HL Deb 17 December 1940 vol 118 cc122-40

LORD FARINGDON had given Notice that he would draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to the situation of the British and Allied Colonial possessions and to the need for co-ordination of economic policy between them; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the subject of the Motion which I have on the paper to-day is one on which it would be possible to speak at great length. If therefore I speak as briefly as possible your Lordships will understand that it is not from any lack of appreciation of the magnitude of the subject. The reason for putting down this Motion was not in order to inflict upon your Lordships my own views on the subject, but rather to elicit from the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies a statement of policy. Various questions have been put on this subject in another place, and the replies received have generally been felt to be at least inconclusive, certainly by no means so full as I am hoping to receive to-day from the noble Lord the Secretary of State. I should also like to express my gratitude to the noble Lord for his presence here to-day, as I understand that it is at the cost of some personal inconvenience to himself.

I think that this question of the Colonies can be roughly divided into two aspects—what I may call the external and the internal aspects. Of course your Lordships will understand that these are inter-related and react upon one another. Before the war, and for many years before the war, our Colonial policy had come in for repeated criticism—criticism which had led to the appointment of Commissions, and to the outbreak on various occasions of violence and disturbances, and which culminated in the appointment of the Moyne Commission, whose Report was received only a comparatively short time ago, and has, in fact, not been published, though the recommendations have been to a large extent accepted by His Majesty's Government. The general complaint was that there was in the Colonies too little research, too little planning, and too little assistance. At the beginning of this war the Colonial Marketing Board was suspended, inevitably, and its place was taken by an enlarged Economic Department at the Colonial Office. Quota schemes broke down, equally inevitably, and they were replaced by bulk purchases and by control which aimed at obtaining for ourselves the raw materials which we needed and at the same time preventing vital supplies from reaching our enemies.

Though war has brought prosperity to certain Colonies whose production is required for the war effort, this prosperity, it seems to me, serves only to point the moral and to accentuate the fundamental ill-balance of the economies of most of the Colonies. This ill-balance is due, most of your Lordships will agree, in nearly every case to an excessive preoccupation with the production of one article for export. The results have been inevitably, in time of depression, disastrous for the Colonies, for it is of course well known that the heaviest weight of all depressions falls upon primary producers. Primary producers of the Colonies having in their own countries no alternative production, no resources from which they are able to support themselves, have suffered appallingly in every successive period of depression. The importance of the foundation of local industry and the importance of husbandry and of schemes for land settlement have been stressed year after year, decade after decade, by successively appointed Commissions. Now it does seem at last as if the stress of war is going to force the adoption of the policies which have been so frequently urged. But it is not only for the Minister here to urge upon Colonial Governments to carry out these policies, because one of the most unfortunate features of the fiscal policies of all Colonies is their excessive dependence for revenue on tariffs which, at the present time, must inevitably be dwindling and which, probably, will dwindle considerably more.

At this time, too, in order that a reorientation of the economic life of the Colonies may be set on foot, considerable expenditure will be inevitable. It is therefore certain that assistance must be given by this country to the Colonies, towards whose peoples we have the deepest responsibility. I venture to mention the conditions in one or two of the Colonies as examples of what I mean. Jamaica is in what I can only describe as a parlous situation. During the first six months of this year the visible unfavourable balance of imports over exports rose by £1,100,000, and your Lordships will appreciate the seriousness of this situation when I add that the total exports of Jamaica used in the past to be in the neighbourhood of only £5,000,000. Far too large a proportion of the imports into this Colony consists of foodstuffs, and I submit that this is a Colony which could, and should, be made from that point of view entirely self-supporting. I believe that the first and foremost step in this Colony, as in so many others, is a policy of land settlement and a policy aiming at encouraging the people to grow their food for themselves. The dangerous emphasis on production for export is curiously shown in the case of British Guiana, whence complaints are received that, though rice is exported from that Colony, there is in the Colony itself insufficient for the people to eat.

The dependence of the West African Colonies upon the cocoa crop is well known. In this case that dependence is upon a crop which, already before the war, showed signs, and more than signs, of over-production. In this case His I Majesty's Government have come to the rescue of the Colonies by buying the whole of the cocoa crop; but though this is a generous and wise move, it has unfortunately not brought to the growers of the cocoa themselves the benefits which might have been expected because, although the shippers and the various interests who come between the exporters and the growers of the cocoa have, under the award, been guaranteed their profits, owing to the rise in the price of imports the growers find themselves receiving a fixed unprofitable price. The consequent discontent, your Lordships will agree, is easily comprehensible. Incidentally, I should like in passing to ask the noble Lord, as a matter of information, whether Newfoundland, which used to be a Dominion, comes within his orbit.




The noble Lord says it does not, therefore I will not go on to point out that there the problem is exactly the same—the problem of overemphasis on one product for export. I am not going to suggest that to reorientate the economic life of the Colonies is a simple matter. It obviously is not. There are many difficulties which the noble Lord, when he comes to reply, will no doubt have to point out to us. One of the difficulties is that in order to process the products of these Colonies and build up local industry, it is necessary to obtain machinery which in many cases can only be obtained from the United States of America or from other countries outside the sterling group. I suggest to His Majesty's Government that this is a case where, perhaps, certain dollar credits might be put at the disposal of the Colonies. It should also be clearly realised that there are many interests both here and in the Colonies which are by no means interested in the building up of a self-supporting economy—interests which in many cases are not only not interested, but definitely inimical. But taking a long view, it is, I believe, really for the benefit of everyone, even of the shippers and exporters in this country, that the standard of living in the Colonies should be raised, for by raising that standard of living the consuming power of the Colonies would be increased and our own producers would benefit.

I come now to the other aspect of this problem, what I have called the external aspect. Many of us have thought that the most inspired and the most inspiring gesture which this country has produced was the Prime Minister's offer of common citizenship with the people of France. A somewhat similar position in Colonial affairs is held by the conversations which took place between Mr. MacDonald and M. Mandel on co-operation between the French and British Colonies. The collapse of France has removed a large part of the French Empire from the sphere of those conversations, but there remains the very large area which has joined the Forces of Free France. There are also the Belgian and Dutch Colonies which are contiguous to British Colonies, and which together form an extremely impressive bloc whose problems are similar and in which it is reasonable to assume that schemes envisaged by these conversations may presumably be carried out, and, indeed, I trust not only carried out but developed. The combined Colonial territories of this country and our Allies constitute a colossal bloc, and neighbouring Colonies under different flags having the same problem, not only economic but also administrative, would undoubtedly benefit enormously by the closest possible relations, leading to an exchange of experience and active co-operation.

There is, too, I suggest, a propaganda point which should not be missed here, for such a policy would emphasize the immense bulk and the prodigious resources of those territories which stand behind us in our struggle. Moreover, such a policy would adumbrate a postwar international Colonial policy which could and should, which in fact inevitably must, form part of the new world order of which the right reverend Prelate spoke only a few minutes ago in this House—a new world order for which we are all waiting and to which everyone is aspiring. As such it would, I submit, be an encouragement to our own people and a weapon against our enemies. To this end I would urge the formation here in London of an Inter-Colonial Council on which the representatives of the four Empires, Dutch, French, British and Belgian, would have seats, and on which I suggest the Portuguese should also be offered places. Such a council would have expert advisers and would deal not only with economic problems but also with all the administrative, health, and other problems which affect the Colonies equally. It could arrange for mutual assistance, pooling schemes, commercial concessions and deal with currency and marketing problems. It could, in fact, develop an international Colonial policy. I believe that such a body would be a guarantee to the world in general of the kind of world that we intend to build after this war, and would be of colossal importance and have great repercussions throughout the world.

In conclusion I would like to summarise the points on which I am asking for information from the noble Lord in the form of a few questions. I would like to ask the noble Lord what steps are being taken to maintain the economic life of the Colonial territories and the standard of living of their peoples, to encourage new industries, food production and self-sufficiency, to find markets for exportable surpluses: if he will state what progress has been made in inter-colonial economic arrangements within the Empire in establishing consultation and collaboration between contiguous British and Allied territories; and, finally, if he can inform us of the possibilities of collaboration between the Governments of the respective Empires on economic, social and political policies. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment to say on behalf of my political friends what great importance we attach to this question? I am quite sure that the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lloyd) is not behind us in appreciating it. It provides for him, I suggest with great respect, an unexampled opportunity. I have a lively recollection how kindred topics were discussed in the Ministry of Reconstruction before the end of the last war, and I also have a lively recollection of some very excellent proposals that were formulated affecting the development of Colonics which were, and still are, largely dependent upon a single product for their economy. I have, too, a very painful recollection of how a very large number of these excellent proposals (worked out by men who knew the problems involved at first hand) were consigned to some pigeon-hole or other, in which, so far as I know, they have continued to reside. That is the kind of opportunity which is open, if I may say so with great respect, to the noble Lord to make use of now.

This is a vast topic and one of the greatest importance, as he knows, and I entertain the hope and belief that he is big enough to see the opportunity and to seize it. May I, however, make two pleas in connection with it? The first is that in the arrangements which are made by the Government in the different economies and the large-scale purchases which are made, they will ensure the prices not only of the intermediary but of the primary producer. The purchasing power of the natives in these territories depends, of course, upon that, and the possibility of increasing the markets there depends upon the purchasing power of the Colonies in the long run. In the second place I would emphasize to my noble friend the importance of the necessity for promoting a better form of co-operation between the different Colonies affected and between the different nations. We seem to be now elaborating a sort of glorified form of barter and applying it to international agreements which are taking the place of the old bills of exchange method. It should be possible, I think, with respect to these different Colonial territories, to widen that scheme to the advantage of all concerned. At any rate I express the hope that the noble Lord, who, I am sure, appreciates the first-rate importance of this subject, will seize the opportunity which is presented to him.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord who has just sat down for what he has said. I can assure him that no one can sit in my chair at the Colonial Office for even a few weeks without being deeply imbued with the enormous responsibility as well as the opportunity that lies in his hand in respect of the development of the Colonial Empire, an opportunity which of course, is to a certain extent limited by the impact of war but which I like to think is by no means entirely limited. I do hope that there may be found scope for advance even in the war period. I should like to say, too, that I think your Lordships are very much indebted to the noble Lord who has just sat down for an extremely interesting speech which, if he will allow me to say so, combined knowledge with brevity, which is always valuable. I am very grateful to him for the opportunity he has given me of letting your Lordships' House know something of the co-operation which the Colonial Office is giving to the Colonies of our Allies, our main relations with whom are of course primarily the responsibility of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary.

The war has deepened inevitably and happily the co-operation which had already begun before the war with many of the countries concerned and has opened up many new ways in which that cooperation can be expressed. I will say at once that it is certainly my hope that the co-operation which has been begun and is being deepened will be continued, as the noble Lord suggested, after the war, at a time when, we hope, all the Colonial Governments and areas will be able to continue their development without daily fear of aggression from Nazis over the border. Our co-operation with the Belgian and the Free French Colonies has been rather different in degree and kind from our co-operation with the Netherlands Empire. The French and the Belgian Colonies, as I am sure your Lordships know, have always been much more directly dependent upon the Mother Country than the Netherlands Empire. We have therefore had to give to the French and the Belgians much more direct and definite support. Economic agreements have just been negotiated with the Free French Colonies in Africa and with the Belgian Congo, and those agreements are ripe now for signature. The Belgian Colonial Minister himself has just gone to the Belgian Congo to discuss the draft agreement in final form with the Governor-General. My Department, the Colonial Office, has given valuable expert assistance in drawing up these agreements. We have also organised inside the Department a French Colonial Intelligence Section to continue the liaison arrangements with the French Colonial Empire which had already been brought into operation by M. Mandel before the collapse of France.

I do not think your Lordships will want me to go into detail on the economic arrangements which are proposed with the Free French and Belgian Colonies—although I could do so if your Lordships wished—but I may say that they are intended broadly to give general effect to the Government's pledge to maintain the economic structure of the countries in question by purchasing as much of their produce as we can, and by providing in return such imports as are necessary for the economic life of the country. That goes without saying. The relations between ourselves and the Dutch are of a rather different character. The Dutch East Indies obviously form a very large and powerful unit, which, as I have said, was never very dependent on the Mother Country and operated in very large measure on its own account. Therefore it has been able during the war, both for that reason and by virtue of geographical position, to maintain its ordinary life pretty well unimpaired. The Dutch East Indies are exporters of enormously important products, as we all know. They export, I think, something like a million tons of sugar and they have very large exports of mineral oil, tin, rubber, quinine and so on. In a fairly small area they have a population of no less than 60,000,000 people, so that they may be called a very powerful, important self-contained unit.

The common problem of marketing these products had been a matter of close international co-operation before the war. Everybody remembers, no doubt, the international tin, rubber, tea and sugar schemes. These schemes have all, I think, been kept going since the outbreak of war and British and Dutch co-operation in these and kindred matters has grown very close as a result of war-time development. We have got special problems in common, such as schemes for the disposal of oil seed which formerly found a market in Europe, and problems also in regard to sisal and other fibres. Detailed discussions have quite recently been taking place about a scheme for international control of the marketing of sisal. Then we have got other co-operation because we have Malaya close by, and there are substantial common interests between Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, mainly, or very largely, in that case in exchange control. We have problems which are common both to the Dutch East Indies and Malaya arising from our sales of goods to dollar countries. We have common problems, too, in the control of goods of war value so that they shall not reach our enemies. I would like to assure the noble Lord that on all these matters, which are of very wide range, there have not only been frequent mutual discussions in this country, but Sir Shenton Thomas, the Governor of the Straits Settlements, has been authorised to undertake direct discussion with the Netherlands East Indies authorities. I do not think that in these areas we can really do very much more than we are doing. His Majesty's Government and the Netherlands Government have been so impressed with the importance of maintaining full liaison and exchange of information that they have recently set up regular machinery to ensure that liaison in the form of a Joint Anglo-Netherlands Committee on Economic Matters which is going to meet frequently for a free exchange of information and ideas.

I have already said that I hope all this war-time co-operation will be carried on after the war into a post-war world, but obviously—I am sure your Lordships will agree—it would be a mistake at present to try and define too closely either the scope or the specific objectives of such post-war co-operation. I do not think it would be wise, even if it were possible, and I do not think it actually is possible to-day. I would remind your Lordships, too, that many of the problems that affect the Colonies, British and Allied, concern to an equal extent, of course, a large number of other countries which are not Colonies at all. It is useless, for instance, to try to plan a cocoa future for the Colonies unless we take into consideration the interests of Brazil, and many other interests similarly concerned with coffee, cocoa and so on. That is equally true of sugar. Sugar affects almost every country in the world, including now, of course, the United Kingdom, and therefore it is very far from being a Colonial problem alone. I think it would be misleading if I left your Lordships under the impression that the Colonies can solve their economic problems simply by co-operating with one another; and I recognise from the noble Lord's speech that that is the last thing that is in his mind. They cannot do so; the economic problems with which they have to deal are part and parcel of world economic problems, and cannot possibly be dealt with in isolation, or anything like it. Nevertheless, the machinery of wartime co-operation which is being developed is, I think, going to be of very great help and must be maintained and kept together, so that we can build up from it after the war something in the nature of a more comprehensive organisation of co-operative activity in the Colonial and international spheres. The fact that we do recognise the importance of that will, I am sure, please my noble friend.

My noble friend has drawn attention to one of the most important economic problems confronting all the Allied Colonial Empires, and for that matter all the countries of the world—namely, the problem of maintaining in war conditions the essential supplies of the Colonies and their standard of living. I do not know whether, at this rather hungry hour, it would weary your Lordships too much if I ran rapidly through the economic position of these areas which are under the authority of the Colonial Office. If it is not detaining your Lordships, I think that it may be of some interest.


It is very important.


I have a short note on the subject and, if your Lordships will forgive me, I will give some details from it. First of all, take West Africa. West Africa has lost a market for from 100,000 to 200,000 tons of its cocoa. The difference between 100,000 and 200,000 tons seems rather a large margin, but we do not know exactly how much of the loss may fall on other suppliers, so that we cannot get a very close estimate. This, however, has been made good by the Government here buying the whole crop. The price paid is lower than last year's price, but is about the same as that of the year before. It is very difficult to say how much the cost of imports has gone up in West Africa, but I should think that the figure is about 30 per cent. This means that the people in West Africa will have to do without a certain amount of the things which are half-way between necessities and luxuries, but we hope that they will not be in any serious discomfort compared with the rest of the world.


Does the noble Lord refer to the Gold Coast as well as to Nigeria?


Yes, to West Africa as a whole, in general terms; 30 per cent., of course, is a very general figure. Apart from the difficulty about cocoa, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are also in difficulties with regard to palm kernels. Before the war they exported rather over 400,000 tons of palm kernels. Much of this went to the Continent, and the market is therefore lost, as we all know. Purchases for this country, however, have increased, and we are buying something like 250,000 to 300,000 tons a year. The exports from West Africa have been brought down to that figure, to avoid an overplus, by prohibiting exports from certain areas in Nigeria which have other goods, such as cocoa, to sell. In these areas the discomfort will, of course, be somewhat increased, but we think that it will not be serious, while the areas which are wholly dependent on oil palms will be able to export all that they can produce. The picture in West Africa, therefore, is not entirely unsatisfactory, although it is not very good. In East Africa the principal uncertainty concerns coffee, some of it produced by Europeans but rather more (of the particular coffee in "question) by Africans. It is not very easy to say exactly what is going to happen about this, but the Europeans in Kenya, with their customary patriotism, are, for the most part, serving in the Army and some of them, therefore, will have a rather more certain source of income than they enjoyed even perhaps when they were growing coffee. We may have to buy and store some of their coffee and some of the native coffee.

Of the Eastern Colonies, Mauritius with its sugar is in a fairly favourable position. Seychelles has lost most of its copra market, but this not a big matter. Ceylon has lost a small copra market, but is doing so well with tea, rubber, plumbago and other miscellaneous stuff that, although individuals may suffer, the country as a whole is not going to be in any major difficulty at all. Malaya, although it has lost some part of its market for copra, is aboundingly prosperous with its rubber and tin. Hong Kong has lost no market, because it does not produce anything of significance, and it is doing fairly well with the general entrepot trade, shipbuilding and so on.

Coming to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and Malta, in a state of semi-siege, are in the state of comfort or discomfort that such a condition implies, but it does not arise from the loss of markets, because they are not, generally speaking, exporters. Cyprus has many difficulties with regard to pyrites, citrus fruits, wines, raisins and tobacco, and we shall have to give Cyprus certain help, help which I am sure your Lordships will agree has been richly earned by the splendid patriotic action which Cyprus has taken and the way she has recruited. The difficulties arise in Cyprus not so much, of course, from the loss of markets as from the closure of the Mediterranean and the consequent inability to ship; but that, thanks to the breakdown in Signor Mussolini's arrangements, is an improving situation at the present time. Palestine, over 70 per cent of whose exports are citrus, is, I am afraid, in serious difficulties for the same reason—lack of shipping.

Lastly, taking the West Indies and the Western Pacific, the sugar colonies of the West Indies are quite comfortable Trinidad is doing well with its oil and British Guiana with its bauxite. The tourist business in the Bahamas, Bermuda and Jamaica, has been interrupted a little, but I am surprised to learn from the Department that it has not been hit too badly; I suppose that there is still a good deal of American trade. Jamaica has lost, unfortunately, most of its banana exports, at any rate for the time being; but, as I think the noble Lord knows, we are paying for agreed quantities of bananas which cannot be shipped, and so this difficulty will be avoided up to a certain point. In the Western Pacific, Fiji, like all sugar colonies, is in a satisfactory position with regard to its sugar, as are the Gilbert and Ellice Islands with their phosphates; but parts of Fiji and of the Gilbert and Ellice islands, and the Solomon Islands and Tonga, are entirely dependent on copra, and very little of this will be saleable. I am afraid that we shall have to subsidise these islands to make up for the loss of that market; but, though we shall really have to supply most of their income, that income is so small that the total sum involved is not very significant.

To sum up, the really black spots are West African cocoa and palm products, Pacific copra, Jamaica bananas and the Palestine and Cyprus citrus produce, and perhaps, to a certain extent. East African coffee. In all these cases we have already found, or are finding, financial means of saving the Colonies from grave suffering. On the import side it is quite true, as I have said, that prices have gone up. My West African figure of 30 per cent. and upwards is probably not far out as a general average for everywhere, but in some cases the increase will be greater; but as the vast majority of in-habitants of the Colonial Empire grow their own food or get it from their neighbours, it is rather in luxuries or semi-luxuries that the pinch will be felt. By semi-luxuries I mean things which are not absolutely necessary but which people have got so accustomed to that they are reluctant to do without them. In some ways, of course, the war gives us opportunities which we should not have otherwise enjoyed for compelling certain Colonial producers to produce food which is better for them than the food they are now eating. In some places, for instance, the cocoa belt in West Africa, and Uganda with its cotton, there has been too much concentration on growing export crops and buying or even importing food. Ever since the events which led up to the Nutrition Committee of 1937 we have been trying hard to get the Colonies to grow more of their own food and better kinds of food; for instance, more fruit and higher qualities of pulses. Now that the export market is in peril the producers in some cases are taking this advice to heart and will probably be better fed after the war than they were before it.

It would be foolish to pretend that the effect of the war has not been to make it both more expensive and more difficult to obtain most of the goods which the Colonies require to import, and it would be foolish to pretend that all those requirements can be filled to the same extent as they were filled before the war. We are all having to make sacrifices in war, and one of the sacrifices which the Colonies are making, and I think are pretty gladly making, is a certain diminution in their supplies of goods for consumption from overseas. It has not been the policy of His Majesty's Government to attempt to maintain supplies at anything like 100 per cent. pre-war level. What we have done, and I think successfully, is to endeavour to prevent serious distress arising out of our war-time conditions; and I believe if you made a tour of the Colonies to-day you would feel as satisfied as we do that, given the weight of the war impact, the Colonies are really suffering extraordinarily little. Where crops upon which particular Colonies have relied have become unsaleable owing to war-time conditions, the Government have stepped in with special schemes of assistance in practically every case, either by the purchase of the whole crop, as with West African cocoa, or by the guarantee of a minimum return, as with Jamaican bananas. Of course, the guarantee of a minimum return or financial payment can never be a proper substitute for a more healthy and natural trade, but at least it does prevent starvation or any grave result. Secondly, we have endeavoured to see that the cash so provided to Colonial communities can be turned into essential supplies from outside, either from this country, if supplies can be got, or from non-sterling sources, if necessary. Thus we have actually been making available some of our hardly-needed dollars for the necessities of our Colonies.

As my noble friend has very properly suggested, it is desirable that the Colonies should themselves turn to filling in their requirements as much as they can by their own internal production. That is never absent from our minds. I quite agree that that this war period is a period in which the Colonial Governments have a great opportunity of taking a step for-yard in that direction, and I can assure the noble Lord that that is very closely in my mind. That was one of things which were urged upon Colonial Governments at the very beginning of the war by my predecessor, and indeed it has often been urged upon them, as the noble Lord said. for years past. I think we must admit that quite a number of the Colonies have, in the past, concentrated far too much on the production of possibly one very profitable export crop, and have been entirely blind to what I should call the necessity for a healthy system of mixed farming. This has been particularly the case in the West Indies, where there has been a very general neglect of agriculture except for the production of sugar and other export crops. The results have been lamentable, I think, quite apart from the difficulties of securing these imports in time of war, for, as a consequence, their agriculture in the Colony becomes entirely unbalanced, and consequently the standard of nutrition, as I have suggested, gets very low. For some years past, therefore, my predecessors have, I believe, been urging upon Colonial Governments the importance of what I call mixed farming whereby they can get soil enrichment and a better balanced agriculture generally. I can assure the noble Lord that we are going to do all that we can to meet his suggestions in that respect.

Now I come to a matter which interests me very particularly, to which the noble lord has also referred, and that is what can be done to increase the growth of secondary industries in the Crown Colonies. What I said about better balance in agriculture is applicable in certain respects to secondary industries. I do not think you can get away from the fact, look at it how you will—although it is highly complex, as I am beginning to learn—that it is our duty to try to make the Crown Colonies as healthy normal entities as we can. They should not merely depend upon one industry or upon the export trade of primary products, but, within the range of what is economically sane and sound, you should try to develop a reasonable-number of secondary industries in the Crown Colonies.

I say without hesitation that a great diversity of Colonial economy is very much to be desired, not only as a peacetime objective. I do not see why to a certain extent—there are difficulties like machinery in the way—we should not make some progress even in war-time. But the difficulties are very great. You generally get people who are mad supporters of one scheme or the other, one ideal or the other. Perhaps they want to develop in the fullest degree secondary industries in the Crown Colonies without remembering at the time that there are mutual dutes, drat is to say, that the Mother Country, whose taxpayers provide large sums for the defence of the Crown Colonies, must have its interests taken into consideration; and there are also great Imperial interests, which are just as vital to the Crown Colony itself as to the Mother Country, in respect of shipping, which again have to be considered. But, subject to those considerations, subject of course to the futility of trying to create a purely hothouse industry dustry which is incapable of standing without expensive support—the noble Lord opposite, knowing my Protectionist views of old days, will be surprised that I even abate ray enthusiasm for Protection by that degree, but there are degrees where of course Protection of that kind is foolish—there is none the less a great deal that can be done and, as a profession of faith to the noble Lord—I have only been in office five months or so—I can only say that within those limits I shall do everything I can to see what can be done to make a step forward in the development of Crown Colony industries. Many Colonics are small, and for those to attempt to reproduce the diversified economy of the larger Colonies would obviously be most undesirable.

I should like to go back for a moment, because I have a note about the case of an absurd development in a Crown Colony of an industry which was not natural to it, and which yet looked rather natural. The Department was good enough to give me this note for which I asked. Some years ago in a particular Colony certain producers of sisal found themselves embarrassed for a market. They therefore induced the Colonial Government to put a very high import duty on rope and cord, and under the protection of this duty a rope and cord factory was erected in the Colony and began to operate and flourish. Owing to the high rate of duty, imports diminished and consumers had to pay a higher price for the local article. In the course of time the ownership of the rope factory passed into different hands, and the new owners found they were paying an excessive price for local sisal. They therefore started importing sisal from a neighbouring Colony, and the owners of the plantation then induced the local Government to put a duty on imported sisal. The price of rope and cord soared even higher than before, and thus the whole community paid unnecessarily high prices for a useful commodity in order to benefit two or three individuals. I do not know who the author of this note is, but seeing the delighted faces of my old free trade friends opposite, I wonder whether it was not a free trader who put forward that view.


Protection at its best!


That may be, or at its worst. We must not revive those delightful but ancient controversies, though I sometimes regret there has been nothing quite like them to take their place since. I feel that there is a great opportunity before us in the matter of the development of industry. I have tried in a reasonably short space of time to answer most of the questions put forward by the noble Lord. With regard to the question of the Council, the last one he put forward, I can only say I will give it my most careful consideration.


My Lords, may I ask one question arising out of the extremely interesting and most valuable statement of the Colonial Secretary? He said, with regard to Cyprus, that a large part, almost the whole, of the citrus export trade has been lost, and that the Government were taking special measures to assist the Colonies. In respect of Palestine similarly, he said, the citrus trade had suffered very greatly, Palestine having 70 per cent. of its exports in that commodity. He also mentioned, reviewing the Colonial Empire and, I presume, also including the Mandated Territories as a whole, that it was true to say that, where special losses have been suffered, in practically every case special schemes of assistance have been adopted. Can the noble Lord say what is proposed to be done in relation to Palestine, where last season more than half of the citrus export trade was lost and where this season I fear the diminution may be even greater?


My Lords, may I ask a further question? The noble Lord told us of the co-operation which is going on between his Department and the refugee Governments in this country. The question I want to ask is whether it is possible for that co-operation to take active measures to prevent the sale of commodities—for instance, oil from the Dutch East Indies—to countries which are either our enemies or potential enemies. Public opinion in this country has been disturbed by rumours that oil was to be sold by the Dutch East Indies, or by the oil companies in the Dutch East Indies, to Japan—oil which we understood had been already purchased by the British Government. Can the noble Lord give us some assurance with regard to that matter?


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Samuel has asked me about the difficult situation with regard to citrus in Palestine. I do not think it would be desirable at this moment to say exactly what we are trying to do, but if the noble Viscount would communicate with me on the subject I should be glad to talk the matter over with him. I am afraid I am not in a position to answer the question with regard to oil, but if the noble Lord would write to me, or put down a special question, I should be very glad to go into it.


My Lords, I think all your Lordships will join with me in thanking the noble Lord for his reply to this Motion—a reply which has given us an extremely interesting and, certainly from my point of view, an encouraging statement. I noted that the noble Lord said he hoped that present arrangements and negotiations with Allied Governments would lead to co-operation not only during but after the war. It is important that that view should be kept in sight, because during the last war probably similar arrangements were made and then lost sight of. I was tempted perhaps to be a little carping about the noble Lord's undue optimism with regard to some of the Colonies. I think the noble Lord puts the matter rather too brightly, if I may say so. The hardship caused by the rise in the price of imports tends to fall unduly heavily on primary producers owing to the proportion of the price paid by His Majesty's Government which goes into other pockets.

Finally, I was extremely glad to hear the noble Lord speak of plans for the greater self-sufficiency of the Colonies and for local industries. I was particularly comforted to hear that because some of his remarks had a disquieting effect. This policy of buying up crops like the cocoa crop simply to burn them is, of course, thoroughly uneconomic and will not in itself lead to any kind of reorganisation of the Colonies' production. It is essential, if we do come to the Colonies' rescue in that way, that our assistance should be conditional on the reorganisation of the Colonies' economic life. I hope that is what the noble Lord meant when he said he was profoundly interested in, and was encouraging, schemes for reorganisation of local industry. I thank the Secretary of State once again for his reply, and beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.