HC Deb 07 June 1951 vol 488 cc1625-36

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Wilkins.]

12.6 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

Upon this unique occasion I wish to confer a valedictory benediction upon the departing and to thank those who stay for their stamina at the end of this long sitting.

The words that I utter will go far beyond the bounds of this Chamber, and there will be a large audience to hear the words of the Minister in reply. Over 20,000 Nigerians will perhaps read the words of the Minister when he answers my speech, which is concerned with the 10-year development plan in Nigeria.

The general policy of development in Nigeria was set out in 1945. In the following year this was approved by the Legislative Council. It was a comprehensive plan, and my object in speaking this morning is to ask if this plan has been implemented and if all the schemes are being co-ordinated—the Colonial Development Corporation scheme, the regional development board schemes and the community village schemes that have been set up with the surplus funds of the marketing boards of various commodities like cocoa and palm oil.

Nigeria has a large and diverse territory with a population of something like 28 million. One would have expected to find in the last five years some divergencies in the original plan and perhaps some additions in the light of experience. The original estimate was some £55 million of which £23 million was to be found by the Colonial Development Welfare Fund, £17 million by loans and £15 million by means of taxes on the internal economy of Nigeria.

There were the initial difficulties of the scarcity of materials and technicians and the scarcity of money. Over £13 million had been spent by 1950. Little has been heard about the plan lately, and I ask the Minister how it is getting on. What is happening in Nigeria at the moment? We have had by good fortune, in the last 24 hours, the issue of the Colonial Territories 1950–51 Report. There we find that the cost of the original estimates has gone up to something like £90 million. In the next five years we are to spend only some £34 million, but in a world of constant flux and continuous inflation we are somewhat philosophic when we look at the original figures and find out what is happening today.

I accept the figure of £34 million, and I accept the modifications in the light of world economic conditions, but I ask what are these modifications at the moment. While I am asking that question, I want to say that I am glad that there has been public discussion and criticism by the Nigerian people. The various committees have a democratic composition and the Nigerians have been in on the ground floor and put forward their ideas and suggestions. Nigerians are like Yorkshiremen or Scotsmen. They have local patriotism, and many of them have put up their own local schemes. I hope that the co-ordinator-in-chief of the development for the whole of the Colony has paid attention to these schemes and bound them together.

In the Northern, Eastern and Western Provinces there are three regional development boards. They are often termed loans boards because they are financed by the surplus funds of the marketing boards for cocoa, palm oil, and so on. Can we take it that there is coordination of all these development plans? I hope the Minister will tell us how this has been carried out.

On top of this we have the Colonial Development Corporation which has, among many other schemes, the famous Mokwa farm. I hope that this scheme has not a special pull and is not getting loans and other facilities while more backward areas in the East on the Cameroons side are being starved. There are also the village development or community schemes in connection with which full-time development teams tour various parts of the Colony. With the help of local volunteers, they are doing such jobs as putting up well tops and building market stalls. I understand that the local voluntary schemes are receiving up to 50 per cent. of their cost. Is that happening, and what schemes have been carried out? In Sokoto Province in the North there are excellent developments. What is happening elsewhere? What are the development boards doing in the various regions?

I should particularly like to know what is happening in regard to secondary industries. Nigeria and the Gold Coast, export palm oil and cocoa to the homeland and are piling up surpluses of £50,000 or £60,000 or more. At the moment we cannot supply those territories with the consumer goods which they require and I earnestly plead that we make efforts to build, for example, cotton mills so that textile development may take place at Kano and other large towns in the interior. There is scope in the country for industries making bicycles, boots and shoes and clothing of all kinds. What is happening in that direction?

Just over the border but within the orbit of Nigeria lies the Cameroons, where we have a development corporation. The United Nations Organisation sent a mission there some while ago, and when I read its Report I was not too happy. It said that there was: … uncertainty of getting capital or loan money in the immediate future. I do not believe that they have sufficient money to go on with and I should like to know what finances are being obtained, whether the work has been held up or not, and also whether the local population are being brought in, because the United Nations Report said that the native people were not associated with the schemes as they ought to be.

There is also the Bamenda Cross Calabar Scheme. I should like to know the facts about it. Are the settlers doing a good job? I am told that they are not doing as much as we had hoped. Certainly not as much is being done as there is in connection with the scheme at Mokwa. Are things moving? Has the road been completed? A few families were settled there to form a pilot scheme. It is important that projects like the Mokwa and Bamenda Cross Calabar Schemes should do well because they can be an inspiration to the Niger Valley just as the Gezira scheme was an inspiration to the people of the Nile Valley.

Allied to all this is the subject of technical education. I would emphasise the value of technical education in the light of the need for secondary industries in those territories. The point of my speech is to inquire if the economic development is being carefully planned and if there is co-ordination between the various schemes. Or is it in snippets and bits and pieces here and there? If the latter is the case and there is no overall development, we might as well spend the money on public works for the provision of roads and bridges in order to open up the country.

At the moment the achievements appear to me to be somewhat meagre. I emphasise that it is not merely a matter of economic development. These are tremendous social experiments. They are organisms. If we can succeed with this development, we shall have done a tremendous amount to give the people faith in themselves. The 10-year plan was a fine conception. Some of us feel that if we do not go on with what we hoped to do, there will be disappointment and disillusionment among the people of Nigeria. That would be bad. We must give the people faith in their own future economic development; we have also to make the concerns go so that we can attract European technicians there, and, even more important, we must have a firm economic foundation for future political and constitutional advance. We expect Nigeria to follow in the path of the Gold Coast, and we shall be handing over a pretty poor bag of assets to a politically emancipated territory if we do not provide the people with an economic basis upon which to build their political independence.

Economic development means jobs for the people there. If we give the people jobs, we can then start talking about giving them their independence. The Nigerians will soon come to their heritage, perhaps quicker than some people expect; we have seen the tempo in the case of the Gold Coast. If we are giving these people political emancipation, let us hand over to them a good bag of assets.

12.18 p.m.

Squadron Leader Kinghorn (Yarmouth)

Because of my memories of my recent visit to the Gold Coast, I should like to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) has said. When we consider the 10-year plans for Nigeria and the Gold Coast, it is apparent that, once the political setup has been arranged and everybody is willing to work it, the economic difficulties constitute the first task to be tackled.

Representatives are coming here from the Gold Coast to try to get capital equipment and technicians in order to put the country on an even keel. Nigerian re- presentatives will probably be coming here in the near future for the same purpose. We shall probably see in Nigeria much the same evolution as there has been in the Gold Coast. The country will settle down to some political stability and want to spend the surpluses from its marketing boards on technicians and capital equipment. We have learnt something from the Gold Coast and we shall be ready to tackle the development in Nigeria. We learn just as much as do the Africans as we follow their development. We should make these events well understood here and, if necessary do all we can to help the people with their development.

12.20 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Cooper (Middlesbrough, West)

I intend to intervene in the debate for a very brief period to put one case to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) referred, and that is in regard to the Cameroons Development Corporation. I had the opportunity to visit this Corporation when I went to the Cameroons last year. The Cameroons Development Corporation took over from the Custodian of Enemy Property banana and rubber plantations which had been run by German planters in the years between the wars. When the Custodian took over, quite capable men were enlisted to ensure that the banana plantations did not become derelict and neglected during the war. They did an extremely fine job, I understand, during the period when they were responsible.

After the war, the Cameroons Development Corporation was formed, and Lord Milverton, the Governor of Nigeria, appointed a civil servant from the Nigerian Colonial Secretariat, to become chairman. It seems, according to the evidence that has been handed to me, that from that moment the Corporation became an unhappy organisation. Claims are made by the staff, rightly or wrongly, that it has gradually fallen into a state of inefficiency because of the discontent that has become prevalent. I sent information to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies in November last year. He rightly said that the Governor was responsible.

I do so hope that that will not be used as an excuse for not looking into this situation. I hope that the strongest possible representations will be made to the Governor to ensure that the complaints are fairly, honestly and earnestly looked at, because I believe that if they are not, only trouble will ensue. In fact, to some extent it has already occurred.

I will mention only two instances. One is the native strike which occurred some 12 to 18 mouths ago because there was obstruction from the chairman to a number of native shops being opened where the workers could buy more cheaply than at the inflated prices elsewhere. Secondly, the banana ships are returning to this country only 70 per cent. full. Bananas are available from native plantations and the Corporation is not buying from them as did the Germans.

I raise these points in order to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of State if he will persuade his right hon. Friend to ensure that this matter is thoroughly looked into. The Chairman of the Corporation will be returning to this country in a few weeks' time, and that will give an excellent opportunity for this matter to be thoroughly investigated.

12.23 p.m.

The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. John Dugdale)

Like other hon. Members I welcome this opportunity to have a discussion, at this very late—or early—hour. I hope that the people of Nigeria will realise that this Parliament, even under the extraordinary conditions which we have had during the past 24 hours, can still take the interest that it is right and proper that we should take in Nigerian affairs.

The main questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) were: Is there real co-ordination? Is the development plan just a hotchpotch of all sorts of bits and pieces, or is it something that is definitely planned? I can assure my hon. Friend that it is very carefully planned. There is a large document, which I did not bring with me here because it is rather complicated, which has been gone into not only in the Colonial Office, but by the Colonial Economic and Development Council, which includes Members from all sides of the House. That Council and the Colonial Office have gone very carefully into this plan. We are satisfied that the plan was carefully drawn up and that it is a real plan and not just a collection of bits and pieces.

The revised plan was, in fact, drawn up in 1949. It had to be revised owing to rising costs and the shortage of materials and labour, which Nigeria has experienced along with other countries. As a result of this revision I think it can be said that rather more emphasis is now being placed upon productive services rather than on social services, but 20 per cent. is still allocated to social services. Each region has made its own plan, and the plans have been co-ordinated by the Central Nigerian Government, who have added certain schemes of their own of a more central nature than those which have been thought of by the regions. So far, £20 million has been spent and there remains just over £34 million to spend before the end of 1956, when the plan comes to an end.

Community development was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby. This plays a very important and an increasingly important part in the life of Nigeria today, and I would like to give one example of the kind of work that goes on. "Community development" is a very vague phrase which might mean anything or nothing. I will take as an example the Man O'War Training Course in community development and leadership. This course covers all sorts of people—clerks, schoolteachers, junior Government officials, etc.—anybody who thinks he might benefit from a course by developing powers of leadership and learning to take a prominent part in the country's affairs.

These people not only have lectures and courses to improve their intellect; they are also taken out on work which involves manual labour. They build bridges, go out in lifeboats, climb Mount Cameroon and, generally speaking, are made physically tough as well as given mental instruction. It is a course that might possibly be recommended to our Members of Parliament, although, after today's Sitting, those who have come through have shown that they have a sufficient amount of toughness not to need the course. All the same, we all might benefit from it.

Mr. McCorquodale (Epsom)

What is the age of these boys?

Mr. Dugdale

They are not boys. They are of various ages, such as 20 and 23.

My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. G. Cooper), said that he was unhappy about the Cameroons scheme. He said it was an unhappy scheme. I wish to assure him that that is not our information.

Mr. G. Cooper

I did not say it was an unhappy scheme. I referred to the relationship between the staff and the management.

Mr. Dugdale

I think a scheme where there is an unhappy relationship between the staff and the management can be described as an unhappy scheme. I have no reason to suppose that this unhappiness exists. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that, while the Governor is responsible for the scheme—and it is right that he should be—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is personally interested, naturally, to see that the scheme is properly conducted. My right hon. Friend is making inquiries. It may be that the inquiries are taking longer than my hon. Friend expected, but we have not just put it aside. We realise its importance, but we feel that it is primarily the responsibility of the Governor and of the Government of Nigeria.

The Corporation are anxious to obtain more money to go ahead but that depends whether or not and at what point they can go into the London market to obtain further loans. They share that difficulty with any other body that wants to enter the London market to obtain loans. At present, they have something like £500,000 and I understand that they may need £4 million or £5 million in the next five years to carry on all the work. The important point is that not only are they doing important and useful work, but they have actually made a profit in doing this work.

Another question my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby raised was that of the Niger Agricultural Project. He said he hoped that this would go well, but that it should not be given a special pull. I can assure him it is not being given a special pull, but is treated just like any other development scheme and is not having extra things done for it which would not be done for other schemes. Naturally, it does have some things done for it. The provision of common ser- vices, one of the things with which my hon. Friend was concerned, is in the hands of the company. They make that provision, not the Government. The water supply provides considerable difficulty, because the water is 120 feet down and they are using windmills to raise the water and get a sufficient supply. The family compounds are sometimes built at Government expense and the Government have constructed the main service road, but all the other service roads are the responsibility of the company.

I quite agree with my hon. Friend about the need for the development of manufacturing industry so that Nigeria can be supplied with all those things it needs today, some of which, unfortunately, it cannot get from abroad owing to the general shortage. Insofar as this shortage can be relieved by developments inside Nigeria, we shall welcome them and I wish to take the opportunity of saying that we shall see that Nigeria is not left behind in any allocation of whatever goods there may be. We fully realise that they have made a great contribution to the world's resources, in their developments of cocoa, palm oil and a great many other things, and it is right that they should get a reasonable share of the manufactured goods and raw materials which come from other countries. We wish to see that they get an adequate share.

12.31 p.m.

Mr. McCorquodale

As this is a rather exceptional debate, coming after such a prolonged Sitting on the Finance Bill, I wish to say—as this debate will be read in Nigeria—that I think the whole House, not just hon. Members on one side, have the greatest sympathy with that great country. I join with the Minister in wishing it success.

Mr. G. Cooper

I think my right hon. Friend was wrong when he said he had not seen any evidence of widespread discontent among the staff. I think that is shown by the fact that 50 per cent. of the staff have left in disgust, or have been dismissed. Very full and factual information has been given to his right hon. Friend which, if he analyses it, he will see supports the statements I have made.

Mr. Dugdale

If 50 per cent. have left that is not evidence that they have left in disgust as my hon. Friend says and I would want to be sure before taking that at its face value.

Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Some years ago, when a deputation from the House visited Nigeria, there was great complaint of delay in getting essential goods, particularly capital equipment, from the Crown Agents and a promise was made that that matter would be looked into. Everywhere we went there were complaints of great delay whenever materials were indented for by works or estates. Can we be assured that that matter will be put on a proper basis?

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-seven Minutes to One o'clock p.m. 8th June, till Monday next pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.