HL Deb 13 May 1920 vol 40 cc306-26

THE EARL OF MAYO rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies as to the action of the Colonial Office in restricting the rights of natives in British West Africa in the disposal of natural products, viz., palm kernels, in the open markets of the world; to ask whether any action has been taken by the Foreign Office or the India Office in connection with this matter; and to move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the matter to which I draw your attention and that of the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for the Colonies was debated in December last. Lord Beauchamp, in an excellent speech, dealt very strictly with the technicalities of the subject, and Lord Emmott followed with an able speech. One asks oneself whether the Government have altered their Colonial policy with regard to natives on the West Coast of Africa, because those natives are prevented from dealing freely in the markets of the world with the produce that they get from their own forests. Why? It is said that we wished to stop Germany having the monopoly of crushing these palm kernels. That is all very well. So far as it goes, it is quite right. But the duty of £2 per ton on kernels is to be continued for five years after the war. What is more, in the White Paper published in June, 1916, it is stated— If a duty of £2 per ton be found insufficient to divert the trade to this country, the amount should be raised until the duty is adequate to effect its purpose, and this determination should be made clear from the outset. According to that the outlook for the exporters, especially the small ones, is not very rosy.

I must draw your attention to the fact that the first stage in the policy was taken as a war measure when Mr. Bonar Law, in 1915, appointed a Committee upon oil seeds and kernels under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland. The Committee was composed of Departmental officials, margarine manufacturers, palm oil merchants, a shipper, and Mr. T. Wiles, a corn merchant and M.P. for Islington, who issued a Minority Report. I would like to direct attention to the margarine manufacturers represented on the Committee. The Report was not signed either by Sir Frederick Lugard or Sir Hugh Clifford, and there are no two gentlemen in the world who know more than they do about the West Coast of Africa, how to deal with the natives, the finance of our dependency there, and the trade of the country. Sir Frederick Lugard appealed afterwards in The Times to have the duty removed.

My opinion, and the opinion of many others, is that this duty was imposed merely in the interests of a small group of manufacturers in this country who otherwise buy in the open markets. Lord Crawford, who answered for the Government, mentioned in his speech that assurances were given to those manufacturers, and he hinted at something which Mr. Bonar Law said with regard to the matter in August, 1916. Towards the end of his speech he said that a complete statement would be made as to the form which these assurances took. We have heard nothing more about those assurances, however. We do not know where they are, or what they were, or to whom they were given, and I must ask that they should be produced.

In case some of your Lordships do not know what palm kernels are used for, I wish to say that they are used for making salad oil and margarine, and I do not think our margarine factories need this protective duty of £2 per ton, for you have only to look at their dividends. It is rather interesting to see the enormous dividends that were paid. In 1919 the Jurgens group of margarine manufacturers invited additional capital to its £5,000,000, and it was stated in the prospectus that during the years 1912–13–14 the dividend was 20 per cent., during 1915–16–17 it was 25 per cent., and during 1918 it was 15 per cent., and £303,828 was carried forward. I wish I had some of those shares; they are extremely valuable. There is something more with regard to that company. They have just stated that this year they made £1,000,000 profit.

This Order came into force last October. There is a great deal more than the £2 which the exporter has to pay. It was mentioned by Lord Beauchamp and, with your Lordships' leave, I will quote it again— The larger exporters are allowed by the Nigerian Customs to give a bond to cover this duty, but the small shipper, be he native or European"—'and, of course, generally speaking he is a native'—"is debarred from giving a bond, and obliged to pay the duty, for which it is in the highest degree improbable that he will become liable, and which duty will only be returned to him, then without interest, on his producing the landing certificate from the port of discharge for the consignment—— That is to say, it might be the port of Bristol— This certificate it will probably take him six months to obtain. For this landing certificate the charge is 5s. Customs fee and 5s. for clerical work entailed, so that a shipper who makes, say, fifty small shipments of five tons each incurs charges as follows, compared with his more favoured competitors—

50 Landing Certificates 10s. £25
10 per cent. interest for say—six months on £500, being a deposit of £2 per ton Export duty on 250 tons £25
Allowing six months for obtaining the Landing Certificate."

I believe that Lord Crawford, in his reply, said something with regard to these charges being mitigated. I do not know how that has worked out. One asks oneself, Is it or is it not in the interests of the governed that this burden should be imposed? Surely it is not in the interests of the governed, especially of these natives. I have been on the West Coast twice. I was there in 1882 and again a few years before the war, and the change in that country was to me marvellous to see. Railways have been built and the natives have been encouraged to grow their produce. It is a great thing if they work because it is a deadly climate and the white man suffers there. The change that I saw was very remarkable indeed, and I stopped on the coast some short time.

It was said that this duty of £2 per ton was placed on these kernels in order to enable our manufacturers to put up crushing mills, but I must point out that our manufacturers began to put up crushing mills long before the duty was imposed. And also I must point out to the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for the Colonies that America, by Treaty, cannot put a £2 duty on cotton seed. Why on earth should we put a £2 duty on palm kernels? There would be a pretty good howl in this country among manufacturers, I imagine, if America were to put a £2 duty on cotton seed.

What has France done with regard to this matter? We do not put on these duties without hearing something from foreign countries about them. This is a letter addressed to the Foreign Office dated February 17, 1920— The French Government state that the object of the prohibition is to reserve for France the whole of the Colonial oleaginous produce which is recognised to be indispensable for the needs of French industry, and which is not nearly sufficient to furnish all the raw material which is required. They add that if the French Government freed the exportation of these articles to foreign countries, French manufacturers would be compelled to obtain even more of their raw materials in foreign countries, which would necessitate an additional and highly detrimental expense in respect of exchange and freight. They therefore regret that in these circumstances it is impossible to accede to the requests which have been addressed to them on behalf of His Majesty's Government. What is the effect of that? The effect is that we cannot go into French West African territory and buy palm oil kernels. Our British merchants there cannot deal in these kernels. The natives can only sell to French merchants. Naturally it is a position which seriously affects them. If these prohibitions are continued there is no reason why they should not be extended throughout all the British Dependencies. I do not suppose it will; and I hope it will not. It is a bad policy. Why should not we encourage these natives? It is a policy also which opens out a good chance of retaliation by foreign countries. We do not want that. We want the trade of the world to go free now after the war. Our Imperial policy is to administer a Dependency in the interests of the inhabitants of the Dependency, and why should not the native in West Africa have a free market for what he gathers in his soil?

A day or two ago Mr. Harris, the Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Society, received a letter from one of the largest merchants in Liverpool and on the West Coast, in which he said— Dear Mr. HARRIS,—I received yours of the 6th inst., and game was duly circulated amongst the directors. I do not know that I can add any fresh points to those you already possess in regard to the palm kernel export preferential duties. I think the main thing to be brought out is that the tax to-day is useless. None of the old Continental competitors in the palm kernel crushing industry can afford to buy palm kernels. I have only heard of one sale of a small quantity direct to Germany since the Armistice. It was reported on the market the other day that kernels had been sold to Hamburg at £43, carriage, insurance, and freight, free. The only use the tax has to-day is to give the French a handle to say tu quoque to us when we reproach them for their narrow views as expressed in differential tariffs, export prohibitions, and preferential treatment in French Colonies. This point you quite correctly bring out in your letter to LORD Emmott of May 6, on which I have no criticisms to make. Even supposing the kernels pay the £2 per ton, they can be exported from England to Hamburg. May I point out to the noble Viscount that a sum of nearly £100,000 has been subscribed by the natives of West Africa to finance a deputation to this country in order to obtain a larger share in the government of their country and, incidentally, to get the £2 duty off the palm kernels.

I have asked for Papers. I should like to know whether there has been any communication with the India Office as to the adoption of a similar policy for India. I understand that there has been a communication on the point. The Indian producers are quite strong enough to be heard and to take care of themselves. But who is going to speak for the West African native in the same manner? I also ask for the assurances that were given in the speech made by Lord Crawford, and for the correspondence on this subject between the Foreign Office and any other Power I beg to move.


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Earl has brought this question up once more. In December last we debated it in the absence of the Secretary of State, and in those circumstances it is impossible to expect or obtain so satisfactory a reply as can be made by the Minister who is himself responsible for the policy which is being discussed. I need not go again into the whole question. I refer only in passing to the Report of the Committee to which the noble Earl has alluded. It will be remembered that the recommendations of that Report were founded on the expectation of a continued formidable German competition after the war, and that Germany would be able to give State aid on a lavish scale for the crushing industry in that country. Instead of that, Germany is now only able to pay for very small quantities of palm kernels at the present rate of exchange.

On the hypothesis of German competition the Report was accepted by the Government, but it was not put into force at that time. An attempt was made to put it into force in 1918, but it failed against the determined opposition of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast, which Sir Hugh Clifford did not see his way to break down. In October, 1919, it was put into force by the fiat of the Secretary of State. I am told that the new Governor of the Gold Coast made a special and urgent appeal to the unofficial minority on the Legislative Council not to oppose the legislation recommended by the Secretary of State. In spite of that appeal, the whole of the unofficial minority voted against the Ordinance. I put it forward as a general proposition that in financial matters it is highly undesirable that the unofficial minority should be voted clown by the official majority in these Legislative Councils; and when the policy recommended is one which appears to be against the interest of the natives and to inure to the benefit of manufacturers at home, it is doubly undesirable.

In the absence of the noble Viscount an answer was given on behalf of the Government on the last occasion by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He stated, by some mistake, that the Ordinance passed in October, 1919, had created a new market by December, 1919. That, of course, was entirely untenable, and he altered it by suggesting that manufacturers had put down machinery on the strength of a guarantee or assurance given to them, and the noble Earl made a definite promise that this assurance would he given to the House. "I will undertake," said the noble Earl, "that a complete statement shall be made as to the justification of my remark that an assurance has been given. What form that assurance took I will endeavour to find out." My Lords, I take a somewhat different view of that assurance from that of the noble Earl opposite. I venture to say that in the absence of any kind of evidence of an assurance having been given to the House, no such assurance was given.


I must apologise to the House if I promised to give the House something which I did not give. The correspondence on the subject went direct to Lord Beauchamp.


In that correspondence, so far as I know—it was sent to me by Lord Beauchamp—there was nothing dealing with the question of assurances. I think I am correct in saying that no assurance was given——


I propose to deal with that point when I speak.


—and no assurance was required. I was in close touch with the question during the war. Nothing gave me more anxiety for some years than the supply of oil seeds. If ever there was a key industry, this was a key industry during the war. We depended upon it for the supply of glycerine for propellants and of margarine for the feeding of the population. What happened? The figures of the earlier years given in the Report which has been mentioned show that in 1913, before the war, the import of kernels was only 36,000 tons. In 1914 it was 75,000 tons. The influence of the war was already being felt. In 1915 it was 233,000 tons. In 1916 and 1917 it was 213,000 tons. In 1919 it was 300,000 tons. Those kernels were brought here and nearly all crushed here. The manufacturers had provided the machinery which was necessary. They did it because it paid them, but also for patriotic reasons. If they had not crushed those kernels they would not have had a sufficient supply of their ordinary seeds—namely, cotton seed, linseed, copra, &c. It was because it suited us from the shipping point of view to bring from West Africa oil-bearing material to the home country, in preference to going further afield, that these kernels were brought here. With that observation I will leave the question of assurances.

Then the noble Earl said it was necessary to make good some of the money that had been lost by ceasing to import gin into these countries. That is perfectly true, but it is not this £2 preferential duty that they are getting much money from. There is another duty besides this. There is the £2 export duty on kernels sent everywhere, to this country as well as to other countries. This £2 differential duty is only charged where the goods are sent to foreign countries. The £2 duty on all kernels must bring in some hundreds of thousands of pounds, although I imagine not half the amount which used to be obtained from the duties on gin. The £2 preferential duty cannot up to the present time have brought in any large amount of money and, so far as it provides anything, it negatives the purpose for which it was proposed.

A more effective part of the noble Earl's reply was the question of precedents. He mentioned tin from the Straits Settlements and Nigeria, and said that Lord Harcourt was responsible for imposing the duty in the case of Nigeria. My noble friend Lord Harcourt is not here, but he authorises me to say that the case was put to him by Sir John Anderson, Permanent Secretary at the Colonial Office, and that when he sanctioned it it was in his mind that it was only a war measure, although he did not put any such minute on the Papers at the time. In any case, my Lords, tin is an industry carried on under the supervision of white men, and carried on by the payment of wages. It is a very different industry from the collection of these kernels, which is a very ancient native industry.

Then the noble Earl produced, with a great flourish, another precedent in the shape of the preferential duty imposed on the export of hides from India. Among the Papers sent to Lord Beauchamp was a report of the debates in the Council in India on this particular duty, and I notice that several of the Indian members objected to Empire Preference. They only valued this export duty as a protection to the tanning industry at home. In any event if a duty forced on a reluctant, colony by the fiat of the Secretary of State is unwise—if, as I shall show, it is opposed to the principle of the Covenant of the League of Nations with regard to Central Africa—any precedents produced on this matter do in my mind lose all their force, even in a somewhat precedent-ridden community as we are here. Then Lord Crawford seemed to imagine that I was actuated in my opposition to this measure by hostility to Imperial Preference. I think he even accused me of using severe epithets about those who support Imperial Preference. I never spoke or thought of Imperial Preference.


This debate took place four or five months ago, and I have not looked at the Report since. Therefore I am unable to answer the noble Lord. I cannot reply, and I plead guilty at once and apologise.


The noble Earl is very good-natured about it. He implored me to read my speeches the next day, which I did, to see what the epithets were. Speaking only for myself, for I probably plough a rather lonely furrow, I have never expressed or felt any particular hostility to Imperial Preference. So long as we retain our present fiscal system Imperial Preference given in the Mother Country must be largely a farce, and I should object to its being used as a lever to force us to impose duties which otherwise we should consider undesirable. Apart from that, I do not see how we could reasonably refuse it. To my mind this duty is an absolute negation of Imperial Preference. The essence of Imperial Preference is that the part of the Empire giving it makes a financial sacrifice in pursuit of what is really the noble ideal of binding more closely the links of Empire. Preference forced on a reluctant Colony by the fiat of the Secretary of State, particularly for the benefit of trade in the home country, eliminates the whole idea of voluntary sacrifice, which is the valuable spiritual factor in Preference. It brings exacerbation and ill-will, and must be fissiparous in its effect on the links binding the Empire together.

I say in all seriousness that West Africa has not been particularly well treated during the war. The prices of all produce were controlled and kept at a pre-war level during the war. Sir Frederick Lugard, in his interesting Report, mentions that in Lagos in 1918 the price of oil was £3 18s. per ton less, and the price of kernels £3 10s. 10d. per ton less, than before the war.


What date was that?




It is much higher since.


Yes, I will deal with that in a moment. I am dealing with 1918. I think the controlled price here was £24 or £26, but at that time the goods that the natives had to buy, and particularly cotton goods, were going up by leaps and bounds, and they, still more than the native produce, have gone up since 1918, and are now excessively high. As soon as the market was free and competitive prices obtained, kernels went up very much, and since that happened this duty has been imposed. When it was put on I must say that it was not of much importance, became prices were high at the time, and the coast price at Lagos was about £30 to £31. That, of course, compared with pre-war prices, was high, but to-day prices are very much down again. The price at Lagos to-day is only £24, and a tax of £4—that is £2 all-round tax and £2 differential tax-on £24 is a very heavy impost.

Incidentally, the recommendations of the Commission have not been carried out, because now a landing certificate is accepted instead of a crushing certificate, so that the kernels can be brought here and re-shipped to any foreign country. What we know happens as a result of this is that the Colony does not get its £2 differential duty, although the kernels go to the foreign destination. I hope in these circumstances that the Secretary of State will be good enough to explain his intentions as to the future.

I want to ask, in regard to this part of the matter, three specific questions. First of all, does he mean to drop this tax when the five years have expired? That is a very important matter. Is this to be a permanent tax or is it not In the second place, as prices are falling, does he intend to retain this tax and so lower the prices that merchants can offord to pay for the produce? Or, on the other band, does he mean to follow the recommendation that the Committee made as to certain contingencies? Does he mean to make it a movable tax? Does he mean to increase it?

There is one other point, and it is a much more serious one. I presume that the Secretary of State accepts the principle of trusteeship in dealing with native races. When I was at the Colonial Office we always regarded the interests of the natives of the Colony—as we understood them—as having a claim far superior to the interest of the traders at home. I am quite sure that the noble Viscount also follows that policy. Sir Frederick Lugard, to whom reference has been made, said in a letter to The Times to which Lord Mayo referred, that the Power in control, in dealing with subject races, should in no remote way seek her own advantage at their expense—that any sacrifice asked from them in return for however great sacrifices by the Suzerain Power must be wholly voluntary. I must say it is difficult to understand how this duty can be defended on the basis of our acknowledged principle of Colonial policy. It is quite unnecessary for the purposes for which it was intended, as against Germany. So far as it inures to anybody's benefit, it inures to the benefit of home traders and has a depressing effect on prices in the Colony. I hope that the Secretary of State will explain, if it is consistent, how it is consistent with the basis of our Colonial policy which has been carried out for the last fifty or seventy years.

To-day we are face to face with the reconstruction of the greater part of the world. With the best statesmanship and with the greatest good will the position is serious enough. The Leader of the House, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Curzon of Kedleston), practically never speaks here without warning us how serious the dangers are. If one could imagine Europe once again free from war, famine, and pestilence, and facing the future with some hope of prosperity, the chief risk of the recrudescence of war would arise, I think, in regard to matters of trade. To guard against that risk the League of Nations has been set up, and in laying down the lines of government in the Covenant of the League, to which we were a party, we made ourselves responsible for this part of Article XXII— Other peoples, especially t hose of Central Africa, are at such a stage that the Mandatory must be responsible for the administration of the territory under conditions which will guarantee freedom of conscience and religion … the prohibition of abuses … and the prevention of the establishment of fortifications or military and naval bases and of military training of the natives for other than police purposes and the defence of territory, and will also secure equal opportunities for the trade and commerce of other members of the League. The whole purpose of the League of Nations and of the League of Nations' Covenant is to preserve peace. The meaning of that section is that peace will be endangered if we depart from the policy there recommended—that is to say, no preferential import or export duties shall be imposed by a Mandatory of the League, on the signatories of the League.

Apart from any League of Nations, that has been the settled policy of this country for many years. In 1896 the then Colonial Secretary, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, said— We, in our Colonial policy, as fast as we acquire new territory and develop it, develop it as trustees of civilisation for the commerce of the world. We offer in all these markets over which our Flag floats the same opportunities, the same open field to foreigners that we otter to our own subjects, and upon the same terms. In that policy we stand alone, because all other nations, as fast as they acquire new territory—acting, as I believe, most mistakenly in their own interests, and, above all, in the interests of the countries they administer—all other nations seek at once to secure the monopoly for their own products by preferential and artificial methods. It has been one of the greatest glories of this country that we have governed coloured people more humanely and more successfully in a financial way than any other country in the world. The moral effect has been that when some territory was to be absorbed by one of the great white races, it was preferred that Great Britain should take it rather than any other nation, because of our retaining the policy of the open door. To our great honour the natives also preferred us, because of the humane treatment which, on the whole, we have given to them. As to the financial effect of our policy, in all these Colonies—in West Africa, in Nigeria (I think even Northern Nigeria, but at any rate in Southern Nigeria), in the Gold Coast, in Sierra Leone, on the other side of Africa, in British East Africa—grants in aid had ceased; the Colonies were paying for themselves, even at the time when I was at the Colonial Office, now some years ago.

The point I want to put is this. Regarding the matter at the lowest, is this a wise moment to change what has been in the past a settled policy on our part? We are warned that this country is not specially popular at the present moment, even among our Allies with whom we fought the recent wars. I do not see any special readiness on the part of foreign people to impute the best motives to all our actions at the present time. The question I put is this. What must those who are disposed to be critical think of us who have obtained so large a part of our Empire on the principle of the open door, of us who are the foremost advocates of the League of Nations, of us who have set our seal to the solemn Covenant from which I read your Lordships a few words just now, applying to the policy to be pursued in Central Africa—what must they think of us if we take this opportunity to reverse a policy in our old possessions not subject to mandate at all—a policy which we have carried out for seventy years—and adopt a new one directly opposed to the principles set out in Article XXII of the League of Nations Covenant. The noble Earl opposite has referred to the effect on France, and I will say no more about that.

I have only one word, in conculsion, as to the Colonies themselves. I think the effect in the Colonies must not be ignored or belittled. I do not know what the Colonial Office hears from West Africa or from Nigeria of which I have most second-hand knowledge of late. All I can say is that the opinions expressed to me by well-informed people are that the conditions there are more unsettled than they have been for many years. I do not for a moment suggest that this duty of which I complain is the main cause of that unsettlement; the main cause is lack of silver and the forcing on the natives of paper currency which has become tremendously depreciated. I can hardly believe some of the stories I hear about that paper currency. But what I do say is that there is most serious unsettlement there at the present moment, and I venture to maintain that it is an unwise moment to add to the unrest by imposing a duty like this, or by maintaining it for a moment longer than is necessary.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord who has just addressed us will not consider it discourteous on my part if I do not follow him into the discussion of the very big general principles which he has raised. I do not think it could be expected of me, nor do I think it would be a convenient plan, to enter into a general discussion of our economic policy on a comparatively small point like this. I may say, however, that I accept—I have repeatedly stated it myself—the principle of trusteeship with regard to our position as a nation in all these dependent Crown Colonies and Protectorates. I consider that wherever we are obliged, owing to the backwardness of the population of these countries, to keep the ultimate authority in our own hands, we have to exercise that authority in the interests of the people of those countries and not for our own advantage.

I may say that this particular policy which is so severely criticised was adopted in what we considered to be the interests of those Colonies, whether we were right or wrong in that opinion. I do not think that it would serve any good purpose or that I am called upon to go over again the whole ground of the discussion which took place in this House in my absence. I shall confine myself on this occasion to dealing with the new points, as far as there were any new points, which have been raised to-day, and to replying as far as I can to the questions which have been directly addressed to me.

I think the root of the whole matter is this question of assurances. Personally I do not consider—I have never considered, as far as my own actions are concerned in this matter—that I could take any other course than that which I did take, which was to press the Colonial Governments concerned to carry out the policy which had been laid down by the Government three years before, and which only owing to accidental circumstances had not been carried out when I came into the Colonial Office rather more than a year ago. I considered that we were bound to do what we had announced to the world that it was our determination and intention to do, seeing that people had for several years been acting on the belief that, His Majesty's Government having all the powers in its hands in such a matter, would carry out its expressed intention.

There seems to have been some misunderstanding about assurances. I was not here when my noble friend behind me (Lord Crawford) spoke of the assurances given by the Government. It seems to have been supposed that be referred to some direct assurances given to individual manufacturers that, if they took such and such a course, the Government would take particular action. What I fancy he must have been referring to, and certainly what I rely upon, it not any such individual assurances to manufacturers, but the policy laid down by the Secretary of State when he communicated the Report of the Committee to the several Governments concerned, which became a Parliamentary Paper, which policy does, to my mind, amount to an assurance, not to individuals but urbi et orbi, a declaration of policy of what His Majesty's Government proposed to do. And this was an instruction, as I read it. I may be mistaken, but it seems to me to have been an instruction to the Governors-General of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Gold Coast to carry out the recommendations of the Committee on Edible and Oil-Producing Nuts and Seeds. The words are very strong. This is what my predecessor—not my immediate predecessor but the then occupant of the Colonial Office—said in this Despatch of June 1, 1916, which was a Parliamentary Paper— I have considered carefully the Report which the Committee have presented, and I see no reason why their proposals should not be adopted forthwith. Of their four recommendations the first and last alone call for action on the part of your Government. Now the first recommendation which he referred to is this— The imposition for a period of years of an export duty on palm kernels, to be remitted if the kernels are brought to the United Kingdom and crushed there. Then he went on to say, "You will, I am sure, cause the necessary action to be taken forthwith." Later in the Despatch he said— To this end, I consider that the Committee's recommendation of an export duty, to be fixed provisionally at £2 per ton of palm kernels and to be remitted on production of proof that the kernels have been delivered to, and crushed by, a seed crusher in the United Kingdom, or any part of the British Empire, is a practicable proposal which should be adopted. It will therefore be necessary to introduce legislation in the West African Colonies to impose such an export duty upon palm kernels … There are the assurances, as I understand it, to which my noble friend referred. This policy having been publicly announced, having been embodied in Ordinances submitted to the various Colonial Legislatures, I venture to say that any parties who had put their capital into the development of kernel-crushing machinery in this country on the face of those declarations would have had good ground for complaining that they had been unfairly treated, in fact that there had been something like a breach of faith on the part of His Majesty's Government, if we had not gone on with the legislation we had practically promised. To my mind, that is the dominating factor in the case.

It may be said that the change of circumstances rendered this legislation unnecessary, that the justification for it was that, without this preferential system, it was impossible to develop in this country an industry which it was in the interests of the native producer himself to see developed here. It is then said that this might have been the case if Germany had not been so ruined by the war but that, seeing the condition in which Germany was left at the close of the war, it was no longer necessary to give this advantage to the British manufacturer, and that the British manufacturer who had put his money into this business, or who might have done so, on the faith of the promise of the benefit he would derive from this preferential duty, was safe in any case. It may or may not be so; but it seems to me that it is much too soon to say what will or will not be the position of that manufacturer as against foreign competitors during the next few years. Whether it was owing to the promise of this preferential duty or to other causes—I think undoubtedly, to some extent at any rate, owing to the encouragement given by the imposition of that duty—for some reason. or other we have now got in this country what we had not before—namely, a large kernel-crushing industry. It is, in my opinion, a great advantage to the native producer, as it obviously is au advantage to this country, to have that industry. The imposition of this preferential duty was part of a policy directed to the establishment of that industry. I was not prepared to run the chance of that policy failing to achieve its object; I was not prepared to weaken the chances of success of that policy by departing from the course laid down by my predecessors.

The noble Lord who spoke last asked me with regard to the future. He asked whether I intended to carry on this preferential export duty after the expiration of five years. It is very unlikely that this will be a matter for me to decide. But as things now stand the Ordinances are so drafted that the preferential duty ceases at the end of five years, if nothing more is done. As I have always understood the case, the object of the duty was a temporary one. Unless I misconceive the position, a preferential duty was imposed in order to give a start to a particular industry in this country, and it was never intended to maintain it longer than was requisite to achieve that object. I think it is always very dangerous to give promises about the future as one can never foresee all the circumstances that may arise, and I am not prepared to give a promise in this case; but certainly I should hope that at the end of the period for which the duty is now imposed it might not be found necessary to continue it.

I agree with the noble Lord who spoke last that the principle of Imperial Preference is not really involved in this matter. The great merit, or one of the great merits (because I think it has others), of Imperial Preference is that it is a sacrifice willingly made by one part of the Empire in order to give an advantage to the rest from what I myself have described as a "fraternal feeling." That, of course, is not applicable to the present case. As I have said, I think this is a special case which has to be justified on special grounds. I believe the adoption of the policy by my predecessor was justified. I think that the object which he sought is being achieved, and I am inclined to think that it will be unnecessary to maintain the duty at the end of the period of five years for which it has been imposed.

With regard to the fact that the Ordinances have been passed in one Colony over the heads of the non-official members, I should like to say this. Of course, it is always an unpleasant duty to instruct any Governor to use the official vote to over-ride the unofficial vote, but the only justification for keeping an official majority in any Colony is that we are convinced that we are better judges, for the time being, of the interests of the native population than they are themselves. Unless we thought that, we should not be justified in keeping our official majority. If that is the case, then I think that the argument that the unofficial vote was against you is not an argument which possesses any force. The responsibility rests with us. It is not as if we departed from the principle of trusteeship. On the contrary, on the principle of trusteeship we keep the authority in the hands which we think for the time being, most competent to use it, and we must not be fearful about making use of that reserve power.

As regards the actual position of the natives in these Colonies, I was glad to hear what the noble Earl opposite said about their greatly improved condition. The noble Lord who spoke last referred to a recent fall in the price of the produce upon which this duty is placed, which, he said, made it a heavy one. There may have been some slight fall recently, but if you compare the price of the produce now with what it was at the most prosperous period before the war, not to say with what it was at the time when this policy which is so much attacked was initiated, you can only come to the conclusion that the native, from whatever cause, is enormously better off than he was as a producer. The price at Lagos in 1913. or at the beginning of 1914—at any rate the best price before the war—which was received by the natives selling at Lagos was £16. It fell during the war to £9. It was that tremendous fall, owing to the loss of the German market, which led to this question first being taken in hand by my predecessor at the Colonial Office. Then there was cause to be alarmed about the position of the native producer. The latest figure I have got is £28.




Your figures are more recent than mine, perhaps. Was that at Lagos?


I understand so.


Even £24 is a figure which contrasts very favourably with the best figure which the native producer received in pre-war times.


When was the £9 to which you refer?


Either in 1915 or at the beginning of 1916.


Was not that in consequence of the lack of shipping?


That was in consequence of the loss of the German market, which was the only market they had. Now they have got, at any rate, a good and secure market within the Empire.


My Lords, I am a little disappointed with the noble Viscount's speech. It seems to me that he has not indicated to your Lordships what is the real definite attitude of His Majesty's Government in regard to a departure from our traditional policy in connection with subject races, especially in Africa. He commenced his observations by deprecating the raising of the question of commercial policy on such a small point, but it seems to me that the Government, in accepting, on the recommendation of an Inquiry made during the war, a proposal which has been put into operation since, are really departing from a most valuable policy which has been to the great advantage of the Empire in the past.

The noble Viscount has alluded to the importance of accepting the position of trustee for the good of the native races whom we govern. It has been our proud boast that when we occupied territory of a more or less uncivilised character we always did our utmost to secure the freedom of those races, and their welfare and happiness, and that we did not exploit them for our peculiar benefit. In that way we differed from many others who have failed in their colonising programmes. As a trustee it seems to me there are duties to the native rather than to the home manufacturer, and we ought not to dwell upon the fact that an industry has been established at home which is going to be a profitable industry to a small section of our community if it is not also going to be to the interest of the natives concerned in one of our Colonies. The noble Viscount seems to me to have failed in proving that the policy of placing this high duty upon the product of a particular Colony is to the advantage of the community itself. Our loyal subjects in our various dependencies have been mainly secured in the past because we did not exploit their labour for our special benefit. This is a direct departure from that policy. Because it is an important departure and because we have had no definite declaration that even at the end of five years it will cease, I have ventured to raise my protest against the continuation of a policy which has only recently been adopted by His Majesty's Government.


I beg to move for the Papers for which I asked.


The Motion is that there be laid before the House the following Papers——


No notice has been given.


The Noble Earl moved for Papers, and in the course of his speech indicated the Papers which I accepted as the substance of the Motion.


I hear of these Papers for the first time, and I cannot promise the noble Earl to lay them without inquiry. He asks, for instance, for the correspondence between the Foreign Office and other Powers. I am not aware of the existence of such correspondence.


I read one letter myself.


That does not alter the fact that I know nothing about it. Communications with the India Office is another matter, about which I know nothing. The noble Earl also asks for the correspondence in connection with the assurances given by the Government on the subject. No assurances were given by correspondence, and I have tried to explain that these assurances were the declared policy of the Government. There have been no assurances given to individual manufacturers. Therefore I am asked to agree to Papers some of which I know do not exist and communications with the Foreign Office with which I am not acquainted. If the noble Earl really wants to know whether foreign Governments have protested against our action I can tell him that they have not. What he quoted from was the reply of the French Government to our protests against their prohibiting the export of oil seeds to any country except France. That is a perfectly different point. No protest has been addressed to us against the course we have taken with regard to the duties under discussion.


My Lords, it seems to me hardly a convenient course that a discussion should take place across the Table as to the particular Papers for which the noble Earl asks. Would not the simplest course be for the noble Earl to place himself in communication with the noble Viscount as to what Papers he requires in order to see whether they can properly be produced?


I should be very willing to follow that course.


I think the noble Viscount has a list of the Papers.


Yes, but it is not sufficiently explicit to enable me to deal with the matter.


For the present I will leave the matter in the hands of the noble Viscount.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.