§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The Minister of Food (Mr. Maurice Webb)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Overseas Resources Development Act of 1948 to enable the Overseas Food Corporation to operate on a different basis. Why is this Bill necessary? It is, quite frankly, because the original plans for producing large quantities of oils and fats in Africa have proved to be beyond attainment.
The tireless efforts of all those who have been associated with the Scheme have realised little of the ambitious aims with which they started. I think that we can all agree that they did their best in difficult, primitive conditions, but the obstacles were too many and far too great. I myself, in a previous debate on this subject, frankly warned the House that a new approach would be required. This Bill is, in fact, the effective recognition of that new approach. It embodies the change in the conception of the Corporation's objectives which was announced in the recent White Paper.
Let us first look back to the start of the project. It was an attempt to solve the world shortage of oils and fats by bringing into cultivation lands which had hitherto been uncultivated. When the scheme was launched, as hon. Members will remember, the world fat shortage was a matter of quite grave concern. The domestic fat ration in this country was 7 oz. a week, and the outlook for obtaining more fats was extremely bleak and uncertain. This country, which has to import the bulk of its supplies of oils and fats, was in a particularly vulnerable position.
Obviously, it was the duty of the Government to seek ways of improving that situation. The risks which were taken in deciding to go ahead with the Groundnut Scheme are, of course, the responsibility of the Government; but many people with experience of tropical agriculture were prepared to back the Scheme as having, as they thought and agreed, a 1077 good chance of success. It was, however, generally recognised as a pioneering venture of an inevitably unpredictable character. There was nobody who could speak with the authority of comparable experience, but there did seem a reasonable enough chance of success to warrant trying.
Well, the original hopes have failed, but that does not mean that it was wrong to try, or that the experience is without value. In such a situation only experience could show what could be achieved, and any Government which was faced, on the one hand, with a continuing world fat shortage, and, on the other, by advice from a number of experienced and responsible people that a scheme of this sort, as it was originally conceived, stood a good chance of being a success, would have failed in their duty if they had said, "We don't feel ready to take the risk." Moreover—there was, as I am sure the Opposition will agree, a duty upon us to develop to the full the latent resources of our Colonial Empire.
Anyway—whether that be so or not—when the Scheme was announced it was welcomed on all sides of the House, and by all shades of opinion outside. If hon. Members will look back at the speeches made during the early debates on the subject, they will find no suggestion, in any of the speeches, that the scheme was unworkable. Some hon. Members were wise enough to say, "It will take longer than you think," but that was about as far as the criticisms went. It was not until the Scheme was in real difficulty that people began to say that obviously it never could have been a success.
We can all be wise after the event. The right to say, after the hazards of struggle have involved a set-back, "I told you so," is the historic, but unenviable prerogative of feeble men. Our British race has prospered because we have always rejected the timid slogan of "Safety First" from our banners, and have always followed the flag and leadership of those who took risks, and were not content to have every enterprise completely insulated from even the smallest danger. The Government in that spirit fully recognised the risks in this pioneering undertaking.
In the first White Paper the Government clearly stated that the plan involved 1078 "considerable risks." And the Government took them—like many private investors took similar risks when other territories were being opened up. Whatever our personal judgments on this project may be, I hope that the spirit of enterprise and the will to solve the pressing problems of the world—the problems of food shortages and the like which are going to continue—will not be unduly chilled by the misfortunes which have befallen us on this Scheme.
There will be those who will say that it was unnecessary and will point to an improvement in the oils and fats situation. That is true. There has been an improvement, but the situation is still one of anxiety—over the long-term situation with a growing world population it is indeed very serious. The exporting countries are keeping a growing proportion of their supplies for their own consumption, and we cannot criticise them for doing that. It is good that their standards of living should rise. But the result is that we are having increasing difficulty in finding enough supplies to meet our needs.
It is a grievous thing that the original hopes in the Groundnut Scheme have not been fulfilled, but I myself am very anxious that those who have worked so hard and so loyally on this Scheme should not be inhibited in their future labour by the superficial criticisms or by the easy judgments of those who wait until things have gone wrong and then say, "We knew all along this could not work." We all regret that the Scheme in its original form was not a success, but we on this side of the House do not feel that in 1947 the Government should have stood aside and ignored the possibilities of this scheme because of the undoubted grave risks.
Anyway, the risks were taken, and the results are now quite clear to all of us. The Government have not attempted either to disguise them or to minimise them. They have been quite frankly stated in the recent White Paper. They involve, in view of the declaration of the Corporation of its inability to fulfil its financial obligations, these factors: a decision to write off the capital expenditure so far undertaken; a new and realistic assessment of the practical possibilities of agricultural production; a revised long-term programme on the basis of variable and experimental cultivation of the land, and a transfer of Ministerial control.
1079 These proposals were set out at some length in Command Paper 8125, which was published on 9th January, and the Bill which we now have before us provides for the Corporation to operate on the new basis there set out. When the affairs of the Overseas Food Corporation were debated last July I knew beyond all doubt that there would have to be a change in the objectives of the Corporation. But I was particularly anxious—and so were the Government—not to make a premature statement before the Corporation had had time to reformulate their long-term plan; and I wanted them to have as much time for this task as they felt they needed.
I indicated to the House, at that time, my view that the scheme could prosper only if it was shaped as a broad project of colonial development with a wide and varied agricultural content, rather than as the purely food producing project which was the original intention. I think the House saw the implications of what I had to say. But I particularly wanted the Corporation to be able to take full advantage of the results of last year's harvest in formulating their new plans. They sent me their revised proposals in November. Their report was published as an appendix to the White Paper and is the property of all hon. Members. The importance of the report of the Corporation was this: it gave the Government a clear statement of what, in the light of much hard experience, the Board considered could be achieved, arid a basis on which to plan the future of the Overseas Food Corporation.
The report has made it possible to redefine the aims and objectives of their work and to make such changes as need to be made to help the new aims to be achieved. The revised proposals of the Corporation make it abundantly clear that too much has yet to be learned about methods of land-clearing and large-scale mechanised agriculture in Tanganyika before we have any reliable ground for supposing that rapid development over wide areas is at present, or in the forseeable future, practicable. Let me say a word about the revised plans of the Corporation. These cover a period up to 1957. Two of the areas—Kongwa and Urambo—will be settling down to 1080 agricultural work, and there will be no further clearing in either of these places.
So far as Kongwa is concerned, the Kongwa Working Party, whose report was published on 28th September, recommended that for a period of three years—until there was more evidence that crops could be grown successfully in Kongwa—only 24,000 acres should be farmed; of which about 12,000 acres should be under a crop of some sort each year. Experience at Kongwa so far has not been encouraging, but the working party recommended a continuation of agriculture on a limited acreage for the time being. The Corporation accepted this recommendation and this year they are planting groundnuts, maize and sorghum. Very little rain fell before the beginning of January, but I gather that good progress has been made since then.
Urambo will be farming about 60,000 acres of land, of which 45,000 acres will be under crop each year. This year the same crops are being planted as at Kongwa, that is, groundnuts, maize and sorghum. But they in Urambo had an earlier start. There were good rains at Urambo during December, and the whole of the groundnut crop was planted by the end of the year, quite a good beginning. Incidentally, an experiment is being undertaken at Urambo with the planting of tobacco on 120 acres. If it is successful the acreage will be extended.
As to the Southern Province, the third of these great regions, the agricultural future of this area was considered by a working party appointed by the Corporation, and this report was published in January. The working party, let the House note, included the agricultural adviser to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and their report recognised that much experimental work would still be essential; but they regarded the eventual prospects in the Southern Province as being sufficiently favourable to justify the Corporation proceeding with the agricultural development of the land already cleared. Therefore the Corporation propose to plant 7,200 acres in the Southern Province for the next harvest, of which, I think, 6,000 acres have already been planted—that is up to the end of January.
The Southern Province is the one region in which clearing of the land is to continue. At the start of the current wet 1081 season 20,000 acres had been felled of which 9,000 acres are now completely cleared. During the current wet season a further 40.000 acres are being felled by a tractor force which had been built up for the purpose, and the Corporation will clear and prepare this land for agriculture during the next three years by slower and cheaper methods. These methods involve the use of hand labour for some of the work at present done by machines. By 1954 this will give a total of 60,000 acres of cleared area in the Southern Province. The proposals of the Corporation, embodied in their report, which is an appendix to the White Paper, aimed at further felling at the rate of 15,000 acres a year in each rainy season, but my colleagues and I feel that it is prudent to limit clearing in the Southern Province to 60,000 acres for the time being. As the Corporation suggest, a review will be held in 1954 and further bush felling can be resumed then if it looks to be desirable at that time.
Let me add up these figures, because they are rather difficult to grasp as we go along. On this basis the Corporation will have about 64,000 acres under crop this year, about 74,000 acres under crop for the 1952 harvest and about 81,000 acres under crop for the 1953 harvest. Obviously, acreages of this size are not going to make a direct contribution of any great significance to the world supplies of food, but they are large enough—and this is the point—to enable new techniques and the economics of large-scale farming to be really tested and really established.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
What new techniques does the right hon. Gentleman suggest can be obtained for growing maize?
§ Mr. Webb
There is the general technique of varying crops and carrying out a variable agriculture.
Against the background of those facts —admittedly they are considerably reduced from the earlier estimates—the question arises which we all have to face: Is it worthwhile going on with the scheme? The Corporation have expressed their view that, given freedom from natural calamity, their agriculture ought in time, and not necessarily within the seven-year period of the plan but in time, to pay its way and cover its future overheads 1082 and also the depreciation of the assets retained for use. The Corporation could see no hope of paying a return on the capital so far invested. So, when we came to consider the Corporation's proposals, we had to ask ourselves whether in these circumstances it was right to continue the scheme at all.
I see that hon. Members opposite are again proposing that an inquiry should be held. They do not want Parliament to ratify the new proposals for the Corporation until an inquiry has taken place. May I respectfully ask this question: What do they hope to elicit from yet another inquiry? They can hardly contend that there has been any lack of information about the past. The Corporation has published two lengthy annual reports, both of which contained detailed information about every aspect of the Corporation's work. Only last year the Public Accounts Committee of this House held a very full inquiry into the Corporation's affairs, and published its report in May. The House has debated the Corporation's activities no fewer than four times in the past two years. This is the fifth debate since the beginning of 1949.
What could be gained—I ask the question quite sincerely—by going all over the ground again? Hon. Members opposite may like to dwell on the failures and disappointments of the past. No doubt that is a good stick with which to beat the Government. All right, but that is no help to the staff in East Africa, who want to get on with their work. I should have thought that the changed nature of the Corporation's plans was sufficient evidence that the Corporation have learned from the experience of the past. Is that not the only thing of practical importance for the future? Or is it the future into which the Opposition propose to inquire? Is it that they want to cast doubt on the possibility of achieving the revised plans put forward by the Corporation?
If that is so, no further inquiry is likely to carry that aim forward. The Corporation themselves have held two inquiries of that sort, one at Kongwa and the other in the Southern Province. They invited experienced men from various walks of life to take part in these inquiries, and the reports of both the working parties have been published. The Corporation have framed their plans on the basis of 1083 the recommendations of those two reports. What better basis could they have? I imagine that hon. Members opposite will not wish to question the high standing of the members of the two working parties. Such names as Professor Frankel, Mr. Clay, Mr. Sykes and Dr. Storey command great respect. Do the Opposition suggest that the experience and reputation of these men do not qualify them to make the sort of inquiry that is being suggested? Surely their independence and integrity are not in question.
It is suggested that the Corporation should not have been associated with the working parties. Anxious as I have been to consider the affairs of this great project, I have never paid much attention to this suggestion, which is really quite spurious. The members of the Corporation now have more experience than anyone else in the world of the work which they are doing. It would have been folly for them not to take part in the investigation of those working parties. Surely the combination of the Corporation's experience with the independent judgment of the other members of the working parties was just the kind of balance that was needed. I have no hesitation in saying that the Corporation have acted wisely and with great foresight over both those two inquiries.
Of course, at Urambo where things are now going reasonably well, they did not think it necessary to have an inquiry. They wanted to let Urambo settle down into a farming community with as little disturbance as possible, and that is going on. It is very disturbing to have an inquiry going on. It unsettles everybody and makes them wonder what is going to happen next. This House must exercise some sense of responsibility in the extent to which it imposes inquiries on public servants in this position.
Another inquiry would do nothing less than harm. The re-organisation which the Corporation must undertake to put its new plan into operation is bound to cause a great upset to the staff. How could we expect any of them to stay if the whole future of their work was once more to be brought into question? If we want them—I am sure the House does want them—to go on putting their best into 1084 their work, we must really express our confidence in the future of the project. How can we do that if we arrange for another inquiry into the future plans?
Some hon. Members opposite may argue that we should cut our losses and abandon the whole scheme forthwith—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—all right—and that we should leave the cleared acreage to go back to bush, abandon the roads, railways and port installations, and leave the townships deserted. But is that a real alternative? Although the original objectives of the schemes have proved unattainable we think it right to let the work go on, to teach us how hitherto unproductive land can be brought into production economically. [An HON. MEMBER: "Let the farmers do it."] That is why the scheme must be regarded now as a scheme of large-scale experimental development to establish the economics of clearing, and mechanised agriculture, under tropical conditions. We believe that the revised scheme can make a significant contribution, which can be of use not only in East Africa but of wider significance in many tropical territories whose future development we all in this House hold deeply in trust.
The Corporation have stressed the need for continuity of agricultural operations over a period of at least seven years, and have asked for some assurance that this is the intention. The request is very reasonable. It is impossible to obtain any worth while results except over a period of this sort and it is important that the staff who are undertaking the work should not feel at any time that a halt is liable to be called in their activities. It is right that they should be given an assurance of continuity, and, provided that the costs do not greatly exceed the estimates, it is the Government's firm intention to ask Parliament for funds to enable farming operations to continue for seven years.
The new plans envisage the expenditure of about £6 million over a seven-year period without allowing for contingencies or for any further bush clearing after 1954. The Corporation's gross expenditure will, of course, be greater than this, but they estimate that, in addition to the sums which they hope to obtain from the sale of their produce, they will need funds amounting to something of the order of £6 million. By no means all this money is to pay for new work. The Corporation estimate that they need about 1085 £2,750,000 to pay for the re-organisation, the liquidation of past commitments and the general run-down of their project to the scale now proposed. The remainder—some £3,250,000—is the estimate of the additional funds needed to finance these new plans.
One significant factor which has been taken into account by the Government in considering the continuation of the Scheme is the fact that the cost of going on is not widely different from the cost of abandoning it, with all the grave consequences in Africa which would follow abandonment. If it had been decided to abandon the whole project at once—at first sight a rather simple and attractive idea—the Corporation calculated that the heavy liabilities which they would have had to meet for breach of contracts and other unavoidable commitments would have been about £4,500,000, and in addition they would not have been able to obtain repayment of the loan of about £3 million advanced to East African Railways and Harbours.
To sum up, the Corporation think that in time, and on this entirely new basis, the Scheme will pay its way; to abandon it now would mean the loss of many valuable tangible assets; even more, it would mean the loss of disappointing and even bitter experience—but experience which, if continued, will be invaluable. I assure the House that we have conducted a most searching inquiry into all these considerations. I myself have faithfully tried to carry out my undertaking to get this scheme on to a basis of reality. Surely then, the House can safely agree that it is proper and right to go ahead on this new basis. At any rate, that is the Government's view.
We are quite certain we must go ahead. But given the decision to go on, it is obvious that very considerable changes must be taken, particularly in the field of Government direction. The new conception of the Corporation's rôle calls for changes in the obligations laid upon the Corporation, and, obviously, in the administrative arrangements. We have, therefore, decided that Government responsibility should be transferred to the Colonial Office. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is the object of Clause 1 of the Bill. I assume that—indeed, it is now clear—there will be general assent to this proposal. It would 1086 be quite improper for my Ministry now to run this scheme. It is essentially, in its proposed new form, an undertaking which must be integrated with our general plans for the development of our Colonies. It will, I am sure, be a welcome addition to the social and economic machinery with which my right hon. Friend hopes and intends to bring new life and hope to our fellow citizens in Africa.
Under Clause 2 of the Bill the Corporation's activities, thought still concerned with the production, processing and marketing of agricultural products, will be limited to territories in East and Central Africa. In order to give them greater scope for establishing satisfactory agricultural techniques, their obligation to secure the large-scale production of groundnuts has been removed. They are, for instance, already experimenting with cotton and tobacco, and we want them to be free to make the best use they can of the available land. Indeed it is this variable conception of future agricultural work which is the whole basis and heart of these proposed changes.
Clause 2 also deals with the Board of the Corporation. The Corporation's new plans, I think—I believe the House will agree—do not call for a large Board. I do not mean that the task which is to be done is easy, or that the responsibility is small, but, obviously, the responsibility of the Board has diminished. So provision has been made for a Board consisting of a chairman and not fewer than two or more than six members, as the Secretary of State may determine. Previously there was provision for a Board consisting of a chairman, a deputy-chairman and not fewer than four or more than 10 members, so the new proposals represent a quite substantial reduction. We have also decided that the right place for the Board to be located is no longer London but East Africa. So long as it was envisaged that the Overseas Food Corporation would run a number of schemes throughout the world, it was obviously necessary to have the Board in London. But in the changed circumstances it is obviously desirable to have the Board in East Africa, and, therefore, the Board will accordingly be transferred to East Africa during the year and will operate from there.
Now a word about the members of the Board. Sir Donald Perrott, the Deputy- 1087 Chairman, and Mr. McFadyen, will be leaving the Board shortly. Sir Donald Perrott was seconded from the Civil Service for this appointment, and the Corporation owe much to his administrative ability and the way in which he tackled their organisational problems. Mr. McFadyen will be leaving because the changed conception of the scheme means that there will no longer be the same need for a man of his experience. The Government are appreciative of the public spirit which led him to join the Corporation and of the loyal service which he has given it throughout. Mr. McFadyen's own field of service in the Corporation has been, I think, on the whole immune from public criticism. He leaves its service with the assured knowledge that the misfortunes which have overtaken so much of the labours of the Corporation are not due to any lack of application on his part to his exacting duties. I do not know to what new post Sir Donald Perrott will be assigned, but I very much hope—for reasons which I shall reveal before I sit down—that it will be one which will enable him to continue as Chairman of the Queensland-British Food Corporation.
It has also been decided—I believe this is an important and fruitful decision; a decision which will prove fruitful—that the Government of Tanganyika should be directly associated with the Scheme, and arrangements are being made for them to be represented on the Board. The move of the Board to East Africa will enable the Corporation to reduce very considerably the size of their London office. Arrangements will be made for many of the functions which they at present perform to be handled by the Crown Agents.
As with the staff in East Africa, the Corporation are, of course, compensating those members of the staff whose appointments are ended on grounds of redundancy. But I know that to many of these people financial compensation, however generous we might make it, could never make up for the disappointment of having brought to an end a career in which they had hoped to contribute to the solution of a world problem. I am very sorry that they should have to suffer this disappointment, but it is much too early yet to say that their efforts have been in vain. Indeed, I hope and trust that hon. Members on all sides 1088 of the House will join with me in expressing genuine appreciation of the untiring efforts which have been made by the working staff in East Africa.
I am sorry to take so long, but it cannot be helped. We have to cover so much ground in dealing with this very complicated project. Now, I come to the important question of finance. The financial provisions of the Bill are contained in Clause 3.
§ Mr. Webb
No, Sir. I think I have covered all the changes we can now foresee. I was saying that the financial provisions of the Bill are contained in Clause 3. So far £35,653,000 has been advanced to the Corporation for the Groundnut Scheme. This excludes £2,738,000 which has been advanced to the Corporation and lent by them to the East African Railways and Harbours Administration for the construction of the new port and railway in the Southern Province. It excludes also £1½ million which has been advanced for the Queensland-British Food Corporation, about which I shall be talking later on.
Excluding the expenditure on these two latter projects, it is estimated that by the end of the current financial year about £36 million will have been advanced to the Corporation. The Corporation have reported in paragraph 42 of their memorandum appended to the White Paper that they will not be in a position to pay interest, or to repay this money advanced to them from the Consolidated Fund for the groundnut scheme. The Government, therefore, having received this intimation, have decided to adopt the course of financial prudence and to write off the whole of this investment.
That is not to say, however, that none of this money will be recovered. Nor is it true to say that there is nothing to show for the money advanced. These advances are represented in some quite large degree by tangible assets in East Africa. Some of these assets have a present value. Others, like cleared land, buildings in remote places, and so on, have a contingent value depending entirely upon the success with which the Corporation meets in its future. The Corporation ought and expects to obtain quite substantial sums 1089 from the disposal of equipment which will now be surplus to their requirements, and these sums will be paid back into the Exchequer.
I do not suggest that it is anything other than a serious matter to write off an investment of this size. Obviously that is so. But I ask the House to remember what I said earlier about the situation in which the decision was made to undertake this Scheme. What has followed may be open to various judgments, but I am very sure that it is prudent, honest and right now to write off our losses.
Now as to the future. Hon. Members will see from subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 3 that Parliament will be asked to vote monies to finance the Corporation. It now being clear that the Corporation cannot hope to operate commercially for at any rate some years, it is not appropriate for them to be financed out of the Consolidated Fund. And so we propose, with the approval of the House, after the date of transfer that advances should be made to the Corporation out of sums voted by Parliament, and that the issue of advances should be under the control of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
It is impossible to give any firm figure at this stage of the sums which Parliament will be called upon to meet. We have looked into this very carefully, with the Treasury in the background, and the best we can do is to give some indication of the order of magnitude. The variables are many and the margin of error is therefore wide. On the best calculations that can be made, the net sums which the Exchequer will be called upon to find during the next seven years will be of the order of £6 million. I must emphasise that this figure contains no allowance for contingencies—
§ Mr. Alport (Essex, Colchester)
That presumably includes the £4½ million which is required to meet certain contractual liabilities which the Corporation have undertaken; or is that in addition?
§ Mr. Webb
I am talking about the expenditure which covers the work to be done over the next seven years, which is estimated to be of the order of £6 million. I repeat: I must emphasise that this figure contains no allowance for con- 1090 tingencies — things like widespread droughts, floods and all the other hazards to which Africa is subject. Certainly it makes no allowance for any clearing which it may be decided to do after 1954. The Corporation are now preparing their budget for the coming financial year, and a detailed estimate will be put before Parliament in due course in the ordinary way. The essential point is that the issue of future money will be on an annual Vote, subject to all the scrutiny and checking available in our system of public accountancy.
We are not, of course, writing off the £1½ million advanced to the Queensland-British Food Corporation which was a subsidiary of the Overseas Food Corporation, to which I should now like to turn.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the colonial side of it and embarks on the Dominions side, may I ask if the House is to understand that, as it is right now to transfer the administration to the Colonial Office, there will be no question of the Corporation in future dealing in the Colony direct without doing so through the Colonial Department?
§ Mr. Webb
The position is quite simple. The Overseas Food Corporation will act under the direction of the Secretary of State in East Africa and will be responsible to the House through him. I am now coming to the question of how we propose to dispose of the problem of the Queensland-British Food Corporation.
§ Sir R. Glyn
May I press the right hon. Gentleman on that point? When he deals with Queensland, he is dealing with a Dominion. I am talking about the Colonial Empire. Is it quite clear to the House that in future the Corporation will act only through the Colonial Office and not independently.
§ Mr. Webb
Yes, that is so. It was stated in the White Paper that, when the time came to transfer responsibility for the Overseas Food Corporation to my right hon. Friend, new arrangements would be proposed for maintaining the interest of the Government in the Queensland-British Food Corporation.
As hon. Members are aware, the Queensland-British Food Corporation was set up jointly by the Queensland Gov- 1091 ernment and the Overseas Food Corporation. As all the work of the Corporation was to be done in Queensland it was felt appropriate that it should be established under an Act of the Queensland Parliament. That is why hitherto there has been no legislation in this country relating to the Queensland Corporation. Copies of the Queensland Act are available in the Library of the House if hon. Members wish to study it. The Act gives the Overseas Food Corporation the right to nominate the chairman and two-thirds of the members of the Board, including the chairman; and the Queensland Government the right to nominate the deputy-chairman and the remaining Board members.
This Queensland Scheme is, of course, still in its early stages of development, but I was gratified to read the encouraging statements made by hon. Members on both sides of the House, particularly by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), who has been out there and studied this Scheme, as well as others who have recently visited the property and examined it in detail. The Corporation expect to send us in all 25,500 tons of sorghum from the 1950 harvest. They now have about 17,000 head of cattle, and during 1949 and 1950 they sold 9,198 head of cattle for slaughter.
May I at this point pay tribute to Sir Leslie Plummer, to whose initiative and leadership this promising Scheme in Queensland owes its origin. He was responsible for planning it from the start and he may justly be proud of the way it is progressing. Hon. Members opposite, who criticised his conduct of the East African Scheme—which he did not start and in which he did not have such good fortune—would do well to remember that the Queensland Scheme was founded and moulded almost entirely by him. I should also like to thank the deputy-chairman, Mr. Kemp, on whose shoulders, because he is on the spot, has fallen much of the weight of responsibility for the day to day administration of the Scheme. We owe very much indeed to his knowledge, his energy and his wise direction of the work of the Corporation, and we want him to continue.
Now that the Overseas Food Corporation is to be responsible to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the 1092 Colonies, obviously it is no longer appropriate for them to be the body through whom the interest of the Government in the Queensland Corporation should be maintained. So we propose in the Bill that I, as Minister of Food, instead of having indirect responsibility through the Overseas Food Corporation as hitherto, should take over direct responsibility for the interest of the Government in the Queensland Corporation. We are principally interested in this Corporation as a food-producing body and we naturally look to it to operate on a sound commercial basis.
I discussed the Corporation's future with Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland when he was here in December, and he then expressed a strong hope that my Department's connection with the Queensland Corporation would be maintained. Most of the legal amendments needed to give effect to the change will fall to be made in Queensland legislation and I have, therefore, written to Mr. Hanlon about them. But of course, none of these amendments will be made before the policy as now proposed has been ratified in this Parliament. Clause 4 of the Bill, which I am trying to survey, makes such provision as is needed in our own legislalation to deal with the change. I need not detain the House now with the details. If any points of substance emerge, no doubt we can discuss them and, if possible, adjust them in Committee.
Finally, a word about the date from which we hope that the Bill will take effect. Once the decision to transfer responsibility to my right hon. Friend has been made, there is obviously—I am sure we would all agree—everything to be gained from making the transfer as soon as possible. From an administrative point of view, there is much to be gained from making the transfer coincide with the beginning of a new financial year, and that is what we propose.
I have tried to cover all the relevant ground. If I have omitted anything of importance, no doubt my right hon. Friend will deal with it at the end of the debate. All I would say in conclusion is that I am surprised that the Opposition should want, even by a reasoned Amendment, to oppose a Measure of this kind. Their pretext of a further inquiry is really very unconvincing. It would show nothing that we do not now know, after most 1093 bitter and revealing experience, and it would, if adopted, lead to the dissolution of the machinery and personnel which we really do need, to keep the project alive as a creative and constructive element in the life of this territory.
We all of us know now what is needed to face and to conquer tropical Africa. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] We have learned the hard way, but it may be in the end that this may prove to be not the most expensive nor the most protracted way—I do not know, and I am sure that no one in the House knows. It is quite easy, of course, to shout the partisan claptrap cry, "What about groundnuts?" Like all such claptrap cries, it begs a whole multitude of quite serious and searching questions. Rather let all of us say, not "What about groundnuts?" but, "What about our colonial fellow citizens in Africa?"
§ Mr. Webb
They, with all their hopes and new aspirations, must be the focal point of all our judgment for the future. Their needs, and our needs, for such potential wealth as is latent in their still unworked soil are the great challenge before us today. It is because I believe that the Bill marks a sober but promising new start in an effort to meet our common needs that I confidently commend it to the House.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)
I beg to move to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:in view of the immense losses already incurred on the Groundnuts Scheme, this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which gives authority for further substantial expenditure of public money before there has been any impartial inquiry or any reliable independent estimates have been obtained.We have listened with very great interest to what the right hon. Gentleman had to say in explaining the Bill to us. He managed to pitch the whole thing in a very minor key. There was not that enthusiasm or any of those lyrical transports of delight which we used to hear from his predecessors, and in so far as a more sober outlook on these problems has at last permeated the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, we ought to congratulate the Government, because 1094 for all these years this has been a very difficult matter—we are all agreed about that. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had debated it several times in the House. No one, I think, realises that more than I do, having taken part in those debates. Now, we have got to a point in the argument where we can see, perhaps, a little more clearly what is required for the future.
The Bill will, I dare say, require, on the Committee stage, a certain amount of detailed consideration which we will not be giving to it today, because we want to take a rather wider sweep. If I do not specifically discuss the Queensland matter, it is because it is rather out of the general line of what we want to speak about today. I am not saying that that is not important—of course not—or that we shall not have to look at that later in considerable detail. What I do say is that when the right hon. Gentleman uses the phrase that "I told you so" is the language of a feeble person, I am not quite clear what he means. I should have thought that we ought to try to profit by the mistakes of the past as much as we can.
If I may take as the sort of starting point of what I want to say today the debate which took place in the House just two years ago, on 14th March, 1949, the last words of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Secretary of State for War were these:I have the most perfect confidence that in a very few years the groundnut scheme will be one of the acknowledged glories of the British Commonwealth."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 14th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1786.]The comment which I made, however, speaking just before the right hon. Gentleman, was to refer to the picture of muddle, mismanagement, miscalculation and waste of all sorts which was then going on, and I asked, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, that there should be a public inquiry into this matter. That was our position two years ago. Today, we have to discuss the situation in which the Corporation find themselves.
Parliament is often described as the grand inquest of the nation. Today it is almost the grand bankruptcy court of the nation, because the Overseas Food Corporation have, in fact, filed a petition in bankruptcy, as is said in the report 1095 which is contained in the White Paper we are discussing:The Corporation feel it incumbent upon them to bring to notice their inability to comply with the requirements of the Act…The Government have come forward on behalf of the Corporation with a solution to get them out of their difficulties. Our duty as Members of the House is in a sort of way as if we were shareholders in this concern. After all, the amount which it is proposed to write off is £36,500,000 sterling, which is well over £1 per head of our adult population, and which represents the interest which we all have in the matter. Our duty today as Members of Parliament is to see what has happened in these four years since the scheme started; to see, if we can, why it has happened, who is responsible, whether anybody is to blame, who should be the liquidator of this bankrupt concern, and what we are to do next.
The directors of the bankrupt concern—the members of the Overseas Food Corporation—have put up certain proposals for the future and the Government, on their behalf, have accepted those proposals and put them to us—
§ Captain Crookshank
Generally speaking, the Report which has been published in the Appendix of this White Paper is adopted by the Government.
§ Captain Crookshank
There may be one or two small exceptions but, broadly speaking, that is so. We have to see whether we shall endorse the Government's endorsement of that portion of the Report which they have adopted and, if so, whether we shall do so because we are satisfied with the evidence which has been produced and with the management—or with the Government, as far as that is concerned—which has caused, in so short a time, such a vast amount of money to be written off. I do not want to go right through the whole of this sad story because, among other reasons, I have done it before. But, because of the multifarious duties we have at all times, it may be 1096 convenient very briefly to remind the House of what is the history.
It is only four years ago since the whole of this problem came into existence at all, with the Report of the Mission, in February, 1947. A year afterwards, in March, 1948, the Corporation took over. They took over only three years ago and then the plan was that within five years from that date there would be produced, at the cost of about £23 million, 600,000 tons of groundnuts off 3¼ million acres of African land. That was the plan on which they embarked only three years ago.
Yet some time within that year the Corporation revised their ideas and suggested getting the same amount, 600,000 tons of groundnuts, off not 3¼ million acres but off 2¼ million acres—and at a cost not of £23 million, but of £66 million. That plan was never accepted by the Government. They never told us so at the time; it only emerged from the discussions in the Public Accounts Committee. That particular interim proposal never saw the light but what did see the light a year later, on 14th March, 1949—only two years ago—was that we had a "revised cropping programme," as the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor called it, by which we were still to have 600,000 tons of groundnuts but off two million acres this time and at a cost of £46 million. We had already had a great shrinking of the area which was to be cultivated and also an enormous increase in the prospective cost. Of course, no groundnuts had been produced at that time—but that is incidental right through the whole story.
When we discussed the matter again in November, 1949—only six months later; only 18 months ago—instead of 600,000 tons of groundnuts being under review, what the right hon. Gentleman then talked about was the cultivation of 600,000 acres. Thus, 600,000 was kept as a sort of magic figure, but it changed from tons of groundnuts to acres of Africa. That was to cost £48 million. Some doubt was expressed at that time and the right hon. Gentleman said:We can grow oil seeds and other crops in this area … There is a very fair prospect indeed that 600,000 acres would more than pay its way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1949; Vol. 470, c. 50–51.]That is only 18 months ago.
1097 One remarkable factor has emerged since. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has never deliberately misled the House but he has never quite acted on the old principle of "The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." I think that sometimes he has forgotten to give us the whole truth. What he has said has been true, but sometimes he has omitted factors which would very much have altered our consideration of the problem—and this is one. He did not tell us that the situation had been seriously considered before this smaller programme of the 600,000 acres of September, 1949; he never told the House that even before then they had discussed whether the whole plan should be scrapped. Had we known that, and had the nation known that that had been seriously considered by the Government as a possibility, one can see very well that we should have had a very different reaction from that which we had to his statement at that time.
That is where we are at the moment. Until the change is made, until the House either approves the Second Reading of the Bill or the reasoned Amendment against it, we are still in the position which existed 18 months ago, when there was to be 600,000 acres cultivated and the cost was to be £48 million. That was the great scheme which was going to be "one of the acknowledged glories of the British Commonwealth."
The Corporation now come along and say they cannot carry on, that they cannot fulfil their statutory obligations. They therefore say to the Government, "What are we to do?" They then go on to say, "We have another plan. It will not be so large; we shall not attempt to cultivate anything like so much land; but let us have some more money—another £6 million or so." That is very much like all other bankruptcies—"Give us a little more; success is just around the corner; the black card cannot keep turning up for ever." So, the idea is to have a very modified affair over seven years with an acreage which was 600,000 18 months ago but which drops again so that the maximum figure is somewhere about 250,000 to 300,000 acres.
A most interesting sideline has emerged, which is that it has been decided that it would be better to substitute hand labour for part of the operations now 1098 done by machinery. To that extent, I suppose, some proof has been secured that machinery will not do all the work that is required in this difficult soil, but it is really rather strange to find that the Corporation responsible for this Groundnut Scheme, the whole purpose of which, in the main, was to try to find out how far we could go with mechanical means, have had, in the end, to say, "There is a very definite limit and we have passed it."
As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, the Government, having had these proposals put to them—that £36½ million should be written off, that the necessary guarantees should be continued for the railway and that a sum of £6 million will be required for the future working over seven years—have, according to the Minister's words, "adopted the course of financial prudence" and decided to write off the £36½ million. I must say I do not know what the financial prudence is about that. I accept it as some form of Socialist economics. Anyway, £6 million is required for seven years.
Let us pause here, because the right hon. Gentleman did not pause over this. What is it for? According to the White Paper we find thatThe scheme must now be regarded as a scheme of large-scale experimental development to establish the economics of clearing and mechanised or partially mechanised agriculture under tropical conditions.There is, of course, no suggestion that anything would be done at a profit or anything like that. It is merely a large-scale exercise to see whether, in fact, this can be done or not. That would be quite a good idea if it were not for the fact that we have been spending four years and £36½ million apparently trying to find out that very thing. I hope that the Minister who is to reply will tell us something about that, because it is quite true that the groundnut conception has disappeared. The White Paper says, in its third sentence:The original aims of the scheme have proved incapable of fulfilment.That is the situation. The Government come along and say, "Write off this sum and let us have another £6 million and we shall then see, in due course, how we get along."
What the Opposition have to do is to offer some advice on this proposal at this business meeting of the shareholders of 1099 the bankrupt concern. My first observation would be that if this Scheme is to go on at all, in some form of a Corporation, if that is the ultimate answer, we are entirely in agreement that it should pass to the supervision of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. That is the line which this party has taken since even before the Act was passed. When the subject was first discussed on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, the late Mr. Oliver Stanley, in his first speech on the matter, pointed out that when the time came we should ask that the Minister of Food should have nothing to do with it. I expect that the Government now wish that they had followed our advice.
The second thing for which we ask is that there should be another inquiry because the inquiries which have been held and about which the right hon. Gentleman has been telling us have all been ex parte. All of what the right hon. Gentleman calls the working parties during the past two years have been under the guidance, and so far as I know the chairmanship, of members of the Corporation. Therefore, they have not been impartial, although I am not saying that those concerned with them would not try to be as impartial as possible. If this project had been a howling success over the last four years one might look at the point rather differently, but in view of the failures of the past it seems that someone else should come in and have a look at these problems. We have gone on saying that and we repeat it again.
Two years ago we asked for it formally in a debate of this kind, and one of the reasons was the miscalculations which had been made. Were we not right? We were then talking about two million acres: we are now talking about the possibility of one-eighth of that area—and that in less than two years. Had we been listened to, and had certain things emerged which might well have emerged a lot of the money which has been spent in the last two years might not have had to be written off today.
But apart from the general necessity, from the point of view of public opinion, of having an impartial inquiry, I urge it because of this very document itself. It has all the vagueness of all the previous documents. It has all the same contradictions. There are certain facts emerging. 1100 As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, it is now admitted thatthe new plan cannot in itself contribute significantly towards Britain's food supplieslet alone "to world supplies." But it goes on to say that the Corporation:regard the Scheme as being capable on the scale which they propose of making what may become a significant contribution towards the hitherto unsolved problem of converting unoccupied but potentially productive areas of Colonial Africa into food producing regions.That begs the whole question. How does one know that they are "potentially productive"? The evidence which has been secured in trying to clear this land in the last four years does not go very far towards proving that.
In fact, the new scheme at any rate—let us be quite frank—finishes groundnuts for good and all. The Groundnut Scheme is dead, dead, dead. Perhaps for that we may be thankful, I do not know. That is admitted, and the right hon. Gentleman said so. There will never be any question any more of gathering nuts in May. The Corporation have proved that. It is quite true that it has cost £36,500,000, which has to be written off, to do that, but the Corporation says specifically in their report, on page 10, in paragraph 11 (B):The groundnut is not a plant which lends itself readily to mass methods over vast acreages.That, at least, is something to have found out for our money.
The second, perhaps not quite so startling, fact which has been discovered is that it would be a good idea to have smaller farms which can beindependently farmed by men who can gain an intimate knowledge of the peculiarities of the land on their own farms; peculiarities which vary from farm to farm.Well, those are two valuable pieces of information for which we have paid quite a lot of money.
The Corporation ask, however, to be allowed to go ahead with this modified scheme, and the Government endorse that. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to give us the answer to the following question, because I do not know what it is, and the Minister of Food has not made it at all clear. In paragraph 14 of the Government's decision it is stated:Even on the modified basis now proposed the scheme cannot fail to be an important contribution to the economic prosperity of the 1101 territory. It would not be justifiable to allow the considerable acreages of hitherto unusable land which the Corporation have already made available for agriculture and pasture to revert to bush.If it is found quite impossible to grow anything would it not be justifiable for it to revert to bush? It would be the commonsense thing to do. Far from it being unjustifiable to let that land revert to bush I should have thought that if it is no good it is no use spending a lot of money on it. I should like some explanation from the Minister of what is really meant by all that. I should like to be quite sure that we are not going on with the scheme because of the stubborn determination that we have to go on doing something there whatever it is. I hope that that is not the idea.
Yet I am told, in paragraph 14, that we must now regard this scheme as a large-scale experimental development to establish the facts. But when we are told that this is merely a large-scale experimental development I do not know why we are later told that what is necessary isto equip all the cleared land with permanent installations…If the Scheme is still an experimental one ought we to envisage spending money on what are called permanent installations? Or are permanent installations only temporary ones, as the prefabricated houses are likely to be?
The second point about which I have failed to get any clarification from the Minister's statement is contained in this most mysterious paragraph 17 of the Government's decision, where we are solemnly told that for one thing all thismust he subject to a wide margin of error,…I think that the Government were wise to put that in. We are solemnly told in the same paragraph that the £6 million which will be required over the next seven years for continuing the operation in its modified form is not a cost widely different from the heavy liabilities which the Corporation would have to meet if it shut down tomorrow morning. That is stated without any evidence or figures. A statement of that kind is really rather typical not only of this White Paper but of all the other documents that have preceded it, and that is why we are pressing that the matter should be probed in very much more detail.
1102 I understood the Minister to say—I may have misunderstood him—that unless the Scheme was carried on for a further period it would not be possible for the Corporation to get back, as they eventually hope to do, some of the money which they have lent to the railways. I do not understand that. If the Corporation comes to an end there will surely be some legal heirs somewhere, presumably the Government themselves. He also said, if I got it down right, that there would be something like £4 million for breaches of contract. I hope that will be explained, because on such a very much reduced scale it seems to me that we do not want to have the vast contracts which were envisaged when we were going to cultivate eight or 10 times the amount of land which we are now going to cultivate. I hope we can have some clear description of what all that is about.
I find it very hard to believe that it would be as expensive to shut down as it would be to carry on—that is, if it is decided to shut down. I am not saying that we should do so. What I am saying is that we should investigate and find out. But if it were decided to shut down, it seems extraordinarily hard to believe that it would be as cheap to go on for seven years, with all the paraphernalia, even if nothing happened at the end of it, as it would be to close down. I do not find it possible to believe that.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was intended to transfer the Corporation in future, under the aegis of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to Africa. If it is, I should like to ask why we have to expect that in three years' time we should still have such a very large staff in London. At present it consists of 170. In three years it is phased, as they say nowadays, to be 70. Of course, we on these benches—I go out of my way to say this—feel the greatest possible sympathy with everybody who is going to be squeezed out as a result of reducing the whole scheme. Many people have gone to Africa or have been working in London with the highest hopes and with thoughts that they were going to be in secure employment for many years to come, and it is heartrending for them and for their relations that things should have turned out the way they have. I have a suspicion that they will know where to put the blame.
1103 But when we are talking about reducing the staff, there is this further question; it may be a Committee point, although perhaps it is rather larger. We are distressed to find the proposals for compensation here, because I gather, according to the Corporation's suggestions, that the terms which are being offered are in the nature of six months' salary, or I think it is four months plus leave, whichever is the greater. I do not know how the scale of compensation is now running in general Government affairs, but I do know from the information which the Minister gave us that the late Chairman got no compensation on so humble a scale as that. He got rather more than 18 months' salary on leaving his job. I should like to have some clear explanation why Sir Leslie Plummer should do so much better than the more humble people in lower positions.
We have to remember, when we are talking about cutting down the staff, that there is one new feature which has now come out absolutely clearly, and that is that it is laid down by the Corporation in their Report that theydo not contemplate embarking on any other schemes in East Africa or elsewhere.This is the one and only scheme with which they are going to be concerned. That being so, surely some of the staff can be reduced much more quickly than appears to be envisaged.
§ Captain Crookshank
The whole thing has been one scheme from the beginning. I know there are Kongwa, Urambo and the Southern Province, but that is merely like Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. It is just one plan, although managed under slightly different arrangements.
I come to what is the main issue at present. There are many hon. Members who wish to speak on this subject, many of whom have had the good fortune to visit one or other of these areas and who speak with a personal knowledge which I have not got. But when we come to the main issue of what we are discussing at this rather sad meeting, when a great Corporation has had to declare its own bankruptcy, we have to make quite clear that, of course, like hon. Members opposite—I think they 1104 are now like us in this matter; they have not always been, but they are now—we are entirely in favour of the finest type of colonial development which we can achieve. We are all at, one about that. But what we are not committed to is this scheme or any particular scheme of colonial development at the moment. After all, we have not got the power or the responsibility, nor have we the facts or the evidence upon which this document has been drawn up.
As I say, we have not got any of the evidence why it is cheaper to go on than it is to stop, and why it would not be justifiable to stop if we can get something out of it, even though the land is practically useless. We are not particularly committed to this scheme; we never have been. We have always taken the line in debates from the start that we thought this Groundnut Scheme, which is now dead, would end up in being a colonial development scheme. That is why we always wanted the Colonial Office to have the supervision of it. We could not see why it should not come within the colonial development and welfare system and be financed in that way and be administered by local government under the supervision of the Secretary of State.
We have taken that line with regard to this scheme all the way through, but we are not committed to its being a good scheme or that it should necessarily continue in Kongwa or even in Southern Tanganyika. Nor are we certain that if we had got £6 million available, this would be the wise way or the right place in the Colonial Empire to use it. All those things are questions for the Government and not for the Opposition to settle.
We do agree, on the other hand, with the remark which is made in paragraph 12 of the Government's White Paper thatIn submitting their proposals the Corporation have emphasised the need for continuity of agricultural operations over a period of at least seven years in the interests both of efficiency and of the morale of the staff, which has suffered from past uncertainties and changes of plan.If the purpose underlying that paragraph and in bringing the White Paper and the Bill to the House is to try to get the Opposition to say that they will stand by this scheme for the next seven years, come what may, I am afraid we are not in a position to give that guarantee.
1105 If, after an impartial review we could all come to an agreement on the best way of dealing with the situation, that would be a different case altogether; but with this flimsy evidence of the Government, and particularly in view of their past record on this whole problem, much as I agree about the value it would be to the staffs concerned, we could not be held responsible for such a scheme. I wish we could give such a guarantee, but I am certain that if hon. and right Members opposite were sitting on this side of the House, they would not be able to give it either. So I say that we require the evidence, and I hope that the Government will see that an inquiry takes place. In fact, we hope that, as a result of the Division, the House will insist that it shall take place, because it will be in the interests of the greatest number that that should be done.
We have got some slight satisfaction on this side of the House. We are slowly getting our way in this matter. We asked for the departure of the Secretary of State, and he went. We asked for the departure of the Chairman of the Corporation, and he went. We asked for the removal of the whole problem from the aegis of the Ministry of Food to the Colonial Office, and that has happened. We have gone some of the way that we wanted to go. We should now have a real, proper inquiry and see what is the best that can be done for the future. The inquiries which have been held in the past, although they have been held by people with all the best will in the world, and in spite of all the objectivity which they have tried to impart to themselves, could not be considered entirely impartial.
It is because of that and on that sort of evidence that we cannot support the Second Reading of the Bill, although, as I have said, there are many parts of it with which I agree. I do not see why there is this wild hurry and rush to get the Bill through. I cannot imagine why the Government should have chosen the first day of April as being the appropriate day for the Measure to come into force; but perhaps on reflection it is the most suitable day to commemorate the strange and tangled story of what is probably one of the greatest fiascos that has taken place since the days of the South Sea Bubble.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Adams (Wandsworth, Central)
We have just listened to a jolly knock-about speech from the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) such as we have learned to expect from him. I do not propose to follow him in his remarks, except to say that I thought he was somewhat flamboyant when he said that the Opposition had called for the Minister and the Chairman and others to go and they had gone, when, after all, they have been asking for the Government to go for quite a long while. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The right hon. and gallant Gentleman knows quite well that he is not likely to have any success in that direction.
I wish to follow the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in his commercial analogy. Whatever may have been the past, the present position is that we are up against the hard facts contained in the Reports, the debates and this latest White Paper which is the basis of the Bill. It is with these hard facts that I should like to deal. I should like to make an historical review of the past events of this project since its inception, with the difference that I will deal with the facts as they would have occurred under private enterprise in the so-called "good old days" instead of under the Government. I am sure that if I make any mistakes as to details, Members opposite will correct me.
We start off with the germ of an idea for floating a company. It used to be a nice square gold nugget which was found in some remote part of a desert or some heavily silvered quartz. But on this occasion we find a reputable business man with great experience, Mr. Frank Samuel, the managing director of the United Africa Company, going to the City financiers with a proposition shortly after the war. From his great experience in Africa, realising that, in view of the great scarcity of seed oils, prices are likely to rise from somewhere around £30 a ton to £65 a ton and more, he considers that here is a project well worthy of financial consideration by the City of London. He puts in a report to the City financiers.
These business men are very shrewd. They know the integrity and reputation of the man submitting the project, but they 1107 want further expert advice before deciding to launch a company. They therefore appoint a committee of experts, Messrs. Wakefield, Martin and Rosa, to go out to the site of the suggested project and submit their technical advice and opinions. This is done, and the committee of experts state in one of their letters, "We are confident that the project is a practicable one." On the basis of that advice, a prospectus is issued, and that prospectus can be found in Command Paper No. 7030. The prospectus is issued containing this letter of advice from the experts and also a careful review of the proposals, the risks being weighed against the benefits. The company promoters are anxious not to be too categorical, so they state that, "The project clearly involves considerable risks." On the basis of the prospectus a company is floated, and we find the first shareholders' meeting being held on 6th November, 1947.
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)
Will the hon. Member tell us the amount of money for which the prospectus asks?
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
Will not the hon. Member agree that the public did not subscribe a penny to the shares and that the stock had to be taken up by the Government?
§ Mr. Adams
I intended on this occasion to make a serious and unprovocative speech. I should be much obliged if hon. Members would allow me to develop my remarks without any undue interruption, except in regard to matters of fact. I can quote numerous eulogies of the project that were made by the various shareholders assembled at the meeting. I will content myself with the vote of thanks that was moved at the end of the proceedings by the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). He said, according to the report of the proceedings, that:It has been an almost unanimous vote of confidence in these proposals and of high 1108 hopes that our confidence will be fulfilled."— [OFFICIAL, REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443. c. 2102.]Those were very kind words. Seldom has a company been launched with a greater blessing from the shareholders. But time passes on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We had bad reports, statements about poorly kept accounts, about investigations and re-organisation.
§ Mr. Adams
We now come to the board meeting summoned to consider the latest accounts that were published on 31st March last year. The chairman turns to his co-directors and says, "You have the published accounts in front of you. I regret to say that this company is no longer a going concern. I have arranged to raise a bank overdraft for a few months, but I think we had better examine the accounts in detail to see what the future is to be." We find that the chairman first takes the large sum of £16 million spent on development and land clearing and says, "I am afraid that much of this sum will have to be written off." He reports that a considerable amount of money has been spent but that there is not a great deal that can be done in the future along the lines envisaged when the company was originally formed.
He then says, "Let us turn from that rather depressing figure which accounts for nearly half of the total assets of the company. It will entail the writing down of a considerable amount. Let us look at some of the other items. You will see that we have got just over £1 million invested in a subsidiary company which appears to be going quite well. That will stand us in good stead. I see that we have current assets of £9 million—£5 million in stock, £1 million invested in the East African railways and so forth. The only other item we have is one which is just over £8 million representing our fixed assets. Of course, if we have to close this company down, those assets will have to be disposed of at knock-out prices, but if we can go to the shareholders and tell them that they are 1109 worth £8 million in a going concern and if we are able to persuade them that we must write down our issued capital say by a half or one-third, we shall have no difficulty in going once again both to the shareholders and to the public and asking them to subscribe a further sum for the reconstruction of the company."
§ Mr. Adams
This is a board meeting to examine the accounts, and the hon. Member must follow me if he wants to interrupt.
Some hon. Members opposite have serious doubts about this kind of procedure for handling such a project under private enterprise. So let us turn for a moment or two to a classical example, which hon. Members will recollect but which the public may have forgotten. I refer to the Lena Gold Fields. The public were persuaded to put £4½ million into this project.
§ Mr. Adams
I leave it to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) to explain how much that is worth in present values. But there was a Russian blizzard far worse than the Kongwa drought, which swept away the assets of the company, and in 1937 the capital was reduced from £4½ million to £21,815; 19s. 2½ was written off the £ share, only 8½d. was returned to the shareholders, and the £ shares were reduced to the value of 1d.
§ Mr. F. Harris
Is not the whole difference in the hon. Member's point that the public could freely subscribe to any private enterprise company, but in this case there was no alternative for their money was put in already. They had no chance to object.
§ Mr. Adams
That company is still in existence today and is known as the Lena Trust Company Ltd. There we have one private enterprise company which is almost completely written off but is still continuing.
Yesterday evening I casually read through one section of the Stock Exchange Year Book, and I paid special attention to a small section headed "Mines." Without any difficulty at all, I extracted some 40 or 50 companies which were formed to operate in Africa. Every one of these that I have here on this list at some time or another wrote down their capital. Probably the right hon. Member for Gainsborough has not studied this subject, but let me give him one or two examples.
Tanganyika Central Gold Mines Ltd. in 1934 and 1948 wrote down the 5s. shares to 1s. in two moves. The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to be very interested but I will give him another one. The Diamond and Gold Development Corporation in 1940 wrote off 4s. 9d. of every 5s. share in the company. The Witwatersrand Co. in 1947 wrote 15s. off the £ shares, and hon. Members opposite, who have any knowledge of company affairs at all, will know that is a common procedure under private enterprise. If a company is formed to develop a project, and it does not succeed at first it must write down its capital and go to the public again with a fresh issue. Practically all these companies I have listed here have written down their capital and have either at once, or within a year or two, floated new issues to get additional capital.
Hon. Members opposite will know that if there is a £100,000 company which has practically failed they will get no more money for it, but if they write their shares down to £10,000 and produce a wonderful array of fixed assets, which can only be used in a continuing business, it is the simplest thing possible to get the public to invest a further sum of money.
§ Mr.Beresford Craddockrose—1111
§ Mr. Adams
No, I cannot give way. I have done so on many occasions already.
Far more millions have been written off by private enterprise in Africa than has been the case in this Groundnut Scheme. Why rebuke and censure the Government for treading the well-worn paths of private enterprise. [Laughter.] What is good for private enterprise should be good enough for the Government without criticism from the Opposition. I have taken a selection of the mining companies in the Stock Exchange Year Book, but there are thousands of other examples.
The position here is not as bad as it is painted by the right hon. Gentleman or by the Tory Press. [Laughter.] Take first of all the fact that the Government have written off roughly £36 million. That is necessary under our system of Civil Estimates procedure. Hon. Members know that full well, that if this were a commercial proposition under private enterprise it would only be necessary to write down the capital by half or at the most to one-third to get a fresh subscription from the public. [Laughter.]
Again, let me remind hon. Members, on the Benches opposite who seem to be in an hilarious mood this evening, that millions of this money have been spent on roads, hospitals, schools and other social services. We on this side regard that as a good social investment in a backward area. Private enterprise would never have to face that expenditure, because private enterprise never goes in for social development alongside its industrial exploitation.
§ Mr. Alport
May I read to the hon. Gentleman a section from the book on the Groundnut Scheme by Mr. Allen Wood, with which no doubt the hon. Gentleman is familiar:In Kongwa a firm promise was made that priority would be given to building 1,000 African married quarters by the end of 1948, but only 200 or so were ready. Once again Africans were saying that the White Man had broken his promises… Neither were the houses anything remarkable. In fact, they were worse than those provided on the best sisal estates.
§ Mr. Adams
It is a new technique on the part of hon. Members opposite to read at great length from a book in order to prevent the continuation of a debate. 1112 All that the hon. Gentleman said was that certain social projects were not completed. Without reading the book and taking up further time, I cannot examine that proposition. Again, I remind the House that millions of pounds from the sum under discussion have been paid to native labour. What is the effect of the work provided for the natives in that backward area?
§ Mr. Adams
How does this sum of £36 million, even if it were all written off—if there were no assets there at all, no social developments and no fixed installations—compare with the huge Defence expenditure of £4,700 million which has gone through completely without criticism from the benches opposite? Yet those two sums of money may very well be spent for the same purpose. The Scrooges opposite can examine these accounts with a myopic eye if they want to—
§ Mr. Colegate
On a point of order. Is any hon. Member entitled to refer to hon. Members in this or any other part of the House as "Scrooges"?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I think we should get on better if we did not use words of that kind.
§ Mr. Adams
Hon. Members opposite may call this project a costly failure, but those with any vision of Colonial Empire development will learn from this experiment in social expansion. They will support the re-organisation proposed by the Government and then, without any apology for the investment of this sum of money, they will march proudly into the future.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
I hope the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Adams) will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely in his Fabian fantasy. I suppose that when the state of affairs of the unfortunate companies to 1113 which he referred were public news, his hon. Friends did not miss the opportunity to make propaganda in this House. Therefore, he cannot complain if hon. Members on this side of the House who are critical of this Scheme take this opportunity to criticise the record of the Government on groundnuts. The fact is that, while we are concerned with the question of where the capital comes from and whether it is from free enterprise or state enterprise, we are mainly concerned tonight with whether this Scheme should go on again in a new form.
I listened to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food, who introduced the Bill, and the right hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank), who moved the Amendment for the Opposition. I think that, on the whole, nobody could complain of the temper of their speeches. I hope that the debate will continue in the same spirit and that we shall not spend too much time going back into the unfortunate past. I was glad that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not stress unduly the single responsibility of the Secretary of State for War. It is no good blaming only the Secretary of State for War for this matter, though it is certain that we are come to bury him, not to praise him.
This Scheme was a Cabinet decision. It was a Cabinet responsibility and when the Bill to set up the Corporation was given a Second Reading in this House there was no Division. All parties gave the Scheme their blessing and wished it success. It was introduced at a period when the Labour Party, with a majority of 200, were inclined to go too far and too fast. Of course, we all know now—we have had it reproduced in the seven debates that we have had since then—that what we should have done was to progress with a series of pilot schemes before we went ahead with the larger Scheme whose burial we are witnessing today.
We are discussing a Bill to re-finance the Overseas Food Corporation with £6 million and an additional £1,500,000 for other purposes. At the same time, it is proposed to transfer responsibility for the working of the Corporation to the Colonial Office from the Ministry of Food. The Amendment asks for an 1114 impartial inquiry. That is the issue we are debating. I did not fully understand from the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether the inquiry for which he asked referred to the new Scheme of £6 million, and how that should be expended and where, or whether it was meant to be an overall inquiry to take into consideration what had happened to the £36 million which has been lost. I did not understand whether, if the Government accept the Amendment and are prepared to grant an inquiry, the Opposition are then prepared to back this Bill.
I was sorry to hear the Minister say that Mr. McFadyen is to go. I have read what I could about the long history of this Scheme and I formed the impression that he was one of the really good men. I am sorry that his wealth of experience, which I think was mostly connected with the Co-operative movement, will be lost. I had gathered the impression that he was one of the more responsible members of the Board. I am most disappointed to find that he is no longer to continue as a member of the Board in some function. I sincerely hope that it is not too late for the Government to have second thoughts about this very able official and to try to persuade him to continue in this, or a closely related, capacity.
We must be realistic in this matter. I appreciate that the Minister of Food is relatively new to this problem. I could not fully understand from his speech what the Government view was. Do the Government say that this is the right Scheme? We have had a number of schemes, and a number of inquiries. As the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough said, the speech which the Minister of Food made today has been made over and over again—"Things are bad now but they will be all right tomorrow." But are they saying, "Yes, but this is the right scheme"? Is the sum of £7,500,000 this time likely to be enough? Is the Secretary of State for the Colonies able to give us any clear undertaking with regard to that?
Are the same men to remain at the top level and planning level, and, above all, are the estimators advising the Colonial Secretary—the men who have made these estimates which they are submitting to the House tonight—the same men who were responsible for the previous wrong 1115 estimates, or are the Government going to call in the men who, frankly, should have been called in before—the men who have had long experience in colonial development—to advise them on the sort of project they should undertake now, if at all?
I want to ask the Colonial Secretary if he could tell us something about the position in regard to the world food shortage today. After all, this was the exordium of Ministerial speeches when this House discussed this question in the past. We were always told about the world fats position. Is that still important? Does it still receive top priority in Government planning? Because, if so, we are not going to get any fats from this scheme, we are not going to get any oil. What about meat? Is it meat that is the important question?
What is the priority and what is the Government's approach to the world food shortage as described by Lord Boyd-Orr? Is meat of great importance, or is it grain? I happen to represent an East Anglian constituency which, if we had spent £36 million on capital equipment, could have become the granary of the United Kingdom. It is three years since this scheme was first introduced. Has the international food situation changed, or is it the same? How do the Government propose now to use their limited peace-time resources to deal with this international food shortage?
I should like also to ask the right hon. Gentleman about our strategic food requirements. The Minister of Labour came down to the House last week and made a brilliant speech in which he referred to our civil technique and effort as being the essential basis of our war potential. What about our food strategy? What kind of part is this new scheme going to play in that? Having regard to the vital question of food supplies and raw materials, stockpiling and bulk buying, how is this new African scheme going to fit into our international commitments with the free peoples of the world, with whom we are hoping to plan the future? During the war, we set up S.H.A.E.F. There is to be a corresponding civil board. There are various raw materials boards already in being and meeting in Paris and elsewhere. Where does this African Scheme fit into that pattern?
1116 Further, can we afford £7,500,000 on these new products, in view of our international responsibilities and the requirements of international planning from the defence point of view? I had hoped that the Minister of Food would have been able to tell us much more about this overall picture, but perhaps his right hon. Friend will be able to do that when he replies. In passing, I noticed that the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) said over the weekend that he did not know how the Liberals in this House were going to vote for two consecutive weeks. We always know how the Conservatives are going to vote, but the record of that party is not too good on colonial development, and I hope that in this debate we are not going to treat the House of Commons as a fruit machine in the hope of getting the jackpot, because so far the answer has been the obvious one—a lemon. It is no good in this House crying "Wolf" for weeks on end because in the end nobody takes any notice of it, and it is no good treating the House of Commons as an annex to the Tory Party Central Office. The Liberal Party will certainly not use the Division Lobbies for electioneering purposes.
§ Mr. Granville
Well, we at least consider these problems on their merits. We also consider the interests of the whole country and what is the right thing to do. It is because of that fact that I make an appeal to the Colonial Secretary.
Is there any reason why he cannot accept this Amendment which calls for an inquiry? After all, this House of Commons is very finely divided in the Division Lobbies, and, if we are to continue to put the interests of the nation first, I can see no reason why on an issue like this, on which the fate of the Government is not involved and which tonight is not regarded as a major political question, the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept this reasonable request for an inquiry, and treat the House as a Council of State. I am not going into all the merits of the arguments put forward so far in the previous debates, because it would take too long.
We have a duty to satisfy the shareholders, who are the taxpayers. We must satisfy public opinion that we are going forward with a scheme which is not 1117 based upon the estimates and plans of those people who were responsible for the previous failures. We must wipe the slate clean and begin again, bringing in some of the experts who have already given us warnings about this scheme and who also wished it well.
For that matter, I do not think there is any reason why this modified scheme should not carry on while the inquiry is being undertaken. I do not think it would necessarily stop the payment of compensation to officers who had been discontinued, stop the maintenance of buildings, roads or ports or the repair and maintenance which is necessary on the present scheme while the inquiry is being undertaken. Therefore, I make that appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. We appreciate how this scheme was started, and the kind of ambition which lay behind it, but I appeal to him to give us this inquiry and to let it start immediately. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will be able to give us that undertaking.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Hurd (Newbury)
I trust, but I am not hopeful, that the Government will take the advice which has just been proffered them from the Liberal benches. Let us be quite clear. This Bill requires the British public to invest another £6 million in a concern which has an appalling record of losses year after year in its short life. As I see it, we are the trustees of the British public, and we must satisfy ourselves about the management of the nation's business. We on these benches do not ask for any more targets of production. They have been horribly deceptive, but we must have reliable advice on what kind of crops can best be grown in the areas cleared in Tanganyika.
We want to know, too, whether the large areas that are to revert to native herbage, and possibly to bush, can carry cattle with a reasonable hope of success. Is there enough water there to maintain a reasonable head of stock? All the trees have gone. Can we get a face of grass established on that bare ground which will prevent serious wind erosion, which can be a terrible problem in that part of Africa? Above all, we must know who is going to run these properties.
The hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Adams), spoke of some failures of private enterprise in Africa. 1118 It is true that Africa is littered with the remains of schemes that looked fine on paper, but the promoters could not find capable men to take charge. Therefore, we on these benches must press the Government to let us know more definitely who is going to be in charge of this new development.
§ Mr. Hurd
They did not. Those companies changed their policy, and, in any case, they were not foolish enough to go plunging ahead in a precipitate way, as the Government did for political reasons. We know that this Government does business in an extraordinary way, but this proposal really takes the cake. The shareholders, who have already lost vast sums, are asked to make a further investment without knowing what the new management propose to do, or, indeed, who they are. Surely we, as trustees for the British taxpowers, are bound to ask for an impartial inquiry as to what should be done in the future, bearing in mind what has happened in the past. We must be satisfied that the game will be worth the candle.
It is no less important to those of the staff who stay on in Tanganyika that they should know with certainty what the future holds for them. They should know that this House of Commons as a whole—and on occasion we can turn ourselves into a Council of State—is satisfied, after due, proper and reliable inquiry, that it is worth proceeding on certain definite lines in Tanganyika. They cannot know that today even if this Bill were to go through the House without a Division.
I cannot understand for what this £6 million is wanted. Kongwa and Urambo are already fully equipped. Indeed, they are super-equipped, because a lot of stuff there cannot be used now that the cultivated area at Kongwa is to be cut to 12,000 acres a year, and now that, as I understood from the Minister of Food this afternoon, at Urambo it is proposed to cultivate 45,000 acres a year. No more capital expenditure should be required at either place, and, therefore, the £6 million cannot be for that. In the Southern Province, the Government now say that clearing and development should 1119 go on until 1954, which will bring the cleared area there up to 60,000 acres. If we can judge from what the Minister told us about the first two areas, Kongwa and Urambo, it is fair to assume that between half or at the most two-thirds of that 60,000 acres will be cultivated each year.
If the £6 million were to be applied to the development of that area, the cost would work out at £200 an acre as a capital investment. That is obviously fantastic. While the Minister was not clear in his figures, he did suggest that perhaps only £4 million was going to be put into capital development in the Southern Province. But, even taking that lower figure, it means that we shall be spending £100 an acre in developing this chancy land in the Southern Province. We must not forget that we do not yet know what we can grow there. We know that we cannot grow certain things in Kongwa and that there are limitations in Urambo, but we know very little at all about the Southern Province. If it is going to cost anything like £100 an acre to clear that land, then we should not proceed without some more full and reliable information. It would be just as sensible to decide to level the Cairngorms at a cost of £100 or £200 an acre, and to decide to try and grow wheat in the Highlands of Scotland.
We in this House have responsibilities to the taxpayers which we must discharge. We should certainly encourage the carrying on of more cropping experiments and scientific trials in Tanganyika. Whatever form the new project takes, those trials should continue because East Africa is woefully short of technical staff, and there is much to be learned for the benefit of the farming community, both African and European. But for this purpose, there is no need to have a giant State farming enterprise. Research and experiment could equally well be sponsored jointly by the East African High Commission and the Colonial Office. That is a proper function for them.
We have discovered, at a cost of £36,500,000, some of the reasons why the Germans and the native Africans left this part of Tanganyika severely alone. If one goes to Tanganyika, as some of us have been fortunate enough to do, one finds the land round Tabora and Moshi as closely developed as that in Essex, with excellent farms, but that the Kongwa Plain 1120 was left untouched. As I say, we have discovered some of the reasons why the Germans and the native Africans have left it alone. I hope these will not prove conclusive reasons, and that means will yet be found to use this land economically for the benefit of mankind.
That does not mean that the State must farm the land, because politicians are the worst possible farmers. They have to try to serve two masters. [Laughter.] That is quite true; they are the worst possible farmers, especially those Members of Parliament who only see their farms at the weekend. The reason why politicians are the worst possible farmers is that they have to keep an eye on two interests. One is the land and the stock on it, and the other is the electorate. If Ministers try to farm with one eye over their shoulders wondering what the electors are thinking, they are not likely to make a great success of it.
This objection to State farming applies also to the operations of the Queensland-British Food Corporation. We have not heard much about it this afternoon, but I see an hon. Member opposite who had the opportunity, as I did recently, of going to Queensland, and I hope that he may catch Mr. Speaker's eye. Under this Bill, the Queensland-British Food Corporation is to be separated from the Overseas Food Corporation and is to remain in the charge of the Minister of Food. What I saw in Queensland last December satisfied me that the sorghum-cattle-pigs enterprise is being run on sound lines. Peak Downs and the other properties have been blessed with ample rains for the last two seasons. The sorghum has done quite well, and the cattle were lost to sight in the tall grass. The pig side has also been started well.
But in my view this will be always mainly a cattle grazing enterprise. If one looks at the published figures, one finds 'that out of 700,000 acres that we own, only 66,000 are to be cultivated. So do not let us imagine that we are doing a great pioneer work in Queensland by growing sorghum. There were many people growing sorghum there before. There is a much bigger acreage grown on Darling Downs than on the Peak Downs, and even in the Peak Down district there were areas of sorghum grown before the Corporation came there.
1121 So far, all is going well in Queensland, but droughts will come and there will be disappointing years. I do not fear for the future of that scheme as long as we have the present capable Queenslanders in charge, and I was glad that the Minister of Food paid a special tribute to Mr. Kemp and his technical staff. I was much impressed by his ability as an administrator, but a very heavy load is falling upon him and I should fear for the future of the Scheme if he is not able to devote as much of his energies to it as he has done in the last couple of years.
What are we doing farming in Queensland with the taxpayers' money growing sorghum and raising cattle and pigs when the job could be perfectly well done by individual farmers who would willingly take up this land? Peak Downs that we own is not as good farming country as Darling Downs; but there is nothing specially difficult about getting fair crops of sorghum grown there. Let us do the ordinary commonsense business thing and tell farmers of Queensland, and for that matter anywhere else in the Empire, that we will pay so much a ton for sorghum. I have no doubt that if we did that we should get as much sorghum, if not more, than we are getting from this scheme. We should get what we want without engaging in the farming business, which is not a job for the State, unless there is really no other way of getting new land into cultivation and getting extra food grown.
I say that in Queensland there is another way—there was no need for us to accept the offer of the Queensland Government to go into partnership with them, and we should now seek to withdraw.
§ Mr. Webb
I really must correct the hon. Gentleman. As I reported today, I discussed this problem with Mr. Hanlon, and obviously one of the suggestions made in those conversations was that they themselves might like to take it over but, believe me, that was not their desire. Their desire was that we should continue and, for quite good reasons, that they wanted to have this sort of partnership between Australia and ourselves in this.
§ Mr. Hurd
I can understand the reluctance of Mr. Hanlon to see the British 1122 Government withdraw three-quarters of the capital from this enterprise, but I do not see that we should necessarily agree with the point of view of the Labour Government in Queensland. I think the Minister should pursue the request he has evidently made to the Queensland Government and see whether we can get out of this. We might get out of it, at a profit. There have been two rainy years and after the losses on the Groundnut Scheme they might even clear £750,000 in Queensland. That would be quite a feather in the Governments cap.
So far, we have scored a minor success in Queensland and a major disaster in Tanganyika. Have we the sense to pause now and take stock? I am sure that for all hon. Members of this House who feel anxious and uncertain about the proposals of the Government their duty to the British taxpayer is clear. They will vote tonight for the reasoned Amendment.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hoy (Leith)
I take part in this debate as one who has not had the privilege of visiting the areas concerned but as a member of the Public Accounts Committee who spent some considerable time going into the accounts of the Overseas Food Corporation and submitted the last report of the Public Accounts Committee to this House.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), about whom I shall have something more to say later on, said that it was the precipitate action of the Government which had brought about this trouble. That may be his opinion tonight, but it certainly was not his opinion when the scheme was first mooted, as I shall hope to prove later on. I do not think it was a very noble suggestion that he made about the Queensland Scheme. First he argued that we did not require to go to Queensland and that other people could have farmed the area there. We did not prevent their taking over, and of course it was a joint scheme between members of the Commonwealth that brought this about. I do not think highly of the suggestion that, having had two rainy seasons and made a profit, we should withdraw and let the people who went into the scheme have a loss probably in their first year. I am 1123 certain that the hon. Member for Newbury will regret having made that statement.
When the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crook-shank) opened for the Opposition today, he certainly made it quite clear that he was not going to discuss the Bill very much but that the House was proceeding to hold a grand inquest on the money already spent. One had the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that in this as in other cases, he was seeking to exploit the situation for political purposes. This has been the case on other occasions, even in connection with bulk purchasing. The hon. Member for Newbury did not seem to object to bulk purchases—
§ Mr. Hoy
Anyway, the hon. Member for Newbury suggested that we should give a guaranteed price and thus give a guaranteed market. I might commend to hon. Gentlemen opposite an article which appeared under the name of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Boothby) in "The Recorder" of December last in which he said the whole policy of bulk purchase should not have been exploited for party political purposes and that he felt that in many respects it was the best way for this country to trade. I suggest that we should accept that advice with regard to this Scheme.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)
Might I assure the hon. Member that we might be ready to consider even bulk purchase if there were any groundnuts in East Africa?
§ Mr. Hoy
That is not a very bright interjection. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not a very bright Member."] It may be a case of a not very bright Member. Anyway, what he said has been said so often now that it could not be described as original.
The Public Accounts Committee went fully into the accounts, under the very able chairmanship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton). As the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough 1124 said, it is not necessary to recount in any great detail the reasons for which the Scheme was undertaken. But I think it is just as well to remember that all responsible people and all responsible organisations, including the World Food Organisation, reported that the supplies of oils and fats in the world were desperately short, and that some great schemes would have to be undertaken if we were to make the shortage good. I think it is true to say that that met with the approval not only of the general public but, as I shall seek to show, of every party represented in this House.
It was under these conditions that Mr. Frank Samuel, of the United Africa Company, submitted his plan. I do not intend to criticise Mr. Samuel nor the United Africa Company. I say this quite frankly: I believe they felt there was a contribution to be made to the situation and that this scheme could help to do it. When the plan was submitted it looked good—so good that there were many people who wanted to claim that it was their thought.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
If that is the case, why did the Colonial Office turn it down when it was offered to them, because it was offered to them before it was sold to the then Minister of Food.
§ Mr. Hoy
My information is—and I cannot argue the point—that it was offered to both the Colonial Office and the Ministry of Food. Rightly or wrongly, the Ministry of Food accepted it—and I shall deal with that later. All I am saying is that it was suggested by Mr. Samuel that this was a first-class scheme and was regarded as such by many. The hon. Member for Newbury, who has spoken tonight about "precipitate action," had this to say of the scheme in a Journal called "Progress," in an article called "Pioneers in East Africa":Britain earned her Empire by being always ready to adventure her brains and her money. Today, with so many pre-occupations, our race has not altogether lost the pioneering spirit that built up the Empire. The pioneers who first saw the possibilities of the Groundnut Scheme in East Africa were carrying on an old tradition in a modern age. They saw that the new farming of the Western world, with large-scale mechanised equipment and the understanding use of fertilisers, made possible developments in Africa that could have been no more than dreams a generation ago.1125 He went on to say:The credit for this vision belongs to Mr. Frank Samuel, Managing Director of The United Africa Company.So that the credit, if there be credit in it, is not taken by the Government but is given by the hon. Member to Mr. Frank Samuel of the United Africa Company. The hon. Member went on to say:Once the idea took shape in his mind when he was touring Africa in 1946, he lost no time in pressing ahead with a development plan in detail. The need for more fats and oils was, and is, so great that the imagination of Ministers and Civil Servants was fired in record time, and the principle of the plan was accepted by the Government.At that time the hon. Member for Newbury gave his complete approval to the Scheme, and he was not the only one, because the House was fairly unanimous about it. The Government of the day did not accept that plan at its face value but appointed the Wakefield Commission, which investigated Mr. Samuel's plan. They were a little more optimistic.
I would remind the House that the members of the Wakefield Commission were regarded as experts. Mr. Wakefield himself was formerly a director of agriculture in Tanganyika territory. Mr. Rosa was a member of the Colonial Office and Mr. Martin was a head of the plantation department of the United Africa Company. I think it should also be stated that, even in the last debate, the hon. Member for Newbury recommended Mr. Martin as a thoroughly competent person to inquire into the Groundnut Scheme in Africa. I see that the hon. Member for Newbury nods his head to indicate that he does not withdraw from that statement. He would have regarded Mr. Martin as one of the experts on the subject and as a man whose opinion we were entitled to accept.
In fact, the Government of the day and this House did accept the advice of these experts, and it is always as well to remember that. I like to hear the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough because of his fun in the House. I appreciate his humour very much indeed. Ultimately, the Government have to accept responsibility for this Scheme, but when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seeks to throw all the responsibility upon this side of the House and upon the Government, never let us forget that Mr. Oliver Stanley, whose loss we all 1126 deplore so much, and who then represented West Bristol, speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Opposition, gave complete support to the Wakefield Commission Report with the exception of one point—where the responsibility should lie. This is reported in HANSARD of 6th February, 1947, when Mr. Oliver Stanley said that those on his side of the Housewere prepared to support the scheme without any idea of party advantage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 1959.]I believe that to be a statement of fact, because nobody would for one moment have doubted the word of Mr. Oliver Stanley, who has now gone from amongst us.
It is well to remember that, speaking for the Opposition, Mr. Stanley went further on the Second Reading and said:Here undoubtedly is a Measure on which it is possible for all sections of the House to unite. It is, at the same time, something which is constructive, which is designed to help our present economic position, and which is not of a party character.He went on to say:We can, therefore, offer to the right hon. Gentleman not only our support for the passage of this Bill, but our friendly interest and a wish for success for the schemes which will be promoted under it."-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2035.]
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
Would not the same remarks have been made by shareholders in the South Sea Bubble to the chairman at that time?
§ Mr. Hoy
I do not think that is worthy of the hon. Gentleman. I am dealing with the opinion expressed by Mr. Stanley, who was then speaking on behalf of His Majesty's Opposition. While I can recall what he said, having been in the House and heard him speak, I can say nothing of the credentials of those who supported the South Sea Bubble and I shall leave them to the hon. Member who, perhaps, knows much more about them than I do.
I could quote much more of what Mr. Stanley said in support of this Scheme, but I would point out that there was not even a Division on Second Reading or Third Reading. Perhaps I may make just one more quotation from what Mr. Stanley said, speaking for the Opposition:Not only shall we facilitate, and assist in, the passage of this Bill, which is, as I say, the easiest part, but when we come to the 1127 more difficult part, the turning of the paper provisions of an Act into the actual results of a scheme, then, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, we shall follow the progress, not only with interest, but with hope and with sympathy. He can count on us to give all the support we can to the men, from the top to the bottom."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2045.]But that support has not been very apparent. In spite of all the difficulties—and hon. Members opposite admit that there are difficulties, as do the Public Accounts Committee in their Report—we have not seen very much sympathy from hon. Members opposite but, instead, have seen an exploitation of the situation for party political purposes. I think I have proved that, in any case, when the Scheme was mooted, and when it was brought before this House, it did, in fact, receive the unanimous support of the Members of the House.
The question may be posed, Could this Scheme have been undertaken by private enterprise? The answer is no, because the directors and those who spoke for the United Africa Company made it quite clear that even although they would have liked to commend to their own private company—the people of Unilever said so —the undertaking of the Scheme, the capital involved was so great that it was impossible for them to undertake the task. On the Third Reading of the Act Mr. Oliver Stanley said:There are certain large-scale operations which probably are best done by the Corporations; and I say at once that I do not think that under present conditions it would have been possible for private enterprise to have tackled the groundnut scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th January, 1948; Vol. 446, c. 138.]So I think I have proved that if the Scheme had to be undertaken—and the House did think it ought to be undertaken —then it was only the Government who could have undertaken it.
It will, therefore, be seen that it was agreed by all parties that this great enterprise, with all its attendant risks, should be undertaken, and it was agreed that this vast enterprise should be entrusted to a public corporation. I think that there is no one who would dissent from that. It was agreed by all the experts that the Scheme was feasible and was practicable. All who had been consulted in the matter, those who were on the Wakefield Commission, those who represented the United 1128 Africa Company—all who had been consulted—said it was feasible.
It may be that we placed too much faith in the experts. I do not know. If, however, we did, then the whole House placed too much faith in the experts—even although the Minister must take responsibility for it. I believe—and believe most sincerely—that when this Scheme was undertaken it was undertaken because of the world conditions which then existed. It was because everybody felt that it was essential, if we were to get the things which we required, that the Scheme should be undertaken, and undertaken quickly. I believe, along with some Members of the Opposition who also gave approval to it, that this country ought to develop every part of its Empire, and I believe that this was one further substantial contribution to development in Africa which might have provided us with the things which we required and which certainly increased the standard of living for the people of that continent. So, while we must regret that this should have been the result, at least let us believe that everybody in this House approved it for the very best reasons and with the very best motives; and though we regret what the result has been, so far, do not let us at this stage condemn the contribution this House sought to make.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) has spent a good deal of time in proving what was known to us, that this Scheme started in an atmosphere of good will and of high endeavour. To anybody who went through the Committee stage of the Measure, as I did, or who has cared to look over what has happened, it is perfectly clear that there has never been a difference between the two sides of the House in the objective; but there have been considerable differences about the best methods of achieving the target, and grounds for considerable criticism have existed, and there have been fears expressed, about the methods chosen for achieving the target.
It seems to me foolish to try to say that it is playing politics for the Opposition to criticise now, fed as they have been since the inception of the Scheme with gloss after gloss over the real facts—with a pink veil of half-truths drawn between them 1129 and the real facts of the case. They would be failing in their duty if they did not come forward, as they have done, with these constructive criticisms.
The hon. Gentleman thought fit to quote very widely from the late Mr. Oliver Stanley, and I think that he must realise that throughout every stage of that Measure we heard from that gentleman, and from many others on both sides of the House, grave doubts expressed as to whether diarchy would work in the Colonies. Grave doubts were expressed —and this is a very important point that has not come out sufficiently in this debate—about whether we ought not to have a scheme for greater use of the peasant proprietors and provision for their education. There were many hon. Members on the other side of the House —some of who are not Members now, and I remember Mrs. Manning making a considerable speech about it—who asked whether the native was going to be used sufficiently. We had a phrase by the Minister today about "new life and hope for the people of Africa." but at no time throughout the period when this £36,500,000 has been expended have there been more than 32,000 natives employed—in a country of several million.
In fact, the gravest of all the errors that we attack at the present moment is that the genius of the present Government is obviously for getting things in the wrong order. If they had come forward at the inception of the Scheme with the Scheme they are bringing forward today, and with an expenditure of £6 million or £7 million for real pioneer work, and if they had paralleled in the Groundnut Scheme what has been done for 20 years in Uganda in the production of cotton, which is entirely in the hands of the natives; if they had sought to learn from that experience, which it was open to them to do, and which it was recommended that they should do; if they had regarded the Scheme as a pioneering one on not so grandiose a scale—and there were many pioneers who told them so—and then later had come forward with an expounded plan to use greater sums of money for a Scheme based on real experience, then they would have been fully justified, and would not have produced the disaster that faces us today.
But what did we have instead? They talked entirely about an El Dorado for 1130 groundnuts. I thought El Dorado was a place from which one took gold, and not a place into which to pour £36 million. There seems to be some error there.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene? Nobody would disagree with the point he puts, that there could be many differences of opinion amongst experts on a matter of this kind. Nobody doubts that when a thing is investigated objectively by a Committee of this House—the Public Accounts Committee—that Committee brings out the facts and may make criticisms of what may have been done; but the Committee's Report does not justify the putting down of a Motion of censure upon the Government for making a decision in which the Opposition joined. The hon. Gentleman is now pointing out that we are all wiser after the event.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I do not admit that we are all wise after the event. A great many people were wise before the event. Let me point out, having lived a good many years in East Africa, and having produced a large amount of groundnuts in East Africa in 1919, that I and others who had had like experience were wise before the event, and pointed out that the use of the natives, and of the native proprietors, was certainly one of the ways of doing this job.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The only point I am making is that the hon. Gentleman did not at the time so advise his own party, who approved this Scheme.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Not only I but others on this side of the House, in every single debate on this subject, pointed out to the Minister what could be done. What has been the real trouble has been the overweening vanity of the previous Minister of Food. That has been the root cause of the trouble—the pictures in the paper showing him patting the side of a locomotive going to pull non-existent groundnuts in East Africa, while large amounts of groundnuts in West Africa were waiting for rolling stock to convey them. Throughout, the previous Minister has been the villain of the piece, and I am very sorry for his successor who has inherited, as we said in the meat debate the other day, an egregious crop of errors which has been far greater than the crop of groundnuts.
1131 All the way through we were given an entirely wrong picture. I believe that the present Minister of Food and myself have this in common, that in our spare time we paint pictures. I think he will agree with me that beautiful rosy colours are no substitute for accurate drawing and a sense of perspective. What we never got for one single moment in the Groundnut Scheme was an accurate drawing or a sense of perspective. A veil was always drawn over the facts by the Minister; time and time again we had this gloss, and we went away with the impression that all was going well.
We heard from the right hon. Gentleman when he opened the debate this afternoon that 18 months ago this same entirely unrealistic view was being taken, yet every hon. and right hon. Member in the House with contacts and friends in Africa in this Scheme, knew perfectly well that things were going about as badly as they possibly could. The experience gained by the sisal growers was being completely disregarded, and the question of ports and harbours was not being looked at realistically.
We are being accused of taking political advantage of this, but what was the then former Minister doing? The Minister was trying to puff himself up so that his name should go down as having been responsible for a vast and grandiose scheme, which after the first six months never bore any relation to the relentless facts of African agriculture. His Majesty's Government have been dragged along by this overweening vanity and absolute refusal to look at the facts. After all the load-shedding of directors and senior officers that has taken place, we have been provided with plenty of opportunity, when they came back to this country, to find out a few of the real facts about African groundnut life. There was never any question of the Minister being willing to learn; to go out there and come back and courageously say to the House—which this House always accepts—"I have made mistakes. I should now like to go over this Scheme again." Not a word. Always this gloss was put on it, and what is the result?
What have we lost? It is not only a loss of £36 million. There are other things which I believe are even greater. 1132 We have lost three or four years out of the lives of a great many devoted people who went to that country to live and work in great discomfort, who are now in the unhappy state of not knowing what their future is to be. That is a serious loss. An even more serious loss is that we have lost the opportunity of success in the first scheme for a joint endeavour between government, local people and business advisers to produce something new in African development.
I spent a good many years in Africa, partly connected with the sisal industry, helping to draw up the first laws of the Uganda cotton scheme when it started, and I have had a certain amount to do with colonial development. I am on record in the original debates, and during the Committee stage, as wishing this Scheme well in that it provided an opportunity for something new, because a new phase is needed in colonial development. But I am grieved that we have gained so little real knowledge at such enormous cost, and the proof of that is that we are today driven to considering as the last thing the pioneering work which should have been the first stage. All these experimental things which the Minister pleads are so important should have been carried out at the very beginning. "More haste, less speed" is truer in Africa than almost anywhere else in the world.
Among the other things we have lost are considerable quantities of vital basic materials for building harbours and railways which were needed in this country. We were given certain facts and figures to show why it was necessary to build deep-water harbours in various places. I happen to have served for three years on a harbour board, and I raised great doubts whether, until we had established on a largish scale the crops which were to be moved through those harbours, it was wise to go in for extensive deep-water harbours with an undeveloped hinterland which could not be developed very rapidly, and whether that would not in the end prove to be an error of megalomania, because the humbler lighter port which is not so grandiose, is much easier to work.
What is the position to-day? The calculation of acreage of crop produced behind those ports is now reduced. What possibility is there of those ports and har- 1133 bours being in any way economical or viable? They may have been handed over for somebody else to carry the baby. If one does not use a harbour in the humid atmosphere of Tanganyika at, say, Dar-es-Salaam, the rate at which it will lose efficiency and become obsolete, and the cost of keeping it going when it is not being used sufficiently, must be extremely high, as is clear to anybody who has studied this question.
There are three major losses over and beyond the amount of money involved, and I beg the Minister to agree to do what we have asked him to do. Everyone in this House knows in his heart of hearts that what I have been saying about the root cause of the trouble being the former Minister's absolute determination to secure success for a theory, in which he might have believed, is true. It is a hideous thing, and it has been a great lesson—
§ Mr. Fletcher
It is not quite unfair. All I am saying is entirely fair, and I am willing to debate the matter with the hon. Gentleman at any time.
§ Mr. Fletcher
It is meant to be a personal attack because it is the personal responsibility of that particular right hon. Gentleman for this Scheme, for which he stands condemned utterly and entirely; and his colleagues behind him, who are sick at heart about it, realise that. I am sorry that they are placed in that position. I have no hesitation in saying where I think the blame should be.
The present Minister, to judge from his demeanour since he has taken over the Ministry, is really desirous of trying to get over the chaos that has been left and to produce some sort of order. Does he not realise that by holding a really independent inquiry he must strengthen his hand? He has told us with considerable sincerity that he believes the new reduced scheme he has put forward has a chance of success. It would be fatal to him and to his Government if, in view of what has happened in the past, he were to come to this House and ask for another £6 million of public money. If he believes 1134 in this scheme which he has put forward —though he has not backed it with anything like realistic figures, arguments, or any experience to make it anything else but an experimental scheme—if be believes in it sufficiently to bring it forward today on these very perilous grounds, surely he must see that any independent commission that went into it would support it.
If an independent commission went out and then reported, "This is the right thing to do; we believe this is the best way out of the difficulty," there is a chance that on that agreed platform he could reconstruct something which would give greater confidence in this new form of African agriculture, which has still to be proved. Much of it has had to be thrown overboard. The bulldozer era is over. We are back to the hand-plough at the moment, but we may be able to progress from that to some extent. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will seriously consider the wisdom of getting the backing of an independent commission, which could not cause any serious delay, and which would restore the confidence which has been lost, not only on this side of the House but by many hon. Members opposite, judging from their speeches in previous debates. It is much more important than any personality that we should have something in the way of success to show in this matter, and I think that would be assisted by the evidence of an independent body.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. When he is condemning the former Minister out of hand and so recklessly, does he also condemn the Wakefield Commission, and if the report of the commission which he has proposed did not suit the other side, would he condemn the new commission?
§ Mr. Fletcher
The Wakefield Report certainly recommended certain things, but those things are not the things which have been done since. A large number of deviations from the Wakefield Report have taken place. That has been the trouble all the way through—sticking to theory. When it was found in the Southern Province that the installations put in with regard to timber were wrong, the Government still insisted on proceeding.
1135 The whole of this scheme has been experimental and is still going to be experimental. It would be a much better experiment if all the bad of the past had been cleared away by the findings of an independent commission; they would clear everything away and give an opportunity for a new start. We on this side still wish a scheme of this sort every success, but it has to be handled realistically and not be based entirely on a theory and on the whim of one who, at great cost to the public, has thrown away £36 million in order to try to establish a personal triumph, which has ended in a personal disaster.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Cooper (Middlesbrough, West)
Whatever the country may have lost over this groundnuts affair, certainly the Tory Party are going to make the utmost political capital out of the loss. From the number of times which they have brought this matter up in the House, it seems obvious that they are very short of party political capital at the present time. In all the arguments which they have brought forward in each of the debates, they have not yet really said how they would have tackled the job, although, so far as we can gather, they were in the main in agreement with the scheme being launched.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
I said that we would have tackled it in the way recommended now—a number of pioneer schemes, including the use of the natives to a great extent.
§ Mr. Cooper
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my speech in my own way, I may be able to cover his point. I was about to say that there was perhaps one exception. The Opposition have argued the case—soundly perhaps in this instance—for pilot schemes to be launched. If they agree to that, they should certainly support this Bill, because the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) made the point that the new scheme now being put before the House is in fact a large-scale pilot scheme.
If I got his words correctly, he said, "If the job is based on real experience, in those circumstances it is justifiable." Surely, whatever the cost may have been, experience is exactly what the Overseas Food Corporation has been gaining during 1136 the last few years. The hon. Gentleman also said that we have lost the opportunity of developing a part of Africa. The very idea of this Bill is to give us a further opportunity to continue with the scheme so far as it is justified, based on the experience which has been gained. I do not see why in those circumstances the Opposition are asking for an inquiry.
I think that the suggestion of an inquiry is academic, because the evidence is there, and it is superfluous to send out a further commission to investigate still further and delay matters once more. The Opposition have pressed us in previous debates to make greater speed and progress, and this suggestion of an investigation would mitigate against progress at this time. Do the Opposition realise that when private enterprise was doing this job through the managing agency of the United Africa Company, they did not in fact support a pilot scheme? They started to do the job in the very way in which the Government did it.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Is it not a fact that the Select Committee made it quite plain that the absence of a pilot scheme was in no sense due to the managing agency but was a Government decision?
§ Mr. Cooper
That may be a good point. I was not aware of it. Nevertheless, is it not a fact that the managing agency, which had the complete confidence of the Opposition because of their backing of capitalist private enterprise, started without a pilot scheme and would not have accepted the job if they knew that they could not make a success of it? If there had been a change of Government, would they have carried on with the scheme as they started, or have reverted to a pilot scheme? These are things worth considering.
The only major point which the Tories have put up as a charge against the Government is on this score of a pilot scheme. They admit that at that time there was tremendous pressure from all quarters to provide more edible oils. The world was hungry, and it still is, and the need for some big scheme to be launched is as urgent today as ever it was. Let it be also said that the Labour Cabinet only accepted the Wakefield Report after the Minister of Food had set up a special section of the Ministry to investigate the Report. The Labour Government were 1137 convinced of the scheme only after making that further check. The special section of the Ministry of Food suggested, in the first place, that there was some uncertainty about the rainfall, but it was considered to be a reasonable risk. Secondly, the special section suggested that pilot schemes should be used. Thirdly, they suggested that a comprehensive organisation for the repair of machinery should be set up, and, fourthly, they advocated that the whole scheme be made a co-operative venture.
At this moment it may be worth referring to a book, which has already been mentioned in the House this afternoon, "The Groundnut Affair," by Alan Wood, who says, on page 49:The whole staff must be made to appreciate their individual opportunities for advancing both the plan and its execution. As David Lilienthal says in summarising the lesson of T.V.A., there must be not a single fixed plan, but a rapid succession of developing plans,"—and this is important—and the people must be in on the planning.If any criticism is to be made it is that there was no continuous consultation with the people who were anxious to make the scheme a success and whose future livelihood depended upon it being a success.
So far, Tory criticism has been based on wisdom after the event, in spite of what the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe says, because even when he spoke in earlier debates his speeches were based on indications of what was actually happening in Africa at the time. There was not a single strong argument made by hon. Members opposite on previous occasions. For instance, they did not advocate the sort of points which were made by the special section set up by the Ministry of Food. I have still to be convinced of their argument, and the essence of all wisdom does not necessarily rest like a halo only on the heads of Opposition Members. As an indication of that let me refer to at least one example for which the Tories were responsible. It is not such a large case, but it still points to my argument.
First of all, however, I think it is worth commenting on the fact of the appalling neglect of the Colonies by the Opposition when they were in power. They lost both the Colonies and this country many sums more than the £36 1138 million involved in this case. That loss, in fact, is a sad story, but it is no more than the equivalent of a mere 3d. piece to the Bank of England, compared with the neglect of the Colonies in the past, in which sums vastly in excess of the £36 million could have been earned in years gone by if the Tory Government had cooperated with the native peoples in the production of food, and raw materials.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down, North)
Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten Malaya and the thousands of acres of rubber and tin planted there by private enterprise, which is doing so much for the British Empire today?
§ Mr. Cooper
If any Member of the Opposition goes to the Colonies he can see vast opportunities missed in years gone by, and certainly that is so in the development of many agricultural schemes, which would have provided food now at a time when it is greatly needed.
§ Mr. Cooper
Perhaps I could continue my speech by the example which I should like to give the House. Although two wrongs may not necessarily make a right, and a further example of failure may not justify the present condition of the groundnuts affair, may I remind the Opposition of what occurred in Jamaica, which I visited recently.
§ Mr. Cooper
I appreciate the point, but would it not be appropriate to make one illustration, which indicates that the failure of the Groundnut Scheme in so far as it has been a failure, is not something which applies only on this side of the House. What I wanted to refer to was the Mona Dam scheme in that Colony. That proved to be a farce of the first magnitude. This dam was built at a cost of some £750,000, and it will not hold one drop of water. The same thing occurred there as occurred in Africa; there was not a sufficient preliminary survey of the situation. The Opposition were in power at the time, and if more time had been taken for investigation that fiasco would not have occurred.
§ Mr. Cooper
It seems to me that the Tories only advocate public ownership when a loss is more or less inevitable, or, alternatively, if a loss is made they use the instrument of public ownership in the form of a public corporation to take over what has gone wrong. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). with his knowledge of civil aviation, will appreciate the full implication of my reference to British Airways, which, having lost a very considerable sum of money, was then floated more or less as a public undertaking, and shares which were worth precious little were taken over by the Government at some 16s. for each £1 share.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
As the hon. Gentleman has directed a question to me, may I say that as far as I know, the only relevance of civil aviation to groundnuts is that the Corporation refused to use private charter companies to the groundnut area and fell in entirely with B.O.A.C.
§ Mr. Speaker
This is the danger of going rather wide of the Bill. First of all we started discussing the Colonial Empire, and now we are on airways.
§ Mr. Cooper
The point proves the case that the Tories are only interested in any undertaking which is making a profit, and then they suggest that it is a fit subject to be run by private enterprise.
I suggest however that we can well leave this large matter outside the realm of party politics. The real interest to all of us is the successful development of our African territories. This new Bill is calculated to give an opportunity for that to continue. It is, however, worth considering at this moment what has brought about some of the failure of the present Groundnut Scheme, because by so doing we shall perhaps refrain from making the same sort of mistakes again.
§ Mr. Cooper
To be political again, from this side of the House we feel it is of the greatest importance that the present public undertakings should reach a high level of efficiency, and as such it is very worth while looking at what has contributed to the present position of the Overseas Food Corporation. In the past 1140 there has been far too great a tendency to set up a sort of autocratic board far too remote from the control of this House, and even from the Minister's immediate intervention. We know well enough that the shareholders' control over a public company is more or less a myth except when things seem to be going seriously wrong, and that same myth applies to the Minister, who, as I see it, with the present sort of organisation, has been unable to take the fullest and most intimate interest in the way the day-to-day affairs of the Corporation are going.
That has certainly applied in the case of the Groundnut Scheme. I hope the Bill when it emerges from this House will take that sort of point into account, and make provision so that there are some means whereby there may be some form of control which is likely to produce different results from the sort of results which we have been achieving in the previous types of organisation. This is not an isolated example, as I have already suggested. There is another example which again I think is something which both sides of the House want to see succeeding, and that is the Cameroons Development Corporation. This is the very same type of organisation, and the same sort of troubles are met with there as have occurred in the Overseas Food Corporation. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he takes a very close look at that particular undertaking, before a similar set of troubles emery as have been shown to apply to the Groundnut Scheme.
We have been far too inclined to place in charge of these great undertakings the sort of people who have only had Civil Service experience in the past and, therefore, have none how to control an industrial undertaking. The sort of organisation, which is required for the successful running of industry, is something completely different from that which makes a successful Civil Service. Other types of persons we have been inclined to appoint to the public undertakings have been those, who are very autocratic and overbearing, and are often little inclined to listen to the suggestions coming from their own staff. There are cases which have been shown in the House previously, and then there is the case of Mr. F. E. V. Smith, who is in charge of the Cameroons 1141 Development Corporation. It is unfortunate to have to mention names in the House, because it is usually said that people like these are not here to defend themselves, but Ministers are here to do so.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)
The man referred to is a civil servant, and it will not be in order for me—and in any case I do not propose to do it—to speak tonight about the Cameroons Development Corporation. Surely Question time is the occasion when these matters should be raised. I only intervene to say that these attacks should not be made upon civil servants because they cannot reply to them.
§ Mr. Cooper
I appreciate what my right hon. Friend says, but there are problems in connection with these Corporations that must be attended to, and while I do not necessarily desire to bring names into our debates, it is of overwhelming concern that we shall take all steps necessary to ensure that these undertakings are a success. Many other people apart from the reputation of one individual, are involved, and if the undertakings are not to be successful, it surely means that we are not justified in going on with them.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
The hon. Member's speech has involved the Secretary of State, who has told us that the man to whom the hon. Member is referring is a civil servant. Surely it is monstrous for the hon. Member to attack a civil servant when he knows that that man is a civil servant and when the person he should attack is the Secretary 'of State for the Colonies. It is very wrong. The only person whom the hon. Member should attack is the Secretary of State. It was obvious from the nature of the Minister's intervention that he had had no notice of this attack.
§ Mr. Cooper
The Secretary of State has had a report on this affair and the matter is actually being investigated. There is nothing wrong in mentioning it as an illustration.
I suggest that there are examples of companies in this country which have already used what I might describe as the democratic form of control and which have shown that it can be successful when used. It has been used by a number of 1142 admittedly private enterprise companies but also by some public undertakings, and the results achieved are exceptional. One example is the Vauxhall Motor Company and another is Rowntree's. I suppose it might be said that Mr. Seebohm Rowntree was a pioneer when he suggested it in his book "The Human Factor in Business." Anybody interested in public undertakings should read mark, learn and inwardly digest the first chapter of that book, on the "Status of the Worker." Other companies which have adopted this method are J. H. Lloyds, steel castings manufacturers of Wednesbury; Glacier Metal Co. of Alperton; Winget Engineering Works, of Rochester, and others. British European Airways have started out on the same lines.
Rather than an investigation of the Groundnut Scheme, as is suggested in the Tory Amendment, it will be more worth while to set up an investigation into the way in which those companies have organised themselves so successfully, to see whether a similar method of democratic control could be applied to the Overseas Food Corporation. They include not only a system of joint consultation, but in every case at the top level there has been formed a workers' management advisory council, which has the status of a board of control. This has had the effect of preventing the boards from becoming autocratic and dictatorial and also of preventing the sense of lethargy which can so easily spread over any large undertaking.
§ Mr. Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)
Would the hon. Member be good enough to see that the Minister is supplied with that information and with all those particulars about managerial boards, which are known to most of us here?
§ Mr. Cooper
The information is obviously available to the Minister. If the Government want to prove their case to the country for the successful development of these public undertakings, which is of vital concern to hon. Members on this side of the House, an investigation might be considered into these methods of control which have proved so successful. They are methods which might be described as practical democracy in industry. Is that not really what the Government want to see achieved in each of these examples of public undertaking?
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
I am not going to follow the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. G. Cooper), whose speech consisted largely of imagination and oratory, because most of the time he did not appear to be speaking to the Amendment. One thing he mentioned was the question of the Cameroons, in connection with which his bringing the name of a civil servant into the discussion was most deplorable. I happen to know something about the gentleman in question, and when I saw what he is doing in the Cameroons I thought he was doing a very good job indeed. It is deplorable that an attack should be made upon him without the Minister being warned and without the gentleman in question being able to defend himself.
§ Mr. G. Cooper
If the hon. Gentleman would cast his mind back to the debates which we have had on this subject he will remember that the Opposition made great play with the name of Sir Leslie Plummer.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I am one of the people who have been referred to many times by hon. Members on the other side as having supported the Groundnut Scheme originally. I did support it originally. I gave it qualified support, as did many other hon. Members, and I wished it well. All the time that I have been in this House I have worked for colonial development if I saw any chance of a development scheme being a success, whatever qualms I might have had about it. Everybody on this side of the House gave it his support. We qualified our support in some way. I qualified mine with caution against rushing the scheme because we were dealing with territories that we knew nothing about. Instead of speed and charging ahead in the way the Minister did at the time, I urged caution.
I also took the line that the scheme shoud be under the Colonial Secretary, because, constitutionally, anything that happens in a British Colony comes within the responsibility of the Colonial Secretary, who is responsible to this House. It was an entirely new departure to set up a corporation to operate in a Colony, as was proposed with the Food Corporation. 1144 I am convinced that the scheme was taken by the then Minister of Food chiefly to make political capital out of the way he handled it. It was sold to the Cabinet by him—the present Minister for War. That is the history of the thing. What is deplorable about it is that during the whole course of that Minister's control of the scheme he deliberately misled this House by concealing information which he had at that time. That has been exposed by the Public Accounts Committee and is obvious now.
That is why the blame is not on the present Minister of Food but on the present Minister for War, a man who, by his record, is not qualified to hold any other office under the Crown. That view is shared not only by Members of this House but by people in the country, of all parties. That is why we have had no faith in the past in the management of this Scheme. Now we are debating the liquidation of more than £36 million. How can we put faith either in the Government or in the Department that asks us to spend another £6 million, when the £36 million have given such little results? I cannot put any faith in the Ministry of Food or in the Colonial Office for the carrying out of this scheme. I know that the Colonial Office are very unwilling to take it on.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I am convinced that it has been forced upon them. I should not be very anxious to take it on. There is an organisation to deal with matters of this kind, the Colonial Development and Welfare Corporation. That is the Corporation which we think should have handled this in the first place; it should certainly do so in the future. A scheme of £6 million is not too big for it. I was one of those who for years pressed in this House for the setting up of the Colonial Development and Welfare Corporation. Over £100 million was voted for it at the instigation of the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer before he: left office. The purpose of that Corporation was the developing of schemes of this kind.
We are asked to have faith in the further development of the Scheme without investigation. If we had had investigation of the original Scheme, we should never have got to the present impasse. 1145 Reference has been made to the Wakefield Report. It is true that we may all have been deceived by the report in the first place, but later the facts became very well known. I knew Mr. Wakefield very well. He was very loyal to his chief while he was in the service. After he was made a scapegoat and turned out, he had no hesitation in telling the facts.
The fact was that the advice of the experts on the Board was not accepted by the Minister. When they discovered the shortage of water, the condition of the soil and the type of tree they had to meet with the machinery at their disposal, they immediately said that they must take a different line and must embark on smaller pilot schemes; but their advice was swept aside. When they came home to press their suggestions harder and to impress them on the Minister, they were sacked on the spot. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Press on." Obviously he thought that by the time the General Election took place he would have some good material about groundnuts to put over.
If we had had the investigation which we demanded, these facts would have come out. Instead, we had an investigation by the people whom we wanted to investigate, and that kind of investigation is no good. That is why we are today pressing for an outside impartial investigation of the new Scheme before we give it our support. That is only fair and reasonable. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will be able to accept such an investigation. If not, I hope that everyone in the House, irrespective of party, who feels that an investigation should take place—I know some hon. Members opposite who feel that—will vote against the Government, because the Government do not deserve support or further encouragement for the Scheme.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir P. Macdonald). Like most of the Opposition, he is now seeking to claim that he and his party did not wholeheartedly support the Scheme in its full implications at the beginning but made certain reservations, which they did not really make. I have turned up the speech that he made on 6th November. 1947. If he refers to it, he will see that he 1146 made no reservations at all, but assured the Government that he and all hon. Members in the House gave their full support to the Scheme. He made one rather interesting observation, not in regard to the speed of the Scheme, but one which is interesting in regard to the line the Opposition are taking today. He said:I am pleased that the Ministry of Food, when they undertook the development of the Groundnuts Scheme, had the good sense to hand it over to the United Africa Company, who obviously were the people who knew more than anyone else about that kind of Scheme.Yet the burden of the Opposition's complaint today is that the Government failed to consult the people who knew anything about this kind of Scheme! The hon. Member went on to say:… I am convinced that the United Africa Company will make a success of the Scheme, and will produce a crop, not next year—next year's crop must obviously go for seed —but in the following year, and that by 1950 they will show results."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2077.]It is true that the United Africa Company did not continue to manage the Scheme until 1950, but in view of the results—for which I do not blame them as a Company—of their first year of management, as shown by the first auditor's report, which was read with great consternation in the House, it is probably a good thing that the Company did not continue to handle the Scheme beyond that date.
Similarly with the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher). He also started off by saying that one of my hon. Friends had set out to prove what everybody in the House knew and accepted, namely, that there was complete support on all sides of the House for the initial Scheme. He went on, strangely, to cancel that out by complaining that the Government should have come to the Opposition at the beginning with what he called "a more modest Scheme," and said that they would have been told by the Opposition that that was a much more sensible idea and that they should proceed on those lines. That is a most strange contradiction.
To my surprise, he went on to refer to the folly of building harbours and piling up machinery before we had established the crops and the traffic for the harbours and machinery. In previous 1147 debates the Opposition's main attack has been precisely on the ground that we had not the machinery, harbours and equipment ready to deal with the crops when they came along. I do not need to quote what was said over and over again about the inadequacy of the harbour at Dar es Salaam, the non-existence of a harbour in the Southern Province, the nonexistence of adequate railway facilities, the overloading of the railway at Kongwa, the insufficiency of heavy machines and tractors available, and so on.
§ Mr. F. Harris
Will not the hon. Member agree that that was brought about very largely by sending out a great deal of material and machinery which was never going to be used, and never has been used, and which was dumped, thus completely and unnecessarily overloading the harbours?
§ Mr. Hynd
That was in the first year when the United Africa Company was handling the project. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, it was. It was when Army dumps were being bought up wholesale. They had no experience of the equipment which was necessary when they began. We were then up against obstacles which nobody really understood until the first experiments were conducted and we began to evolve the methods and machinery which would be required.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), took a similar line. He attacked us for plunging in for political reasons.
§ Mr. Hynd
I notice that the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight agrees with that. Later the hon. Member for Newbury was shown to have made it very clear that he gave complete credit to Mr. Samuel and the United Africa Company for having produced the original scheme, which was the Scheme for 3,250,000 acres of development by a certain date.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
The hon. Member has not quoted one part of my speech where I qualified my support by saying that I deplored the ballyhoo and boasting of the Government in trying to make this a political scheme and trying to make all the political capital they could out of it. That is what they have been doing until today.
§ Mr. Hynd
That is quite irrelevant to what I was saying. The hon. Member referred to political advertising and ballyhoo, but that has nothing to do with the speed of the Scheme. What the hon. Members for Newbury and for Bury and Radcliffe were doing when they were attacking the Government for the speed with which they had plunged into this operation and, at the same time, agreeing that the Opposition had supported that very speed at the beginning, was to contradict themselves. If hon. Members want the official attitude of the Opposition in regard to the speed of the operation at the time, I will quote another paragraph, if the House will permit me, from the speech made by the late Mr. Oliver Stanley in that debate. He said:… it would be ungenerous to refuse to the Government credit for the initiation of this Bill. It was a n mi opportunity … and it did require a considerable amount of confidence in order o run the risks which are undoubtedly involved/ in an operation of this magnitude, undertaken at this speed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November. 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2035.]So there was complete endorsement from the leading spokesman of the Opposition not only for the magnitude of the Scheme but for the speed at which it was to be operated.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock rose—
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
May I make only one observation, as the hon. Member has quoted the late Mr. Oliver Stanley and as so many other hon. Members have done the same? It is only fair to say that while he tried to create an atmosphere of good will and understanding which would give the Scheme a good initial start, he, at least from two years ago, urgently pressed the Government to send out an inquiry.
§ Mr. Hynd
—and a complete vote of confidence in the United Africa Company, Mr. Samuel, and the plan produced by him and his colleagues. The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) will have an opportunity of intervening, but I cannot answer questions all the time. Subsequently it was the Opposition who began the political ballyhoo and witch-hunting—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—which has bedevilled the whole Scheme and is largely responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves today.
§ Mr. Hynd
In the first place, the Opposition used to claim that the cause of our difficulties was the then Minister of Food, and that once he went everything would be all right. That Minister of Food went. Then they complained it was all due to Sir Leslie Plummer. Sir Leslie Plummer went. The result of changing the Minister and of changing the Chairman has been —what?
§ Mr. Hynd
A complete breakdown of the Scheme, or at least an attempt on the part of the present Minister to abandon the Scheme almost entirely. So it was Lot Sir Leslie Plummer, it was not the then Minister of Food. There is something else in this, and that is what I propose to deal with. Probably I shall get a little more attention from the Opposition as I develop my theme. I want to ask the present Minister of Food whether or not this new proposal is, as suggested in the White Paper, a proposal of the Overseas Food Corporation or a proposal of the Minister of Food—
§ Mr. Hynd
—because, as the Minister himself emphasised this afternoon, on the moment of taking over the Ministry he warned us that he would make drastic changes in this Scheme. Before he had made his inquiries, which have now stretched over a period of months, he was 1150 prepared at the beginning to assure the House that he would make some large concessions. He began by dismissing the Chairman which, as I have pointed out, has not at all improved the position.
I want to know from the Minister whether he is making this change as a concession to Tory Press propaganda or whether he is doing it in response to considered opinions expressed by the Overseas Food Corporation. If it is the former, I want him to draw this important lesson from his tactics: that, as a result of what he is doing and has done to placate the Tories and the Tory Press, in order to make his Ministry more popular—because this has not been a popular issue in the country since the Tory Press took it up—all he has been rewarded with is a Motion of censure.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Might I intervene, since my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food is not here at the moment? I am sure my hon. Friend will have read the White Paper which was submitted to Parliament some time ago in which responsibility for putting forward the revised scheme is clearly set out.
§ Mr. Hynd
I presume the responsibility will not be rejected by the Minister of Food because, as I have reminded the House, right at the beginning the Minister had made up his mind that he would make drastic changes in this Scheme. What has happened in the meantime?
If it is true that the Scheme was too ambitious, if it is true that there were difficulties in obtaining the results which were hoped from the scheme in the beginning, is it not the case that the hesitation should have been in 1946 when we had no idea whether it would even be possible to clear the African bush by large-scale methods; when we did not know whether it was possible to grow groundnuts or sorghum on a big scale by mechanised methods; when we had not tested large-scale farming under African conditions—rainfall and so on; when we did not know what would be the reactions of African labour and whether it would be possible to train them adequately in time? That was the time when, if there were any doubts at all, or any question of trying to act prudently, we should have hesitated.
1151 In 1946 there were all these great risks due to lack of knowledge of these territories, due to the lack of experimentation, due to the lack of equipment at the ports, due to the lack of communications. That was not the fault of this Government but of previous governments. Those were the difficulties at that time, and the great risks then were recognised specifically by the Government and by the leading spokesmen of the Opposition. In spite of that, we went on to accept these great risks because of the importance of this Scheme not only from the point of view of the world and of the British food position, but from the point of view of the immense importance of such developments to the African Colonies.
In 1947 and 1948 there were difficulties and there were delays. We abandoned the Kenya and Northern Rhodesian Schemes because of those difficulties and without expense. We concentrated on three areas in Tanganyika. World prices and costs were rising, but even after the difficulties of the first year, after we realised what we were up against, that did not deter the Government or the Opposition. Again, the late Mr. Oliver Stanley made this statement in the debate in 1947. Referring to the delays and difficulties of the first year, he said:They have, of course, been serious. The programme called for 150.000 acres to be cleared by now; in fact, 15,000 have been cleared. If that merely means that, because of this, one year has been lost, well, it cannot be helped. It is a pity, and it is disappointing, but … when one does, and has to do this kind of operation … one has to expect that delays may occur through nobody's fault.… All the criticisms which I have been raising …when put together, are all matters of detail. They do not affect the general purposes and objects of this Bill, which is one which we all applaud and which we all approve."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2044–5.]That was supported by a number of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Hynd
That was the position in 1947 to 1948. In spite of the enormous initial difficulties, in spite of realising from our first experience that we were up against something very difficult, nevertheless the Government and the Opposition united in saying, "This scheme has to go forward because of its immense import- 1152 ance not only to the world food position but for African development." Targets were reduced. The three and a quarter million acres which had been cut down to two million when we abandoned Northern Rhodesia and Kenya were reduced to 600,000. Still we carried on. What is the position today? Today we have demonstrated that we can clear the African bush by large-scale methods.
§ Mr. Hynd
I am talking about what can be done physically. We will deal with the cost later. Ninety thousand acres are planned at Urambo, and nearly 60,000 are already cleared. In the Southern Province, which is the best area and where we intend to concentrate, we have not yet begun on a large scale. It has already been shown that the bush can be conquered by these methods. There have been crop failures, but at Kongwa there have been two unprecedented droughts in succession. According to the records, the rainfall over the past 40 years has been an average—
§ Mr. Hynd
No. For the last 40 years the average rainfall at Kongwa has been 33 in., whereas in 1947–48 it was 17 in. and in 1948–49, 12 in., which is probably the lowest on record. That is unfortunate. That is the kind of thing that hits every farmer, and particularly the farmers in the tropical areas.
§ Mr. Hynd
We have virtually abandoned the main scheme because of those two dry seasons, but the latest season has been fairly reasonable and my information is that the crops are remarkably good at Kongwa and at Urambo, and that the crops now becoming ready for harvesting in the spring will on a fair calculation be of a higher average of groundnuts per acre than was assumed in 1946 for the purposes of the original Scheme.
It has been said several times today from the Opposition benches that the 1153 groundnuts are finished—no more "nuts in May" and so on—but I understand the average crop this year is likely to be at least 850 lb. per acre. And yet it is today, when we have got over the droughts, when we have accumulated the experience of the past, when we have demonstrated that we can conquer the bush, when we have evolved and accumulated the new types of machinery for dealing with this kind of problem, when we have laid down the harbours, railways, roads, towns and hospitals, and have trained the African labour and have mobilised our own white labour—it is when all these things have been done, when the main capital expenditure has been laid out, that it is now proposed virtually to abandon the scheme. I should like to know why this decision has been taken.
For what is it we are discussing? I refer to the original White Paper—the Wakefield Report—in paragraph 12 of which, I remind the House, it is said:If successful, a project of this kind and on this scale cannot fail to bring great social and economic benefits not only to the people immediately concerned but also to the whole of the territories.The next paragraph, dealing with the economic and social effects of the scheme in Africa, speaks ofThe progressive health, nutrition, housing, welfare and labour policies…which willraise the standard of life …This particular theme is developed, and paragraph 15 refers to therevolution in agricultural technique which it representsand says thatif the scheme is successful, this may have a profound effect in the future on the economy of regions far wider than those covered by the scheme itself.Those are the kinds of purposes for which the Scheme was evolved, and those are the kinds of purposes which we are now proposing to abandon, after we have overcome the initial difficulties, after we have demonstrated that the scheme can be carried out, that we can clear the bush and grow the groundnuts and that the African labour can be trained. That is the quandary in which I find myself. What is the purpose of proposing virtually to abandon the Scheme at this stage? 1154 An hon. Member opposite referred to the cost. The cost up to date has been some £36 million.
§ Mr. Hynd
That £36,500,000 covers the road, railways, harbours, towns, hospitals, the training of labour, the transport of labour from this country and all the rest. That £36,500,000, on an immense Scheme of this kind, calculated to revolutionise world food production and the development of the Colonial Territories—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Hon. Members may jeer, but they are the people who endorsed the Wakefield Report which used precisely these terms —that was its purpose. This £36,500,000 for such a vast project should be compared with the £280 million per annum which we used to subsidise home-grown food production, or the £150 million which the American Government expended on the Tennessee Valley Authority without expecting a penny of it to be returned, or any other large project involving much vaster outlays of heavy capital expenditure than this particular project.
§ Mr. Hynd
No, I cannot give way. The £36,500,000 represents in great part solid assets which are now established in East Africa. Even if the scheme is abandoned, it is recognised in the White Paper and by the Tanganyika Government that these assets will be of immense value to Tanganyika. Therefore, do not let us talk about the loss of £36,500,000 rather let us talk about its investment.
Having expended that money and created these vast assets, and having accumulated all our experience and the labour force, we are now told by my right hon. Friend—he said this afternoon, "We know now how to conquer the bush of Africa"—that, having done all that. which we did not know we could do when we initiated the Scheme, and having achieved what was really the overcoming of the greatest possible obstacle with which we were faced in 1946, he proposes now to abandon the scheme.
§ Mr. Hynd
I want to refer to what is proposed in the White Paper. In Kongwa, of the 100,000 acres which have been cleared, about 90,000 acres are available for crops. It is proposed, however, that only 12,000 acres should be used for crops. Why is this? It is not because groundnuts or sorghum cannot be grown. Of that 100,000 or 90,000 acres which are now available for crops, it is proposed that no less than about 78,000 acres shall be left to go fallow and that perhaps a portion of it shall be devoted to small-scale ranching. Even if, as is suggested, there is small-scale ranching on these acres, that will not prevent the greater part of it from reverting to bush. That is the proposal at Kongwa. If it is suggested that eventually we can develop large-scale ranching if the small-scale development succeeds, and thereby help the British meat ration, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider seriously whether we are likely to get much meat out of an area which has quite a lot of East Coast fever, when we hesitate to import French meat for fear of contamination.
At Urambo, 65,000 acres are to be cleared, but 25,000 acres of the original proposal are to be dropped. What is the reason for this? Is it because the ground is not suitable for crops? Is it because there is no equipment or labour? In each case, the answer is, No. With the experience we have had, it should be easy to do this. Labour and equipment are available, and the ground is suitable. Then, why is the proposal being dropped? The answer, according to the White Paper, is that additional capital would be involved. I should like to know the amount of that additional capital, since the machinery and experience already exist. If we have been justified in developing 65,000 acres, why not complete the 90,000 acres? We should be told, at least, what is the staggering figure that prevents us from doing so.
§ Mr. Hynd
In the Southern Province, the proposal is that 400,000 acres are to be developed by 1954. Already 20,000 acres have been developed, all the main preparations have been completed, and we are proposing to develop, or at least to fell, 40,000 acres in this coming wet season alone; but after that, the proposal is drastically to reduce the tractor force which we have built up at such great pains and expense and to adopt a slower and cheaper method of land clearing, involving the substitution of hand labour for part of the work at present done by machines—that is, at the rate of 15,000 acres per annum. Or did I understand the Minister to say that even that proposal of the Overseas Food Corporation has been rejected by the Government? If 40,000 acres can be cleared in one wet season, why proceed only at the rate of 15,000 acres per annum subsequently when the matter is so urgent, when there has already been so much delay, and when the world food position has not yet been solved? Why are we reverting to slower methods when, surely, urgency is still important and greater results can be achieved within our present means?
I think I have given a fairly clear impression of the fact that I am not happy about the White Paper. I am not happy about it for different reasons from those expressed by the Opposition, because 1 consider this Scheme should have gone on at as great a speed as possible. It is certainly not for me to say how many acres should be developed, nor how much time should be spent, nor what should be sown, grown and developed; but as far as possible that should be done. The evidence of the White Paper is that the Government are deliberately slowing down the operation and disposing of the assets we have built up in that area. I want to know what it is all about.
If one turns to the White Paper one sees in paragraph 10 that it is proposedto reduce the tractor force to the minimum required to complete the remaining operations on this 40,000 acres "—in the Southern Province—and adopt a slower and cheaper method of land clearing.1157 I would like very much to have an answer to this point. I would like to know what has happened to the old pioneering spirit we have heard so much about, this great drive to open up the wild places of Africa. The peroration the Minister used was an inspiring one, but it seemed to fit in very oddly with the proposals to stop the great pioneering venture and to close down practically the whole operation.
I should like to know what has happened to the whole Scheme, apart from the Tory propaganda which has gone on for the last two or three years, one of the reasons for which, of course, is fairly clear. We have had it emphasised this afternoon that the sisal planters and other white planters in East Africa are not very happy about the scheme. Not that they consider they could have done it better—they would not have tried to do it on that scale—but because African conditions of labour have been revolutionised by this scheme and the sisal planters, whose profits have been soaring over the last few years, and particularly the last few months, are very much disturbed at the result of this development and its effect on the existing low African conditions.
So the political battle is on, but what surprises me, since it is so clearly a political battle and since every hon. Member who has spoken on this side of the House has emphasised that it was a political battle launched by the Opposition, is that the Minister has conceded to that pressure and is preparing to cut down the scheme. Many of us on this side of the House are disturbed about it, and I want to remind the House of the cost of failing in this. I call to witness no less a person than Mr. A. J. Wakefield himself, in an address to the Royal Society of Arts in April, 1948:unless a scheme such as this Groundnut Scheme is carried out in the next few years in East Africa, famine, starvation and pestilence will he rife in that territory.
§ Mr. Hynd
I shall be finishing my speech in a moment. Mr. Wakefield went on to say: 1158if the Groundnut Scheme will cause new areas to he opened up and the tsetse and other pests to he cleared away, it will be well worth the cost, however much may be spent on it, because not only will it provide foodstuffs which are essential to Britain but will also bring about the development of the Colonies in question and enable their people to survive.That is what is at stake, and because it is at stake I ask the Government seriously to think again on this before they cut down the Scheme. They have the experience, the machinery, and they have shown what can be done. Why not invoke again the great pioneering spirit and look to British prestige in Africa and throughout the world, and look at the world food situation and our responsibilities to the world population? The Government should take their courage in both hands and remember what the cost of failure will mean. They should develop the Scheme in that spirit, no matter how much it is slowed or reduced. If they develop it to capacity—which is not what they are doing in this White Paper—they will have the support of the people in all parts of the country.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
When we put down this Amendment—[HON. MEMBERS: We?"]—certainly—
§ Mr. Stewart
—we had hardly expected to get such strong valiant support for it from the benches opposite. The speech to which we have just listened was composed almost entirely of a series of pointed questions to the Minister the answers to which could only come out of an inquiry such as we have asked for. Therefore I am glad that we can claim the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) as one of us in the Lobby. If he does not join us in the Lobby it will mean that we are not to take seriously anything he says in future.
I have noted that all the speeches on the Government side have concentrated on 1947 and before, but hardly a word was said about what had happened after 1947. Of course that is the essence of the problem tonight. It is true that all parties in the House and all elements in the country wanted this great Scheme to succeed and supported it when it came 1159 along in 1946 and was presented to Parliament in 1947 as a White Paper. But it has gone wrong since 1947, not because the origin of the Scheme was faulty, but because it has been so hopelessly mismanaged.
That is what is wrong and it is precisely that mismanagement that we criticise, that mismanagement which brought us to this unfortunate pass, and that mismanagement which makes it impossible for us to support a further scheme under the same directors for an unlimited period. Had it been well managed we should have been supporting it. But what has happened? The truth is, as the hon. Member for Attercliffe knows very well, that one estimate after another was produced by the Minister and one estimate after another was proved to be quite ridiculous. We never got anywhere near those estimates.
It has been said by hon. Members opposite once or twice that it is all very well being wise after the event. But some of us went out to Kongwa, Urambo and the Southern Province two years ago and studied the problem and have been in the closest touch with the people there ever since. We have repeatedly, in 1948, 1949 and 1950, drawn the attention of the Government to the things that were wrong and the changes required. What were the things that were wrong? It happened that there was a debate in March, 1949, the week after I had returned from quite a lengthy examination of the three schemes in Tanganyika. I do not want to repeat what I said, but the gist of it some hon. Members may possibly recall, I said the scheme was going wrong, not because of its original ideas, but because it was being carried through at a mad tempo.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am trying to be short. Anyone who was there then knows that was true because targets were being presented to the men there which were impossible to achieve. I thought so and T warned the Minister that they could not be achieved and that if he tried to go on in that way he would do great damage to the morale and good work of the men. What happened? Here we have in the Report of the Overseas Food Corporation before us that— 1160It became evident during 1950 that an effort on this scale "—that is the scale required by the Minister—was beyond the physical…resources of the Corporation.That is proof that the views which some of us from personal knowledge put to the Government were the right views, and our criticism is that those views and warnings were scorned by the Government on every occasion.
I am not going to make a personal attack on the former Minister, except to say that I am sure he regrets now that he did not listen with a little more care to what some of us said. I pressed for what I called a pause. I said that, having reached that point, in March, 1949, the scheme having been for a year under the new Corporation, and having met with a lot of difficulties and disappointments, it was time, before launching out in the Southern Provinces, which had as yet scarcely been touched, for halting new development, considering, reflecting and gathering the results of inquiry and being fully ready and equipped before taking the next big step. I asked for a period of pause. I thought that was sensible and was what any great industry such as that with which I have been associated would have done.
The then Minister of Food said of that proposal:more ruinous advice I can hardly imagine." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1863.]Yet had the Minister taken that advice, which came not from me but from many of the people at Kongwa, and had paused then, we should not have been in this unhappy position today. Nor would the men who are now under orders to be dismissed have been in such a miserable condition as they are now. It is because of all that and much more—
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Would the hon. Member make perfectly clear what he means when he says that his advice was that the Minister should pause? Could he explain that a little more? What did he mean by pausing;what did he intend should be done?
§ Mr. Stewart
If the hon. Member will look at HANSARD of 14th March, 1949. he will see that I said: 1161We have now reached a turning point in this great enterprise.That was two years ago.Further development at Kongwa is apparently to come to a stop with its 100,000 acres. Now we are to proceed with full-scale development at Urambo and in the Southern Provinces. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that before he goes full speed ahead in this new direction he really ought to pause."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March. 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1836.]I then proceeded to develop the point.
If is for those reasons, and because of the tremendous pressure on those brilliant men out there that the scheme has gone wrong. I should have thought that, the project having been a bit of a financial fiasco, the joke of every music hall, not only here but in every part of the world and a proposition that has made the Government look absolutely stupid, hon. Members opposite would all have agreed that before we take the next step, this next experimental step, we really ought to have another look at the scheme.
The Minister had much to say against having an inquiry. He asked, "What do they expect to elicit from this inquiry?" That is exactly what the present Secretary of State for War said to us in the past. He said that we were going over the whole ground again; we have heard that reply "going over the whole ground again" ad nauseam. He said that an inquiry was a very disturbing thing. It is indeed very disturbing; I want it to be disturbing. I tell Ministers tonight, and I happen to know about this, that if there is one group of people who more than another want this full inquiry it is the staff at Kongwa. I speak with some knowledge—
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. F. Wiley)
The hon. Member knows there has been an inquiry at Kongwa. We are carrying out the recommendations of the Kongwa working party.
§ Mr. Stewart
Some of us went out a little time ago. All this was not known in the summer. The White Paper and the Government Bill were not available then. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he would do well to get some information about the feelings of the staff, the leading executives there. I 1162 put it to him that at present the executive staff, to whom I pay the highest tribute —I have never met a more gallant set of men or men more imbued with the spirit of colonial development; I was proud to meet them; most of them are very fine men—are being upset by all this chopping, changing, altering, false programmes and disappointments more than by anything else.
Men are now leaving the Corporation. men in high positions. And they tell one frankly, "It does not do me any good when I say I have been in the Corporation." Let all of us in this House agree to give these men and everybody else the facts. Everyone who had anything to do with, the Overseas Food Corporation, carries or appears to carry a great measure of blame, although a great many of them do not in fact carry any blame at all. The Minister said today that one of the directors who was now leaving had acted in such a way that he had no criticism to make of him. It would be better if we knew what he had done in the last few years, what line he had taken. Let us know what line the executives in Urambo and Kongwa are taking.
If we do not have an inquiry I suggest that what will happen if this Bill is carried through with a small majority, as it may well be, is that we shall find one leading executive after another slipping away, leaving the whole scheme shaky. But if we, as a Parliament, could agree to an inquiry, not on party lines but to secure unity—a real inquiry giving all those fine men a chance to set out the facts and present their views—they would feel that the whole House of Commons and the whole nation was behind them.
I should like to see this scheme go on. I have never said anything else. I was thrilled by it when I saw those vast areas torn up by mechanical means, areas which had probably not been touched by human hands for thousands of years. It is thrilling to go to Kongwa and see all this happening. I still have faith in the scheme if it is on a proper experimental basis, moving from stage of stage as, for example, the French. Government are doing in French Colonial Africa. I wish that some of our experts would go there and study the cautious advance which they are making on that basis.
I repeat that I have great faith in the scheme and great faith in the men there, but we must give the scheme some 1163 measure of stability and give it the full backing of the nation and particularly of this House, For those reasons I beg Ministers, on those high grounds, which are not party grounds, to agree with us, even at this late hour, to set up a proper inquiry out there into the scheme before we proceed further. By doing so they will greatly encourage their own people, clear away a lot of misunderstanding and may do a lot of people a great deal of good. Lastly, by doing so, they will open the gates to a new advance in colonial development of which we might all be proud.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), like every Member on the opposite side of the House who has taken part in this debate, has been unable to hide the joy and happiness which the death of the original Groundnut Scheme has given to him and his colleagues.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
It is true to say that almost from the inception of the scheme it has been the subject of constant attack and constant misrepresentation. The hon. Member referred to the music halls. If anyone has been responsible for the attitude of the comedians towards the scheme it has certainly been the Conservative Party and their friends the National Liberals, who I am quite certain were not consulted about this Amendment which the Opposition have put down.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
It is, but the comedians are not nationalised. That is why, unfortunately, we get from them such silly, foolish, ridiculous jokes. All those Members opposite who have spoken in this debate remind me very much of my mother when I was a child. If I broke anything she always said, "I knew that would happen." But, of course, if she had known it was going to happen she would not have let me carry whatever it was that I had dropped. It is the same with the Opposition in this matter. They are always wise after the event. They are all 1164 very clever now and say, "We told you so," but the truth is that they all acclaimed this scheme when it was first introduced.
Let us be frank about it; this idea was conceived in a world stricken with poverty and hunger, and for that reason it was welcomed by everybody. The tragedy has been that the Government relied upon the experts. The experts, who are always supposed to be right, in this case were wrong, and the Government were wrong because they thought the experts were right. There cannot be any doubt about it. All along on this issue it has been the very people who in the main are the friends of hon. Members opposite who have made the wrong calculations, given the wrong information and have been over-optimistic.
§ Mr. Jennings
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the Minister must have been wrong in not heeding the warnings which were given to him when this Scheme was in operation? That is one of the grounds of our complaint —that he went on headlong without giving any consideration to the warnings which were given to him.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The experts have always had faith in this Scheme, and even the late right hon. Member for Bristol, West, who has now passed on, and whose speeches have been quoted, had faith in it. Everybody had faith in it. It is only when things got difficult and when expectations were apparently not going to be realised, that the critics began to have their fears. Let us consider the people who were responsible for the introduction of the Scheme, those who handled it in the first 12 months or so—the United Africa Company. The hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) used the same words of criticism this afternoon as he used in the meat debate; he said it was a question of mess, muddle and maladministration. Was there ever such a case of private enterprise making a mess and muddle, and maladministering a scheme which was given to them to foster?
§ Mr. Fernyhough
Of course, the Minister accepts responsibility, but the hon. 1165 Member should recognise that these people who were the originators of the scheme and who gave advice on it have constantly been wrong, and now everybody wants to back out. Let us be honest; this was a new pioneering scheme. It was possible that there would be mistakes. It was possible for those who first thought of the idea to be overoptimistic. That can happen to every one of us. I remember going into a new house in 1936. I looked from the dining room window on to a plot of land about the size of the space occupied by this Chamber, and I thought, "In six months I will have cabbages, cauliflowers, roses and raspberries growing there." But at the end of six months all I got was a big heap of bricks, rubble and refuse. It is obvious that that is what has happened in this case.
I do not know whether any hon. Members listened to the wireless on Sunday night after the nine o'clock news, when there was a very thoughtful and serious talk entitled, "The pressure of population on land resources." The speaker pointed out that while the world's population had increased since 1938 by 12 per cent., the world's production of food had increased by only 4 per cent., and that if the present rate of increase in the world's population was maintained, in 70 years the world's population would be doubled.
I suggest that in those circumstances, if those assumptions are true, no nation ought to be more vitally concerned at our developing the backward areas and increasing the world's food production than this nation, because we are dependent for 50 per cent. of the food we consume on overseas markets. If we are going to deal with the great social problems which are arising in these backward territories it is essential that we should continue with schemes of this kind, even though we may meet with rebuffs such as we have experienced in this case.
During the summer I talked to some of the native representatives in the Legislature where these schemes have been in operation, and, while they were disappointed with the progress, they at least took the line that these schemes have provided work and wages for the natives, and that in these territories, unlike many other parts of our Colonial Empire, because 1166 there had been something like regularity of employment and so on, there was no danger of Communism. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) tries foolishly to dismiss this danger. It is precisely because of that ignorant approach that there are certain parts of the Colonial Empire where Communism is a great problem.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
It is because of the poverty and ignorance which were allowed to exist during Tory misrule that we have the danger of Communism in some of those areas. I wonder whether hon. Members recall the Conference of Commonwealth Ministers and the speech of the Prime Minister of Pakistan before he departed. He said that we cannot possibly have peace in the world so long as two out of every five children are born in poverty and face hunger from the time they are born until they die. Hon. Members opposite have got to realise that we cannot grow the flower of peace in the garden of poverty, because wherever there is want, poverty and unemployment, Communism will eventually arise.
It is true this scheme has been unsuccessful, but the idea and the purpose behind it was good. I hope the Government will not be over-anxious and be intimidated by the Opposition's attack, but will be prepared to go on with other schemes when there appears to be a possibility of developing these backward areas and increasing the world's food supply. If we are going to "crab" about this failure, who is prepared to say that the six-year plan for South-East Asia will succeed? We are going to spend something like £270 million on that scheme. If in six years time it does not come up to expectations in some respects, are we going to say, "We ought not to have gone on with it "? Hon. Members should recognise that in these territories where the living conditions and the poverty of the people are deplorable, it is our job not only to help to raise their standards, but also, because we more than any other nation in the world need to see the world's food production increase, to be bold and not to be dismayed by one or two failures.
Last week we agreed to an expenditure of £4,700 million for re-armament purposes over the next three years. We 1167 were told that that amount was to be expended in order to preserve peace. If we should become involved in war, no one will say that this money has been chucked away or that it has failed to achieve its purpose, and no one will feel that it will have failed in its purpose if war does not break out. No one will say then that the money has been wasted. Why should we say that this £36 million, which I acknowledge to be a lot of money which has been spent with the finest of motives and purposes has been wasted?
When the Opposition criticise failures of this kind they should look back to some of their own failures. What about the Portal house? Did they criticise the money that was spent on the Brabazon, which was originated and conceived by Members opposite in 1944? We recognise that much of the costly expenditure on the Armed Forces will be wasted on experiments that will not succeed, but no one will be concerned about that.
I am quite prepared to risk money on adventures of this kind, because I know that if they do succeed they will make a contribution towards easing the tension in the world. That is why I am prepared to back any further scheme that the Minister may bring forward. The more we can increase the amount of food that is available to the peoples of the world and the more we can remove poverty from the world, the more certain it is that we shall have that lasting peace which we are all agreed is the desire of our people and the world.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
I do not wish to detain the House for very long, but I feel that I am justified in commenting upon one or two points that were made by the hon. Members for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) and Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd). The reason why we are criticising the Bill is simply because we have spent over £36 million in trying to grow food in East Africa and it has been a complete failure.. Surely it would be imprudent to go on spending more money on this scheme as a result of our experience in the last few years.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe and also the hon. Member for Jarrow were at some pains to point out how the late and much lamented Mr. Oliver Stanley 1168 had complimented and wished the scheme all success. The hon. Member for Attercliffe did not unfortunately give way when I sought to interrupt him, but went on to read a number of quotations from the Second Reading debate on the Overseas Resources Development Bill. I would I remind him of something else that was said by the late Mr. Oliver Stanley in that debate. He said:Do not let us in discussing the future of this scheme raise people's hopes too high either as to their magnitude or still less as to the speed at which they can be carried out." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947: Vol. 443, c. 2039.]
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
I will not give way to the hon. Member because he would not give way to me when I sought to interrupt him.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
The hon. Member said something else which was quite untrue. He stated that the wages paid to the African labour under the Groundnut Scheme were much better than those paid by the European planters. That is not true, and the hon. Member knows that it is not true.
I do not want to waste too much time on the past. My attitude to the past may well be summed up in the famous words of Mark Antony:The evil that men do lives after them;The good is oft interred with their bones.So let it be with Caesar.When I refer to Caesar, I do not mean that the present Secretary of State for War is as great a man as Cxsar. There is one point with which we all agree, particularly Members on this side of the House, and that is that if there is to be a scheme we are delighted to know that it is to take its proper place under the Colonial Office. In all the debates that have taken place on this matter that view has been expressed from Members on this side of the House.
I have often wondered why the Colonial Office did not take the scheme over. I suspect that the Colonial Office did not think much of the prospects of the scheme when it was first mooted. Those who have worked in conjunction with the agricultural officers of the 1169 Colonial Office and in overseas territories will agree that they are very experienced and knowledgeable men. I strongly suspect that when they first heard of this scheme they were very glad that it was not foisted upon them. I have said "if" there is to be a scheme. I lay stress on the "if."
In my view there is only one of two things we should do. We should scrap the scheme entirely and get rid of the Overseas Corporation. For my part, I do not believe that the scheme as laid down in the White Paper and the Bill will be a success any more than the Groundnut Scheme has been in the past. It has been pointed out that the estimates are capable of very wide margins of error, and I venture to prophesy that the scheme, which it is said will cost only £6 million over a period of seven years, will cost at least double that figure. From that point of view we should proceed with very great caution. But, if the Government are insisting, as they may well do as a result of tonight's Division, on going on with the scheme, then I suggest that it ought to be of a very limited and experimental nature.
I suggest that, in the three areas, not more than 10,000 acres should be used for purely experimental purposes. I would divide these 10,000 acres in each of the three areas, Kongwa, the South and Urambo, into small shambas of probably at the most 200 or 300 acres. I would engage a staff of the very finest agricultural scientists skilled in all branches of agriculture, and also a staff of first-class veterinary experts, and get them to pursue a real scheme of scientific research. From my own experience, I am satisfied that the only way to develop agriculture in East Africa is to build on the very finest and soundest scientific lines.
I should not introduce a personal note except for the fact that it may be of value in reinforcing what I have advocated. Like many other hon. Members, during the 20 years between the two wars I had the privilege to travel and reside in many parts of the world. Those hon. Members who have had the same experience will agree with me that there is no more difficult or strange part of the world than the East African Territories. One schemes, plans and gets ahead and then, for no apparent reason, everything 1170 goes wrong. It is one of the most difficult territories to operate. I do not believe that this Scheme envisaging roughly 250,000 to 300,000 acres will be any more successful than the Scheme has been in the past.
Efforts to stump and root trees in East Africa by mechanical means is not a new problem. Various methods have been tried by European planters time and again, and it is one of the most difficult things in the world to do, as has been proved. Mechanised cultivation in that part of the world is absolutely dead, as is indicated in the White Paper. If the Scheme is to go on at all, why not confine it to a limited area and in the limited way I have suggested? That is the way in which to build the food and veterinary services—animal husbandry—on a sound scale in East Africa.
I wish to say a few words about the past. If the past is of any value it is as a guide to us in the future. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have said a great deal about the past but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart) said, the real troubles started in the old Scheme from 1947 onwards. In almost every debate since then we on this side of the House have advocated caution. Indeed, we have advocated an inquiry, pausing, going slow and getting a proper inquiry but on every occasion these requests have been turned down: On the last occasion during the debate on 21st November, 1949, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) pressed most vigorously for an inquiry. In the final passages of his speech in that debate the then Minister of Food who is now Secretary of State for War said:Yet, in the face of those difficulties, I and my colleagues are convinced that the need to proceed with this scheme is at least as great today as it was in 1946."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1949; Vol. 470, c. 55.]The then Colonial Secretary, Mr. Creech Jones, in winding up the debate, in reference to the request for an inquiry, said:I can only conclude by saying that we cannot accept the suggestion of the Opposition that this matter should go to an inquiry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1949; Vol. 470, c. 162.]Even before that we had grave doubts about the progress of the Scheme.
1171 In October of last year the Socialist Party held its annual conference. Not unnaturally, one read the reports of that conference in the Press with a great deal of interest. Here is a short quotation from one of these reports which appeared in "The Times" at that time:Mr. de Freitas, Under-Secretary, Home Office, emphasised the necessity of a world plan for mutual aid, and said that this country must take proportionately less of the benefits of such a plan than the masses of Asia and Africa.This is the most important point:The decisive battle of this century would be fought in the paddy fields of Asia, and won or lost in the library of the London School of Economics.I am not clever enough to understand what that means, but I suggest that it might well be worth while, as an experiment in colonial development, if we spent a few thousand pounds on bringing some of the Asiatic and African cultivators over here to run the London School of Economics, and transferred some of the staff of the London School of Economics, together with some of the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House who have been associated with that institution, to try to cultivate some of the fields in Asia and Africa. There is one thing of which I am perfectly certain. They would return to this country and be able to differentiate, as never before, between what is desirable and what is practicable.
It is because of past experience, and because we have great doubts whether the scheme outlined in this Bill is practicable, that we press most strongly that our advice should be accepted this time and an inquiry set up. I appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, before they go out to cultivate the paddy fields of Africa and Asia, not to waste time, but to accept our advice tonight and support us in agreeing to the inquiry for which we ask.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
I have listened intently, and I hope intelligently, to all but one of the speeches which have been made from the opposite side of the House. I began with intellectual amusement at the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank), and have just heard with sceptical amusement the hon. 1172 Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock), but I should like to address my few modest comments mainly to the speech of the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher), who is unfortunately not now in his place.
I thought the hon. Member made a powerful case about the money we have lost in Tanganyika, but that he was not quite fair. I have attempted to find out some facts and figures, and I should like, as objectively as I can, in what is alleged tonight to be a non-political atmosphere, to give some essential figures about this Scheme. The hon. Member said that the losses amounted to something like £361 million. What has happened? Let us be quite fair about this. I always listen with great interest to the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), who suggested that we should take this matter of colonial affairs out of a political atmosphere, and now that this scheme is going into the hands of the Colonial Office, I think we should try to be more scientific about it.
This figure of losses does not mean that there is nothing to show for the money we have spent. I should say that much of the money advanced to the Corporation represents our assets in East Africa, and that some of these assets, for example, machinery, have a present value. There are other assets like the cleared land, and others like buildings in the remote hinterland behind, which, of course, have a value contingent on the future development of Tanganyika. I have seen the Overseas Food Corporation accounts for 1949–50, and Schedule 1 on page 117 gives estimates of the full value of the assets at 31st March, 1950. These include £4,091,000 for buildings and installations, £3,505,000 for machinery, and something like £400,000 for furniture and office equipment.
One hon. Member opposite made great play of the amount of money we are spending. Only a few days ago in this House, all of us blithely and willingly voted something like £28 million for agriculture under the Hill Farming Bill. I believe that we should subsidise and help agriculture, and therefore I do not see why, in developing agriculture outside these islands, we should not spend £35 million, a great deal of which is in fixed assets and will be a great help in developing our Colonial Empire in the years ahead.
§ Mr. Johnson
No, I am afraid that I cannot. A very important point is that the wages we have been paying to the East Africans under this Scheme have been very much more than those paid in the past. I have here a letter from a responsible business man in Kenya who travelled down to Tanganyika. His complaint, and, if I may say so without being unkind, the complaint of hon. Members opposite, is that the wages paid to the Africans under this Scheme have basically altered the wage rates throughout East Africa to the advantage of the Africans.
§ Mr. Johnson
I am quoting from a letter of a business man in East Africa.
In view of the meagre wages that the Africans used to be paid, this is one of the achievements to the credit of the Scheme. I also think that the wages and outlay of this Scheme have taught people in the United Kingdom that colonial development cannot be carried out on the cheap. We have to provide very large sums indeed for roads, railways, ports and hospitals. All those things have to be paid for. In fact, quite a number of ancillary services necessary in developing land of this sort have to be provided. It has also shown that far too little has been known about the natural resources of these backward areas by people in this country. An enormous amount of initial survey has to be carried out before we can embark on large schemes for developing our Colonial Empire.
This is one of the aims of the Technical Assistance Division of the United Nations, and I think this Scheme has been an enormous help in showing us some of these difficulties. The people in Tanganyika will feel the benefit of this. Indeed, only yesterday the Governor of Tankanyika, Sir Edward Twining, said that the Scheme as it will be carried on is sufficiently large to be of assistance to the country. For example, the railway from Huo to Mtwara will go on. If we did not proceed with the Scheme, it would set back the economic development of this Province very much, indeed. For instance, the Southern Province, on which we pin much of our hopes, is an area as large as England, with a population of less than 800,000. That territory is capable of development and capable of providing 1174 its people with the food which we know is lacking at the present time.
I want to ask the Minister one question at this stage, and I hope that he will answer it when he replies. Paragraph 11, on page 4 of the White Paper, says that the areas will be… under intensive supervision by men who can gain an intimate knowledge of the land which they farmI do not feel that these men are going to be anything more than managers, but there is a danger that they may be assisted to become settlers. I should hate to see this part of Tanganyika become another Kenya Highlands. I should like the Minister to say whether in future it is intended that these farmers are to be allowed to buy their farms and whether the Africans will be looked upon as skilled or unskilled manual labour who will be permanently employed by the Overseas Food Corporation. This is a very important point indeed.
There are many besides hon. Members on the benches opposite who think in terms of an independent inquiry. I do not do so myself, but I should like to see another kind of inquiry. I do not think that this amending Bill goes far enough. Now that almost all the money of the Overseas Food Corporation is spent and this Scheme for getting groundnuts will be in the hands of the Colonial Office, there is no need for that Corporation any longer. It should be merged with the Colonial Development Corporation and, if necessary, the Board of the Colonial Development Corporation should be enlarged.
Beyond that, if these were merged together we could think in terms of much larger schemes. We might think of other areas in this connection besides Tanganyika. We might. think in terms of a joint cattle industry, for example, in the Cameroons, where we have had the French corporation "La Pastorale" farming for quite a long time. We might also think in this context of raising beef in Madagascar, where there are areas which could be used for cattle production.
This Groundnut Scheme has been more than merely an attempt to get food for this land of ours. It is important that we develop these Colonial and backward areas. I hope that we shall see this Scheme paying benefits and dividends in the future when Tanganyika develops beyond what it is and when we hope she 1175 will be thinking, as the Gold Coast is thinking at the moment, of becoming a Dominion inside the British Commonwealth of Nations.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I do not propose to pursue the path the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) has been taking, except that I shall comment on one matter to which he referred. That was the thesis which was propounded to him in a letter—that colonial development cannot be carried out on the cheap. I can assure him we have known that for quite a long time, and if anything were needed to rub it into the Government this failure of the Groundnut Scheme has succeeded in doing it. Having lost £36–1 million on that alone, they must surely realise that colonial development cannot be carried out on the cheap.
I should like to refer to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), concerning the original debate on this subject. The House will remember that he referred, in particular, to some commendatory remarks which were made by the then right hon. Member, for Bristol, West, which he completely misinterpreted and from which he purported to show that the right hon. Gentleman commended this scheme in its original entirety with complete enthusiasm and without any reservation whatsoever. I think the House would wish to be reminded that in the same speech the late Mr. Stanley made his position perfectly clear. I think the hon. Member for Attercliffe would wish that the other sentences of that speech should also be reported in this debate. In the course of that speech Mr. Stanley said:Do not let us, in discussing the future of these schemes, raise people's hopes too high, either as to their magnitude or, still less, as to the speed at which they can be carried out.… Not only must people not expect anything immediately, but they ought not to be led to expect too much."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2039.]If the hon. Member had appreciated that those words were also included in that speech, I do not think he would have given to the House the impression which he has given.
The difference between the two sides of the House was not so much in the beginning; it developed later as the failure of the Scheme itself developed. Origin- 1176 ally, as has been stated, we on this side gave the Scheme a warm welcome and a kindly reception. The reason was that in those days we were accustomed to being able to rely on the statements of Ministers, and when the then Minister of Food came to the House and gave the explanations which he did give on the basis of the Wakefield Report, we on this side accepted those explanations on the assumption that they were complete and entire. But the House will recollect that it was later discovered that that was not so.
Subsequently it was found that various schedules and additions contained in the Wakefield Report were not published in the White Paper and were of such a character that the knowledge of them would substantially have altered the views of anyone considering the Report. Subsequently comment was made upon that fact.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
Yes—absolutely they must, without any doubt, have been withheld. I do not think there is any question about it.
The difference between the parties became apparent when the failure of this Scheme developed, and the failure of the Scheme was due to the muddling and mismanagement of the Ministry of Food in the instructions which they gave to the Corporation and the speed of the plans and the changes of plan which were continually foisted upon the Corporation. It is a remarkable commentary that the Government and their supporters are continually urging farmers in this country to become more efficient and are blaming them for inefficiency whereas, when they themselves try to carry out an agricultural operation, with almost all the world at their disposal, they make the biggest muddle and display the greatest inefficiency, one could possibly imagine.
Throughout the whole course of today's debate we have had evidence from hon. Members of all parties of dissatisfaction with the decision to embark upon another instalment of this Scheme before we know the real causes and fundamental troubles which have led to the disasters of the past. The only way they can be ascertained is by having an inquiry 1177 by independent people—not an inquiry by those already tied up in the Scheme, not an inquiry by those who have already advocated the further development of these Schemes. What is needed is a completely independent inquiry which will restore the confidence of the country both in the Scheme and in the people who are to carry it out.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. JoynsonHicks) for cutting his remarks so short and so giving me and the Secretary of State for the Colonies all the longer in which to deploy our observations. We have had a long and very interesting discussion, which from time to time has taken a rather unexpected form. We have heard, as indeed we are accustomed to hear, informed speeches from Members like my hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Mr. Hurd), Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) and Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart). In addition, we have had one or two other rather more exotic spectacles.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I am coming to the others now. I always start with the minority party first—in a minority at the moment. We have had a speech from the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) attacking the Minister of Food, with all the enthusiasm that we have learned to expect from a one time Ministerial colleague of the Minister on the other side of the House, and attacking the Minister of Food for not carrying out the full and original Scheme, though he left the whole House in complete doubt as to where the money was to come from to finance this extravagant project.
We have had also a speech from the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. G. Cooper) which, I hope, the Minister will ponder on a speech urging him to profit by the good example of private business. We have had, surprisingly enough, very little attack on the managing agents. I thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the dilemma in which they are undoubtedly placed, would attempt to cast the burden of the responsibility upon the managing agents; but I am glad that they have not done so. Indeed, about the only hon. Member who 1178 did that, the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), cannot, I think, have read the Report of the Select Committee, in which the managing agents are wholly exonerated from having taken any action at all without the authority and guidance of the Ministry of Food.
Finally, in this catalogue of speeches to which we have listened, we had the most extraordinary speech from the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. Adams). He, in fact, described the loss of some £36 million as a mere bagatelle. As the hon. Gentleman is, I believe, a Whip—[Horn. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, he was a Whip. Ministerial changes are almost as frequent as the changes of the Overseas Food Corporation. As the hon. Gentleman was a Whip, and as we have not had much opportunity of listening to his observations in this House, I looked him up, and I saw, to my surprise, that he was formerly an Assistant Commissioner for National Savings. I am sure that if, after the next election, he should be desirous of returning to his former occupation, he will be in rather a difficulty in trying to persuade people to subscribe their money in order that the Ministry of Food may squander it.
Throughout the whole of this debate we have had much misrepresentation of the attitude which my hon. Friends and I have taken up in the earlier stages of this great and ambitious project. We gave it a friendly reception. We tried to create a friendly climate for it. We tried to ensure as far as possible that it should not be prejudiced at the start by political opposition. I think that this is generally understood, though later on, according to the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy), in some extraordinary way the Conservative Party, apparently, became responsible for the failure of the crops in Kongwa. What we did not do, however, was to give a blank cheque for mismanagement and misrepresentation, which both, unhappily, have marked the whole story of this boldly conceived Scheme.
On the whole, I think the House will agree, it has been a rather distressing debate, for the writing off of some £36 million—or £32 million if we get paid back that sum by the East African Railways and Harbours Board, or if the investment, in Queensland as we all hope, brings us some benefit—but the writing off of some £32 million, and the request 1179 to this House for further undisclosed sums—for there is no reference in the Bill to any definite sum—coupled with the warning that the estimates should be taken with a "wide margin of error" such an appeal and such a situation is not one that anybody on either side of the House is likely to take with equanimity.
Let us for a moment consider in the light of colonial affairs what an immense sum of money this is. In the territory in which the Groundnut Corporation have been operating, this loss in three years surpasses the entire annual revenue, actual or estimated, of Tanganyika for 1951, 1950, 1949 and 1948 all put together. This great loss is very little less than the total issues under the Colonial Development and Welfare Vote for the whole of the last 10 years put together, and for the entire British Colonial Empire.
When one considers how welcome that money has been, and what incalculably valuable activities have been carried out under the Development and Welfare Vote, one sees the magnitude of the loss the Colonies have suffered by what we regard as criminal mismanagement. Well might a Tanganyikan administrator say, as reported in the "Johannesburg Star" last week:If only one-third of the money frittered away on this pipe-dream had been applied to building roads and improving transport facilities in Tanganyika, it would have moved our country 50 years ahead.When hon. Gentlemen opposite turn to us and say, "What about our fellow citizens in Africa?" as if we were not ready and willing to spend money upon them, we can reply, "The best friends to our fellow citizens in Africa are those who put the money where it can do the most good." We certainly do not grudge money, but we do grudge this appalling waste.
I think that about the most tragic feature of this unhappy story is that after all this expenditure nothing has been proved. There is no proof of the various purposes for which the Scheme was first advanced. Nothing has been proved except, we believe, the incapacity of the Government to run schemes of this kind. On the very eve of large scale expenditure in South-East Asia—and one Supplementary Estimate is already presented to help South-East Asia—I hope I am in 1180 agreement with the rest of the House in asking that the same incapacity and failure to experiment first will not be shown in the help given to South-East Asia as has been shown over the last three years in East Africa.
This was a project upon which the hopes of the country, and indeed of the British Empire, were centred. The Secretary of State for War is, I believe, a student of the great Francis Bacon. He quoted Bacon at the close of a debate in the course of last year, as saying:It is the sinfullest thing in the world to forsake or make destitute a plantation once in forewardness.Tonight we are forsaking and making destitute a plantation. I commend to the right hon. Gentleman, who I hope will attend some part at least of this debate, the warning that Bacon also gave to all those who sacrificed efficiency to speed and who believed that what is done fastest is done best. Bacon said, when talking of men, statesmen and Empires:Affected dispatch is one of the most dangerous things to business that can be … Therefore measure not dispatch by the times of sitting, but by the advancement of the business. And as in races, it is not the large stride, or high lift, that makes the speed; so in business, the keeping close to the matter, and not taking of it too much at once, procureth dispatch.He added, in anticipation of the right' hon. Gentleman:It is the care of some, only to come oil speedily for the time; or contrive some false periods of business, because they may seem men of dispatch.This is a very grave charge, but it is a very fair one, and I think that the West African who was asked to comment on this scheme probably said it all and said it more shortly when he said, "Hurry is not speed."
I have various observations to make about the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. We gave him ample warning that we intended to refer to his own part in this sorry business, and I hope that he intends to be present this evening. I feel, in particular, that a large number of people in East Africa, whose hopes were raised by the right hon. Gentleman and who are now confronted with distress and disappointment, even having sold their homes in England and pledged themselves, as they thought, for many years to a successful and profitable life in East Africa, are at 1181 least entitled to the presence of the right hon. Gentleman at what is, in fact, an inquest on his administration.
We hoped very much that this would be a further stage in the long series of colonial enterprises which would help the United Kingdom—the mother country—and which would also be immensely to the advantage of the Colonial Territory itself. I know that on all sides of the House tonight we recognise the signal loss which we and the Empire have suffered by the death of the late Member for Bristol, West, Mr. Stanley, who, when referring to schemes of this kind some years ago, used words which unhappily have turned out to be prophetic. He said:None of us can expect to see the task of colonial development accomplished by ourselves or even perhaps in our time. All that we can ask is that we should be given the chance of laying a few bricks and that these few bricks should be a secure foundation on which others can build.It is to us a grievous feature of this groundnut affair that the cause of African development has not been advanced by it at all, and may, in the light of history, even have been retarded. Tonight we are being asked to grant an undisclosed sum, and we on the Opposition side have made it plain that we cannot do this, that we have no confidence in estimates based on proposals which come from a discredited Corporation and which are presented to the House of Commons by a Government which has so signally mismanaged the whole affair.
Of course, my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) made it quite plain that we welcomed that part of the Bill which transfers the remainder of this Scheme to the Colonial Office. We have always urged that this should be so. After all, it is, in terms of money, the largest colonial enterprise in the British Empire, and yet the annual report of the Colonial Office for 1948–49 devoted only 12 lines to it, and the annual report of last year only 25 lines to it. I could never make out why it was not handed over to the Colonial Office. We have had some secret history from the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy), and we would welcome something more authoritative from the right hon. Gentleman himself. Was it because the Ministry of Food was a new Ministry and thought to move faster, or is it that 1182 it has an Oils and Fats Division? Is it on a chance thing of this kind that the future of a great scheme should depend?
We made it plain from the start, even before the first Bill was brought before this House, that we approved of the Colonial Office taking charge of the Scheme. But as Mr. Oliver Stanley said, referring to the Secretary of State for War as a cuckoo in the nest:The right hon. Gentleman got into the groundnuts nest pretty easily, and he is a big and loud bird, and all the flustered flutterings of the hen birds from the Colonial Office have never managed to get him out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2043.]On the Second Reading, we opposed the Ministry of Food being responsible, and we moved an Amendment on the Committee stage excluding the Colonial Territories from the O.F.C. We moved a new Clause on the Report stage to allow the Government later on to transfer this scheme to the Colonial Office by Order in Council. We had the support of the hon. Member for Warrington (Dr. Morgan), then the Member for Rochdale, and the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) by speech but never by vote.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The hon. Gentleman should look up his own speech. It was a good one. If he had voted as he believed then, it most certainly would have been in the Colonial Office from the start. It is quite true that in one regard we were labouring under a misapprehension. We were a little afraid that if there were a heavy crop of groundnuts and the price was too low, the Ministry of Food might be led into exploitation of the situation. In that we have been disappointed. We had not fully realised the consequence of the statement of the Secretary of State for War in one of his books,There is not and can never be a marketing problem under Socialism.But as I have said, it is the effect on the Africans with which many of us are most concerned. Of course, there is a large hospital built where no one would ever dream of putting it if he started this as a colonial welfare scheme. But there has been a tragic decline in standards, a break up of tribal life and a decline in 1183 the authority of the chiefs. They have seen a large-scale white enterprise break down, and everything sacrificed to speed. Instead of model African villages they were promised, they have housing not as good as on the sisal estate. The town of Kongwa was recently described by an observer as:A spiv town, a get rich quick town, where a young fellow would come for a year or two to make some easy money and see the sights, but where a decent man would hardly choose to settle down with his family.Is that our contribution to African welfare? When I hear suggestions of that kind I find it difficult to control my words.
Another serious factor has been that the whole conception of mechnaical agriculture in East Africa has been jeopardised, and the African peasants, who have seen groundnut lands either concrete or dust are still entitled to think that their onetime surface scratching and mixed cropping is not wholly exhausted. While the Ministry of Food carry on in this way, officials of the Colonial Office quietly, unnoticed and unheralded have set about righting policy in other parts of the Empire. Unheralded, almost unnoticed, a few months ago we had "the Report of a Survey of the Problems of Mechanisation on Native Agriculture in Tropical African colonies." The Colonial Office have been making most patient inquiries on soil problems and rainfall and schemes based on tribal customs and tribal structure. As the Report says:It is essential to return to direct responsibility and the incentive of individual farm families.Again, in West Africa we have had the report of the West African Oil Seeds mission with their careful soil testing, careful rainfall tests and very careful and modest plans for 1,000 villages of 20 families each, with a marriage between mechanisation and peasant proprietorship. Incidentally, in this part of the world private enterprise since 1947 has delivered 1,300,000 tons of groundnuts from British West Africa to the United Kingdom. We, therefore, welcome a return to the Colonial Office. We wish it had happened long ago. We cannot give the same support to other features of this Bill.
We cannot see any reason why the Overseas Food Corporation should be 1184 retained at all, save to wind up their affairs. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) said, that it should be merged with the Colonial Development Corporation. That is a better idea than this. The existence of those two bodies in association with the Colonial Office, with the O.F.C. in closer association, is not going to be very useful for colonial development as a whole. As the House knows, we have asked for an inquiry, which would produce a great deal of valuable evidence. It may show that it is desirable to continue, as the White Paper suggests, with all the enterprises in the hands of the O.F.C. It might show that it is desirable to hive off some part of those enterprises to private firms, retaining the ownership in the hands of the Government or of the Corporation. These things can only be proved by inquiry.
There has been no proof whatever of the argument in paragraph 14 that this scheme is valuable in itself to Tanganyika, other than the argument that if money has been put somewhere, more money must follow. Surely money might possibly be spent better elsewhere. After inquiry, the Government might even decide to close down the scheme altogether. The Minister of Food hinted that that was unthinkable. He turned to us and asked, "What would you do? Would you close it down altogether? Is that the alternative? "But it was the alternative considered by the Government in the autumn of 1949. See question 1,340 in the Select Committee evidence.
There has been no proof that it would cost as much to wind up the scheme as to continue it. The general argument on page 17 of the White Paper has never been proved. The Minister suggested that if the Scheme closed down the millions advanced to the railways would never be repaid. What an absurd argument. Is it proposed to keep alive a large organisation and spend much more in order to receive later on the past debts owing to it. What about the £.4½ million owing for breach of contract? Are we to pay that now on a much reduced scheme? Are there really contracts with breach penalties of that value attached to them on this much reduced scheme? We ought to know that before we are asked to give approval to the White Paper which the Government have given us today.
1185 Our general attitude certainly represents the feelings of the country as a whole. There is a great distrust of all these estimates and there is a feeling that history justifies us in looking at anything that comes from the Overseas Food Corporation with the very greatest scrutiny. We have long urged moderation and we have continuously urged an inquiry. We repeat that urging today.
I said that I had some observations to make in regard to the Secretary of State for War and I have deliberately left my remarks about him to the end of my speech, so as to give him every opportunity of getting here, on the assumption that he is coming by nationalised transport. We can forgive the early enthusiasm of the right hon. Gentleman. He saw himself as a pioneer much quicker and much smarter than the Colonial Secretary. He had a clean slate to work on, no wicked profit, no greed, and no personal problems and—how lucky for him now—no personal responsibility either. We can forgive his earlier observations in 1947 that already the managing agency wereheavily engaged in bringing many hundreds of thousands of acres … under cultivation." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2024.]We can forgive his observations in the same month that the groundnut scheme would still be completely economic when present prices had fallen "far below their present level." We can forgive his observation in the same debate that there would bean appreciable tonnage of groundnuts in the spring of 1948.… the real crop … will he in the spring of 1949."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2032.]What we cannot forgive is, when the whole terrifying story began to unfold, and he knew about it, that he went on making just the same sort of statement. Hon. Gentlemen can turn up the debate of 12th June, 1948. The right hon. Gentleman had then been out to Kongwa. He then said that he found that the result was that the scheme, far from being less sound economically or less profitable than the original estimate, was substantially more sound and more profitable and far more valuable than anyone could have foreseen when they started. What about the estimate in 1948? One hundred and fifty thousand acres were to 1186 be cleared. We now know from Alan Wood that already in August the figure had been lowered to 128,000. Then in October it went to 70,000 to 80,000, and in November to 60,000, and then along came the Minister to the House of Commons to say that the target of 50,000 had been carefully arrived at by the Corporation when it was apparent that it was an inevitable adjustment of hopelessly optimistic preliminary anticipation.
The year went on and the next year dawned, and on 14th March, 1949, his target was to have been, as the House will remember, 600,000 tons from 3,250,000 acres. He then told the House that because of the revision of a system of rotation the tonnage was going to be just the same even when the acreage was coming down a million. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) asked him how much of the land he said was cleared had not been bush at all, he gave an answer which I think fell very strangely on many ears in this House. At the same time he told the housewives in Great Britain that some thousands of tons would go into the margarine ration that year. He spoke in 1949 of fixing the price "in a few weeks' time" for the crop, and added:… the scheme may well cost anything up to twice the original estimate … the revenues … may also well add up to anything up to twice the original estimate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 1759.]These things do, in our view, deserve a proper answer. The House has had very little opportunity of eliciting one. Many charges could be made—the astonishing story of the attempted suppression through Mr. Gollancz of Mr. Alan Wood's book; the outrageous promises made about timber supplies, dollar earners and dollar savers, though later on he more wisely used the remark, "Timber is a hidden asset"; the misrepresentation about the staff relationships at a time when everybody out there knew of the unhappiness which was existing and when the arrival of a copy of HANSARD in Kongwa, we were told, led to the executives demanding a public withdrawal of some of the statements the right hon. Gentleman had made. Step by step, we are told by the historian of this period, a position arose when anyone who told the truth about the Groundnut Scheme was liable to be denounced as a scoundrel or a fool.
1187 We thought that period had passed, but for a moment we are not so sure that it has passed. The same boastful, arrogant and ignorant assertions are being made. The right hon. Gentleman today closed his speech by saying, "We now know what is needed to conquer Africa." The time will come when the right hon. Gentleman, like his predecessor, will learn to rue the words that he has spoken. So, in the light of the past history, the ineptitude and the lack of candour, the fantastic, boastful and ignorant assertions that are made, the continuance without any real justification and for no adequate purpose of the Overseas Food Corporation, we of the Conservative Party cannot be associated with the Bill now before the House unless and until there has been a full and impartial public inquiry.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I want to call attention to the fact that we are discussing tonight the writing off of £36 million of the taxpayers' money and the Minister responsible for that is not present. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, he is."] Can he be sent for?
§ Mr. Griffiths
We have heard this afternoon and this evening the kind of debate which we anticipated. There have been from both sides of the House many well-informed, constructive speeches but in some of them, including the speech to which we have just listened, there has been in the main—and I choose my words—what seemed to me rather vindictive hunting for scapegoats. I propose to devote most of my time to considering the issue before the House, the issue of this Bill, which is the future.
For many years it fell to my lot—indeed, it was my privilege—to take part in the rough and tumble of industrial controversy. Hard words were spoken and hard things were said—[An HON. MEMBER: "We heard you on the wireless."] The hon. Member will hear me again, too. May I be allowed to say this about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War: in speeches that have been made this afternoon, in statements that have been made in the Press, in photographs toned up for a purpose, the venomous, spiteful attacks of a personal nature made on him make me proud of the fact that 1188 I belong to the miners and not to a gentlemanly party."
One thing is clear from all the speeches made in the debate—indeed, one thing -is clear from the entire history of the Scheme—that when it was begun in 1947 all the experts who were consulted were warmly in favour of it, and this House gave it unanimous approval. The Government at that time placed the situation before the House and the country fully and frankly. The reason the Scheme was eventually adopted and pursued as quickly as it was, was the desperate food shortage in this country. From the very beginning the Scheme was conceived as an attempt quickly to bring to this country the food of which we were so desperately short. Indeed, it was said at the time that this was—as it was—a pioneering venture in large-scale, mechanised agriculture under tropical conditions without precedent to guide us and open to great risks. Those risks were deliberately taken for the reasons that we made clear then and which have been made clear since. If I and my colleagues had to take the same decision now in those circumstances, the risk, even now, would be worth while.
The Groundnut Scheme has failed. I know that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will try to make the most of that for party ends. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They did it in February, 1950; they will do it again. But I want to say a few words, not about what the failure of this Scheme means to any party, but about what it may mean to the Colonial Empire and, indeed, to all the backward countries in the world. In the 12 months in which I have been privileged to fill this office, fresh evidence has come to me every day of two closely related problems which not only this country, in so far as we have responsibility in the Colonies, but the democratic world will have to meet and to solve; otherwise we shall lose the battle which we were discussing in the House last week.
The first of these two facts is that in all these areas and territories which we call backward areas, including those Colonial Territories for which we have responsibility and for which I have Ministerial responsibility, the mass of the people are living in poverty. The second fact, which is of enormous importance, is that in all those territories the population 1189 is increasing at such a rate as to create in addition to the existing poverty, the danger of still further poverty unless a solution can be found.
I ask the House, in discussing this matter, to look at it in that context and I call the attention of hon. Members to three recent statements which have clearly revealed that problem. There is the Colombo Plan, which indicates that in the whole of that region, with its 570 million people, the average income per head of the population is £20 per annum, as compared with £200 here and £400 in the United States, and that the population is increasing at the rate of 20,000 daily and will be 720 million in 20 years' time.
There is the report, which I hope hon. Members will have read—many who are interested in these problems have, I know, done so—upon the position in the British West Indies, where, on present trends, the population will double in 30 years' time. Then there is East Africa, including Tanganyika, where the Scheme which we are discussing was located, and where it is estimated that in 30 years' time the population will have doubled. Tanganyika, a land which is in size about equal to France and Germany together, is a net importer of food.
Those two problems can be solved only if we devise ways and means, and take all the risks that are necessary, to meet and solve them. We cannot feed this increasing population in the world without bringing into cultivation land that is now bush and swamp. Whatever we may think about the rôle of private enterprise in the Colonial Territories or elsewhere, I think we would all agree that this is not a problem which private enterprise can tackle or solve. Does anyone opposite suggest that private enterprise would finance the six-year Colombo Plan, which is absolutely essential unless Asia is to suffer still further poverty?
It is certain, therefore, that if this problem is to be solved, it can be done only by large-scale public enterprise. Indeed, in the end it can be done only by a world plan in which all the world joins together to solve the problem. Successive Governments, both here and in other countries, have to realise that public money must be invested—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Not wasted."]—if this problem is to be solved. Not only must public 1190 money be invested, but risks will have to be taken, and if risks are taken there will be losses—there are bound to be.
I believe sincerely, and hon. Members opposite who take a keen interest in these problems realise also, that the failure of the Groundnut Scheme is not only a grievous loss, but the failure in the time in which we have attempted it, to introduce large-scale mechanisation of agriculture—conquering the bush, driving away the tsetse fly, and bringing the land under cultivation—that failure, whoever may be responsible, may yet be a tragedy for Tanganyika, for the Colonies and for the world. If it had succeeded, by that success we would have learned a way to do the job which we must learn if we are to deal with this problem. We have recognised that the original intention of the Scheme and the original plans have failed and we are asking the House, with us, to accept the fact that it is a failure and to accept the consequence, which means writing off this very big sum.
What we have to consider is, what now? This has been considered by the Overseas Food Corporation and by two working parties to whom I will refer in a moment. We have to make up our minds now whether to abandon this Scheme entirely. Hon. Members opposite —the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Beresford Craddock) for example—have said, "Abandon it," which means that we surrender—
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I said we should either abandon the Scheme, or continue it in a very small experimental way with 10.000 acres.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I will come to that point. I thought the hon. Member came down on the side of abandonment.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If we abandon this Scheme we not only abandon the Groundnut Scheme as originally thought of and planned, but we abandon all the land that has been cleared in those areas. That is what abandonment means. The land will go back to bush, the tsetse fly will come and disease will spread. Everything we have gained in the last few years in knowledge—and we have gained 1191 —would be completely lost if we abandoned this Scheme.
If we abandon this Scheme, we shall do so against the wishes of the Government of Tanganyika. Therefore, in addition to losing all that we have gained in skill and knowledge in the last few years, we should strike a heavy blow at colonial development. Supposing we decided to abandon the Scheme, I ask hon. Members to remember how it would appear to the Africans. Some of the Africans in some Colonial Territories who have attacked us on the grounds of colonialism, imperialism, and other grounds have attacked this Scheme from the beginning; only a few have done so, and the basis of their attack has been that the Scheme was originally conceived, not to assist Tanganyika or the people in Africa, but purely for our own domestic purposes. If we abandon the Scheme, we are saying, "Since the Scheme cannot now produce the oils and fats for us in this country, we abandon it and do not care what happens to you." That indeed would be calamitous, and I hope the House will reject that view.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) has suggested not that we should now abandon it, but that we should have an inquiry. I listened with very great care to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened the debate for the Opposition, and the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire, who spoke last for the Opposition, and I have listened to most of the speeches that have been made in the debate. I have listened to many who have said that we ought to have an inquiry. I have been waiting all the time to hear this proposal for an inquiry developed and amplified. I have been disappointed, and so I propose to ask one or two questions.
First, who will inquire into this Scheme? There has been no suggestion of any names and no suggestion of what kind of experience the people should have had. The revised Scheme which we have put before the House today is the result of consideration by the Overseas Food Corporation and the Reports of two Working Parties. I want to give the House the names of the members of the two Working Parties. I speak particularly to the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville), who asked whether I would not now 1192 accept an inquiry. First, I ask who is to inquire, and then I will give the names of the persons who were, not members of the Board, but independent members of the Working Party who presented their Report to the Corporation and upon whose report this revised Scheme is based.
I shall give the names of five independent members of the Working Party which inquired into the Scheme at Kongwa and who presented a report upon which the revised Scheme is based. There were seven members, but two were members of the Board and I gather that hon. Gentlemen opposite thought that the members of the Board were prejudiced in favour. Therefore, I shall not call them as witnesses. I name the five independent members. The first is my own Agricultural Adviser at the Colonial Office, Mr. C. F. Clay, who has had years of experience in East Africa. Would he be regarded as a man whose advice was worth listening to? He is one of the men to whom we have listened. Another is Dr. H. H. Storey, Deputy Director of the East African Colonial and Forestry Research Organisation. Then there are Professor S. H. Frankel, Professor of Colonial Economic Affairs, Nuffield College, Oxford, Mr. A. M. B. Hutt, Member for Development, Tanganyika Government, and Mr. J. C. Muir, Member for Agriculture, Tanganyika Government.
Those are five independent members. I put this question, not to back benchers opposite, but to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank). Does he suggest that those persons have rendered a report which is not their honest view and opinion? I should be glad to have an answer. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest that the five gentlemen I have named have expressed views in this report and made recommendations which are not their honest opinion? There is no answer. Therefore, in recommending this Scheme to the House we are supported by the advice of five men of great experience and great knowledge whose credentials and integrity hon. Gentlemen opposite must accept.
Similarly with the report that was made on the scheme in the Southern Province. Mr. Clay was a member of that Working Party. Included in that Working Party was one who did not 1193 serve on the first. I refer to Mr. Frank Sykes, an English farmer associated with sisal estates in Tanganyika, and a member of the Colonial Agricultural Advisory Council. I name these men because, if there is to be another inquiry, who will make it? I consulted my advisers who have some experience in this field and, as Colonial Secretary, I say that any examination of a problem of this kind would have to call upon the experience and knowledge represented by these persons. I say, therefore, to begin with, that any inquiry must obviously be by persons less qualified to express an opinion and to give advice than the very people whom we have consulted.
May I ask another question? What is the committee of inquiry, or whatever it is to be, to inquire into? Is it to inquire into the past history of the Scheme? Because I would remind hon. Members that the Public Accounts Committee of this House has investigated very fully the past history of this Scheme. They published a Report, and the Report has been available to hon. Members since 20th May, 1950. Therefore, this House, through its Public Accounts Committee, has made a very full investigation into the history of this Scheme, and if it is now suggested that there should be another inquiry, is that a vote of no confidence in the Public Accounts Committee, which went into the matter very carefully and fully and produced a Report?
§ Sir P. Macdonald
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman is quoting a Report of the Public Accounts Committee about the Overseas Food Corporation. What he is doing is asking us—
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a point of order. A point of order must be related to the procedure of this House. The hon. Member may not make a debating point of order, because it is a false one of the kind against which I have protested before.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I maintain that the Minister is misrepresenting the Report of the Public Accounts Committee.
§ Mr. Griffiths
All that I said—and the last thing in the world that I want to do 1194 is to misrepresent an important body like the Public Accounts Committee—is that, if it is intended that this inquiry shall go into the history of this scheme, that has already been done very fully and adequately by the Public Accounts Committee, whose Report has been published.
I would say that, if this House this evening were to carry the Amendment in favour of an inquiry—
§ Mr. Griffiths
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says it would be a jolly good thing, but I ask him this question. While the inquiry was taking place, what would be going on at Kongwa, Urambo and in the Southern Province? While the committee of inquiry were making their investigation, which presumably would mean a visit to East Africa, while they were considering their report and until that report was presented, the cleared land would have been lost, the teams that are now there would have been broken up, all the knowledge gained would have gone, the physical assets, the capital assets, like the hospitals, railways and all the rest, would have gone: and I say, therefore—
§ Mr. Granville
The right hon. Gentleman has asked whether the request for an inquiry refers to the past or is in respect of a new Scheme. We were asking for an inquiry with regard to the new Scheme, and it should be an inquiry with an independent chairman and should be constituted as absolutely independent.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It may be that that is what the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had in mind when they proposed an inquiry, but, as I said, I have been waiting for Members of the Opposition to explain what they have in mind regarding the proposed inquiry, and we have not had an explanation from anyone who has spoken from the Opposition Front Bench or the back benches. The hon. Gentleman who speaks for the Liberal Party suggested that, while the inquiry was proceeding, that work which is now being done in the three areas in Tanganyika should proceed.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I would venture the opinion that the cost of doing that over 1195 any prolonged period necessary for a full inquiry would be more than the cost of the revised Scheme which we have submitted to the House today.
Now let me come to another point. We have to consider the Report and recommendations of the Overseas Food Corporation for this Scheme, which is still of an experimental nature, using the knowledge that has been gained to carry out the Scheme, which has been described in the White Paper and which was spoken of at length by my right hon. Friend this afternoon, in order that we may be able to find a way of successfully and economically farming the areas which have been cleared. We have decided to do that because we think it right on merit to do so. When we had to make the decision, we had before us the estimates. Let me admit at once that these estimates of the cost over the next seven years must contain a margin of error. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because in any scheme of this kind with the purpose of bringing under cultivation land that has been bush and swamp and has never been cultivated before, any estimate is bound to have a margin of error.
But what we have provided—and this is in the Bill—is the safeguard that in future the money to finance this Scheme shall be provided on the basis of an annual Vote. I as Secretary of State for the Colonies, shall be responsible for presenting that Vote to the House—[An HON. MEMBER: "Will you!"]—and when that Vote is presented I shall have to give the House a full account of my stewardship and an explanation of the purposes for which I ask for the money. Hon. Members in every part of the House will then have the fullest opportunity of questioning me and of discussing the matter. If on the presentation of the first annual Vote, or of any subsequent annual Vote, it is found that our plans have not been realised and fulfilled, this House of Commons will then have the opportunity of deciding that the Scheme shall end.
That being so, I believe that we have attempted in this Scheme to provide the House of Commons with safeguards which I am sure the House will appreciate, and which I believe entitle us to ask the House to vote in favour of the Scheme going forward. My right hon. Friend said this 1196 afternoon that if we abandoned the Scheme now, the cost of abandoning it would be almost as much as the estimate of the cost of running it for the next seven years. We are not asking the House this evening to vote a lump sum. We are merely asking that every year there shall be a new Vote, when we shall ask for a given sum and when we shall give detailed reasons for asking for the money, and when, again, an opportunity will be given to hon. Members to debate the matter.
If we were to abandon the Scheme now, the sum of £4,500,000 would have to be spent in paying compensation for broken contracts of employees. If it were to be abandoned, I presume that hon. Members opposite would want us to pay compensation for supply contracts that would then be broken, and there would be the cost of liquidating the assets and the paying of compensation to the contractors. All those together, if we were to abandon the scheme, would cost £4½ million, from the best estimate that is available.
§ Mr. Griffiths
If we abandoned it, then in addition to the £36 million we have already written off there would be £4½ million, for the reasons I have indicated. At the same time we would have wantonly abandoned all that we have learned and all that we have gained from the knowledge of the last few years. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the Opposition Amendment and to give a Second Reading to this Bill. I do that because I believe it is in the best interests of the Colonial Territory which is affected.
A question has been asked, to which I want to give a reply, about why at this stage we do not hand this over to the Colonial Development Corporation. I am glad indeed to have this tribute to the Colonial Development Corporation in the suggestion by hon. Members opposite that I should hand over the Scheme to their care and that it should be carried out under their administration. I considered that very carefully. This Scheme is a very large one, and indeed larger than any single scheme which the Colonial Development Corporation are administrating. In my view, it is a big enough Scheme to justify the creation of a Board of its own.
1197 As already mentioned, the Board will be sited in Tanganyika and the Tanganyika Government will be associated with it, and indeed, will be represented upon it. I shall see to it that the Overseas Food Corporation and the new Board are in closest and continuous touch with the Colonial Development Corporation, because it is very essential in all these schemes that there should be the closest possible association and understanding. I hope that the Colonial Development Corporation in future will desire, as I am sure they will, that any schemes they have for this area shall be schemes that as far as possible, can be fitted into the joint pattern we are trying to create.
I am asking the House, for all these reasons, to reject the Amendment. While we have been considering these new proposals, I have been keeping in the closest touch with the Government of Tanganyika and I have had discussions with them in this country. I know that if tonight the decision of this House was to abandon the Scheme or to set up an inquiry, that decision would be received with dismay among the people of Tanganyika. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]
§ It is not nonsense. I know it is true, for it would be regarded as a decision by this House, now that the only prospect of the Scheme is to become a colonial venture, to give it up, though for four years we carried on while we had hopes of using it for our own purpose.
§ Last night many of us in this House joined together in sending a message to the Africans in the Gold Coast who are meeting today for the first time in their new Assembly. If tonight the House were to agree to the Opposition Amendment, we should be sending a message of despair to the people of Africa. I say that on behalf of the Government, who in five years have done more for colonial development than any previous Government. I ask the House to reject this Amendment, to give the Bill a Second Reading and to send out a message of cheer.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 302; Noes, 295.1201
|Division No. 38.]||AYES||10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Chetwynd, G. R||Ewart, R.|
|Adams, Richard||Clunie, J.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Albu, A. H.||Cooks, F. S.||Field, Capt. W. J.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Coldrick, W.||Finch, H. J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Collick, P.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Collindridge, F.||Follick, M.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Cook, T. F||Foot, M. M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Forman, J. C.|
|Ayles, W. H||Cooper, J. (Deptford)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Bacon, Miss A||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)||Freeman, J. (Watford)|
|Baird, J.||Cove, W. G.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Balfour, A.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Crawley, A.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Bartley, P.||Crosland, C. A. R||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Crossman, R. H. S||Gilzean, A.|
|Benn, Hon. A. N. Wedgwood||C[...]len, Mrs. A.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Benson, G||Daines, P.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Beswick, F.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Greenwood, Anthony W. J. (Rossendale)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Darling, G. (Hillsboro')||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Grey, C. F.|
|Boardman, H||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Booth, A.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Deer, G.||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Gunter, R. J.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Delargy, H. J||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Diamond, J.||Hale, J. (Rochdale)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Dodds, N. N.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Brook, D (Halifax)||Donnelly, D.||Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne V'll'y)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich)||Hamilton, W. W|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Dye, S.||Hannan, W.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hardman, D. R|
|Burke, W. A.||Edelman, M.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Burton, Miss E.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Hargreaves, A.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Edwards, Rt Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Harrison, J.|
|Callaghan, James||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Carmichael, James||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)|
|Champion, A. J.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Harbison, Miss M.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M||Mellish, R. J.||Snow, J. W.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Messer, F.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Holman, P.||Middleton, Mrs. L||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Mikardo, Ian||Sparks, J. A.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Mitchison, G. R||Steele, T.|
|Hoy, J.||Moeran, E. W||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hubbard, T.||Monslow, W.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)||Moody, A. S.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R (Vauxhall)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Morley, R.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Hughes, Moelwyn (Islington, N.)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Mort, D. L.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Moyle, A.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Mulley, F. W.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Murray, J. D||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Janner, B.||Nally, W.||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Neal, H.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Jeger, G. (Goole)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.)||O'Brien, T.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Oldfield, W. H.||Timmons, J.|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Oliver, G. H.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon G|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Orbach, M.||Tomney, F.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Padley, W. E.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Usborne, Henry|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Ungoed-Thomas, A. L|
|Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)||Pannell, T. C.||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Keenan, W.||Pargiter, G. A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Konyon, C.||Parker, J.||Wallace, H. W|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Paton, J.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Kinghern, Sqn. Ldr. E||Peart, T. F.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Kinley, J.||Poole, Cecil||Weitzman, D.|
|Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D||Popplewell, E.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Lang, Rev. G.||Porter, G.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Lee, F. (Newton)||Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||West, D. G.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Proctor, W. T.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edind'gh, E.)|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Pryde, D. J.||White, Mrs. E. (E Flint)|
|Lever, N. H. (Cheetham)||Pursey, Comdr. H||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)||Rankin, J.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.)||Rees, Mrs. D.||Wigg, George|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Reeves, J.||Wilcock, Group Capt C. A. B|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Wilkes, L.|
|Longden, F. (Small Heath)||Reid, W. (Camlachie)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McAllister, G.||Rhodes, H.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Richards, R.||Willey, O. G (Cleveland)|
|Williams, D. J. (Neeth)|
|McGhee, H. G||Robens, A.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|McGovern, J||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|McInnes, J.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Mack, J. D.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)|
|Mackay, R. W. G (Reading, N.)||Royle, C||Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)|
|McLeavy, F||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Wise, Major F J|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon A|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Woods, Rev. G S.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Yates, V. F|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Simmons, C. J.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Manuel, A. C||Slater, J.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S)||Mr. Pearson and|
|Mr. Kenneth Robinson.|
|Aitken, W. T||Bishop, F. P||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Black, C. W.||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||Boles, Lt.-Col D. C (Wells)||Carson, Hon. E.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Boothby, R.||Channon, H.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bossom, A. C||Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Bowen, R.||Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon R (Blackburn, W.)||Bower, N.||Clarke, Brig T. H (Portsmouth, W.)|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Clyde, J. L.|
|Baker, P.||Boyle, Sir Edward||Colegate, A.|
|Baldock, J. M||Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Conant, Maj R J E|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Braine, B||Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.)|
|Banks, Col C||Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Cooper-Key, E. M|
|Baxter, A. B.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow)|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)|
|Bell, R. M.||Browne, J N. (Govan)||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Crookshank, Capt Rt. Hon. H. F. C.|
|Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)||Bullock, Capt. M||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. E|
|Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Crouch, R. F.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool Toxteth)||Burden, Squadron Leader F A||Crowdar, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood)|
|Birch, Nigel||Butcher, H W||Crowder, Capt. John F E (Finohley)|
|Cundiff, F. W.||Jennings, R.||Raikes, H. V|
|Cuthbert, W. N||Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown)||Rayner, Brig. R|
|Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Redmayne, M.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L W||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Kaberry, D||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|de Chair, S.||Keeling, E. H.||Roberts, P. G. (Heeley)|
|De la Bere, R||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H||Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lambert, Hon. G.||Robson-Brown, W. (Esher)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Donner, P. W.||Langford-Holt, J.||Roper, Sir H.|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ropner, Col. L|
|Drayson, G. B.||Leather, E. H. C.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Russell, R. S.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lindsay, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Duthie W. S.||Linstead, H. N.||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Llewellyn, D.||Scott, Donald|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Longden, G. J. M. (Herts, S. W.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Low, A. R. W||Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)|
|Fort, R.||Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)||Smyth, Brig J. G. (Norwood)|
|Foster, J. G.||Lucas, P B. (Brentford)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Fraser, Hon. H. C. P (Stone)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M||McAdden, S. J.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Gage, C. H.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Gammans, L. D.||McKibbin, A.||Steward, W. A (Woolwich, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gates, Maj. E. E.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd||Maclean, F. H. R.||Storey, S.|
|Glyn, Sir R.||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Macmillan Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Gridley, Sir A||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Summers, G. S.|
|Grimond, J.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Grimston, Hon. J (St. Albans)||Marlowe, A A. H.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Marples, A. E.||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Teeling, William|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Teevan, L. T.|
|Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Harris, R. R. (Heston)||Maudling, R.||Thompson, K. P. (Walton)|
|Harvey, Air Codre A. V. (Macclesfield)||Medlicott, Brigadier F||Thompson, R. H. M. (Croyton, W.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Mellor, Sir J.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir G. S.||Molson, A. H. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N|
|Hay, John||Monokton, Sir Walter||Thorp, Brigadier R A [...]|
|Head, Brig. A. H||Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Tilney, John|
|Heald, L. F.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Touche, G. C.|
|Heath, E. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Turner, H. F. L|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mott-Radelyffe, C. E.||Turton, R. H.|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Nabarro, G.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Nicholls, H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholson, G.||Vaughan-Morgan, J K|
|Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)||Nield, B. (Chester)||Vosper, D. F|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Noble, Comdr. A. H P||Wade, D. W.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Nutting, Anthony||Walker-Smith, D C.|
|Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Oakshott, H. D.||Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Hope, Lord J||Odey, G. W.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Hopkinson, H. L. D'A||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss P||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D||Watkinson, H.|
|Webbe, Sir H. (London)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||White, J Baker (Canterbury)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Osborne, C.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Wills, G.|
|Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Pitman, I. J.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hutchison, Col. J. R. H. (Scotstoun)||Powell, J. Enoch||York, C.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Prescott, Stanley|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col, H M||Price, H A. (Lewisham, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Mr. Drewe and|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G||Profumo, J. D||Brigadier Mackeson.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.