his view that it is not the duty of hon. Members to make criticisms when they think it necessary so to do, for fear of causing trouble outside; and, if so, why does he make speeches, as he constantly does, about the Americans?
§ Mr. Crossman
I think the noble Lord has made a perfectly fair point, that every hon. Member of this House has very considerable difficulty. He has to make his criticisms forcibly and he has to consider the effect outside. I was only suggesting that the effect outside will be very grave and that the hon. Member for Newbury must feel that things are very desperate if he is to be justified in creating that effect on the morale of the people working out there.
The second point is that he talked a great deal about the starry-eyed prospectuses which have not come true, and about the millions of pounds of money lost. I think it is worth remembering about colonial development schemes, whether of private or public enterprise, that very rarely in Africa has much money been made before a great deal has been lost. A great number of people who invested in original schemes in Africa lost their money, and then, after a long time, money was made. I cannot think of a single area where there have not had to be experiments which failed, and where mistakes had not to be made. The original investors have usually lost their money.
2499 If we are going to have a scheme of this sort in the centre of Africa, it is totally impossible to make accurate estimates in advance. At least we can say that the Government took the advice of the largest private enterprise corporation on the spot and that this prospectus, which is regarded as so starry-eyed, was prepared in part by a man who came from Unilever itself. If private enterprise has been at fault, that is not something which the Opposition should be so proud to expose. After all, who wrote that report, who were the men? The leading member of the mission was a man from Unilever. There was also a Colonial Office official and a banker, but a man from Unilever was the man on the spot who apparently made the "idiotic and stupid mistakes"—to use the words of the hon. Member opposite—which were unforgivable. Were those mistakes so unforgivable? Were they wrong to believe that there is a chance of pulling off this job?
§ Sir J. Barlow
The representative from Unilever had no experience at all in the mechanised production of groundnuts. His whole experience was in West Africa with regard to entirely different products, and, further, the expert advice was from Mr. Wakefield who had been, I believe, agricultural adviser in Tanganyika for 15 years.
§ Mr. Crossman
I think the hon. Gentleman is correct. In fact, I doubt whether anybody has had much experience of the mechanised production of groundnuts. This is an experiment in producing groundnuts. If we are going to make [...] experiment we must face the fact that in early years money may be lost. That has always been so in the past. Hon. Members opposite believe in enterprise; that means taking risks; so they must be prepared to concede that the risks will on occasions involve losses of money in the short run. It is unreasonable to say that because losses have been made and expectations have not been arrived at, we should stop the scheme and sack the Minister of Food.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
If, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, this scheme was entered into with neither the Government nor anyone else knowing anything about it, would he not agree that it would have 2500 been wise to have had a few pilot schemes instead of plunging in to the tune of £25 million?
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Gentleman knows that I did not say the scheme was entered into without anyone knowing anything about it. I said that the experts were selected from private enterprise and they knew as much as anyone did. All the available information was collected. But anybody who knows anything about schemes of this sort will admit that in the initial stages there will not be 100 per cent. success, but that very often there will be a large percentage of failure. It is unfair and unreasonable for hon. Members opposite to condemn it out of hand because those inevitable failures have occurred.
My second point is this. This scheme is not only of interest to this country; it is of interest to the whole world and particularly nations with colonies. Hon. Members opposite may want to wipe the scheme off, but officials from the French and Belgian Governments, as well as South Africa, are going out to see this scheme and they regard it with the keenest interest, because everybody concerned with Africa is deeply concerned for the success of this scheme. I suspect that our foreign observers are showing a rather more objective and long-term attitude to this scheme than some hon. Members opposite.
I only hope that there are not any interests concerned which create this malice in the Opposition. It is well known that the sisal growers in Tanganyika are not fond of the diamond industry or of this scheme because the native wage is being increased in Tanganyika by those two new industries. I hope no hon. Member opposite is influenced by the fact that the sisal growers do not like to see the Africans getting more money than they got when there was nothing but sisal produced.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was expressing a hope that no hon. Member opposite or anybody who spoke on this scheme, has such an interest.
2501 My third point is this. I would say to hon. Members opposite that we must all hope for large-scale American investment in Africa, but it is perfectly clear that no American private enterprise is prepared to go and do the sort of job which has to be done in the initial stages. They go to Washington and say that they want 100 per cent. security. If they were given 100 per cent. security they might undertake to do something. In the meantime Governments have to take the risks which free enterprise refuses to take.
§ Mr. Osborne (Louth)
Surely the money is being found largely by the American taxpayer without whose aid this Government could not carry on?
§ Mr. Crossman
That is the very point that I was trying to make. The American Government are lending money to us and our Government are undertaking the scheme because no private enterprise is prepared to take the risks involved in such schemes in Central Africa. Where private enterprise will not be experimental and will not take risks in this initial development work, the Government have to undertake it.
§ Earl Winterton
I am not very interested in groundnuts, but I have been a landowner in Africa for 40 years. If I may say so without wishing to be offensive, the hon. Gentleman is talking absolute nonsense. If it had not been for private enterprise there would be no ranching industry in Africa today. It does not mean, because private enterprise has not gone in for this scheme, that the scheme is feasible. Private enterprise is not so foolish as to do something which cannot be done.
§ Mr. Crossman
We have now had a clear statement from the noble Lord. He asserts that the scheme is unfeasible. Is that his point?
§ Mr. Crossman
We now have an admission from the Opposition Front Bench that they want the scheme stopped. If a Conservative Government get in, they will stop the scheme altogether because they consider it totally unfeasible. How right was the alarm shown by the employees of the Corporation! The Conservatives are not just wondering whether to go forward; they have decided to close it down altogether.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman, who knows nothing whatever about Africa, is attempting to suggest, as I understand his argument—and it is a very interesting Socialist argument—that if any expert makes up his mind that a scheme is unfeasible, then notwithstanding that it is unfeasible, because it is run by the Socialist Party it must be continued. No wonder this country is in such a calamitous state.
§ Mr. Crossman
The noble Lord expressed his view on the scheme—[Interruption]. The noble Lord should at least have the courtesy to listen. Perhaps he can listen without muttering. The noble Lord said that the scheme is totally unfeasible. That must mean, if the noble Lord is responsible for his words, that if he were in a position to govern this country, he would close down the scheme altogether.
§ Earl Winterton
Thank heaven I am not in a position to govern this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If I were, I would not make such a muddle of it as the hon. Gentleman's friends.
§ Mr. Crossman
It is now quite clear that the noble Lord is trying to withdraw from the statement, because it would embarrass the Opposition.
§ Mr. Crossman
We shall now return, despite the noble Lord, to the subject of American capital. Apart from Liberia, and the Cameroons where the United Fruit Company is doing some development in conjunction with the Colonial Office, I know of no efforts by American capital to engage in development of Africa. The suggestion that American capital is waiting to go into Africa and develop it is surely not true. If it were true, Mr. Truman would not be so concerned about his fourth point, to encourage American capital to go overseas. Our capital was squandered at a time when it should have been put into development, and American capital, which had its fingers burned during the war, is profoundly reluctant to go to Africa, let alone Europe. If American capital will not undertake the risk, public money must be used; public men must 2503 experiment and take risks and take the blame which is involved in taking risks, as well as taking the failures and the losses which are inevitable, because there is no other way of producing the fundamental change in Africa which has got to be produced if white and black are to live there together in the next 100 years.
The hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment made, I thought, a very false distinction between a scheme designed to produce groundnuts and a scheme for African development. He asked, which was it—whether it was a scheme for producing groundnuts or for helping the Africans? The hon. Gentleman, as a business man, should know that in his own business life it is not fair to say, even to a Conservative business man, "Are you there to make profits or to serve the country?" It is not fair to go to the L.P.T.B. and say, "Are you there to make profits or to provide an efficient transport service?" What is unfair when put to such people is equally unfair when put to the Government Front Bench. In reply to this question, "Is this a business job or is it concerned with African development," the answer is that, of course, it has got to be both.
No one ever suggested from this side at the beginning that it was predominantly a business job to get groundnuts and that the Africans came a bad second. Everybody on this side knows that we cannot get the groundnuts unless the Africans are given a chance. Whereas the normal business in this country need only build its factories and get its labour and then takes its profits, in Africa it is necessary to build hospitals, roads, schools, railways and ports. All those things are the overheads of this business before any profit can be made. That is why it is impossible to have any normal profit calculation with regard to what is a gigantic pilot plant, a great experiment in production in Africa. They have to build their roads, their railways, their schools; they have to build everything which is taken for granted by the profit-making business man in this country. That is yet another reason why private enterprise—and I do not blame them—cannot be expected to jump in here and do this job. It is a job which has to be done on public money.
2504 In conclusion, the Conservative Party, which says it believes at heart in the Commonwealth, which says it believes in building up the Empire, should realise that upon the success or failure of this scheme, whether they like the scheme or not, depends very largely whether American capital comes into Africa. If this scheme succeeds we may be able to persuade some to come in. If, as hon. Gentlemen opposite so much hope, the scheme is a failure or if, as the noble Lord has already said, the scheme is nonsense from the start; it will not come in. If the scheme is a sensational failure, I am quite sure there will not be any American capital coming in, for a sensational failure of that sort with public money will hardly encourage the American capitalists to invest.
I would appeal to the noble Lord, although he is difficult to appeal to, to put his personal rancour behind him and to regard this matter as a matter of national, of African and of Anglo-American importance, and to try to help the scheme instead of stating as a Front Bench Member, that he knew the scheme was totally unfeasible, and that, speaking from the Front Bench, he is prepared to advise its immediate stoppage despite all the disastrous consequences.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I am delighted to have the chance of following the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), after having listened to a speech which was quite despicable in the circumstances in which it was made. I cannot speak for American capital and I do not know whether the hon. Member for East Coventry can, but if he wants to know why American capital is not attracted to this country, I suggest that he roads the speech of Lord Brand in another place only a couple of days ago. The reason why American capital was not attracted into the sterling area was given, and the reason it does not go to Africa is exactly the same as the reason why it does not go to other parts of the sterling area.
I resent very strongly his insinuation that anyone who attends these Debates and has any personal interest whatever should be precluded from speaking in them. I have often informed the House of my interest as a primary producer in 2505 Africa. For this I make no apology. One of the troubles with the Government, as the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards), I think it was, said after being de-nazified at the Scarborough Conference last year, is that they have not a single member who has ever earned his living managing a business.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I happen to be one of those who has earned his living by managing a very considerable business.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I suggest the right hon. Gentleman should tell that to the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough and explain it to him rather more carefully, because he has a longer and closer association with the hon. Member than I have. When hon. Members of this House, who have a practical interest of any sort, try to find out what are the facts of any matter, instead of dealing in the realms of make-believe into which the hon. Member for East Coventry often goes, it is ridiculous to suggest that they should be precluded from taking part in the Debate.
To suggest that such hon. Members are merely activated by sordid self-interest and in this instance are trying to stop this scheme because they want to keep down wages, is about on the level of the Deputy Chief Patronage Secretary going round saying that we on this side of the House wish to create unemployment in order to solve our economic problems. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear.] I see that hon. Members opposite join him, which shows the depths to which they are descending in their political propaganda. I do not want to take up much more of the time of the House on this point, but it is quite characteristic of the defence which is being put up by hon. Members opposite, that they should try to blame Unilevers, and private enterprise, for it all. They always like to find a scapegoat and never admit that they themselves are wrong. They try to find somebody else to blame. They blame it all on their political opponents.
I should like also to point out that the remark made by the hon. Member for East Coventry that, in private companies in Africa, very much more money was lost before money was made— 2506 or at any rate that a great deal of money was lost—is very different from the story one used to hear in the past about "exploitation" and the vast wealth made by these companies. I had the privilege of serving for 10 years in Africa before the war and, having been subject to the constant stream of vitriol from the Fabian Socialists in those days, I will only say that that is the sort of fabrication which hon. Members opposite, who are now responsible for the government of those territories, ought by this time to have brought to an end. If the hon. Member accuses us of discouraging recruitment for this groundnut scheme, I would point out that he and his friends have been trying for years to discourage recruitment to those services in which many spend their lives, and in many cases give their lives, in the service of our overseas territories, and I suggest it is about time that he stopped talking on those lines.
To come more immediately to the Motion which is before the House. I am staggered that the Minister of Food, after having spent quite a lot of the taxpayers' money and even more of other people's time in East Africa, has not taken this opportunity of coming before the House and making a proper statement on the result of his trip over there and of the future so that we might then ask him questions. There has been reference to commercial parallels and it appears to me, if one could draw a parallel, that this is the annual general meeting in which the Minister of Food is the chairman. It is rather like as if he had taken a room for the annual general meeting and for 50 minutes there was a discussion on things generally without a chairman's statement, but that in the last ten minutes he was prepared to answer questions. We are waiting to know from the Minister what is happening and we have had no statement.
§ Mr. Strachey
The hon. Member seems to be unaware that I made a statement in this House some ten days ago. In fact, the House complained that it was too long.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The Minster has not taken the chance to endeavour to make a full and proper statement in a Debate of this sort. To continue the commercial argument, one cannot help thinking what 2507 would have happened if the ordinary processes of economic laws and other laws had applied to the Minister of Food, because by this time not only would he have been in Carey Street but it is also a question whether he would not have been in Bow Street as well for issuing a false prospectus. I do not know, but at least it is a point for argument amongst the hon. and learned Members of this House.
I do not want to take up too much time of the House on personal matters, but I want to tell the Minister that it was not unamusing to many of us interested in these affairs when the right hon. Gentleman at Kongwa, apparently in trying to raise morale, started by saying something about the Conservative Party, suggesting that they will soon be putting right the misdirection which has been going on out there. At any rate, that was the implication of what he said although I have not seen a very full report.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The right hon. Gentleman issued a statement in which he said, more or less, that the Conservatives would soon be putting things right and would carry on this scheme. That was the implication.
§ Mr. Strachey
I must at once ask the hon. Member to withdraw that suggestion. I said nothing of the sort. I may be accused in some cases of being a bad prophet, but I would certainly never prophesy the success of the Conservatives at the next election. That would be a most improbable action on my part and a most improbable event.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I certainly accept that from the Minister as a fact, but I think that if he will look at what he said he will find that he purported to speak in some points on behalf of the Conservatives. I will look at the newspaper reports and send them to the right hon. Gentleman so that he may see for himself.
§ Mr. Strachey
I must ask the hon. Member to give some substantiation to this wild suggestion. It is perfectly true that I found in Kongwa the chief anxiety, which the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) mentioned, was what would happen to their jobs if the Conservative Party were ever to become 2508 responsible for the Government of this country. All I said was that seemed to me to be a remote contingency, but I could not reassure them any further than that. A lot of people were anxious about their jobs if the Conservative Party ever became responsible for this country.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
If that is what the Minister says he said, I will leave it at that. We believe that we should get some indication in this Debate of the figures at which this scheme is now being operated and of the Minister's estimates of production for the future. I think the chairman of a board of a public company would be expected to have that sort of information by him.
I should also like to ask the Minister in connection with organisation, what, if anything, has been done, to find out from those with long experience in the Sudan about large-scale production. What use has been made of that experience, either in recruiting agricultural experts or it making use of some of the previous, officials there who have considerable and most valuable experience, I believe, in matters of labour and resettlement and so on. I believe that the question of over-urbanisation which has arisen there is quite likely to arise under these other large-scale schemes, and I should like to know if anything has been done to make use of those experts.
Now I come to tractors. I apologise to the House for putting these points disjointedly, but I think they ought to be put to the Minister. As to the product of heavy tractors, there was a scheme at one time, I understand, that an American heavy tractor could be built in this country under licence. That was changed, I understand, later to production of an all-British tractor. It does seem important at this juncture to get a proven article and better, perhaps, to have manufactured under licence, a heavy tractor. We should be grateful to the Minister if he would give us some indication of what is happening about that Time is important, and it takes time to develop new models. A third matter brought to my notice is the question of sunflowers. What is being done to get these fertilised? There is a need for fertilisation through bees, but it is difficult to keep bees there more than about two weeks at a time. I wonder what the Corporation is going to do about this.
2509 It does appear to us that the emphasis in this scheme has been changed. From being a scheme for the production of oilseeds primarily for the benefit of this country it seems now to be a great experimental scheme in colonial development which we on this side of the House have always, I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree, supported. If it is the latter, if the emphasis is now on carrying out colonial development, we support it, but we think it should be handled by the Colonial Secretary and not by the Minister of Food, because a vast number of problems, such as those of labour relations and health, and so forth, affecting tens of thousands of people, will arise in connection with this scheme.
As my hon. Friends have pointed out, the answer is to concentrate on such great developments as transport, ports, railways, roads, and to open up those territories, and then to encourage the existing methods of production, whether by private enterprise or through producer-co-operatives, or the individual farmers, so that the job of production may proceed. I believe that this should be done and can be done, leaving inside such overall developments, the present units of the schemes, either as pilot schemes or as going units.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Everyone must have been struck by the new tone of this Debate on groundnuts as compared with that of earlier Debates. Previously, we found the Opposition coming in all cock-a-hoop and saying that this scheme was a complete failure. Today the tone is slightly different. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) and the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) were extremely annoyed for some reason by what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I am somewhat at a loss to understand why, because all that he said, in brief, was that this scheme had been launched, not on the advice of Government experts but on the advice of the experts of the United Africa Company; that American capital or British capital could not maintain this scheme with private enterprise prices; and that therefore, it must be done by the Government—a conclusion reached by the 2510 company itself. Why the Opposition should be annoyed by that I do not know. I can only imagine that it was because of my hon. Friend's final word, that this scheme is in fact succeeding, and is going to be a success. That really is what is annoying the Opposition, because whatever may have been said by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow), there is no question at all that the Opposition have deliberately made this a political issue.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
I think I may say, on behalf of everybody on this side, that if this venture turns out well for Africa and this country, we shall be very glad. It is only because we fear disaster that we put these criticisms.
§ Mr. Hynd
I am sure the hon. Member means that quite sincerely, but it is an entirely different thing from what was said by the noble Lord. In any case, I think even he, with all his sincerity, would admit, whatever may be the ultimate outcome of the scheme, the Conservative Party, particularly on the eve of a General Election, will certainly want to make as much political capital out of the difficulties as possible.
§ Mr. Hynd
That is a new political attitude, then. The hon. Member for Banbury was very concerned about the fact that we were blaming the United Africa Company. We have not blamed the United Africa Company, and I have not heard a single word on this side of the House to that effect. My hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry only reminded the House that the initiative in suggesting this scheme came from the company whose adviser was on the original commission, and that they, in fact, handled this scheme for about the first 12 months on behalf of the Overseas Food Corporation. He did not criticise them for that. The criticism and blame has all come from the other side of the House. They have attempted to cast blame on the Corporation. If they want to blame anybody, they should blame private enterprise, and not the Government.
§ Mr. Hynd
Not at all. The chairman of the United Africa Company first suggested the scheme, the commission was sent out, including 30 per cent. of the company on it, and the United Africa Company were given full control of this scheme without any interference, until the Overseas Food Corporation were allowed to take over. That is on the record. That is certainly the case. The Opposition appear to overlook—or would wish to overlook, possibly—in talking about leaving the work to the local farmers, and about encouraging them by offering them increased prices to produce copra, that the African groundnuts development scheme was launched in 1946, when not only this country but the whole world was faced with an incalculable food problem and seeking the possibilities of increasing food production. The possibility of what our position would be in the next five or 10 years was foreseen. We were drastically short of fats to the tune of 1,500,000 tons. There was a wheat famine and rice famine, and there were repercussions in India, where the original groundnut scheme was undertaken, and India was keeping her production of fats because of her own food shortage.
This development could not have been done by private enterprise. We hear a lot of talk about the spirit of the merchant adventurers, and of how we should inculcate and follow that spirit now. Well, the spirit of the merchant adventurers did not ask for 100 per cent. guarantees. That spirit was expressed in precisely this kind of operation which the Government have undertaken for the immediate advantage of our own population, faced with a fats shortage, and for the advantage of Africa as well.
We have, and have had for a long time, a tremendous responsibility in Africa, and there is no question at all that this was a considerable enterprise in which was shown considerable initiative. The scheme was proposed in March, 1946; the commission left for Africa in June, 1946; and the scheme was put into operation very soon afterwards. So far, there have been tremendous difficulties, and as the Opposition have pointed out over and 2512 over again, those difficulties have been due to the fact that there was practically no knowledge whatever of the conditions in those territories—no knowledge whatever of the possibilities for large-scale development on a mechanised basis. The production of groundnuts meant nothing less. No answer had yet been found to the tsetse fly, and all this had to be undertaken at the last minute when the country was in a position of crisis. We are entitled to ask why those Governments which had been responsible for these territories before had done nothing about it.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
There were one million tons of groundnuts available from elsewhere in those days.
§ Mr. Hynd
From India; but again, surely the whole purpose of our colonial responsibility in Africa and elsewhere is not simply to produce fats for this country. Are we to neglect these territories and the millions of people for whom we are responsible so long as we are fed from somewhere else? Certainly not.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
Would it not have been a wise precaution to have found out about the difficulties to be overcome at the outset of the scheme?
§ Mr. Hynd
That is precisely what I am saying. We have had 100 years to find out about these things, but previous Governments have done nothing about it. Nothing was done until this Government acted in 1946. That is what I am busy saying, and it is no good the Opposition now blaming us.
We have heard a lot about the lack of harbour facilities at Dar-es-Salaam in all the previous Debates. We have not heard a word about it today. Why? Because Dar-es-Salaam is handling traffic—at the moment not on the scale we had hoped, but it is handling traffic. This tremendous barrage of criticism about Dar-es-Salaam and the harbour facilities overlooks the fact that before the war two commissions had already reported the need for deep-water berths at Dar-es-Salaam, and that nothing was done about it. According to Mr. Petitpierre, speaking at a meeting of the East Africa Section of the London 2513 Chamber of Commerce, reported in the "East African and Rhodesian" of 26th May, 1948:… the Railway [at Dar-es-Salaam] simply could not move goods away sufficiently quickly. That was the result of the ostrich-like policy of a Government which has refused to think and plan ahead. Long before the war the commercial community had urged the need for deep-water berths, and it was known that plans had been prepared by well-known consulting engineers, and nothing had been done.But that is not a criticism of this Government. That is a criticism of Governments which had done nothing about it.
It is true, as the Opposition have said on this occasion, that the scheme is not going forward on the basis presented in the White Paper. The original report was quoted by the hon. Member for Eddisbury, who cited the figures of the original provisional programme laid down in the report of the commission—that so many hundreds of tons in the first two or three years should be possible. But even these figures were rejected by the Government, so why quote them now? The Government themselves, despite the expert advice given in the report, were suspicious about these figures, and in their preamble to the White Paper they pointed out that it might not be possible to reach anything like these figures. Indeed, if we turn to paragraph 4 of the White Paper we find this:While the areas selected by the Mission for development appear to have been well chosen and the recommendation that the work should stand in Tanganyika is sound, it would be a serious error to bind the agency responsible for carrying out the work to follow the precise plan recommended in the Mission's report. This plan, which appears to be the best on the basis of the data … available, will be subject to continuous review in the light of fresh information gathered as the work progresses.That was the Government's attitude. It was not a hard-and-fast acceptance of the figures given in the report. It goes further and says:It does not, therefore, follow from the Government's decision either that the particular localities described by the Mission will be developed or that the order or rate of development will be as envisaged in their Report.Why, in the face of that very cautionary measure taken by the Government, do we now have this criticism involving the figures of the report of the Mission, which the Government rejected? Why say the fact that the Government are 2514 not developing the original territory mapped out in the report is evidence that this scheme is a failure, when the Government said at the beginning that it was by no means certain that these particular areas would be developed? We have now rejected Kenya and Northern Rhodesia altogether. Kongwa will be developed in certain areas next year, and then will be retained as an experimental ground. The main experiment will have to be developed in the Southern Province.
We have been asked: "Why was that not done originally? Why go to Kongwa, which was unsuitable?" The answer is that there were railway facilities near Kongwa; there was the Dar-es-Salaam harbour; whereas in the Southern Province there was neither harbour, railways, nor transport of any kind. But that is now being developed, and the experience that has been gained at Kongwa, the experimentation that has gone on there, and particularly the experimentation in the growth of alternative crops, in the production of the right kind of machinery, and all these other things, will be of inestimable value in developing the Southern Province.
There is also complaint about the fact that we have not secured the crops it was estimated in the original Mission's report we could secure, in spite of the provisions that were made by the Government. That again is true. It was suggested that the original report said 850 1b. per acre. The Government said, "Well, that is a little bit high. We do not know where we are going yet. Let us call it 750 lb." Actually, I understand the average at Kongwa is round about 450 lb. But that is an average, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry pointed out very clearly, when experimenting we must be prepared for losses and for failures. In fact, we must go for losses and failures if there is to be experimentation over the widest possible field. That is precisely what is happening, because even if the average is 450 lb., I understand the range is from about 50 lb. per acre to 1,000 or 2,000 lb. It has been found that at Kongwa they can grow groundnuts on a scale higher than the figure given in the original Mission's report, but to do that they had to experiment with a number 2515 of varieties, and had to face up to certain losses.
§ Mr. Hynd
I said last year. I am not talking about the special drought period, but about the crop last year. That was the term I used.
A great deal has been said about the fact that we are now developing sunflowers. I have heard it said in this House, and seen it in the Press, that this again is evidence that our groundnut scheme is a failure. It is nothing of the kind. It was never firmly decided by the Government that we should grow only groundnuts. In fact, it was very closely pointed out, and always has been in these Debates, that this is not a scheme primarily or essentially for growing groundnuts to provide fats for Britain. This is a scheme of colonial development for opening up the vast potentialities of these territories, which have hitherto been neglected, to produce the foods and raw materials which are in these parts, but about which we are completely ignorant because there has not even been a geological survey of the territories, and nobody knows what is there.
As a result of the experimentation at Kongwa, they have already laid the basis of a considerable saving—a point which has never yet been made clear in this Debate—because the original idea was a four-year rotation, with two years of groundnuts and two years of grass. As a matter of fact, as a result of the experimentation which has been going on, they have now adopted a ten-year rotation, providing for three years sunflowers, five years groundnuts, and two years, not of grass alone, but of sorghum or grass, which means that as a result of that experiment it will now be possible to produce on two million acres the same 2516 quantity of oils as it was originally expected would require 3¼ million acres. That is a valuable result of experiment which, in the long run, will represent a considerable saving, and it is an illustration of the kind of value we can get out of this sort of experimentation.
Kongwa is not now being developed on a full scale. The Urambo Province is now to be developed only to a certain point, again as an experimental station. But the work that will be required in the Southern Province will be very considerable. At Mikindani there is and has been no harbour as there was at Dar-es-Salaam, and it is true to say that it will be some time before the deep-water harbour is developed; I understand that 1950 is the anticipated date. As an illustration of the progress that is being made, according to the latest information we have already developed a temporary harbour there which is handling as much tonnage as the total tonnage handled at Dar-es-Salaam. That is considerable progress, and it is a great tribute to the initiative and energy of the people doing this job, in spite of the sneers which were made that they were mostly of the ex-Service and Civil Service type. It is a great pity that the services of these people are not better recognised in these Debates.
I saw the work which was going on at Kongwa, which had no railway leading up from the main line. That railway was brought up to Kongwa in a very short time by scrounging odd bits of rail to make the extension. That kind of thing was done with great energy and initiative. The experimentation with root cutting has not been very successful, but they were faced with difficulties which were not fully understood. When I was in Kongwa some two years ago, I found they were quite pleased with themselves because they had discovered they could use the groundnut husks for fuel. They have gone even further than that now and are using groundnut shells to produce brickets, which will enable them to provide all the electricity that is wanted for the scheme. That is not a bad tribute to the initiative and energy of the Civil Service and ex-Service types.
We have not heard a great deal about the Africans, although my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry did refer to them. They are an essential part of 2517 this scheme. This scheme is not only a profit-making scheme and a scheme to produce fats for this country; it is also a scheme to help the Africans. As an illustration of what is being done, we have the hospital facilities which have been provided at Kongwa. It is true that it has cost some £220,000, which is a lot of money, but that hospital provides 900 beds, which is equal to the whole of the hospital services up to date of Tanganyika.
If we mean what we say in these Colonial Debates about improving the low standard of living and providing medical services and education in these parts, are we going to stop all this development that is going on? Are we going to stop all these things which have been demanded and in regard to which nothing has been done in the past?
§ Captain Crookshank
The hon. Member speaks of 900 beds. The hon. Baronet referred to 400 beds. I wonder who is right.
§ Mr. Hynd
I understood the number was 900, but the Minister can probably put us right if we are wrong. In any case, the fact remains that these facilities are equal to the total facilities which existed before. This hospital is not only providing for the employees of the groundnut scheme and their families, but is also providing for the local inhabitants. It provides 25 per cent. for the local inhabitants and 75 per cent. for the employees. This is not a profit-making concern, otherwise we would close it down for these other people and confine it to the groundnut scheme.
§ Mr. Osborne
If the primary object is to help the African people, why does the scheme not come under the Colonial Office instead of under the Ministry of Food?
§ Mr. Hynd
I think that the Ministry of Food are doing pretty well at the present time, and in any case the Colonial Office already have quite enough to do. The provision of these hospital facilities and schools for whites and Africans, and above all the provision of a new basis of economy for Tanganyika, Kenya and these other territories, has all followed from this scheme. Why should Tanganyika have to import the greater part of its raw materials and feedingstuffs? 2518 These territories have been under our supervision for many years and have vast potentialities. Why, therefore, should they have to import their food and essential goods instead of producing them for themselves?
§ Mr. Hynd
The potentiality of this area is illustrated by some figures which were given to me at Kongwa. It has been said that we would have done better by encouraging African producers by giving them higher prices—nothing of the kind. It is estimated that an African producer after providing for his own subsistence would produce 15 cwt. of groundnuts, whereas under this scheme he is in a position to produce 20 tons of groundnuts in addition to his food.
This is a measure of the potentialities and the almost infinite possibilities which are opened up for the first time for millions of people for whom we are so responsible. I do not want to say too, much about sisal planters. Reference has been made to their opposition, which is not disinterested opposition. The fact is that they are afraid of the African workers' advances. This opposition is entirely short-sighted and selfish. What is overlooked is that the sisal planters are now selling their sisal for £90 per ton against £17 per ton pre-war, whereas the African labourer on the farm is earning 15s. a month as compared with 12s. We can see that there is a substantial reason why they might be concerned about a substantial increase in African conditions.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
Will my hon. Friend give a little more information about the 15s. a month? Does that include subsistence.
§ Mr. Hynd
No. That is wages. The ration is approximately the same amount, making an estimated total of 30s. a month. Obviously these standards cannot be tolerated indefinitely, and this scheme is the only way to improve the economic position of the country and enable these low standards completely to be abolished.
It has been asked what the Opposition would have done in 1946, had they been in office, when faced with the great problem of food and fats supplies for 2519 this country. Would they have left these territories undeveloped? Would they have prevented the establishment of the hospital services and the extensions made to the harbours at Dar-es-Salaam and Mikindani, letting the Africans continue to live on the same old basis? This scheme could not have been undertaken except by the Government. Private enterprise could not have done it, so what would the Tories have done? They might have set up a commission, if the United Africa Company had recommended it. The commission would probably have been sent out to produce some scheme of action for the development of these territories. But as the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) said yesterday, the Conservative conception of a Minister's job in relation to a commission is to tear up its report, which they would certainly have done in this case As far as we can see, they are not only content to tear up the reports of commissions but also their election promises.
We should like to know whether or not the policy adumbrated by the noble Lord from the Opposition Front Bench is the policy of the Conservative Party. Is it or is it not the case that they are satisfied this scheme is a failure and cannot succeed in Africa? Are they in favour of going back to the old method of the African farmer producing 15 cwts a year? Would they have done something about it? Will they give the assurances that have been asked for to the employees engaged on the scheme, or will they repeat the sneers and criticisms that have been made by Members of the Front Bench opposite about the employees, which were repeated this afternoon—about "Civil Service types"—and which have been repeated by other representatives of the Front Bench of the Opposition in the columns of "The Financial Times" only recently and quoted in the East African papers?
Or are they to tell those people that whether or not there is a change of Government in this country at any time they will let these policies continue? Will they give that assurance, not only to the employees engaged on the scheme but to the people of this country? More important still, are they to give that assurance to the people of those African 2520 territories who have waited too long for some opportunity for the opening up of their country, and its vast potentialities in regard to mineral wealth and food production being developed as well as our own? We should like to know.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)
I had not intended taking part in this Debate, and what I have to say is completely unprepared. In following the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) I would say that I hope we shall have no more of such petty, spiteful, party, Fabian speeches as that to which we have just listened. It is a speech typical of those which the hon. Member made when he went as a member of a delegation to Africa, which did such tremendous harm in that Colony. He was fortunately accompanied by two or three of his colleagues who went out there with open minds to see the country and who were prepared to come back to proclaim what this country had done in developing the British Empire. I hope that some of the Members who went on that delegation will be prepared to get up and say what they saw in Africa when they were there.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
The criticisms made of members of that delegation mentioned no particular member but were made indiscriminately against the whole delegation.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I have relatives in East Africa who sent me cuttings of the speeches made at that time. All that I have to say in reply to the hon. Gentleman is that if this country is to be accused of exploitation in regard to what has happened in Africa in the last 50 years, I hope that there will be exploitation to the same extent in the next 50 years. During that 50 years, in Kenya, in which I am particularly interested, we have stopped slave-driving and tribal warfare and initiated medical services, which have meant that the African population has doubled in number in 25 years and is continually increasing. That is why the problem of food has been raised. The problem that faces Africa is not that of feeding the British public, but of feeding herself.
I am sorry that we should enter this Debate with any idea that the groundnuts scheme in Africa is something which will provide a large quantity of food for this 2521 country. If we are to get out of the Africans the work necessary to develop their country, they have to be better fed, they have to work longer and harder. It does no good to try to make them believe that the British taxpayer will continually foot the bill in the future. The African will have to work his own passage, and it is to his own good that he should be told that. As the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) said the other day, it is time that the Africans were told quite plainly that the British nation is more or less bankrupt and that they will have to develop their own resources.
I leave the hon. Gentleman and return to the Debate. The impression which I think all Members must get from this Debate is that a good deal of bad work has been done in looking at the possibilities of this scheme. Mistakes have been made and we now have to decide "Where do we go from here?" I cannot help thinking, after listening to the reasoned speech of the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow), that what he had to say, and what he said in a very reasonable and unprovocative manner, will require some answering. I hope that the Minister has come prepared to give some reply. We have to realise that the groundnuts scheme in Africa has reached the stage of being a great experimental failure. We have to realise that the forecasts made as to what we were to get in the way of groundnuts from Africa are entirely wrong.
I think that the method of the production of groundnuts by the Overseas Food Corporation is misconceived, and I suggest to the House that we should now decide that a commission of practical men should be appointed to go out there as a fact finding commission, and to come back and make recommendations to this House about what they think should take place. Let us have no saving of faces. Let us freely admit the mess which the scheme is in, and decide what we are to do. It is a fantastic thought that Whitehall should attempt primary production anywhere, least of all in the tropics. Some pilot scheme should have been carried out in the first place, and it should have then have been decided whether there was any future or not for such a project.
If it had been decided that there was a future for it, then the job should have been handed over to the Colonial Office 2522 to carry out. I suggest that even today it would be better that that should be done, and that the duty of the Colonial Development Corporation should be not to grow the groundnuts but to develop the supply of water which is necessary, to provide railways for the transport of the nuts when grown, if they can be grown, and to develop housing for the African native.
The growing of the nuts should now be handed over to the African native, who is doing that work well in West Africa. He is piling up groundnuts in West Africa to such an extent that they cannot be moved. If the Government had provided rail facilities to move the groundnuts from West Africa, the British housewife would have been much more likely to get more margarine than from the present groundnut scheme.
§ Mr. Edward Davies
How long does the hon. Member imagine it would have taken, and what would the expense have been, to provide a double track from Kano through Nigeria to give us any immediate increase in the fat ration?
§ Mr. Baldwin
I suggest that if a small part of the expenditure of £25 million had been utilised in providing rails and locomotives in West Africa, those nuts would not be piling up and being destroyed today by insect pests. The sooner we face that fact the better.
The question has arisen as to whether this scheme was primarily one for the production of food for the British housewife or was to assist the African native. The two things should go hand in hand. The scheme was undoubtedly started because the Ministry of Food wanted to obtain food for the British housewife. If ever there was a case of exploitation by this country in the Colonial Empire, that was it. Any suggestion that the scheme was started with the idea of helping the African native is moonshine.
The only way to help the African native today is to go on with the scheme, if it is decided by a commission that it is feasible, by letting the African native have his area of land on which to get on with primary production. In that way we shall help the African native; we are not doing so at the present time. We should take some steps to see what is to 2523 be done. We are in a serious economic situation. We have poured out £25 million on that scheme, and another £1 million monthly without knowing whether it is going to be a successful scheme or not. The sooner the House has an opportunity of debating what form the growing of groundnuts in East Africa is going to take the better it will be.
I want to say a word about American capital. The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) criticised the fact that the Americans were not putting capital into Africa. The American is not going to put his money into a country until he knows something of what we intend to do with that part of the Empire. The impression that we are giving to the European in Africa today is that we are on the way out. How in the world does the Government or this country expect the American public to put money into a country when they think that we are on our way out of it.
§ Mr. Strachey
Does the hon. Gentleman not think that an investment of £25 million in a country is some evidence that we are going into it rather than coming out of it?
§ Mr. Baldwin
The evidence of what this Government may do with money on which they lay their hands is only too well-known. We have to accept the evidence as we know it, as well as the speeches continually made by members of the Government as to what is the future of Africa. If we have the interests of the African native at heart, we have got to tell him in no uncertain manner what we intend to do in the future. He is in a state of adolescence. There never was a time when the African wanted guidance and firmness more than at the present, and if we do not give him that guidance and bring him along with us, giving him responsibility, the future for the African is black. [Laughter.] That is quite right. I will not say which black it is going to be.
§ Mr. Baldwin
It may be black from India or from Africa, and that is what the African has got to remember. I hope he will remember that his friends 2524 are the Europeans, and the longer they stay there to bring that country round, the better it will be for him.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)
I should not have ventured to take part in this Debate if I had not had the opportunity of going to East Africa just over 12 months ago and seeing at first hand a little of the scheme in operation and the reactions to it. I should like to begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) on his opening speech for, although I do not agree with all his conclusions, yet much of his speech was factual and he attempted to give a true picture as he saw it. He seemed quite sincere also when he said that this issue ought not to be a political one. It is most deplorable that a great conception of this character should be the subject of the kind of political controversy we have seen in this House this afternoon. I will not particularise who is to blame—it would be presumptuous if I did. [Interruption.] Well, the first speech of a political character was not made from this side of the House. I am only saying that whoever started it, it is contemptible to bring the personality of the Minister into this conflict. It is a lowering of our standards and deprives quite serious criticisms of their validity.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) showed very considerable prejudices and a good deal of spite. A scheme of this kind, if successful, will be a success far transcending anything the Government themselves do or the Government can claim they can do. It all depends on the men in the field, on the Africans and on the planners at home; and we ought to be anxious that it should succeed, and do all we can, every one of us, to make it a success. Our criticisms should be objective and non-personal. I hope we shall try to approach this subject in that way.
In considering a scheme of this sort we must first remember the background against which the decision had to be taken. In 1946–47 we were able to see and estimate some of the effects the war would have on food production all over the world. We could measure for the first time the very great gap between world food supplies and world food requirements. We know also that in the period between the beginning and the 2525 ending of the war, world population had been growing at a very rapid rate. Indeed, world population had increased by 133 million additional persons compared with 1939. We have to face the fact that every single day about 50,000 more mouths require to be fed throughout the world.
When this decision to go for large-scale production of fats was made there was no Marshall Aid and the world was acutely short of fats. There was no area in the world where these fats could be bought in any large quantity. We had also to reconcile ourselves to the very unpleasant fact that millions of people in the world were demanding a higher standard of living. The 500 million Chinese and our other Asiatic friends, including 400 million Indians, had demonstrated that they were not prepared to go on exporting a large part of their food to us and simultaneously seeing a great many of their people dying of starvation or living on a low standard. The failure of the rice crops was a further factor. Even now there is only about 12 ounces per day of rice for the inhabitants of India against 16 ounces before the war. It is quite clear that that deficiency is going to be made up by food produced at home. No alternative fats were available in the world, and the Government had to take a momentous decision. We should applaud their action and those from all sides who assisted in that great decision.
§ Mr. Skeffington
At the same time we have to remember that our own population has been increasing, and that there is available for food production at home only something like 0.6 of an acre per head, whereas what was required was something like 1.6 per acre per head if we are to maintain the average diet of 1938. We cannot do it from our territorial resources, which was an additional reason why we had to buy time. It meant we had to do things, which normally would have taken 50 times as long in East Africa, but if we were going to get a reasonable return or add to our food resources we had in a reasonable period to buy time, which is a costly thing to do. Otherwise this project would start too late and produce too little.
2526 In considering this cost it is very unfortunate that so much of this scheme, which is a social as well as an economic scheme, has got to be debited against the Ministry of Food. Schools and hospitals apart from the roads, railways and harbours are all capital developments of inestimable value to the territory concerned, and it is quite wrong that we should have to show our figures in that way. I should have thought it was possible to have separated these essential, social capital investments in a way that has not in fact been done. When we go into an area which is quite undeveloped and provide first-class social amenities, which are putting our social services in other parts of East Africa in the shade, this capital investment should be separately computed and not borne by the Overseas Food Corporation.
The other point which must be borne in mind is that not only is our need for fats so extraordinarily urgent, but that the pressure of population in East Africa alone is something that we must pay attention as a considerable problem. It is estimated that the population of East Africa is likely to double in the next ten years. Doctor Patterson wrote a very interesting booklet not so very long ago—he was the Director of Medical Services in Kenya for a considerable period—in which he says,If some radical way of increasing the food supplies in the area of East Africa is not found then we are left only with 'famine, pestilence or war for remedy'.For both purposes, and they are fairly evenly balanced, we had to buy time to take this decision, and it was expensive.
Finally, in this connection let us realise that unless this scheme and other schemes of a similar character which the Ministry of Food is undertaking, particularly in Africa, are successful, it will be impossible for us to maintain our population at its present rate in these islands and we shall have to face either a general lowering of our standards or mass migration. I do not believe either method is necessary but there is no short alternative way. This is a fundamental fact.
Perhaps I may now deal with a point made by three hon. Members opposite. The first is that an answer to the fat shortage might be found in peasant cultivation. I believe that all the evidence is against it. First of all, peasant cultivation depends 2527 upon far more supervision than we are able to give. It means that one has to step up perhaps by 20 times the number of agricultural instructors and they are not available. Then one has to guard much more strenuously against the perils of soil erosion which anybody who knows East Africa will agree can occur where land has been foolishly cultivated. Soil has been lost for this reason for all time, or at least for the next half million years.
Even if we could secure peasant cultivation and get producers to grow groundnuts—I see no reason why they should have to do so. We should find it impossible to collect and store the products. But suppose we could, surely no one can seriously suggest that the African population outside the Union of South Africa can possibly replace the labour force that we lost in India. We are asking 60 million people to do what was done by 350 million people in India. Even if we could get peasant cultivation—I do not think we can get African cultivators to make up the quantity even in part and we certainly will not replace the production of groundnuts which we have lost for all time from India.
There is a serious proof of this contention to which nobody has referred and it is the evidence which has been presented in the Clay report of the West African Oilseeds Commission. I only want to quote two brief portions of it. They constitute a very strong argument which I hope hon. Members will answer if they are going to insist that there is an alternative to the East African scheme. The Commission say, on page 6, paragraph 5:We suggest therefore that unless a great acreage per family can be brought into cultivation and a higher degree of efficiency production achieved, peasant agriculture cannot provide both the food which Africa itself requires and will require in increasing measure, and its export crops by which its natural wealth can be maintained and increased.That report was made by an entirely different set of individuals to the groundnut scheme report. It deals with the suggestion that was put forward by the Opposition particularly about nuts from Nigeria. There is a footnote and it is relevant. It says:The dangers of the present situation (that is to say fluctuation and the low yield from peasant holdings) was well exemplified by market conditions in Northern Nigeria at the time of our visit"—2528 I think that was in November, 1947when a crop of 300,000 tons of groundnuts (high by Nigerian standards but low in relation to world needs) had been secured only at the expense of a comparative shortage of the grain crops which form the staple diet of the local population. This shortage has resulted in high prices and if the chances of weather had further reduced this crop, might have led to famine.It is an illusion therefore to imagine an enormous supply of groundnuts in Nigeria at all times. We can see that it depends upon the fluctuation climate and upon the fact that alternative crops were not available. This area cannot supply permanently our requirements or those of the African. I do not believe there is any alternative to a large scheme, whether publicly or privately run by individual cultivators. I think the report proves the point.
It was suggested that the Minister had not made proper investigations into rainfall. I have tried to show that the urgency of the world situation meant that we had to buy time and act quickly. In any case, how can we get rainfall figures for a long period from deserted Central Africa? Who would have recorded them, I should like to know. But at Kongwa the Mission have kept figures for a long period. Canon Banks, who has lived there for 25 years, places on record that the present drought is the most serious one that has ever been experienced for generations in East Africa There is evidence that the drought is exceptional but I must point out that in the original White Paper "A Plan for Mechanised Production," very considerable references are made to the effect of drought. It is something which comes in very high degree and usually does not recur for many years afterwards.
We have just been unlucky. Africa has broken the hearts of many men and enterprises. No one would imagine that within a few years all the different problems of such a vast organisation would be solved. I do not believe anybody had actually thought they would be. If one has flown across the areas around Kongwa with their dense jungle and then sees the vast area of cultivation one realises that this is a very dramatic occasion and that the men on the spot are doing a magnificent job of work in spite of temperature, disease, tsetse fly and drought and many other difficulties. Let us give some 2529 credit to achievements of the groundnuts scheme which are without parallel anywhere in the world. No country has ever initiated so great an enterprise.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
This has been a very extraordinary Debate, although a very good one. For much of the factual information with regard to the problem which we wish to discuss we are indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow), who opened the Debate and told us what he had been able to ascertain during his recent visit there. The Minister has been there immediately after the hon. Baronet. We expected that the Minister would give us his report in order that we could make our comments upon it in the course of the discussion. We had reason the other day to expect that would occur. When he made a short statement about a fortnight ago, the Minister actually said that he would welcome an opportunity to make a fuller statement to the House. We put down this subject today, which is one of the days of our choice, to give him that opportunity. The statement has not emerged. All that we are to have is a winding-up speech from him at the tail end of a short Debate, the whole object of which was to get information.
The House has had very scant courtesy, but that does not take away from the fact that we are indebted to the hon. Baronet for the speech that he gave us. It is true that on 11th July the Minister did make a short statement at Question time. He has now tried to make out that in an interjection somebody objected that what he said was too long. No one did any such thing. That is a complete figment of his imagination. I have the HANSARD here. One of my hon. Friends suggested that it was the type of answer which might be given at the end of Questions in order to give opportunity for supplementary Questions more numerous than otherwise. No one objected to its being too long. I am afraid that is the technique into which the Minister is rapidly falling, of being slightly inaccurate, and I stress the word "slightly."
What the right hon. Gentleman said was in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). There are plenty of facts about the situation, but the up-to-date facts are apparently these. He said that 2530 at that time about half the groundnut crop and one-sixth of the oilseed crop had been harvested. He said quite frankly that, largely owing to the drought, the crop had been a failure and that the average yield of the nuts which had so far emerged was 245 lb. instead of the original reduced figure which the Minister had in mind long ago of 750 lb. He pointed out that the yield for the oilseeds, then harvested, though admittedly only a small proportion of it had yet been cut, was 99 lb.
That is a very small figure, and one hopes that it is going to get better than that. We have had the evidence of Professor Blackman, of Oxford, that on marginal land in the eastern counties of this country in ordinary sort of weather, one should be able to grow a crop of sunflower seed 15 times that production. That raises the question whether even now some further assistance to marginal land cultivation in this country might produce more from the point of view of food for this country, which, of course, is one of the considerations at the back of the Minister's mind in all this scheme, and thus yield far better and safer results.
On 11th July the Minister said that the shipment of oilseed would soon begin. Perhaps he could tell me this incidentally when he answers. I have heard a story. I find it almost incredible, but one always hears something new out of Africa, as he knows from his classics. The story was that last year they over-bought the sunflower seeds to such an extent that the quantity which was not required was now going to be shipped here, and the impression was being given that it was, part of the crop harvested there. If he can contradict that, I shall be very pleased. It is the sort of story which should be stopped if there is no truth in it.
The Minister also told us that so far the cost was between £20 million and £25 million. I wondered what Mr. Gladstone would have thought of a Cabinet Minister speaking of "£20 million or £25 million." Not being able to know what the expenditure was up to date, he gave a margin of £5 million out of £20 million. Then the Minister told us that only a few thousand tons of oilseeds, groundnuts and so on were coming this year. In March he said, "a perceptible number, 2531 some thousands of tons." Now he says, "a few thousand tons." The likelihood appears to be that either "a perceptible number, some thousands of tons" or "a few thousand tons" is unlikely to be as much as two thousand. I quite agree that two thousand is a perceptible number. We get 0, and then 1 and then we get 2, so that it is perceptible, but it is not very large and it is certainly stretching the English language to call 2,000 "some thousands." I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can tell us whether that is the right figure. If it is—granted difficulties in the way of drought and so on—hon. Members in all parts of the House must feel that it is terribly disappointing.
The whole trouble about the discussions which have gone on from time to time about the East Africa development scheme has really been due to the Minister himself and no one else. He has so much stressed the groundnuts side of the scheme and so soft pedalled the other part of the scheme, which was its value as part of the general development of Africa, that he now finds it difficult to change the tune. But the tune is being changed. Anyone who was here when the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) was speaking would have heard him say that this never was a groundnuts scheme but a scheme for developing Africa. I was so surprised at hearing it put that way that I thought I had better look at the covering memorandum to the report—
§ Mr. J. Hynd
I never said that this was never intended as a groundnuts scheme. I said that it was never primarily a groundnuts scheme, and that is what I said in the first Debate two years ago.
§ Captain Crookshank
I certainly do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member, but that was the impression he gave me in the words he was then using. If I got the wrong impression, I am sorry. Anyhow, it does not affect what I am now going to say. I thought I had better look to see what the Government said in their covering note. The heading was:The Government's decision to adopt the full scheme.It went on to say that the Government had come to the conclusion that the scheme was:A practicable plan for alleviating the world shortage of fats.2532 That was the first thing, and obviously that was the thing on which their minds, if any, were most concentrated. It went on:That it is agriculturally sound; that, subject to reasonable assumptions, it involves no unjustifiable financial risk; that labour difficulties can be overcome.There is nothing so far about great development of Africa. It also says that:It could prove"—just like that—of great benefit to the African populations as well as to the people of the United Kingdom.I do not think that anybody who had never heard the matter discussed, reading that quite dispassionately, would have dreamt that the object as it is now purported to be was really the development of Africa. No one would have believed that, and it is no good pretending—
§ Captain Crookshank
I shall have something to say later on about the hon. Gentleman's admirable speech.
§ Mr. Skeffington
Perhaps we are talking about different documents. The document I have here is, "A plan for the mechanised production of groundnuts in East and Central Africa," Command Paper 7030. In addition to what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, pages 6 and 7 are devoted to the economic and social effects of the scheme in Africa.
§ Captain Crookshank
I know there is some more later on about the economic and social developments, but I am talking about the grounds upon which the Government gave this decision. That is what this paragraph is concerned about. This is what the Government decided. As a matter of fact, there is a whole page of a quotation from Sir Philip Mitchell, which is not the Government either.
The emphasis—it is no good pretending, otherwise—from the Government side has been on the groundnuts aspect of the scheme. I think I am entitled to remind hon. Members that the emphasis from the Opposition has always been on great doubt whether the groundnuts aspect would succeed, but we thought that it was a very valuable conception for developing Tanganyika. That has been the difference in emphasis on the scheme 2533 all along. That is why we wanted to hear the most up-to-date information about it today.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe said that the Opposition grumbled. There has not been any grumbling today, except that the Minister has not spoken. The hon. Member said that the scheme is succeeding, and that there is no need to grumble at that. It depends on what we are describing as the scheme. If we are describing the estimates in the third year from the start that we are to get so many thousand tons, it is not succeeding, because we are not getting so many thousand tons. On the other hand, if it is that the roads have been going forward, that Africans are now living and earning wages in an area where there was nothing before, that a hospital, I do not know for how many beds—As the hon. Baronet the Member for Eddisbury is now here, I will address the remark to him. He said that there was a hospital for 400 beds. The Minister has denied that, and has said it is for 900 beds. I do not know which of them is right.
§ Sir J. Barlow
I was informed when I was there that it was for 400 beds. They were not all erected, but the beds and equipment were there available for use.
§ Mr. Strachey
Perhaps I can reconcile the two statements. The hospital to which the hon. Baronet went is for 400 beds. There are 400 hospital beds now in the scheme.
§ Captain Crookshank
I do not know where the other 500 are if there is no other hospital; it must be an open-air affair. It just shows once again that, if only the Minister had opened this Debate, we would have known these things. I was saying that all along the emphasis from that side of the House and in particular from the Minister personally, has been on the groundnuts aspect, and from this side of the House it has always been that it would obviously be to the interest to this country and the world if we could get groundnuts, though we knew incidentally that we could get them quicker and cheaper in other ways.
§ Captain Crookshank
Has the right hon. Gentleman not heard of Nigeria and contiguous territories? All right, he has a lot to learn yet. Apparently, he is now coming round to our point of view. That is satisfactory.
I only want to be a few minutes in order that we may have this long-expected speech from the Minister. It is obvious, even from what hon. Members have said, that what emerges at the moment is that public confidence has been shaken over the groundnuts aspect of the scheme, whether it is a perceptible number or a few thousands, which may be 2,000 this year. I do not say that the groundnuts aspect of the scheme has disappeared from the public mind, because it is the experience of anybody that the mere mention of a groundnut arouses intense interest and hilarity on every public platform.
§ Captain Crookshank
There must be something comic about nuts, as the hon. Gentleman may know. It is indeed obvious that the emphasis of the scheme is changing, if indeed it has not yet been changed. I want to try to get the greatest amount of agreement on this problem, and so do my hon. Friends, and I am sure we would all agree about that. If it is admitted, as it must be, that, like all Socialist plans, the plan so far has failed; if we can agree with the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington) who said that the difficulties were tremendous and that nobody in his senses would have expected the plan to succeed in its early days, we say that so much has been involved in this matter that we cannot afford, to put it mildly, to let it all fail. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd) has pointed out, every taxpayer in this country has had invested for him, whether he wanted it or not, something approaching 10s.
I made some suggestions in March but the Minister did not see fit to do anything about any of them. I appreciate what has been said by various hon. Members, that the people who are concerned now in the present management and organisation of the scheme, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for the work they have done, have replaced the 2535 early personnel who were largely ex-Service. I think the hon. Member was wrong in saying that the hon. Baronet had sneered at them. All he said was that there had been great changes in the personnel, that the early people there were largely ex-Service, but that these had been changed. He did not use any sneering words at all and no one would wish to do so, because they have done all they could in difficult circumstances.
No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite would like to know what we would do about the scheme if, at this moment, the right hon. Gentleman sat over here and one of my right hon. Friends was in his place. The Labour Party spend their time denigrating the work of Conservative administrations before the war and also our plans for the future, but it was quite novel for the hon. Member to ask what a Conservative Government would have done in 1946. He then proceeded to answer this question to his own satisfaction but in a manner which would have had no relation to our activities had we then been in office.
We must start first by accepting that the original conception has gone. In fact, it never got very far because the original conception was of three areas—Rhodesia, Kenya and Tanganyika—so as to spread the drought risk. The Government have scrapped that, and it is now concentrated. On the evidence we have to accept that the actual groundnut-sunflower scheme has already gone. We have also to accept that this vast sum of money, £20 million to £25 million, has been spent and that, as representatives of the taxpayers, if nothing else, we must try to put our heads together to see what best use we can make out of the money already spent.
I say as I said in March—and I hope I can say for my hon. and right hon. Friends that it is what we would do if we were in the place of the Minister today—that what the Government ought to do is to send out some really representative inquiring body. I do not specify whether it should be a Royal Commission or what it should be, but it should have wide terms of reference, not to investigate past mistakes, miscalculations, and mismanagement, if any. The Public Accounts Committee will have its say in those matters and we are 2536 not concerned with that aspect at the moment, important though it is. The Government should send out somebody of high skill to investigate what use can best be made of what now exists and the best plan for the immediate future and for the years to come.
Changes are happening: they are going on piecemeal, we know. We should not have a standstill in the sense that everyone is twiddling his thumbs for months and months. What is going on must go on, the changes which are happening must happen, pilot schemes must continue, the roads which are being constructed must continue to be constructed, and the railway must continue to be constructed. The pipeline is already completed. I do not know that it is necessary to go full steam ahead with a new harbour because it may be, as the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) suggested earlier, that for the greater part of the development scheme lighters could be used. I do not say that we should stop doing everything straight away, but the time has come when the scheme should be reviewed on the basis of the future because it is the future which matters.
Secondly, I should say that those investigators, or some other body, should look into the question of who should be made responsible for this matter. We do not believe that the right structure is the Overseas Food Corporation and the Minister of Food, and we have said it time and time again. In our view there is no reason why it should not be turned over to the Colonial Development Corporation under the aegis of the Secretary of State. One might have thought that because it was food it must go to the Overseas Food Corporation were it not for the fact that the Colonial Development Corporation itself has now gone in for food development on the other side of Africa and has the Gambia chicken scheme with 20 million eggs and one million dressed chickens coming along some time under their auspices. That is where all this should be put.
Tribute has been paid by the hon. Baronet to the hospitals, to the schools, to the houses which are being built. They have nothing to do with the Food Corporation. I agree with the hon. Member for West Lewisham that if we are thinking of this in terms of food, it is sad 2537 that all those capital costs should be debited to the Food Corporation with which they are not directly concerned. They are far more long term than because we want the food produced there.
Furthermore, the latest information—as far as I know, it is perfectly correct—is that the Food Corporation are now enlisting their own police force of over 100 policemen with white officers; but I do not think that the Minister of Food is frightfully good at supervising police forces. If he is, he ought not to be in his present job. He has enforcement officers, I know, but that is quite a different affair. I dare say that responsibilities of this sort, which have grown up, were never intended when the thing began; but having got there, they really must be put under the general supervision of the Colonial Secretary. I should have thought that this could have been done without any further inquiry, but if not, let the inquiry be made and let somebody decide.
I assert without any fear of contradiction that we on these benches are fully, gladly and completely committed to the principle of colonial development and to the raising of the standards of life of the colonial people. We do not believe that the Minister of Food is the right person to deal with this problem. We are equally, as a party, fully, gladly and completely committed to improving the general economic conditions of the Empire as a whole, and included in that, of that part of the Empire which happens to be the United Kingdom. But we are not necessarily committed to continuing ideas which have been proved wrong, which seems to be a tendency in this scheme still. Of course, had the Minister opened the Debate, we might have been disillusioned on that score. Neither are we necessarily committed to ignoring all the lessons learnt in the last two years; there have been signs of that happening under the present administration.
While the Minister has always personally, and in a good deal of the propaganda, been very optimistic on the groundnuts part of the scheme, he has tried to short-circuit nature far too much, and nature seems to be temporarily winning on that front. The African side of the picture 2538 is the big picture and we feel—indeed, we know—on either side of the Committee that our national prestige is very much involved. We want to do what we can to help the right hon. Gentleman. He never seems to think so, but it is true for all that. It is because we are so anxious to see that side of the matter emphasised that we want the problem taken out of his hands and put where it rightly belongs, in the Minister who is responsible to the Crown, to this House, to this nation and to the Colonial Empire, for the very problems which are being—at least, I could say, to some extent—mishandled by the Minister of Food, with whom it has nothing whatsoever to do.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Strachey)
The Debate this afternoon was opened by a speech from the hon. Baronet the Member for Eddisbury (Sir J. Barlow) to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) gave tribute. I should like to join in that tribute. It was a most temperate and well-reasoned speech. On a very large part of it I have no comment to make, but I should like to comment on one or two points on which I either disagree or can give further information. The hon. Baronet stated that at present we were spending £1 million a month. That is a very rapidly falling figure, because that is expenditure on the capital investment which is being made. This is relevant to the further statement of the hon. Baronet that he does not think that whatever revenue the scheme can have can ever meet an expenditure of anything like £1 million a month.
§ Sir J. Barlow
I did not say exactly that. I said that it would be a very long way behind in the process of catching up and that meanwhile the capital expenditure was very substantial indeed.
§ Mr. Strachey
I was about to agree that the revenue could never meet expenditure at that level. But revenues are never meant to meet initial capital expenditure; they are meant to pay an interest on it. That initial capital expenditure, which has gone on at that high rate, is rapidly falling and will continue to do so as the development scheme is completed. Sometime in the future, of course, that 2539 type of expenditure on capital development will cease altogether, because there will be merely the agricultural expenditure which the revenues are then designed to meet. It is necessary that we should distinguish between the initial capital investment and the current running expenditure.
§ Sir J. Barlow
I quite agree, but can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication as to how much capital will be expended in, say, the next three years in completing the scheme?
§ Mr. Strachey
I spoke at some length on that on 14th March. I do not think I ought to go over all the ground again, but the present rate of expenditure which the hon. Baronet mentioned will drop off rapidly from now on.
§ Lord William Scott (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
Can the Minister tell us what he thinks the total initial capital expenditure is likely to amount to?
§ Mr. Strachey
I spoke on that also on 14th March and said that the scheme as I saw it, as far as one can conceive these things, would, as the hon. Baronet also has said, be likely to cost double the estimate contained in the White Paper. That was the figure I gave.
The hon. Baronet asked me the amount of the dollar expenditure on the scheme so far. It is some £2 million out of the £25 million which have been spent. He then went on to contrast, as of course, he and any other hon. Member are quite entitled to do, the present rate of development with that foreshadowed in the White Paper and to show that it is very much slower. That again, of course, is perfectly true.
We must face the fact, as I faced it very clearly on 14th March, that the time estimates also in the White Paper are not going to be fulfilled. We ought not to regard that White Paper as simply having been hurriedly accepted by the Government. After all, it was submitted to the Colonial Development and Economic Council under the late Lord Portal, who reported very strongly in favour of it, and rightly, in my opinion, and gave that report to the Government. That was part of the evidence upon which the Government acted.
2540 I come now to the somewhat less temperate speech, if I may say so, of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), who went so far as to say that we had acted without making any investigation at all of rainfall figures. That is a gross injustice to the members of the Wakefield Commission, and I can give the figures at once. They found that the best figures available were in the Kongwa area, which over the last ten years showed an average rainfall of 25 inches. The actual rainfall this year in the area of the Kongwa scheme was under 12 inches. That is why I reported to the House that there had been a drought in that area—and not only in that area, but in the whole area in East Africa. The yields which have been mentioned, quite accurately, by the hon. Baronet and by other hon. Members are very substantially accounted for by the fact that this year there was under half the average rainfall.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
What was the rainfall for the three years of operations at Kongwa?
§ Mr. Strachey
In 1947, I said, it reached 50 inches. It varies pretty widely, but it is doubtful whether in the period for which there are records it has ever been as low as 12 inches. Undoubtedly, as is mentioned in the Wakefield Report, in the Kongwa area we have to face the risk of periodic droughts. Although they will not be very frequent, they occur periodically in that part of East Africa. That is one of the reasons why the Corporation, rightly, I should have thought, have decided to limit the development of the scheme in that area and are concentrating to a small extent on the western area and essentially on the southern area.
The hon. Member for Newbury made a less than generous mention of the chairman of the Corporation, who, I feel, needs no defence from me. It was suggested, I think, by the hon. Baronet that in the first place, ex-Service men were in charge of the scheme and that later on civil servants succeeded them. It so happens that Sir Leslie Plummer, the 2541 chairman of the scheme does not fall into either of those categories. He is and always has been a business man—
§ Sir J. Barlow
I think I made it clear that I meant the top people in charge of the scheme, not necessarily the chairman, or the board itself, but that the top people were ex-Service men, and now they tend to be more of the Civil Service type.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is a separate point, but I should have thought they tended at the beginning to be mainly employees of the United Africa Company and would, therefore, be mainly business men. There was a distinguished soldier, Major General Harrison, the chief executive officer of the scheme until his health broke down, and now there is Sir Leslie Plummer, who was mentioned by the hon. Member for Newbury. I was making the point that, whatever criticism may be brought against him he is neither a Service type nor a Civil Service type but essentially a businessman, and if we had not appointed a businessman to the position what very sharp criticism we would have had from hon. Members opposite.
The hon. Member for Newbury went on to say that there was no one in this scheme who had experience of tropical agriculture in Africa, but the man running the scheme and fully responsible is Professor Phillips who is perhaps the greatest expert on tropical agriculture in the whole of Africa.
§ Mr. Strachey
That is not true of Mr. Samuel, the chairman of the United Africa Company, who has probably more experience of tropical Africa than anyone. I think it rather a pity that we should go into the personalities of these men who are running the scheme. I thought it necessary to rebut the charges, the rather ungenerous charges, made against them.
2542 The hon. Member went on to deal with a point, which was also dealt with by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough, who spoke at some length of the particular Government Department which should be responsible for the scheme. It may be a good point that the Colonial Office and not the Ministry of Food should be responsible. I do not think hon. Members opposite are right, for reasons I have given at some length, but it never seemed a very essential point one way or the other. The scheme is not being run by the Ministry of Food and it would not be run, I am sure my right hon. Friend would agree, by the Colonial Office if it were under the aegis of the Colonial Office. It is run by the public Corporation responsible for it. I think hon. Members opposite would be the first to criticise whichever Government Department or parent Department it was if it was interfering in the actual running of the scheme.
§ Mr. Stanley
Would not the effect of transferring to the Colonial Office be that it would be run by the Colonial Development Corporation who are running development schemes elsewhere in the Colonies and not by this Overseas Food Corporation?
§ Mr. Strachey
I was coming to that point and also to the point that the emphasis was being changed from foodstuffs to general colonial development. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) spoke of the Gezira scheme and the experience available there, and I speak for the Corporation when I say that if there were any officers or executives available from that great scheme their experience and services would very readily be utilised in Tanganyika.
The hon. Member spoke of the production of tractors and suggested that we ought to manufacture an American type of tractor in this country under licence, rather than developing a tractor of our own. I thought that a pity, because Messrs. Vickers have the production of the first really heavy British tractor in hand and I have confidence that that great firm can produce a tractor which will be second to none in the world. The matter of time is not of the essence here because we have a 2543 fairly large quantity of secondhand war-worn tractors bought by the United Africa Company at the beginning and also converted Sherman tanks, which have been converted by Messrs. Vickers, neither of which is as good as a brand new tractor but which will serve the purpose for a year or two while the brand new tractor is developed.
I come to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), which I thought a very able survey in defence of the scheme. He spoke of yields and asked if it were not the case that in the area of the scheme in the southern area where there was no drought this year the yield, far from being very low as at Kongwa, it had been very high. That is the case, and I pointed out on an earlier occasion in this House that the fact that the drought had not affected the Southern Province, which will be the main home of the scheme, was a matter of some importance.
I was very strongly criticised outside this House for having said that, because it was pointed out that the scheme had only a negligible acreage in the Southern Province so far. That is true, but, as the main investment is to be made there it is highly relevant that there was no drought even in this dry year in the Southern Province and that yields were high and, as my right hon. Friend said, very much above the average estimate of 750 lb. But I would warn him and the House that one must not make any deductions from trial plots as one cannot expect that that will necessarily be translated into a large area.
The opinion I would take on this matter is that of Professor Phillips whom I consulted in East Africa. His view was, taking one factor with another, the drought in Kongwa and the undeniably encouraging good results on the trial plots in the south, that he saw no reason at the moment either to write up or write down the initial estimate of 750 lb. as the sort of yield which would be obtained in the end.
I now come to the speech of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) whose main point was that when the clearing had been done the area should be turned over to cultivation by the East 2544 African peasants. He suggested the analogy was West Africa where the Africans cultivate groundnuts on a great scale with great success. I think the hon. Member should realise that the stage of development of the African in East Africa and in West Africa is almost centuries apart. The West African has got to a far higher stage of development than at any rate the Africans in the Kongwa and the Southern area.
To anyone who has visited the area it is not practical to suggest that the Wagogo Tribe could take over a vast area cleared by giant tractors and cultivate them when literally the only tool they can use is the hoe. That is the only tool Africans in that area have known. To anyone who knows anything of the stage of development of the native population in different parts of Africa the analogy completely breaks down.
§ Mr. Baldwin
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that while at the moment the African native is using a hoe, it is our duty to teach him to develop proper cultivation?
§ Mr. Strachey
Yes, indeed, and on both my visits it has been a very inspiring sight to see those men, who have been armed with nothing but the hoe for thousands of years in their struggle with nature, driving, with considerable success, 140 horsepower tractors. We are arming them with the latest weapons of agriculture, and we cannot do that if we break up the whole area into tiny peasant plots and let the African fend for himself.
I now come to the speech of the right hon. Member for Gainsborough, and I shall group together some of the points he made in putting my argument before the Committee. First, I must deny very specifically his statement that the scheme which is for the production of oils and fats, has somehow broken down or altered out of recognition. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said the original scheme was to have three areas. The scheme has three areas. It is true they are all in Tanganyika.
§ Mr. Strachey
Is it different? It is true that they are 400 miles apart, and in the same climatic conditions, but though there is a drought in the Central Province there is no drought in the 2545 Southern Province. Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman arguing that because the Southern and Central zones happen to be in Tanganyika that proves that the drought risk is not minimised by having the scheme over three areas?
I should like to give the House acreage figures as they stand today in connection with the progress of the scheme. In Kongwa, 106,000 acres of bush have been flattened. All the work on those acres is not complete but, with the discount which I will mention in a moment, that area will be available next year. Of the 106,000 acres, some 81,000 will be put under the plough—these are the present estimates of the Corporation. There are acres devoted to native villages, camps and roads and suchlike, and about 7,000 acres will be put down to grass and used at this stage simply as a domestic stock farm for the production of meat and milk for those engaged on the scheme. These 7,000 acres have proved less suitable for cereal production or any form of ploughed cultivation.
§ Mr. Stanley
Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us how the 81,000 acres will be cropped. Is there a cropping plan?
§ Mr. Strachey
I should not like to give the Committee the figures yet. They will not have to put their seed into the ground until the end of the year, but I think their policy will prove to be that the great majority of the new acres will go to sunflower in the first year. Professor Phillips has come to the strong conclusion that sunflower is the best crop for breaking in the land during the first year. It is proposed to put the great majority of the new acres to sunflower, and that will apply to the Western area. Twenty thousand acres there will be available for cropping next year; it is hoped to cultivate about 19,000 acres. In the Southern Province it is hoped to clear about 2,000 acres which will, again, be put under crop at the end of this year.
These are areas which are being cleared now and will be sown next year. For next year there are plans for the clearance of additional acres which will be sown at the end of 1950. In Kongwa, there will be no new acres because 100,000 acres there completes the development there. Large quantities of mechanical equipment at Kongwa can and will 2546 be moved partly to Urambo and partly to the Southern Province as needed. In Urambo it is proposed to clear 70,000 acres, but in the south the target has not yet been settled. I think they are very wise in that because they cannot really begin large-scale clearance in the south until the railway reaches the groundnut area, and that will not be until the end of the year. It is going steadily forward, and has reached a place called Nanganga, some 30 miles from the area, and it is confidentially expected that it will be through to the groundnut area by the end of the year. That is the point at which it becomes really possible to get to work on land clearance in the south. I was asked about the port. That will not be available for deep water berths until the end of 1950, or at the beginning of 1951, but they have been able to develop harbours at Mkwaya, which are making it possible to bring in new equipment, which goes up the railway.
I do not know whether the House feels that the figures I have just given are large or small. Certainly, they seem small if compared with the rate of progress in the White Paper but, on the other hand, when anyone sees what has been done, on the spot, the figures seem very large indeed. It is a most remarkable sight to see 100,000 acres of flattened bush; it is a very remarkable achievement on the part of the men who have done the work. I told the House on 14th March that 50,000 acres under crop was an area equal to a strip of land one mile wide and extending from this House to Portsmouth. The area at Kongwa alone, 100,000 acres—80,000 of which will be under crop next year and another 20,000 at Urambo—will be equal to such a strip of land two miles wide from this House to Portsmouth. That is a [...]arge area to have brought into cultiv[...]on, whatever the prospects with which[...]e may compare it.
I want to deal now with the point made by a number of hon. Members: whether the scheme was not changing its character completely, was no longer anything to do with the production of oils and fats and feedingstuffs and was becoming simply a Colonial development scheme.
§ Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)
The right hon. Gentleman has told us about production and the area covered. Can he say how many million pounds this scheme will cost British taxpayers?
§ Mr. Strachey
I gave the figure on 14th March, when I said that the total cost up to then was likely to be doubled.
§ Mr. Strachey
I was dealing with the contrast sought to be drawn between the scheme as a productive enterprise and colonial development. I put it to the House, with all the emphasis I can, that that is a completely false contrast. This is a great scheme of colonial development because it is a great productive enterprise. It must be such an enterprise and it will produce oils and fats and other foodstuffs. But I am convinced that we shall not succeed with colonial development—and I know that I can speak for all my colleagues—unless we found that development on productive enterprise. That has not always been done in the past, and it is suggested that it should not be done now.
I strongly disagree with the hon. Member for Eddisbury that the expenditure of public money would be better confined to building roads, dams, providing water supplies and the like, and that then private enterprisers should come in and do the cultivation. I do not think that that is a good idea. I do not think that the private enterprisers are there, or are available. I do not think that the development of Africa would actually take place in that way irrespective of whether it would be a good or bad thing. Therefore, I think we are making a great mistake if we think there is any conflict whatever between the productivity enterprise and the development of the capital works.
The public works, roads, water supplies, railways, ports, all these things, are barren unless they lead to some great productive enterprise. It is all very well having a road, but it is of no use unless it leads somewhere. It is all very well having a railway, but it is useless unless it leads to some great area of production, and that has been the experience in colonial development. Therefore not only this scheme, but all schemes of the Colonial Development Corporation from the outset are based on great productive 2548 enterprises and it is that which distinguishes them from many schemes in the past, and which is of their essence.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
Can the Minister say where there have been schemes in the past under which railways have been built that went nowhere?
§ Mr. Strachey
There have been sad instances where railways have been built and no traffic has been available. Those schemes are rather sad monuments—there is one as a matter of fact in Tanganyika—to what happens unless the productive side is kept, at any rate, equal with the general colonial development. Therefore I strongly deprecate the idea that there is the slightest conflict between these two aspects of the scheme.
When I have said that, let me add that the productive side of the scheme is not the only one. As I attempted to stress in my speech on 14th March, we regard the general development of Africa as one of the great advantages and dividends which the scheme will bring in. I have been pressed about the business side of this scheme and I have been asked whether the expenditure of this public money will yield a profitable dividend. I am bound to say—I have said it before and it caused annoyance but it is the fact and I must say it again—that the financial return in the narrow sense on this money will largely depend on the price of oils and fats during the next ten years. All we can say about that is that the price of oils and fats so far is very much higher than any prediction made at the beginning of this scheme. The actual financial return will depend on other things but that is the biggest single factor on which it will depend.
But are we to judge this or any other scheme simply and solely upon the return in the narrowest financial sense? If we had judged great enterprises in that way in the past very few of them would have been attempted at all, and those that were, almost without exception, would have had to be written off as failures. I would give the House one or two examples. A homely one is the Manchester Ship Canal. I have looked up the facts and figures. It cost £20 million; it was opened in 1894, and for the first 21 years of its existence it paid no interest or dividend on the money 2549 invested at all. Are we to say because of that that the Manchester Ship Canal was a great mistake and ought never to have been built; that the whole thing should have been written off as a wild-cat scheme?
§ Mr. Osborne
Is not the Minister aware that the 5 per cent. non-cumulative preference share in the Manchester Ship Canal is now getting the full 5 per cent. dividend today to which it was entitled?
§ Mr. Osborne
But the argument of the Minister has been all though that for the first few years any great enterprise—as the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) said—must be non-productive, and surely the Minister is using the example of the Manchester Ship Canal in the same way.
§ Mr. Strachey
I am making that precise point. For 21 years the Manchester Ship Canal on that narrow and quite wrong criterion was totally unproductive.
Let me give another example from Tanganyika which is a purely private enterprise, not because one wishes to show that the enterprise will be a failure, but to show that delays and set-backs are not a unique characteristic of public enterprises. I am referring to the lead mining enterprise of the Union Corporation, of which the right hon Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) is the chairman. I propose to read from their report of their experiences in Tanganyika, because they are a neighbour of the groundnuts scheme; the site of their operations is further up the Central Railway Line. This is contained in the report of the Corporation on its position in East Africa:The Corporation reports that owing to unforeseeable and unavoidable delays and difficulties in the delivery of equipment and supplies, the time required to establish the potentialities of the area is likely to prove longer than was originally contemplated.Then the report goes on to call attention to "certain extravagant unofficial reports" which were without foundation. I do not believe that these delays and difficulties will prevent the enterprise of the right hon. Gentleman from being a most useful and fruitful one and, let us hope, a profitable one. But it is exactly 2550 the same delays and difficulties experienced by him which are made so much of, so very much of, in the case of the larger enterprise of the groundnuts scheme.
§ Mr. Stanley
May I ask the Minister how many of those delays and difficulties were caused by the fact that priorities in transport and port facilities were in fact given to his scheme?
§ Mr. Strachey
Not at all, and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Bournemouth would not say so, if he were here.
Finally, I would cite the example of the very biggest and greatest of all these public enterprises and one which is not altogether incomparable to the groundnuts scheme, the great Tennessee Valley Authority. The Tennessee Valley Authority has had to spend—right hon. Gentlemen opposite would call it a loss—no less than £175 million, and no initial dividend of any kind was obtained by the United States Federal Treasury for that amount. It has been put into the scheme simply for the dividend in the wider sense of the word which the expenditure of that very great sum of money would produce.
Let me quote Mr. Lilienthal, the chairman of the Corporation, who was no doubt defending himself before a Congressional Committee, which would be not unlike the present occasion. He said:Are the expenditures for this development worth their cost to the country? There is, of course, no way of settling the question by statistical proof. You must look at the valley, appraise what the expenditure of these funds has done in increasing the productivity of the region and of the nation. You must look at the effect of the growing strength and new vitality of the valley on the total strength of the whole country in war and peace. This is not a question that accountants or financial experts can answer for us. Whether the overall results in this region are worth what they have cost is something the citizen must answer for himself as a matter not of arithmetic but of the highest public policy.I believe that that passage mutatis mutandis is typical of the groundnuts scheme.
§ Mr. Strachey
We must look at the valley, in this case the Lukeledi Valley, and up that valley a railway is creeping. 2551 At the seaward end of it a port is being built. Further up the valley, there are the Songea coalfields, beyond them is Lake Nyasa and then the Rhodesian railway system. The development of that valley which is a much bigger project than the groundnut scheme, but which would not have been begun but for the groundnut scheme and for which certainly the groundnut scheme acted as the catalyst, is of great importance.
I believe that the general dividend for Africa and this country—and there is no conflict in advantage between one and the
§ other—which we have obtained from that development as well as the development in the central province, will show that the money which we have spent, which we are spending and which we shall spend, will give us in the wider sense one of the highest dividends brought by any outlay of public money which this or any other Government have entered into for this country.
§ Question put, "That £239,580,863 stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 257; Noes, 111.2553
|Division No. 245.]||AYES||[6.55 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kendall, W. D.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Deer, G.||Kenyon, C.|
|Alpass, J. H.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Delargy, H. J.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Diamond, J.||Kinley, J.|
|Attewell H. C.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Dye, S.||Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lavers, S.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Evans, A. (Islington, W.)||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Balfour, A.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lipson, D. L.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Logan, D. G.|
|Barton, C.||Ewart, R.||Longden, F.|
|Battley, J. R.||Farthing, W. J.||Lyne, A. W.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Fernyhough, E.||McAdam, W.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Follick, M.||Mack, J. D.|
|Benson, G.||Forman, J. C.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Berry, H.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||McKinlay, A. S.|
|Beswick, F.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||McLeavy, F.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||MacPherson, M. (Stirling)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Gibson, C. W.||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Binns, J.||Gilzean, A.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Gooch, E. G.||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Granville, E. (Eye)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Grenfell, D. R.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bramall, E. A.||Grey, C. F.||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.|
|Brock, D. (Halifax)||Grierson, E.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Monslow, W.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Morley, R.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Burden, T. W.||Guy, W. H.||Mort, D. L.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil||Nally, W.|
|Callaghan, James||Hamilton, Lt.-Col. R.||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hardy, E. A.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Herbison, Miss H.||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Chater, D.||Hobson, C. R.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Holman, P.||Orbach, M.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Cobb, F. A.||Horabin, T. L.||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Coldrick, W.||Houghton, Douglas||Pannell, T. C.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hoy, J.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Collins, V. J.||Hubbard, T.||Pearson, A.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)|
|Cooper, G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Price, M. Philips|
|Daggar, G.||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool, Edge Hill)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Daines, P.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Janner, B.||Randall, H. E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Ranger, J.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Johnston, D. H.||Rees-Williams, D. R.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Reeves, J.|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Richards, R.||Stokes, R. R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Stross, Dr. B.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Stubbs, A. E.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. J. T. (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Swingler, S.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Rogers, G. H. R.||Sylvester, G. O.||Wigg, George|
|Royle, C.||Symonds, A. L.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|Scott-Elliot, W.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Segal, Dr. S.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Sharp, Granville||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Shurmer, P.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Thurtle, Ernest||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Skeffington, A. M.||Timmons, J.||Willis, E.|
|Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Titterington, M. F.||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Skinnard, F. W.||Tolley, L.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Smith, C. (Colchester)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Vernon, Major W. F.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Viant, S. P.||Yates, V. F.|
|Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Walker, G. H.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Snow, J. W.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Warbey, W. N.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Sparks, J. A.||Watkins, T. E.||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Steele, T.||Watson, W. M.||Mr. Hannan.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Glyn, Sir R.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Gridley, Sir A.||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Grimston, R. V.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Odey, G. W.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harden, J. R. E.||Orr-Ewing. I. L.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.||Osborne, C.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Hollis, M. C.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Bowen, R.||Hurd, A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Bower, N.||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Jennings, R.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Roberts, H. (Handsworth)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Roberts, P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. R.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Carson, E.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Challen, C.||Linstead, H. N.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Low, A. R. W.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||McFarlane, C. S.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Turton, R. H.|
|Drewe, C.||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Wakefield, Sir W. W.|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Marples, A. E.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Medlicott, Brigadier F.||York, C.|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gammans, L. D.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Colonel Wheatley and|
|Mr. Wingfield Digby.|
Question put, and agreed to.