§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.44 a.m.
§ The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. John Hare)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies deeply regrets that it is not possible for him to be here this morning to introduce this Bill, but he has been called to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference today. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend has played a great personal part in the final stages of federation, and it would obviously have given him the greatest possible pleasure if he could have been here to submit a Measure which I hope the House will agree to allow to become the almost final milestone on the march to Caribbean federation, a cause to which he has devoted so much of his energy and leadership. On his behalf it is my pleasant task to introduce the Bill, representing as it does a Measure which at various times has been approved by all parties. My hope and belief is that it will be welcomed by everyone today.
The Bill is preceded by a fairly lengthy history, of which I may perhaps briefly remind the House. The Federation of the West Indies first received serious consideration as a result of the dispatch in March, 1945, to West Indian Governors of the then Secretary of State, Colonel Oliver Stanley, whom all of us who knew him remember with effectionate admiration and respect. That dispatch advocated the aim of federation, but emphasised that it was something for the West Indies themselves to decide.
Federation was first properly discussed in the West Indies at the Conference on the Closer Association of the British West Indian Colonies which was held at Montego Bay in Jamaica in 1947, under the chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies. I am particularly glad today to see the right hon. Gentleman in his place, as it gives me the pleasant task of acknowledging the real debt which the 872 achievement of federation will owe to his work and to his wise and enthusiastic guidance.
The Conference at Montego Bay agreed to set up the Standing Closer Association Committee, which sat in 1948 and 1949 and consisted of West Indian representatives, many of whom are still concerned with federation issues today, under the chairmanship of Sir Hubert Rance, who has been another of the pioneers in this matter. The Report of that Committee, published in 1950, provided not only the basis for a federal constitution but placed on record its… considered and emphatic view that Federation, and only Federation, affords a reasonable prospect of achieving economic stability, and through it, that political independence which is our constant object.After West Indian Legislatures had considered that Report, their delegates to the London Conference of 1953 agreed on the plan for a British Caribbean Federation which was subsequently adopted in principle by all the Legislatures concerned. One of the most controversial points outstanding, that of the movement of persons within the federal region, was considered by a conference in Trinidad last year under the chairmanship of my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. That conference succeeded in working out the basis on which the Governments should be able to control this movement, and also unanimously adopted, amongst others, a resolution asking the British Government speedily to complete the preliminary measures to enable federation to be established.
As the House will remember, during 1955 three commissions were set up to examine the fiscal, civil service and judicial aspects of Federation. On the publication of their Reports, which were tabled in this House, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State summoned a further conference in London in February this year, at which final decisions were reached on all major outstanding points except the site of the capital and the establishment of a customs union. On both these points the conference decided that further information was needed, and recommended the setting up of two commissions for that purpose.
The Commission on the Capital is already at work, and will submit a report for the decision of the Standing 873 Federation Committee set up by the conference to settle remaining matters connected with establishing the Federation. The Commission on Trade and Tariffs, which is to examine the possibilities of introducing a customs union, if necessary by stages, will start work this autumn, and is to report within two years of the establishment of the Federal Government.
It is true to say, therefore, that the stage is well set for the introduction of the enabling legislation which I am now asking the House to consider. In this connection I should like to quote the final sentence of the Report of the 1956 conference:It is the unanimous agreement of those of us who have had the honour to represent the British Caribbean Colonies on this historic occasion that our countries should be bound together in Federation, and we solemnly declare our earnest wish that the Secretary of State may seek leave to introduce a Bill accordingly.I think that shows how warmly federation is desired by the West Indies themselves. I have already, on a previous occasion, paid tribute to the statesmanship of the West Indian leaders who came to that conference in February this year, and I certainly do so again.
The territories which expressed a wish to federate are those named in the Schedule to the Bill—Barbados; Jamaica; the Leeward Islands of Antigua Montserrat and St. Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla; Trinidad and Tobago; and the Windward Islands of Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. So far as the remaining territories in the Caribbean are concerned, I ought to mention that the Bahamas Legislature decided at an early stage that it did not wish to participate in further discussions about federation. British Guiana and British Honduras have at present decided not to join the Federation, but they have maintained their contacts with federal developments by sending observers to both the 1953 and the 1956 conferences.
It is proposed that the federal constitution shall provide for the entry into the Federation of other British territories in the region, and the 1956 conference expressed the wish that it should be made particularly easy for British Guiana and British Honduras to do so.
As for the British Virgin Islands, the conference noted that they had expressed a wish not to be incorporated in the Federation, but it recommended that 874 those islands, as well as British Guiana and British Honduras, should be enabled to participate in the various regional co-ordinating and advisory services which will be carried out by the Federal Government, and provision will have to be made for appeals from all these territories to be heard by the Federal Supreme Court.
The Federation is to be on the Australian pattern, with residual powers reserved to the Governments of the member-Colonies. The Federal Government will not at the outset have wide powers, but they will be fully sufficient to allow that Government to establish themselves and to develop, given the will to do it.
It is proposed that the Federation should have a Governor-General, who will preside over a Council of State which will be the principal instrument of policy. That Council is to consist of 11 members appointed by the Governor-General, including a Prime Minister, seven members of the Legislature nominated by the Prime Minister, and three members of the Federal Senate appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. There is to be a Federal Legislature consisting of a Senate of 19 members appointed by the Governor-General in consultation with the Governors of the member-Colonies, and a House of Representatives of 45 members elected directly in the member-Colonies.
A Federal Supreme Court is to be constituted a court of appeal from the Supreme Courts of the units and from the Supreme Courts of such other territories as may be decided.
The Federation will, to begin with, obtain its revenue from the interest on the securities which back the currency issue and also from a mandatory levy on the unit Governments. The Federal Government will have power to reduce or abolish the mandatory levy and, as an alternative, to raise revenue by means of excise and customs duties subject to certain restrictions.
I now come to the Bill itself. Its object is to permit the federal constitution to be embodied in an Order of Her Majesty in Council and to enable the Federation to be set up. It may assist the House if, briefly, I draw attention to the contents of the Bill. Clause 1 empowers Her Majesty to provide, by 875 Order in Council, for a Federation of the Colonies mentioned in the Schedule to the Bill, and for the accession to the Federation of other Colonies. It includes provision for the establishment of a Federal Government, a Federal Legislature, a Federal Supreme Court and such other federal authorities as may be necessary.
An Order in Council for the purpose of establishing the Federation is required by Clause 1 (4) to be laid in draft before Parliament for an affirmative Resolution in each House. Such an Order in Council would be amendable only by a further Order in Council or by Act of Parliament.
Clause 2 of the Bill provides for conferring upon the Federal Supreme Court jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from the courts of British Guiana, the Virgin Islands and other Colonies not included in the Federation, and to dissolve the West Indian Court of Appeal, whose functions, of course, it will now take over.
Clause 3 deals with financial arrangements between Her Majesty's Government and the Federal Government. At the London conference in 1953 Her Majesty's Government promised to make a grant of £500,000 to assist in establishing a federal headquarters; the cost of that Headquarters at that time was estimated to be about £520,000, but unfortunately, after further and much more detailed examination, the cost of this federal capital is now estimated to be £l¾ million. At the conference of February of this year my right hon. Friend announced, after consulting with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that Her Majesty's Government would seek approval for a grant for this purpose not exceeding £1 million, and that provision is found in Clause 3.
For many years a number of the territories which will be entering the Federation have been unable to balance their budgets from their own resources, and grants for that purpose have been made by Her Majesty's Government. I think that the House would like to know that the total of the sums provided for this purpose in the current colonial services Estimates is £566,000. I naturally hope that the Federation will in due time be able to become self-sufficient, but it is clearly impossible that the mere act of 876 federating should produce an immediate answer to the financial problems of its members. Therefore, provision is made in Clause 3 (b) for budgetary aid to the Federation for the first ten years.
It would be unrealistic to try to assess now what the level of this assistance should be. The intention is that six months or so before the actual establishment of the Federation, there should be discussions here with the Financial Secretarys of the Federal and unit Governments to fix the amounts of assistance for the first five years. All I can say now—and it was stated at the conference in February—is that Her Majesty's Government's assistance for each of the first five years will not be less than the average of the deficits incurred by the grant-aided territories in their ordinary budgets during the three years immediately preceding Federation.
§ Mr. Hare
I have given the figure for the current year. It is £566,000. I assume that it will be in that region.
I should like to say a few words about the form which it is the intention that Her Majesty's assistance should take after Federation. As the House will appreciaate, grants have hitherto been made out of annual Votes of Parliament to the individual territories in proved need of aid. Her Majesty's Government's grants will, in future, be made to the Federal Government, who will then be responsible for aiding the budgets of the unit Governments as their need is shown. The grants of Her Majesty's Government, however, will be made on the clear understanding that the money is made available for that purpose only. Any unused balances not actually required for that purpose which remain in the hands of the Federal Government at the end of the first five years will be carried forward and taken into account in determining the level of Her Majesty's Government's financial assistance in the second five-year period.
I hope that the House will agree that these provisions, which I think should be regarded as generous in present circumstances, will help to build up a good financial basis for the Federation to make a successful start.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting, but will he say whether those grants will include the grants and loans which are made under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act?
§ Mr. Hare
No, those grants will not include that. That will continue to be done independently.
In conclusion, I should like to invite the House to give friendly consideration and, I hope, a warm welcome to this Bill, and to approve its terms. It is the culmination of a process of discussion and examination spread over the whole period since the Second World War, and I believe that it represents the sincere and deeply felt wishes of the peoples and the Legislatures concerned. It is also, I think, an expression of the good will of the people of this country.
Although the Bill will not bring with it immediately the status of full membership of the Commonwealth, it is an essential start in preparing the West Indian territories for that goal. In considering the details of the Bill and what still has to be achieved in the West Indies thereafter, we must not lose sight of that great goal which is rightly the aim of the West Indies and which we all wish to see them achieve. I therefore confidently commend the Bill to the House as a Measure which will, I believe, leave its undoubted mark on history.
§ 12 noon.
§ Mr. Arthur Creech Jones (Wakefield)
The whole House will welcome the Bill, the result of very long discussion, a discussion which most of us have watched with considerable sympathy in the hope that a federation might be finally established. Perhaps it is fitting that we should be considering the Bill this week when there are gathered in London the Prime Ministers from the Commonwealth, because we hope that as a result of this legislation we shall very soon find another Prime Minister who will be summoned to subsequent conferences so that the West Indies may play its full part in full membership of the life of the Commonwealth.
As I have said, all sides of the House welcome the Bill. Federation is nearing its final stage, but a great deal of work is still to be settled and a number of 878 important decisions still to be taken. We extend our very sincere congratulations to all the leaders in the West Indies as well as our own officials who have brought federation to this point. I refer to the generous help in the West Indies of Norman Manley, Grantley Adams, Mr. Gomes and even Bustamante in the early days, and likewise the officials who have been generous in their help, Sir Hubert Rance, Sir George Seel and Sir Stephen Luke, and a number of other officials who have served on or been chairmen of Commissions and brought things to the present position.
The Minister of State has very graciously referred to the part which I was privileged to play at Montego Bay, and I thank him sincerely for the recognition of that extraordinarily pleasant and happy job when I was Secretary of State. Ever since 1947, we have followed with very great interest and sympathy the wrestling with this frightfully difficult problem of a formation of a federation. It is a federation which has been built up from below. It is not a constitutional conception which has been imposed on the West Indies, and it therefore has the value that what is now coming to fruitition is largely the result of discussion and the desire of the West Indian people themselves.
It is a constitutional form frightfully difficult to shape, but nonetheless one to which the West Indian people brought their own experience, background, knowledge and life to bear in the discussions, so one hopes that this is the form of constitution which is best able to meet their wishes. Although the analogy with the Australian Federation has been mentioned, in some respects this is a unique conception. There was comparatively little to guide the negotiators, the conferences and the officials in the shaping of the constitution.
These territories are very wide apart. They are not contiguous, long distances separate them, each is different from the other, they have their separate economies, their different race problems and communications are very poor. Therefore, to shape a constitution likely to work under conditions such as those, was a problem of very great difficulty. When we discussed the Federation in its early days, it was obvious to most of us that it would be difficult for small territories in the West Indies to maintain full and 879 complete independence in all aspects of Government, unless some closer association could be formed.
Also, if we were to achieve a sound standard of living and social services and be able to meet their economic requirements, a degree of pooling of resources, which the Federation will help to bring, was necessary. There had already been some degree of common action among many of the territories. As we well know, over the last few decades encouragement has been given to the calling of conferences for the discussion of common problems, economic issues, labour questions, trading and commercial problems, education questions, research and development, agricultural difficulties and so on.
Steadily over the years the territories have been brought together in conferences. The process was helped by the institution of the West Indian University College, which also brought together people and students from the various territories now to form the Federation. Following on the report of the West Indies Royal Commission, which, although the Commission began its work before the war, was not in our hands until the war was well on, there was established in 1940 the office of Comptroller of Development and Welfare, Sir Frank Stockdale, who, with his council of advisers, was of enormous importance in bringing the peoples of the West Indies into closer contact.
The scheme is now launched, and it is of great interest to note that when it was launched it was perfectly clear that the respective territories would not be asked to sacrifice any of their individual constitutional development, and that it was the desire of the British Government that the territories should proceed to full democracy. While these discussions have been proceeding over the years, it has been of great interest to note that the constitutions of the respective territories, Trinidad, the Leeward Islands, Jamaica and others, have been made more representative and more responsible and the individual territories have gone forward to the realisation of greater democracy than when the discussions originally began.
When I summoned the conference at Montego Bay in March, 1947, I stated 880 in the circular I dispatched to the territories that the object of federation was full internal self-government within the British Commonwealth, and that if it were to function aright the Federation or association must have the requisite financial stability. In face of great difficulty, the territories have agreed that certain functions and powers can be fittingly transferred, or can devolve, to the federal authority when it is set up. It is interesting to see what are the exclusive and concurrent subjects set out in the proposal for federation.
As we look ahead, we must be conscious that great problems and difficulties remain to be overcome if the Federation is to function as effectively as most of us would wish. There is still the difficulty of communications, and the very considerable distances which separate the respective territories. Moreover, let us not disguise the fact that, within the respective territories, there has been a growth of, for want of a better term, local spirit or nationalism. In view of that situation, it is a singular fact that we should now find territories such as Jamaica and Trinidad, which have been moving towards a full measure of self-government, quite prepared to surrender some of their functions to an authority which may be a considerable distance away. It may be that that local spirit will grow still further and make difficulties for the Federation a little later on. Whatever the financial arrangements may be, there is also the possibility that certain heavy burdens may fall upon one or two of the more developed and better-off territories. That may also create some difficulties.
I confess that I was somewhat sorry when, a short time ago, the Secretary of State was obliged to ask the House to agree to the disintegration of the Leeward Islands as a Colony and the establishment of separate presidencies, in direct touch with the Federal Government. One had hoped that the Leewards and the Wind-wards could have looked at their problems as a whole, as separate groups, and be represented as separate groups in the Federation, but the Leewards thought otherwise, and the British Government, anxious to meet their needs, endorsed the view which they expressed. The separate islands of the Leewards therefore come in as independent units in the Federation.
881 The Federation may not always find that it has at hand, in its administrative and technical services, or amongst its legislature, a sufficient number of people of the quality which it would demand. The working of the Federation, with this kind of dualism, will involve stretching the available personnel over the respective Colonies as well as making them available to the Federation itself. After the first five years a further difficulty may arise over the question whether the Ministers might function both in their individual territories and in the Federation, if that were thought desirable. I was a little alarmed when it was suggested that the outstanding political leaders in the West Indies would be obliged to confine themselves to their unit territories, and that when they became Federal Ministers they would have to forgo their responsibilities in their individual territories. I hope that that kind of difficulty can he avoided in the future.
There was another point which caused a little trouble at the last conference. It was suggested that Ministers in the Federal Cabinet should have civil servants, with the full status of Ministers, sitting with them. I am very glad that in the discussions which took place with the Secretary of State the position of the civil servants was properly defined and that, while they will be present at Cabinet meetings, they will not enjoy the status of Cabinet Ministers.
I do not want to cover the ground which the Minister of State has so ably covered. The details of the Constitution have been settled by the peoples concerned, with the endorsement of Her Majesty's Government, and the matter should be allowed to rest there. But I should like the Minister to answer a few questions. Once the Federation comes into operation, what will be the relation of the individual territories to the Secretary of State? Will he relinquish all responsibility and authority, and will that responsibility and authority then rest in the Government of the Federation? It would help if we could learn a little more of the way in which the Constitution will function. I take it that Her Majesty's Government will be responsible for the appointment of the Governor-General. What, then, will be the relation of the Governor-General to the governors of the individual units, and what reserve powers will in future be allowed to the 882 governors? Will any reserve power rest in the Governor-General?
As I have said, a great deal of work still has to be done. We are grateful for the work of the Fiscal Commission, the Civil Service Commission, and those bodies who have been working upon the problems of customs, taxation and finance, and I would only hope, on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends, that the Federation will achieve the objectives which those who pioneered it had in mind.
Most of these territories have had a very chequered existence for 300 or 400 years, having come through periods of turmoil and great difficulty. Many of their people were slaves. They have been caught up in the European tradition: they have become part of western civilisation, with a mostly western religion and culture, and have come fully into the democratic tradition as we in Western Europe understand it. It is because this affords a tremendous opportunity now, not only for the enjoyment of full local autonomy in the respective territories but also for sharing in the larger life of the world, through the British Commonwealth, that we welcome this enabling Bill to establish the Federation.
I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at the financial problems of the West Indies. We are all conscious that the economic resources of the territories are limited. We are aware, also, that social services will have to be stretched very much if they are to meet the normal social needs of the population of these islands. There is no doubt that development and social progress can result only in so far as our approach to their problems is generous and we are prepared to help to the utmost degree in developing their economic life and building up the social services.
I am very glad that the grants in aid are not to be withdrawn. I am pleased, too, that for some time at any rate money will be available under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. Of course, £1 million becomes available for the initiation of the Federation, and that is very helpful. It is because of the acute economic problems of the West Indies that one hopes that in the days ahead, although independence is established and a new independent nation is 883 created, Britain will continue to help in as generous a way as possible.
Finally, I express the hope that before long the Federation may be on a wider basis and that British Guiana and British Honduras will consider the desirability and advisability of joining. We welcome this enabling Measure. We congratulate all concerned on bringing Federation to the present point and we look forward with great hope to the creation of a new independent nation inside the British Commonwealth.
§ 12.22 p.m.
§ Sir David Gammans (Hornsey)
I imagine that all of us who are here today feel that we are present on an historic occasion. I always find it exhilarating when this House passes a Measure to create a new dominion under the British Crown but, in addition to that, we are in truth present today at the birth of a new nation. I am very glad that it has fallen to the lot of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, who has been so keen on this project ever since he held his present office, to put the cornerstone on an arch which so many Secretaries of State of the parties on both sides of the House have assisted to build.
I am glad that my right hon. Friend mentioned the name of Oliver Stanley. It was his Measure, in 1944–45, granting adult suffrage to the West Indies, which was the first stage in this process. Those of us who knew and respected him realise how much he would have liked to have been here today to have seen the last stone placed in that arch.
Perhaps the Bill is the best vindication that we could have of British colonial policy. I often think that our friends throughout the world, especially those in the United States, do not fully understand our aims and our policy, and do not realise the extent to which our whole idea for many years has been to stimulate self-government in the Colonial Empire and to push it forward at a breakneck speed—in fact, at a speed which many people think holds dangers within it. We have certainly not be laggard in promoting this Federation. I go so far as to say that the initiative in promoting it has been here rather than in the West Indies. We have always been pressing 884 the people of the West Indies to consider it when, at times, they were perhaps falling behind in their appreciation of its advantages.
I hope that the two territories which now remain out, British Guiana and British Honduras, and which, after all, are more hesitating than refusing, will realise before long the enormous advantages which will come to them and to the whole Federation if they consent to join. Those of us who have been to the West Indies realise that unless there had been some sort of Federation there would have been very little hope, in the long run, for the continued existence of those territories in their present form. We must remember that we are dealing with territories which from a population point of view are very small; there are only 3 million people there.
The territories are surrounded by two giant civilisations, the United States and Latin America which, sooner or later, would have absorbed them, in the sort of world that exists today. I believe that the British Caribbean Colonies have a distinctive contribution to make to the world. For three hundred years they have been associated with us. Their culture, their way of life, their institutions and their general outlook has been distinctively modelled on this country. It has not been modelled on the United States or on Latin America. It would have been a tragedy of the first order if this comparatively small group of countries had disappeared because they would not federate. That is why this Federation gives to all of us in this House a very distinct satisfaction. We can see the enormous potentialities for good which can come from it.
There are also distinct economic advantages. Some islands are richer than others, and it is only by a pooling of resources that the general standard of living can be raised and the secondary industries developed. They will be in an immeasurably stronger position to negotiate trade agreements if they are prepared to federate. We have had two examples of that already. Although these territories have not, in point of fact, federated up to now, they have acted together in their negotiations with us on sugar and on citrus crops. Perhaps it was that experience which helped them to realise the virtues of a greater federation on the political level.
885 It is for the West Indians themselves to work out in detail the relation of one territory to another. We ought not to underestimate their difficulties. These territories are widely separated. For example, Jamaica is as far from Trinidad as we are from Gibraltar. To a large extent their economies are complementary. There is not that amount of inter-colonial trade which one would like to see. We cannot help that; climate has brought that about, but that is one of the reasons why it has always been difficult to have a shipping line in the West Indies on a satisfactory basis. Perhaps the greatest contribution to a sense of unity has been the creation of West Indian Airways, which has brought the territories into close contact with each other.
There is one general point about the growth of self-government in the Colonial Empire which concerns us all. It is that we are not merely exporting the idea of self-government to the Colonies; we are doing a far more difficult thing than that. We are, to a large extent, exporting the British Constitution as well. We have all sorts of assumptions about our development of self-government. We assume that the sort of Constitution which has been evolved over hundreds of years in this country will more or less suit automatically very divergent parts of the world with different histories and often with a plural society and with fundamental problems of toleration which are unsolved.
What we understand by the British Constitution is, first, a very rigid division between Executive and judiciary. Another thing we always assume is an educated electorate, a literate electorate, which can look beyond the confines of its own broad problems and see its place in the world as a whole. We have always assumed a Civil Service completely free from politics, and a highly-trained Civil Service at that. Lastly, we have always tended to assume that these local self-governing Dominions which we create will evolve a two-party system.
What we have yet to discover in our evolution of self-government is to what extent those conditions will be paralleled overseas. From what I know of the West Indies, I am very optimistic about it. I think that to a large extent, perhaps because of their long association with us, they are evolving on identical lines. The 886 last election in Jamaica showed that there was an understanding of the two-party system, where one party displaces another at a general election. But I think that sometimes we tend to underestimate the danger of failure, or the alternative to a failure, of this system of ours, this conception of government which we have evolved so successfully.
The alternative cannot be a return to some colonial form of government. The alternative would be chaos and, ultimately, some form of dictatorship. We see the way in which democracy has disappeared from a large part of the world for that very reason, because there is far less democracy in the world today than existed even when most of us were born. Democracy has completely disappeared in places like South and Central America and in large parts of Eastern Europe, etc. Therefore, the alternative to failure is something very tragic. We should consider that point sometimes when we are wondering at what pace we ought to force self-government on the Colonial Territories.
I do not have that same danger in mind when thinking about the West Indies. They have many enormous advantages. For one thing, they have not the sticky problem of minorities. Of course, there are minorities, the Chinese, East Indian, British and Spanish minorities. But to a large extent those minorities are, to a far greater degree than in most other parts of the world, prepared to think of themselves, not as of, say, African or Spanish origin, but as West Indians in the true sense of the word.
I regard the Bill not merely as a passport to political freedom, but as a sort of Magna Carta of a great new West Indian nation under the British Crown which will be as much a pride to us in this country as to the people of the West Indies who have succeeded in creating it.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
The Minister has asked for a warm welcome for this Bill, which, of course, it has received. In the past, we have often talked about the invisible bonds of Empire, but I think this will make indivisible the bond between the West Indies and the mother country. No one can criticise this Bill. I am sure that we on these benches would have done exactly the same had we been in office. 887 We are one in this matter of wishing well to this young West Indian society.
This is merely an enabling Bill so that an Order in Council will create the federal constitution later, which will be a job for the West Indian people. It is not for us to tell them what kind of constitution they want. They have able statesmen and experienced men like Norman Manley, Mr. Gomes and Mr. Grantley Adams, who can work well together and look after their own affairs in their own house in that beautiful Caribbean climate; and so we say good luck to them.
As I see it, the Bill will create a Federal Supreme Court, and the other provisions of the Bill upon which I wish to comment are financial. The Minister said that we should continue to find moneys for their needs at the moment, and indeed for their future needs; that C.D. and W. would go on, besides the grants in aid to the non-viable territories of this new Federation. But is that good enough? I am not happy about the financial provisions for so many of these overseas territories.
I have spent a little time this week conducting public relations officers from different Colonial Territories over this House. I found that the two things which concern them most are the difference between the two main parties in this House, and how they differ in their attitude to the Colonial Territories and their behaviour towards their peoples. Talking to people such as these public relations officers, who are experienced and public-spirited men, and also to visiting delegations such as the Uganda delegation, I found that what concerns them is this matter of financial aid and investment; the schemes necessary and the money that must be spent to enable these people, in the next 10 or 20 years, to have the social services they want and must have if they are to create and maintain dignified and self-respecting society.
Where is the money to come from? Places like Malaya and West Africa have done a wonderful job, and mainly due to them I understand that in London we have had something over £1,200 million in colonial balances. But I consider that in the last six years we have not invested more than £100 million per annum in all our colonial dependencies. It is all very 888 well to talk about C.D. and W. and give £20,000 here or £120,000 there. The important thing is to develop these economic societies so that they may look forward with confidence to a fuller and better existence.
It was hardly a good thing to usher in this young and hopeful Federation in the West Indies by the sort of debate we had a few days ago upon Trinidad Oil. I am not casting stones, but I am shocked when I consider that we are in such a position as a Commonwealth that he have to sell such assets in the way we did there. If we in the United Kingdom cannot provide the money to invest overseas, what other nations will move into these young undeveloped lands? What is there to stop America, for example, from moving in. And there is Latin America where, in places like Venezuala, because of the boom in oil, there is surplus money which could be invested in these undeveloped areas. It may sound ludicrous to some, but what is, for instance, to stop the Soviet Union from investing in the Copper Belt of Northern Rhodesia in the Central African Federation?
And so I wish to impress on the Minister of State the vital necessity of financial aid; and more than the actual day-by-day stopping of the leaks and plugging the holes with C.D. and W. and grants-in-aid. Even more important is planned investment in these new overseas territories. We had an unhappy experience, only an hour and a half ago over Malta, and it would be a great pity if, for the sake of £1 million investment here or £10 million investment there, we were to have some misunderstanding with these new partners in the Commonwealth. They are nations in the West Indies and elsewhere which, in a few years' time, will be entitled to send their No. 1 statesman to sit side by side with the statesmen of the wealthy Dominions like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Having administered that somewhat harsh caveat, may I say that I agree with the hon. Member for Hornsey (Sir D. Gammans) in what he said about the West Indian society. Here we have all colours, all religions, all ethnic stocks mixed higgledy-piggledy with some minorities—not many, but some—including some Chinese, some Anglo-Saxons and some Indians. Yet, on the whole, 889 they are living together as a multi-racial society in a way which is a model for other parts of the Commonwealth.
We have less happy examples in Africa and elsewhere, but the peoples in the Caribbean are making an effort to live up to the things which we talk about so much—partnership, amity, concord and harmony, and the belief that every man, whatever the colour of his skin, is at least as good as any one of us and can, potentially, live as good a life as anyone of us.
We do welcome this enabling Bill. I say again that the party opposite are doing merely what we should have done in their place and that we on this side of the House therefore wish the Bill good luck and wish the best of political lives for the leaders of Federation to come in the West Indies.
§ 12.41 p.m.
§ Sir Roland Robinson (Blackpool, South)
Eleven years ago, when the late Oliver Stanley talked about closer association in the West Indies, he gave to many people in the Colonies and here an ideal which today we are helping to turn into a reality. To take up the point made by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), I think it is true that the Bill is warmly welcomed on both sides of the House and had the party opposite been the Government in power, it would have liked to have taken the same action as we ourselves are taking today.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) picked on a point which I feel is outstanding in this Bill. It is this. This Bill is not a solution imposed on British Colonies by the will of this House, but rather one which has been sought by them of their own free will after a good many years of discussion, and thought; they have asked for this Federation because they also believe that it will be in their own interests. It is a solution made with a great deal of knowledge behind it.
I feel that the Federation would have been a better one if it had had in its membership British Guiana and British Honduras as well, because I believe that both of those Colonies could be of great value to the Federation. On the other hand, I feel that it would also be to the advantage of British Guiana and British Honduras if they themselves could come in; but I think it right that we did not put pressure on them to join the Federa- 890 tion at this stage. Like other Colonies of the West Indies, if this is to be a success, they should come in of their own free will. It is my hope that in time they will do so, because I believe that they will see the advantages that are to be gained from the Federation, more especially when they see the development of West Indian culture, backed up by a university, and see, as foreshadowed in this Bill, a common appeals court, which should provide a better system of justice than has been known in the area before.
I do not think that the job is finished merely because we are passing an enabling Bill in this House and that there is an Order in Council to follow. In order to make a success of the Federation, a tremendous amount of hard work will have to be done in the Colonies themselves. I am sure that the people there will take advantage of the Federation and face up to their problems in a great spirit of reality. I hope that, while they are doing that, Her Majesty's Government will give them every possible assistance.
There is the tremendous problem of transportation. I do not suppose that we have ever before tried to federate communities divided by such tremendous distances. I think that we ought to be prepared to help to develop transportation, perhaps above all the air transportation in the British West Indies. One of the greatest drawbacks of the use of air transportation there is the cost. I think that it would help if we could bring much cheaper air transport there.
Other problems have been referred to, including that of finance. I think that it is right that we should today recognise that we shall have a financial responsibility to the British Caribbean Federation. I suppose that in Government as in life the situation is similar. I think that many of us have found that when our sons and daughters are growing into maturity they need more help than they have had before, until finally they are able to take on responsibility themselves.
I should like to take this opportunity of urging on the Minister of State the necessity of doing all that we can to foster the trade of the British West Indies. We desire this new Federation to stand on its own feet. To enable it to do so, we should help it to build up its economic strength. We should also, as we have been trying to do in the last few years, 891 help the industries of sugar, rum, citrus and bananas. We should also do more to help the tobacco and cigar industry there. In addition, we now have the Government's undertaking to back up the provisions of the pioneer industries legislation of the West Indies. We can help in one way or another.
The constitutional development is first-class, but I feel that it is not enough and that we must do all we can to see that these people are able to earn their own daily bread. By our action today, we are helping to create a new West Indian citizenship. I hope that they will be as proud to be West Indians as we are to be British; that they will still have their local pride; that a Jamaican will be as proud of being a Jamaican as I am of being an Englishman; that a Barbadian will continue to be as proud of being a Barbadian as I am of being a Lancastrian, and that someone from Trinidad will be as proud of coming from there as Scottish hon. Members are of coming from Scotland. I believe that there will come, above all, an abiding loyalty to the West Indies.
I should also like to pay my tribute to the successive Secretaries of State, from the time of the late Mr. Oliver Stanley to that of the right hon Gentleman the Member for Wakefield and others on his side of the House who have occupied this Office down to the Secretary of State today, who has played a real part in bringing about this Federation. In our hearts, we should pay a very warm tribute to the patience, perseverance and foresight of all leaders of political opinion in the West Indies who have made this Federation possible.
I welcome the Bill with a very warm heart. I believe that it foreshadows the creation of a new Dominion of proven loyalty, which will eventually take its place among the self-governing countries of the British Commonwealth. When that time comes, I think that it may well prove to be a light which can shine as a great example to the other nations of the free world.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)
So often in the House an hon. Member rises and apologises to the hon. Member who preceded him for the fact that he does not intend to follow the points he dealt 892 with in his remarks. This morning the situation is entirely opposite; I feel that I have to apologise to the House for the fact that, in the main, I shall follow the points made by everybody who has spoken so far. That is inevitable in the circumstances. This morning we are all wishing success to the Bill and are looking forward to the Federation of the British Caribbean. I will join with all others who have expressed appreciation and thanks to every Secretary of State who in the past has done great work towards this great ideal.
I go on at once to express deep regret, as other hon. and right hon. Members have expressed it, that the two mainland territories do not propose at the moment to join the Federation. Since it was my privilege to go to one of those mainland territories, I have always felt that there was a serious risk of British Guiana and British Honduras being absorbed into Central America. Only last week I received a letter from British Honduras on which the address was, "British Honduras, Central America".
It is a matter of deep concern that that should be so. I should be quite prepared to sink my pride in the British Commonwealth if I felt that absorption into Central America was for the ultimate good of those two Colonies, but I am completely convinced that it is not for their good, and I am equally convinced that it would be for their good and the good of the other Colonies in the Caribbean for them to be part and parcel of the Federation.
The prospects of development in those two territories would be considerably brighter if they were part and parcel of the Federation. The other Colonies need them, too. Jamaica and Barbados, particularly, are over-populated, and I have always believed that the two mainland territories could take great numbers of the people who are needed for the development of those territories. The difficulty always is, which comes first, the additional population into those two territories or a prepared development which would welcome that new population? There is, of course, only one answer—investment and capital expenditure. That is the only way in which the problem of those two territories will be solved.
893 In spite of the regret which we must express about British Honduras and British Guiana, I believe that nothing but good will stem from this Bill for Jamaica, Trinidad, the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands. In a similar way, we express regret that apparenty it is not possible at the moment to make honest women of certain Virgins, but they may very quickly see the light in that respect and enter the Federation.
I believe that if security and happiness are to be attained, even in federation—and this is where I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) very closely—very much needs to be done. The Colonial Development Corporation and the colonial development and welfare fund have only touched the fringe of the economic and social problems of those Colonies, and one asks where the capital is to come from.
In opening the debate in such a felicitious manner the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs talked about the £500,000. That is not enough. The sum of just over £500,000 which he mentioned is only the gap in the present financial set-up of those Colonies, and something much more than that is needed. That gap must be closed and large amounts of money have to be poured into the territories for development.
There is some wealth in the islands, although unfortunately at the moment it is in too few hands. I feel that the wealth already in the islands can be used to a much greater degree for development there. Next comes the share of the United Kingdom Government, and I hope that our ideas on this subject will be much wider than those which have been expressed today.
Is it also possible, for example, that the Texas Oil Company will be prepared to put into, as well as to take out of, that part of the world? Will it be prepared to continue the good work which is going on at the moment at the hands of the present company—the work of greatly improving the social conditions of the people of Trinidad?
Behind the luxury and beauty of these glorious islands, behind the wonder of Montego Bay—closely behind—lies terrible squalor. Within sight of the foothills of the Blue Mountains are the shanty towns outside Kingston. Those problems have to be tackled, and it is a tremendous 894 task. Education must be made more universal.
At the moment the word "housing" is a misnomer. Three years ago four hon. Members went out there as a delegation from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall), the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Vaughan-Morgan), my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Grey) and myself. That was quite a mixed bunch. In the Report which we gave to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association when we returned is this paragraph:Other social services have been examined, and whilst trying to maintain a sense of proportion the Delegation feel that they must express deep concern at the living conditions of many of the local population. Thousands of houses are little more than cover; dirt and squalor abound; and the miracle is that the colonies are as free from disease as they are, particularly as standards of health and housing are very low. Efforts in housing are being made and workers' houses are being built at fairly low cost. Credit must be given to industrial companies as well as to governments for this effort. The Delegates are nevertheless disturbed at the conditions which exist and would welcome an alleviation.I know that some progress has been made and I believe that under federation the progress will be faster than it has been under the Colonies separately. I do not want to paint a lurid picture of the islands and the conditions which exist, but it would be wrong if this debate were to conclude without attention being drawn to the conditions which exist and to the colossal task which the new Federation will have to undertake.
That is the worse side of the picture. On the other side is the glorious opportunity everywhere of a prosperous agriculture and the prospects of an expanding industry. I repeat: investment, investment, investment and capital expenditure are the answer to the problem. Hon. Members have referred to transport. Intercommunications between the islands and communications with the United Kingdom are terribly bad. B.O.A.C. is doing a very good job, but how many of the local population can afford air fares to travel from one of the Colonies to another? It is certain that sea transport must be improved. Is it a good idea to think that at some time, perhaps in the near future, the new Federal Government will 895 try to nationalise the system of communications between the islands?
A colossal task awaits the people who will govern this Federation. I believe that in each of those Colonies are men of wisdom, understanding and ability, and I believe that, with that wisdom and ability, they will make a success of the Federation. One of my, I would almost say, prayers is that I shall live long enough to see not only federation but to see the British West Indies with full Dominion status; and I join with everyone else who has spoken this morning in wishing the Bill and federation Godspeed.
§ 1.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
We have had a series of masterly brief speeches today, beginning with that of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State; there have, I think, been some six speeches, each given within an average of 12 minutes. I shall, I hope, reduce that average by a considerable amount. My main reason for taking part in the debate today is this. Almost exactly a year ago today a number of us, who are now in our places, were setting out on a Parliamentary delegation to this very delightful part of the world, where we spent a most enjoyable, fascinating and instructive month.
I welcome this Bill, as I know that my hon. Friends and all hon. Members of the House do, and I believe that if any territory or series of territories in the British Commonwealth not yet having self-government is ripe for it, it is the British West Indies. One reason why I say that has not yet been mentioned today. Some of the Colonies of the West Indies have three centuries of British tradition and British rule behind them. Barbados became British in 1625. I think; Jamaica became British in 1655, its tercentenary celebrations last year being one of the reasons why a Parliamentary delegation was invited to go out there. I think I am right in saying that no territory in the proposed Federation joined the Commonwealth later than 1814, at which time Singapore, for example, was still a swamp. It is quite clear that if any part of the world is justified in being awarded self-government, and, indeed, self-determination or independence within the Commonwealth, 896 it is the territories of the British Caribbean.
My only hope is, as was said also by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle), that the two mainland territories of British Guiana and British Honduras will eventually join as well. We are absolutely right not to try to force them, but I hope that the example and, possibly, the success of the Federation of the Colonies at present envisaged, when it is set up and has been going for a time, will persuade them to come in. I believe that the two mainland territories and the Islands are complementary. The mainland territories have enough room, if they are willing and if investment can be provided, to absorb much of the surplus population of the island territories. That is a solution which I hope will eventually be followed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Sir D. Gammans) mentioned the success which the territories have already had in matters of trade, in coming to an agreement about sugar and about citrus fruits. They have also succeeded—I think they are about the only territories to have done so—in driving a wedge into G.A.T.T. They did bring about the waiver agreement which was reached last year under which the preferences on lime oil and bananas have been allowed to increase, almost the only case where that has happened, except in some of our own horticulture duties over here.
I hope that something similar will be possible for cigars or any other tobacco which the West Indies choose to grow. I know the cigar problem is a difficult one; it is bound up with Cuba, and the question of any advantage derived from our admitting Havana cigars in greater quantities than we took in the early years after the war. I hope a solution of this may be that in the West Indies, instead of growing cigar tobacco, they may possibly grow cigarette or pipe tobacco, or something which will not compete with Havana but which we do need over here and would welcome as a relief from having to spend so many dollars, as we do, on tobacco. I hope that that side of West Indies trade can be developed.
I will conclude by emphasising that I regard it as our duty, as the mother country, to provide markets for the product of the Colonial Territories as much as we possibly can, especially since, 897 in some cases, we have given them to understand that they ought to diversify their economy. We did this particularly in the case of the West Indies, urging that they should try to diversify their agriculture and not be dependent so much upon sugar. If we do that, then there is, I think, a moral obligation on our part to do our utmost to help them. One of the ways to do that, apart from investment, which has been mentioned, is to provide the markets for their produce, without which they cannot succeed.
§ 1.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I naturally also welcome the Bill. I apologise for not hearing the opening speeches on account of other Parliamentary work. I have been interested in the debate so far. I shall not occupy the time of the House very long, but I will say at once that some hon. Members may accuse me of throwing a sledge-hammer into the debate rather than a feather duster. While we all welcome this Bill most sincerely and look to the time when self-government will come, it is no use crying out "Investment, investment" as a panacea for any of these problems in backward areas.
I sincerely believe that not enough study has been given to the problem of economic aid and investment. I would offer the comparative example of the E.C.A.F.E. area, the work of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, and compare that with the West Indies. We have there a tragic example; since the end of the war, in the entire economic region of the Far East, despite millions of £s of military aid and millions of £s of economic aid, food production is 14 per cent. per capita less than it was in 1934–38. Despite all this economic aid in South-East Asia and the backward areas, despite all the efforts to uplift their standard of life, while last year the white world had a 6 per cent. share of the world's exports, South-East Asia dropped back by 21 per cent. Comparatively, the Caribbean area is dropping back also.
If investment alone is not enough, what is the answer? Professor MacMahon Ball illustrated this point in his famous book, "The Economics of Nationalism and Communism in East Asia." He said that stability of prices in backward areas, especially in South- 898 East Asia, would be worth five Colombo Plans.
That is why we welcome the fact that the West Indies has been able to reach some market agreements, for example in sugar and bananas, their raw materials. This House must watch this matter very closely. There is no panacea, no ready method for uplifting the human soul, in federation. We must realise that economic aid alone is no guarantee of an increase in social justice. We have a problem here which must receive close study. Do not think that I am pompous enough to pretend that I know—or that the Minister knows—all the answers; but I believe that a close study of the matter must be made.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
Would my hon. Friend forgive me? He has introduced a very important point. It is essential for all these areas that there should be for their produce stability of prices and security of markets. Would my hon. Friend not agree with me that in the Caribbean the greatest security they have had in our lifetime came from the bulk-buying arrangements for their sugar? Is not that the way in which we must ensure their security?
§ Mr. Davies
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend who, when in office, was an excellent Minister. I do not want the House to think that either of us is trying to make a party point. This is an honest effort to arrive at a conclusion. Without making any cheap party point, I believe that the bulk-buying methods that we as the Labour Government introduced gave greater stability, for in that transition period—we are told nowadays of our own economic plateau—these countries had a plateau of security.
Therefore, I beg hon. Members and others who are interested in the economic and financial problem to consider the method of investment. I have seen this myself in South-East Asia and in Malaya. While huge hydro-electricity concerns afford magnificent capital investment for the future, what would happen in the West Indies would be that labour was drawn away from production, thus reducing the quantity of consumer goods. Therefore, while capital investment continues, if we are not to have inflation consumer goods must move in.
We owe it to the Caribbean Federation to make a real study of the problem. 899 It is no use moaning that the British Commonwealth does not have sufficient investment capital. There is plenty of virility in the British Commonwealth of Nations and in this country. Far from having a premium bond scheme to win a thousand pounds or so, why not have a national system of investment by means of which the ordinary man with a small income could raise a grand national pool for investment overseas? The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) smiles at the idea. It may be original, but the man in the street would feel that he was taking a constructive interest in the British Commonwealth and it would give him an opportunity for investment in it. We can find the investment and we should consider these methods.
We should study the problem of capital investment and without using party political language we should consider seriously whether for backward areas such as these a system of bulk buying during the transitional period might not be the answer to stability of prices. Do not let the debate descend to the basis of cheap general election arguments. Stability of prices could only be given by us by a certain amount of bulk buying. Let neither side of the House, therefore, be doctrinaire about this. We want to up-lift the backward people.
It should always be remembered that economic investment or an increase in national income is not bound to increase national dignity. Furnival gives the example of Burma between 1870 and 1940. The national income of Burma increased many times but the standard of life of the peasant fell by 20 per cent. Western investment in backward areas is always to the point of production. Whether in railways, dams or hydro-electric schemes, it is magnificent to the point of production to win the raw material for Western man. Somehow we must change the pattern and co-operate universally.
That is why I hope that ultimately Western and Oriental man will be civilised enough to use the United Nations Organisation as a real international investment factor. Unless we do this, all these schemes of federation in backward areas, in Asia, in the Far East or in the region of the Atlantic Ocean, will be like 900 the man who goes to his wedding with a wedding suit on his back but with death in his heart. This movement cannot live unless we can get a real plan for stability of prices and for primary production in these parts of the world.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his excursions into the East Indies. I would only say, particularly in view of the interjection by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), that he will find that many people in the West Indies would say that the greatest thing ever to have happened to them was the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement but that one would never hear anybody there use the phrase "bulk buying". The advantage of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which was negotiated by my right hon. and gallant Friend who is now Home Secretary, is that it achieved stability both of prices and of quantity without the clumsy and extravagant procedure of Government bulk purchase.
While dealing with economics, perhaps I may say a word on the speeches of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) about grants and aid. There certainly is no Member of the House with his heart more firmly set in the West Indies than myself, and there is nobody who welcomes the Bill with greater enthusiasm. I think, however, that we are inclined to get very emotional when talking about the slums, the shanty towns and the great need for money. To my mind, grants and aid from the British taxpayer are not the most important part of the solution of that problem.
It is all very well to go on saying that we must pour in more money. The hon. Member for Leek contradicted the idea, and I welcome his support, but two of his hon. Friends pursued the idea at great length. The hon. Member for Rugby said that we would have to give these islands much more money if they were to become a self-respecting nation. Surely, one of the essentials of being self-respecting is to pay one's own bills and not to have somebody else paying them? I am the last person in the world who would want to be stingy with my friends in the West Indies, but I think 901 we should keep grants and everything of that kind to a minimum and solve these problems by investment and other business methods.
I should like to make one comment on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Sir D. Gammans), who talked about the effect on the United States of America of what is happening in the West Indies. The effect is a very good one indeed for, with the Federation in existence, the Americans are suddenly coming to the startling realisation that they are now a small country entirely surrounded by British Dominions. That seems to me to be a singularly happy state of affairs and I hope that the point will not be lost on our friends over there.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), in his speech welcoming the Bill, referred to Dominion status. The hon. Member for Salford, West said that he hoped he would live to see it. I would say to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State that if I do not live to see it in the next very few years, I shall be extremely disappointed.
We have heard a good deal today about the great differences and the great complications, the problems of communications and of economics which set great difficulties for the new Federation. I think it is a pity to keep stressing these things. My friends in the West Indies are very concerned in their minds about the great difficulties. To draw a parallel with the background of my native land, the difficulties faced by the West Indies today are nothing compared with the difficulties which Canada, and Australia also, faced at the beginning.
One can fly in four hours from Trinidad to Jamaica, but when the Federation of Canada was set up it took three weeks to go from Toronto to Montreal—by horse; there was often no other way of going in the early days. As for the problems of the differences of the people, the differences of the people in the various islands in the West Indies are really small in comparison with the immense differences which had to be overcome between the British-Canadians and the French-Canadians when their Federation was set up.
As for the problem of economics, I cannot recall that any of the Dominions 902 which grew up in the last century ever had a penny of economic aid from anybody at that time. The whole idea was unheard of. Let us, therefore, not exaggerate the difficulties.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
It is true that in the nineteenth century most of these territories were developed by private capital. Is not the simple fact that we face in our age that private capital is not provided? Therefore, it is generally accepted—this is implicit in Point Four and everything else—that public capital will have to play an important part, particularly in providing the basic services of communications and the rest and in economic development.
§ Mr. Leather
There is a great deal in what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I do not want to get into a long argument about that.
However, where I think the party opposite went wrong—with great respect, where the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly went wrong at the end of war—was in putting public capital where it could not hope to succeed. I am all in favour of bullying the Government, and I do my best to do so, to get every penny out of them for investment in communications, in roads, railways and harbours; but the great mistake of the party opposite was that it tried to put Government investment into productive industry, and Governments always have and always will go astray there. Certainly, the earliest Dominions managed to survive and to arrive at their present powerful nationhood without any economic help from anybody.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) about the importance of stable trade. I hope we are quite clear that we are not going to lose interest in that matter now that the Federation is being set up, and that we are not going to say, "Now that the Federation is set up, let it get on with it," and not worry any more about the citrus agreements and sugar agreements and so on. I hope in particular that my right hon. Friend is keeping in close touch with our mutual right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade about what the Brazilians are trying to do to the banana agreement. Several of us propose to raise that subject in this House regularly and often, 903 as often as we can, until something is done about it. Those are the sort of things that will always be the responsibility of this country, not as an imperial Power, not as a donor of charity, but as a customer, a willing buyer, in a fair market at fair prices.
One of the greatest factors working for the success of Federation in the West Indies lies in the thorough understanding the political leaders of all parties there have of the need of capital and management. One sees no trace there of what was so common in the world ten years ago, and what still exists in some other countries, that arrogant, narrow nationalism, the distrust of any foreigner, or of anybody who has a bit of money.
The Prime Minister of Jamaica said to me when I last said goodbye to him a few weeks ago, "When you get up to New York, tell every American millionaire you find that we want him here in Jamaica." He is a wise man. He knows that is the way to make sure of help for developing his country. It is by attracting those who have capital and managerial and executive ability, encouraging them, instead of persecuting and vilifying them. That is the easy way to raise the standard of living of one's people, and the West Indian politicians, most of whom are close personal friends of mine, have a thorough understanding of that. I could wish that understanding were found more in the party opposite.
§ Mr. Leather
I wish the party opposite understood that. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Trinidad oil?"] I wish the party opposite understood the Trinidad oil situation too, but everything they say about it makes it perfectly clear that they have not a clue.
I now come to make what is probably the first serious criticism in this debate. There are some things—not in the Bill, because the Bill is an immaculate Bill with nothing in it to which one could possibly object to—in the plan for the constitution and in the report of the February conference, which I personally do not like. This will not come as news to my right hon. Friend, because I bullied him about them every day during the conference. I object to the reserved powers in the constitution. I think that 904 ought to be said here, and I think the West Indians ought to know that some of us do object to these reserved powers.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield said that having three officials in the Council without a vote was an improvement on the previous situation. I entirely agree that it is an improvement, but in my opinion it is a great mistake to have them there at all. I think it is also a great mistake to have this wide, unlimited power for the Governor-General to reserve Bills.
What do these things mean? One day there will be a row. That row will come straight back to London. What will happen? Our West Indian friends will come here; there will be many Questions in this House; there will be headlines in the newspapers. And we shall give way. We could not possibly do otherwise.
It seems to me, therefore, that these reserved powers are illusory in the first place. We run all the risks of having a grave difference of opinion with our West Indian friends which would merely dissipate some of the immense good will they have towards us. The degree of good will and loyalty and of responsibility of outlook amongst the West Indian political leaders is unique in the Commonwealth. I wish more of our friends and fellow subjects in Africa and Asia shared it. The only safeguard which is worth having is the good will of the West Indian politicians, and we have got it. I freely acknowledge that my West Indian friends themselves agreed to these safeguards. I told them quite frankly I thought they were wrong to agree. I should not have agreed to them, and I do not agree to them. I think they are wrong from our point of view.
I think this point ought to be registered, because we put ourselves to a needless risk that at some stage in the next few years a difference of opinion will arise into which we shall inevitably be drawn because we have the reserved powers; so that the difference of opinion will immediately become, not a difference of opinion between the West Indians, but a difference of opinion between the West Indians and Britain, and our good will will suffer and be dissipated in this needless way. One has seen this happen once or twice in Africa.
905 Furthermore, by having reserved powers we provide the agitator, the irresponsible local politician, with completely gratuitous ammunition he otherwise would not have. If the powers do not exist, any argument which arises is a purely domestic West Indian political argument. The fact that they do exist, the fact that the Governor-General will reserve a Bill, means he will reserve it only because the Colonial Secretary tells him to. The only reason I can conceive for his reserving is that somebody in London tells him to do so then. The irresponsible local political agitator has a wonderful weapon immediately to hand with which to whack the responsible politicians over the head. He can say to them, "You are just stooges of the people in London." He can say to the people, "Put me in power, and I will get rid of the reserved powers. I will tell those people over in London they cannot do this and they cannot do that."
It seems to me that these powers are a positive menace. They set up risks which can do harm, and they achieve no positive good, because in the remote possibility of our wanting to use them, we should give way, because, I repeat, we could not do anything else.
Many tributes have been paid in this debate to those who have brought about the present happy situation. I would mention three men who have not, I think, been mentioned so far, and who, I believe, when the history books are written about the setting up of this Federation, will be marked down as amongst the servants of the British Colonial Empire who were amongst the real fathers of the West Indies Federation. They are Sir Hubert Rance, Sir Stephen Luke, and Sir Michael Foot. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sir Hugh Foot."] Of course. I beg everyone's pardon. That was a Freudian error the cause of which I cannot quite trace.
Tributes have been paid to our friends the politicians, and I certainly share enthusiasm for them. It is important, however, that those men who are the workers behind the scenes, and the people who do not make public speeches, should have their tribute.
It may be indelicate—but it would not be unusual either in the House or for me, in particular—if I mention that in the very near future my right hon. Friend will have a great and historic appoint- 906 ment to make, that of the first Governor-General of this Federation. May I say purely for myself, though I think that there are others who share my view, that, whatever other considerations may come to mind, if my right hon. Friend looks further than at one or other of the three men whom I have named I shall consider that great injustice will have been done. These men have made a great contribution. They are all universally respected in the West Indies and have more experience than any other individual in the whole of the Colonial Service could possibly have of dealing with the problems in the West Indies.
Finally, the most important facet of this whole matter, and what is to me most exciting, is that here we have for the first time what the British Commonwealth needs more than anything else in the world if it is to survive, that is, a successfully working multi-racial nation. That is the great thing about the West Indies. This is the most completely multi-racial society, where colour barriers whether one is white, black, brown or yellow, mean nothing and where there are millionaires and poor, vice-chancellors of universities, street cleaners, business men, lawyers, doctors, and people of every conceivable kind, living and working and worshipping together.
This is an enormously more important principle than many of us realise in this country. If we do not solve the racial problem there is no possible basis upon which the British Commonwealth can continue to exist at all. It will fold up, and very quickly, with catastrophic results for the people of Britain. As long as we positively encourage colour prejudice, not only in Africa but right here in this country, and as long as we practise colour prejudice we are merely scaling the doom of the British Commonwealth. The most important thing that is happening in the West Indies is that our friends there are proving that the multi-racial state is a real possibility, and it is being done within the framework of the British Commonwealth.
I have made some serious criticisms, I felt the debate was running a grave risk of being a mutual back-slapping session as a result of our being all so happy about this development. I hope that my criticisms have been constructive. I know that my 907 friends in the West Indies will realise that they do not dampen in any way my enthusiasm for this Federation. I hope and pray that the British Caribbean Federation will achieve complete Dominion status and complete control, over its affairs as quickly as possible.
§ 1.34 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
The only reason why I seek to impose myself on the House for a few minutes is that I have never been to the West Indies, though that does not mean that I have not tried to understand the West Indian point of view or that I have not a large number of good friends there. On the only occasion when I visited the Caribbean area, the ship in which I was travelling called in the Dutch West Indies and not in the British West Indies.
Whatever difference of opinion we may have had with the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), I am sure that we agree with his concluding sentences. When the hon. Member entered into the realm of economics in the early part of his speech, I thought that he was missing the substance for the shadow. The important point about the agreements which were entered into with the West Indies territories was that they gave stability to industry in the West Indies, and gave a guarantee to the peasant farmers there that their products would be consumed somewhere in the world and that they would be paid for them. If the hon. Member can assure me that his capitalist friends in the remaining parts of the world will be prepared to undertake two or three things in connection with these agreements, I am not concerned whether they are bulk-buying agreements undertaken by Governments or agreements undertaken by individuals.
§ Mr. Leather
The whole point of my remarks was precisely what the hon. Member has said. They provide these things without the clumsy extravagance of Government bulk purchase. That is the phrase I used.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Member for Somerset, North and the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) complained a good deal that there is instability at present in the West Indies because there is not a guaranteed market for its produce. The hon. Member for Wembley, South, cited Havana cigars as an 908 example. We know perfectly well that over the years from 1951 the West Indies Governments have repeatedly had to make representations to the British Government to endeavour to bring some stability into the West Indian economy and for the products of their agriculture. The hon. Member knows perfectly well that a considerable time elapsed before the agreement dealing with citrus crops was ready.
There are certain prerequisities to the investments which the American millionaire friends of the hon. Member for Somerset, North might make in the West Indies. There must be some guarantee that a fairly substantial proportion of the profits made in the West Indies by private enterprise will be used for improving the standard of living of the people who are the producers. If there is one complaint more than another against capitalism in the past, particularly in some of our Colonial Territories, it is that too high a proportion of the result of productive enterprise has been taken to other parts of the world. I have spent a large part of my life in South Wales, and we know what happened to mining investments in the inter-war years.
§ Mr. Jones
Large numbers of people during the First World War made huge profits in the shipbulding industry, but they did not re-invest those profits in the districts where they made them.
The hon. Member for Hornsey (Sir D. Gammans) was right in saying that we were witnessing this morning the birth of a new nation. We should remember that there have been many notable births in the past, but the people have perished and the ideas have perished because in the early years the new nation has not been properly nurtured. This proposal for a British Caribbean Federation is one of the greatest experiments that the Commonwealth has witnessed, and I hope that it will succeed.
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Somerset, North when he spoke about the early years of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. But there is a difference. There is already a vast population in the West Indies which was not so in the case of Canada, Australia 909 or New Zealand. There are already 3 million people living in those islands, many living on the verge of poverty. Therefore the problem is not quite the same as it was in the early years of exploitation and exploration in those other territories.
Because of those facts, because of the problems of communications for territories which lie in an arc of 1,500 miles from one end to another—I think my geography is sound on this point—we can appreciate the difficult problem of transportation from one island to another. Those two factors themselves make this experiment all the more exciting.
The hon. Member for Hornsey was right to point out that if this experiment fails there will be no going back on our tracks, and that what may emerge is something so foreign to our way of life that we cannot contemplate it. Therefore, we must take precautions in the early stages so that the experiment will succeed.
This brings me to the point which I want specially to mention. The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs will remember that recently I have had some exchanges with him about the absence of provision for compulsory education in a number of islands in the Caribbean. The one thing more than any other which is likely to help this experiment to succeed will be if we can inculcate into the minds of the common people of the West Indies the consequences of failure. That can only be done if we can expand as rapidly as possible the provision of elementary education.
I am not suggesting that it is possible to do that from London or from the Colonial Office. That must largely be the responsibility of the people on the spot, but they need all the encouragement which it is possible to give them. The right hon. Gentleman told us this morning that we are already guaranteeing a sum of about £566,000, which is the difference between the income and the expenditure of the territories for the current year. But ought we not to be thinking in terms of an expanded expenditure? Ought we not to be thinking in terms of a developing education? Ought we not to be thinking in terms of developing social services? Ought we not to be thinking in terms of encouraging a higher standard of living 910 for the common people of these territories?
The possibility that this experiment might fail seems to me to be an added reason why we should do everything possible to make it succeed. I disagree with the statement of the hon. Member for Somerset, North that when we give grants to territories we remove self-respect. We have not removed self-respect in this country by establishing a National Health Service. There is no loss of self-respect of the part of the ordinary Briton in 1956; indeed, there is more self-respect now, because he knows that we have so ordered our affairs that when ill-health falls upon a poor family in this community, it is guaranteed the best possible medical service. To give to the people of the West Indies that prospect in the not too distant future is not to take away their self-respect but to encourage them to go ahead in the belief that, as the years roll by, they can, by a developed economy, help themselves to be self-sustaining.
Therefore, I welcome this exciting experiment. I hope that it will succeed, but it will only do so if in its early years we carefully nurture it and help it along its way to the maximum possible extent.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) too far, but I must refer briefly, in supplementation of what my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) said, to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. I do this only for the reason that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have such strange ideas about it. In fact, it gives a guaranteed market, and it is to that Agreement more than to any other single economic factor that the West Indies look for their present comparative prosperity.
§ Mr. D. Jones
But the hon. Gentleman will recognise that it became obligatory on the part of the Government to introduce statutory regulations to make that possible. The Agreement could not have been entered into by private enterprise without the assistance of the Government.
§ Mr. Fisher
I do not feel called upon to answer that interruption. The Minister who signed that Agreement was my right hon. and gallant Friend the present Home 911 Secretary as Minister of Food, and it was much to his credit that he made such an excellent Agreement. As to the point about cigars, I fully agree with what the hon. Gentleman said in that respect, but it is a very small factor economically in the life of the West Indies, confined entirely to Jamaica, and not in any way comparable with the far larger issue of sugar.
This is merely an enabling Bill and I do not know whether it is strictly necessary. However, I welcome it because it gives us the opportunity to debate the West Indies in this House, which comes all too seldom. The Bill is not a controversial one in any sense; indeed, it fulfils a wish and a prospect for which both parties in this House have long worked. The unanimity with which we can bless its Second Reading today should not, however, lead us to suppose that it has been easy to achieve. Federations are always difficult to achieve. They are attractive in theory but, in practice, they bristle with complications, and inevitably with local conflicts and difficulties. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) himself said, the geographical factor has not been one of the easiest to overcome.
When I was in the West Indies last year, I was surprised at the fact, which I think many people in this country do not realise, that the distance from Port of Spain in Trinidad to Kingston in Jamaica is over 1,000 miles, and I think that the British West Indian Airways has done a great deal to improve communications. In fact, it has been an important factor in assisting the advance towards federation. There remain the inevitable geographical difficulties, of course, but I think that personal contacts, the visits of politicians, business men and even private individuals, which have been made possible by British West Indian Airways, have contributed largely towards federation.
Like other hon. Members, I want to pay a tribute to the Colonial Office and to the successive Colonial Secretaries, from Colonel Oliver Stanley in 1945 to my right hon. Friend 11 years later, and including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield. They deserve our congratulations on the patient negotiations which they have each in turn 912 undertaken, and on their steady support of the concept of Federation. I think also that the West Indian leaders have shown admirable restraint and statesmanship in the way they have approached this matter. They have had to make sacrifices of local political interests of their own in order to further the wider Federal Union about which we are talking today.
I think there has been—and I should like to pay this tribute, too—a rather remarkable accession of political maturity and judgment in the West Indies during the last decade since the introduction of adult suffrage. It has been a remarkable thing, and it is still developing, certainly with the passage of every year, and I was going to say almost with the passage of every month, because things change very quickly in the Caribbean and one is quickly out of date and out of touch with the rapid changes which take place.
The political situation there is fascinating, because almost more than anywhere else in the world politics in the Caribbean depend tremendously upon personalities and, therefore, differ very widely in each Colony. But there is a pattern of political evolution which, I think, is common to almost every territory, and to those of us who have visited those beautiful islands it is tremendously encouraging to find that the granting of political responsibility and the growth of self-government arc creating a great sense of responsibility among the local political leaders.
Each Colony is different because the pace of the advance towards self-government has been somewhat different, but even in the less advanced Colonies responsible leaders are emerging, and in the more advanced Colonies the leaders are developing into mature and experienced statesmen of international calibre. A very good example is the case of our old friend Sir Alexander Bustamente who, I think I am right in saying—I hope he will forgive me if I am wrong—not much more than ten years ago was gaoled by the British as a seditious agitator and now describes himself as an ardent Imperialist. It is remarkable that that can happen in ten years.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
There is a much more conspicuous case than that. One of the Prime Ministers 913 attending the present conference spent seven years in prison.
§ Mr. Fisher
I am talking about the West Indies. I think I will confine myself to this Bill. There are other cases. There are Mr. Grantley Adams of Barbados, and Mr. Gomes of Trinidad; they are statesmen of mature judgment and experience. And no one who has met Mr. Manley of Jamaica would deny his charm and skill, his political sophistification, if I may so put it, and his high intellectual stature. These are big men by any international standard, and they have done a tremendous amount for the Caribbean.
Only in British Guiana, which has not been much mentioned today, has there been a reverse. Only there has the pattern of political evolution been changed. I think it was pure bad luck that this was so in British Guiana. In the other Colonies, the political leaders who have emerged have, in fact, with the grant of universal suffrage, been Left Wing agitators, but they have been Left Wing agitators who could learn by experience and become responsible and democratic political leaders. In British Guiana the pattern is different, because by sheer ill-chance the political agitator, the Left wing leader there, happened to be a Communist. I think it was pure bad luck.
I have talked to Dr. and Mrs. Jagan personally. They were Communists in 1953 and, quite honestly, they are Communists today. Certainly Mrs. Jagan does not attempt to deny it. I hope I am not introducing a controversial note into this harmonious debate, but I think the Government were fully justified in suspending the constitution in 1953. I do not think any British Government could have worked with the Jagans. Furthermore, one thing which was made clear to me when I was there last summer was that the leaders of West Indian opinion in the other Caribbean Colonies also would not work with the Jagans. But the people in British Guiana are not Communists. They are no more Communists than we are. So I am sure that the setback there will only be temporary and that British Guiana like the other Colonies, will soon be able to resume her advance towards self-government. There are indications that more moderate men are now emerging 914 as alternatives to the Jagans, and I feel reasonably optimistic myself about the political future of British Guiana.
Naturally, like other hon. Members, I am sorry that British Guiana has not been able to enter into federation yet, but there is some evidence that her intention to stay out is neither final nor irrevocable. I think that she will come in, if only because it will become increasingly clear that it will be in her own interests to do so, as well as in the interests of the other Caribbean Colonies.
There are certainly more Guianese in favour of Federation than I expected to find there. But I hope there will be no attempt to rush them in. This sort of issue should not be decided by a nominated Government. I think that is extremely important. It should be freely chosen by the elected representatives of the people. That is the best and the only method by which British Guiana can enter federation—the best method not only from the point of view of British Guiana but from the point of view also of Federation.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is it the hon. Gentleman's argument that if one does not like the people who are elected, one is justified in suspending the constitution?
§ Mr. Fisher
No, but I do not see why we should have to tolerate and work with Communists in the British Empire—and the West Indian leaders in the other Colonies do not disagree with me.
§ Mr. Fisher
I do not think they were elected by Communists. I think they were elected by people who were not perhaps highly educated politically. They were elected as Left wing leaders who would alleviate the anxieties and conditions of some of the people in these Colonies. The people were fooled when they voted for Communists.
§ Mr. Fisher
I agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am afraid I have been led astray from the main theme of my argument.
915 I wanted to put in one caveat, and that is with reference to the question of the elections in British Guiana when they take place—I suppose next year, and possibly about the autumn of next year. I hope that federation itself will not be the main issue in those first elections. I think it would be too soon. These people are not highly educated politically. It would be confusing to them. I would certainly prefer the first elections in British Guiana to be on a straight issue—I put this to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)—of democracy versus Communism. Let them decide that as a straight issue. Then later, the federation matter can be canvassed, and possibly in the second election in the Colony federation can be the issue.
§ Mr. Hughes
Suppose the Communists, or those who are called Communists, were elected again. Would the hon. Gentleman again suspend the Constitution?
§ Mr. Fisher
My hope is that when the matter is put to them as a straight issue, the people will not vote for Communism. I believe they will not.
§ Mr. Fisher
Yes, we must leave it, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am in full agreement with you.
I am going right away from British Guiana because the hon. Member for South Ayrshire cannot resist interrupting me about it. In the Caribbean as a whole, I believe—and other hon. Members have expressed the same opinion—federation is a tremendous step forward. It is, in fact, the logical final step towards independence and Dominion status. I hope—and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North agrees—that Dominion status will not be delayed too long, because when a development of this sort is certain and is bound to come, it is much better to give it freely a little too soon, than to have to grant it a trifle reluctantly a little too late.
We have got to face the fact that there are great difficulties still in this matter. There are still many unresolved problems. The capital, for instance, has yet to be chosen. I have my own views, and I expect many others have, as to where it 916 should be, but I think it wiser not to express them. A special Commission is sitting trying to decide between suitable alternative sites, and the decision must lie with the West Indies. It would be wrong for us in this House to attempt to influence that decision in any way.
Then there is the appointment—my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North referred to this, and his words were very wise—of the first Governor-General. It is a tremendously important appointment, and a great deal will depend on the Governor-General's personality and his wisdom in helping and guiding local leaders through all the pitfalls and problems which will inevitably face them. My hon. Friend was right when he suggested that the Governor-General should be a man of wide political experience and judgment and certainly not a figurehead. I am sorry that the Federation Conference held here in February decided that no one might serve both in the Federal Government and in the Government of his own Colony.
That is a point which has been taken up once in this debate, but not developed. It is a provision which will deprive the Federation of its own most able leaders, or of many of them, at the most crucial initial stage of its development. Although the quality of West Indian political leaders is, as I said, very high, no one will deny that they are rather thin on the ground numerically, particularly in the smaller Colonies. It was the West Indians who made that decision, and I am not, of course, blaming Her Majesty's Government, but it may turn out to have been a mistaken decision.
There are other matters into which I should not go, because I am in danger of overruning my time. It will be necessary for the Federation to establish its own security forces. The Federation will have to work for and achieve its own financial independence as soon as it can. Freedom of movement in the Federation will have to come about and many other difficult problems still await us. But with this Bill we are well on the road to unity, cohesion and a really genuine self-government in the Caribbean. Federation is a natural, necessary and inevitable milestone on this road. Its establishment will create a new nation in the British Commonwealth and, indeed, in the Western world, whose future will be important and significant. I think that 917 all of those who have contributed, in however small a way, in the West Indies or at Westminster, can be proud that this federation is about to come into being. We all wish it every success and all of us, particularly those who have been there, will do everything in our power to help it in every way.
§ 2.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Reeves (Greenwich)
I have listened with very great interest to the speeches which have been made today on this great concept of West Indian federation. I can remember as a young man having a long talk with the late Oliver Stanley on the problems of the British Colonies, and I could not help but be impressed with the progressive views which he held when he was a very young man. As the years passed, he made his contributions towards dealing with these interesting problems and it was right that the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs should pay tribute to his work. The right hon. Gentleman was also fully justified in paying tribute to the consistent efforts of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) in colonial affairs. Many years before the war my right hon. Friend was making himself acquainted with our colonial problems, and he became a master of the issues confronting this country, even in those days.
The Bill represents a good deal of intimate co-operation between the British Government and the Governments of the West Indies. It is an agreed Bill, agreed by both sides of the House and by the countries of the West Indies, which agree even with the reserve powers to which some of us have objected from time to time. I remember Mr. Norman Manley, the Chief Minister of Jamaica, once saying that the extraordinary thing about this development was that people were being given more self-government than they were demanding at the time. Even so, I think that the reserve powers have been a mistake, and I agree with the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) that that is an aspect which rather spoils the whole conception.
The Federation has many aspects perhaps unequalled by any other part of the Commonwealth. The hon. Member for Somerset, North said that it was a multi-racial society almost unique in history. When the Federation is established, it will have powerful repercussions on 918 other societies in various parts of the world. I am sure that it will have its effect upon African populations, who will look upon it as a way in which the white races and the coloured races should be associated in the great problems of Government. Today we have seen history in the making. We may not be able to see all its implications, but I am sure that as the years pass men and women will say that in this Bill we were wise in our day and generation.
Modern transport has made federation possible. But for the aeroplane, it would have been foolish to have mooted it. No one would have dreamt of putting forward such a proposal without the aeroplane, and the airways of the British West Indies have made federation possible. When the Parliamentary delegation was in the West Indies last year, we hopped from island to island with perfect ease, and I once counted nineteen different aeroplanes which were used. It has been said that that is a very expensive way of transport, and of course that is so. Other means must be employed, but on the other hand it has made federation—so necessary in that area—not only a possibility but capable of realisation.
Unfortunately, the more one sees of the area, the more one realises how in years gone by it has been starved of capital investment. We do not want to complain about the policies of past Governments, or of past investors, but it is true—one sees it on every hand—that capital investment in the area has been hopelessly neglected. Today large sums of money will have to be spent to make up for the deficiencies in the past. With their economic development scheme, the Jamaican Government are endeavouring to make up for the deficiencies, but the retardation caused by lack of investment in the past has made the problem as severe as it could be.
I noticed when I was there with the Parliamentary Delegation, especially in British Honduras, the need for capital investment. So far as capital investment is concerned it is almost a virgin area. Vast areas of the territory are scrub and swamp. Many millions of pounds will have to be invested if it is to be made a viable area. The cry will be for more and more capital investment, and I hope 919 that the British Government will concern themselves with that matter. The people are poverty stricke—make no mistake about that. They are as poor as they can be. The standard of living in British Honduras is exceedingly low, as is mentioned in the Report which the delegation prepared upon its return, and it will remain so unless large sums of money are pumped into the area.
The great mahogany forests of British Honduras have been depleted. Unfortunately, there has been very little re-afforestation in the past. That alone has made the people almost vicious towards the British Government and our people. When we were there the people told us that we had literally robbed them of their vast resources. It is true that we are doing a big job in trying to make up for those past losses—we saw evidences of that wherever we went—but an enormous job remains to be done.
The people of that area look to this country for assistance because they see us enjoying a standard of living which is incomparably higher than theirs. They want a national health service. We went into areas which had very limited hospital services, and where many miles had to be travelled before people could get to hospital and receive qualified treatment.
Their educational system is about as primitive as it can be in the modern world. We discovered that in vast areas practically the only educational authorities were religious bodies. Although those areas are striving with might and main to build up a system of universal compulsory elementary education, a secondary and a good technical educational system is completely beyond their resources, and will remain so for many years to come. We therefore have very grave responsibilities in that area, not only today, but in the years to come. We must help the people there to make up those deficiencies.
There are, however, some very bright lights in the area. The University College of the West Indies is a shining example of co-operative effort by all concerned—the British Government and the various islands of the West Indies—to build up a university system of education. The job is being done very well, and the university hospital is one 920 of the most interesting experiments that I have ever seen. I was thrilled by the keenness of all concerned to build up not only the University College but also its hospital section. There it is, nestling in the valley, overlooked by the Blue Mountains—a wonderful setting in a wonderful island; the result of co-operation between the island and the British Government. If there is anything which is a tribute to our joint association it is that university.
Various parts of the area are undertaking some very remarkable educational experiments. We visited various institutes which, in days gone by, had been sponsored by means of various colonial development and welfare funds. In one case we heard that a million young coffee trees had been distributed to the farmers free of charge, and that they were practically immune from all the terrible diseases which attack the coffee plant. That scheme is being undertaken by a group of first-class specialists, who are as keen on their work as one can imagine. I was very much impressed.
Many problems face the West Indies, including the terrible one of unemployment. There are times in the year when as many as 20 per cent. of the people are without work. Even in Jamaica, which is the most highly developed part of the area, that terrible problem is experienced. It arises because of the nature of their work. The planters can employ people only for a certain number of months during each year, and for the remainder of the year those employees must try to find alternative work.
What is needed is the development of secondary industries. It should be made possible for them to make things for themselves. I visited co-operative craft factories where the workers were beginning to make good that deficiency, but that work is in its infancy. It is essential that the people should cease to be dependent upon imports which they can make themselves if the capital is forth-coming. Factories need to be established all over the area, to make goods which the people use day by day, such as boots, shoes and clothing, as well as food.
They import an enomous amount of tinned food. I visited co-operative stores where I saw tins of goods that we would not dream of stocking over here, because their contents come fresh from our own 921 fields. The present situation makes it almost impossible for the economy of the area to be viable.
On one occasion I was speaking to one of their leading politicians, who had talked about their leaving the Empire. I said, "Well, do you think that you would find friends elsewhere?" He said, "Oh, you will always look after us, because, after all is said and done, we are one of your children". I said, "Yes, but there must be some sort of reciprocity between child and parent". That is the situation. They belong to us; they are our children. We must not forget the history of the area. For three hundred years it has been part and parcel of the British system. The people went to the area as slaves. Men like Wilberforce fought for the abolition of slavery, but in some respects it has remained ever since.
If the Bill means that we will go forward in a great co-operative effort to make the West Indies another example of British genius, I am sure that the repercussions will be felt all over the world. It will be regarded as an example of our genius, not only for granting self-government when it is proper to do so, but also for furthering the inter-relations of mankind, especially in economic affairs.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
Having listened to all the speeches in the debate, I find it quite impossible not to realise that the significance of the Bill is in inverse ratio to its size. I shall make a rather disjointed speech. I had hoped to speak for a quarter of an hour, but I intend to cut that time by half.
I want to draw attention to the fact that a re-reading of the Report of the Royal Commission of 1939, to which the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones) referred, reminds one of the very considerable economic and social progress which has been made in the Caribbean area in the last few decades, going back as far as 1922, which I believe was the year when the British Government first accepted the principle of federation. The development of that principle has been in the minds of hon. Members in all parties since then. In spite of the colossal progress which has to be made in the future, that which has already been made has been steady, 922 though unspectacular, and all unthinking critics of colonialism would do well to study that progress before they open their mouths again.
Almost every right hon. and hon. Member who has spoken has drawn attention to some of the snags which are likely to arise. I do not wish to harp on them at undue length, but we all agree that those snags or problems will be overcome only by the broadminded far-seeing statesmanship of the West Indian political leaders themselves, working in co-operation.
On the subject of new capital I will say only that in my opinion the new capital which is so urgently needed to develop agriculture and industry in the area must come from public sources, and from private British and foreign sources. It is because I hold that view that I was one of those who, right from the beginning, welcomed the Trinidad oil deal.
Some of the ideals which this Federation seeks to achieve will be far from easy of attainment. For example, paragraph 7 of the Report by the Conference on West Indian Federation speaks of the declared common intention:… that there should he the greatest possible freedom of movement for persons and goods within the Federation.That is something which all those who have studied the problems in the West Indies realise will be very hard indeed to achieve. Indeed, some important reservations have already been made on the subject.
The question of communications has been mentioned by several hon. Members. We all know what great distances are involved. Various examples have been given. The distance from Belize to Georgetown is as much as 2,000 miles and it is 1,400 or 1,500 miles from the Cayman Islands to Trinidad. We all know that inadequate sea and air transport has been one of the main factors of the past parochial outlook which has prevailed in the West Indies. That is something which is gradually being dissipated, but I am not at all happy about the future of sea and air transport.
I have not got the exact figures, but my recollection is that British West Indian Airways has consistently lost money. I have an idea that during the last year 923 or eighteen months it has lost even more money than over any similar period in the past. The reasons for that are not very far to seek. I am not apportioning any blame, but I draw attention to the fact that cheap sea and air transport is absolutely vital for the development of the new Federation.
I should like to know, though I do not suppose that the Minister will be able to tell us today, what plans B.O.A.C. has for the development of cheap air transport, and whether the Corporation has the right type of planes. Amphibian Grumman Goose aircraft were flown in some areas in the Windwards but I believe that they have been replaced by land planes—I think by Herons. Might not the Handley-Page Herald, with a range of about 1,000 miles, and which carries freight or passengers equally well, be the ideal aircraft for this kind of inter-island hopping? It is an inexpensive aircraft, and it would be interesting to know whether B.O.A.C. has considered using it for future operations.
The subject of cheaper communications raises an extremely knotty problem. It may be that for the next few years it will be impossible to make air services pay in the West Indies. Although we naturally wish to see B.O.A.C. operating at a profit, we must ask ourselves whether it will not have to take the rough with the smooth in certain instances, and be prepared to sustain a quite considerable loss in expanding facilities in the West Indies. I wish to touch briefly on the question of the future of British Guiana and British Honduras. There is little that I wish to add to what has been said. I welcome the decision of the Governor of British Guiana last April, when he made it perfectly clear that the possible junction of British Guiana with the Federation would have to depend on further constitutional advances, and presumably upon an elected majority in that country. I am sure that that was a right decision.
Equally, I am glad to know that staff for the new federal civil service can be drawn from both British Guiana and British Honduras, although those territories have not yet decided to join the Federation. That will mean that those concerned will have an inside knowledge of the working of the Federation, and 924 thus they will be in a better position to judge whether to join. I am one of those who hope that they will both decide to join. I think that we all share that view.
Because most of the units in this Federation are singly non-viable, the Bill provides the only sensible solution and the only possible alternative to continued colonial status or standstill, which would involve a great deal of frustration. Like other hon. Members, I very much hope that the time is not far distant when the new Federation will achieve Dominion status. Among many reasons which give me hope that this will be the eventual outcome is the quite special and very real affection in which the Royal Family is held in many West Indian islands. That is undoubtedly an important factor of this situation.
Naturally, we hope that it will not be too long before the new Federation becomes a full member of the United Nations. It is our hope, therefore, that through political federation, loose and flexible in the first instance, but ever closer as experience is gained, there will grow up economic and social co-operation which will benefit the whole area for the greater prosperity and happiness of all the British people who live there. I am confident that in giving the Bill a Second Reading we are moving along the right road, and I know that everyone in this House will watch the progress of the Federation with real interest, with a strong desire to give all the help that we possibly can, and with genuine understanding.
§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
One could not listen to the debate without realising that this is a great day. It is a great day for the people of the West Indies, for us here in the United Kingdom and for the Commonwealth as a whole. The Bill is the culmination of a very long period of painstaking and patient effort in which the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), the late Mr. Oliver Stanley, Lord Chandos and my right hon. Friend the present Colonial Secretary have all played a distinguished and memorable part.
This is no sudden decision. When I was in the West Indies five years ago a 925 distinguished Barbadian said to me, with true English empiricism, "Federation is inevitable; it is coming; it may take five years or it may take ten, but it has got to grow naturally." One reason why we may feel confident that this experiment will be a success is because it is no sudden development. The idea has grown steadily and surely through the years.
History plays strange tricks with people. In the West Indies, it has brought within the circle of the Crown a wide variety of extremely interesting and picturesque islands in a wide variety of ways; some conquered, some settled and some acquired by treaty; all of them beautiful in nature but poor in resources. The saddest trick of all is that today 3½million people are living in this collection of small islands extremely vulnerable economically and widely separated by lack of communications. I think it true to say that the great Canadian Dominion would not exist but for the Canadian Pacific Railway. I suggest also that, but for the development of air communications in the last few years, we should not be discussing this Bill today. Unless attention is given to the need, the continuing need, to develop and improve communications between the constituent parts of the new Federation, it will suffer grave disadvantage.
Considering the chequered history and vicissitudes of the British Caribbean, the fact that we are discussing this Bill at all is a tremendous tribute to the quality of the West Indian people themselves and their leaders. I have been particularly interested in the economic problems of Colonial Territories for a long time. I have always believed that unless one provides a viable economic base, without which it is impossible to provide decent social services, it is not much use talking in terms of constitutional development. These are the two sides of the same medal.
I have always been attracted to the federation proposal, because if units which are necessarily competitive with each other—they all produce the same sort of agricultural products—come together they are much more likely to attract the capital necesary for their essential development. In the past, the tragedy of the West Indies has been too great a dependence on too few agricul- 926 tural products. It has not only been a case of having all their eggs in one basket, but of having too few eggs.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) about the vulnerability of the economy. It was a little unnecessary for the hon. Gentleman, however, to voice the fear that if foreign capital came into the West Indies too much in the way of profits might be taken out. After all, the West Indian Governments have unofficial majorities in their Legislatures now, and once they have a Federal Government they will have the means of ensuring the proper utilisation of their resources. But against raising from industry by way of taxation appropriate revenue, they will have to balance the desirability of attracting as much capital as possible into their new industries.
I welcome this experiment, because it gives a better chance of attracting capital and thereby of arresting the alarming drift away from the islands of the best of the young men. When I was in New York in March, I learned that the British-born West Indians constitute only 6 per cent. of the negro population in that great city. Yet they provide no less than one-third of the professional negro folk in New York and between one-third and a quarter of the skilled artisans. One finds West Indians playing an active part in the social, political and cultural life of New York. Why is that? It is because these are the elite, who have not found it possible within the West Indies to express that which lies within them, and so they have emigrated. It is the best who go.
Today all of us are conscious of the fact that every week sees a fresh wave of immigrants arriving in this country from the West Indies. What I have said about those in New York applies equally to those who come here. One cannot fail to be struck by the cheerfulness, the intelligence and indeed the charm of a good many of those who come to this country to find jobs. But, frankly, they should not be here. They should be in their own islands helping to build up a new and better West Indies. I believe that the best justification for this Measure is the chance which it gives for the West Indian leaders to create confidence in the region, attract capital, develop their 927 slender resources and so keep more of their better people back home. One must bear in mind that the trickle of West Indian immigrants after the war, which no one noticed at first, has now become a flood. I am told that 26,000 came here last year and in the first half of this year no less than 14,000 or 15,000 have arrived. This is a serious situation for us because of housing difficulties, but I suggest that it is even more serious for the West Indies.
I welcome this Bill also, because it brings in to being a new nation. My hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) in a most eloquent speech, struck absolutely the right note when he said that this will be the first multi-racial nation to join the inner circle of the Commonwealth self-governing states. That is a fact of enormous importance in this divided world, riddled as it is with racial tension and suspicion. Undoubtedly the new West Indian Federation will add to the rich diversity of the Commonwealth and bring new lustre to our family of nations.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) because he put his finger on a point which persuades me to give a welcome to the proposed Caribbean Federation. The hon. Gentleman referred to the drift from the West Indies which has now become a flood. Many West Indians have come to this country, quite a number of them to my constituency. The over-riding reason for that drift is economic. I am hopeful that this Federation will improve the economic prospects of the West Indies so that it will not be necessary for this immigration to continue.
When referring to the contribution made by West Indians to the life of New York, the hon. Member for Essex, South-East did not mention that the United States now makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for immigration from the West Indies, such as occurred before the war, to take place. For that reason the stream which formally went westward from the West Indies has been diverted to an easterly direction, and so the emigrants come to this country. I should be out of order were I to go into too much detail about the recent econo- 928 mic developments in Trinidad. I hope, however, that one consequence of recent proposals which have been brought to our notice will be so to improve the economic situation there as to make Trinidad more prosperous.
I hope that one of the direct results of this Federation will be to promote complete freedom between the islands constituting the Federation. For some time past it has been extremely difficult for anyone wishing to leave Jamaica to go to Trinidad and settle there because the Government of Trinidad did not wish to import unemployed people from other parts of the West Indies.
I hope that as a result of this Federation there will be complete freedom of movement of population between the different islands of the West Indies, so that if one develops economically more rapidly than another it will be able to absorb the surplus population of islands like Jamaica and other places where people have not the opportunity of earning a livelihood. I am glad to associate myself with all those hon. Members who have wished the Federation well.
§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Hare
With the permission of the House, I should like to say a few words about what I think has been a most interesting and genuinely first-class debate. This is a Friday, but the quality of the speeches this afternoon has been quite exceptional. I should particularly like to mention the contributions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) and Hornsey (Sir D. Gammans), and to congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) on two extremely useful speeches. So many other people made invaluable contributions, like my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir R. Robinson) and others, that I feel it almost invidious to mention them all by name.
I should like to deal with one or two of the direct questions put to me. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Creech Jones), asked me three questions. What will be the relationship between the unit Governments and the Secretary of State? What will be the relationship between the Governor-General and the Governments of the units? And what 929 reserve powers will be placed in the hands of the Governor-General? The Secretary of State for the Colonies will in fact retain the same constitutional arrangement with the unit Governments as he has at present. The Federal Governor-General will not take away the Secretary of State's responsibility within the field allotted to the Governors of the unit territories. It is hoped that the Federal Government will play an important part in facilitating the co-ordination of unit Government policies.
So far as the reserve powers are concerned—and on that my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North was at variance with me and my right hon. Friend—these powers are that the Governor-General shall have discretion in the matter of consenting to Bills or reserving them for Her Majesty's assent. It is, therefore, very much the same arrangement as exists in the advanced constitutions in the Colonies. Her Majesty's Government will, of course, retain special responsibilities in the West Indies for defence and external affairs, and will also be responsible for giving a large grant-in-aid. I think that if we have these responsibilities we must have some powers. I would point out to hon. Members opposite and to my hon. Friends that these powers have been assented to very readily by the leaders of the West Indian countries themselves.
There has been considerable interest in the subject of investment, which was dealt with by the hon. Member for Rugby, and by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) and the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). Of course, investment is important, but we must keep a sense of proportion. Investment, in fact, will depend on the ability of this country to earn a surplus. That is a basic fact of life which we have to face. Therefore, I do not think that we can talk in terms of hoping to pour limitless sums of money into various projects within the Commonwealth and Empire or elsewhere, however much we may wish to do so.
§ Mr. J. Johnson
Lord Chandos always said that we could not invest a deficit. While we can give loans to Libya and many other non-Imperial countries—we do not object to that—I hope that we shall be able to give a little more aid to 930 our own people inside the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Hare
I do not think that anyone should denigrate the aid that we are already giving. Although I indicated that grants-in-aid to the Colonial Territories in the West Indies amounted this year to £560,000, I think the House should know that since April, 1946, the total direct aid given by this country to the West Indies has been £55 million—a very considerable sum of money—which includes colonial welfare, grants in aid for administration and grants for specific purposes; some £10 million of this sum was given in hurricane aid, and there was a very ready response by the people of this country when the disaster faced some of these West Indian Islands.
I think that several hon. Members had in mind the question of how could we do more to encourage trade. That was mentioned by the hon. Member for Blackpool, South and the hon. Member for Wembly, South (Mr. Russell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Somerset, North. We are, in fact, doing a great deal to assist trade in the West Indian islands. First and most important are the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement safeguards which safeguard the main crop and industry of the area as a whole. This is by and large the main industry of the West Indies. We have, as has also been pointed out, agreed detailed schemes with West Indian Governments to safeguard the banana and citrus industries, which are the two other main industries. Those are very substantial contributions to the sort of stability for which I think the hon. Member for Leek was asking.
I should like also to mention the fact, which I am sure will be noticed in the West Indies, that on both sides of the House there seems to be a universal desire that British Honduras and British Guiana should one day, in the not too-far-distant future, find themselves within this new Federation. Equally, I think both sides of the House showed responsibility in saying that it would be no good trying to push these territories in, until they were absolutely certain that it was the right course for them to pursue.
I feel very honoured at having had the privilege of moving the Second Reading of this Bill, and also of being allowed the last word in this debate. I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for 931 Blackpool, South took up the reference which I made to Oliver Stanley. I think that those people—some living and some not living—who, in their various spheres of life, whether politicians in this country, politicians from the West Indies, or civil servants who have helped to shape this idea which is now about to become practical, would have been proud to listen to what has been said in this debate today.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Barber.]
§ Committee upon Monday next.