§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I think the House must recognise that this is not an easy debate, first because it deals with a complicated and technical subject dealing with two major land resettlement schemes in Kenya, and also the question of the agricultural settlement trust and the compassionate cases scheme; and secondly, I am sorry to say, because it deals with the recent deportations.
The House must realise that such a debate could have unfavourable repercussions in Kenya. Therefore, I assure the House that I gave very careful consideration as to whether or not this matter should be raised in the House today. I came to the conclusion that the case for the British farmers in Kenya tends to be blurred by both the British and the Kenyan Governments, and that in fairness this case should be told in the House, as I believe that race relations in Kenya can only be enhanced by knowledge on both sides of the story.
The House recognises that President Kenyatta has done his best to control the forces acting against the white and indeed the brown minorities in Kenya, and we recognise that it is thanks to President Kenyatta that race relations in Kenya today are so good. That, of course, is why the deportations came as such a shock, because this is the first time that the farmers and permanent residents have been deported from Kenya. Other than the question of the deportations, my task will not be in anyway to criticise the Kenya Government but to press the farmers' case, and, indeed, the Kenya Government's case against Her Majesty's Government here.
Let me deal first with the land resettlement scheme which became known as the 1 million acre scheme. This was announced in Nairobi in November, 1961, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who was then Colonial Secretary. The detailed provisions of that scheme were announced in July, 1962. It was designed to run to July, 1967, but in point of fact it was speeded up and ended two years earlier. It was designed to purchase 200,000 acres of mixed farmland a year and to settle 1177 70,000 African families on 1.5 million acres in the next five years. The total cost of the scheme was estimated at £27½ million, of which the Government here were to subscribe £19½ million; part of it was to be by grant and part of it was to be by loan.
Kenya became independent in December, 1963, and two months later it was reported to this House that 600 European farms had so far been purchased and that 11,500 African families had been settled and 400 more farms were expected to be purchased. It then became clear that the land purchase was proceeding faster than expected, and that the scheme would be completed by the end of 1965. Discussions on a follow-up scheme were started just before the 1964 General Election.
In November, 1964, after the General Election the Kenya National Farmers' Union sent a memorandum to Her Majesty's Government here, the new Labour Government, stressing the need for a follow-up scheme. In this memorandum there were three points of particular interest today. First, it was estimated that the acreage still required to be bought up was between 1.5 million and 1.7 million; second, that the price must be based on recognised methods of valuation and at least equal to the price paid in the 1 million acre scheme; and, third, that it was essential that valuations should be considered fair, and that there must be a grant element of at least 30 per cent.
I think the House will see a little later on how significant these requirements were. The House will recall that in December, 1964, I instituted an Adjournment debate on this subject and I stressed three points, the need for a decision on the new follow-up scheme, the need for a grant element, and the need for a fair valuation. Hon. Members may see that in the OFFICIAL REPORT of 4th December, 1964, at column 1027.
That is the outline of the successful 1 million acre resettlement scheme in Kenya. I pass on now to the second scheme which became known as the 400,000 acre scheme, which I fear, has been less successful. On 13th December, 1964, the then Minister, who is now the Minister of Transport, announced the sending of a mission to Kenya under 1178 the Hon. Maxwell Stamp to look into the whole question of the new scheme. This Mission reported in May, 1965, but I believe that I am right in saying that the report was kept secret. In November, 1965, the new scheme was announced; and 100,000 acres of European mixed farmland were to be purchased each year for four years commencing in April, 1966, Her Majesty's Government would make an interest-free loan of £18 million during the period 1966 to 1970, of which £6.3 million was to be earmarked for land purchase; and there were to be further consultations between the two Governments about the methods of valuation.
I am bound to say that the immediate reaction that I received from Kenya about this announcement was that this was half the annual amount which experts considered essential and was to be continued for just half the recommended period.
Later, the agreement between the two Governments on methods of valuation were concluded—I believe, in August, 1966—but that agreement was also kept confidential. It later transpired, however, that it was based on current market value as between a willing buyer and a willing seller. This, again, is significant, as I will explain later.
I want to make this clear to the House. The basic difference between the old, 1 million acre scheme and the new scheme, the 400,000 acre scheme, must be emphasised as the former has proved a success and the latter, so far, a failure. The first scheme received £18 million from Her Majesty's Government here, with a 30 per cent. grant element, while the second received £6.3 million all of which was an interest-free loan. In the first scheme there was an appeal against valuation. Under the second scheme there was no appeal against valuation. In the first scheme, broadly speaking, the offers fell within about 5 per cent. of expected valuation, and under the second scheme, as far as one can see, offers are cut by a minimum of 15 per cent. of the expected valuation.
The new scheme, once the offers were made, caused a storm of protest in Kenya, but I am sorry to say to the Minister that neither the British High Commission in Kenya nor Her Majesty's 1179 Government here did anything practicable to resolve it, the Minister knows this since we have exchanged Questions about this on a number of occasions.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Could we first be told what were the views, if they were expressed at the time, of Mr. Bruce McKenzie, the Minister of Agriculture in Kenya?
§ Mr. Wall
Yes, I have the views of Mr. McKenzie, but I do not attribute these views to any particular Minister, and I intend to be entirely fair to the Kenya Government since my case rests against Her Majesty's Government here rather than the Kenya Government.
At this stage, I want to make two points, and the first is really the one which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) has just mentioned. It is that the Kenya Government's point of view was, quite fairly, that this question of valuation was a matter between Her Majesty's Government and the British farmers in Kenya; that the money allocated to land purchase was a loan which would have to be repaid in due course, but that African settlement would probably be less productive because of lack of capital and machinery than the European farmers who preceded them and that, therefore, the valuations had to be cut to allow for repayment.
It had been agreed with the British Government that the negotiating range for valuations could be within 20 per cent. up or down Of the valuations put on farms by the Kenya Government's valuer, which means in effect that values would automatically be cut by anything up to 20 per cent. As I said earlier, it appears to have worked out in practice to be about 15 per cent. The second point is that HANSARD of 4th April of this year shows in cols. 31 to 34 that, for the period 1965–66, Kenya received £81.3 million in grants, £45.7 million in loans from Her Majesty's Government, in addition to C.D.C. advances of £13.2 million from 1947 to 1966. This is a total of over £140 million. The British farmers know this, and they believe that some of the taxpayers' money should go to help them.
This brings me on to what has been termed the Trumper Report. The first 1180 offers under the new scheme were made this spring. The farmers concerned believe these to be unfair and they asked Mr. Peter Trumper of Messrs. Cluttons, who is chairman of the Agriculture and Forestry Committee of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, and a very responsible person, to go to Kenya and value their farms. I have before me a copy of an unofficial but completely impartial report made by a man of unimpeachable professional ability and integrity. His main conclusions are as follows.
He believes that the method of procedure in this scheme is unfair, for the following reasons:
Here I would add that I understand that a number of farmers have still not been paid for farms which were handed over some months previously. His last criticism is:
- "1. No breakdown of the valuation is given.
- 2. The offer is often below the level of the valuation.
- 3. The time limit is unfairly operated and there is no real opportunity for negotiation.
- 4. There is no appeal from the valuer's offer.
- 5. The final takeover is often unfairly, handled."No interest is paid on the purchase moneys.If I may summarise Mr. Trumper's recommendations, they are, first,That the Kenya Government valuer should be instructed to meet a representative of the British farmers to disclose the method of valuation he is using.…2. That the valuer should be instructed to give a breakdown of his offer figure in each case, so as to afford an opportunity for fair negotiation.…3. That the valuer should be instructed to give a single figure as his valuation, and this should be the amount of the offer.…4. That a simple appeal procedure should be devised.…5. That fresh offers should be made on there lines to those who so far have refused offers which they believed to be unreasonably low.…All those recommendations are in accord with normal British practice, and, plainly, the inter-Governmental agreement based on a willing buyer and a willing seller is no longer valid; or, as Mr. Trumper puts it, thatthe procedure falls short of the standards implied in the British Government's policy towards British settlers in Kenya.1181 I believe that Mr. Trumper's criticisms and recommendations are sound. The best way that they can be put into effect by agreement with the Kenya Government is for Her Majesty's Government at this stage to introduce a grant element in the money which they are lending Kenya to buy this land. I believe that the Kenya Government would accept this and that this alone would smooth out all the difficulties and disagreements which are creating bad feeling that could have serious repercussions in Kenya and in this country.
I appeal to the Minister to agree to a grant element on the same lines as that for the million acre scheme. After all, 30 per cent. of £6 million over four years is not much, and I believe that it will be repaid a thousand-fold in good relations in Kenya and between Britain and Kenya.
I am prepared to take a fairly good guess at the arguments which the Minister will put forward against me. The first one will be that this is a fuss about nothing, that 20 of the 31 offers this year have been accepted, and that, therefore, farmers must be willing to sell. However, today the Land Bank advances only 50 per cent., in contrast to the original 90 per cent. some years ago. It makes advances to Kenya citizens only. Few in Kenya have or can obtain sufficient capital to purchase farms worth £12,000 or more. It may be that they can consider buying smaller farms, but the farms under discussion are too expensive for the average African. Therefore, there is no alternative to the farmer but to sell, even at a low valuation. Because of exchange control regulations, this is the only way that he has for getting his capital out of Kenya en bloc. The newly introduced legislation on citizenship and work permits could well become a pistol at his head. Today, he may be willing, but certainly only under duress.
The second argument which the Minister may advance, because it was advanced in another place the other day, is that the scheme of valuation has been agreed between the two Governments. But what right have Her Majesty's Government to agree to a scheme which cuts 20 per cent. off the value of someone else's farm? This attitude causes special grievance, particularly as it was 1182 the action of former British Governments which led to the catastrophic decline in land values in Kenya.
Then again, the Minister may say that the valuations are carried out by professional valuers and that both Governments have agreed that there should be no breakdown communicated to the farmer. Obviously there is something to hide. Why cannot normal professional practice be maintained? Why must there be this secrecy?
It may be said that the British High Commission will be entitled to vet valuations. That is true, but, in accordance with the inter-Governmental agreement, only when the 20 per cent. bracket is exceeded. In any case, what professional advice will the British High Commission have? Is it suggested that it should be that of the Kenya Government valuer, or is it intended to send out a British valuer from this country?
I believe that the Kenya Government have kept their part of the bargain. It is the British Government who have now been exposed. There are to be 20 per cent. cuts, no breakdown of valuations, and no appeal. All those conditions have been agreed by Her Majesty's Government. Why? Can it have been to save money? It must be remembered that British taxpayers' money worth £140 million has already gone to Kenya. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said in another place that help for the development of Kenya must come first. However, I am not so sure about that, because I think that we should first look after our own, and then help Kenya as generously as we can.
I well remember visiting an African Minister of another African country, who said to me, "You know, Mr. Wall, we can never trust the British because they never look after their own tribe." Members of our own tribe are our responsibility, and it is up to Her Majesty's Government to recognise this fact. The only way that they can now do this and settle the growing mistrust is to introduce a grant element of 20 to 30 per cent., which comes to a minimum of £1.3 million spread over four years. This is not very much to give justice to our people and to ensure good relations in Kenya.
1183 I want to deal briefly with two other matters. The first is the Agricultural Settlement Trust. The people concerned are ex-Service farmers who went out after the Second World War under the British Government's sponsored scheme. We had a special responsibility towards them. To be fair to the Minister, this responsibility has not been recognised by previous Governments, to my regret, and I had quite a fight with my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) on this matter.
I suggest to the Minister that the minimum requirement for fairness is to see that all these men are included under the terms of the new 40,000-acre scheme. Attempts have been made to take over the trust by the Ministry of Settlement in Kenya. I believe that this would be an abuse of the assurances given to the members and to the trustees. I recognise that the Trust could easily be nationalised by legislation, but I hope very much that this will not happen, because it would undoubtedly increase the insecurity of the minority races, and could have repercussions on foreign investment in Kenya.
My second point concerns the question of compassionate cases. These are old people, many of whom were wounded during the war, and they are living in areas which used to be termed areas of security risk. In 1963 the Conservative Government gave a £700,000 grant to deal with 100 of these cases. In 1964 the Labour Government gave a £365,000 loan to deal with 19 of these cases, and last year they gave a loan of £233,000 which was allocated to purchasing 18 farms. Only six farmers have so far accepted. It is only fair to the Kenya Government to say that they do not want these farms, that they are an embarrassment to them, and that this probably accounts for the low valuations placed on them, far lower than in either of the resettlement schemes.
I think the House must recognise that in most cases this is the only money which these elderly people will have to live on for the rest of their lives, and it is perhaps not surprising that a comparatively large number of offers has been rejected. The Kenya National Farmers' Union has repeatedly asked for a new scheme and for discretion to be given 1184 to the British High Commission to administer a fund for this purpose, but after nearly two years' pressure the Government have not made up their minds about the future of the scheme. I hope that we will hear something about it today.
I turn now to my final subject, the difficult one of the recent deportations from Kenya. This is obviously a matter of considerable delicacy, and one must recognise in this House, and in this country, that in Kenya land has always been a highly charged political issue, and that pressure on land increases as the population of Kenya expands.
President Kenyatta has always made it clear that he wants European farmers to stay in Kenya. He has often acknowledged the contribution which they make to the economy of the country. These, the first deportations of farmers, came therefore as a severe shock, and has undoubtedly done damage to confidence both in Kenya and here in Britain. I give it as my belief—it cannot be more than that—that President Kenyatta was presented with a fait accompli, and had no option but to back those concerned, but there can be no excuse for the un-pleasant and uncivilised way in which these arrests and deportations were carried out, and Her Majesty's Government have rightly protested.
But I am more concerned about the reasons behind these deportations, because it is this aspect which will enable us to judge what may happen in the future. I therefore refer to two statements which the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs kindly placed in the Library of the House. The first is a statement by the Vice-President of Kenya, Mr. Arap Moi, in the House in Nairobi, when he said:… the immigrant communities … must not adopt a racist attitude and they must respect the African people. However, in spite of this, we still have a situation where a few people, who continue to insult Africans in a manner reminiscent of the Colonial era, have spoken disrespectfully of our Head of State, of the Government, and have even been known to go as far as saying that we attained our independence prematurely. I should like to say that in one or two instances some of the farmers are known to have held mock Parliaments",and he went on to say that they have given their cattle the names of prominent 1185 leaders in the House in Kenya. He continues:I should like, however, to say the deportations are being made purely on an individual basis.… Of the five Europeans being deported today, these represent a hard core element which is not reflective of those among their community who live here in peace.I asked the Secretary of State for detailed reasons why at least four of these men had been deported. He also kindly placed in the House another statement made by the Vice-President in the Kenya National Assembly on 6th July. It refers to four of these men, the first of whom is Wing Commander Saunders, and the reason for his deportation is:This person even has been so awkward that when approached by officials informing him of his deportation, he made remarks that he can employ the whole our General Service unit.Next there is Mr. Rowbotham, and the reason for his deportation is:I think he, himself, is unpopular amongst Europeans in the area.The third one is Mr. Breckenbridge, and about him it is said:He has all along been anti-African …".Finally, there is Mr. Golding,who, on one occasion, shot an African woman and was fined shs.600 in Court.I want the House to consider very seriously the cases of these four men. Wing Commander Saunders has been on the Settlement Board, that is the ex-Servicemen's board, for farmers who went out there after the war, and he has been prominent in protecting their interests. On three concurrent occasions Mr. Rowbotham has been elected to represent the British farmers in the Molo area. He has been pressing for fair valuations, and was largely instrumental in asking Mr. Trumper to visit Kenya. I understand that he is a permanent resident in Kenya, and, therefore, technically at least he was illegally deported. Mr. Breckenbridge is a retired member of the Special Branch. Mr. Golding did not shoot an African woman it was his half-brother who was responsible. Mr. Golding was I understand 600 miles away at the coast at the time of the incident, and this can easily be checked by court records in Kenya.
I have been asked by the Kenya High Commissioner, Dr. Karanja, whom we 1186 all like and respect, to say that these deportations are in no way connected with the question of land purchase. I leave the House to judge for itself. Wing Commander Saunders and Mr. Rowbotham have been prominent in the fight to obtain publicity for the farmers' case, and in particular for fair valuations. Both have been members of deputations to this country on a number of occasions during the past five years. Both have found it necessary to make a nuisance of themselves, particularly as far as the British High Commission is concerned. I hope that members of the High Commission staff will examine their consciences to see whether at any time they might have said something which could have led to the view that they would be glad to be shot of these "turbulent farmers".
The House knows that 1 have fought many battles on behalf of British civil servants in Africa, particularly in regard to their terms of compensation on Africanisation. I therefore believe that I have a right and a duty to remind the House that many British subjects in Commonwealth African States believe that, in general, British High Commissions and their staffs regard their primary rôle as the maintenance of good relations with the Governments to whom they are accredited, and that the protection of the rights of British subjects comes a very poor second.
I suggest that British subjects have a right to expect British officials of all ranks serving in Africa or elsewhere to protect them, and I hope that the Commonwealth Secretary will remind those serving in Africa of the words printed on every British passport:That we request and require in the name of Her Majesty all those to whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance and to afford the bearer as much assistance and protection as may be necessary.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomas) rose—1187
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)
I apologise to the Minister, to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and to you, Mr. Speaker, for having arrived a few minutes after the debate began. This is a subject which has been covered with his usual competence and comprehension by my hon. Friend. I want to occupy only a few minutes before the Minister replies to the questions which my hon. Friend has asked.
I begin by taking up the subject with which my hon. Friend ended—the circumstances of the deportation of farmers from Kenya. As is almost universally agreed in this House, it was a minor tragedy, in view of President Kenyatta's desire, and the steps that he has taken, to improve relations between the two races. Her Majesty's Opposition entirely supports the protests made by Her Majesty's Government against this method of treatment of British subjects by a Commonwealth country.
We have the statement by the Kenya High Commissioner, from which my hon. Friend has just quoted, saying that there was no connection between these deportations and the implementation of the 400,000 acre scheme. We shall be grateful for any remarks that the Minister can make on this matter in reply.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Is the right hon. Gentleman supporting the view advanced by his hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) that the action of our High Commissioner has been regrettable, and almost despicable? It was a rather harsh—I will not use the word "smear"—aspersion to cast upon the plenipotentiary of this Government in Kenya. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with his hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Wall
Will the hon. Member read in HANSARD tomorrow what I said? I made my point very carefully. I said 1188 that I hoped that the staffs of all the High Commissions serving in Africa would examine their consciences to see if they could at any time have created a situation which has led a comparatively large number of Europeans to believe that they are not receiving the protection to which they are entitled. Whatever the Minister may say, it is a widely-held view in Africa, especially at the moment in Kenya and Zambia.
§ Mr. Wood
It would be desirable if I were allowed to continue with my speech. Perhaps the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) will be able to continue his point later. I heard both what my hon. Friend said and the point made by the hon. Member. I was talking about the statement made by the other High Commissioner in respect of the lack of connection between these deportations and the implementation of the 400,000 acre scheme.
I want to ask the Minister a question about this scheme, which was touched on by my hon. Friend. I believe it is right to say that none of the £18 million loaned by the British Government for development in Kenya was definitely tied to the buying out of British farmers. I have studied the information sheet put out by the Minister's Department in November 1965, which says:The above"—that is, the loans representing a disbursement of £18 million—will, it is estimated, absorb just over one-third of the £18 million over the next four years.It seems clear that the less spent in Kenya in buying out British farmers the more money is available for other developments there. It is only too clear that it must be to the advantage of the Government of Kenya as far as possible to cut down the money devoted to buying out the farmers. This is an immensely important point, to which I hope the Minister will give us a full reply. Is it now possible to reconsider the basis and conditions of the loan so as definitely to tie a certain proportion to the purpose that I have in mind?
Another complication mentioned by my hon. Friend is the conflict of interest 1189 between the farmers and the Kenya Government on the question of farm valuations. My hon. Friend drew attention to the various recommendations of the Trumper Report. It seems wholly wrong —and I should like to know if the hon. Member has any justification for it—that the valuer of the Kenya Government should not give a detailed breakdown of each valuation so that it can be examined in detail by the farmer concerned, and so that reasoned arguments may be produced against it. Again I ask whether the Government are prepared to take this matter up with the Kenya Government on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend.
Those who have taken part in and listened to debates about Kenya during the last twenty years have been rewarded by an almost miraculous change in the relations between Kenya and Britain. Very few would have dared to hope for this in the 1950s. But it would be equally wise for us to remember—and for the Government of Kenya to remember—that although this community of interest has been growing closer, it is still very young and, therefore, still very fragile. I believe that the whole House recently suffered a setback and a severe shock when it heard of the events to which my hon. Friend has referred.
All of us hope that the lesson of the cruel circumstances of these deportations has been marked in Kenya and that those responsible are in no doubt that a repetition of these circumstances could do a great deal to destroy the progress of the last decade.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomas)
I intervene to make a brief comment on the remarks of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) concerning our High Commissioners in Africa. It has been my privilege to meet many of these High Commissioners and to move around a fair amount in Africa. Those who carry the responsibility of representing Great Britain in Africa, as in other parts of the world, have very difficult tasks which are not made easier by what the hon. Member has said.
I want the House to be assured completely, utterly and absolutely that our High Commissioners regard it as a top 1190 priority to watch the interests of our people there, as well as to maintain good relations between the Government to to which they are accredited and ourselves. On behalf of the Commonwealth Office, I repudiate any suggestion or hint that in this case there has not been absolutely proper care on the part of our High Commissioner for the European community who serve in Kenya.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I was in Kenya a few weeks ago. I support what my hon. Friend has said. I was discussing with the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. B. R. McKenzie, the whole question of the great amity, good will and harmony which is such a marked feature in East Africa. There has been an astounding change in the whole atmosphere. One need go back only to 1954, 1955 and 1956, and to the days of Mau Mau. It is amazing to myself and others who have experience of African affairs. It is the most heartening thing about the whole Continent. I therefore object to the things which were said in this Chamber just now about the alleged behaviour or the action, or the attitude of the High Commissioner in Nairobi. I know that what the hon. Member has said is not true. It is wrong to suggest that our High Commission there is not carrying out its duty towards the Anglo-Saxons in the White Highlands of Kenya—
§ Mr. Johnson
And the Welsh, too. I deprecate what has been said in this Chamber about our High Commissioners not doing their duty on certain occasions. It is not good enough. I have enjoyed the hospitality of both white and black citizens, and I regret and repudiate the hon. Member's remarks.
§ 1.9 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development (Mr. A. E. Oram)
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull (Mr. James Johnson) have sprung so vigorously to the defence of our High Commission in Nairobi against the accusations of the hon. Member for 1191 Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). I also reject the suggestion that the deportations were connected with the deportees' attitude to land valuations. The hon. Member for Haltemprice referred to the assurance of the Kenya High Commissioner in London, and said that he was a man for whom he had great respect, but then showed some disrespect by suggesting that his word could not be taken at its face value.
The hon. Member has been a consistent questioner on land transfer in Kenya and he and I have had a great deal of detailed correspondence in this connection. I am sure that he has been glad of this opportunity to deploy his arguments and opinions and a great number of facts at greater length than can possibly be done at Question time.
Before I turn, like the hon. Member, to a useful and necessary little history of the scheme, I would refer first to the question of the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) about whether it would be possible to raise with the Kenya Government the question of tieing a certain proportion of the loan which we have made to land purchase. I do not think that this is necessary. It would certainly be possible: indeed, there are continual consultations between the two Governments about the implementation of the scheme and it would be possible, if difficulties emerged for this to be raised, but the way in which the scheme is working at the moment does not raise in our minds this necessity.
§ Mr. Oram
Clearly, if less is spent on one objective, more is available for another, but if the implication is that the Kenya Government are, for this reason, deliberately spending less and that this is influencing the valuations, I must point out that there are safeguards, in that the High Commission can have knowledge of any such reductions which do not conform to the agreement which is reached between the two Governments and could take action if there were any suspicion, but there is no ground for such action.
1192 The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Trumper Report and asked whether representations could not be made to the Kenya Government about a breakdown of the valuations, which was a major point in the Report. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development has now received a copy of the Report. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is not an official document but privately commissioned, but my right hon Friend is considering it and also whether any representations should be made, and in this consideration he will bear in mind the points about the breakdown.
Schemes for the transfer of land in Kenya from European to African ownership have been supported by the British Government since 1961, when they agreed to provide finance totalling about £17¼ million for high density settlement under what came to be known as the Million Acre Scheme. Her Majesty's Government also supported various other schemes in succeeding years. The financial commitments for these amounted to a further £7 million or so. When the Million Acre Scheme was introduced, it was agreed that the situation should be reviewed in its last year of operation.
That would have been in 1966, but it was subsequently decided to bring forward the date for review and, in 1964, the Kenya Government put forward proposals for a further programme of land transfer. These proposals, which involved very large sums of money, were awaiting consideration when this Government took office in 1964. Both the British and the Kenya Governments agreed that they should be examined on the spot in Kenya by a small expert team, and this was the Mission led by the Hon. Maxwell Stamp.
In its Report in 1965, the Stamp Mission noted that there was an immediate need to maintain a market in land and generally to improve agricultural productivity. It said that there should be further studies of agricultural problems in Kenya and that an expanding programme of land consolidation and reconstruction should be undertaken. It recommended a continuing programme of land purchase at a much reduced level over a four year period in the first instance, but that there should be a pause in settlement to enable past results to 1193 be analysed and present and future practice to be improved.
Discussions took place in London in November, 1965 between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, who was then Minister of Overseas Development, and a Kenya Government delegation, and it was announced that interest-free loans leading to the disbursement of £18 million would be provided during 1966–70 for the transfer of European mixed farms and general development. It was estimated that just over a third of this sum, about £6 million, would be absorbed by the transfer of 100,000 acres per annum for the next four years.
Briefly, this annual programme is composed of three elements—(a) about 50,000 acres for purchase by the Kenya Agricultural Development Corporation of transitional farms in areas of vital agricultural production; (b) up to 20,000 acres for low density settlement, although, because of the urgent need to complete the purchase of land for settlement under the Million Acre Scheme, the Kenya Department of Settlement has not yet been able to make a start on the new settlement programme; and (c) about 27,000 acres for private sales with mortgage assistance from the Kenya Land Bank.
That is the essence of the scheme and I now turn to the method of valuation under the new scheme. This has become, unfortunately, rather controversial since the visit to Kenya of Mr. Trumper, a professional valuer from this country. The hon. Member for Haltemprice was right to praise his professional qualifications and unimpeachable integrity, and I hope that he will accept that there are valuers in Kenya of equal professional competence and equally unimpeachable integrity, that in this matter it is often a conflict of view between people like Mr. Trumper and people in Kenya of equal standing, and it is not easy for laymen like the hon. Member and me to adjudicate between the experts. At the time of the 1965 discussions the methods to be used for the valuation of farms to be purchased had not been completed and it was agreed between the two Governments that there should be a joint United Kingdom—Kenya working party of professional valuers under the impartial chairmanship of the 1194 valuation member of the Stamp Mission. The report of this working party provided the basis of the new land transfer programme. As a result of the report of the Mission and further negotiations with the Kenya Government, I announced in the House on 9th August, 1966, that the two Governments had agreed that the basis of valuation for purchases under the new programme by the Kenya authorities should be current market values as assessed by professional valuers of the Kenya Lands Department. Purchases would continue to be on a willing buyer—willing seller basis.
In the first year's purchase programme of the Agricultural Development Corporation, 31 offers of purchase have been made, and of these 20 have been accepted. In our view these are satisfactory figures and they indicate that the programme has been going reasonably well. But, as is clear from the hon. Member's activities, a small group of farmers were dissatisfied with some of the offers that had been made and for this reason they arranged for Mr. Trumper to visit Kenya to investigate the situation on their behalf.
The Kenya Government did not object to this visit, but they were not prepared to agree to meetings between Mr. Trumper and their own professional valuers employed by the Lands Department to discuss the method and conduct of valuations. They took the view that these matters were the subject of inter-Governmental arrangements with the British Government and that they were not prepared to discuss them with private individuals. The British Government had not, of course, sponsored Mr. Trumper's visit officially, but through the British High Commission they indicated to the Kenya Government that misunderstandings might arise if Mr. Trumper heard only one side of the story. Nevertheless, the Kenya Government were not prepared to change their decision.
Mr. Trumper has now made his report to his clients and, as I have indicated, my right hon. Friend has received a copy. In my reply to the right hon. Gentleman I indicated that he is studying it and will consider whether representations arising from it are necessary. The report is critical of some aspects of the valuation 1195 arrangements, but, as we foresaw, it is of necessity based on information provided by Mr. Trumper's clients. Had Mr. Trumper been able to meet the Kenya Government's valuers, some of the difficulties to which he referred might have been disposed of—we concede that —or at least a better understanding might have been reached.
At this point I should like to repeat that nothing has happened and no evidence has been produced which has impaired the full confidence of the British Government in the impartiality and professional integrity of the Kenya Government's professional valuers, a confidence which is based on years of experience of the work of their Department, often carried out in difficult and controversial conditions. Hon. Members must realise that it is the duty of the valuers under the current scheme not only to value farms but to negotiate their purchase on behalf of the Agricultural Development Corporation, and we are confident that, in accordance with the agreement reached between the two Governments, they are negotiating the purchase of farms at what they have assessed to be current market values.
§ Mr. Oram
We are satisfied that this is a good scheme of valuation based on a very competent report by a very competent working party. I am glad that the hon. Member feels that the scheme, which we believe to be suitable, is being properly implemented.
The expatriate valuers employed by the Kenya Government have a crucially important rôle to play in the implementation of the land transfer programme. Their job is difficult enough already and I suggest that we in the House ought to do nothing that might make their task ever more difficult.
The hon. Gentleman suggested—I think that he was repeating a suggestion put by forward by the Kenya National Farmers' Union—that the difficulties which have arisen would have been overcome if the British Government had made 1196 available a grant element. He indicated that in the earlier scheme there was a grant element. It is true that there is no grant element in these current arrangements, and I want to insist that there is no prospect of the introduction of such an element. On the other hand—and this is a point of which the hon. Member should take full note when comparing the present scheme with the million acre scheme—the present loan, unlike previous loans to the Kenya Government, is interest free, and this is a highly significant characteristic. It is estimated that the fact that the loan is interest free is the equivalent of a 65 per cent. grant spread over the period of a loan.
It has been suggested—the hon. Member did not make the point—that the Agricultural Development Corporation is forced to offer low valuation because it has to pay interest on the money which is on-lent to it by the Kenya Government. I know that he did not make the point, but it has been made and it is worth a reply. Whethere interest is payable or not, that is not a point taken into consideration by the valuer, who in accordance with the agreement between the two Governments, is instructed to base his valuation on current market values.
§ Mr. Oram
I do not quite know what the hon. Member means by "much more flexible" He may be talking about a point which I discussed earlier with his right hon. Friend. I assure him that the valuer will not negotiate at a level below current market values.
If, in the purchase of any particular farm, the A.D.C. wish to depart from these arrangements, they are bound under the terms of the agreement to refer the matter to the British High Commission. In no case so far have they done so or sought to buy a farm at a figure less than that assessed by the valuer as the current market value.
Towards the end of his speech the hon. Member raised the important question of compassionate cases and I want to say 1197 something new about that. He inquired about future arrangements with regard to the purchase of compassionate case farms. For the first round of cases—that is, 1965—accepted under the scheme, 30 offers to purchase were made and 19 offers were accepted.
In the second round, 18 offers were made and 6 accepted. Of those who refused or did not reply to the offers, some had disposed of their farms by private sale. It is intended that the scheme should continue on the basis of the same criteria as before, that is to say the degree of exposure to special risks because of old age, infirmity or isolation and financial inability to leave the farm unless it is sold.
Farmers must also be citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. Valuation of farms will ordinarily be on current market value, and in view of the present stable security situation in Kenya, and the security situation is fundamental in our consideration of any particular case, I would expect that very few cases will arise in future.
The scheme must now be regarded as having very largely fulfilled its original purpose, although it will be maintained in order that the exceptional cases may still be dealt with. Like its predecessors, the 400,000-acre scheme is not in any way a compensation scheme for British farmers, introduced because of political changes which have rightly taken place in Kenya. It is an important part of the development programme of the Kenya Government, which is being implemented with the support and concurrence of the British Government.
It is essential, from the point of view of the Kenya Government, that the prices paid for British-owned farms should not be so high that a burden is placed on the country's economy. Equally, if the land transfer programme is to continue on a "willing buyer—willing seller" basis, prices must not be so low that a British farmer cannot willingly accept them. Our information indicates that a 1198 reasonable balance is being maintained and that the agreement which has been worked out between the two Governments is proving reasonably satisfactory. There will always be arguments in individual cases—they take place in this country, as we know only too well—about the valuations placed on a farmer's property. If the farmer feels that his farm is more valuable to him than the price offered, there is no obligation to sell.
The land transfer schemes in Kenya have been generously supported in recent years by the British Government and taxpayers. Since 1961 they have made available £30 million in loans and grants for such schemes. We must recognise, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice said he recognised, that the attitude of the Kenya Government to this problem has been entirely praiseworthy. There are influential citizens in Kenya who feel strongly that the prices paid for British farms are higher than the country can afford. Some also feel that the development funds devoted to the 400,000-acre scheme could be more usefully employed in other ways.
This relates to what the right hon. Member for Bridlington spoke of. It has been to the substantial advantage of the British farming community as a whole that, none the less the Kenya Government has seen fit to continue with the programme of land transfer. Those members of that community who are still in Kenya but who hope to dispose of their farms under the balance of the current programme of land transfer would be the chief sufferers if controversy is carried too far and the future of the programme is therefore jeopardised.
There are many interests involved, and sometimes different and conflicting views have been expressed. The scheme devised by the two Governments, after long and careful negotiations, offers a means of meeting the aspirations of the people of Kenya and, in our view, represents a realistic and satisfactory solution to the problems of many British farmers.