§ 5.57 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts of the Colonial Development Corporation for 1949.I am very glad that the House has taken this opportunity to Debate the affairs of the Colonial Development Corporation. This organisation, still in its infancy, is already showing itself to be a powerful instrument for economic development in the Colonial Territories, and it is already clear beyond doubt that when its resources are fully deployed it will undoubtedly have a considerable in fluence on both the rate and the direction of economic progress in those Colonies. I believe it will make its contribution not only to the economic wellbeing of the people in those territories, but also to that of the sterling area and of the world. I think it is therefore right that the operations of the Corporation, its method of work and its achievements, should receive the scrutiny of the House, as indeed is required by the statute under which the Corporation was set up.
Before I refer to some of the main issues with which the Report before the House deals, I should like to take this opportunity to pay my tribute to the work of the retiring chairman, Lord Trefgarne, who has decided for personal reasons, to resign. I have, with very great regret, accepted his resignation. In resigning, Lord Trefgarne has made it clear that he is satisfied that the organisation that has been built up is capable of carrying out the task assigned to it, and he has him self indicated to me that the time has come for a comprehensive review of the work of the Corporation from within. I have no doubt that the new chairman, when appointed, will naturally make a comprehensive review, and that, in the light of the experience already gained, he may wish to introduce some modification in various aspects of the Corporation's work. None the less, I myself would emphasise that I am convinced that, largely through Lord Trefgarne's own personal initiative and energy, and the keen appreciation he has shown of the problems with which the Corporation was faced, a start has been made on essentially right lines.
2279 It is clearly too early yet to assess the full value of the work that has been done by the Corporation in these first years, but whatever it achieves in the future there can be no doubt of the debt that we owe to Lord Trefgarne. It is no easy matter to run even an existing organisation on the scale of the Corporation's present undertakings, and it certainly was not an easy matter to build up an organisation on this scale, capable of undertaking the wide variety of tasks which it has set itself and which indeed are fundamental to its purpose. I am sure that the House will share my regret that we are losing the services of Lord Trefgarne. I regret that I am not yet able to announce the name of his successor, but I hope to be in a position to do this in a very short time.
I should like to turn now to the broad features of the Report. I should make it clear at the outset that I do not intend to go into detailed discussion at any length of the Corporation's individual projects. Hon. Members will find that the Report itself gives a considerable amount of information on each of the schemes which have been approved as at the end of 1949. Indeed, I think I may claim that in many respects the Report gives considerably more information than would be available to the public on similar projects undertaken by commercial concerns. I believe that what would be of the most value to the Corporation is not advice on how to run its individual undertakings, for which it must necessarily bear the responsibility, but an indication as to whether the lines of policy which it sets itself under my general guidance are broadly endorsed by the House.
As the Report for 1949 shows, by the end of that year the Corporation had no fewer than 28 undertakings in operation, involving a planned capital outlay of over £14 million. Up to 15th September this year the number of undertakings in operation had risen to 49, with an approved capital outlay of just under £30 million. These 49 undertakings are distributed among 22 different Colonial territories. At the present moment a further 28 schemes have reached the stage of active investigation by the Corporation, and if all these are found to be feasible the Corporation's activities will extend to four more territories and therefore to 26 different Colonial Territories.
2280 A further measure of the size of the Corporation's activities already is given by the number of persons employed. In the United Kingdom the Corporation's employees total 340. In the Colonies the number of employees of all grades is close on 11,000 and of these over 10,500 are inhabitants of the Colonies themselves. For an organisation which is so recently formed as the C.D.C. the House will agree with me that these are impressive figures. A characteristic feature of the Corporation's work, as will be known by hon. Members who have read the Report, is the great variety of its undertakings. Agricultural schemes naturally form the largest single group. They are carried on together with many other undertakings, such as forestry, fisheries, transport and manufactures, to mention only some. There is a fairly full account of these individual projects in the Report.
I want to draw attention to two examples of the Corporations projects which show that the Corporation is also trying to break new ground. In West Africa a bold scheme is going forward in conjunction with the Nigerian Government. It is known as the Niger Agricultural Project. This is a scheme for settling African farmers and their families on hitherto sparsely cultivated land and inducing them to use more up-to-date methods of agriculture and crop rotation combined with the traditional system of peasant land holding. In that way they will not only help to raise their own standard of life but also ensure that the valuable soil will produce its best and not become eroded by wasteful methods of farming which, as is known by everyone who knows the problems of Africa, is of great importance. More than 30,000 acres of land will be cleared under this scheme over a period of seven years.
Selected settlers will be established in villages of about 80 families each. Cropping schemes will be organised and managed by the Colonial Development Corporation staff, and they will be helped by mechanical agricultural equipment supplied through the same organisation. The income from settlers' crops will be divided according to an agreed proportion between the settler and the operation company. This scheme is now well under way. It is essentially in the nature of an experiment and an experiment which I fervently hope will succeed. If 2281 it succeeds it may well prove a model for many other parts of Africa.
I want, secondly, to quote as an example of a good project and the way in which the Corporation is undertaking its task, the Dominica Grouped Undertaking, which is also referred to in the Report. This is an instance of how the-Corporation is helping to develop the general prosperity of one of the smaller West Indian islands. In Dominica, in order primarily to help the citrus industry, the Corporation has replaced the obsolete packing and crating plants by an up-to-date plant which will be in operation by the end of this year. It is also constructing a hydro-electric power plant which will be in operation by the end of 1951 to supply power and light to Roseau, the island's capital. This will in turn make possible the construction of a cold store for the citrus and ice-making plant. In addition to these essential requirements of a prosperous citrus industry, the Corporation has bought two smaller estates on the island, one of which has ben planted up with bananas and the other with citrus. Taken together, these schemes should do much to improve the economic well-being of the island and thereby make possible other developments which have been undertaken by the Government under its general development plan.
It will therefore be seen from the two examples which I have cited—indeed, it is brought out very much more clearly in the Report and the reports of the individual projects—that the Corporation does not confine itself to any rigid or predetermined fields of activity but, in conformity with its statute, seeks to make the fullest use of all the opportunities that present themselves for colonial economic development. As is indicated in the Report, the Corporation itself has sought wherever it was possible to enter into partnership with and to profit by the experience of private enterprise. In several of its undertakings the Corporation is associated, through majority or minority of holdings, with private concerns, and, in addition, the Corporation also works in very close association with local bodies in the Colonies themselves, bodies of governmental or semi-governmental nature and character. This is perhaps enough to show the flexibility of the Corporation's methods.
2282 There are some—I have no doubt there will be some amongst them in the House this evening—who will ask whether the rate of progress of the Corporation is fast enough. There will be others who will criticise it on the opposite score, that it is too bold. I have given some thought to this question. I am confident that the Corporation is fully seized of both the importance of going as rapidly as circumstances permit and, at the same time, of exercising proper care to ensure that the schemes undertaken are, so far as can be judged, commercially sound. It is the policy of His Majesty's Government to leave to the Board the decision as to the commercial soundness of individual schemes. I believe the House will think that is the right policy. I know that it is the view of the Chairman of the Board that the Corporation can and should and does take risks which are sometimes greater than those that would be accepted, measured by ordinary commercial standards.
The Corporation also takes the view, which I think is the right one, that by the very nature of things it must be prepared to wait longer for a return and be willing to launch undertakings even though they promise only a low rate of return provided that in its fundamentals the project is a sound one. It would indeed at this stage be rash to suppose that all the ventures of the Corporation will be uniformly successful, but I believe that the care with which they have been selected and put into operation will bring its dividends.
Subject to the degree of risk which the Corporation is able to take, the rate of progress depends essentially on two main factors: first, the capacity of the organisation, both at headquarters and locally in the Colonies, to get on with new tasks; secondly, and this is important, the extent to which men of the requisite skill and ability are forthcoming. In deciding on its organisation the Corporation must clearly be careful to avoid overloading the schemes with heavy administrative costs while, at the same time, ensuring that the necessary degree of administrative skill is available.
This is a problem which I know has received the constant and earnest attention of Lord Trefgarne and his Board. Both he and the Board feel confident that the organisation has been properly adapted to handle the quite extraordinary 2283 variety and ever-increasing volume of business that is coming forward. New schemes are still being examined and put into operation. A measure of the success of the organisation in dealing with new schemes is indicated by the fact that the number of schemes under investigation has now fallen from 52 in 1948 to 28 at present. That, within the 10 months of 1950, is an indication that the organisation is becoming more efficient as it gets more experience.
It must always be realised that investigations into proposed schemes often take a long time, and particularly borderline cases, to which a good deal of time and thought has to be given before a final decision is reached. And the organisation must be geared to deal expeditiously with all proposals. Then, as time goes on and more emphasis is placed on the execution of schemes rather than on their planning, the administrative load of the Corporation changes its nature even though not necessarily its cost. Organisational flexibility is bound, therefore, to be the keynote if progress is to be maintained and increased, and I am satisfied that the organisation does contain that necessary degree of flexibility.
A word or two about the second key factor for rapid progress. That is the availability of men of the requisite skill for the posts that have to be filled. From our experience in the Colonial Office we know that in helping forward the process of Colonial development plans are worthless unless they can be backed by men and materials. Above all, skilled men are required. Indeed, the Corporation realises that this is still one of the major bottlenecks. It does its best. Of course, in seeking to attract people to its employ, it must offer competitive terms. but even on this basis difficulties are sometimes met. I believe, however, that the Corporation, like the Colonial Office, the Colonial Governments, and others concerned with development in the Colonial Territories, can hope to benefit as the post-war training and educational schemes take their full effect, as they will in the years that lie ahead.
Now a word or two about the accounts. It is the case, of course, that the accounts for the second year, 1949, show an overall financial loss. The full explanation of this is given in Section V of the Report. 2284 I need not add to this except to say that while it may be some time before the schemes of the Corporation, taken as a whole, begin to "break even," the Corporation has every confidence that eventually it will do so, in conformity with the Statute which imposes upon it the obligation to ensure that its revenues are sufficient to meet all sums properly chargeable to revenue, taking one year with another.
I am sure that many hon. Members will have read with great interest not only the information given in the Report about the Corporation's own undertakings and policies but also its general comments on the conditions which so much influence its activities in the Colonies. Sections VII to X of the Report contain a good deal of material of this character. It is not necessary for me this evening to comment in detail on the views that the Board has expressed in these sections. In some cases the policy issues that are raised there have been dealt with in this House on other occasions, and I have no doubt that there will be future opportunities of dealing with them.
Clearly a good deal of what the Corporation says in Sections VII to X about such matters as taxation policy, conditions which attract or deter the investment of external capital and all such problems, merits careful attention as coming from an organisation which has a wide and growing experience of these matters in the Colonies. I can assure the House that the comments and views of the Corporation on all these problems receive most careful and constant attention, not only in the Colonial Office but also in the Colonial territories and by the Colonial Governments.
I have noted what has been said in respect of the various statements made by the Corporation in the Report on the subject of marketing. The Corporation is rightly concerned to ensure that its particular needs and requirements should be fully appreciated by the buying departments of His Majesty's Government, but it is quite natural that in the course of negotiations there should be a good deal of discussion before final agreement is reached. On the wider issues of the marketing of colonial produce in this country the policy of His Majesty's Government remains as stated by the Chancellor 2285 of the Exchequer in this House on 17th September, 1948. It is quite clear that we must at times expect differences of view on its interpretation in detailed cases, and it is satisfactory to note that in the principal case which was outstanding at the time of the Report, we have now been able to reach final and amicable agreement.
A great deal of our time has been taken up this afternoon with other business, and I do not want to take up too much of the time available for hon. Members. The Minister of State will be replying to the Debate, and if hon. Members want to raise any points we will do our best to reply to them. I would commend this Report as a most informative and interesting document, one that is well worthy of the careful study, not only of hon. Members, but in the Colonial Territories themselves. It must inevitably be some time before the full, practical results of the Corporation's work is evident in terms of concrete figures of production, and output, the numbers employed and financial returns, but if the House this evening after the Debate endorses the general direction in which the Corporation is going, I am sure the Board will feel that its efforts and its staff's efforts will have been amply rewarded.
It has been said often in this House and outside that the essential purpose of our Colonial policy is to guide the people of the Colonial Territories to responsible self-government within the Commonwealth, and in partnership with them to seek to establish within the Colonial Territories those economic and social conditions, upon which alone responsible democratic self-government can be built. I am fully conscious of the need to secure that that economic development should go hand in hand with political progress, and I am equally convinced of the dangers of creating responsible states without adequate economic and social foundations. It is equally true that unless a favourable political climate is created in the Colonial Territories, economic development will be hampered and delayed at every turn. I believe that political maturity will best be achieved by giving the people real responsibility and by asking them to become active and willing participants in the task of government rather than by letting them stay outside as frustrated critics without responsibility.
2286 Our policy combines economic development and political advancement, and it is a policy which will eventually succeed. When we have made the economic and social foundation, when that is accompanied by political advancement and when the full story comes to be written, I believe that the Colonial Development Corporation, which has already done a good job, will be seen to be continuing it and it may be that it may make an important contribution towards reaching that goal that is shared by all of us as the main purpose of our colonial policy. In moving this Motion I commend the Report of the Corporation to the attention of the House, of the country and of the Colonial Territories themselves, and I am sure that the House will wish to join with me in expressing our thanks to everyone for his part in this very fine work.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I share the view of the Colonial Secretary that it is very regrettable that other and important business—although not so important as this business—should have taken up so much of our time today. I, like him, am anxious that those Members on both sides of the House who have some personal knowledge of the workings of individual schemes should have the opportunity to contribute of that knowledge to us all. So I shall be as commendably brief as the right hon. Gentleman has just been. Perhaps I may say at the start that the Opposition do not propose to challenge this Motion. We have tried as far as possible over recent years to lift colonial problems out of party controversy, and we are certainly at one with the Government in wishing all success to the Colonial Development Corporation, and, indeed, in giving them a meed of praise to which in large part they are entitled.
While I am in this agreeable frame of mind, I should like to say to the right hon. Gentleman that some of us have just come back from a three weeks' visit to the Federation of Malaya and Singapore, both of which territories figures in the Report of this Corporation. I hope it will be some satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman, as indeed it is to all of us on both sides of the House, to know that his own personal visit some months ago to those territories did a great deal of good, and the respect he left behind him 2287 and the general encouragement to all sections has really been a major contribution in giving the people there, who are living under intolerable conditions, some hope that these conditions will eventually be lifted.
We feel that the best method that we can follow is to give an assurance to the various races in Malaya that we have no intention of being bludgeoned out of our responsibilities. Malaya must be a permanent partnership within the British Empire covering all those British citizens, Malays, Malayan Chinese, Indians, Sinhalese, all those who have made their home in that lovely land.
Although I said that in general the Opposition gave support to the Corporation and commend the Report and the accounts which we are discussing this evening, I do not, of course, say that in every detail we see eye to eye with those who have produced it. It is to us a matter of great regret in the first place that these reports take such a very long time before they are produced. This Report deals with events many months before. When it came out last July it provided the first opportunity either for Parliament or for the public to discuss seriously schemes that had started some 18 months before. Even now we are in a rather absurd situation. When the Report was published in July, projects had been approved to the total of some £14 million, but since June a further £10 million has been allocated to projects, totalling £24 million, and yet we have no real details of the progress of these latter schemes.
I would suggest one way out of our difficulty to the right hon. Gentleman. Every quarter the Corporation must make a report to the Secretary of State himself. That report should be made available to Members of the House of Commons. It may be that it is too lengthy a report to be made into a regular quarterly paper, but perhaps some compressed form of it might be produced, as we are all anxious to carry this business through together, and to create that harmonious and informed atmosphere which will make it possible.
As to the accounts, most Members will agree that, subject to one or two criticisms, they do fulfil the undertakings made by the Corporation that they would 2288 produce accurate and businesslike reports. Of course, they have the happy advantage of being able to look coyly and with great superiority at the accounts of the Overseas Food Corporation, and the dismal record of incompetence and of bad accountancy that that terrible story shows. No doubt it will not have escaped the notice of Members of both sides of the House that in this Report they make what is an implied reference to their sister Corporation. They say,The finances of the Corporation are under strict control and are in good order and the rate of growth of the Corporation's activities will not be allowed to outrun the capacity of the Finance and Accounts staff.I do not propose to make any reference to the groundnuts scheme. That would not be in order, but I hope the Minister of State, when he replies, will let us know whether any progress has been made towards the assumption of authority for that scheme by the Colonial Development Corporation. I hope also that the right hon. Gentleman will give us some indication of how far palm oil production can go towards meeting the world shortage of fats. I hope he can answer questions which have puzzled a large number of people as to why, when there was a known shortage of vegetable fats, we did not concentrate more on palm oil production and less on ventures like the groundnut scheme.
Those of us who have been in Malaya recently have seen at first hand some of the undoubted advantages of palm oil production. It is true that it takes a little longer, but after all, we have not had very much out of the groundnut scheme in East Africa today. The capital is heavy but, considering the enormously greater yield, not excessively so. The period of harvesting is continuous and not concentrated in a short space of time, which creates a whole lot of labour problems in Kongwa, for example, and there are other advantages which would make this a more profitable venture than the groundnut scheme.
Again, we are entitled to say in regard to these accounts that we ought to have much more detailed information about specific schemes and about the facts and arguments which induced the Corporation to undertake some of their more questionable ventures. I know it is the view of the Chairman of the Corporation that the work of the Corporation should be 2289 judged as a whole and he is very reluctant, for reasons which are not difficult to see, to enter into detailed explanation of why certain projects were undertaken. But, in the absence of detailed information, the Corporation cannot complain if certain organs of the Press and Members of the House of Commons challenge particular schemes, of the details of which they have been kept largely in ignorance.
For example, detailed accounts would, no doubt, give some arguments to justify one or two ventures of the last year or so. The purchase in the Bahamas of Mr. Davis's estate on Eleuthera. No doubt there are arguments in favour of it. I have not heard any yet, but I have heard a great many against. No one has produced evidence that that property has ever paid, or is likely to pay in the future and criticisms of that scheme cannot be met by saying it must stand or fall with all the other aspects of the Corporation's work.
Again, the purchase in Swaziland also resulted in a great deal of criticism. For that purchase sums of between £600,000 and £700,000 of another property belonging to an equally estimable magnate in South Africa have been mentioned. Both were going concerns and it has not been thought to be the function of the Corporation to take over going concerns. It is obviously impossible for us to come to worthwhile conclusions unless we have more information. In a somewhat different field there was the shark venture associated with Mr. Ciencialla, which venture I am credibly informed has already cost a very large sum of money before the first voyage of the ship sailing for this new treasure. Figures of £1 million have been mentioned, but we have no detailed estimates and I think the House of Commons are entitled to estimates of that kind.
In regard to one or two other aspects of the accounts I shall make my remarks as brief as I can. There is a very heavy expenditure, which is noticeably heavy on the headquarters staff in London. Perhaps at this point I might take the opportunity of saying that the change in the chairmanship will be regretted by many people who have experienced the zeal and courtesy of the present Chairman. We understood his successor would be appointed probably in the course of this 2290 Debate, or, more likely, a day or two ago, and I am rather surprised we have had no indication from the right hon. Gentleman as to who that successor is likely to be. I hope it will be in order if I say that a glance round the galleries of this House might put ideas in some people's minds. We would have welcomed a statement from the right hon. Gentleman which we could have discussed, praised, or criticised, in this Debate.
One of the names which has been mentioned—of a person who, as far as I know, is not within the precincts of the House—has caused a certain amount of alarm and despondency among all good friends of the Colonial Empire, for it concerned a gentleman who in his short life in this House did more than anyone else I know to make Colonial matters the subject of party controversy. But, whoever is appointed, I can assure him on behalf of the Opposition that we shall give him every possible support in one of the most worthwhile ventures that this country can provide.
I said that the headquarters staff was costing a lot of money. It is, I think, £160,000 more than one-third of all the operational wages and, indeed, the operational purchases as well. This seems a very high figure and it is one which could go with far greater business. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some further information about that. We have had a lot of rumours and, in the absence of detailed estimates, it is difficult to know how accurate these rumours are.
We all share the view that the Corporation should be adequately housed in conditions of comfort and dignity, but it is difficult to justify the estimates we have heard of some of the expenses which have been incurred. If we are wrong in these estimates we must blame it on the failure of the Corporation or the Ministerial spokesmen to give the accurate figures. Was it really necessary, if our figures are correct, to spend £15,000 a year on one block of offices in Dover Street and £34,000 on repairs to that building alone and then take, just round the corner, another building at £7,000 a year on the same onerous terms as to repairs?
As for the headquarters staff, I hope we shall have a little more information about the way in which it is recruited. I notice 2291 in the Report that those employed by the Corporation are chosen as a result of "wide advertisement and meticulous selection." There are two former colleagues of many of us in the last Parliament who, I understand, have come to rest in Dover Street and we should be interested to know whether they were chosen by "wide advertisement and meticulous selection." Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, when winding up the Debate, will give a little more information about what those gentleman are doing and the salaries they are being paid.
If we get this sort of information it is easier to create that atmosphere of a Council of State, which I think we all want to see prevailing in Colonial discussions in this House. As everybody knows, vast sums of money are being invested in the Colonial Empire. In the old days a huge amount of private capital found a resting place in the Colonial Empire, rubber £300 million to £400 million, tin at least £30 million, copper £40 million alone in Rhodesia. All these investments are the fruits of pre-war possibilities. Money was invested when savings were easier, when machinery was cheaper, when political security in the Colonies was more certain.
Nowadays it is beyond the capacity of private capital to do the necessary investing and it must be done as a result of a partnership of Government and private industry. It was because of that and the hopes that this partnership has aroused that we gave our general support to the formation of the Colonial Development Corporation. It is interesting to see how some of the difficulties which have confronted private industry over generations are now confronting the Corporation itself.
Questions of land tenure, of political security, of taxation, all the things that used to be ascribed to the cupidity and greed of capitalist imperialism are now disturbing this Government Corporation. Indeed the chapter dealing with Income Tax might have been written by the Federation of British Industries itself. The Corporation say, on page 50, that a small sacrifice—they are referring to Colonial Income Tax ordinances:
would greatly improve the prospects of some types of long-term development projects
which, if undertaken, would eventually bring much additional revenue to Colonial exchequers.
§ How many private businesses have said that over the years? In their reference to security of land tenure the Corporation are asking what we were always told by the Fabian school was the intolerable claim to the alienation of peasant land.
In their comment on the heavy initial cost of many of their schemes they make a plea for high profits at a later date which would not have received sympathy if made by private enterprise 10 years ago. They say that where heavy outlay is necessary it is necessary that the scheme:
should show promise of earning at a high rate during the succeeding years.…
§ when the scheme becomes remunerative. I would commend that paragraph, indeed the whole of that chapter, to those who are now criticising the rubber planters of Malaya and elsewhere for the high prices for rubber, produced under extraordinarily difficult circumstances—in the case of Malaya virtually open war—prices which are in vivid contrast to the very low prices which prevailed not so long ago and the general uncertainty of primary production. The Corporation are now realising that high rates must sometimes operate if an enterprise is to be successful, particularly in fields which are necessarily very speculative.
§ All these considerations augur well for the success of the scheme, because it is becoming quite plain that the Corporation realise that the difficulties which have stood in the way of private enterprise in Africa and elsewhere, and in the Corporation's way as well, must now be removed. We welcome in particular the work which the Corporation are doing in creating the conditions under which agriculture and industry in the Colonies can thrive by the support being given to schemes which are creating the prerequisites for agricultural and industrial development.
§ The creation of communications, road, rail, air and ports provision, water for domestic, irrigation or hydro-electric power purposes, and the provision of hospitals and other essential services seems to us a highly fruitful field for Government and Colonial Development Corporation activity. If at any stage the Act under which the Corporation was set up 2293 needs amendment in order to allow some of these ventures to fall within their powers, I am sure that no one in this House will oppose such a change.
§ I would particularly commend to the Secretary of State and the Minister the experiment now going on in the Belgian Congo, in particular in relation to the raising of capital in the proportions of three-fifths from the Government and two-fifths from private enterprise to deal with the real shortages in tropical Africa—shortages of communication, of power, lack of good land and good African labour. The proposals which the Belgians are now carrying to what looks like a successful fruition have in them a good deal which this House could with profit study. As only a limited amount of money is available—one of the tragedies of the present time is that our zeal cannot be matched by our resources—it is very important that the Corporation should set about their business in the right way.
§ It is our view that the Corporation should not consider themselves under an obligation to carry on permanently every scheme they start. They should regard themselves as being more in the nature of a pioneer creating the conditions under which industry can flourish, by all means starting private schemes of their own and then, when the schemes are permanently launched, entering into partnership in the running of them with private industry, reserving of course protection for the State either by capital holding or State representation on the Board. If some considerable part of the Corporation's money has already been earmarked, and the Board continue to run every scheme long after their main function has been discharged, they will have to come to the House of Commons from time to time for further funds.
The only other general comment I wish to make deals with the marketing of the produce, in particular the difficulty in the marketing of the produce from the various enterprises of the Corporation. In one part of the Report the Corporation refer to the fundamental importance of markets and prices for Colonial products. They add, what the right hon. Gentleman did not quote, that:
the policy of His Majesty's Government in this sphere is obscure.
§ No doubt it is true that this Government, as the Report hints, have not any clear view in their own mind as to what are the relative places in the home market of the home producer, the Dominion producer, the Colonial producer and the foreign producer.
§ We are dealing with the Ministry of Food, whose main intention is always to buy in the cheapest market. I might add in parenthesis that if any justification is needed for the Conservative view over the years that the groundnuts scheme should have been run by the Colonial Office and not by the Ministry of Food it is to be found in this annual Report of the Colonial Development Corporation. The need to come to an early arrangement with the Ministry of Food as to the price it is to pay for Colonial produce is imperative.
§ The need also, at the Torquay conference now taking place, to protect our own rights in the field of Imperial preferential arrangements, is no less important. I understand that it is the view of the Board of Trade that no new preferences can be started between British Colonies and the Mother Country, but that the escape clause in the Havana Charter applies only to arrangements that can be made between one Colony and another. If that is true, and it would only apply, if at all, should the Havana Charter be ratified, it is imperative that at Torquay we should protect our position in this field. It would be futile for great sums of public money to be spent on enterprises in Africa or elsewhere and the Mother Country be prevented by international Treaty from making preferential arrangements, at least in the early days, for the produce of these schemes.
§ So much for my general observations. I hope I shall be forgiven if I make one more particular comment. The Parliamentary Mission have just come back from Malaya. In Singapore I was particularly asked to bring this matter to the notice of my colleagues in the House. Singapore and the Federation of Malaya both figure in the Report of the Colonial Development Corporation. In the case of the federation a loan of £3,750,000 has been granted to the Malaya Electricity Board. I can certainly speak from a little first-hand knowledge in saying how imperative that development work is. It is incredible that in some parts of Malaya 2295 tin dredging operations have to stop for two hours a day because of a shortage of power. When we think how desperately we need the production of the tin industry in Malaya, and of the other frightful conditions under which the people there are living, this intolerable situation should not be allowed to continue for a day longer than necessary.
§ As I say, that loan has been made to the Federation. Singapore has been refused, or at least when Singapore made application for a grant for electricity development no authority seemed to rest with the local office to grant this particular request. Singapore needs a loan of £12 million sterling over the next two or three years. The money is wanted mainly for electricity and water development. They are both crying needs. Local banks have found, through the immense increase in rubber and tin prices, a general shortage of money; and there are other reasons also why local loans, or even loans on the London market, are not as attractive as they used to be until the tension in Malaya improves.
§ In addition, Singapore has, I believe, large claims against the War Damage Act, and it seems rather unfortunate that there cannot be a speedier settlement of this for a town of the importance of Singapore. But the Colonial Development Corporation may well provide the opportunity in the field of electricity to do something in Singapore comparable with what they are doing in the Federation as a whole, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some encouragement to the Municipal Commissioners in his reply tonight. I can assure him of what he knows, and what his right hon. Friend knows even better, that in no part of the British Colonial Empire will funds of this kind be welcomed more or better spent than in Malaya and Singapore; and it is because those schemes are bringing some hope to the people of those two districts that I am glad to commend the Report to hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
I join with the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) in regretting that other quite important matters occupied the time of the House before we could come to the consideration of this Report. I think it will be 2296 generally agreed that the great world issues of the second half of the 20th century will be decided largely by the question of whether the white Western industrialist country, and those which proclaim the principles and hold out the goal of political democracy, are or are not able, first, to deserve, and, second, to win the confidence, partnership and cooperation of the many millions of coloured people living in the economically unfavoured parts of the world.
The winning of that confidence depends, among many other things, upon whether we can show those people in those lands how our "know-how," our technical knowledge and our mechanical resources can be used to help them in the solving of their material problems. The Colonial Development Corporation is one of the several agencies grappling with that problem and the discussion of it brings us face to face with the real basic issue to be determined in the world in this generation of ours.
Since the House adjourned last September, I have had the very great privilege and pleasure of seeing one or two of the enterprises which the Colonial Development Corporation is undertaking in West Africa. The first of these was the chicken farm in the Gambia where 11,000 acres of land have been cleared with machinery and apparatus which only arrived in March-April of 1949. That in itself is quite an achievement. I have some photographs which will indicate that this bush, though not high tropical forest, was a great deal tougher than the sort of orchard bush found in corresponding latitudes in Northern Nigeria. Four thousand, five hundred of these acres have been brought under cultivation. There was a setback in August owing to the failure of two diesel pumping machines which happened during a night of a torrential deluge and as a result of which chickens were drinking surface water and many had to be slaughtered to contend with a threatened outbreak of disease.
But there is a respectable advance towards the ultimate target. It is intended that there be a permanent breeding flock of 3,500 birds. The actual achievement is 5,000. That is above the permanent target, but this is only to be expected during the time of building up. The ultimate target is to have 100,000 2297 laying pullets and 20,000 towards that target has been achieved. In the broiler houses in which the females advance towards the laying stage and the males spend 14 weeks of social security between the cradle and the grave, it is intended to have 170,000 birds and 45 per cent. of the target has been achieved. That, within 18 months of the arrival of the machinery to clear the bush, seems to be a respectable target.
Nevertheless, this project will ultimately be judged by whether or not it can succeed in growing upon its 11,000 acres a high proportion of the food which the chickens are to eat; and from that point of view I think it was a great misfortune that when Mr. Phillips, the manager, arrived in the Gambia, the agricultural department was at a very low ebb. That state of affairs has been energetically put right by the newly-appointed Governor, but I still think it was a major error on the part of the Colonial Development Corporation that they did not send to the Gambia one of their top level executive officers and invite to the Gambia one of the most practical agriculturists from Ibadan, to have discussions with Mr. Phillips on some basic principles of tropical agriculture. I still think that such a conference could usefully be held because this scheme, apart from its intrinsic merits, will serve a vitally useful purpose by showing the people of the Gambia how to keep Gambian soil under steady productive use and high fertility by using a well-considered crop rotation.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire has doubts about the shark catching scheme. I am sorry that I was not there a few weeks later when the factory ship would have arrived. But two out of ten small trawlers had arrived and they have no difficulty in catching a ton of sharks each night. As they send the teeth to America for jewellery, the fins to China for delicacies, and use the oil pressed out of the liver for medical purposes, and can the meat to improve the diet of the people of Gambia, and mince the rest to make chicken feed and manure, it seems to me that this enterprise is likely to be successful.
Passing from the Gambia to Nigeria, and regretting very much that the emergency Session of this House prevented me from starting in time to visit the other 2298 intervening Colonies, I must say that the most exciting thing I saw was the Nigerian Agricultural Project at Mokwa. Of course, when dealing with Africa one never knows whether unforeseen developments may emerge to upset present favourable indications; but present indications are that the mistakes made in connection with Kongwa have been avoided at Mokwa. Soil qualities have been tested, rainfall ascertained, crop rotations carefully considered and the best advice taken, and the supremely important question of local land tenure carefully investigated and reported on. Careful steps have been taken to secure the good will and co-operation of the African peoples in the neighbourhood. At the moment a pilot plot of 4,000 acres is under cultivation, and, with very few exceptions, all the crops look excellent.
An interesting feature of the work at present, and one which, in a sense, brings tears to the eyes, is to see in operation there a couple of steam engines which pull a plough over the land by a 500 yard cable running between them. There must have been many hundreds and thousands of these machines in the world in 1900. All of them have been discarded and thrown away on the junk heaps from which this couple were recovered for £300. A further £400 was spent on removing the rust from them and they have proved marvellous machines for African conditions. They consume wood which is cheap and although one can hit the machines in the wrong place with a hammer they will still continue to work. I would like to see the C.D.C. set up a subsidiary company to scour the scrap heaps of the world to secure more of them.
There is one disadvantage about their operation. They must be worked where the land is dead flat. They can only plough in straight lines, and cannot follow the contours which it is necessary to do on gentle slopes. As the Colonial Secretary said, the intention is to farm for a few years by direct labour to make sure of the rotation of crops, and then to divide up the land among settlers in little communities of about 80 to 100. The significant thing is that this will set a pattern, which, with suitable local modifications, can be adapted in many other places so as to bring about co-operation between the white, Western technique, knowledge 2299 and machinery and the African peasant farmer.
I thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire concentrated too much on the idea that these enterprises, once they had been set going by the Colonial Development Corporation, should be passed over to private enterprise.
§ Sir R. Acland
It is much more important that we should aim at partnership with the African villagers. I am quite sure the hon. Gentleman will agree with me and accept my correction or amendment to his speech.
I now wish to refer to a special question in relation to Mokwa. I had many discussions with representatives of the Press and members of the National Committee for Nigeria and the Cameroons down in Lagos. In each case, they had been critical on several general points, but when I mentioned Mokwa they immediately said "That is a good thing." When I asked them whether they had been there themselves, they said, without exception, that they had not been there and that they had not seen it, but that they had heard that it was a good thing, which means that the publicly-owned and publicly-operated African "grapevines" have been reporting favourably on the work we are doing there.
I think that is because in Mokwa we have corrected what, in my view, was the absolutely fundamental mistake at Kongwa. At Kongwa, we put capital and resources into Africa with the primary intention of producing extra margarine for British larders, and, if someone asked whether the African was going to get something out of it or not, he was assured, with a shrug of the shoulders "Well, possibly, as a by-product they may." At Mokwa, we have it exactly the opposite way round. The men who are working there are primarily concerned to render a service to the African people, and, if anybody asks whether the British people are going to get anything out of it or not, the answer is also, with a shrug of the shoulders, "Well, maybe, as an incidental by-product, but that is not the primary objective." That, surely, is the right way and the right order of priorities.
2300 If I may pass from the particular schemes which I had the pleasure to see, I want to make those hon. Members who were as ignorant as I was four weeks ago aware of the tremendous change taking place in the whole background against which Colonial development has to go on. This change, at the moment, is mainly confined to West Africa. It could be extended to Uganda quite quickly, and I would most seriously urge the Colonial Secretary, the Colonial Office and all the Legislative and Executive Councils in all the Colonial Territories to consider urgently to what extent the changes taking place in Nigeria could, with suitable modifications, be adapted to other Colonies.
The instruments of the great change now taking place are the produce marketing boards, which licence the privately owned firms and merchants to purchase produce at prices fixed by the boards themselves, and then the boards repurchase the produce from the firms and merchants at prices higher to allow for operating costs. The marketing boards then sell the produce, and they deal, of course, only in those products which are exported. They sell them either to the Ministry of Food or some other overseas source.
Owing to the course of world prices of primary products, these boards are achieving very large favourable balances indeed. Some 75 per cent. of these balances are being set aside to cover the possibility of a world slump in primary products, and, as to the other 25 per cent. the boards apply about 5 per cent. to research and education, and 20 per cent. is now to be at the disposal of development boards which are subsidiaries of the marketing boards. Both on the marketing boards and on the development boards, they all have African majorities.
These are developments of very high significance, because, among other things, these development boards do not need to make financial profits on their balance sheets in the strict capitalist understanding of that phrase. For example, the Sokoto rice scheme which was suggested for the north-west corner of Nigeria was a proposal in which, on a large area of land ploughing will be done by heavy machinery, but where each farmer will plant, weed and harvest a far larger area of his own land than he would have been 2301 able to tackle if he had had to do the heavy work by hand.
The C.D.C. looked at the scheme and turned it down on financial grounds, because the charges which they would get from the farmers looked as if they would not meet the costs, and I think they may have been right to do so. The North Regional Development Board, a subsidiary of the Groundnuts Marketing Board, has now taken up the Sokoto project and is pushing it through with success, hoping to break even financially; but even if it is not so they are quite sure that any financial losses on their private balance sheets will be far smaller than the social gain in the lives of the ordinary people for and to whom they are responsible.
On these lines there are very great possibilities of development opening up here, but I want to issue a word of warning. In 1946, many of us thought that it was only necessary to put a lot of capital and machinery into Africa in order to get a great deal of food out of it. In the reaction against that error, an opposite error is now beginning to emerge. Those who pass themselves off as wise are now saying, "African development is very difficult, very tricky. We cannot do anything now. Many more years research has still to be done. Plant strains have to be improved. Machinery has to be tested. Maybe in 1960, we shall do something, but do not let us push ahead with anything now."
That line of thought, I am quite sure, is just as utterly false as was its opposite predecessor. By all means, let us have research, pilot schemes and the rest from now until 1960, so that in 1960, we shall know how to do a great many things which, at the moment, we do not know how to do, but do not let anybody suppose that there are not many things to do now. After only a very short tour in Gambia and Nigeria I could weary the House with describing the many schemes and enterprises for producing more foods which agricultural officers in those parts have ready to go ahead, and which would produce results not in 1960, but in 1951, 1952 and 1953.
§ The question is whether all this potential development will actually take place. It depends on two things, of which the first is the supply of materials. On one 2302 page in the report of the Northern Regional Production Board I have underlined five places where it is said that machinery and equipment have been ordered, presumably from Britain, but has not yet arrived. There is absolutely nothing wrong in that. There is no complaint whatever because this is the first year's report and one would not expect the machinery to arrive by the date of the report. But the question is, how will the matter stand in 12 months' time when they issue their second report. Will the machinery be there?
§ I should like to draw hon. Members' attention to a particular material, namely, cement, and say that the shortage of cement is not a future danger which may impede and frustrate Colonial development; it is a present fact which is now impeding and frustrating Colonial development. I would urge the Colonial Secretary to use all his influence with the supply Departments and to persuade them that there is nowhere in the world where a small shortage of cement can do more harm to our cause than in the Colonies today. I would urge the C.D.C. to enter into discussion with the South African firm which makes bricks and interlocking blocks out of native soil—one part of cement and 17 parts of soil—much better than the P.W.D. practice of making blocks of one part of cement and seven parts transported sand.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
Does not the hon. Gentleman know that this method was invented by private enterprise in this country?
§ Sir R. Acland
The ones I saw were made by a South African firm, which has applied for patents. I hope that if what the hon. Gentleman says is correct they will not get away with any patent rights to which they are not entitled, but whoever be the inventor I would ask the C.D.C. to see what can be done to put more capital into the business so as to make the machines more readily available.
But even more important than the supply of materials is the question of technically qualified people to go out and supervise and to put through these schemes. Large numbers of Africans are, of course, now being trained and promoted to many responsible posts, but I think any African will agree that for the next 2303 10 or 15 years we cannot deal with the problem wholly in that way, and that larger numbers of technicians of all kinds from outside Africa will be needed to go there to give their services to the people. I would recommend that the Colonial Secretary and the Board of the C.D.C. should consider this matter as one of great urgency; and as, before long, it will be necessary to change the conception of British help for the British Colonies into the conception of white Western industrialised countries giving help to all backward peoples, I would strongly urge that we try as hard as possible to recruit a considerable number of people from foreign countries at all levels, up to the top level, if we find such people ready and, of course, qualified to serve.
I am very grateful for having been allowed to say a few words about these big organisations for Colonial Development other than the Colonial Development Corporation. Their existence raises the question whether the Colonial Development Corporation has an abiding part to play. I think it has for the following four reasons. First, that as yet it is only in a minority of the Colonies that the marketing boards and their dependent development boards exist. Second, although a groundnuts development board is sufficiently broadminded to take up a project which produces more rice—which is a very broadminded thing to do—it would not be possible for a development board depending on the marketing of groundnuts to take up a project concerning a new industry, such as the establishment of a sack factory at Onitsha which the C.D.C. is undertaking. Third, during the experimental period I think it extremely useful that there should be a wide diversity and a great deal of self-contained autonomy among the different organisations addressing themselves to this general task of Colonial development.
Lastly, I make a point, which may sound curious coming from these benches, namely, that, as I have already mentioned, the development boards which are subsidiary to the marketing boards do not, strictly speaking, need to look for a financial profit on their own balance sheets. That being so, there is great value and purpose in having in the Development Corporation an organisation which, although no private person gets any profit 2304 out of it, is working to the balance sheet test, because it will set up examples of how the different development operations ought to be put through in the most efficient way and at the minimum possible cost.
I wish to end with two short points. I have tried to stress the contribution which this country can make to Colonial development. It should never be forgotten that the very maximum that we can do is very little more than supply what has come to be known as the "missing components" without which development could not go forward. Development itself must come from the people concerned. If their countries are to emerge as independent countries with high and noble standards of social living, that must be achieved through the steady hard work of millions of their people and through the emergence of many thousands of men and women who are honestly prepared to hold down responsible positions, for a salary, of course, but also for the service of their fellow men and their community. I think that our friends in all the Colonial Territories ought never to lose sight of that essential fact and ought never to be allowed to think that any of their friends in this country can lose sight of it.
My last point is to express my very sincere admiration for all the servants of the Colonial Development Corporation with whom I came in contact. I would not have made a point with a political flavour but for the fact that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire did, in very good humour, make a few points of the same flavour about taxation, land tenure, and other such matters. That being so, I am sure those whom I met working for the C.D.C. will not misunderstand me and will not think I am suggesting that if they lived in Gravesend they would all vote for me when I say that it was a very great thrill to me to meet so many men working with self-dedicated zeal and enthusiasm for an organisation entirely deprived of all those financial stimuli which only the private ownership of share capital is supposed by some to be able to supply. I would also like to express a corresponding appreciation of the many men in the Colonial Service whom I met, and my thanks to all for the many kindnesses shown to me on a short tour.
§ Mr. Speaker
I had hoped to call Members equally from each side, but I must bear in mind the number of minutes taken up by those who have spoken on each side, and, therefore, I may not be able to stick to that rule.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Braine (Essex, Billericay)
I think the House will agree with the tribute that the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) has just paid to the staff of the Colonial Development Corporation. I listened to his speech with great interest. One vein of thought seemed to run through it. He seemed to be a little frightened of the balance-sheet test as he put it. I wonder whether that was an overhang from Margate where, I am told, a certain gentleman suggested that we should not judge State corporations by the balance sheet test. It reminds me of the story of the inefficient tailor who sought to make his suits less ill-fitting by not using a tape measure.
§ Sir R. Acland
I am not afraid of the balance-sheet test, but I am glad that there exist in Nigeria organisations which are in a position to take account of social benefits which will accrue to thousands of people by their doing something on which they themselves might lose a little on their balance sheets. That is a perfectly good thing to do, and I am glad it is done.
§ Mr. Braine
I am reassured. I am all for criticism. As a political animal I believe criticism is good for the soul of Governments. Power of any kind is corrupting and unless those who wield it are made to answer for its use they will generally abuse it.
But those who have studied colonial affairs will agree with the Colonial Secretary's statement that it is far too early to form any kind of judgment about the success or otherwise of the Colonial Development Corporation. Indeed, if an interim verdict is required then, so far—and here I think I shall carry the House with me—the Corporation seems to have been moving along the right lines.
I say that, because in complete contrast to the Overseas Food Corporation it has been going about its task quietly and confidently. It is clear from the Report that it is displaying a most commendable caution in examining the flood of projects 2306 submitted to it by various Colonial Governments and private interests. Thus, so far, it has approved only a small percentage of those projects and committed only a small proportion of its total capital. It is interesting to inquire, at this stage, however, why there should be so much difference between the conduct of the Colonial Development Corporation and that of the Overseas Food Corporation. Both were launched at about the same time. Both emerged from the Overseas Resources Act, 1948. And both carried with them a great deal of good will from all parties and all sections of opinion in this country. The Overseas Food Corporation was, of course, doomed from the start. It was far too rigid. Indeed, I am wondering whether a great tribute should not be paid to the first chairman of the Colonial Development Corporation for ensuring, from the very start, that his particular organisation should be more flexible and should have a great deal more initiative in its operations.
But it occurs to me that the Colonial Development Corporation is already beginning to be faced with a dilemma. It is expected to run on commercial lines and to make a profit. Some expect it to make nothing but profit. But there are others, rather like the hon. Member for Gravesend, who expect it to be primarily—indeed, if I understand him aright, wholly—an instrument for speeding the economic development of Colonial Territories, which may mean profits but will also mean losses.
It is important to have a clear idea of the function of the Colonial Development Corporation. For that purpose I looked up, a few hours ago, a memorable speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Oliver Stanley), the then Colonial Secretary, on the Second Reading of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1945. It was a great speech, displaying that breadth of vision and grasp of the problem which is so characteristic of him. He then said that there would be, after the war, great scope for private enterprise in the Colonies. He expressed the opinion that without large scale private investment in the Colonial Empire the full development of the Colonial Territories would be impossible. But he was very careful to say that there would be no room in the 2307 Colonial Empire for the get-rich-quick kind of investors who, to use his own words, looked for "staggering profits." The private investor would have to go into the Colonial Empire as a partner and not as a master.
The fact is, as the Report of the Colonial Development Corporation makes quite clear, that any kind of enterprise in the Colonies is fraught with all kinds of hazards and difficulties. As a result, capital is not readily attracted even to the richer Colonies and, of course, not at all to the poorer Colonies. There are so many imponderables in the situation. Mother Nature herself is sometimes niggardly in her gifts, with the result that there is an excessive drought. Or sometimes she is too profuse, with the result that one has torrential rains which wash away the surface soil. Political unrest and disturbances may influence labour relations, and there is the uncertainty of world prices which, overnight, may make what appears to be a profitable undertaking uneconomic.
What was required, therefore, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, West, envisaged, was some kind of instrument that would fill the gap between the Colonial Welfare Fund kind of investment and private enterprise, an instrument of development which would not supplant but supplement private enterprise and which would be content to take smaller profits and undertake greater risks. I find it somewhat alarming that we should talk, as it were, in a vacuum about the development of the resources of the Colonial Empire, because it is quite futile to do so unless we are in a position to control the markets in which what is produced can be sold.
The fact is that, since the war, we have largely given up that freedom. It is quite true that, at present, almost everything that is produced in the Colonial Empire can be sold in the markets of the world. That is partly due to devaluation, partly due to world-wide shortages, and partly due to American stock-piling. It is reasonable to suppose that that may not continue, that new competitors may arise, that prices may fall and markets contract. But the Colonial Empire not only requires markets for its staple products, the very nature of Colonial development demands the broadening of the basis and diversification of Colonial economy.
2308 If that is so, if we are going to use the Colonial Development Corporation as a means of stimulating secondary industry then, in my view, and I think in the view of most hon. Members, it is absolutely essential that we retain in our hands full economic sovereignty. It is essential to the success of the Colonial Development Corporation, and of the great experiment which we are undertaking in the Colonies that we get back our freedom to make such preferential arrangements with the constituent parts of the Empire as we think fit. Torquay, of course, is a constant reminder that we no longer have that freedom in our hands.
One other matter. On page 52 of the Report the Corporation states:Among the main reasons why Colonial development undertakings cannot, in many cases, expect to earn at a rate sufficient to attract the ordinary outside investor, is the exceptionally high charge for overheads involved where new resources are brought into production in economically backward territories.If a project has got to include the construction of railways and roads, the building of houses and the provision of welfare amenities for an imported labour force, which in any industrialised and developed country exist already, then, clearly, the project starts with a heavy financial handicap. As I read the Report I wondered whether it was right that the Colonial Development Corporation should be saddled with that kind of charge.
I said, at the outset of my remarks, that it was far too early to judge what success would attend the Corporation's efforts. In one passage which I thought wholly admirable, the Report sets out some of the difficulties. Thus the development period for some projects—for instance, afforestation or plantation schemes—must of necessity be long. That will call for patience. The main reason for my intervention is to ask the House and the country to be patient, because I think we have set our hands to a great and noble task.
Although I do not think for a moment that the Colonial Development Corporation is by any means the most important instrument for speeding the economic development of the Colonies, it will, nevertheless, be an instrument of increasing importance as the years go by. For that reason I hope that the Corporation and the Colonial Secretary will see fit to 2309 give us more information about its activities than we have had up to now. We have set our hands to a great and noble undertaking, and there cannot be a single Member of this House who does not wish it well.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Nugent (Guildford)
I should like to add my word of welcome to this Report, which I have read with interest, and to commend the general intention and activity of the Corporation. I sympathise with the Minister's view that the broad principles are of first importance, but I feel that the detail is also of importance if we are to carry the confidence of the nation. For the people as a whole, who are in the position of involuntary shareholders in this enterprise, because it is their money which is spent, a Debate on a Report of this kind is a sort of shareholders' annual general meeting. We are their representatives and we should try to put our fingers on any weak spots and ask for explanations.
I should like to make a comment particularly on the Gambia poultry scheme, and apply what I think is the mind of a practical man to this project. I think the Corporation were a little unwise to be so sensitive to criticism, both in the Development Corporation Report and in their journal. The first news that this country had of this scheme was, first, that an American had been appointed to manage it, second, that the hatching eggs which were to make the breeding stock were to be ordered from America, and, third, that the appliances were to be ordered from there, too.
At present the poultry industry in this country is very hard pressed for feeding-stuffs. We are well aware of the large quantities of feedingstuffs available in America, and we cannot buy them because we do not have sufficient dollars. Yet we see that about a quarter of a million dollars are spent in purchasing stock, appliances and machinery for the clearance. I freely acknowledge that the appointment of Mr. Phillips was justified from many points of view. He had already had experience of this kind of enterprise in the Bahamas, and his achievements on the spot have already proved that he is a man of enterprise and drive. But if this matter is considered from the point of view of farming opinion in this country, is it possible to 2310 put it in a more offensive way than to allow quite a generous provision of dollars for this project at the expense of something which is urgently needed here? It was bound to have an unfavourable reception to start with.
The justification that was subsequently put forward, that all hatching eggs had to be bought in one lot, could convince no practical man. They could equally well have been delivered over five or six weeks, and this would have been much more convenient to the people on the spot. When it is said that one of the reasons for the purchase from America was that there was no disease-free stock here, it shows that there was no consultation of any kind with the Ministry of Agriculture or with any agricultural body here to ascertain what stock was available or what technical advice was available. It is pertinent to remember that we have for over 20 years had an accredited poultry breeding scheme to ensure that we do have disease-free stock. It seems reasonable when the Corporation complain that they have had hostile criticism that they should remove the beam from their own eye before attempting to remove the mote from their brother's eye.
I should like to say a word about the intrinsic merits of the scheme. I believe from what I have heard that there are real possibilities in the scheme. This is no groundnut scheme. There are real intrinsic possibilities of developing large-scale poultry farming. I understand that the climate for about half the year is good, and although I see that the Report for 1948 says that it is not suitable for Europeans, I am still convinced of the possibilities of this project. I believe the soil is fertile. I understand the rainfall is sufficient on average, although it is sometimes rather a lot and sometimes rather little. The plant that has been put down has, I believe, been so designed that it can do the job.
Before making any further comments, I should like to say that I believe it is possible to install a large-scale poultry plant. The discrepancies on which I want to comment relate to the numbers of stock and acreages which were given in the Report. I have tried to see how they work out. The hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) made a very pertinent point, that the whole basis 2311 of this scheme is that the 10,000 acres should produce the feedingstuffs which are to feed the stock which is to produce the eggs and the poultry. If they do not do that then the scheme is basically wrong. On the figures we have been given, I have serious doubts whether that is possible, and I should like to show what I mean.
When I was looking at some of the figures it seemed to me that the authors of the Report must have been recently either reading the story of or seeing that delightful film, "The Egg and I," and that they had been led away more by the romance of large-scale egg production than by the hard realities, for some of the figures make rather queer reading. The idea is to produce 20 million eggs a year and a million pounds of dressed chicken. It is announced that that will be in operation by the middle of next year. The Report is dated as at the end of 1949 and they give a date of within 18 months. They hope to clear and crop the 10,000 acres about which we have already heard.
First of all, I should like to deal with the question of obtaining the 90,000 laying flock which will produce these eggs. The hon. Member for Gravesend has told us that there are now 5,000 breeders there. That is nearly double the number given in the Report so that, to that extent, the situation has obviously improved. Even if those 5,000 breeders were hard at work they would find it extremely difficult to produce the 90,000 birds by the end of this year. The average one can expect from one breeder during a year is something like 30 to 40 pullets, at the very outside, yet here we expect to obtain something of the order of about 120, as stated in the original Report, or about 60 to 70, as stated here.
§ Sir R. Acland
There are 35,000 to 40,000 female birds in the broiler house already. As these will go out from the broiler house in between nought and 18 weeks, it is reasonable to expect that the great majority of them will have been added to the laying flock by January.
§ Mr. Nugent
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that explanation, but I am sure he will appreciate that birds in the broiler house will be killed in a few weeks.
§ Sir R. Acland
There are 70,000 birds there, of which 35,000 are on their way to death and the other 35,000 are on their way to becoming laying pullets.
§ Mr. Nugent
They will be the laying pullets to increase the laying stock, but they will not be going into the breeding flock. Five thousand is the flock which is to produce the birds for the future and the question is: how can 5,000 breeders produce 90,000 birds during the year? The answer is that, in normal practice, it cannot be done.
The second question I should like to ask is: How are the 20 million eggs per annum to be produced? If we allow that a bird in good production will give us 12 dozen eggs a year, we shall need something like 140,000 birds to produce these eggs. That is over 50 per cent. more than the estimated population figures which we are given here. Furthermore, the production with which I am crediting these birds is extremely high for tropical production. It seems to me, therefore, that unless a good deal of explanation has been omitted from this Report the probable egg production next year will be substantially below the figures suggested.
I turn now to the question of table chickens. We are told that we are to get a million pounds of table chicken in the year. That is, 350,000 table chickens-something like 1,000 a day and 7,000 a week. To achieve this production on the basis which the hon. Member for Gravesend explained, we should require something like 20,000 hatching eggs a week—that is, to provide the pullets and the cockrels to attain this output. That would require at least 10,000 breeders if there is to be continuous production at those levels throughout the year, but there is no indication that that figure is intended. Perhaps it is, but if it is then it should be stated in the Report. This Report goes to everyone; it should carry confidence, should be understandable and should seem to be a practical proposition.
A more important question is how we are to feed these birds. We are told that 10,000 acres of bush have been cleared and will shortly be cropped. I know that last year's crop was a failure—a yield of only 100 pounds to the acre. That was partially due to the fact that those responsible were too hasty in pushing on, 2313 although to some extent that is creditable; they planted late and then had a dry season. Let us assume that they can normally get the full crop which they estimate, which, I understand, to be something in the order of about 1,000 pounds an acre, which I believe is possible. I also assume that, normally, there would be a crop rotation; part of the land will be under crop and part will be put back to grass leys so that there may be some system of rotation which will maintain fertility and humus of the soil. It will be quite impossible to farm there or anywhere else without such rotation.
As a consequence, not more than about half of the land will normally be under crop. If we have the normal yield, such as that which has been estimated, we shall get something like 2,500 tons a year. Let us consider what we have to feed on that. To obtain the egg production of 20 million eggs a year we have to feed 140,000 laying birds and 10,000 breeders—150,000 birds altogether. That will require something like 7,500 tons of food a year. In addition, we have to provide food for the table chickens—about 350,000 birds a year. Allowing them one-tenth of a hundredweight each, which is a very narrow margin but the least upon which we could succeed, we shall need another 1,750 tons. That is a total of 9,250 tons. In addition, it is intended to keep other kinds of livestock and to develop pig breeding, which is a very desirable thing. Thus we are committed to providing food for livestock to an amount something like four times the normal average production we can expect on the cleared land.
There may be a perfectly good explanation of this, but it certainly does not appear in the Report. If I am right in the figures I have given—and they are based on normal farming practice and on such information as I have been able to gather from the normally accepted yields out there—then it is necessary to recast the present basis and perhaps to expand the area cleared in order to grow sufficient crops to feed the head of livestock which the Corporation will be committed to keep if they are to reach their target figures.
I warned the Minister that I intended to go into this question in some detail, for I hoped that he would have an opportunity to collect together the necessary 2314 material to answer me. I should like to know the answer and, of course, many people inside the House and outside it would like to hear that there is a satisfactory answer to the questions I have raised. If there is not an answer, then let us recast the project in such a way that there may be a satisfactory answer; but if there is already an answer, then the Report should have contained it.
I will give way to nobody in my desire to see the success of these schemes for the development of our Colonies as a whole. It is of vital interest both to us in this country and to the world. Much as I am in favour of the principle, I should be failing altogether in my duty if I did not criticise where I thought there were weaknesses. In this connection I feel that the board itself would be greatly strengthened if it included a practical agricultural man. I know that Dr. Fowler, who is the technical adviser, is a very able technical adviser; but it is not the same thing as having a very good practical man on the board. When a large part of the projects are concerned with agricultural and forestry development it does seem plain common sense to try to have one good practical agriculturist on the board, and I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take that point to heart. I am perfectly certain that if this particular item that I have dealt with in some detail had been looked at by a practical farmer he would have seen the weaknesses of this presentation in a minute.
Let me wind up by saying that, while I shall always support these schemes as a whole, where I feel they are right in operation, I shall be critical, and as critical as I can be, of them where I feel they are wrong, because not only are we involved in the intrinsic loss that may occur in any particular scheme, but we are also involved in the possible failure or discredit of that particular scheme, which may discredit or prejudice the whole operations of the Corporation. It is for that reason that I have dealt at some length and in some detail with the problems of practical poultry farming there, and I hope it may be that I have thrown some light on the situation.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary that the Report which we have 2315 in our hands is very informative. It also contains, in my opinion, as one who has been connected with tropical agriculture for many years, very wise sayings; and I only hope that those wise sayings showing knowledge of the tropics, knowledge of the bush, knowledge of the jungle, and the necessity for prudence as well as boldness, will be carried out in practice by the Corporation.
I have not the slightest idea who is to be appointed Chairman of the Corporation, but, in the interests of the Colonies, and in the interests of ourselves and of everybody, I hope he will be a person who has got not only the knowledge but the character to stand firm and to implement these schemes in a practical and sound business way. The task of pioneers—and this Corporation is one of pioneers—is always difficult. The most unforeseen things occur in dealing with tropical agriculture, especially in countries like those referred to in the Report which have not been properly opened yet. It will need absolutely first class ability and first class character to make a success of this Corporation.
It has been said in the Debate that some of the schemes are risky. I have read the Report carefully, and I am perfectly certain that some of the schemes are risky. In my opinion, we have to take risks—well calculated risks, well thought out risks; but we have to take risks, because the position in the Colonies is appalling to anybody who understands the population problems in those territories and the needs of those territories. If we do not, for instance, provide more food for many parts of the world, there will be tragedy. Many territories are threatened already with famine. Take Kenya for example, or Barbados, which has been mentioned in the Report. The population there, having no industrial development worth speaking about, is more than 1,000 per square mile—an appalling thing to contemplate. How those people carry on I do not know. It is necessary to have great agricultural development if we are to feed those Colonial populations to enable them even to live, let alone to improve their standard of life, which also is necessary.
To develop the Colonies—even to begin to develop them properly—requires enormous capital, and, of course, the wise 2316 expenditure of that capital. It needs public investment and private investment. When I was overseas many years ago myself, although I was in countries which had very valuable products such as tea, rubber, and coffee, I always felt that the private capital, invested by Europeans, alone would not suffice. I know that many political difficulties arose over Europeans going into those countries with their capital and taking dividends out.
From my point of view a lot of the talk was nonsense, because the people who were putting capital into those countries were conferring the greatest possible benefit on those countries and had a perfect right to take dividends out of them. However, there were irresponsible agitators willing to make trouble over anything. I always felt, though, that private investment of capital was incomplete, and one of my ideas, many years ago, was that there must be socialistic state investment as well, to provide enormous sums of capital, such as we are now providing inter alia, to get over the political difficulties which arose, because there was less antipathy to public investment, than there has been to private investment, rightly or wrongly.
This Report deals with the investment problem, but it raises some fundamental issues. It lays down what anybody knows who has lived in such territories, that there must be stable and efficient Government. Without that, no industry, whether public or private, can function properly. Contracts cannot be observed if the judiciary is corrupt, and if people can be bribed to give favours here or there; and if transport—generally State transport—breaks down economic life collapses. I impress on my very good Friend the Colonial Secretary the need that at all costs efficient government must be maintained in all these territories. I know the difficulties—the difficulties of staff, and the political difficulties, and all the rest of them, but if there is no efficient, honest government preserved in these territories these schemes will all be a waste of money in the long run.
The next thing I will deal with is another the Report refers to. I do not want to refer in detail to what has happened since the war in some of the countries. Hon. Members will know what I mean when I say that private individuals will not risk capital in some of 2317 these countries until they know whether political changes will not occur, to the detriment of investors. The Corporation goes into the question, and says that in some instances property at first could not be leased to it for more than 33 years, though they finally succeeded in getting longer leases of 99 years.
Even that is not sufficient protection if there is any threat or any danger of confiscation in the long run. These are practical problems which have to be faced. We want, in my opinion, not merely public capital, which is pouring in now, but private capital as well, and private capital will not go in unless there is political security. This problem I leave to my right hon. Friend, but the problem is there, and it has to be faced, if we are to get private investment, as well as public investment, to provide the much needed capital in all these territories.
I notice, in reading the Report, that there is a great deal of co-operation with local Governments. I sometimes read propaganda in this country which makes out that the Governments of the Colonies are all composed of Europeans with bad livers and no brains, and that they spend their time going on picnics, and so on. All that is tomfoolery. The people who give their lives to the Colonies, especially in the Colonial Administrative Service, have forgotten more about the Colonies than the people down in Bloomsbury will ever learn.
I am glad there is this co-operation, because officers in those territories, especially technical officers and administrative officers, can prevent the Corporation from making elementary mistakes. People go out there at first with British ideas in their heads, only to find that they are told by local officials with experience of those countries that other methods are preferable. In this way the Corporation can be prevented from making grievous mistakes. I am glad to see that that co-operation eists.
I am glad to read in the Report that there is no rigid system in dealing with the problems the Corporation is tackling. In some places, for instance, they are going into partnership with private enterprise. That is an excellent thing, because the people in private enterprise on the spot have learned a lot. They have also probably made a lot of mistakes, because 2318 it is not only Governments that make mistakes. By combining their capital like that very good results can often be achieved.
My right hon. Friend referred to the Niger village settlements. In theory that is excellent, not merely economically but politically. If that scheme can be carried out, as he said, it may be the harbinger of similar schemes elsewhere. I do not know where the Corporation got the idea from. I suspect they got it from the Sudan Plantations Scheme. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite, like myself, are well aware of the Sudan Plantations Scheme and what a wonderful thing it was. That was co-operation between the State, a big company and the cultivators, and it produced enormous wealth. Similar schemes are being practised in the case of this scheme in the Niger village settlements. I hope it will be a success. In my opinion, from what I know of the country, it would not be a success if it were left to the villagers themselves; but the combination of the Government and the villagers in the scheme, sharing all the crops and the proceeds will, I hope, make the scheme a tremendous success.
I have spoken several times in this House about the population problem in the Colonies. It is terrifying. These people are doubling their population, sometimes in 25 years, sometimes in 30 years, and sometimes in 40 years. It is an appalling problem and the resultant responsibility is on our hands. I am glad to see that in Gambia there is a very big scheme, which I hope will be a success. As far as I know, there is plenty of rainfall there to grow rice, as is proposed in this prolific area which is a deficiency area in the matter of food—a terrible state of affairs after all these years. In this scheme it is now proposed to produce 14,000 tons of rice a year, which means it would no longer be a deficiency area, and it might enable the area to export rice to other needy areas. I shall not go into the details of that scheme, because before I could do so, I should, like the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent), have to go and examine the details and spend months on the spot. I am only trying to deal with some of the bigger general aspects.
From what I have heard of the cocoa industry in Nigeria and the Gold Coast, things are in a very bad way. The 2319 swollen shoot disease has not been properly tackled. There is resistance—passive resistance at least—from the cultivators to cutting out of the trees. The disease is very infectious, and the upshot eventually will be that the huge cocoa industry of the Gold Coast and Nigeria will be reduced greatly in extent. Years ago I raised in the House the question of extending the cultivation of cocoa to other territories. I have often been in cocoa plantations; they are very beautiful, with very nice trees; but they are peculiar trees, and one never knows where they will succeed and where they will not. Even when the site is right, the rainfall is right and the temperature is right, when one thinks they should grow, the plantation is not a success. It can only be tried out by pilot schemes, which I am glad to see the Corporation is coming to.
I wish to goodness the groundnut scheme had started with pilot schemes. We are all in the soup over the groundnut scheme. I was on the Committee upstairs which dealt with it; all sides agreed to it. Nevertheless, that does not take the responsibility from those who carried it out. We were all in a hurry to get fats; we thought we could get them in a year. The thing has been a failure, and there it is. We are all in it. I am glad to see that this Colonial Development Corporation is working on different lines.
These pilot schemes are essential in the tropics. Let me give an instance. I have known places with the same altitude, the same rainfall and the same climate, where tea grown in one part of the mountains will have a flavour and tea grown in exactly similar conditions five or six miles away will not. Tropical conditions are very pernickety things to deal with, and we can only find out by experiment. I am glad to see that in certain parts of Malaya, where there is adequate rainfall, and where the climate should be suitable, either on the plains or on the hills, for the growing of cocoa, of which there is a world shortage, and likely to be a bigger world shortage, cocoa is being planted; and also in Honduras.
The Report also deals with the disposing of these foods. I remember going into this question when I was in Seychelles. The seas were teeming with fish, but the question was how to dispose of them. even if refrigerating plant and 2320 the rest were got out there. The fish could be caught very easily, but how to dispose of them was the problem. First of all there were tariffs against it in Kenya; and secondly it was not at all certain even so that they could sell the fish. In India and Ceylon, after great scientific experiments, they found out where the deep sea fish were, got the most modern type of trawlers and caught the fish. The scientists were right; the fish were there many miles out to sea, where the local fishermen could not tackle them but where these trawlers tackled them. Then the company which started found they could not sell the fish.
In this connection, I have in mind the sale of fish and other foods in the United Kingdom. I should like the Minister when replying to tell us what has happened about the sale of poultry and eggs from the Gambia poultry scheme. I know that negotiations were taking place between our Minister of Food and the Corporation about the sale of eggs and poultry in this country. I do not know whether this was gone into before the scheme was launched. Of course, eggs and poultry can be sold to this country—goodness knows, we need them badly—but at what price? I do not know what the policy is, but this poor old country cannot be made the milch cow for ail these schemes. By all means let this country pay a fair price, but I hope the Corporation will be able to produce eggs, poultry, fish and other things at a reasonable price for sale in this country, because we shall be the chief purchaser.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) referred to the fact that in Malaya apparently the most satisfactory oils and fats can be obtained from palm trees. I entirely agree. He and I, and the rest of us, thought that from the groundnut scheme we would get the fats in a year.
§ Mr. Reid
I am sorry if I wronged the hon. Member. At any rate, all parties agreed to the scheme. They thought it would get us the oils and fats which were then terribly short, and we fell down on the job. One can get oils and fats from palm trees, but the palm tree takes five, six or seven years to produce fruit. I should like the Minister to tell me whether it is the fact that the Corporation 2321 considers that it cannot develop well-tried products like coconut palms, or other palms. Is the Corporation debarred from developing these things, and must it confine itself to new and risky endeavours? If that is so, it is a most foolish thing.
It was suggested that the Corporation should not go in for these well-tried things, but there is room for all; there is plenty of room for private enterprise as well as the Corporation. Malaya has a splendid rainfall; it has a very good soil, and I know that coconut plantations have been grown there for some time. It is, however, on a small scale. Why does the Corporation not tackle a country like Malaya, which has a good Government, and which is likely to have a good Government, in spite of the Communists, for many years to come, and which has labour available. Why not have a coconut scheme in Malaya?
I do not think this Report mentions one coconut scheme. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire, who has a love for palms, as I have, knows well enough that of all the palms the coconut palm is the prince. It provides for the needs of the people of that country. It is said to have a 100 uses, and besides producing magnificent food and copra it produces the best oil for industry and food. I see that the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) nods his head. He understands and knows that coconut products will be one of the best things for this country and the Colonies.
I am surprised that there is nothing in this Report about a big coconut development plan. Elementary knowledge—and this Corporation has more than elementary knowledge—shows, as far as one can see, that coconut produce for the next 50 or 100 years—copra, margarine, soap or whatever it is—will have a very good market. I should like to see some scheme for the development of this grand, beautiful old tree which has been the salvation of hundreds of millions of people in South-East Asia and everywhere else.
I do not want to delay the House much longer, but I would like to stress one point. It is not often recognised in the Colonies, especially by agitators, who do not want to tell the truth, how generous this country has been to the Colonies since the war. Some Colonies suffered very much from the war and were not able to restore their property. We have 2322 spent millions in Malta and Malaya and in other countries restoring the ravages of the war. I think I am right in saying that we have given in all since the war about £350 million to our Dependencies. Now we are risking capital again, helping the Colonies. I would suggest to my Colonial friends overseas and at home that perhaps their best friend is not the local Red who puts his screed into the local newspaper, but the British Government and the British taxpayer.
I think it was the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) who said that we must get the people to take a hand in this business. I entirely agree. The schemes must not be turned into political schemes. Nobody should be appointed to carry them out unless qualified by character and training. But we want to associate the people of the countries with them, because in the long run it is only the people of those countries who can save themselves. We cannot do it. We have to get some of these people out of the rut into which they have sunk. I must remind the House that Colonial peoples now aspire to a higher standard of living. I hope they will support the Colonial Development Corporation and will take a hand in developing their own countries.
This kind of Colonial development scheme is new in the history of Colonial development and administration. I hope sincerely that the present schemes will succeed because, big as they may seem to us, the expenditure of £50 million is negligible compared with the needs of the Colonies and it is nothing to what it may grow to if the schemes turn out to be a success. Some hon. Members have talked about the balance sheet test. I accept that. Some of these schemes will fail and some will succeed. If they turn out something like the groundnut scheme, or even not so badly they will continually run at a loss and the whole ambitious plan will fall down.
We have to make these schemes successful financially and if we do so we shall also make them a success economically and socially. We may be building much bigger than we think, or can foresee. If we can make a success of this combined system of public investment and private investment we may revolutionise the lives of the people of the Colonies and give a final answer to 2323 those who are trying to mislead primitive people into Communism.
We shall show them that we can do better than the Communists, who promise them the moon and when they get hold of them turn them all into political serfs. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the people he employs will make a success of these plans. I look forward to the years to come, when the Colonial Development Scheme will be one of the glories of British administration.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Sudbury and Woodbridge)
The House always listens with great pleasure to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), who has great experience in Colonial affairs. He always talks much good commonsense and underlines it with practical knowledge and experience. The Debate has shown, so far, how wise my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) was in saying that when we were discussing this matter we were discussing things which were very strange.
A lot of interesting information about the various activities sponsored by the Corporation has come out in the course of the Debate as a result of the experience of people in these territories since the Report was issued. I would like to add my plea to that of my hon. Friend that, on future occasions, we should be allowed to discuss the Report sooner than has been possible on the present occasion, because about nine months have elapsed since the end of the period covered by the Report. I am interested in some of the generalisations in the Report. We are dealing with some of the practical difficulties of a Government-sponsored organisation when it is starting up. It is one of the new features in Colonial history.
I have felt, and I believe other hon. Members have felt also, that finance will be one of our great problems in developing the Colonial Territories. This point was brought out very forcibly in the Blue Book issued in May this year, entitled "Colonial Territories, 1949." It stated:As existing Government reserves are now more or less committed, the time has almost come when finance may be regarded as the major limiting factor in Colonial development.I think the Secretary of State endorsed that view in the speech he made in the 2324 Colonial Debate in July. Perhaps I go further than some hon. Members in thus matter. I agreed with the hon. Member for Swindon when he said that we want a joint partnership of public and private capital to develop these resources. I would go further and say that I am not certain that the post-war resources of this country are sufficient to carry the development that is necessary in the Colonial Empire without outside assistance.
My own feeling is that our investments, both public and private, at home and within the Empire, must be augmented by public and private investments from the United States. I was interested to note that the Report dealt in considerable detail with some of the problems of attracting American investments to the Colonies. Public opinion in the United States has been well prepared for such an operation and there has been set up all the machinery of an international bank. So far as the goodwill of the Government is concerned, that has been created to assist the flow of American money into the Commonwealth. The Report brings out the amazing fact very clearly that from 1946 to 1948 the United States overseas investments amounted to 1,650 million dollars and that only 2 per cent. of that sum found its way into the British Colonies.
I should also like to point out that during the period under review in the Report no assistance at all has been received from the International Bank. It is true that the Bank agreed to make a contribution of some 5 million dollars after very extensive negotiations between the Bank and the Colonial Development Corporation but apparently the strings attached to the loan were so onerous that the Corporation felt that it was impossible to accept.
I cannot agree with some of the conclusions on page 48 of the Report regarding the suggestions put forward by the Corporation as to its most likely methods of attracting American capital. I do not believe that the Corporation should decide, as it has decided in the Report, that it is an unsuitable medium for obtaining loans from the International Bank. I do not believe at the moment that their suggestion that the Corporation is likely to attract private risk capital from the United States is a right conclusion either. I am 2325 afraid that although the Colonial Development Corporation have not fallen into the many gross errors of its twin sister, the Overseas Food Corporation, American private enterprise would far rather work with private enterprise in the Colonial Territories than with a State-sponsored corporation.
I feel that there is an argument for saying that the Colonial Development Corporation is engaging in too many fancy projects. Much of its work is 100 per cent. to be commended. The schemes of electrification in Malaya and Dominica and the provision of abattoirs and cold storage facilities are entirely admirable, but I am concerned that there should be no danger of the Corporation turning its face towards the more spectacular and perhaps more speculative forms of enterprise and turning its back on trying to provide some of the essential services which these areas so urgently need, such as water conservation schemes, electric power schemes and roads, about which the Corporation is already doing something in so many areas. In working along the lines of providing real social services at the same time as services on a commercial basis the Corporation will be doing far more good than by running hotels or shops. I hope we shall receive some assurance on this point from the Minister of State.
Reference has been made to the future of Colonial development depending largely on two main factors, first, economic security and, second, political security. In the Report there are some very trenchant remarks about the dangers of high taxation. I should be out of order if I recommended the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take note of them in relation to this country. I hope the Minister of State will tell us what active steps he has taken to bring to the notice of the Colonial Governments concerned at least two of the specific proposals mentioned in the Report.
I would refer, first, to the proposal that allowances for development expenses and land clearance costs should be allowed to be set against taxable profits. The second is that Colonial Governments should extend to eight years the five-year period for which permission is given to carry forward trading losses. I am sure that all sensible people will agree that it is a short-sighted policy to impose these 2326 very heavy liabilities on new concerns which are trying to consolidate their position after having suffered inevitable initial trading losses.
On the subject of economic security, I support what has already been said about the preservation and maintenance of our tariff structure within the Empire. I hope that nothing rash will be done at Torquay. The most precious thing we have is this preference system, and any Government which allows it to be damaged in any way is allowing the whole economic structure of the Empire to be needlessly and wrongfully whittled away. As to political security, how important that is, and how easy it is for any of us who have been to these territories to understand. How much more difficult it is for the people at home to realise the significance of what we say here in connection with Colonial matters.
Immense stress is laid upon remarks which may have been made in all good faith, but which may not have been properly considered. Some of the incidents which have occurred in the last few years could have been avoided if leading personages in this country had thought twice before they made the remarks they did about the Colonial Empire. I regret to call the attention of the House to the last example of the damage done to political security by what I call loose talking in high places. No less a gentleman than the Foreign Secretary, for whom I have the utmost admiration, has created considerable consternation and alarm in certain territories in Africa by remarks he made, probably in all good faith, to the Labour Conference at Margate. No doubt it was in a jolly mood that he said:You have got something to crow about in what you are doing in backward areas.The right hon. Gentleman added that there was reform going on which was leading countries not to exploitation but to self-government, leading them on the road along which India had gone, leading them on the road to freedom. That may sound all very jolly at the Labour Conference—
§ Mr. Hare
What is wrong is this: there is no comparison between India and certain of these territories in Africa. We did 2327 not send people into India to occupy and settle it. We always realised that we were providing an administration which, one day, would go out. Places like Kenya or Southern Rhodesia, where people have gone and made their lives and whose children can never return to this country, should be considered in somewhat different terms from those of India.
All I can say is that when Sir Godfrey Huggins, for whom I am sure hon. Members of this House have the highest regard as one of our leading modern statesmen, heard of those remarks, he said, in a speech at Nairobi on 13th October:We are intensely interested in what is happening in other parts of Africa. We cannot help it, because so many loose statements are made by people who really ought to know better. I was horrified to read the statement alleged to have been made by the Foreign Secretary in England.I am not making an attack on the Foreign Secretary, because I am sure he did not mean to do the harm he has done. I believe that all hon. Members of this House are agreed that the development of these Colonial Territories can only come about by a true partnership of the black, yellow and white peoples. I am certain that it is our duty to give more responsibility to the backward races, and we shall continue to give more responsibility as they show themselves more capable of receiving that responsibility.
It is, however, the white people who are carrying the fruits of civilisation to the territories I have mentioned. On them we have to rely for many of our responsibilities in the colonial areas. On them we have to rely for leadership, initiative, skill and perseverance if the Empire is to fulfil its great destiny. I say without hesitation that we must grant them that security which, by their own endeavours, they have earned without question or doubt.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
There is no doubt that a Debate of this kind was greatly needed and I think one can say that, generally, it has been a success. For the first time we have discussed what this new and highly important body is doing and I hope we shall have many other opportunities, because it deserves close and constant attention.
2328 When the Colonial Development Corporation was brought into being, 2½ years ago, there was general acceptance of the fact that something of the kind was needed. Anybody who has visited any part of the Colonial Empire knows that an enormous amount of development has been required for many years. Such a person has seen opportunities for development in nearly every Colony. It has also been apparent, in post-war conditions, and more especially when Socialist philosophy is spreading into the Colonies from this country, that the enterprise of the individual or the private corporation has been faced with increasing difficulties.
Therefore, if the Colonies were to be developed as everybody thought they should be, there was a place for some new body of this kind, whose purpose was to add the weight of Government authority and Government financial guarantees to that of private persons in providing the necessary capital, drive and enterprise. So, when this new Corporation was born it was received with a general measure of agreement throughout the country. But there was some dubiety also in the minds of hon. Members at that time. We had had experience of the Food Corporation and there is no doubt that the unhappy operations of that body had a rather depressing effect upon those who supported this new Corporation. We cannot examine the work of this Corporation without bearing constantly in mind what has happened to the other, because they are both dealing with the same kind of territory and, in a sense, with similar problems.
I have had some contacts with the Colonial Development Corporation. I have met the Chairman, whom I knew in the old days as a colleague in this House. I have met most of the leading executives and have done some business with them; and, I must say that I have formed a high opinion of these men. I think they are a capable lot. They are certainly zealous and exceedingly keen, and Lord Trefgarne has approached his problem with a caution and thoroughness that is to be generally admired. I am sorry he has gone. I do not know why, but he has gone. I wish them good luck. What they have done so far has on the whole been well done. There has been examination. probing and inquiry before 2329 they undertook new problems and all that is sound, commercial sense.
But I want to put some points for serious consideration by the right hon. Gentleman. Bearing in mind the experience we have had with the Overseas Food Corporation, I ask the Colonial Secretary, who is ultimately responsible for this body, to take great care that it does not overstretch itself. I was in Kongwa 18 months ago, and when I came back to the House and spoke in the Debate in March, 1949, I pleaded with the then Minister of Food to pause in his headlong drive. My argument was that a vast machine had been hurriedly created and operated under extreme pressure, and it was absolutely vital to pause for a while to consider what had been achieved and the mistakes that had been made before a further advance was made. I was told by the then Minister of Food that such a pause would be the "height of folly."
I am going to put the same point to the Colonial Secretary. I invite him to consider whether, sooner or later, he ought not to persuade this great new Corporation to pause. In a remarkably short time it has already undertaken an exceptionally large number of commitments. Let us consider them. I am looking at the Report, but since the Report additional schemes have been undertaken. No fewer than 28 undertakings are already in operation; another 52 are well on the way, and another 66 are being considered. That makes 146 projects, involving capital which I estimate at something of the order of £100 million.
What are those projects? It is not as if it were only one project on which a single body of expert advice could be given. Here are projects of an infinite variety—engineering, farming, forestry, factories, fisheries, minerals, hotels, transport, and so on. There is no other firm in the world undertaking so many diverse colonial activities, established in so many different parts of the world. The Corporation is not operating in one section, but in all parts of the world—in South America, Africa, the Caribbean, Malaya, Gibraltar, and so on. I can speak modestly with a little experience on matters of this kind. I was associated, a considerable number of years ago, with Unilever. That firm has world-wide connections 2330 and business interests, and I think it can be said that it operates its great interests with success. Why is that? It is because it has got a body of experienced men sitting in London and elsewhere running the concern. It has got a tradition behind it. It has built up a skilled staff over years, indeed over generations. Almost all the men have grown up with the business.
Here, in the Colonial Development Corporation, is something much bigger, and if it is allowed to go on expanding at the present rate it will dwarf any other project in the world. What of the staff? I have said already that such of them as I have met are very capable men but here is a group of men drawn from all walks of life within only the last two and a half years. There is no unity of effort among those men now; there cannot be in that time; no background of experience, or body of traditional skill and competence.
We are asking this Corporation to do what is almost impossible, to manage adequately and competently varied schemes of this magnitude throughout the world. We must see, as the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) said with so much wisdom, that we do not slide into another groundnut fiasco. When, 18 months ago, I pleaded for a pause in that project I said that our business reputation was at stake; and, because there was no pause, our business reputation has-been sullied. I do not believe that this new Corporation, in its youth, vigour and enthusiasm should begin to undertake more than it ought, for its own sake and for the sake of this country's repute. I therefore suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he ought seriously to consider putting a ceiling upon their work, either in the number of projects or the capital employed for a period of time.
Certainly, if I had the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman I would be inclined to say to the Corporation, "You have done very well so far. Do not undertake any more large projects for another year or 18 months." It is not just a question of starting things. All the schemes have started with success and with a good deal of commercial wisdom. It is not just starting a project that matters. These projects have to be pursued throughout the years and made a success and skilled men have to be fitted 2331 into them. As the hon. Member for Swindon said, they have to pay and, although one may talk, as the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) did, about the social effects of the schemes, in the end they have to pay on a plain, frank, balance sheet basis. That is what the Minister said it had to do when it was introduced and that is ultimately the only test.
I speak as a friend of the Corporation, an admirer of the Corporation and as one who is doing business with the Corporation, but I beg the House and the Minister to apply normal commercial caution and to say, "We have done very well so far. Pause for a period to get yourselves entrenched and your foundations right before you advance to further stages."
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
I hope the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), will forgive me if I do not follow his interesting theme but go back to the beginning of the Debate and base my comments on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. He said that the success of these organisations and schemes would depend on two things, the capacity of the organisation at headquarters and in the Colonies and, secondly, the quality of the personnel in the Colonies themselves. I want to examine that, but before I begin to be a little discordant, may I, first, say of the Report that I think it is most informative and gives most impressive figures. There is a sum total of achievement there which is most praiseworthy. I believe the C.D.C. is a great and imaginative project. I have great faith in it; they have done much good work and will do far greater work, I believe.
If I offer some comments on the work done so far I hope these will not be unduly negative. I wish to make two points. I should first like to speak about the constitution of the Board of Directors. This Corporation is a creation of the Labour Government. The Overseas Resources Development Act was made law in February, 1948. I should like to quote Section 2 of that Act, which empowers the Secretary of State for the Colonies to appoint the directors of the 2332 Colonial Development Corporation—a minimum of four and a maximum of 10 directors. When these were announced, the "New Statesman" of 5th September, 1949, stated thata Labour Government had gone out of its way to give control of these two public corporations to men who do not believe in public ownership, and the result was neither democracy nor Socialism.I am not saying that I agree with that but I wish to examine it in the light of the Report and see where we are led. Of those appointed, Lord Milverton has perhaps fallen by the wayside. Even Lord Trefgarne has on many occasions publicly and privately lost no chance of stating that the Corporation would undertake no project unless it had failed to get private enterprise to do it. In fact the Corporation have often taken over, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) said earlier in the Debate, going concerns in places like Swaziland and Nigeria.
No one expects the Board to consist entirely of supporters of the Government. I should be crazy if I expected that or even said so, but I think it is fair to expect an even balance between the two schools of political economy, Socialism and capitalism. Again, when I look at the people on the Board, I look for, as the Act laid down, people of experience in Colonial affairs. Here I quote as my authority the Act, Section 2 of which requires the Secretary of State, in appointing directors of the Corporation, to choose persons:appearing to him to be qualified as having had experience of, and having shown capacity in, matters relating to primary production, industry or trade, finance, science, administration, organisation of workers or welfare, and"—here is the operative provision—in making such appointments the Secretary of State shall have particular regard to the need for securing that adequate experience of these matters obtained in colonial territories is at the disposal of the Corporation.The preponderance of talent or experience available at the moment is in the field of finance. I could quote other speakers this evening in support of the view that we have not got sufficient people who are experienced in the field of tropical agriculture, which is paramount, and which qualification is, in the statute, given first place among the qualifications desired.
2333 Without talking about any mistakes made in the Gambia over the hen farm—referred to by the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent)—in the absence of people who are qualified and experienced in tropical agriculture, I pass on to another defect in the working of the Corporation, the absence of colonial representation. I think it very strange that we constantly speak of the need for partnership with the colonial peoples. We say that it is essential for our colonial policy, that it is paramount to have these colonial peoples working with us in the economic development of our colonies. Yet I think I am correct in saying that no single colonial voice is heard to formulate the policy in these matters of colonial development.
Section 7, for example, requires the Corporation to set up a Committee in Colonial Territories which shall include persons with:knowledge of the circumstances and requirements of the inhabitants of the territory obtained by their being or having been themselves inhabitants thereof or residents therein.There has never been a committee appointed in two-and-a-half years. I hope I am safe in saying that. I think we have five regional corporations each with a local board and these are mainly composed of officials. That is almost scandalous, if we believe in functional democracy and talk at home about joint production committees, and also in this context, of pulling in the led alongside leaders. I think it is vital that we do get in these people and ascertain their wishes in this matter.
The third criticism I have to make—and I hope I do not appear too gloomy, but it is all given in good part—is that there is a tendency for too much bureaucracy in the working of the Corporation. There was an editorial in the "Economist" of 5th November last year on this matter. I believe that the officers have a tendency to be too secretive and aloof in their dealings with the people on the spot in the Colonies. I am informed by responsible people that officers of the Corporation only too often fly in and out, perhaps too silently, and I would refer to a letter in "The Times" of 2nd January of this year on that point, by the Bishop of Honduras who refers to this flying in and out of officials of the Corporation. It is a bad thing if we give 2334 the impression not merely to the coloured peoples but also to the white people, who have been out there a long time both working and investing their capital, that they have not sufficient voice in shaping the policy and the actual carrying out of these schemes.
The Corporation has tended to be too closely attached to big business, almost becoming akin perhaps to a mild form of that awful thing, State capitalism. It is most interesting to compare this distant, or almost distant, isolation with the very close contacts of the Overseas Food Corporation, in Queensland, which incidentally is a body much maligned by hon. Members opposite. I should like to see much more local integration in these matters. This is not mere generalisation. I shall quote four definite areas where there has been, I believe, some remissness in this matter. The House of Assembly at Barbados has deplored the lack of co-operation with the local peoples. At Dominica, and we have heard about Dominica earlier today, there has been a public meeting regretting the scheme for a hydro electric station. British Guiana has criticised the methods of the Corporation. And with regard to British Honduras, there has not been much implementation there.
If there is this dissatisfaction we, as honest democrats should voice it. We should be able to criticise ourselves and if we have made mistakes let us not make them twice. That is all I plead for.
§ Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)
The hon. Member mentioned British Honduras. What is his allegation about British Honduras?
§ Mr. Johnson
The allegation there is of a lack of co-operation, and also tardiness in the pace at which they are getting on with schemes in that territory following the Evans Report.
Lastly, on the choice of personnel, the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford, speaking earlier in the Debate on the selection of people made by this side of the House, used the terms "wide advertisement and meticulous selection." I should like to deal with this question of the selection of personnel for the Colonies. Personally, I think there are far too many high-ranking Army officers appointed to these posts. They are, perhaps, well versed in the technique of destruction, but have not 2335 sufficient knowledge of methods of production, out there on the spot, and, all too often, they have an air of superiority which conceals their deficiencies.
I am going to quote a case in British Honduras, since an hon. Member opposite seems to know quite a lot about it. I would quote the choice of the chief of the agricultural set-up, who was a Canadian accountant, and I should like to know what his qualifications were, or are even now, in the matter of tropical agriculture in Honduras, which is very near the equator and is faced with all the difficulties which have been mentioned earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) and others. I do not wish to labour this unduly, but I think it necessary to draw attention to these minor excrescences on a body which is good, and of which the facial features are good, though there are. it is true, one or two pimples on the skin.
In conclusion, I want to say with all the sincerity that I can command that, if we wish as Anglo-Saxons to gain the confidence of the black people in the Niger valley and other places, and help them in their difficulties in these low latitudes and hot climates, we have to convince them that we are there for their good. We must not import into these backward territories the methods of big business, of which we have seen so much in these islands for the past century and a half. We have to enlist the whole hearted cooperation of these people and in these matters we, like Caesar's wife, must be completely above suspicion. The 19th-century imperialism of the party opposite has left us an awful legacy, and has left this Government a great lot of work to do in the middle years of this 20th century.
We are assailed today, not merely by these memories of past exploitation by the party opposite, but also by enemies within who have appeared since 1917. To my mind, it is only by constant self-criticism of this kind that we can put our own house in order, achieve a clean and tidy house, attain those standards which are absolutely essential for people like ourselves, and eventually achieve success in this great and wide task of lifting up some 70 million coloured peoples.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Sir Harold Roper (Cornwall, North)
I am afraid I missed the first part of the 2336 speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), but it appeared to me that he was the first speaker to whom I have listened tonight who failed to appreciate fully the importance of efficiency. I was very pleased to find from the speech of the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) that there was such close similarity between his views, based on experience in a foreign land, and my views, also based on experience in a foreign land. Even the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), like the hon. Member for Rugby, was enthusiastic that the natives of the Colonial countries should at least get their full share of the industry and social life of their countries. I say "even the hon. Baronet" because I seemed to detect in his tones some difference of a political nature, shall I say, between his views and mine in some respects. Even he appeared to appreciate the importance of ensuring that in the Colonial Development Corporation we should insist on a high degree of efficiency among the people employed. That efficiency must come before the question of colour.
I wish to add my voice to many others in expressing my wholehearted desire to see the successful working of the Colonial Development Corporation. Anything I say which may appear to be said in criticism, is said merely because I feel deeply that such things should be said, based, as they are, on my vast experience. The point which I particularly wish to cover relates to the chapter in the Report headed "Colonial Economic Background." In the first paragraph of that chapter attention is drawn to the effect on the Corporation's interests of developments in the political and social fields. It explains how willingness to invest private capital in the Colonial Territories is affected by the uncertainty which undoubtedly exists as to the conditions which are likely to develop if and when a change of sovereignty is brought about.
In relation to the possibility of such a change the Report says:Confidence will be impaired if pressure towards this end goes ahead of the growth of a literate electorate.It then goes on to say that what is sauce for the private investor is also sauce for the Colonial Development Corporation. A literate electorate cannot be produced 2337 in a day, and the point I wish to emphasise is that if the Colonial Development Corporation is to be a success, its work must be given time to mature. Unless time is given in the political sphere the electorate must be an extremely narrow one; otherwise it will not be a literate electorate. For that reason it is the greatest disservice to the peoples of our Colonial Territories, to the mass of the people, to give vent to utterances which have the effect of encouraging expectations of rapid progress.
I had intended to make that statement in this Debate months ago, before recent journeys were made to East Africa. We must not encourage expectations of rapid progress, because progress cannot be rapid if the real interests of the people are to be safeguarded. To make such statements merely has an unsettling effect on the peoples of those Territories.
I have long experience of this very kind of problem, both in industry and in politics, in a country which was once a Territory of the Empire. I am aware of the obstacles to be met. I am only too aware of the prejudices which have to be broken down. If a backward people is to be advanced to a state of reasonable efficiency, if a backward State is to take its place with other nations in a competitive world, we must have time. In the industry in which I was employed, after years of constant endeavour—it was 15 or 20 years of real trying to solve this problem—we were in sight of a very large measure of success when the war intervened.
I was interested to hear the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend say that a period of 15 years was considered necessary to train a good engineer. I confirm the importance of that figure. I was very gratified to hear him accept and appreciate that it was necessary to allow that period for the real training of a true engineer.
§ Sir R. Acland
I do not dispute the figure, because I have no experience in the matter on which to dispute it, but I think it must be some other hon. Member on this side who said it.
§ Sir H. Roper
I jotted it down at the time.
During the 15 years in which I have striven to this end, political interference from outside sources has been constantly one of the factors which hampered and hindered the progress of our intention. I fully appreciate that political pressure is inevitable and, no doubt, to an extent most desirable, but, like a boulder dislodged down a precipice, it gathers momentum. Once it starts, a political movement may be difficult to control. I was gratified that the Report showed a real appreciation of this danger of too rapid political progress. Let us be quite clear about this point. Progress is the aim of everyone in this House—progress for the Colony as a whole and for the individual.
The ultimate criterion for a man's advancement in a Colonial territory must be not whether he is black or white but his merit. It must be based on merit, not overlooking the importance of training the individuals of the country concerned so that they may rise to positions of such merit. I am speaking as one who has served in a company which so believed in this that 25 years ago we went so far as to establish a college of engineering in Rangoon in order to train people there to attain that degree of efficiency which would enable them to occupy the senior technical posts in our company.
Progress must be based on merit. If we keep that ideal fairly and squarely in front of us, on whichever side of the House we may sit, we shall not go far wrong. There are great difficulties ahead, but if we build upon a foundation of merit we may hope the more easily to resolve those difficulties to the ultimate benefit both of the colonial peoples themselves and of ourselves.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) left his place before some of the points he made could be answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper). I sympathise to a certain extent with the hon. Member for Rugby who was wallowing in that self-inflicted miasma which has overcome the Socialist Party with all their confusion over State capitalism, public ownership, and so on. However, I do not think that this is the occasion when we should try to sort out their troubles for them.
2339 On the personalities that the hon. Gentleman introduced into the discussion, I would argue that it might possibly be difficult for him to understand, for example, the previous Secretary of State for the Colonies—whose absence we all regret—who has recently become a director of a private enterprise company which, not inappropriately in view of his recent association with his Front Bench, manufactures synthetic detergents. These things must be very difficult for many hon. Members opposite to understand. I would not follow the hon. Member in the other points he raised except to say that remarks about exploitation in the past, coming from back bench Members like himself, and from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, at Margate, can only be taken as a direct personal insult by everybody who has served in these territories overseas. Those who have been in Government service overseas during the last 100 years or so have themselves been in charge of execution of policy, and I can assure hon. Members opposite, who have not had the chance, like the hon. Baronet, the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), of going out to see for themselves, that exploitation has not occurred as they appear to think it has.
§ Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) had compelling reasons to leave his seat. He had been sitting here most of the day, and we understand his reasons for leaving his seat. I would like to put that on record.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
The hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison) knows more about his hon. Friend's personal problems than I do.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I shall not enter into that here.
I turn to the immediate problems before the House. I agree with what was said by two of my hon. Friends about the lack of an overall policy, because that is where the Government are still to blame. My hon. Friend the Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) said there has been no real practical definition of Mr. Truman's Point 2340 Four. I think that the application of Point Four in practice to territories overseas and the part to be played in it by the British are two of the points the Government must make clear before those responsible for the direction of the Colonial Development Corporation can go ahead and settle some of the problems which face them.
This Report is very interesting but, as has been said by many of my hon. Friends, as time goes on we shall need more details of the individual projects, because if individual projects are to lose a lot of money it may mean that the Corporation as a whole will get a bad reputation. It is only a detailed investigation of these projects, such as the instance taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent), which will enable the House to follow carefully the progress of the Colonial Development Corporation. I believe the time has come when the Government should define more clearly than has been done in the past three or four years the scope of private enterprise in conjunction with Government development and also the scope of the colonial development and welfare schemes as opposed to the Colonial Development Corporation.
On all sides of the House we have always realised that there is what I might call a "political content" in the economic need to develop these territories overseas. If that is a big factor in the loss at which an individual project may be run, then it should be considered for operation under C.D. and W. schemes rather than under the Colonial Development Corporation. I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to deal with it now, but as time goes on I think there should be clearer definition of the scope of the Colonial Development Corporation in relation to colonial development and welfare schemes, because I believe there is always this important political factor in individual projects. If the Colonial Development Corporation is to be saddled with carrying fairly substantial losses because of this factor, then it must be cleared of losses for which it was not designed.
I feel, too, that there is need for a closer definition of the overall strategic concept—about which we used to speak in other respects—of the function of the Colonial Development Corporation. The 2341 projects which are before the House this evening are specific production projects and, as the Corporation has itself pointed out in the extremely interesting pages from page 50 onwards, we have to consider the special factors affecting costs, such as high colonial taxation.
In the past such taxation has always been looked upon as hostile to private enterprise only but now those of us who, like myself, are involved in private enterprise development in these territories overseas, feel that we have an ally and that we are not the only people who are the targets of what we think is over-high taxation. We believe there is a lack of uniformity in this taxation and, as I believe I told the right hon. Gentleman on a previous occasion in the House, I believe the time has come when an impartial consideration of colonial taxation should be made. The incidence on different territories is such as to produce conditions which are not advantageous to their proper development.
On the question of land tenure, the Colonial Development Corporation's Report supports what has been said on many occasions in the House during the last five years about the discouraging effect of over-short leases—not only the discouraging effect on capital but the encouragement to cream the soil and of other acts of bad husbandry. This Report also points out the high cost of certain factors such as roads and railways. It is only by the proper provision of adequate and cheap transport that we can extract from these territories the products of the various projects mentioned in the Report. Above all, I feel that the marketing policy is obscure, as the Report points out.
There are other factors which I cannot bring up at this moment, but under the American Loan, and under the Charter of the I.T.O., we have undertaken not to discriminate on prices. What is to happen in due course if, in many of these projects, it is found that, because of these high cost factors, remunerative prices are well above world ruling prices? It will make it very difficult for these individual projects, perhaps, to be maintained at all. As has been pointed out on this side of the House, the case of the colonial producers has still to be defined by the Government. I am delighted that we on this side of the House have already laid down that the home producer should come first, 2342 the colonial and Imperial producer second, and the foreign producer third.
I think myself that that is a great advance. If only the Government would make it equally clear, by supporting the maintenance, and an increase, where necessary, of Imperial Preference, I think it would be an enormous step forward, inducing confidence in the territories overseas where the projects are going forward.
I believe it is important that, fairly soon, there should be market research into the absorbtive capacities of markets in this country and elsewhere for the output of these projects which have been already initiated. Therefore, I ask the Colonial Secretary if he will accept the views expressed by the Corporation—which, so far, he has not accepted when they have been put forward by private enterprise—and, as I have already suggested, first of all appoint a committee to examine this question of overall taxation.
I believe, too, that the standard of good husbandry is vitally important, and that if we are to develop many of these backward areas properly, keep the soil from being eroded, and keep it clean, it will be necessary to see that good husbandry is enforced; and that can only be done, I believe, by proper long-term leases. Again, as my hon. Friends have pointed out—though I believe this is on the border-line between development and welfare—the welfare conditions should be considered, and attention paid to health and diet. Some of these new discoveries in the United States—B 12 in feeding-stuffs for animals is one—I believe may be effective in the future if properly developed, but attention must be paid to proper diet and health in agricultural welfare, to enable people to do a proper job of work, which, so far. many of them are not able to do.
I believe, also, that proper communications are of vital importance. It may be possible at this stage to introduce toll roads. I think myself that probably that would be a backward step. but still, in the United States it has been found useful to charge tolls on certain bridges and roads, and people are prepared to pay them. So it may be well to consider the introduction of these as one of the things to be undertaken by the Development Corporation.
2343 But I believe that, above all, the question of market surveys is the most important constructive job that can be done in the next few months or years by the Government in co-operation, and not in conflict, with private enterprise, and including the Colonial Development Corporation. There is, for example, the question of the tung oil produced in Northern Nyasaland. I have an interest in producing tung oil elsewhere. I believe it is very questionable whether it is going to be possible to get a proper return on the £1,500,000 that has been expended in Northern Nyasaland. There should be market research to see whether there can be remunerative absorption of this crop when it is produced four or five years hence.
There is, again, the instance of oil seeds. I raised this question in the House in April. At the present moment, the question of growing oil seeds is not before the House because the groundnut scheme is not under the Colonial Development Corporation, but I believe that the production of soya is one of the important tasks before us in the under-developed territories, not just for the home market but, first and foremost, for consumption by the people in those territories themselves. After milk, soya is one of the finest foods there is. Investigations are going on in the United States which show that soya combined with certain vitamins can replace certain animal proteins—one of the great food shortages in these underdeveloped territories. This is needed, at home, also.
At the present moment—and I think my information is fairly recent—the price paid by the Ministry of Food to the soya producer is about £30 a ton, whereas the price charged to the manufacturer in this country is about £59 a ton. The net result is that the producers in these overseas territories are giving up their production, whereas manufacturers cannot get enough. Unless the Colonial Secretary and the Corporation can combine in bringing the Ministry of Food, or even His Majesty's Government, to see that this sort of economic policy is chaotic, and is producing exactly the opposite result from what I believe everybody in this House wants, I do not think it is much good going ahead with some of these other projects which are before us this evening.
2344 Production is not the only problem which faces the Colonial Development Corporation, or any company producing anything. It is only one of the problems. It was a problem which beat the Overseas Food Corporation at Kongwa; but they never had to face these other problems of high costs, over-taxation, insecurity of land tenure and marketing, which are the normal day to day trade of the private company, and which will become more and more the interest of the Colonial Development Corporation. Until His Majesty's Government define more clearly the overall policy, which must affect the Colonial Development Corporation just as much as the private enterprise producer, I do not think confidence will be given to individual projects to enable them to become really effective in future.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
I am sure we all recognise the experience and knowledge of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) in matters connected with colonial development. I was very interested in his suggestion about tung oil and soya bean, and also his warning about the possibility of soil erosion and the examples that could be given to the Corporation in that respect. I am sure the Minister and the Corporation will take notice of what the hon. Gentleman said in that regard, because I consider it rather important.
I should like to reinforce the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) when he said he thought we were building better than we knew. Considering the Report and the activities of the Corporation, my hon. Friend reminded us of the possibility that in this kind of work we were doing something greater than we really appreciated. I am sure we all appreciate the wonderful efforts that have been made over the year by the Corporation, and while we reserve the right to make specific criticisms we accept that in general they have done good work on our behalf.
I was particularly impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Sudbury and Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) and his criticism of the Foreign Secretary's speech at Margate on the subject of colonial development, although it seemed to me that he had completely misinterpreted the meaning of the quotation he made from my right hon. Friend's speech. My right 2345 hon. Friend reminded the peoples in the undeveloped parts of the Empire that it was our desire and wish that in their constitutional development these backward areas should, as rapidly as possible, follow the same road towards complete freedom as the peoples of India, Burma and Ceylon.
The hon. Member criticised bitterly that contribution, asking how it could be possible that some of the African Colonies could be compared with India. In the African Colonies live a large number of backward people together with some very advanced whites. I would put two lines under the word "advanced" in some cases. [Interruption.] I might put three lines under it in some directions. I suggest that what the Foreign Secretary meant was that complete constitutional freedom for those Colonies can only be possible when we get a unified outlook between the black and the white peoples who inhabit them. We want a co-operative outlook between blacks and whites so that we can develop a completely free constitutional position for all the people concerned, whether black or white, who live in Africa. There is nothing contradictory or unsuitable about that suggestion of the Foreign Secretary.
Some time ago we had an opportunity to discuss the position in North Borneo and Sarawak. Looking at the Colonial Report, it seems to me that what has been taking place in those territories over the past 12 months suggests that criticism can be levelled at the Colonial Office and the Development Corporation for not concentrating more effort in those particularly valuable Colonies. It is not necessary to do more than mention that if anything unforeseen should happen to Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak would be very important to this country from the strategic point of view. Considerably greater progress should have been made in restoring those two Colonies to their pre-war prosperity. We have not even caught up with the damage that was done by the Japanese during their occupation. A recommendation should be sent out from the Colonial Office to the Corporation to see whether something can be done in those two Colonies towards recovery.
I conclude by saying that we are pleased with this Report. We think that it is a credit to the Corporation and to 2346 the people who conceived the idea of joint co-operation in the development of our Colonial Empire.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)
I hope that the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison) will excuse me if I do not follow him. Many hon. Members on this side of the House have looked forward for a long time to this Debate and I know that others wish to speak. I shall therefore try to be as quick as I can.
We seem to be under three difficulties in discussing the Report. The first is the extraordinarily wide range of the projects which it contains. I should like to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that as the Debate has been cut rather shorter than it might have been, other opportunities should be afforded us of discussing some of the projects or topics contained in the Report. The second difficulty was referred to in one way by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) who said that he felt he had been rather critical and had described the pimples rather than the face. A difficulty in considering the affairs of the Corporation is that one is bound to pick out the weak points, but I hope that the criticisms which come from this side will be taken as constructive criticisms, for it is vital in the early stages of the Corporation development that they should be made. The third difficulty relates to the Report itself and the present condition of the Corporation. The Report is signed by a noble Lord who is no longer in his post, and it is really very regrettable that we should be asked to have confidence in the Corporation—we are all most anxious to have confidence in it—when it is headless.
§ Mr. Smithers
All of us who have come in contact with Lord Trefgarne have been impressed by his extraordinary zeal and enthusiasm for the Corporation's projects, and I for one should like to acknowledge the help which I have received from him. It is really a matter of great regret that he has disappeared through a trap-door just before we were to debate the Report.
2347 I hope that the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able to give us some firm assurance that the reasons given by Lord Trefgarne for his resignation are the genuine ones because—I must be quite blunt in this—he will be aware that there are a great many rumours circulating as to the reasons for Lord Trefgarne's resignation and it is most important that they should be denied.
§ Mr. Smithers
I recently paid a visit to the Colony of British Honduras, with much assistance from the right hon. Gentleman. It is very difficult to try to see this range of projects in the whole, and I thought that the easiest and most effective way of forming an opinion about the affairs of the Corporation would be to visit a Colony with which I was previously familiar, and where the Corporation is operating quite a number of projects. I should like to say at the outset that the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Rugby of the Corporation in British Honduras are a long way out of date and some of the pimples which he described have since been lanced by the Corporation. The projects in British Honduras, such as the hotels, the banana scheme, the cocoa scheme and the experimental ramie project, all struck me as admirably chosen in every way, and much of the credit for them must go to the Chairman, for he was personally responsible for most of them.
I want to point out some of the real difficulties which arise, because they are quite serious. The first is the difficulty of personnel. The hon. Member for Rugby spoke as if tropical agricultural experts grew on trees and we had only to appoint one, or as though we could get from any Colony someone with all the qualifications to sit on a board or occupy a high executive position. I would emphasise that, in the under-populated territories particularly, such as British Honduras, it it difficult to get anybody who has both the local knowledge and the qualifications to fill these important executive posts which have never existed before. So we in this House have to make allowances for a great many mistakes which are bound to occur.
Having said that much in mitigation, I want to point to the three principal difficulties 2348 of the existing organisation. The first of those is the difficulty of checking on technical matters, and I cannot understand quite how it arises. Bearing in mind some of the technical mistakes that were made on the agricultural side in the groundnuts scheme, I felt nervous about some of the agricultural techniques being used in British Honduras. It so happens that my particular pleasure is growing things with my own hands. Every time I go back to the tropics I plant a few more palm trees, for I do therefore know what happens to the tropical soil when it is abused and I am much concerned about the technique of bulldozing the bush, disturbing the humus layer, and having it blown or washed away, and leaving the soil dangerously exposed.
May I give another example from British Guiana, where I believe, on the highest technical authority, that the fellings of greenheart are proceeding to a point which is dangerous from the point of view of regeneration. The Secretary of State has given me some reassurances about this, but I am not entirely happy. If I may give a third instance of these technical troubles, it is that the cocoa scheme in British Honduras where I believe the cocoa stock was raised before it could be planted and, in consequence, the greater part of it was wasted. We have to keep a much tighter hold on these technical matters.
The second main difficulty as I see it is that of enforcing strict economy in the schemes financed by the Corporation. I appreciate that many of these are admirably and economically run. Nevertheless, after visiting the Corporation financed projects, side by side with privately financed projects, I found the impression everywhere that the Corporation was full of money, that it was rather easy to get, and that if one ran out of something one could apply to the Corporation and get a little more. Nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman, that in view of the tremendous colonial tasks before us, that nothing could be more untrue, and that every penny we have must be used to the best effect. It is necessary that everything possible should be done in the Colonial Empire to dispel the idea that the Corporation is bursting with money bags, because it is having some unsatisfactory effects.
2349 My last point of criticism refers to what is in my view the most important paragraph in the Report. It is on page 55 and refers specifically to the two underpopulated territories in the West Indies:Even the present small populations are largely dependent upon imported food, and if development is to be planned so as to absorb immigrants from the island Colonies, it must be based upon an adequate and efficient agricultural industry. The rate at which developments such as these can be pushed forward will depend more upon the construction of roads and railways than upon any other single factor.I want to urge on the Secretary of State that there should be careful consideration of the ratio of expenditure on Colonial Development Corporation projects to that on the road and other communications that have to support them. It seems to me that road construction is lagging behind the development ambitions of the Corporation. I have had some years of personal experience in the neighbouring territory of Mexico. There I have had an opportunity to see how an ambitious road building programme is in itself the most powerful stimulant to development. Road construction is automatically followed by development. Values are raised and opportunities are created. The road building programme is not keeping pace with our development projects, and if only to carry the traffic which development will bring, we ought to try to spend more on our colonial road system.
That leads me to a rather broader conclusion. One thing of which I am absolutely certain is that in considering these development matters from now onwards, it would pay us to allocate a rather larger proportion of the money the taxpayer has to spend to Colonial Governments, and a rather smaller proportion to the corporations. There is also one thing about which I am less sure, and that is whether in the long run this method of public finance through Colonial Development Corporations is really the best means of stimulating development. The Corporation is still very much on trial. Hon. Members have spoken in terms of great optimism about these projects. We all wish them success, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), when he urges that we should first make a success of the schemes we have in hand. If we do that 2350 the Corporation's existence will have been more than justified.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I intervene in this Debate at this stage not with a view to making any observations of a technical nature, but because I am profoundly impressed by the great importance of the subject which we are considering. It was worth while for the House to have this evening for consideration of this Report of the Colonial Development Corporation, which I have studied with deep attention and interest. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that in many respects the whole future of our civilisation depends upon the assistance we are able to give in the next few years to the backward and undeveloped countries both in our Colonial Empire and elsewhere in Africa and Asia.
Some hon. Members from the Benches opposite tonight have rather assumed that it is still possible to develop the Colonial Empire in the way that was possible 20 or 30 years ago. In my opinion, conditions have changed fundamentally since then, and this Report indicates the way in which that has occurred. The kernel of this Report is in my opinion the section commencing on page 50, headed "Section VIII" which indicates the nature of the capital development which is so obviously required if these backward countries are ever to be brought up to a reasonable state of civilisation.
Here may I say in parenthesis how much I value the visit paid by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs to our Colonies in Africa recently, because I think that is of very great value. Some of the observations he made during the course of that tour have stimulated interest in this problem.
One other matter I mention in parenthesis is that, like other hon. Members, I was a little disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies was unable during this Debate to announce who the new Chairman of this Corporation will be. I can well understand that the search for a new Chairman must take some time, and I hope that when the name is announced it will be of someone who commands the confidence of the House and the nation, because it is quite obvious that for this most important and responsible position 2351 it must be someone who has a wide knowledge of and interest in industry and who, even though he may not be able to tour the whole field of activity himself, is able, based on experience, to choose the right people to assist in this important work.
I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) who said that in this matter we were building better than we knew. That is profoundly true. In this task of developing our Colonial Empire it is no longer a question of using capital resources merely for the purpose of getting immediate gains and immediate return on the capital invested. The task before us in developing our colonial resources in Africa and Asia is in making an essential contribution which we and the United States of America must make if these backward countries are to have the opportunity of developing their own culture and civilisation with all the apparatus that modern science in the Western Hemisphere makes possible to enable their standard of civilisation to be lifted to something more nearly approaching equality of standards that obtain in the rest of the world.
I am convinced that it is only if we can attain something like some measure of social justice and social equality over the whole world that we shall be able in the next decade or two to look forward to conditions of world peace. Therefore I hope this Corporation will use its resources to that end. I hope it will not be restricted in its outlook merely by the policy which activated investors of capital in earlier ages in obtaining an immediate return. In my view, the problem is far more serious and far more important that that. In that connection I quote the sentence that occurs on page 50 of the Report and which draws attention to one aspect of this problem:These obstacles in the main arise from the fact that, while a private investor will normally look for a somewhat larger return on investment overseas than he would expect at home, the costs of starting new enterprises in the Colonies have become so high that Colonial investment no longer offers the prospects of the same returns which, in the past, have made it possible for Colonial enterprises to compete in the metropolitan money markets.That is profoundly true.
2352 There are a great many private industries of one kind or another who are perfectly prepared, if the given circumstances were favourable, to invest capital overseas, either in conjunction with the activities of the Colonial Development Corporation, or independently. A great many people are still prepared in the pioneering spirit of our ancestors to play their part as private investors in contributing to the development of these overseas lands, but there are the difficulties which this Report indicates in one Colony and another.
I wish to ask the Minister of State, who I understand is to reply, to take note of that, and to make appropriate arrangements in the Department so that where people of substantial or limited means are able to make their contribution to the development of these overseas territories, they will be given the fullest possible information, assistance and co-operation in those ventures. I mention that, not because I think it is the most important aspect of this problem—I do not think it is—but because I think that if more encouragement in that direction were given a larger number of individuals would be able to supplement, as they should, the activities of this Corporation.
Having said that, I would add that it remains perfectly obvious that that kind of response is only to be obtained if the initial steps are taken by the Corporation in the preliminary and fundamental objectives of building roads, of dealing with primary matters and so forth. I believe that there is an immense sphere of opportunity here for our country. I hope that His Majesty's Government will regard the activities of this Corporation as being one of the most promising and most fruitful sources by means of which by trying to uplift the culture and civilisation of the backward people of Africa and Asia and of helping them to develop their own lives in their own way with such assistance as we can give them, a real solid contribution can be made to world prosperity and world peace.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Storey (Stretford)
I hope that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) will forgive me if I do not follow the interesting point which he has made. I have promised to confine myself to a speech of three or four minutes 2353 and I wish to put before the Secretary of State one concrete suggestion. In the section of the Report dealing with the economic background of the West Indian colonies, it is pointed out that increased yields from the land are essential first steps towards raising the deplorably low standard of living. I wish to suggest to the Secretary of State that one of the ways in which he could raise the yield of the land in the West Indies would be to turn into a useful product the waste fibre of sugar cane, which is at present largely burned, by turning it into newsprint or other forms of paper.
Very considerable experiments have recently been carried out in the United States in the use of bagasse, which is the technical name for this waste product, in the manufacture of newsprint. Last January, as part of this experiment a newspaper was printed on newsprint made out of 100 per cent. of this bagasse. I have here a copy. It is not a particularly good sheet compared with the newsprint to which we are accustomed, but it is sufficiently good to lead one to think that it would be well worth developing bagasse either as the sole material or as one of the raw materials in the manufacture of newsprint.
When we realise how the tonnage of our newsprint has been cut down and how much we rely for newsprint and wood pulp, which is the raw material of newsprint, on dollar sources, or on the resources of Scandinavia, which if not behind the Iron Curtain is under its shadow, when we realise that throughout the Empire and Commonwealth there is much sugar cane, and therefore waste fibre, it seems worth while to consider an experiment with sugar cane fibre for the manufacture of newsprint and other paper.
In this paper to which I have referred, the company responsible for the experiment in the United States expresses its willingness to co-operate in experiments in any part of the world. I suggest to the Secretary of State that it may well be worth asking the Colonial Development Corporation to consider with this company whether it is possible to carry out further experiments in the West Indies.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
We have achieved a large 2354 measure of agreement tonight in that we all wish well to the Colonial Development Corporation and want to help it to get on with the job. We have heard many practical suggestions from hon. Members on both sides of the House, who have laid on one side their political prejudices. Occasionally, an hon. Member has found it impossible to do that and has brought in what I consider to be political prejudice.
Such a one was the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), who appeared to think that the real qualification for a seat on the Board of Colonial Development Corporation or being one of its officers, was that the person should be a Socialist. I would ask the Minister of State, in his reply, to say, as I think he will, that in considering a person for the Colonial Development Corporation, and especially in considering who should be chairman, the appointment will be made on merit and not on political grounds. It is only if that is so that the Corporation can succeed.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland). I felt that parts of his speech were unhelpful. To him it seemed to be a crime if the British Government were to get back some of the money they were laying out in colonial development. He was trailing the national purse around Africa saying, "Help yourself to this great and glorious piece of wealth." I believe that the House set up this Corporation for three purposes. First, to develop the Colonial Empire, and we know we need it; second, to fulfill the needs for food and raw materials in the British Commonwealth; and, third, to help us to save dollars. I feel it is quite wrong that hon. Members of this House and others should lead the people of Colonial Territories to believe otherwise.
I understand that the instructions given to the Corporation are that they are to run it on commercial lines and, on their overall picture, try to break even. It is most unhelpful for the Corporation if hon. Members or others try to give to the colonial people the impression that the Colonial Development Corporation is Santa Claus. It is not Santa Claus; it is an economic plan in which the co-operation, help and work of the colonial people will be welcomed. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Stewart), 2355 I am not afraid of the wide variety and number of projects entered into by the Corporation. It is that variety which will help the Corporation to break even, because where it loses on one project it may make a profit on another.
There may be many teething troubles and I do not think that at this stage we can go into all these problems and examine them one by one. It may well be that next year we can examine them in far greater detail. I do not think that we can set a limit on a number of projects which there should be. The only limit is whether the money is there to develop them; second, and more important, is whether there is adequate staff to look after the job. Instead of putting a limit on the number of projects we should see whether each department has enough to get on with. It may well be that the agricultural section is full. It may well be that the minerals division or the hotels division can take other propositions, and I hope that an even balance will be achieved in these things.
I believe there is a difference between colonial development and colonial welfare, and I am wondering if the Minister of State can tell us who decides whether a proposition is taken up if it is not a strictly economical one and whether a project, though it may be financially unsound is for the benefit of a certain Colony and should be undertaken. Are there conversations between the Colonial Office and the Colonial Governments, and who makes the final decision? How does the liaison with the Colonial Office work?
What liaison is there between the Colonial Development Corporation and Departments like the Ministry of Food, which may be interested in this production of eggs in Gambia? Does the Corporation discuss matters with the Ministry of Food, and receive some assurance that the Ministry of Food will take their products and put them on the market? There have been rumours that the Ministry of Food have been very difficult, and that it treats the Corporation with the same severity with which it treated the West Indian producers of sugar. Is the Ministry of Food concerned only with a minimum price, and, therefore, is not prepared to help in this work of colonial development? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us about that. I am saying no more about poultry, because we had a 2356 most interesting contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent).
My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) has mentioned that, in the United States they have developed an animal feeding product which is B.12, a by-product of streptomycin, and it has been proved that the use of a small portion of this B.12 product in animal feedingstuffs can cause poultry and pigs to fatten in exactly half the time and makes them ready for market at a much earlier stage. I know that this is going into large-scale production in the United States, and I believe that there is a possibility of it being made here. Do the Colonial Office and Colonial Development Corporation follow these things up, and are they going to see that they get these products to use in feedingstuffs in Gambia, so as to bring the birds ready for the market at a much earlier stage?
There is another point which I would emphasise once again, and I want to ask what we are doing to distinguish between the Colonial Development Corporation and the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund? My hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Peter Smithers) in a very interesting contribution, pointed to the necessity for developing roads in colonial areas where the Corporation is operating. The building of main trunk roads is properly the function of the Colonial Government, and I do not believe that the Colonial Development Corporation was set up to build colonial roads. Are we going to see that roads are developed in these areas so that the Corporation can get along with its work? Is there some proper liaison with the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund whereby these things can be looked after?
I have had practical experience of this Corporation and I believe that its organisation is good. I am sorry that Lord Trefgarne has gone as chairman, because I felt that he was doing a very good job and tackling it with great courage. It is the sad fact about this Government that its good men leave too soon and its bad ones stay on too long. All the way through—and I have said that I speak with experience—the Corporation has built up a staff of practical men with real experience of their jobs, and they may be very useful partners for private enterprise. I believe that nobody should have any fear of being 2357 associated with them in their work. They are still learning and improving, and, even since the Report was published, the organisation has been streamlined. I am only sorry that we have to consider a report of the organisation which, I believe, was obsolete by the time it came into the hands of hon. Members of the House.
I hope the Minister will look very carefully into the suggestions made about the difficulties of operating in the Colonial Empire.
§ 10.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
This Debate, though it has not been particularly well attended—and that, I think, is because matters of human interest always draw a better house—has, nevertheless, produced a very fine crop of speeches of real merit and interest. I think that the keynote throughout has been that, with few exceptions, Members on both sides of the House have been really willing to make constructive contributions on this subject. We had a speech from the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) full of common sense and knowledge. That did not surprise us at all; the only thing that surprises us is his topographical situation in the House.
We had one speech which was of great merit—and I am going to use it as the theme of my remarks—that of the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart). I believe the moment has come when a review of the functions and of the general position of the Colonial Development Corporation has to be made whether we wish it or not—that it has been forced upon us. If we go back and read the Debates during all stages, including the Committee stage, when the Corporation was brought into being, we see a number of things which we should consider.
The first is this. Claims have been made in two speeches from hon. Members opposite that this was a Socialist scheme. That is not so. It is a direct descendant of the policy initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Stanley) whose continued absence from our Debates, and particularly Colonial Debates, we so much deplore. Tribute has been paid to him by every successive Colonial Secretary. But since we initiated this Corporation, with very definite objectives and with 2358 an idea of how long it would be before we reached them, the tempo and sweep of world events have changed the whole situation. We have seen the need for increased attempts throughout the world, not only in the British Empire, but also in the colonial and imperial possessions of other Powers, to increase the economic development as a means towards political security. The Colonial Development Corporation is now no longer the one pebble on the beach, but one among a great many, some much greater.
We see in European countries, drawing closer together, joint schemes for development in their possessions in West Africa or in South-East Asia. We see America beginning, in a way that was not apparent three years ago, to be drawn into the development of Colonial possessions of other countries. Quite recently I have been studying a scheme in which 80 million dollars—more than half the capital of this Corporation—is being put up by two big American corporations for the development for certain hydro-electric schemes in Indonesia.
I mention that as a sign of what is going on outside, so that we can have a true perspective of what the Corporation has to do at the present moment. It has to sit down and think what its new objectives are, and how far it can go. So far, a great number of schemes have been put forward. A greater number have been given their initial development, and they are all, more or less, running pretty well level, some a little ahead of others, depending on their type.
But that is the easiest part of any project of this sort. Anybody who has had anything to do with it knows that the initial thing is fairly easy. I was made a little anxious by the remarks of the Colonial Secretary when he stated rather proudly that he has been able to take on an overseas staff of 10,500. I should like to know how many of that number are on field work, how many are in offices, and how many are possibly getting into the bureaucratic part of running this Corporation overseas. If the Minister will consult his right hon. Friend who was at one time in charge of the Overseas Food Corporation he will learn how very easy it is to take on staff, but how extremely difficult it is and expensive and distasteful and disappointing to those concerned to get rid of staff if they are found redundant.
2359 What is the real situation? It costs two or three times as much now as when the Corporation was formed to develop anything overseas. Therefore, the amount that can be undertaken by the Corporation is so much the less. There are these other agencies also willing and able to develop. Is it not clear, therefore, that the first thing the Corporation has to ask itself is, "As I cannot take on everything, even many of the things I intended to take on originally, what is my new scope and function going to be? What load-shedding and pruning have I to foresee now, even though at present I am only in the first stages of development?"
In that connection some very hard thinking will have to be done by the new Chairman. His appointment will give opportunity for this to be carried on, and by the Board which might well be broadened in scope and number. I hope the new régime will have rather more to say in matters than, I think, they have had up to date. The new régime has to ask itself certain other questions. Undoubtedly, it will have to ask the important question whether it is the function of this Corporation, a permanent part of its functions, to undertake public utility development in various countries.
I believe the answer to that is really "No," but I am aware that at least two hon. Members on this side of the House do not hold that view. I believe that hydro-electrical development, or the development of harbours, must be financed, in the end, by the Colony itself raising money locally or, otherwise, in the world money market. This Corporation has only £50 million. I say "only" advisedly. It sounds a very big figure, but in developments nowadays it is not. A sum of £3,750,000 has gone right away into hydro-electric development in Malaya, which is an urgent matter—and I quite admit that, probably, it could not have been handled in any other way. That is quite a large proportion of its resources.
If I take the figures given by the Secretary of State for the Colonies—and I think I quote him correctly, for at the present moment the Report is not up to date—there are 49 projects, actually in being, which have mortgaged, or taken into use, roughtly £30 million out of £50 million of the Corporation's money. I ask hon. Members to consider, for a 2360 moment, what the real situation is, as shown by those figures. Here, when we have not handled more than half the projects put before the Corporation at this fairly early stage of this development three-fifths of the Corporation's money is already in use; and everybody who has been connected with Colonial developments knows the snags that cost infinitely more as time goes on.
Everyone who has attempted to develop schemes of this sort knows that reserves must be kept for rainy days, for those accidents and higher priority projects that come along. One has to keep quite a decent amount of capital for that. At this early stage of development we are running somewhere near the limit of resources that we can invest in these projects. I suggest that the pruning will have to start fairly soon. We must decide what is really the function of this Corporation. Up to date that has not been done sufficiently clearly.
Let me give one example. One of the gravest situations in the whole of the Colonial Empire is the cocoa situation. In this Report the gravity of the situation of the swollen shoot disease in West Africa is well underlined, and there are projects—not very big ones—in two parts of the Colonial Empire to ascertain if cocoa can be grown in Malaya and elsewhere. Over a number of years, if those pilot plant projects succeed, the consequence will be the necessity for more millions than are possessed by this Corporation even if it had not got other projects in hand. That instance can be duplicated in many other ways. We have to find jute and other fibre substitutes, and attempts are being made to find them. We have to be clear not what happens if these things fail but if they succeed, and we must plan clearly ahead for them.
The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) touched upon this point possibly unknowingly when he pointed out that private enterprise could no longer develop these projects as it used to do in the old days. I would point out that neither can this Corporation, with the limit of £50 million, nor can the resources of this country alone, possibly undertake the task which is only foreshadowed in the development that there has been up to date.
2361 That leads me to another important point. How far is this Corporation going in the development of these projects? At what moment and in what way are they going to be hived off? Is the Corporation, as I think it will probably be compelled by circumstances to do, going in for pilot plant agricultural development as the major task? When it has proved the success of any particular project, before that project begins to draw into itself the necessary capital for its further development on a big scale at the expense of all the other projects of the Corporation. the Corporation must have plans well ahead as to whom it is going to hand over the development, and in what way.
The word "partnership" has been used in this Debate rather loosely. I claim some right to talk on that subject. Thirty years ago I developed a number of projects in Africa, and I have always been an advocate of taking the native into partnership but at the same time I have pointed out the necessity for educating him for many years beforehand so that he can be a fit and useful partner. In every one of these projects the tripartite aspect of State, private enterprise and native, is the soundest and the best basis for these developments. It will give the greatest measure of social security and of stability, which, goodness knows, is badly needed in the Colonial Empire at the moment.
I believe, therefore, that the pause that has been advocated, to consider the whole project, would be very healthy at the present moment. If I were to be appointed Chairman of this Corporation—I have not yet received any invitation—I should certainly say "No more projects to be considered or to be put into operation for several months. The ship is well under way. We have a great deal on our hands and we have to sort out the good from the less good."
During this Debate the question has been raised, quite rightly, of American co-operation. I would strongly recommend the Corporation to see what is being done in the rest of Europe. In West Africa, where we have contiguous to each other Colonial possessions and dependencies of this country, France, Belgium, Portugal and Spain, we have an area in which I believe we may be able to carry out the greatest experiment in colonial development and advance that has been 2362 made anywhere. We have talked about the cession of sovereignty and, at Strasbourg and elsewhere, we have talked about methods of creating co-operation in Western Europe, but in West Africa, where the ruts are not so deep, there is still a chance of introducing common Customs, common transport, and even common currency. There is the possibility of something in the way of colonial development which the altered circumstances of the world will probably force upon us in a very short time. That is a matter which should be very carefully considered.
We have now to consider whether this Corporation is being allowed full scope by His Majesty's Government. To what extent do they have their own representative, with first-hand knowledge, at the various conferences which take place? There has recently been a conference in this country about development in South-East Asia and we were told that £8 million is to be invested in various projects in South-East Asia. I want to know whether this Corporation had its own representative there—not a representative of the Colonial Office but a representative of the Corporation—looking after the Corporation's own interests with its own particular problems in South-East Asia at his finger tips. He should have been there not only for the protection of the Corporation but also to give accurate advice to those who were responsible at that meeting for the planning which we know is so much needed.
A good deal has been said about the marketing of these colonial products and, here again, cocoa provides a very good example. Anyone who has read the reports of the cocoa marketing boards of the various Colonies will see the same pattern. This has been greatly praised as a method of marketing, but it contains a great danger and makes a note of warning necessary. The Cocoa Marketing Board is a Government monopoly of a product which has been in short supply and in enormous demand, partly for stock-piling, because chocolate coming from cocoa is one of the products which are looked upon in every country as a sort of iron ration and in which a certain amount of stock-piling is needed. Nothing has been easier than for a Government monopoly of a product in short supply to make enormous sums of money.
2363 In one report it was suggested that for various reasons £30 million was needed in the "kitty" as a cushion. I am led to believe that they have something like £70 million and feel very pleased with themselves that they have made such a profit. But making that profit has not called for any special intelligence. They have had only to sit in the office and say, "We will not sell today because we know we can sell a little dearer tomorrow." Of course, that takes a good deal of the sting out of those who have been attacking profiteering in other commodities, for a Government monopoly has been easily the biggest profiteer of any and has forced the price of cocoa on the New York market to an unprecedented level.
I hope the Government will not be blinded by the situation to the difficulties and dangers of marketing when conditions are different and supply and demand have changed. I endorse the proposition put forward for an immediate study of marketing and markets in the time when we shall no longer be able to dictate what people will have to pay for what we have to sell. That is the sort of thing upon which the Corporation could spend money well and wisely.
A point which I think has not been made before and which is very important is this: the groundnuts scheme went wrong because no large scale map was made at an early stage of the territory which was to be developed. If we are planning an operation of any sort the first thing we should do is to ask for all the facts. Is that being done in every case with the projects put to the Board? It has to receive from its local representatives recommendations and it has, to greater or lesser extent, to act upon them. But one of the most valuable logistic checks which could be instituted would be this check on projects as they come along, preparing them as they know they are being prepared in other countries—in the West Indies, and in Indo-China, and West Africa, by Belgium, by France and by Holland, and having something by way of comparative logistics on every project put forward.
In my last few minutes I should like to refer to the financial aspect, and first of all say that the Corporation has started its own engineering department. Let us 2364 remember that if there is soon to be a shortage of capital, then surely it is unnecessary expenditure. There are well equipped engineering firms in this country and in our Colonies able to take on any contracts which this Corporation—which has earned a good reputation everywhere—could put before them. We have seen the disaster and the set-back, and the disappointment, of the groundnuts scheme, and we are pinning our hopes on the great success which everybody wishes for the Corporation and to which, I am sure, everybody will contribute. There is a great responsibility here, and a great chance to show, by wisdom and partnership, that these things can be done although there is a difference between the pace at which they can be done and the pace at which we should like to see them.
The public will, will succeed. The Corporation has already shown itself making great progress, but at this moment it must be a long way ahead of the flood of events which may overtake it. It must begin to slenderise a little bit, and all hon. Members will join with me in appreciating that description. There is a great temptation, when a project comes in, but the Corporation must say to itself, "Is this better than other projects? We have a big black line here, and we know that schemes are going to cost more." Let us discard the financing of some things, let us cut out the "frills"—the hotels, and one or two other things—and let us study the pilot scheme of agriculture and decide at what project we will stop our function of developing and prove that we are right, and decide to whom we are to hand them on.
If that is done, then this, I am sure, will be looked upon as one of those efforts typical of this country, in which all political theory has found a common line; and which, with the North Atlantic Powers will help to find a balance which is lacking in those countries which are losing political stability to intrusion from other parts.
§ 10.34 p.m.
The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Dugdale)
If I may say so, I have never today heard so little hot air and so much sense talked by hon. Members on all sides of the House. I propose, in the time available, to deal with individual points, and if my remarks are somewhat 2365 discursive, it is because they follow the points in the order in which they were raised.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) gave the C.D.C. general support. He gave, very rightly, general support; but he did refer to a number of points on which he asked some questions. He asked, in particular, about the development of the estate of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. He criticised it on the ground that it was developing something which had already been developed. It was, I gathered, in effect an act of supererogation. The House will be glad to know that is not the case. The central farm had, in fact, been developed to some extent, being what is known as the Davies Estate. This is meant to be the centre of a very much larger concern which will produce food for the Bahamas, and which, as a result, will save a considerable amount of dollar expenditure. The hon. Gentleman made the same criticism about Swaziland. That, again, is not something fully developed which the Corporation is taking over. It is, in fact, something only partially developed and needs a great deal of development, and, amongst other things, a great deal of irrigation. All this development will be undertaken by the C.D.C.
The hon. Gentleman hoped that electricity in Singapore would be helped in the same way as that in the Federation of Malaya. That is a point which, no doubt, will be considered by the Colonial Development Corporation in due course. I am glad the hon. Gentleman is pleased about the help given to the Federation electricity scheme. I cannot say more than that consideration will naturally be given to whether or not similar help can be given to the Singapore scheme.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of the headquarters staff and seemed to be troubled about the size of that staff. The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher), who wound up for the Opposition, was also, I gather, more concerned at the size of the staff than the size of the headquarters. He said something about the expenditure of £15,000 on the Dover Street block. I have been in the headquarters of the C.D.C. and I would not say they are over-housed. On the contrary, I would say they are exceedingly under-housed. They have a building which was not built as 2366 a centre for a large corporation. The premises were taken over and adapted as best they could be. I would compare it, if the hon. Gentleman is talking of high standards of central office buildings, with a building, not very far from here, on this side of the river occupied by I.C.I. There is a large concern, with very large capital, which has, rightly, a large central headquarters. I can see no reason why the Corporation should not also have headquarters staff buildings of a reasonable size in view of the immense amount of work it has to do.
There was only one point the hon. Gentleman did mention which was, if I may say so, somewhat controversial—in fact, highly controversial. He referred to the appointment of two ex-Members of Parliament. He asked what were their qualifications and why were they appointed to these positions. I will tell him. One is Mr. Skeffington-Lodge, who has a temporary appointment as assistant to the chairman. The other is Mr. Dumpleton, who occupies the position of printing manager. He is a man who has, during all his life, had experience of the printing industry. I really must ask the hon. Gentleman not to assume that whenever an ex-Member of Parliament from this side is appointed there is something wrong about it, but that if ex-Members of Parliament are appointed from the other side, as indeed they may be if they have the capabilities, there is something right about it. It is really not so. The men appointed are appointed for their merit, and it is no demerit to have been a Member of Parliament. I hope the time will never come when that will be a demerit.
I have said the appointment is temporary. In any case, the qualification of Mr. Skeffington-Lodge is general experience in administration, which is naturally what is required of the assistant to the head of a Corporation such as this. He does not require technical qualifications; it is not supposed he should.
Offhand, I cannot say what they are; but I will write to the hon. Gentleman and let him know. I only presume they are naturally salaries which fit in with the particular jobs that they do, whether ex-Members of Parliament or not.
The hon. Gentleman wanted the industries that had been started to be handed over—to whom they were to be handed over I am not quite clear. Perhaps he had the same view as the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe, who wanted them to be handed over at any rate to the inhabitants of the countries in which they were started. I was not so certain that the hon. Gentleman had that in view. I rather thought he meant that they should be handed over to private companies in this country.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I wish them to be administered in proper order by competent people, whether they are African or from this country, the test being ability to run them properly.
There may or may not be a case for this; but the hon. Gentlemen who are anxious—as, indeed, we all are—that the Colonial Development Corporation should be a successful business concern, would not like it if they handed over most of their profitable concerns to somebody else and left themselves only the unprofitable ones.
The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) made a very helpful speech. I am glad he used his time so profitably during Recess. He asked for a conference upon tropical agriculture between the Colonial Development Corporation and the Colonial Office experts. We will certainly go into the matter and see whether such a conference is possible. The hon. baronet also referred to the difficulties in the supply of cement in Nigeria. That is a point which will be looked into. I would say, in passing, that a successful scheme for the production of cement has been undertaken on the other side of Africa by the Uganda Government. It is hoped that this will supply a large part of the need for cement in East Africa. We will look into the position in West Africa.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Nugent) made an interesting speech on the Gambia egg scheme. The hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Roland Robinson) also referred to this scheme. 2368 The reason certain goods were bought from the United States in dollars instead of from this country is simply that they were not available in this country. Take the supply of eggs. The eggs had to be obtained from a farm which could supply 10,000 which were not more than two days' old. They had to be flown out to the Gambia in special containers in the shortest possible time. Apparently these eggs could not be obtained from this country. They had also to come from hens with a record of 240 eggs a year in the first year of laying. That is another reason why it was difficult to secure from this country such a very large number of eggs with these qualifications all at the same time.
The hon. Gentleman also asked why we could not obtain the engineering and agricultural equipment from this country. At that time it was, unfortunately, not available. What was bought from America was used not only for the Gambia poultry project but also for much other work which was necessary in the Gambia. It must, therefore, not all be charged against the Gambia project.
The House will be interested to know some of the definite results of the scheme. We have heard how many eggs are expected and how many will arrive and how many dressed poultry will arrive. The figures I shall give are naturally smaller than we hope they will be in two or three years' time. It is satisfactory, however, to know that 28,000 eggs arrived in the United Kingdom from the Gambia farms in September, and it is expected that a further 216,000 will reach the United Kingdom before the end of the year. During 1951 it is estimated that 10 million eggs will be made available for the home market. This is quite a considerable amount. The first shipment of dressed poultry was of 34,500 lb. and it arrived in the United Kingdom during September. Further consignments of 35,000 lb. are in shipment. Regular twice-monthly shipments will follow. It is expected that during 1951 something like 500,000 lb. will be made available for the home market. That is a considerable contribution to one of our very important food requirements.
§ Mr. Nugent
I am delighted to hear that we are to get that quantity, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that that is half the quantity we 2369 were told we might expect, and therefore it was reasonable to ask him to explain this point.
I did not say that it was unreasonable. I mentioned certain quantities which had arrived, believing that the House would like to know what had been happening. An egg in the hand is worth two in the bush.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) asked whether the C.D.C. would be banned from developing well-established products like palm oil. No, Sir; there is no ban. If the C.D.C. likes to produce it, there is nothing to prevent it from doing so. The hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart) thought that the task of the C.D.C. was too big. At the present moment it has not reached the size of Unilever. If a concern of that size can be operated with very considerable success, there is no reason why the C.D.C. should not be able to carry on until it reaches that size.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), in what I thought was an exceptionally good speech, said that the C.D.C. ought to have people, for instance, tropical agriculturists, on the Board. In this he was supported by the hon. Member for Guildford. We will look into that point. We do not necessarily appoint people to Boards like this purely on their technical qualifications; they would need to have administrative qualifications. Neverthless, we will look into the suggestion about appointing someone with a knowledge of tropical agriculture. My hon. Friend also asked for a Colonial representative. That point is also well worth considering, but the House would agree that such a person should be chosen, not because he comes from a certain Colony, but because he is a man with the ability to serve with such a Corporation.
My hon. Friend, and also the hon. Member for Blackpool, South, stressed the need for appointment by merit. That is the principle on which we work. My hon. Friend said we should have someone with Socialist views. The noble Lord who is the Chairman of the Corporation was a distinguished Member of the Labour Party in this House. He has been a distinguished Chairman, and he has carried out his work to our utmost satisfaction.
2370 The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Sir H. Roper) also, I am glad to say, said that advance should be by merit and not by colour; that is a very important consideration, and something which we on this side have in mind every single day in every aspect of Colonial Office work.
The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) made a thoughtful speech on a very large number of topics. He will forgive me if I cannot refer to them all now. I shall consider them very carefully. They were many and varied, and made, I think, with possibly one or two exceptions, in a very helpful spirit. He made a little friendly criticism from time to time, but by and large I think, his speech was made in a very friendly spirit, and in a desire to help the Corporation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison), asked whether more could be done in North Borneo and Sarawak, indicating that not enough was being done. The Corporation are considering various new projects there. It will have to be seen whether or not they will be feasible.
The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. P. Smithers) wanted an assurance that Lord Trefgarne was resigning for the reasons he stated, namely, purely personal reasons. Well, I have the greatest possible pleasure in stating that that is, in fact, so. There is no other interpretation whatever to his resignation. He decided to resign for personal reasons. With great regret, my right hon. Friend has accepted his resignation.
The hon. Member for Winchester, who described himself as a palm tree planter —I think, a new profession for Members of Parliament—
It is not a profession, no. I realise that. An amateur palm tree planter, then. The hon. Member was worried about soil erosion in British Honduras. I do not happen myself to have been to British Honduras, but from what I have seen of soil erosion in certain parts of Tanganyika, where I have been recently, I can tell him that I feel as much concern about soil erosion as anybody else does, and I shall certainly go into the problem and see what can be done in British Honduras.
2371 My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) asked whether the C.D.C. were helping to raise the standards of under-developed countries. That is one of the main objects of the C.D.C. It has got to be run on economic lines, but one of the main objects is to see that the standards in under-developed countries are raised. We attach the greatest possible importance to that.
The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Storey) was concerned about the use of sugar cane fibre in the manufacture of newsprint. He may be interested to know that the C.D.C. has been examining that problem—the manufacture of what is called "bagasse," but so far they have not had any great success; the results are not very promising.
The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe asked whether uneconomic projects could be taken on, and, if so, who authorises them. Is it done by CD. and W. money, or by the C.D.C? Well, as hon. Members know, the general principle adopted, by and large, right throughout their activities, is that the Colonial Development Corporation shall break even. If they can do that, it may be possible, in certain cases, to take on projects not quite so economical, and make up for them with others; but the main work of carrying out "uneconomic" projects is, of course, undertaken by the Colony itself, with, if necessary, the help of Development and Welfare funds. He also hoped there was adequate contact with the Ministry of Food. I can assure him there is, in every branch of the C.D.C.'s work.
The hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe said that the C.D.C. should not undertake public utility work. He seemed to be concerned that they were going to do work, for instance, hydroelectric development, that could be undertaken by somebody else. If hydro-electric development can be undertaken by somebody else, all right. That may be very satisfactory. But, in fact, the work which the C.D.C. has undertaken would not so far have been undertaken by anybody else. The C.D.C. were asked to undertake these projects, and did so. I think it is an admirable thing they should have done so.
2372 I was a little bit confused about the hon. Member's reference to three-fifths of the capital sum involved. It is, of course, three-tenths—that is £30 million of the £100 million—and he need not worry. He was also concerned about the question of hiving-off. I have dealt with that in connection with earlier remarks by another hon. Gentleman. I think the question of hiving-off is one which has to be left to be discussed at a later stage. It is far too early in the work of the Corporation to discuss it now. He also asked about the South-East Asia Conference, suggesting that an official of the Corporation should have been there. The conference was one of Governments and not of Corporations, and it would not have been appropriate for them to Lave been represented.
Finally, he said that this was not a Socialist scheme. I would only say this: if this scheme had failed, it would have been called a Socialist scheme. The fact is that it has succeeded, and hon. Gentlemen opposite would like the credit for a great capitalist development scheme to go to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Stanley), who, we are sorry to see, is still away. In fact, it is a great scheme of what I would call public enterprise, if the hon. Gentleman does not want me to use the word "Socialist."
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
As I made the remarks, may I point out that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies nodded his head in agreement. I hope the Secretary of State will be able to reconcile himself with the Minister of State, who does not agree as to the origin and devolution of this scheme.
My right hon. Friend says that he shook his head and did not nod agreement. That is his reply.
It is, in fact, a great public enterprise. It is growing food for the Colonies and for the United Kingdom. It is growing cash crops to save and earn dollars, opening out territories previously untouched, and setting a standard of employment which, it is hoped, will be followed by private employers in the Colonies. In short, it is a great new colonial asset, valuable to the people of every Colony where it is established, valuable to the British people who have invested their 2373 money in it, and valuable to the entire British Commonwealth.
§ Question put. and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Annual Report and Statement of Accounts of the Colonial Development Corporation for 1949.