§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
As hon. Members will see, this Bill was presented by my noble predecessor as Secretary of State, supported by my right hon. Friend and successor as Minister of Transport, but it has fallen to me to move the Second Reading of the Bill.
The House has had many debates on the Overseas Food Corporation and what became generally known as the groundnuts scheme. In one of the last debates in which I personally took part, when the Conservative Party were in Opposition in this House, the debate in July, 1950, I suggested that it was about time that an inquiry should take place into the work of the groundnuts scheme. I suggested that this inquiry should determine whether the scheme should now be treated as part of colonial development as a whole and forthwith transferred to the Colonial Office, and I asked whether the time had not come for those who run the scheme to do so in East Africa and not in London. In effect, this is what this Bill is proposing.
The House will remember that in 1951 there was published by the late Socialist Government a Command Paper, No. 8125, initiating a proposed revision of policy in respect of the groundnuts project. This was followed in the same year by the last of the then Government's Overseas Resources Development Bills, and this Bill and the White Paper were together debated. The then Government decided, and the House endorsed the view, that the commercial production of groundnuts should be finally abandoned and the Corporation's future activities be confined to a scheme of large-scale experimental development to establish the 1274 economies of clearing and mechanised or partially mechanised agriculture under tropical conditions. It was also decided by our predecessors, as we had long urged, that responsibility for that scheme should be transferred from the Ministry of Food to the Colonial Office, and, as an indication of the new turn of events, a representative from Tanganyika was appointed to the Corporation.
At that time the Corporation's activities were confined to three areas, all of which were in Tanganyika—Kongwa, Nachingwea and Urambo. The Command Paper set out the various proposals for each of these areas. It was then laid down that the Corporation's experiments in mechanised agriculture were to be continued up till 1957, that His Majesty's Government, as it then was, should make available £6 million by annual votes and that the annual net loss on the railway until 1957 should also be met. As the railway will also, we hope, have a long-term and vital use for East Africa, I should like to deal with the railway and the port separately but briefly a little later on.
As a result of what, I think, we all agree were very wise decisions in 1951, a large-scale reduction in the size of the enterprise was made inevitable. Certain of the fixed assets were taken over by the Government of Tanganyika. For example, much of the township of Kongwa—which, much to my regret, I did not visit—including the hospital there and the school, 25 miles of road and the airstrip, were taken over by the Tanganyika Government. At Nachingwea, which I visited some time ago, the majority of the buildings and all the electricity and water stations remained with the Corporation but roads and the air-strip were taken over and the hospital rented from the Corporation. At Urambo only the airstrip was taken over.
But, as hon. Members will remember, there are many other assets apart from these fixed assets, and the disposal of assets other than fixed assets has been carried on steadily through the machinery of the East African Disposals Board. They have had a very formidable task, and I think they deserve the congratulations of all concerned on the way in which they have carried out their task, which looks as if it should be completed 1275 by 31st December. Their work of disposing of vast quantities of material was not made easier by coming, as it did, on top of a large military disposal of sometimes rather competitive goods in East Africa. There were, for instance, so many vehicles that the East African market could not absorb them all at remunerative prices. In addition, many of the buildings and installations were situated in remote places, populated only by members of the Overseas Food Corporation, so that they had little or no realisable value.
The House will no doubt be interested to know that the total of the assets declared surplus by the Corporation comes to a little over £7 million. Up to 31st March of this year £1,665,000 had been paid by the Corporation to Her Majesty's Exchequer. Since 31st March of this year another £410,000 has been realised, and it looks as if there ought to be about another £100,000—in respect of the goods declared surplus—still to be paid. This will make, altogether, about £2,100,000 either paid or likely to be paid to the Exchequer in return for assets of a value of about £7 million, but we must all recognise that some heavy loss was inescapable in the very nature of the winding up of the scheme.
In regard to the human aspect, which is of very great importance, there have been large-scale reductions in staff. Between 31st April, 1951, and 31st March of this year the number of Europeans employed in these schemes in Tanganyika has fallen from 1,276 to 193, but when I was in Tanganyika last week I was very glad to hear that the large majority of those originally employed have in fact settled down and are making their homes in Africa, and so will be there to provide a permanent aid to agricultural or other projects in East Africa or elsewhere.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a reduction from about 1,276. What date is he taking for that figure?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The dates were 1st April, 1951, when I understand that the figure was 1,276, and 31st March of this year, when it was down to 193. As I said, however, the large majority of those originally employed are staying in Africa, and, knowing the crying and urgent need 1276 for responsible and active people in the agricultural field, that is not a net loss, but may turn out to be an African and Commonwealth gain. The number of Asians employed dropped from 174 to 14, and the number of Africans from 18,000 to 4,000.
The next stage, after the Bill initiated by the Labour Government, was the setting up of a Working Party, prompted by the very vigorous Governor of Tanganyika, with the full support of my predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Chandos. This working party reported in January, 1953, and, with minor modifications, Her Majesty's Government have accepted the Report. This is the basis of the Bill which I now present to the House, and which I shall attempt to summarise briefly.
First, a new Tanganyikan Agricultural Corporation will be set up to take over the responsibility for the conclusion of the experimental work authorised by the Act of 1951. Meanwhile, the Government of Tanganyika have already passed the necessary enabling legislation. Secondly, in order to give recognition to the experimental nature of the Corporation's work, the balance of £6 million earmarked for the experimental work up to 1957 will be made available by annual Votes to the new Corporation, through colonial development and welfare machinery. This balance is roughly £1,600,000, but that does not mean that the rest of the £6 million has been spent. A sum of about £1½ million has been put upon one side for the railway guarantee which, under the railway proposals which I shall explain later, will now revert to Her Majesty's Government.
It is proposed to develop the three centres of operation as follows. At Kongwa—as I think most hon. Members who study this matter carefully know—the very uncertain rainfall has destroyed the hopes originally placed upon operations there, and it has been decided to turn over entirely to ranching and improving the cattle strains, though one small arable farm will be retained. Nachingwea will continue on the present lines and scale, with some 20,000 cleared acres, but increasing attention will be paid to African tenant farms. Hon. Members may remember that there are three forms of production there—productive farms, including the development of crops new to the district, similar farms 1277 with very highly developed timing and costing machinery, and a third type of farm where the Corporation would own the land and provide the funds, and farmers would clear the land and establish themselves as semi-independent settlers. In this case there would also be very careful costing, to see whether this experiment was going to be justified.
Unfortunately there is still an absence of an economic crop of high value at Nachingwea, though some hopes are pinned upon flue-cured tobacco, for which there is undoubtedly a local need. If I say that this experiment is of particular importance it is not because it happens to be the one I know most about, having been there. This is typical of vast stretches of Africa, and from the way that this experiment works out very useful results may ensue. The pilot schemes—for that is what they are—may have long-term results for the good of Africa as a whole.
At the third centre, Urambo, the intention is to consolidate the area through settlement farming both of large- and small-scale units, and the long-term aim is to create conditions favourable for large-scale African farming. There will be up to 38 large-scale farms of about 2,000 acres to be let. Running concurrently with that will be an African tenant scheme, which it is hoped will provide for 320 tenant holdings, occupying about 12,000 acres. Members who are interested in the possibilities of African settlement will look with advantage to Command Paper 9158 and, in particular, to paragraphs 11 to 13 in the Appendix.
So much for the general proposals and the agricultural projects. I said that I would mention in more detail the port and railway development.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves his description of the scheme for Urambo, will he say something about the flue-cured tobacco grown there?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
My right hon. Friend will deal with that matter in greater detail, but there is undoubtedly hope there, and some quite useful results have been obtained both there and at Nachingwea, where, although it has not been so proved, we have hopes that something may develop which will fulfil a local need.
1278 In regard to the port and railway developments, anybody who attempts to deal with the problems of Africa knows the colossal importance of good communications. When the 1951 Bill was presented to Parliament by the Socialist Government, it was quite clear that the huge crops which had been expected from Nachingwea were not going to materialise and that the port and railway would not be needed on anything approaching the same scale as had been originally envisaged. The port and railway were already under construction, however, and while it was agreed that the modified proposals did not justify the port and railway on the scale proposed, as it was under construction and as the Tanganyika Government had development plans for the Southern Province, it was decided to complete the port and railway, and I, like other hon. Members, visited the port some two years ago.
A tripartite agreement has been drawn up between the Tanganyikan Government, the Overseas Food Corporation and East African Railways. It was agreed in March, 1952, firstly, that the Corporation should advance all the capital required by the railway administration to build the port and the railway and to meet four-fifths of the loss that was recognised as bound to arise for as long as it should continue. The Tanganyikan Government agreed to provide the capital cost, thought to be about £750,000, to extend the railway further and to meet one-fifth of the annual net loss, and they also said they would do their utmost with feeder roads and by general developments to bring profitable cargoes to the line. East African Railways undertook to raise a loan to repay the cost of constructing both the railway and the port.
Then came the Working Party in 1952, which recommended the end of the Overseas Food Corporation. Clearly a new approach had to be made in regard to the port and the railway, and the recommendation of the Working Party was that the commitments of the Overseas Food Corporation under the tripartite agreement should be taken over directly by Her Majesty's Government in London. The agreement is now in draft form, and it will provide as follows.
1279 The Overseas Food Corporation, which is, in this sense, Her Majesty's Government, will waive repayment by the Railway of all cash advances up to 31st March last year with interest thereon and will also waive the interest on all advances made after that date up to the time of signing. The Tanganyika Government, for their part, will assume responsibility for the annual net loss on both the port and the railway from the time the agreement is drawn up, and the Railway will repay to Her Majesty's Government in London all cash advances made under previous agreements after 31st March of this year plus any interest accruing as from the date of the agreement.
This seems to all of us, to all the parties concerned, to be a sensible arrangement. It had been hoped that the railway and port could have been built for £4½ million. In the event, they have cost some £6 million. It is obviously vital to reduce the capital investment to a bearable figure, for at £6 million, with the relatively limited cargoes it will have to carry in the early years, it would be heavily over-capitalised, and so the Government have in effect agreed to wipe off the capital advances which, with interest, total some £4,200,000 and so to reduce the capital on the port and railway to a sum of about £2½ million. In return the Government are relieved, in particular, of their continuing guarantee to underwrite four-fifths of any loss on the Railway.
This appears to be a sensible arrangement, and this Railway will, I hope, be decisive in playing an important part in the development of the Southern Province, and, perhaps, be of even wider importance.
There is one Clause in the Bill to which I ought to draw the particular attention of the House because it has nothing to do with the Overseas Food Corporation; but, as all Governments find, so we found that this was a useful opportunity for righting an injustice so far as the Colonial Development Corporation is concerned. The Clause is Clause 5. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) asked me a Question today about it. I can understand that he now refreshes his memory by looking up Clause 5. It does deal with, anyhow, one part of the point he had in mind.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
Only one part. Opportunity has been taken to remit the interest on money advanced to the Colonial Development Corporation by the Exchequer and lost on schemes that have been abandoned. I am not going to rake over past controversies either of the Overseas Food Corporation, wound up, in effect, by my predecessors, or in the field of colonial development activities; but it is quite clear that the present Colonial Development Corporation cannot be blamed for schemes that have gone wrong and that it is singularly hard that it should have to present anything other than a creditable front to the world when making such good efforts to put its own house in order. So this Clause permits remission of interest on money advanced to the Corporation by the Exchequer and lost on abandoned schemes.
The noble Lord, Lord Chandos, had a talk with Lord Reith about this in 1952. Both agreed that it was unreasonable to continue to require payment of interest for 40 years on Exchequer advances that had been lost on abandoned schemes or on schemes that were later found to have to be abandoned. As the House knows, to abandon a scheme the Corporation has to get the permission of the Secretary of State who, in his turn, has, to put it mildly, to keep in touch with the Treasury.
It was hoped at the time to be able to go further than this and to use this Bill to write off the capital as well as the interest of some of the earlier schemes, and Lord Reith was told in August, 1952, that the Government would legislate at the same time as for the interest, for a once-for-all writing down of the debt of the capital lost on any scheme that had been inherited from the previous administration and which it had already been decided to close down. By the term "previous administration" I do not mean political administration, but the previous Development Corporation administration. Later the qualifying date was fixed at 31st December, 1953, and the sum involved would have been £4 million.
But Lord Reith and the Colonial Development Corporation did not think this went far enough. They wished also to write off the losses on many schemes which they felt were over-capitalised and 1281 also other schemes that had not been abandoned with approval by 31st December, 1953; and the total amount that would have been then written off was some £8 million. Their argument was quite understandable. They said the public would feel that any writing off of capital would mean they were starting with a clean slate, and they said they would not be so starting.
The Government's view, it seems to me, is even more reasonable, that losses on any of the schemes still in operation, if any losses, are a matter of speculation, and that, in the interests of the taxpayers, it would be unwise to take this step; and the view they also hold to be important is that what matters in the Act is not whether the Corporation can meet its capital charges on individual schemes but whether, taking one year with another, it is able to meet its service charges on its capital from its total revenue. I think that both the Colonial Development Corporation and the Government agreed to differ on that, but, as a result, Lord Reith and the Corporation declined the proffered underwriting of £4 million, and the only action that it is now possible to take is to remit the interest, as in Clause 5.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
What is the amount actually? How much will it be? We hoped for £8 million, say, and £4 million was offered, but what is the amount now?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
We thought that £4 million represented a fair figure for schemes already abandoned with approval, but they thought that might give a misleading impression to the public, and rather than accept £4 million they preferred to stay as they were without anything at all. I have no doubt that they may wish to re-open the matter themselves, but, as far as the Government are concerned, we made what we thought was a fair offer. I regret they have not taken it up.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
It is quite a substantial sum. I will ask my right hon. Friend to give the exact figure before the debate is over if, as I think, we can give it.
There are only two other general points that I want to make. In the White Paper we have said that we hope that the date 1282 of transfer to the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation would be 1st October of this year. Circumstances have made that impossible, and, with the full agreement of the Overseas Food Corporation and the Government of Tanganyika, the date of transfer will now be 1st April, 1955. When that date falls it is proposed that the Government of Tanganyika will appoint Mr. Gillett, the present Chairman of the Overseas Food Corporation, as Chairman of the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation. I shall then name my nominee to the Board. On that day the assets and the liabilities of the Overseas Food Corporation will vest in the new Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation.
Whatever lessons many people in this country have learned from the experiences of the last few years, no one, I believe, could feel anything but confidence in the chairmanship of Mr. Gillett and in the people who are working with him in Tanganyika. I saw something of him and of his colleagues when I was recently in Dar-es-Salaam and all I saw then confirmed the impression that I had formed when, as Minister of State, I was in the territory two-and-a-half years ago.
The vigour and enterprise with which they have faced extraordinarily difficult conditions, the loyalty which they have found in their staff, and their general courage and imagination augur very well for the future. They themselves fully recognise the need to build steadily on proved foundations. I am confident that they will play an essential part in the development of Tanganyika. I spent a very happy week in that Tanganyika territory where they will now operate and saw much of the African, Asian and European communities who have had and will have an immense part to play in the future development of Tanganyika.
Her Majesty's Government have heavy responsibilities in this field, apart from the colonial development and welfare machinery, for which, for the time being, I am responsible. I shall also nominate to the Board. Her Majesty's Government alone are responsible for the Government of Tanganyika under the terms of the Trusteeship Agreement. Of course, the Trusteeship Council of U.N.O. have an important rôle to play. It is for them to see how the territory is being governed. 1283 and when they see fit to make recommendations for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. We shall always pay close regard to what they say, but it is for Her Majesty's Government to decide whether or not to accept those recommendations.
There is one thing on which we can all agree, and that is on the prime importance of agricultural development in Tanganyika. I think we are all confident, too, that under the brilliant leadership of the present Governor, Sir Edward Twining, and with the massive help which the experience of these new officers will bring, the territory will grow in prosperity and will play the very large part in the future history of Africa and the world which its natural resources in men and in materials amply justify.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I should like to begin, if I may, by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on his promotion to his present office. I had it in mind to suggest to him that the post must be a very welcome change to him from that he previously held. In his previous Department, as far as we could see from this side of the House, he spent his time wrecking a very fine transport scheme which the Labour Government had instituted. I noticed, however, that when he began his speech he indicated that he was still busy trying to sell secondhand lorries and other vehicles, so possibly the change has not been quite as drastic as we had at first supposed. At any event, he now occupies a very great and creative office and we wish him well in it.
The Bill opens a new chapter in what is not altogether a very happy story. The original project was for the production of oils and fats by growing very large quantities of groundnuts in East Africa. As we all know, that scheme has had to be abandoned. I have no doubt that those of my hon. Friends who have had more experience on the spot than I will be able, later in the debate, to go into greater detail than I propose to do on the difficulties that arose, many of which, apparently, are still there and which, between them, have meant that the original very fine scheme has had to be abandoned.
Before I pass to the Bill itself, I cannot help reminding hon. Members opposite that for a number of years they have 1284 used this scheme to belittle and to criticise the Labour Government of 1945–50. With them it has been a standing joke for years. They have assiduously led the public to believe that the whole adventure was a wild-cat scheme instituted by a spendthrift Labour Government and entered into by that Government quite lightheartedly. I see that hon. Members opposite smile and nod in agreement. They obviously do not know the facts.
The facts are that this scheme took its rise out of a suggestion by Mr. Frank Samuel, who was then the managing director of the United Africa Company, which is a subsidiary of Unilevers. The company was a trading concern engaged in finding oils and fats for Lever Brothers. No one in the commercial and business world, I think it is safe to say, knew more about the potentialities in this area than Mr. Frank Samuels, and those associated with him in this company. He and they were quite certain that this scheme was not only sound, but would produce in vast quantities the oils and fats which the world then needed.
The Government of that time, being more cautious than many people have since admitted, sent out a special mission of experts to check on what Mr. Frank Samuel and those associated with him had said. What did the mission say on its return? It said that if the scheme were started in 1947 it would produce 600,000 tons of groundnuts by 1950–51, and it also said that 800,000 tons could be produced soon after that. It asserted that the scheme could be put into operation on a strictly business basis and that it would be financially sound. It also added—and hon. Members opposite should remember this—that the nature and scope of the project ruled out private enterprise as the permanent owners of the operation.
I hope that hon. Members opposite, if they wish to be fair, will remember this in future when they are dealing with groundnuts on the public platform, because it is obvious from the facts that if a Tory Government had been in office in 1946–47, and had had this report placed before them, they would have acted in exactly the same way as did the Labour Government of that day.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I deliberately refrained from going into past controversies because, in the interests of the people 1285 to whom these tasks will fall in future in Tanganyika, I wanted them to start with the feeling that they are beginning on another great enterprise, based on careful planning. I could have made a very different speech, but I think it would have been unworthy of the opportunities which lie ahead.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I do not take exception to what the right hon. Gentleman said, but we have sat silent on this side of the House for a number of years.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
This is perhaps the last opportunity we shall have of putting the facts before not only the House but the country at large and I think that I am entitled, quite briefly, to remind hon. Members of what the situation was then. Hon. Members opposite will remember that the late Mr. Oliver Stanley not only spoke in favour but was enthusiastic about the scheme as one which should be supported and, which would, in fact, give the world the much needed oils and fats it then needed.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
I think that it is only fair to mention that the late Mr. Oliver Stanley, in the debate on the 6th November, 1947, did add a word of caution. I will quote his words. He 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2039.]He did add that word of caution in the initial stages.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I accept that, of course. He was only emphasising what the Government themselves had said in their White Paper. The White Paper pointed out that vast agricultural operations of this kind, involving the use of all the latest techniques of mechanised production, in remote and undeveloped areas clearly involved serious risks. I will not read any more, but the paragraph went on to indicate what some of these risks were. The late Mr. Oliver Stanley was only reiterating what the Government themselves had said on this matter.
I think that the House is inclined to forget that at that time we were assured 1286 that there would be not only a shortage of fats for the next four or five years but, so the experts of the United Africa Company asserted, there would be a shortage for at least 10 or 20 years. Therefore, no Government in office at that time—and I say this with some confidence—whatever their complexion, would have turned down out of hand a scheme of this kind, put forward with such confidence by the experts who knew, if anybody did, both the world situation and the needs of this country.
There were other reasons—and these are the reasons which I hope we shall tonight bear most in mind—why the Labour Government thought that this scheme should go forward in spite of the known risks. These were that not only was there a world shortage of oils and fats, together with their by-products such as cattle cake and the like, but that there was then, as there is now, an overwhelming need to assist the economic and social advance of the native population.
I want to say, in welcoming this Bill, as we do, that we should put the needs of the African population and others who live there in the forefront. We must, so it seems to us, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees, do all that is humanly possible, even if it does cost a certain amount of money, to help those who live in East Africa to raise their standard of life, not only because it helps them to rise in the scale of humanity but also because it will help presently to provide markets for consumer and capital goods from this country. Under the scheme which the right hon. Gentleman has outlined, there will, too, be an opportunity, and a very much needed opportunity, to help Africans to employ better agricultural methods than they at present employ.
Those of us who have seen something of how they treat the land and the way in which it is allowed to deteriorate through soil erosion realise that anything which this country can do to assist the natives to farm by better methods will be all to the good.
The right hon. Gentleman indicated that already the cost has been considerable, but he also went on to say that that money has not all been lost. There are considerable assets still there, and I am glad to think that under this Bill those which are essential are to continue 1287 to be used. In any case, we ought not to look at this matter purely from the point of view of what it is costing in money. I remember that last year, when the Government took feedingstuffs off the ration sooner than they should have done, they had to import millions of tons of barley.
I do not know what that has cost the taxpayer, but I have been told, although I do not know exactly, that it has cost anything up to £26 million. I may be wrong, but, at any rate, it is a considerable sum, and we should not object to this money being spent here. We have to put these things into perspective. I am sure that the money which is involved here is by no means excessive compared with some other expenditure embarked upon by the Government, and will be money well spent.
Let me come to the present Bill. As I have already indicated, we support the proposals contained in it. They not only follow the White Paper which the Government issued last May but, in the main, they also follow the White Paper issued in 1951 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Strachey). There are, however, certain questions which I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to the debate.
I listened very carefully to the Minister and it occurred to me that he was probably a little too optimistic as to just how much Tanganyika can bear of the undoubted burden which will now be placed on that area. For example, we—and very properly so—are agreeing to wipe off £3½ million of the capital outlay and interest on the railway and harbour at Mtwara. I understand that about £2½ million is left. Having gone so far, could not the Government see their way to wipe off the whole of the £6 million? After all, these amenities are not only going to be of the utmost benefit to Tanganyika but, as I think the Minister himself indicated, the railway may soon be extended and be of much greater use to other areas in the interior.
I do not know whether it is possible that at some time—I hope it will be at no distant date—that railway may be extended to Lake Nyasa and presently become an outlet to the sea for Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland 1288 itself. This would be an alternative to running a railway from the Rhodesias through what is mainly desert to Walvis Bay on the other coast. We should be careful to see that when the final agreement is made about the future of the railway and harbour we do not drive too hard a bargain.
I should like the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs to say whether the Tanganyika Government at any time indicated that it feared the burden left upon it was more than it could bear and whether it really did acquiesce without question in being left with the £2½ million or more on these transport undertakings.
There is reference in the White Paper to the Railway and Harbour Authority agreeing to complete the project. Does this mean that the railway is not yet completed, or does it mean that work has still to be done on the harbour? If either project is not yet finished, that adds point to what I have already said—that when we have a clearing-up of this kind with the Tanganyika Government and the new Corporation, we should not be two niggling but should be as generous as possible.
I should like to refer to the crops which it is proposed to grow in the three areas. The Secretary of State told us that, as is mentioned in the last White Paper, Kongwa must be considered almost a complete write-off. The Corporation are to go in for cattle breeding, but as far as the raising of crops is concerned they will not waste any more money there, certainly on substantial schemes.
Is that decision really final? Now that the land has been cleared at such enormous expense, a greater effort surely should be made to utilise it rather than let some of it, at any rate, revert to the tsetse fly and the bush. I remember that in the Northern Province of Tanganyika, during the war—I, with others, visited the area—a great deal of wheat was grown on land occupied by the Masai tribe—the last tribe, I believe, in Africa to continue to wear skins. At the behest of the Provincial Commissioner, they agreed temporarily, because of the war, to allow wheat to be grown on vast areas in the Northern Province, and I believe that much wheat was grown there with great success.
1289 Why can wheat be grown there but not further south? I know there is the difficulty about rainfall, but that surely applies to most parts of Africa. So much money having been spent and the need being so great, something should be done to see whether, even now, Kongwa cannot be more used for substantial crops as well as cattle raising.
The right hon. Gentleman made no reference to cotton. In the Southern Province of Nyasaland, the natives grow it in rows between the mealy meal that they produce for their own food. Every Christmas Day, they attend at the Board's centre and are given the seed. Later, they gather the cotton, bring it to the centres, where it is weighed and paid for, taken across Portuguese East Africa, and eventually finds its way here. If cotton can be grown there, and has also, I understand, been grown with some success in Southern Rhodesia, why should attempts not be made to cultivate it in Tanganyika? Anyhow, we ought not to stop short, if we can avoid it, of using this land for crop raising of some kind.
We on this side of the House heartily approve of the tenant scheme. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but I have gathered the impression that it will be confined almost entirely to Africans and that no Europeans will be allowed to work any of the farms. I suggest that that policy is wrong. The African already knows too little about agriculture and it is an excellent thing for him if he can be farming side by side with Europeans, who know more and who, more often than not, are conversant with up-to-date agricultural methods.
As the land is there and as we have a multi-racial community in any case in Tanganyika, and as much of the land earlier was quite uninhabited, I see no reason why some of these farms should not be let to Europeans if they would like to have them. It would be good for the European and it would be certainly good for the native, because each can learn something from the other.
What is happening to the Europeans who have been dismissed? I believe that the number was originally about 1,600, and the right hon. Gentleman told us that it had now been run down to about 173. This means that about 1,500 Euro- 1290 peans have been dispensed with within a few years. I know that the suggestion was made that they should get six months' pay, but it may be that, having been out there for many years and become acclimatised, many of them could be extremely useful if they remained in that area. I should like the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs to say how many of them have stayed on and what provision, if any, has been made for their future.
The White Paper makes rather depressing reading. The prospect really is that in spite of the money that has been spent and the thousands of acres that have been cleared, the experiment so far has not been very successful. Certain farms, it is true, are to be set up and there has been some success in cattle breeding and ranching. In one area progress has been made in growing tobacco. But one crop is not enough. I remember the tobacco farmers in Northern Rhodesia complaining bitterly because of the price that they got in some years for their crops. Sometimes they had to go out of business because the effective demand for what they could grow had ceased. That is not the proper way to set up an economy of the right kind in Tanganyika.
I therefore hope that when the Bill becomes an Act and the scheme goes forward, as I am sure it will, every attempt will be made to grow not simply the easy crops like tobacco, sorghum and, perhaps, a certain amount of groundnuts in areas where the rainfall permits, but that a real effort will be made to find other products which can be obtained from what Sir James Russell, in his book, "World Population and World Food Supplies," says is believed by many to be the largest area in East Africa where the potential for production is greater than anywhere else.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), in dealing with the Bill, has reminded the House of the origins of the scheme. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that in the circumstances of the Bill, when we start off in an entirely new atmosphere, it was a mistake to raise that aspect of the matter; but since the right hon. Gentle- 1291 man has done so, it is well to remind the House of what he said.
The right hon. Gentleman said that no Government would have turned down the scheme out of hand. I suggest, however, that no Government of the party on this side of the House would have accepted the scheme out of hand, and that the real trouble is that it was accepted too much out of hand without proper consideration and without careful consideration of one of the things that the right hon. Gentleman himself emphasised—the needs of the native population. The essence of the present scheme is to meet the needs of the native population.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he must know that the Government of that day did not accept the scheme out of hand. Experts were sent out, and I think they were out there some months. It was on their report that the scheme was accepted, and the whole proposition was put before the House and accepted by all sides.
§ Mr. Macpherson
The great trouble about the scheme was that it was launched without the fullest consideration of the needs of the scheme itself; without the fullest consideration of the needs of the European manpower to carry out the scheme; without consideration of the needs of the native manpower and its requirements; without consideration of the needs of the machinery to deal with the scheme; and without any consideration of any proper pilot schemes to see how the thing would work. Only now are we finding out these facts. Only now are we finding out the nature of the climate and the potentialities of the country itself.
We know the way the scheme is to run in the future. It is to be geared to the needs of the country itself rather than to hypothetical requirements of oils and fats in this country and in the world markets. I understand that the tobacco crop is to be produced for the needs of the country itself and not for our market here. We welcome all that very much indeed, and secondly, we welcome the fact that the scheme is to be run from the country itself. I would remind the House 1292 that in the debate in 1950 my right hon. Friend very prophetically asked:… whether the scheme should now be treated as part of colonial development as a whole and forthwith transferred to the Colonial Office; whether the time has not come for those who run the scheme to do so in East Africa and not from London."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1950; Vol. 477, c. 2048.]It is peculiarly appropriate, therefore, that almost the first action of my right hon. Friend as Secretary of State is to introduce into this House a Bill so much in line with what he said in days gone by. The foresight he has exercised in the past is a very good augury for the foresight we are confident he will exercise in the future in order to safeguard the interests of the populations for which he is now responsible. In these tasks we wholeheartedly wish him the greatest success in the world, a sentiment which I am sure will be supported on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I hope the hon. Gentleman will pardon me for interrupting him again, but this will be the last time I shall do so. He is forgetting that the Labour Government, when the scheme was introduced, visualised—as can be found in Command Paper 7030, at page 8—handing this scheme over to the local people as and when it was in working order. It was hoped it might be run on a co-operative basis.
§ Mr. Macpherson
But the scheme was never operative and it is only now, after repeated demands from the party on this side of the House, that the scheme has been reduced to manageable proportions and in future is to be run on reasonable lines.
There are one or two points which I hope to raise at the Committee stage and with which I do not propose to deal now at any length; but one of the questions about which we would like to have an answer from the Minister of State this evening is this: To what extent is it going to be practicable and desirable to retain the assets as belonging to this country? As I understand the Bill, the assets existing at the present time remain the property of Her Majesty's Exchequer. They can be replaced, but as and when they are disposed of the proceeds will be repayable to Her Majesty's Exchequer. In the meantime my right hon. Friend, 1293 with the consent of the Treasury, retains control of them.
But the scheme may grow. More money may be put into it by the Tanganyika Government. Further experiments may be made by that Government, and no doubt we are going to have a partnership which is desirable. I am wondering whether this is the best possible way in which that partnership can be worked. After all, what the assets will represent will be an interest-free debenture of an unspecified amount which, if they are realised, will return to the Treasury. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, in replying to this debate, will deal with this aspect of the matter.
We hope that, through the means of the colonial development and welfare funds that are to be placed at the disposal of the new organisation, there will be great and growing success every year. We also consider that that is the right form in which this kind of pilot scheme should be conducted. But it does not follow that, where colonial development and welfare funds are expended, the assets should necessarily remain the property of Her Majesty's Government in this country. It may be that that is not only a justifiable course, but the right course to follow. I trust that my right hon. Friend, when replying to the debate, will make clear why that course is being adopted. I am not quite certain whether it is easiest for him to deal with that on Second Reading or in Committee when we shall be concerned with the Clause itself. At any rate, I hope my right hon. Friend will say something about it tonight. There are one or two minor points on which I shall seek clarification. in Committee.
With these remarks, I should like to give a very sincere welcome to the Bill, and express the hope that the long-term experiments in the way of co-operative farming and development of new primary products in Tanganyika may be brought to the fullest fruition.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
In the remarks that I have to make on this Bill, tonight I hope I shall not be accused of doing anything to dampen the enthusiasm of those men, Europeans, Asians and Africans, who are to be responsible for carrying on the scheme which the 1294 right hon. Gentleman has outlined. The fact is that I have to retail to the House some parts of the history of this scheme and I do it because I think, running through its history, are certain aspects which should be understood carefully if the new Corporation is to avoid at least some of the difficulties which the Overseas Food Corporation originally encountered.
Many of the members of the staff of the new Corporation worked with me from the period 1948 to 1950, and to them I would give the advice which the Bishop of Lincoln gave the young Mr. Gladstone when confirming him at Eton. The bishop advised him to adopt a liberal religion, avoiding on the one hand the pitfalls of enthusiasm and, on the other, the dangers of lukewarmness. I am sure, however, that such advice is not necessary from me, because anyone who has worked in Tanganyika under the difficult conditions existing there will at least temper his enthusiasm with a certain amount of reasonable lukewarmness.
My right hon. Friend mentioned Mr. Samuel. When Mr. Samuel brought this scheme to the attention of the then Minister of Food, he was as convinced as any man in his organisation, and as any man who had any experience of African development, could be convinced of the viability of the scheme that was introduced. He thought that two and a half million acres of land in Tanganyika could be cleared at the cost of approximately £8 million and could produce the oil seeds of one kind or another of which not only he, but the whole nation, was in urgent need.
I must remind the House that the fats ration of this country was then 7 oz. a week. It was about the lowest fats ration of any country in Europe. Mr. Samuel believed, on the expert advice available to him, that at no time in the foreseeable future—and here I quote the very words he used to me—could this country rely on getting a reasonable supply of the necessary cooking fats, margarine and soap unless there were developed great new enterprises of the kind which he envisaged. As a business man, with his vast experience and with all the ramifications of his huge international concern at his command, Mr. Samuel believed that this job could be done for £8 million—a trifling sum 1295 against the background of the sum ultimately spent—and that the produce could be brought to this country in a very short time.
One hon. Gentleman suggested that the Government went into this scheme too haphazardly. When the Wakefield Mission, consisting of the ex-Director of Agriculture for Tanganyika, the plantations manager for the United Africa Company and an economist and banker, had returned from their search for suitable land for development, their conclusions were vetted most carefully by an inter-Departmental committee consisting of agricultural experts from the Colonial Office, financial experts from the Treasury and members of the staff of the Ministry of Food. As the House will know, they had spent many weeks in an aeroplane travelling in three countries and looking for 3 million acres of land.
I had nothing to do with the Corporation at the time those deliberations were going on, so I am speaking from hearsay, but in the course of my chairmanship of the Overseas Food Corporation I was constantly reminded of the fact that a Select Committee had not accepted the recommendations of the Wakefield Mission, just as the Wakefield Mission had not accepted the recommendations of Mr. Samuel, but had gone to enormous trouble to check every figure, to balance every conclusion which had been reached and had, in fact, amended to some extent the recommendations of the Wakefield Mission.
At this stage it is important that we should remember the atmosphere in this country at the time the scheme was mooted. It was an atmosphere that was responsible for the rush to join the staff of the United Africa Company Managing Agency, which began this scheme, of the young group captains of the Royal Air Force, of the young lieutenant-colonels of the Army and of the young commanders of the Navy who had done extremely well during the war. The scheme was described by the Wakefield Mission as one that had to be conducted on the basis that time was of the essence, and these young men saw that it should be conducted as a military operation.
That was the atmosphere of the scheme, and it was an attraction which these 1296 young people could not resist. Consequently the scheme recruited into its ranks young men, and young women too, who were thrilled by its breadth of vision. They believed that they could do a good job in trying to get fats for the country and at the same time raising the standard of life of the African people. From the experience of this nation in the war years they believed that this big scheme, handled in a big and all-enveloping fashion, was bound to succeed. Indeed, that was in the minds of the Mission and in the mind of Mr. Frank Samuel—that we had learned such techniques during the war, that we had so mastered the many greater and far more important problems, that this scheme would be a great success if it were given an opportunity. And backed very largely by informed opinion in this country the scheme began under the aegis of the United Africa Company Managing Agency.
Because of the continuing and growing shortage of fats, the Government decided that it was necessary that the scheme should not wait for the final approval of the House of Commons, but that the work should begin before the setting up of the Corporation was passed. May I remind the House again that the approval of Parliament was unanimous. It was the late Oliver Stanley himself who agreed that it was a risky but worthwhile scheme, that the risk was too great for private enterprise to operate—indeed Mr. Samuel underlined this point—and that therefore the only way in which it could be done was in the form of a public corporation.
Almost as soon as the scheme started its operations, it was clear that most of the conclusions of the Wakefield Mission, or of the special committee formed to consider it, were wrong and were based on wrong premises. However, it is true to say that everybody concerned with the scheme even at that stage showed a considerable general optimism about its prospects, and this was pointed out in the Report of the Public Accounts Committee which studied the accounts of the Overseas Food Corporation for the year 1948 to 1949.
When the advance party went out to East Africa it decided, against the advice of the Wakefield Mission which favoured starting in the South, that it should begin 1297 operating the groundnuts scheme on the plain of Kongwa. It did so because there were no reasonable communications in the Southern Province, but there was a single track railway from Dar-es-Salaam running 250 miles to within 20 miles of Kongwa and it was believed that the construction of a spur line from the plain of Kongwa to that railway would give the necessary facilities for a large-scale clearing operation to begin in the terms and forecasts of Command 7030.
Straight away the Managing Agency ran into the problem set by the fact that there is no all-weather road from Dar-es-Salaam, the only port of entry, to Kongwa. There were no building materials of any kind since the trees that grow in Kongwa are unsuitable for building, being beobab and thorn. The result was that the members of the staff of that Agency, followed by the members of the staff of the Overseas Food Corporation, had to live for many months in tents. They had to sleep, work and eat in tents which were subject at all times to very high winds which are a common feature of Kongwa.
The Managing Agency argued, and the people in East Africa agreed with them, that Kongwa offered great possibilities, for the rainfalls of the districts were at least satisfactory. Here we come to one of the problems which I am certain will face the new Corporation. There are no rainfall statistics in Tanganyika on which anybody could place complete reliance. The nearest rainfall statistics for the Kongwa area are kept at a Government veterinary centre at Mpapwa.
There was a Church mission three or four miles beyond Kongwa which had reported rainfall but it was not realised at that time that there was a range of hills between these places and the Kongwa plain and that the rain appeared to fall on the wrong side of the mountains. There were no statistics available to anybody in Tanganyika because they were not being kept. It was against that background that the Managing Agency had to start its work, although the Wakefield Mission had said in its Report that the annual rainfall to be expected was some 20 to 30 inches.
In the same year minor operations were started at Urambo, where those concerned were more fortunately placed with a railway bisecting the area; but 1298 there were no suitable roads and there was no reliable water supply. In the Southern Province not much more than reconnaissance work was done during that year. It had been assumed that it would be possible to get into Tanganyika the enormous amount of stores and materials which were necessary to the scheme through the port of Dar-es-Salaam, but that port is today an inadequate port for any great scheme of development. For one thing, part of it, called Belbase, is in the possession of the Belgian Government. It was ceded to them by treaty. It is a lighterage port and the railway was not sufficiently powerful to carry the necessary goods into Tanganyika.
These difficulties which were experienced by the Managing Agency, however, did not dampen the enthusiasm of that group of men, for in January, 1948, on the basis of the information that had been supplied to the Government, a progress report of the first six or seven months of the scheme was produced and published as a White Paper, Cmd. 7314. It is right at this stage that I should quote from the concluding paragraph 26 of that document. It states:There is, however, no more reason now than there was a year ago to doubt that the whole scheme—modified here and there as to its details in the light of the experience continually being gained—can be carried out on the broad lines and within the time schedule set out in Command 7030.It was at this stage, with the publication of that Report which showed the optimism of the Managing Agency, that the Overseas Food Corporation took over the scheme by virtue of the passing of the Overseas Resources Development Act. It is right to say that from that day the broad outline of the scheme has been reduced steadily over the years. The first thing that the Overseas Food Corporation did was to say that the original target of 3,210,000 acres could not be achieved, that it was too optimistic, and that in any case one million of the acres would present such difficulty that it would be impossible to proceed on that basis.
The Corporation, in consultation with the Ministry of Food, reduced the whole project to 600,000 acres at a proposed cost of £48 million. Why was it forced to do that? The experts who had been giving advice both to the Managing Agency and to the Corporation had put 1299 forward arguments that an acre of land in Tanganyika could be cleared in two hours for £3 7s. 4d., that 3,210,000 acres could be cleared in the period 1947–52, and that 1,605,000 acres could be growing groundnuts by 1952. The House should note the preciseness of the figures. They also said that 609,034 lbs. could be produced annually by 1951 and, taking the cost of production at something like £14 a ton, a surplus of about £17 would be available on existing oil prices.
The Corporation has been accused of not facing the facts, but it did face the facts. It made it quite clear that it was impossible to achieve the figures that had been recommended and on which the scheme had been based. The Corporation was engaged in the task of revising its target and of trying to readjust and continue operations at one and the same time. It was having to do that against a barrage of ill-informed and in some cases malicious criticism of every action that it took.
If the Corporation in its wisdom decided that it was in the interest of the safety of its employees that it should sign a contract to have them carried in one corporation's aeroplanes against another company's aeroplanes, that was described as a squalid deal. In fact, everything that the Corporation did from the moment that it took over was criticised, and it is significant that there was no criticism of the Managing Agency. The staff and officers of the Corporation were subjected, not to informed criticism, which they welcomed, not to good advice, which they always wanted, but to a constant barrage of innuendo and attack which shook the nerve of some of the strongest people in the Corporation.
It was against that background that the Corporation had to face its most appalling difficulties. I think that some of the newspaper leader writers who had never gone further south than Juan les Pins would have been well advised to go out and spend a few weeks living and working in the conditions which some of the Corporation's staff had to suffer. The Corporation had to go on with the development of houses, hospitals, roads, bridges, harbours, railways, workshops and warehouses. It had to do all this against the real difficulty which it was experiencing very largely because the 1300 advice given by experts had proved to be quite worthless.
There is, of course, one stage of the development of the Corporation's activities of which I am particularly proud. It is the establishment of some fine hospitals in Tanganyika, which were costly beyond all our imagination. One of the reasons they were costly was that the doctors refused under all circumstances to turn anyone away. They were not exclusively for the use of the Corporation's staff. When Africans walked—as they did—hundreds of miles because it was the only available hospital and brought their women and children hundreds of miles, because there was no medical service for them either, those doctors said, "We are not going to ask who these people are, where they work, nor whether they can pay; they are going to be treated as suffering people." The Corporation, to its everlasting credit, accepted the doctors' view. But these were part of the costs which the Corporation had to meet and which were never envisaged by anyone. These were the on-costs of the scheme.
I hope that, as a result of this Bill, nothing will be done to impede the technical training of Africans. What this scheme has brought to Tanganyika and to Africans in Tanganyika is hope. When Africans, who are a primitive people, have left their mud huts only six months ago and are working at erecting telephone wires, as hospital orderlies, truck drivers, or semi-skilled workers and are proficient at those jobs after but six months' training, the African has real hopes that he may really become a useful member of society and not be condemned to that dark, short, brutish life which Sir Philip Mitchell has described as the African's lot. Another of the attainment of the Corporation which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman wants to see go on is the continued development of this work, even though it is costly, even though occasionally Africans run berserk and forget the lessons given to them.
It has been said tonight that it would have been a good thing if the Overseas Food Corporation and those responsible for the scheme had operated pilot schemes before they went in for large-scale operations. But pilot schemes were in operation. It is the terrible tragedy of the scheme that the conclusions produced by pilot schemes were quite fallacious 1301 when related to wider schemes. I will give an example. In 1947, 9,000 acres of land were planted. Nine thousand acres, spread about Kongwa as they were, constituted ideal pilot projects. It is no good believing that one can develop vast areas on results achieved by growing plants on 9,000 acres, which constituted what looked like an absolutely invaluable series of pilot projects. The conclusion to be drawn proved to be quite erroneous.
What happens in Kongwa and other parts of Tanganyika is that the land alters so rapidly. Land in even half a square mile is composed of soil which, when cultivated, reacts in one way on one side and in an entirely different way from the land by its side. Such differences are not found until one has the machines working and work is being done on a really big scale. The results which had been achieved from small-scale trial plots were terribly misleading.
It was quite easy for people in a scientific research department to produce as much as one ton of shelled groundnuts to the acre, but that is not a conclusion that anyone should adopt, for the more one develops the scheme the more disproportionate do the problems grow. Areas where pilot projects were started gave an indication that there was no danger of disease, yet in Uramba crop after crop was destroyed by rosette disease. No one knows the answer to that problem.
As the years have gone by every document produced by the Corporation has had to amend the previous document produced by the Corporation because it was only by doing the job in the field that the results could be discovered. I hope, therefore, that the staff of the new Corporation, when it deals with problems in the future, will remember this most salutary lesson that one cannot marry the results obtained from 400 or 500 acres to a scheme designed for 4,000 or 5,000 acres. That is one of the lessons of the Corporation which I am sure will be studied with the greatest care.
The facts and figures on which the Corporation had to work, I regret to say, were wrong on every important issue. The experts, the men whose job it is to know what conditions are, had said that, so far as they could see, in the foresee- 1302 able future there would not be a steady supply of groundnuts. We know that today margarine, soap and cooking fats are off the ration. In seven years the situation in this country has righted itself, although I do not think it has righted itself in many countries, which are still desperately short of these things. The scheme was predicated on the basis of groundnuts not falling below £20 a ton. At one time I was taken to task for believing that they would not fall below £40 a ton. Today I believe they are in the region of £70 a ton. The advice on the soil was wrong. Whether it was the soil or the machinery, expert advice given to the Corporation proved in fact not to be good. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will suggest that the experts should remember that in Africa it takes far longer and costs a great deal more to do a job than anyone can possibly imagine.
How could these mistakes have been avoided; how can they be avoided in future? No one can believe that this is to be anything more than a check on agricultural development. The right hon. Gentleman himself has said that agriculture is of prime importance to Tanganyika. The way in which these mistakes can be avoided is to start some surveys. What is wanted is a geophysical survey of the remaining portions of Tanganyika. It is useless to fly over the country taking photographs, as photographs of forests do not show the soil configuration, although they are useful in many other ways. I remember receiving reports that in the Southern Province close to Uramba there were vast areas which could be divided into farms of 30,000 acres. Aerial surveys proved this to be so, but what was discovered when a foot survey was made? It was found that the country was criss-crossed by ravines and gulches. If Tanganyika is to contribute to the improved standard of living of its people, which the right hon. Gentleman wants, and at the same time to have a surplus for other countries, there has to be a geophysical survey. It will be very costly and will take quite a time, but it is necessary.
The second necessity is a geochemical survey. There are minerals in Tanganyika about which people know nothing at the moment because no one has studied them—or not studied them with 1303 sufficient application. There is wealth in Tanganyika if it is known where to look for it and if it is known how to recognise it and how to get it out. Another essential is improved technical education for the Africans. What is also required is an anthropological survey to see what the Africans can do tribe by tribe, district by district and province by province in Tanganyika, because men are different. It is no use bringing in thousands of Africans, recruited from all parts of Africa, and giving them the same task. They are not all suited to the same task. There is no satisfactory anthropological survey on which future development can be based.
I think further that, on the question of the expense of this and other schemes, Britain cannot "go it alone." I do not believe that any Western European nation can "go it alone" on the question of colonial development. The cost is too heavy in raw materials and resources, and the interference in the standard of living of the people of the Western European countries is too high for them to be prepared to swallow it.
It is, therefore, necessary to have an amalgamation of British powers of organisation and improvisation, of American "git up and go," Dutch tropical agriculture, French research workers, and Germans. I should like to see the whole of the Colonies belonging to every nation in the world being developed by an international authority, not to govern them but to provide them with the necessary men, money and materials to proceed with development whether it be in Portuguese, French, Belgian or British territory.
I should like to see another nine-Power conference designed not to put weapons of destruction into the hands of people but to explore the possibility of getting from the soil that wealth which is undoubtedly there. A little while ago the ex-Colonial Secretary put into the Library of the House of Commons some photographs of cattle maimed by the Mau Mau. I wish the present Colonial Secretary would put into the Library of the House the photographs contained in the Colonial Office publication dealing with malnutrition in African mothers, infants and young children, the result of an inter-African conference on nutrition in the 1304 Gambia. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would arrange for the enlargement of those photographs of the effect of malnutrition on African women, infants and children and display them so that every time we went into the Library we would understand that we have a continuing responsibility for seeing that malnutrition is for ever banished from our Colonies.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Billericay)
The case for this very useful little Bill was outlined by my right hon. Friend in such a way that one would have thought that very little discussion was required; but the extraordinary speech to which we have just listened impels me to rise to my feet.
For example, I do not think I have ever listened to a speech in this House in which so much wisdom lately learned has been crammed into so short a time. The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) said in the course of his speech that the Overseas Food Corporation came in for a great deal of criticism which he described as ill-informed. He thereupon gave us in great detail the reasons why that criticism was so well directed. He said at the end of his remarks that Tanganyika was a country which needed—he is right here, of course—a geophysical survey. There is great mineral wealth there, but there is little use talking about wealth of any kind unless it is made accessible.
The hon. Member described one of the difficulties encountered in opening Tanganyika for the growing of groundnuts as being the lack of adequate communications. How much better it would have been if first things had been put first and if some attention had been paid to the prior provision of those conditions which might eventually have ensured the success of the agricultural scheme. I well remember reading the debates of the Gold Coast Legislature in 1919–20, when the then Governor, Sir Frederick Guggisberg, a very remarkable man, a Canadian, an engineer and soldier, launched a ten-year development programme for that territory, saying that the key to the whole business could be summed up in one word—transportation. It is no accident that today the Gold Coast is one of the most prosperous and advanced countries in Africa because, so 1305 long ago, those who had charge of its destinies put first things first.
The only point which emerges from the speech of the hon. Member for Deptford tonight is that the wrong instrument for the job was chosen at the outset, and that the wrong men were put in charge of it. Indeed, the House was misled from start to finish. I say that quite deliberately because our complaint is not that the conception in the first place was wrong; we can all make mistakes and, at the time there was a case for embarking upon an ambitious scheme of that kind. But when things did go wrong the House was not informed. It was only when the facts could no longer be concealed that those responsible began to admit that something had gone wrong.
I welcome this Bill because, at long last, we are getting on to the right track. It is impossible to develop the resources of overseas territories many thousands of miles away by great centralised public corporations run from London. It is quite clear to anybody who has examined the question that there are many hazards in the development of tropical agriculture. The hon. Member for Deptford mentioned some of them. He said that there were no rainfall statistics available in Tanganyika. I should have thought that that alone would have led those in charge of the scheme to have tried out, before embarking upon this expenditure of public money, before building up a vast organisation to grow groundnuts in a country where groundnuts have never been known before, a whole series of pilot schemes. It is quite extraordinary—
§ Sir L. Plummer
Is the hon. Member being serious when he says that groundnuts were never grown in Tanganyika? Surely he knows that almost every African grows groundnuts on his shamba.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
We cannot now embark on a discussion of the scheme. I understand the hon. Member's argument to be that there were pitfalls in the old schemes which should not be repeated after this transference, but we cannot go back and discuss the groundnuts scheme.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
On a point of order. As I hope to catch your eye later. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I raise the point that we are discussing 1306 the Second Reading of the Bill, that we are discussing not merely what is in the Bill but what is not in the Bill and what ought to be done in this direction in future; and what steps should be taken in future with reference to these matters.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Bill transfers certain powers from one corporation to another and references to conditions arising from the transfer are certainly in order. I make no complaint of the speech which the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) is making, which is in order. I understood him to be using the argument that pitfalls to the original scheme should be noted on the transfer, but that is different from discussing the groundnuts scheme.
§ Mr. Hale
The Bill raises the question whether we should wind up these operations and, on Second Reading, by implication, whether we should expand them, to what area we should expand them and what corporation they should be transferred to and, therefore, whether we consider that this is the right type of corporation.
§ Mr. Braine
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for arguing my case for me. It is, in fact, quite clear that the course which was previously followed was a wrong-headed course, that it produced heartbreaks on a massive scale, and that the course upon which we are now embarking is the right one. Of that I do not think there can be any doubt.
The hon. Member for Deptford mentioned the malnutrition which unhappily is widespread in Africa. If its peoples are to be raised to a condition in which they can add not only to the wealth but the happiness of their country, can enjoy decent standards of living, then Africa must experience an agricultural revolution. Democracy came to this country largely through an industrial revolution. It can only come to Africa through an agricultural revolution, through a complete transformation of its people's way of life and through the better cultivation of its land for the benefit of those who still depend for their existence upon the soil.
One of the most encouraging things observed by the recent Parliamentary 1307 delegation which went to East and Central Africa was the way in which agricultural departments in almost every territory, departments filled with enthusiastic officers, are now beginning, at long last, to wean Africans away from the crude agricultural methods which have obtained almost since the beginning of time, and to persuade them to adopt new scientific techniques which will enable them to improve their standards of living.
I was told of the tenant farming experiment which has been proceeding during the last two years at Nachingwea and which, although it is, perhaps, a little early in the day to say has produced outstanding results, appears, nevertheless, to be on the right lines. For in Tanganyika there is the great problem of people living on the hills which are becoming steadily eroded. Here, in this scheme, we have the means of bringing people down into the plains where a decent living can be won from the soil, by a combination of European agricultural techniques and African labour. It is precisely because this Bill makes that sort of thing possible on an ever-growing scale that I wholeheartedly welcome it tonight.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
May I, first of all, apologise to the Minister for my absence when he made his speech? The unwarranted taciturnity of the Scots is one of the unpredictable elements on which one cannot make a real decision. I made a pilot survey earlier, and the survey was overwhelmingly in support of the theory that we should still be discussing the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Bill at 7.15 p.m.
As I say, I am sorry that I missed the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but I welcome him to his new office, though this is not a night when we can speak with confidence of the future in view of some of things that have been said. However, I find nothing objectionable in his slaphappiness. Indeed, I rather like it. However, we shall watch with some anxiety—though, on the whole, without much hope—his future performance in his new office.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) deserves to have a few words addressed to him. Some people find the most objectionable feature of the natives of England, and some the most attractive 1308 feature, what their opponents call their nauseating hypocrisy and what approvers of us call our blandness. But people do observe that we are apt to concern ourselves wholly with the morals of the poorer peoples of the world and to take very little interest in their physical condition. The poorer peoples of the world are apt to be interested in their physical condition and to concentrate on the belly if it happens to be empty. I find myself going through the same emotions if I am deprived of food for any considerable length of time.
The hon. Member for Billericay said that the time had come for a great agricultural revolution in Africa. When has that time never been ripe? He said that Africa now has agricultural colleges offering improved agricultural techniques to the Africans. Are these facilities open to the people on the locations, to the Kikuyu and to the Masai? I pay great tribute to the work of the few people in Africa doing this work. I know that they have very great ability, but they have limited opportunities and very little money to budget with. To say that we can bring about an agricultural revolution while there are people living on a location with about one acre of land per family is really to talk nonsense.
The hon. Member for Billericay first complained about the wisdom of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). Personally, I am very glad that my hon. Friend made his speech. He said many things which have wanted saying for a long time, and he said them very well. What is more, he concluded on the note on which I hoped that he would conclude. I say unrepentantly that this money was well spent, and I am sorry that we have allowed ourselves to be put on the defensive about it. A section of the party with which my name is constantly associated should have got so used to criticism by now that its members should not be put on the defensive by mass newspaper criticism. They should have become immune to it.
What, in fact, has happened? On the whole, Tanganyika is about the happiest Colony that we have in Africa, by comparison, at any rate, with comparable territories. That is point No. 1. I disagree with one observation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne 1309 Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall), that we should send to Africa native experts from this country. We have not got such experts. My hon. Friend the Member for Deptford was right. We have people who know a great deal about agriculture and about agricultural implements and how to use them, and about the crops we grow in this country But there are no experts in the world capable of giving advice on the crops to be grown in African territories.
If the hon. Member for Billericay will refer to the last Report of the Overseas Development Corporation he will find a whole catalogue of quite unpredictable incidents and of quite new problems which they had to face. For instance, there was the coming of the weaver bird to the sorghum fields and the complete elimination of the whole crop. That was something about which no expert had warned or about which he knew. and no one had foreseen it. Then it was found that for the moment, at any rate, one variety, the "Dobbs," escapes these attacks.
My hon. Friend referred to the rosette disease, which attacks one area here and misses it there. We were originally told that the Mboga soil was the most unsuitable of all the soils and then later, we are told that for some crops it may prove to be the best. Then the hon. Gentleman opposite got up and asked why we did not have a pilot scheme for measuring rainfall. How long would such a pilot scheme have to continue to get adequate views—15, 30, 50 years? Is he really to preface his great agricultural revolution in Africa by sending half a dozen rainfall measurers with half a dozen jampots to measure rainfall for 30 years before taking another step? Is that a policy which the Conservative Government would urge?
§ Mr. Braine
The hon. Member must remember that the production of groundnuts was one of the objects of the previous scheme proudly announced to this House, but at the time groundnuts were rotting on the ground in thousands of tons in West Africa for lack of transport to move them.
§ Mr. Hale
I am much obliged. I observed that the hon. Member is now addressing the House in a proper spirit of penitence.
1310 Of course we should have had transport and communications, but it is a matter of fantastic expense. This House must be prepared to realise that background expenditure in Africa must be regarded as expenditure that can bring back no revenue either now or in the future. We have to be prepared either to spend money ourselves, or to allow other countries to participate and to spend money, or to let the United Nations Specialised Agencies spend money on wholly background development in the way of roads, rail and the opening up of vast territories. Nothing else can hope to succeed. It has never been done.
We have been in some parts of Africa for some centuries now and in most parts of it for 100 years or so. It has never been done. It has hardly been touched. With respect, it is nonsense to come to this House tonight and talk about the comparatively small sum that has been lost or written off in this great adventure from which so much knowledge has been acquired and so much information of great value to the future has been drawn. It is not right so to address a House which sits night after night and allows a Minister to come here and say, "I want a couple more aircraft carriers because I am told that the Russians have a lot more submarines," and passes that on the nod without argument.
We have gained one advantage from this adventure in Africa. From this one adventure we have attracted the interest of the world. It has stimulated the enthusiasm of the peoples of the whole continent. It raised admiration in all those Colonies where we have coloured people. It had, at least in its inception, a psychological value of great importance. It is one experiment, and we have not lost as much by it as we have lost time after time by the folly of one accident at sea. We have not lost as much as, in the past, we have from one lucky shot bursting in the boilers of a great battleship. I do not repine.
I have allowed myself, in a moment of irritation at the speech just made, to diverge from the very narrow path I had allowed for myself. I intended to restrict myself to one or two quite humble observations. I was glad that the hon. Member referred to the report of the Parliamentary Delegation which went to Kenya 12 months ago and which produced some observations of great value.
1311 It did a great job of work. I made the same observations in detail 12 months previously in a speech which was much criticised at the time.
§ Mr. Braine
If the hon. Member will forgive me, I was referring to the Parliamentary Delegation which has just visited Tanganyika.
§ Mr. Braine
I agree that it was an admirable delegation, but it was one which did not go to Tanganyika.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
If I may interrupt, some members of the delegation did go to Tanganyika and gained valuable information.
§ Mr. Hale
Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I shall not yield any more to the constant temptation offered.
Some of the observations made by the delegation were of great value. I take no credit for having made the same observations 12 months ago, but I then came under great criticism for making them. It is of importance that there has now been some advance in understanding because, while I was criticised for going there for only a fortnight and then making any observations at all, the Parliamentary Delegation has been congratulated on its celerity in arriving at conclusions after a similarly short stay.
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us one or two things about his policy generally. I am sure that we are all glad that he has been on the spot—which is where he should be. [Laughter.] We will reserve the precise implications of that for further occasions. I am glad that he has been in Africa and has been surveying the problems there.
I do not dissent from the steps proposed in this Bill, but it leaves us with the Colonial Development Corporation and with a mass of curious schemes, some development, some social schemes, hotels 1312 here or loans there, pilot schemes here or cattle ranches in Bechuanaland and so on—a fantastic collection of schemes on which the Corporation reported to the House in the language and tone of an office boy in a hurry to get to a football match.
There is hardly one scheme mentioned in their Report which does not look as if, first of all, it was written to be telegraphed before the rates went up and the writer did not want to go into detail, and has since been cut down because the rates have gone up and no one wants to waste undue time talking about it. There are little items like £750,000 written off for a slaughterhouse in Bechuanaland because it was thought that the architect did not know very much about slaughterhouses.
I do not wish to criticise these various bodies. I think that the Colonial Development Corporation was a great idea, and that it can produce results if it has the right personnel, the right attitude and the right Government behind it. But what is to happen in the meantime? We are faced with the possibility of another eight or nine months of Tory government, and one must make some provision for that fact.
One matter of great comment is the fact that very little use is made in our Colonial Territories of the services of the United Nations Specialised Agencies. Time after time when we ask questions we are told, "We have our own experts." Time after time, when we refer to the United Nations, we find that £50 or £60 has been spent on a whole territory, indicating the short visit of a single representative. No organisation in the world has more resources for collecting knowledge. But world knowledge needs local reinforcement.
In this sphere local knowledge is of the utmost value. In the campaign against trypanosomiasis, for example, the location of the parasite is different in East Africa from what it is in West Africa. Each needs its own expert and specialised knowledge. But there is no doubt that in the great organisation of the war against want and disease the United Nations Specialised Agencies have achieved great results and yet are still being crippled for lack of funds.
1313 The object of the Overseas Food Corporation when it took over the scheme was to do something more than produce food. It was to provide an integrated service in which the social, educational and cultural needs of the population would also have some provision made for them. I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford paid tribute to the substantial work that was done in connection with hospitals and medical treament. That is one of the problems that every Government has had to face, and one of the problems that provides a very special difficulty.
On paper it seems, perhaps, much better that one should have a trading population and a social services scheme as quite different organisations differently controlled, but when one studies the economic structure of the Colonies one comes to the conclusion that they have got to be integrated in some such way as was done in the Tennessee Valley scheme of President Roosevelt in 1935. We have always regarded as vital a large-scale development scheme of the type into which at one time it was hoped the experiment in Tanganyika might develop. If it is to be done, these things have to be considered.
At this moment, I suppose, there is no worse stain resting upon this House than our relations with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. We are paying to that Fund less than Thailand—
§ Mr. Hale
I am extremely sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I was merely pointing out that the cause of malnutrition is lack of food, and the cause of lack of food is lack of food production. I am pointing out that the malnutrition of children—which is the object of this Fund—applies to Africa and can be used in Tanganyika to remedy the lack of food.
§ Mr. Hale
No. That is the point that that I was trying to make, and I thought I was well in order, in a Second Reading debate, in indicating the kind of Amendments which ought to be made in Com- 1314 mittee to make the Bill more useful. I was saying that we are at the moment paying much less to this Fund than is Thailand. We are about fifteenth in the list of contributory nations.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that when we approach him in this matter we shall do so in a purely non-party spirit, and without recriminations Both sides of the House have been to blame and have been responsible for appalling niggardliness. We shall not approach the Minister in a party spirit, but we shall say, "Here is something which can make a substantial contribution, and upon which a good deal more money can be well spent."
The work of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation comes well within the scope of this discussion. Here I come back to the alteration in the groundnuts scheme. One of the unforeseeable events was that the extensive use of insecticides such as D.D.T. made it almost impossible to pollinate the flowers. The insects which usually pollinated them had been practically destroyed by D.D.T., which meant that yet another agricultural problem had to be faced. There are food and agriculture experts in the United Nations who are specially engaged in research into hybridisation and pollinisation, and in the production of types of food, particularly rice, adapted to the special needs of special tropical areas.
Japonica rice has a very high rate of productivity in the Far East, and Indica rice a very low rate. Experts are now considering the whole problem of hybridisation of rice, with a view to enabling strains to be produced which have a very high rate of productivity. I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman will apply his mind to these matters he will be tremendously impressed with the experiments which have been carried out in India and which have shown that the quantity of rice produced annually in India can be raised by 60 per cent. in a very short time with the production of a new type of seed and new methods.
In those circumstances, the Minister should seek to co-operate much more with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and should give much greater encouragement to the Colonies to do so. There is a tendency, in some of the African Colonial Territories, to adopt an insular attitude towards world organisa- 1315 tions. I hope that that attitude will disappear and that the right hon. Gentleman will adumbrate a policy which will mean a fuller co-operation with these organisations, fuller support for the Children's Fund of the United Nations, and fuller expenditure upon development projects, even power projects.
I hope that he will not adopt the attitude of some of his more infantile supporters, who say, "We have lost money once; we must never lose it again. This did not turn out so well as we expected, so we should not make any more experiments." The hon. Member for Billericay was quite right in saying that there must be an agricultural revolution, but such a revolution cannot be achieved by writing pamphlets, making speeches, or exhortations. It can only be done by money, organisation, determination, and the co-operation of the African. Unless we do this we shall pay a very heavy penalty.
If an experiment of this kind had been started in Kenya, 10,000 men who are now dead would be alive today, even if the experiment had failed. Had there been in Kenya an indication that we had the natives' welfare at heart and were determined to proceed with their welfare at a reasonable rate, the trouble there would have been avoided. Many people who have come to understand the problems of Kenya are beginning to agree with what I was saying two years ago. We must have more round-table conferences. We must get people together to talk about economic reforms. The hon. Member shakes his head, but I predicted the length of this catastrophe—
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
I was not shaking my head, but I was wondering if we were to have a discussion of the Mau Mau troubles in Kenya, which have nothing to do with the Bill.
§ Mr. Hale
I thought I had related them to the Bill. However, the hon. Member is not in the Chair, and even if he were I think I could argue the matter with him. Certainly, I failed to gather from his expression that I was having his enthusiastic support. I will not put it higher than that.
These are great problems. A great many things need to be done, and if the right hon. Gentleman is determined to do 1316 those things he will get a great deal of encouragement from this side of the House.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
It is not always an easy thing to get the ear of the house, but my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) always gets it. Indeed, he gets both ears usually, but, even so, I have never listened to any Member so intently as I have listened tonight to my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). I would commend to hon. Members opposite the old tag de mortuis nil nisi bonum. But he spoke of the past and gave us facts that many of us did not know or could only guess at.
However, I do not want to talk about the past but of the future; yet looking back for a moment over the last few years, one sees that it is a shabby tale indeed as told by many of our newspapers and by many hon. Members opposite when they discussed the O.F.C. in its difficult days in 1949 and 1950. In colonial debates what usually gets into the headlines are projects like the Jinja Dam, but there are many other jobs, less spectacular, that need doing in Africa, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West has said, for lifting the productivity of those territories.
Increasing the productivity of African farming is the most important thing to be done, and it cannot be done by remote control from London. I am in favour of local development corporations on the spot. I am in favour of enlisting for the task more and more of the people who live in the territory, more and more of those who really know the soils and the climates. I am in favour of enlisting the co-operation of the indigenous people, in this case the Africans of Tanganyika.
I have had the pleasure this year of flying over most of these territories, Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda and Nyasaland. When one looks down at them one sees that all that territory, from the Rhodesias to Abyssinia, consists of the same sort of bush country. If we are to succeed in our schemes we must learn from the lessons of what has happened and is happening, and then we shall be able to give to the Africans and to the 1317 other peoples of those savannahs the technique and the "know-how," so that they in the future can produce the food and fill their bellies, which have not been filled in the past.
This Bill has been warmly welcomed by the Legislative Council of Tanganyika, and it has been welcomed by the Africans, and in particular by Chief Adam Sapi in the Assembly. I echo, here and now, their reception of it. I am glad that, despite the sneers of many hon. Members opposite in the past, we are going on with these schemes. Despite the lukewarmists, we are to go on with our schemes for a deep-water port at Mtwara and for railways running into the hinterland—I shall say more about them in a moment—and also with the provision of the ancillary services described by my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford, the hospitals, water services, the schools, the aerodromes, even the townships in the bush where no settlement was made 10 or 20 years ago.
I want to commend the courageous Governor of Tanganyika, Sir Edward Twining, who, in the face of much opposition from gloom-mongers out there and here has carried on with this audacious scheme, out of a sense of obligation to the Southern Province of Tanganyika which, ever since the Magi Magi Rebellion of 1904 under the Germans has been neglected. It has been the Cinderella of East Africa.
We here talk about our devastating losses in men and material of the Great Wars of 1914 to 1918 and of 1939 to 1945, but in the Magi Magi the men and some of the women of the south of Tanganyika were literally exterminated. Ever since, that people has felt humiliated in the sight of neighbouring African peoples. It has lacked life and vigour, which a scheme like this will restore to it. Such a scheme as this will give people back their dignity, give them new hope, and enable them to feel that they belong to the family of nations.
We welcome the Bill on both sides of the House. The ultimate objective is by means of agricultural techniques and scientific experiments so to develop African farming that it will point the way to a higher standard of living. If we do this we shall have accomplished a wonderful task, but we must all bear in 1318 mind that control of these schemes must finally pass to the peoples themselves. Whatever investment we plough in there, whether it is in the railways or in the development of coal mines in the hinterland or in the smelting of iron, or, in this case, in tenant farming, it is important that we should bear in mind that we are going in as white men for the sake of the African people and that we shall hand over to them a going concern in the future.
I welcome this new set-up. Indeed, I welcome anything in the way of what I term functional democracy, of local people doing local work in their Colonies. The snag in the past, of the C.D.C. and perhaps of the O.F.C., is that we have not had sufficient knowledge locally or sufficient people who knew the local conditions. In passing, I would say this about the C.D.C. Since 1949, since the death of Sir Frank Stockdale, there has been no member of the Board who has had any personal experience of tropical agriculture, which is an alarming thing when we think of the fact that farming, and the development of African farming in particular, is the most important job to be done by these concerns.
I stress again the importance of it being under a local corporation and the importance of local public accountability. When I look back at the Cameroons Development Corporation or even the Gezira scheme of the Sudan, I notice that, beyond the original debates in this House, there were few questions or debates in the Assemblies out there, or even in this House. We talk about public accountability for the nationalised boards at home. It is very important that there should be public accountability for the public corporations in the Colonies. We shall ask questions and we hope that there will be debates in Dar-es-Salaam, and I hope that we shall keep this Corporation on its toes in the future.
Lastly, where do we go from here? Earlier the Minister spoke about the railway in the South to Nachingwea. He talked of this railway having wider implications in the future. How much wider? Is it the Government's intention to spend what Sir Alexander Gibb and his partners said it would cost—£10,000 a mile—and take it 400 miles beyond Nachingwea to Limesule Ju and Songea, because there we have many scores of 1319 millions of tons of good coal and also sub-bituminous coal, and we have iron ore at Liganga? If we can develop those resources in the near future or even in the appreciable future, it would be an enormous boon. There is no bunker coal between Natal and Nigeria and we could enormously develop our supplies for the Indian Ocean ports and for industries in East Africa, Kenya, Tanganyika, Nyasaland and elsewhere. I ask what are the intentions, if any, of opening up the rail-way line to the interior.
We know that it has been said that it would be expensive, but I draw attention to the American example, where they use a narrow gauge for metals and minerals of this nature, where the intention is to build many miles of line. They avoid the steeper gradients, they do not mind taking detours and they have a much cheaper and more effective technique for getting into the back blocks for metals of this kind.
My final point deals with finance. I see from Clause 5 that the Government are to be kind enough to waive the interest upon certain of these loans. Earlier the Minister said that he had made an offer to C.D.C. of £4 million—of wiping off capital investment of £4 million. He said that there had been between £8 million and £8½ million of investment in the past in schemes and projects which have now lapsed.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
The £8 million represented not only the schemes which had been abandoned but also schemes which, in the view of the C.D.C., were over-capitalised.
§ Mr. Johnson
Why fix a figure of £4 million? Why not go the whole hog and liquidate the lot? It is a bookkeeping account; it is all in the family. The Government have to finance both operations. If we want to give these concerns the feeling that they have a chance to pull their weight, I think we should take this millstone from about their necks and give them a chance to start with a clean sheet. I hope that the Minister of State will say something on that matter when he replies.
Finally, I would say that whether we open up coalfields in the South or go ahead with schemes of agricultural development or build factories, all these 1320 schemes must be patently for the benefit of the indigenous peoples themselves. We are their guardians. They are our wards, and it is our job to go in and make up for our many misdeeds of the past. I have no masochistic complex. I am not looking back to the days of slavery, but we have something to make up to these peoples, and we must make it crystal clear to them that we intend to help the peoples themselves. There is an enormous amount of suspicion there. In their view, the white man is still an alien and exotic figure on this black African landscape, and we have to gain their confidence if we are to stay there. Therefore, I hope that in this "hiving off" in Tanganyika there will be a fruitful partnership, and that the Africans themselves will ere long be in charge of their own affairs in this Corporation.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
If I rise for a few minutes it is not to criticise the speech of the Colonial Secretary because, whatever he used to say about the scheme in its old form and about ourselves, he did show in his speech tonight that he is keen and enthusiastic about the scheme in its new form, and that he wishes to develop the Colony by means of this scheme. That is the thing which all of us on this side of the House care about.
Two remarks have been made from other speakers, however, on the other side of the House which I cannot allow to go by without comment. The hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) alleged that the original scheme was accepted out of hand by the then Government. I think, knowing the procedure that we went through when the original Overseas Food Corporation scheme was accepted, that that description of it is too grotesque to leave as it is.
My hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) has described some of the procedures which were gone through, but, as he said, he had nothing to do with them at that time. He came in at a later stage, and I think that someone who was a member of the Government of the day, and who was directly concerned, ought briefly to recall to the House exactly what happened.
Originally, of course, Mr. Samuel proposed the scheme to the then Colonial 1321 Secretary, and Lord Hall, far from immediately accepting it, appointed the Wakefield Committee, consisting of Mr. Wakefield, an ex-Director of Agriculture in Tanganyika—and not an unsuitable man to be appointed—Mr. Martin, the relevant man in the Unilever organisation, and Mr. Rosa, to examine the scheme. I did not appoint them. They were appointed by the Colonial Secretary of the day. They reported to us; but was their report accepted out of hand? Certainly not. Not only was a special section of the Ministry of Food and of the Colonial Office, to which my hon. Friend referred, appointed and the scheme most carefully vetted by them, but also the Colonial Advisory Council, which has not been mentioned, had the scheme before it and reported in its favour.
All these experts—and I am not proposing to attack them today—believed with the utmost sincerity the recommendations which they gave to the Government. Our responsibility, and my personal responsibility as a Minister most closely associated with all this—of course, it is a heavy responsibility—was that we believed that all these reports from all those experts were correct. In fact, they proved to have been totally incorrect.
Certainly, looking back on it, I think that if some way could have been found of vetting those reports with even greater care than that long procedure of investigation which I have briefly detailed to the House, that would have been an additional advantage. But to suggest that the Government of the day lightheartedly entered into the scheme without taking what appeared to be, at any rate, the very best expert advice at the time, is quite a travesty of the facts.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) said, very truly, that transport was the key to all these schemes of colonial development. He implied that the great folly of the groundnuts scheme was that it did not develop transport. He overlooks the fact that an indispensable, vital and major part of the original groundnuts scheme was precisely the building of a railway and the construction of a port. Whatever has happened to the rest of the scheme, that railway and port have now been built and, as the Colonial Secretary described to us, 1322 will play what he believes to be a most important part in the future of the Colony.
Therefore, whatever criticism we have of the scheme as put forward in the Wakefield Report—and, goodness knows, we can all make dreadful criticisms of that scheme in the light of experience—the idea that it neglected transport is quite untrue, because one of its major recommendations was the building of that large railway and large port, which has actually been done.
I am certainly the last person in the House to under-estimate the magnitude of the tragedy of the groundnuts scheme. Of course it is a tragedy. We say that good may still come out of it, yet there is no doubt that in its original form, and judged by its original expectations, it has proved a tragedy; I could not for one moment try to say anything else to the House. But I say this to the Colonial Secretary at the beginning of his period of office. We implore him and we demand of him that he does not let the tragedy and failure of that scheme stop him and his Government from pushing on with the policy of colonial development, and colonial agricultural development above all.
We have been reminded constantly all these years of all the money which has been spent; it is always said that the money spent upon the groundnuts scheme has been lost. If the right hon. Gentleman pushes on with colonial development, as he showed a mind to do tonight, he will find that not all his schemes will succeed either. He, too, will find difficulties, but do not let him be discouraged by that.
When we look at the finance, when we look at the millions, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) has just emphasised, do not think that the account between us and the Colonies is all one way. Do not let us think that our expenditure on the Colonies, of which the groundnuts scheme was one part, is simply philanthropy on our part. After all, the Colonies have been very valuable to us. One has only to look at the national accounts in the post-war years and see the dollar earnings of the Colonies. They have been the one part of the Commonwealth that has always had an active dollar surplus.
1323 Therefore, I say to the Secretary of State, in the opening period of his office, that he should not be discouraged by the tragedy of the groundnuts scheme, the bitter political feelings which it generated and the heartbreak of it—and, goodness knows, I felt that. Do not let the right hon. Gentleman be discouraged by that or by the difficulties and disappointments which he will find also, unless he is very fortunate indeed in this field. The necessity for colonial agricultural development remains a paramount necessity for our Commonwealth if it is to survive. If we can draw one lesson from this scheme it is that we must, somehow or other, overcome these difficulties. If we do that we shall feel that in the end all these efforts have succeeded.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I always endeavour to show Parliamentary courtesy, but the Colonial Secretary puts me in some difficulty. At any rate, I can say this, that everyone hopes he will be an improvement on his predecessor and some of us are relieved that he is no longer at the Ministry of Transport.
However, it was not the contribution of the Colonial Secretary which has provoked me to intervene in this debate, but that of my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer). If this debate has served one good purpose, it is that it has revealed that my hon. Friend was subject to the most vicious and malicious attacks. He has made quite clear tonight that, whatever criticism there may have been of the groundnuts scheme, its shape and size was determined by the Managing Agency before my hon. Friend undertook his appointment.
From my own personal experience I know he brought to the scheme a realistic appraisal and leadership. He did everything he could to readjust the scheme to the conditions which developed. No one desires to deny what has always been obvious, that the original idea was ill-founded, and everyone will agree with my hon. Friend when he says that pilot schemes would not have made any difference unless we were prepared to wait generations before we developed Tanganyika.
The ill-informed, malicious criticisms that were made of that scheme have made 1324 it extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to carry on the groundnuts scheme. The disastrous effect upon the men working in Tanganyika was great, and there is the most unfortunate effect upon the Government of the day as well as the Government of yesterday, because it is now very difficult indeed to face up to the essential problem of large-scale development in our Colonial Territories.
My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) made a good point when he said that we shall have to turn to international aid. One of the reasons is that we must have protection against this ill-informed, ill-inspired criticism to which colonial development is subject in this country. If it is a question of pounds, shillings and pence, I merely say that over the last 12 months the Ministry of Food, through its commercial ineptitude in stocking up on a falling market, has lost far more money than was lost in the groundnuts scheme.
Many reports have been quoted during this debate and I want to quote one more. It is:Another not unimportant factor supporting the winding-up of the Corporation is that I am afraid that the Corporation will never be able to rid itself of the mark of its initial objective. It was conceived by Mr. Samuel, Managing Director of the Unilever subsidiary, the United Africa Company. The Groundnuts Scheme was a commercial scheme imposed on Tanganyika to increase the production of fats for the United Kingdom and it has never lost its original character. However rhetorically the scheme may be spoken of, it remains today a scheme organised by the British for the British but which happens to operate in East Africa. Only by its transformation will the scheme have the chance of gaining public support and good will in Tanganyika and be recognised as an indigenous development bringing benefit not only to ourselves but also to the peoples of East Africa.That was the conclusion of the report that I made after my visit to the groundnuts scheme in 1950, and I am glad it is being implemented by the Government.
I have two more things to say about it. I hope that now this scheme will become indigenous and economical and have the co-operation of all the peoples in Tanganyika. I hope also, however, that by making it such we shall not try to abnegate our responsibility; that we shall still recognise our enormous responsibility to these Colonial Territories and will not be afraid to put into them the capital resources which are absolutely necessary if those countries are not only 1325 to improve their own standard of living but contribute to the increased standard of living of people in Britain also.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
This debate has been of considerable use if only for one reason, that it has enabled many of us on this side of the House to clear up the misunderstandings which have been spread, sometimes deliberately, from the other side about the groundnuts scheme. It was of value if only for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer), a speech which revealed much that had previously been unrevealed and which did a great deal to answer the criticisms made on the other side of the House.
First, I shall refer to one or two small points and ask certain questions. All of us welcome Clause 5 by which the payments of interest are to be remitted by the C.D.C. on certain schemes. It is a pity that the C.D.C. did not agree to all payments being remitted, but at any rate it gives the Corporation a better chance. I hope that this will be followed at a later stage by something which will make its task easier. In the past the Corporation has had to show a profit, and yet it has only been able to undertake schemes not likely to be undertaken by private enterprise. That is a difficulty under which no organisation can expect to progress, and so I hope that an alteration will be made there.
Now I come to my two questions. First, can we have a little more information about the composition and powers of the new Board? Secondly, what is proposed to be done to help the C.D.W. in this connection? I understand that the Colonial Development and Welfare Funds are to pay out certain sums to reimburse the overseas food scheme. Yet, if there is any surplus at the end, apparently that goes back into the Exchequer and not to the C.D.W. It looks, therefore, as if the Colonial Development and Welfare Funds are to be reduced by an amount which was not previously anticipated.
On this side of the House we are sorry that the groundnuts scheme did not succeed as we had hoped. We are not certain that every hon. Member opposite is equally sorry; some seem to show an unpleasant pleasure that it did not suc- 1326 ceed, saying that it pointed to the fact that public enterprise cannot succeed whereas private enterprise would have succeeded. That line of argument has been answered successfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford. It is unfortunate that hon. Members opposite should have taken that line because of the great harm it did to the people on the spot who were carrying out the work.
I saw the scheme under extraordinary circumstances, going there at a time when I knew that it was to be closed down, whereas the people on the spot did not yet know it. I was taken round by a man who was full of enthusiasm. He was looking after an area of 10,000 acres or more and he showed me his plans for the next year, saying that next year he would plant this and develop that. I knew but I could not tell him at that moment that none of these plans would come to fruition. It gave one a terrible sense of tragedy to know that nothing would happen and that there would be this failure and yet to see him so full of enthusiasm because he did not know what was in store for him.
I hope that we shall have regard for the feelings of these people, particularly those now continuing the scheme in its reduced form, and that we shall do nothing to prevent their carrying it out with enthusiasm. Much has been done as a result of the scheme. Land has been reclaimed and buildings put up and above all, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) said, port facilities have been provided. If the scheme had not been started, the Southern Provinces might never have been opened up as they have been today. That, if nothing else, stands to its credit, but there is a great deal else.
The last thing that we owe to the scheme is the development of the skill of Africans. It is quite remarkable how much Africans learned by way of tractor driving, lorry driving and agricultural technique as a result of the scheme. I hope that we shall build on this and that, in particular, we shall be able to develop not only the agriculture but the minerals, of Tanganyika, especially the coal supplies which the C.D.C. is investigating not very far away from the place where the scheme is now being carried on.
It is possible that all these things can be done in Tanganyika because there, 1327 mercifully, there is no Mau Mau. There race relationships are very much better than they are in Kenya. Because of that, we should be able to carry out developments which unfortunately are now impossible in Kenya. This scheme has certainly been a tragedy but out of that tragedy I hope that we shall be able to develop something which will be of benefit to Africans and will make up in a small degree for the neglect of their interests for so many years.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. Henry Hopkinson)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies said when he opened this debate that he did not intend to dwell upon the past and he stuck to that purpose. It appears to me that a large number of speeches from the Opposition have tended, on the contrary, to dwell very much on the past. The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) in fact welcomed this occasion for clearing up a number of doubts about the running of the scheme.
I listened to the speeches with great attention. I listened to that of the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) with interest. I understand his desire to defend his Corporation and to explain his own conduct of it in the past. I listened with interest and respect to the speech of the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey). It was a manly and moving speech, if I may say so. I listened with less respect to that of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) at the beginning of our debate, because it seemed to me that in a sense he was trailing his coat, that it was a case of Qui s'excuse, s'accuse. He said that he wanted the last word on the groundnuts scheme, but that last word is contained in numbers of HANSARD covering the 1951 debates when the scheme was wound up.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
The right hon. Gentleman will find from HANSARD tomorrow that I did not say that I wanted the last word.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I did not even use that expression. I said, and I think that I was entitled to say, that the Second Reading of this Bill was perhaps the last 1328 opportunity for stating the facts as they really were, in view of the misrepresentations on the part of hon. and right hon. Members opposite for years past.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I am glad that my hon. Friends have not allowed themselves to be drawn into barren controversy over the past, because we are not dealing with the past, but with the future; we are dealing with a new scheme The object of this scheme is to transfer the control of the experimental schemes in these three places, Kongwa, Urambo and Nachingwea to a Corporation representing the local government. That is the main object. I should like to emphasise that it does not mean that the 1951 experimental scheme introduced under the late Government has been a failure. It has not been a failure. All this scheme is doing is to continue that scheme.
Although to some extent the scheme has been reduced in size and altered in character, it has on the whole been successful and has certainly proved what cannot be done. I think hon. Members will appreciate this by reading the memorandum of the Overseas Food Corporation which forms the appendix to Command Paper 9158. The new scheme originated from the request of the Governor of Tanganyika in 1952 for an examination of the future of the Corporation's work so as to co-ordinate it more closely with Tanganyika's own agricultural development projects. That will be assured by the provisions of this Bill. It will make it possible for the Tanganyika Government to employ the present field organisation of the Overseas Food Corporation on its own development projects, and, by giving it a local status, will enable the Tanganyika Government to make direct use of its services.
It will also make it possible for the Tanganyika Government to perpetuate the present experiment of the Overseas Food Corporation, if it so desires, beyond 1957, when the present United Kingdom agricultural experiment is due to end. This scheme will come into effect on 1st April, 1955, which is the first convenient date after 1st October, this year, which was originally planned. From that date onwards the present experimental scheme will be brought under the wing of the tried and trusted system of Colonial Development and Welfare. Parliament is not actually being asked to provide for 1329 this present seven-year experiment a single penny beyond the £6 million earmarked in 1951. As my right hon. Friend said, after deducting the actual and estimated expenditure up to the date of the transfer, the further money to be made available will amount to approximately £1,300,000, which will be added to the £140 million provided under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am not quite clear. Do I understand that Parliament is to be asked to add a further sum so that it may be available for this purpose? Otherwise, the C.D.W. Fund will be definitely short.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
The sum already exists and has already been voted by Parliament in the form of £6 million under the existing Acts. The balance, the part not already used up or which does not cover the railway guarantee of £1,250,000—the balance which amounts to about £1,300,000—will be added to the £140 million already provided under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts.
I was asked about the position of employees of the Overseas Food Corporation. The change-over merely gives them a new employer, a local employer. Their terms of service will be no less favourable than those in the past. They have all been given the option of staying on, and I believe that, with one exception, they have all decided to stay on.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I was coming to the run-down of the Kongwa scheme in particular, of which I have particulars and on which I was questioned earlier. I was referring just now to the employees of the Overseas Food Corporation who will be transferred to the Tanganyika Corporation. Although I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the figures for which he asked about the run-down of the Kongwa scheme, I can tell him the treatment accorded. All who have left have received the same compensation as those who left in 1951. The redundancy terms have never been changed, as it was felt that it would not be fair to those who left later not to give them the same terms as those who left during the mass exodus of 1950 and 1951. In every case every- 1330 thing possible has been done to find them alternative employment. As far as we know everyone who has left the scheme has actually obtained alternative employment, only very few of them returning to England.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
Would that be the whole of the 1,667 or certainly the 1,283 employed in January, 1951, by the O.F.C.?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
My right hon. Friend tells me that the Governor informed him that 70 per cent. of the 1,283 have obtained employment locally—in Africa.
I was asked about the disposal of assets of the Overseas Food Corporation. I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) who asked about that. The position is that the assets and the liabilities of the Overseas Food Corporation are transferred to the new Tanganyika Corporation, but the Bill provides, in Clause 3 (1), that any funds accruing from the disposal of the surplus of the property handed over by the O.F.C. will, as in the past, accrue to the British Exchequer. That cannot be said to be a very great deal. The remaining assets, of course, remain in the hands of the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation.
Some questions were asked about Clause 5 of the Bill dealing with the waiver of interest on certain C.D.C. projects. My right hon. Friend said that this forms no part of the readjustment which is going on in Tanganyika and has merely been inserted in this Bill as a matter of convenience. The right hon. Member for West Bromwich, I think, asked me what the amount of interest which is to be waived in respect of abandoned schemes was likely to be. It is very difficult to compute, but we think it will be about £200,000 a year. We cannot at the moment give any estimate at all about other schemes which are not yet abandoned.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) asked me why it had not been decided to wipe the slate clean in the matter of C.D.C. projects and give the Corporation a fresh start. At least that is what I understood his question to be. I think that the answer to that is, partly, that there is no pressing need at this early stage of the Corporation's existence for a complete write-off. Many schemes 1331 have years to run before it will be possible to say whether or not they are going to be a failure. There is the further point that if it were decided to give a completely free hand in this matter, it would be equivalent to nullifying the statutory requirement on the C.D.C. to break even, since it would always be possible—though I do not think it would do it—to abandon a scheme the outcome of which was still open to doubt.
The right hon. Member for Colne Valley asked me whether Her Majesty's Government thought that the Government of Tanganyika could bear the burden implicit in these proposals. He asked why it was not our intention to wipe out the whole of the remainder of the value of the railway. Certainly during the negotiations the Tanganyika Government accepted quite willingly the reduction of capitalisation of the railway to £2,500,000. In fact, I think it can be argued that Tanganyika will get a modern port and a railway worth really £6 million for a comparatively small sum, and they will certainly get many benefits in other ways.
It appears to me that the railway is almost the most important part of this Bill, and I should like to say a word or two about it. My right hon. Friend has explained the reasons why this has been done in this way. It entails the writing off of a sum of approximately £4,200,000 in loans advanced by the Overseas Food Corporation, together with interest thereon. The House must appreciate that this represents money which would have come back to the Exchequer and that now it will not. To that extent, I think it is a massive contribution to the development of Tanganyika. I hope that our friends in the United Nations and on the Trusteeship Council will recognise that once again we have made a contribution to our colonies.
It must also be appreciated that Her Majesty's Government, too, gain certain advantages. In the first place, the Overseas Food Corporation, and therefore the Government, are relieved of the obligation to make any further capital advances to finance the completion of the project. Secondly, they are released from a very 1332 heavy and unlimited commitment in the shape of the guarantee given by the Corporation of the operating deficit on the port and railway, which guarantee was for an indefinite period. Based on the estimated cost after completion of the port and railway, which is now believed to be about £6 million, this guarantee over a long period would have cost more than the sum now being written off.
As far as the Tanganyikan Government are concerned, by reducing the capital investment to a reasonable amount, the operating costs for which they are responsible will certainly be much reduced. I think that the port and railway will provide them with the means of carrying out the development of the Southern Province in the way they deserve. I feel certain that every hon. Member in this House will agree that the railway and port represent a solid and far-reaching benefit to the Colony, and, to that extent, constitute a firm and solid monument to the ill-fated groundnut scheme.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
While I wholeheartedly agree with the right hon. Gentleman, are we to understand that the Tanganyika Government will now have to find the interest and, possibly, the sinking fund on the £2,500,000 still left on the railway and harbour, in addition to the quite considerable losses which will occur for many years on the operating costs of both the harbour and the railway?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
That is the position. The Tanganyika Government have certainly not expressed any reluctance to do that.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me to give some additional information in regard to the agricultural developments in the three places to which reference has been made this evening. I think that I cannot do better than to give a few points from a letter dated 29th September which has been received from the chairman of the Board on this subject. As far as Kongwa is concerned, he points out, as has been made quite clear, that the area does not lend itself to European arable agriculture. They are therefore turning to ranching as the main enterprise there. He does say, however, that they are hoping to start a small African tenant farming scheme in the area to prove 1333 whether, with the help of mechanisation, Africans can obtain something better than a subsistence living from the soil in that area. They are having difficulty in getting families to start this work, but they hope to be able to induce 20 families to do so this year.
In Urambo the chairman says that it has been made quite clear that the fundamental difficulty is the tsetse fly. Had they been able to keep open the whole of the area, with the exception of the outer perimeter the tsetse fly could have been kept under control, but with the reduced area, which has added to the problems of sleeping sickness, he feels that they are under very great difficulties. In this Urambo area they have taken to flue-cured tobacco—about which the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) asked earlier. It has been shown that tobacco grows well in this area and they believe it best to concentrate on that crop and only to grow such other foodstuffs as are needed for local consumption.
The chairman, with the approval of the Secretary of State, is hoping to introduce a European tenant scheme in that area this year based on tobacco. Side by side with the European settlement, to which I think the right hon. Gentleman alluded, an African tenant scheme is going ahead. It is being increased this year from 20 tenants to 40 and ultimately, as my right hon. Friend said, to some 300 families.
As far as Nachingwea is concerned, the area is being devoted almost entirely to what was the original purpose of the present experiment—the economics of mechanised or partially-mechanised agriculture under tropical conditions. The chairman is of the opinion that at Nachingwea there is a vast field of work the results of which will contribute greatly to other parts of the Colonial Empire. In addition to this experimental work, they are trying to ascertain the possible economical development of the area both by European and by African farmers, although he points out that the lack of a satisfactory cash crop at the moment seems to rule out successful European settlement there.
Those, I think, were the main points on agricultural development about which I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman, but there are one or two subsidiary points. He asked why it was not possible to grow 1334 cotton in the Kongwa area. I think that the answer must be the lack of suitable and reliable rainfall. There is no possibility of irrigation without rainfall, and without rain cotton certainly cannot grow. So far as Urambo is concerned, it has now been decided to concentrate almost entirely on flue-cured tobacco.
The hon. Member for Deptford, when he had finished describing the operation of the scheme and the reasons for its failure, asked whether we would consider setting up a geophysical survey and carrying out geochemical and anthropological surveys. All those things are being done all the time in relation to those areas. They are actually going on, and to some extent they are going on in the areas to which the Bill refers. There are soil chemists, and research is being con ducted on all these matters. I think that to attempt to carry out complete geophysical and geochemical surveys for the whole of Tanganyika would be out of the question, first of all from the point of view of expense, and secondly because they would cover a great deal of territory which, in fact, would not require that treatment
The hon. Gentleman also suggested as I understood, that a new international body should be set up in Africa, or perhaps he intended that it should deal with British Colonial Territories in general. He suggested that it should be a body consisting of the Powers with colonial possessions. I must emphasise that, in the first place, we cannot shed our responsibilities for our own Colonial Territories. It is not a question of being insular, as was suggested; we have these responsibilities, and I think the hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that we should not shirk them. But let us by all means make every possible use—
§ Mr. Hale
We were not talking about shedding responsibility. We were talking about asking other people to shoulder responsibilities which we have constantly admitted were too great for us to bear in the limited time available. There is great scope for a geophysical survey in the Congo, for we have no great knowledge of the irrigational possibilities in that area. We do not know what possibilities there are of irrigational develop- 1335 ment. I should have thought that this was a job on which a service like the world engineers' organisation could be used with great advantage. We have not had a complete geographical survey. If we had, it would then be possible to have a water survey. After all, this is the task that has got to be done, and the right hon. Gentleman should remember that after the Bolshevik Revolution a great deal was done in Russia in a very short time.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
As for the hon. Gentleman's reference to making use of international assistance, we are doing it wherever we can. There is already in Africa international co-operation going on between the Powers with colonial possessions, first of all with the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations, and secondly through the Commission for Technical Co-operation south of the Sahara. The same sort of things are going on in the Caribbean area, in the South Pacific and in South-East Asia.
As for the hon. Gentleman's reference to the need for carrying out great irrigational and geological surveys, they are being carried out to the limit of our powers of investment. But they all cost a great deal of money. I have seen in the past few weeks plans which have been made in British Guiana. They are not as extensive as we would like them to be. They do not go as far as we would wish them to go, but the hon. Gentleman must remember that our finances are limited both in this country and in the Colonial Territories.
In commending this Bill to the House and in asking that it should be given a Second Reading, I should like to conclude with a quotation from a Member of the Tanganyika Legislative Council, Chief Msabila, who, in the debate on the Tanganyika Ordinance in May of this year, put the case for the transfer of authority from the Overseas Food Corporation to the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation very clearly. I think that what he said embodies the wishes of all who have taken part in this debate. He said:Whatever hazards or risks there may be in this scheme there should be no question of allowing these open areas to revert to bush. From all over the territory Africans have heard of the success that is being made by 1336 tenant farmers especially at Nachingwea and of course at Urambo as well. This scheme provides Africans with such help as can be given by mechanised farming which is otherwise unavailable to them in their ordinary localities. I feel sure there is every chance of seeing these places developing properly and contributing more towards the economic prosperity of this territory.That was a speech of Chief Msabila, and I believe that it represents the views of this House.
In asking the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, I would only say to the right hon. Member for Dundee, West that when we think of the tragic period of the groundnuts scheme hon. Members on this side of the House, as much as hon. Members opposite, are determined that it shall not be a deterrent to further colonial agricultural development but, on the contrary, a spur to greater efforts.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Studholme.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.