HC Deb 30 March 1961 vol 637 cc1595-615

3.15 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

At the beginning of this short Adjournment debate, I should like to make it clear that I have no property in Kenya and that, however rosy a picture my hon. Friend paints in winding up this debate, I have no intention of investing in that country, nor have I any close relatives there. However, I have friends of all three races in Kenya. This afternoon I wish to concentrate my remarks on the future of the British farming community in that area.

Exactly one year ago I was in Kenya on a trip that took me briefly to the Belgian Congo and also to all the British territories that bordered on the then Belgian Congo. I was deeply interested in the possible future of that country, and I discussed this problem with knowledgeable men wherever I went. Soon after my return I stated in public, as I have often done in private, that tens of thousands of Africans would die before the end of 1960 as a result of political upheaval in the Congo.

It is interesting to note that the Belgian Embassy sent an official letter to the Conservative Central Office when I made this statement, saying it was regrettable that I did not know what I was talking about. I do not mention this incident to try to prove that I was right and to show that the Belgian officials were tragically wrong. I do it to make plain that I do not speak lightly or frivolously when I say that Kenya contains all the ingredients of another and even bloodier Congo. The principal ingredients would remain in Kenya even if the entire British community there were spirited away overnight.

What are these ingredients? First, there is the strong feeling of tribalism—of tribal separatism. The flame of tribalism seems to flicker and splutter at times. I welcome the fact that at the last election Mr. Mboya, standing in Nairobi, was elected, although he is a Luo, by an overwhelmingly Kikuyu electorate. But the separatist influence is strong, and any British statesman who ignores the patchwork problems of tribalism will, if I may paraphrase a current expression, be too stupid by half.

Then there is the shortage of trained Africans in responsible positions. We can look with pride at the training given to Africans in responsible positions in West Africa. The position of Kenya is not comparable to that of West Africa, but bears a closer resemblance to the position in the Belgian Congo just before independence and chaos.

It is true that there is an equal short age of trained Africans for responsible positions in Tanganyika at the moment, but the outlook is infinitely better there than in Kenya. In Kenya, unlike Tanganyika, we have a generation of political leaders who believe that extreme and inflammatory statements are the key to success. I have no hesitation in saying that the British farming community in Kenya lives at the moment in a cauldron that is bubbling and could soon boil over.

We must, therefore, consider our obligations to that community. Here we must take note of the fact that I am talking about farmers. In Kenya a merchant who sells cars, whisky, tractors or tooth brushes, has much of his capital tied up in goods which, if the worst came to the worst, could be transported elsewhere. The lawyer, the doctor and the teacher provide services which are of value to all communities, and if they wish to move they can take their expertise and knowledge with them. The civil servants have their pension and compensation scheme. But the British farmer has his capital invested in property which cannot be moved and which is a bone of bitter political contention.

The Colonial Office is fond of repeating the doctrine laid down in the recent Royal Commission which considered the problem of land in East Africa—that all land in that area must be treated as an economic asset. The fact is that in Kenya, as elsewhere, economic doctrine plays second fiddle to political doctrine. Any British statesman who does not recognise the fact that many Africans covet the land now owned by British farmers is, once again, too stupid by half.

What is our obligation to the British farming community in Kenya? First, through ex-Service resettlement schemes and Government sponsored farm development programmes, a sizeable proportion of the community was directly encouraged to go to Kenya. Secondly, we have had various statements by responsible British Ministers declaring that we would create a society in which the community could maintain its existence. We need go no further back than the 22nd April, 1959, when Viscount Boyd, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, replied to another Adjournment debate. Discussing the conditions in which we should eventually be able to hand over Kenya to full independence with a good conscience, he said: What are those conditions? First, there must be in the territory as a whole a sufficient understanding of parliamentary institutions, and sufficient sense of responsibility in public affairs, to hold out a reasonable prospect that parliamentary institutions, representative of the people, will produce responsible government and not chaos or dictatorship. Self-government, I think we would all agree, is but a mockery if it is purchased at the expense of personal freedom. Secondly, there must have been established a sufficient measure of understanding and co-operation between the various communities who have made their homes in Kenya to ensure mutual tolerance and acceptance by all of the right of each to remain in Kenya and continue to play a part in the public as well as the economic life of the country. Thirdly—and this is closely linked with both the first and the second—there must be a reasonable prospect that any Government to which Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom surrender their responsibilities will be able to ensure for the people of Kenya a fair standard of living in an expanding economy. This they will only be able to do if they can maintain the confidence of investors in a country which, not having great mineral resources, is particularly dependant on the continued introduction of capital and skill. Without that capital and skill they cannot hope for a secure economic future or for the maintenance of the standards of living to which its people of all races have attained, let alone that improvement of the standards of the great majority that we all want to bring about. Fourthly, a competent and experienced Civil Service is an essential part of political institutions if these are to function successfully for the benefit of the people as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd April, 1959; Vol. 604, c. 564–5.] I have quoted the former Colonial Secretary at length because it seems to me that the pledge—and I take it to be a pledge—given on that occasion, not quite two years ago, is of fundamental importance. Her Majesty's Government have played their part, as far as the fourth proviso is concerned, with the introduction of the overseas service scheme. But let us look for a moment at the other provisos.

On 22nd April, 1959, the economic development of Kenya was going forward swiftly. At the same time, Mr. Michael Blundell had recently formed his multi-racial New Kenya Party, and there were genuine hopes that a new spirit of liberalism could be nurtured. There seemed, despite the clouds, a real prospect that multi-racialism could flourish.

Since then, the situation has deteriorated. The present jousting over the creation of a Kenya Government does not give us much confidence that the firm roots of Parliamentary democracy have been laid. The continued fever of the Kenyatter cult does not augur well for the future of the rule of law. Since April, 1959, the speeches of African nationalist leaders have seemed to grow more and not less extreme. Even the most moderate speeches made by the leaders of the Kenya-Africa National Union, the largest party in Kenyan politics, suggest that at best the British community will only temporarily be tolerated as bystanders. Is that what the then Colonial Secretary had in mind in his speech on 22nd April, 1959?

Of course the deterioration in the political situation has led to an equally rapid deterioration in the economic scene. Let us hope that the worst is over. No doubt the British and Asian communities have already transferred their liquid assets out of the country, so that the flow of capital outwards must have already declined to a trickle. Indeed, I am told that the importation of artificial fertilisers into Kenya is now going on at a very high level. That is welcome news, but I hope that my hon. Friend will not make too much of it, or he will become the butt of some fairly crude jokes in Kenya.

I want now to quote from a letter which I have received from a Kenya politician of British stock who was recently elected to the Legislative Council with a large majority—one might almost call it an overwhelming majority—made up for the most part of African votes. He is by no means a supporter of Sir Ferdinand Cavendish Bentinck's party, and he writes as follows: In my canvassing amongst my African constituents, I really have been appalled at the emotionalism, racialism, and almost atavistic outlook of many of them. The whole theory of H.M.G.'s transfer of responsibility in Kenya is that she will be able to create the right conditions. This may take much longer than is possible in modern conditions. If H.M.G. holds up the advance of the country because the settler is here, we shall incur the enmity and bitterness of the African. If, on the other hand, H.M.G. allows the advance to go forward before the right conditions as between race and race have been created, she may well jettison the settler for whom she is responsible. There are three alternatives before Her Majesty's Government at the moment. The first is that we can hand over power before the conditions outlined on 22nd April, 1959, have become a reality. We can then say to the British farmers in Kenya, "We are sorry, but we have put up some money for land development and tried to get some capital from the International Bank as well. If you were not quick enough to get your hands on some of this cash while it was going round, that is just too bad. Goodbye and good luck." That would be cheap. It would also be dishonourable, and I would find it difficult to support such a policy and I do not believe that it would be supported by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary or my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary.

The second alternative is to retain executive power in Kenya until the conditions laid down on 22nd April, 1959, are genuinely fulfilled. That means that in all probability we would have to retain power until a new generation of moderate leaders arose. In fact we might have to retain power indefinitely, and it is not my intention to argue this afternoon whether we should or should not follow that course. Rightly or wrongly, I am convinced that Her Majesty's Government will not stay in Kenya until it is possible to tell whether the conditions of the 1959 statement have been genuinely fulfilled.

Then there is a third alternative. We can say clearly and fairly at this moment that we guarantee that the British farming community will not suffer ruin if the worst comes to the worst. As the Economist said on 4th March when discussing the Colonial Secretary's efforts to support the British farming community: But he has not gone far enough: the debt of honour, in case Kenya sunders or collapses, should be acknowledged straightforwardly now. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to acknowledge that debt of honour now. It should not be all that difficult, because I understand that some representatives of the Kenya National Farmers' Union in fact believe that they have already had such a pledge from the Colonial Secretary.

How should we honour this pledge? There are two basic points which must be borne in mind. First, while we have an obligation to protect these farmers from ruin, we do not have an obligation to protect them from all loss. After all, many of my constituents who bought War Loan with the encouragement of the Government have suffered losses which they can ill afford. If all those who suffer loss because of taking the Government's advice are to be protected, I suggest that my constituents who bought War Loan have an even more direct claim than the British farming community in Kenya.

Secondly, we must not devise a scheme which will encourage British farmers to leave prematurely. The economy of Kenya is to a large extent dependent on the continued presence of the British farming community, and a rush to the coast would precipitate a major economic crisis and a breakdown of such social services as exists and endanger the entire educational programme.

At the same time, it would be wrong to encourage the whole British farming community to stay. I know many tough young men who should be able to survive whatever happens. They know the African. They have worked with him throughout their lives. Even if law and order were to break down, they should be able to command a high price as guerilla leaders.

At the other end of the scale however, there is a group—perhaps 15 per cent. or 20 per cent, or a little more—of the British farming community which cannot adapt itself to the increasing Africanisation of Kenya life. There is no point in giving these people lectures about the virtues of multi-racialism. They cannot adapt themselves to this change, and if they feel that they are compelled to stay in a Kenya which they have come to fear and to detest they will inevitably add further poison to the atmosphere.

Can those people leave at the present moment? It would be wrong to suggest that there is no market for land in Kenya at the moment. I have recently seen details of about 50 farms or sizeable blocks of farmland which have recently changed hands, or are about to change hands. A considerable number of these could be described as internal transactions of the Settlement Board. Some of the other farms seem to have been sold at reasonable prices, though it is interesting to note that the maximum price offered per acre gross in these 50 transactions only just comes above the £14.35 per acre, which my hon. Friend said yesterday was the average price paid when the Government were taking over land in Kenya in the last month or two for their development programme, but some of the land has been changing hands for as little as 30s. an acre.

While some farms have changed hands at substantial sums, one farm of which I know near Mweiga fetched less than one-third of the walk-in walk-out price paid in 1951. At the moment there are about six farmers in Kenya who are making every effort to secure as much land as they can. Good luck to them. But I suggest that their presence does not make the Kenya land market sufficiently strong to cope with those who wish to leave.

How much would the guarantee cost? In a leading article on 4th March the Economist, talking about the guarantee, said: In cash terms, this could mean something around the price of the Blue Streak rocket spent on rescuing 5,000 farmers from the White Highlands. That figure is a rather high estimate. The Colonial Office has arguments against promising this. One is its fear of setting a precedent in other territories. But Kenya is the only really sizeable settled white farming community in East and central Africa. Tanganyika is well set; there are very few people in a comparable situation in Nyasaland; in Northern Rhodesia the whites are mostly in mining; and Southern Rhodesia has long made its own decisions … if there is real belief in the future of a non-racial Kenya—and there is reason for such belief—then there would be no harm in giving a qualified option to sell out to the British Government between, say, 1963 and 1968. The farmers would then be able to stay and see how the new Kenya treated them, and still have a security at their back. It could then be hoped that the debt would not have to be paid. The Economist seems to suggest giving farmers a 100 per cent. valuation on their farms. I would not go so far as that, and the cost would therefore be considerably less. To my mind what is needed is an avowedly unattractive long-term compensation scheme, backed from Britain by the British Government.

I do not ask the Under-Secretary to commit himself to any scheme this afternoon. I have made my own proposals, which the Colonial Secretary has been good enough to discuss with me, not unsympathetically. I will not go into great detail about them, but briefly my proposals are, first, that the farms in the so-called White Highlands should be objectively valued as quickly as possible. This is possible under schemes developed by the Government and by the National Farmers' Union on a basis of past yields of the farm. I suggest that, as a start, we should offer to purchase the farms offered for sale at 60 per cent. of their valuation. The offer would be guaranteed to stay open for ten years, and in the course of that period we would pay a rising percentage on the valuation, and adjust the valuation from time to time.

The scheme would be provided by a small British Government corporation, which would be responsible for providing managers for the farms that were taken over. Alternatively, or in addition, the land that had been taken over could be leased out to its former owners or to neighbouring farmers. In the long term this land would be re-sold to the continuation of the present development scheme for handing over to African yeomen farmers. Indeed, the greater the efforts put behind the present developments, projects and programmes, the more practical my proposals would become.

I do not intend to go into any detail of the scheme this afternoon because I do not want my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State to feel himself called upon to prove in detail that my scheme is impracticable. It would be embarrassing for the Government when they have to implement some kind of scheme such as I have suggested.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on the birth of another child. When it comes to the size of family, he is catching up with me very fast. When it comes to views about the granting of public guarantees to the British farming community in Kenya, I hope that he will also catch up with me fast and will go a long way to meet the suggestions which I have made this afternoon, because one thing to my mind is certain—that neither the British Commonwealth nor the Africans can afford to see in Kenya the sort of chaos which broke out in the Congo.

3.46 p.m.

Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)

The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) has performed a useful service in raising this subject this afternoon. He has gone very widely not only into land policy, but also into political prospects in Kenya, and in the few minutes which I have I do not wish to follow him over the whole field. I do not share his somewhat gloomy fears about the political future in Kenya and I have greater trust perhaps than he has in the wisdom of his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, or perhaps I should say his right hon. Friend's powers of survival in the Government.

I thought that the elections in Kenya were in many ways a model of smoothness, and, certainly, they gave the lie to many fears which had been expressed by some people in Central Africa. On the whole, the elections seemed to be about as peaceful as those which take place in Beckenham, or even in Dundee. I agree that developments since then have had their disappointments, but I remain an optimist about the political future in Kenya. I feel, however, that more fundamental and in some ways more prickly are the problems associated with land in Kenya and that it is, therefore, important for us to deal with them.

I believe that the continued presence of a substantial European agriculture is very much in the interests of a prosperous Kenya and in the interests of the African majority there. At present, I understand, 87 per cent. of Kenya's exports come from European agriculture, and I feel that any changes in that respect can take place only fairly gradually. I also support the hon. Member's point of view that the Government have a moral obligation towards the European farmers there. Many of these settlers went to Kenya on the invitation of successive British Governments, and we certainly have a duty to look after them. I also agree with him that that does not mean that we have an obligation to finance a policy of scuttle.

It is a difficult matter to deal with, but we need a scheme from the Government which does not tempt too many of the European farmers to leave and encourages as many as possible of them to stay there and to continue to make their home in Kenya, where many of them have lived for a very long time. A number of schemes have been put forward, as the Under-Secretary knows. A scheme was put forward on behalf of the Kenya National Farmers' Union by Mr. P. D. Marrian a year or so ago: an interesting scheme was put forward by Sir Ernest Vasey before he left Kenya; and a scheme was put forward by the Fabian Commonwealth Bureau, through Mr. T. F. Betts, of the Bureau which, I think, the Secretary of State looked at some time ago. I do not wish to give any views on the relative merits of any of these schemes even if I had the time to do so.

I make only a passing comment about the scheme of the hon. Member for Beckenham, which, no doubt, has some very interesting features. I thought perhaps that the price he was paying for the pessimism among the European settlers was rather high. I think that all the emphasis should be on encouraging as many people as possible to stay in Kenya, but I agree that if people will not resign themselves to the political realities in Kenya it might make the future of Kenya easier if they were not there.

The point which I want to make to the Under-Secretary is that any compensation scheme should be made to fit in with the overall agricultural planning of Kenya. In addition to the need for creating confidence among the European settlers, there is no lesser need for creating confidence about the agricultural future of Kenya among the Africans. In the long run, the best guarantee that can be given to Europeans to continue to farm in Kenya is that the Africans will feel that there is a prosperous future for them on their own land.

I would say, briefly, that the Government's agricultural policy towards African agriculture has quite the wrong emphasis. I think that it puts too much emphasis on the yeoman farmer scheme with a holding of about 50 acres and too little on family smallholdings. I think that the Government are being tempted by a will-o'-the-wisp to create a well-to-do African landed middle class. Perhaps they feel that, in due course, they will become back bencher African baronets in a future Conservative Kenya legislature.

The brute fact in Kenya is that there is an appalling land hunger, a landless proletariat created by the necessary process of land consolidation. There is the kind of unemployment situation revealed in the Dalgleish Report. There is a per capita income for the African population of £12 per annum, and against that background, I think that greater emphasis should be put on family smallholdings backed by co-operative marketing.

As in other matters in East Africa, Tanganyika has shown the kind of thing that can be done. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union and the Chagga coffee farmers as an example of the kind of thing that can be usefully given a prominent place in agricultural planning in Kenya.

I hope that the Secretary of State, when he comes back from his present visit to Eas Africa, will be able to concentrate more of his energy and ingenuity on the Kenya land problem. I hope that he will apply himself to seeing what can be done in the way of schemes which, on the one hand, will give a greater sense of security to the European farmers and, on the other, provide the Africans with a real promise of agricultural progress. If the Secretary of State can do this, I assure his hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham that, however ingenious the scheme is, we on this side of the House shall not say that it is too clever by half

3.54 p.m.

Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) for raising this subject, but I do not think that he has put a sufficient sense of urgency into it. At the moment, there is an outflow of capital from Kenya of approximately £1 million a month. As a result, the economy is undoubtedly grinding down. At the same time, there is a complete lack of confidence amongst the white farmers. As a result, absolutely no development is going on in the farming communities.

The lack of capital is outstanding. There is no money to speak of going into farming. The whole farming process amongst white farmers is at a standstill at the moment. Unless a method can be devised of very quickly restoring confidence to the people, their standards of farming and living will continue to fall.

What is much more important, not only to the white farmers but to the whole of Kenya, is that the value of the land itself will decline year by year. The longer lack of capital and lack of development continue amongst the farming community, the more the value of the land will decline. Speaking as a farmer, I assure my hon. Friend that it takes a very long time to pull good land back into good production when it has been let go because of lack of confidence and lack of funds to get on with the job.

The white farmer cannot be blamed for not doing this, because he does not know what will happen from day to day. If a method such as that advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham, or that mentioned by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) could be thought over by the Government and introduced in the near future, or an indication given that something will be introduced in the near future, it would restore the confidence which is sadly lacking and do much for the future benefit of Kenya as a whole.

3.57 p.m

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Hugh Fraser)

Perhaps I may reply, Sir, by leave of the House. This has been a very interesting debate on what those of us with any experience of Africa will agree is probably the most vital of all questions in Africa, namely, the land. My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) made an interesting contribution, and we are indebted to him. We are all agreed that our prime objective must be to make land in Kenya healthy and productive.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), in his opening remarks, made an interesting reference to the fact that the import of fertiliser this year is probably higher than it has ever been. I do not want to base too much on these figures, but they show that development is not at a total standstill. There certainly is not a total standstill in sales. Referring to the figures mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham, the figures now being paid by the Government of Kenya, which are £14.35 on an average, are based on 1959 values.

I am sorry to mention these rather trivial points at this stage, but it is important to get this in the right perspective. Two factors which must be added to the political difficulties in Kenya are, first, that Kenya has suffered from one of the longest droughts we have ever experienced and, secondly, the very considerable fall in certain commodity prices. For many primary commodities, 1961 prices are less than half—and in many instances much less than half—the prices which obtained at the time of the Korean boom in 1951. There are other influences at work.

It is only proper that we should take note of the other influences, but I do not want to stray from the main burden of my speech, which is to reply to the views and natural fears voiced by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham. I thought that his speech was, as usual, able and lucid. He has put forward a possible solution to one aspect of this question, the restoration of confidence among European farmers. I will deal with his proposals later, but, first, I ought to try to sketch in some of the background to the whole question.

Before doing so, however, I wish to make absolutely clear that Her Majesty's Government fully understand how anxious are European farmers in Kenya about the future. All of us in Britain, whether or not we have close personal connections with Kenya—many of us have—must feel deeply anxious for our fellow countrymen who have made their homes there and in the process have contributed so much to the economy and wellbeing of the country as a whole. Therefore, there should be no doubt whatsoever about the policy of the British Government in Kenya.

As my right hon. Friend put it at the opening of the Lancaster House Conference, we have made clear that our aim for Kenya is twofold: first, to build a nation based on parliamentary institutions and enjoying responsible self-government; and, secondly, to achieve a general acceptance by all of the right of each community to remain in Kenya and play a part in public life. We are determined that these concepts will be made to work and we shall not be dissuaded by antiquated tribal or racial myths or reactionary shibboleths. We believe that all races have a contribution to make and economically none greater for the next decade than the European and especially the European farmer.

It may help if I give a few facts to demonstrate how great is this contribution. Kenya's gross domestic product in 1958 was nearly £210 million, towards which agriculture contributed £90 million. The total domestic export in 1958 was worth nearly £30 million. Of that, £25 million consisted of agricultural exports and of this £25 million about £20 million is estimated to have come from non-African agriculture. In other words, four-fifths of the agricultural exports were produced by Europeans who occupy land only one-fifth of the size of the land farmed by Africans. Those figures speak for themselves. But even with this achievement we cannot be blind to the fact that the attitude to land ownership is at the heart of many of the difficulties in Kenya.

Her Majesty's Government recognise their duty to bring about conditions in which, through the process of producing results in terms of increased individual and national prosperity, we can strip from the land the controversies and feelings of racial and tribal emotion and bitterness. That is why the tremendous strides made through the Swynnerton Plan for the intensification of African agriculture in the last five or six years are so important. I know that hon. Members who have seen the effect of the Swynnerton Plan will agree that the effects, certainly in the Kikuyu and the Jaluo country, has been fabulous in its importance. The African production of coffee has increased more than sixfold in this short period, and we are seeing a major transformation in the pattern of African agriculture through land consolidation, farm planning and the improvement of livestock and crops. There are now nearly 150,000 African farmers with registered titles to their land, and the development is continuing.

What does this signify to the European with whom we are particularly concerned this afternoon? I agree with the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) that the African contribution to land is complementary to the European and that the greater it becomes the greater the prosperity all round. Nothing is more conducive to general stability than prosperity throughout the whole country. In a country such as Kenya, where different races are living together, there is everything to be gained by the establishment on as wide a scale as possible of a common stake in the country and a common interest in increasing the country's wealth, which, after all, for as long as we can see, must primarily depend on agriculture.

The old policy of reserving different areas of land in Kenya for different tribes and races arose from the natural conditions of the early time of conquest and occupation. This conception is now totally out of date. A clean break with this attitude was recommended after a thorough examination by the East African Royal Commission, which did such fine work between 1953 and 1955. The Commission's whole thesis was that the test of land needs for the occupation of land must give way to the test of land use, and that land must be regarded primarily in economic terms as an economic asset and not by its ability to relieve social and tribal sectional pressure.

This thesis was accepted by the Kenya Government, and in October, 1959, they published detailed proposals for putting into effect a non-racial policy towards land. Its aim is to ensure that the basis of tenure and management of all agricultural land is similar throughout Kenya so far as local economic and agronomic conditions permit. These proposals, as many people will be aware, became law at the end of 1960 and are a fundamental part of our policy to create in Kenya a non-racial society. It is against this whole background of Kenya's agricultural economy and a nonracial land policy that the Kenya Government's plans for land development and resettlement in the Kenya Highlands must be viewed.

The basis of the Kenya Government's plan is to secure the most economic use of the country's agricultural land. The land to be used for these schemes will, therefore, be underdeveloped land of relatively high potential. If poorer or fully-developed land were used, its subdivision into small plots for African farmers could not be justified on economic grounds. We shall do all we can to ensure that as much money as possible is made available for these schemes, for they are the most important practical expression of the new land policy and will produce concrete evidence that the exclusion of African farming from the White Highlands is a thing of the past.

The Kenya Government have prepared a detailed plan for an initial period ending in mid-1963 envisaging expenditure of between £8 million and £9 million. We have already agreed to undertake about £3.15 million in Exchequer loans. The colonial development and welfare grants are coming forward—that is another £400,000—and this very day the Ministers of Agriculture and Finance in Kenya are negotiating with the International Bank. In addition, there are hopes that we shall get further assistance from the West German Government and from other sources to advance Kenya's new development programme.

This scheme involves two sorts of farms—the yeoman 50-acre farm, and the peasant farm. These are not, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East suggested, an attempt to create an African middle-class. That, of course, already exists. A man like Harry Thuku, I suppose, is as well-off as many farmers in this country, and some of the land up at Embu and in the Kikuyu country, which is good coffee land, produces as good coffee as does the Chagga to which he referred.

This scheme is based on the necessity of dividing certain types of land in the White Highlands into the right economic units. As the House will be aware, a great deal of the White Highland land, even the best of that land, is inferior to the best Kikuyu or Jaluo land. It is, therefore, only in areas where the land is of particularly high value that one can have the right peasant size of unit which will produce as much, or almost as much, as some of the yeoman type farming.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I cannot understand how my hon. Friend can justify 50 acres as being an economic unit. Even in this country where we are highly mechanised and organised, and where our land is much more fertile, 50 acres is regarded as an unviable unit. Is my hon. Friend saying that in Kenya 50 acres will be a viable unit?

Mr. Fraser

Yes, Sir; in parts of Kenya five or six acres make a viable unit. If someone is producing, shall we say, 30 cwts. of coffee per acre, which some of these acres are, and the coffee is being sold at £800 a ton, as it was at times during the coffee boom, the income can be very high. At that time, the income of some Africans with five or six acres was about £8,000 or £9,000 a year, on which little or no taxation was paid.

I really believe that these things have been well worked out by great agricultural experts. I can think of no greater experts on African agriculture than Mr. Swynnerton and his teams, and I am convinced that the units we have put forward are fully economic. Hon. Members who have been in Kenya will have seen the type of unit produced under the Swynnerton scheme, which is fully economic.

This process will involve the taking over of about 180,000 acres of land in the period we have set ourselves. This is the maximum acreage which, with the staff and resources available, can be subdivided for yeomen and peasant farmers. The matter of staff is of great importance. We do not want to divert too much of our staff, which is already fully employed in completing elements of the Swynnerton plan in other areas of African agriculture. We cannot go fast, I believe, without a decline in the standard of husbandry and consequent loss of productivity. To attempt settlement at this stage on a larger acreage might well be counter-productive.

I know that there has been anxiety about the scale of assistance, its scope, and how long it is likely to last. Although present plans cover only the initial period of two-and-a-half years, there is, of course, a considerable possibility that towards the end of the two-and-a-half years, or within the next year or so, we may find means to speed up the process. At the end, when the 180,000 acres have been completed, the Kenya Government's need for more money for the purpose of continuing the process will be looked at most readily by Her Majesty's Government. I can say, therefore, that, after this first bite has been taken, the process may well be a continuing one, and I trust that Parliament will vote the necessary moneys.

Having outlined the background to the problems of Kenya land and having stated what Her Majesty's Government are doing in the way of providing money for resettlement and development, I turn to the proposals which my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham has put before the House in broad outline and which he has put before my right hon. Friend and myself in some detail. I thank him for his courtesy in letting me have for consideration some of his ingenious schemes in addition to those submitted from other quarters which have been before us in the Colonial Office during the past few weeks.

My hon. Friend's argument is that Her Majesty's Government should initiate a comprehensive compensation scheme which would oblige the British Government to buy the land of any European farmer who wished to leave Kenya because he felt that the future was uncertain. This we cannot accept. The amount of compensation which my hon. Friend proposes would cover only a portion of the agreed value of the particular farm, and, from a financial point of view, it is less expensive than other schemes which have been put forward. It has other ingenious provisions which tend to levy a positive fine on those leaving early and provide a positive benefit to those who remain late. It is, however, still a compensation scheme and this, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, is the consideration on which it must be judged.

Our fundamental objection to any scheme which would oblige Her Majesty's Government or the Kenya Government to buy the farms of any non-African who wished to leave Kenya is that it would run directly contrary to the whole approach to the land problem in Kenya which I have described. A compensation scheme would emphasise the racial ownership of land, whereas our whole policy is that land should be regarded primarily in economic terms and as an economic asset. It would place this racial emphasis on land ownership at a time when it is important that all concerned should cease thinking in racial terms, particularly over this question.

The economic effects of a compensation scheme would be no less harmful. It would oblige the Kenya Government or Her Majesty's Government to buy land which they could not run themselves, having neither the staff nor the administrative organisation. They would probably not be able to find other tenants for it either quickly or easily. They could not use it for the resettlement of African farmers, since much of the land concerned, would not be suitable for sub-division into viable and economic plots for small settlers. The net result would be that the land which the Kenya Government or Her Majesty's Government had bought would, in many cases, cease to be productive. This would have obvious and, perhaps, disastrous effects on the Kenya economy.

There are other difficulties in the way of a compensation scheme. As my hon. Friend has made clear, any scheme would have to be guaranteed for a specific period, certainly longer than the life of the present Parliament. For one thing, this would present some constitutional difficulties in the way of guaranteeing the necessary funds. In addition, the existence of a compensation scheme for farmers would make it very difficult for the Government to refuse to set up similar schemes for non-Africans in other businesses, professions or trades who felt that their future might be uncertain. This could not be limited to Kenya.

Although the British Government might guarantee that any compensation scheme would last for ten years, for example, most farmers would probably avail themselves of the opportunity to get out as soon as the scheme started, fearing that the supply of money might dry up later. This would seriously increase the financial burden on Her Majesty's Government and on the Kenya Government, but it would also have other effects. We must consider the overall duties of Her Majesty's Government in these matters.

I believe that our main duties in any Colony are threefold: to the people of the Colony as a whole; to our own kith and kin; and to the maintenance of law, order and orderly government. In present circumstances, a compensation scheme for European farmers in Kenya would, I believe, be against all these general interests. It would be likely to destroy the whole of the Colony's economy. It would leave behind it unmanageable agricultural deserts and would, while making it impossible for the more intrepid European to farm on, destroy for ever the conception of a society in which each individual, whatever his race, can develop his skills and talents to the full. If we cannot fulfil this conception, we shall betray the endeavours of the past whose fruits are the considerable economic values and investments that we see in Kenya today.

I believe that there is little future either for Kenya or for the European farmer in what I might term the negative approach—the organised withdrawal of skill and capital. The policy of Her Majesty's Government is precisely the reverse of this, and rightly so. In stable Government and in expanding economy lies the greatest hope for all in Kenya, not least for those whose interests have been so ably portrayed by my hon. Friend this afternoon.

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