HL Deb 02 July 1940 vol 116 cc723-48

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. May I crave your indulgence on the occasion, if I may use aviation parlance, of my first solo in charge of a Bill in your Lordships' House, to excuse any shortcomings that I may have? I cannot at the outset of my remarks avoid contrasting the feelings with which, in normal times, I should have addressed your Lordships on this Bill with those more restrained emotions with which I am bound to speak to-day. In different circumstances, with what special satisfaction could I have risen to ask your Lordships to speed on its way to the Statute Book a Bill for the promotion of the development and welfare of our Colonial Empire! No subject could be more inspiring, or more worthy of the attention of your Lordships' House. Let me add, too, that seldom could a Minister have inherited from his predecessor proposals to which he would be so anxious and proud to give effect. The Empire indeed owes a debt of very real gratitude to Mr. MacDonald for the vision and statesmanship which inspired his proposals—for we have to remember that these are his proposals. It owes a debt also to my noble friend who up to a month ago was Chancellor of the Exchequer and who now sits upon the Woolsack in this House. It was he who, in the middle of a great war, when many other urgent and irresistible demands were being made on his resources, did not hesitate to accept Mr. MacDonald's proposals and to give them a fair passage.

And yet in the few brief months which have passed since this Bill was first put into draft circumstances have so altered as a result of the intensification of the war, that I am afraid that the Bill may for some at any rate appear somewhat out of tune with the more instant and immediate military preoccupations of the present time. At this moment all our thoughts, energies and resources must obviously be devoted to the prosecution of the war; but this does not mean that there is to be any going back from the present standards of administration, even though perhaps a temporary curtailment of existing services may be necessary in some cases. Obviously, however, any development in the field of economics or the social services can be justified only in so far as it in no way enfeebles or detracts from our war effort. I am afraid, therefore, that much that we had hoped to do under this Bill when it became law must wait for happier times. None the less, I am satisfied that, unreal though some of it may seem at the present time, it is very desirable, and indeed essential, that the Bill should be placed now on the Statute Book and not have to wait. It is desirable not only for the sake of what can be accomplished even during the war, but also because the Bill embodies new principles which constitute a landmark in Colonial policy.

Let me recall to your Lordships briefly the contents of this Bill. The Bill provides in the first place for the substitution for the existing Colonial Development Fund, which cannot exceed, as your Lordships will remember, £1,000,000 a year, of new moneys up to £5,000,000 a year for ten years for development and welfare and £500,000 a year for research. It also, and very importantly, provides for the extinction of a long list of loans by the Imperial Government to various Colonial Governments, the total value of which is something like £11,250,000.

The Bill embodies several new principles. The first and the most important of them is this. In the past, despite all the assistance that has been given by the Imperial Government to Colonial Governments, the underlying principle has all along been that each Colony should get along as best it could on its own resources, and if any Colony could not make both ends meet it received a grant in aid; but the grant in aid was given only when it could clearly be shown that the Colony could not pay its way without it. The grant in aid therefore came to bear a distressing resemblance to the "dole," with all that that meant. I do not want your Lordships to conclude, however, that therefore the Imperial Government have given no assistance to the Colonial Empire. From the earliest days the Treasury has assisted them, sometimes not ungenerously; and there has, moreover, as Mr. MacDonald said in another place, been magnificent, devoted and persistent work done by experienced administrators in the field of medicine, research, education, methods of production, the marketing of Colonial produce and so on. Constantly, however, these valiant efforts have been cramped for lack of those financial resources which are necessary and of that steady and regular financial backing which is obviously essential for continuous development.

I am bound personally to say that I have always felt that there was a degree of truth in the reproaches directed at us by our rivals that, whilst we controlled so vast a Colonial Empire, we did mighty little to develop it. Moreover, looking back even at the Colonial Development Act of 1929, useful and important as it was, its objective admittedly was as much directed to the benefit of this country—for the relief of unemployment and the like—as to the benefit of the Colonies themselves. Now all that is to be changed. For the most part, such assistance as was given in the past—apart from the grant in aid of which I spoke just now—has taken the form of capital grants towards the completion of particular schemes. A new principle is now introduced. Under this Bill it will now be possible for the Imperial Government to provide the money for recurrent expenditure on important works and services, and that is entirely new. I think that, underlying the old idea that each Colony should, if possible, "live of its own" was the feeling that anything else would be inconsistent with the development of a sense of financial responsibility and with the ideal of progress towards eventual self-government. And it is indeed a danger that if the Colonies came to look to the Imperial Government for regular grants, that sturdy sense of independence which is so characteristic of the Empire at its best might become blunted. To avoid this danger we propose to adopt a technique which has been adopted by the Treasury in this country in many grants to local authorities. So it is proposed that, in general, any grants towards recurrent expenditure should be on a proportionate basis, that is to say, the grant should be proportionate to the expenditure by the Colony itself. By this means we hope to ensure both economy in execution and the avoidance of what I may call the "dole" mentality.

And here may I call your Lordships' attention to the final paragraph of the White Paper, the Statement of Policy issued last February by my predecessor? I take leave, if I may, to quote it in full; the points it makes are of great importance: From London there will be assistance and guidance, but no spirit of dictation. The new policy of development will involve no derogation from the rights and privileges of local Legislatures, upon whom rests a large measure of responsibility for the improvement of conditions in their several territories and upon whose co-operation the Government count with confidence. The fact that a Colony receives assistance under the policy will not entail upon it the system of financial control which is now associated with the receipt of grants in aid. The whole effort will be one of collaboration between the authorities in the Colonies and those at home; there must be ready recognition that conditions vary greatly from Colony to Colony, and that Colonial Governments, who best know the needs of their own territories, should enjoy a wide latitude in the initiation and execution of policies, the primary purpose of which is to promote the prosperity and happiness of the peoples of the Colonial Empire. I have said that the Bill introduces several new principles, and I have explained that the first of these is that in future Colonies shall be able without "going on the dole" to get assistance for recurrent expenditure.

The second new principle is perhaps no more than the development of an idea which was implicit, though not fully realised, in the first Colonial Development Act. It is this: that the development of the Colonial Empire involves the development not only of its material wealth, its minerals and lands, water power, harbours and so forth, but also implies the development of its human resources. The wealth of a territory depends not only on the riches of its soil, but also on the character and well-being of its people. The promotion of better nutrition, better health and better standards of education is as important, therefore, for the development of our Colonial Empire as the building of new roads or the introduction of new crops. As I have said, this idea was, I think, implicit in the old Colonial Development Act, but we have sought to recognise it explicitly in this new Bill. You will see that the Act is to be called "The Colonial Development and Welfare Act." These words "and welfare" are, I hope you will agree, of some significance. Corresponding with this enlargement of the Title is an enlargement of the objects for which assistance may now be given. There will be practically no field of administration for which assistance will not be possible if this Bill becomes law.

There is one other departure from the Act of 1929 to which I might call attention. It is that the money to be provided under this Bill will not be paid into a Fund, but Parliament will be asked to vote each year only the amount which it is expected will be spent. I mention this point particularly because an Amendment to the Bill introduced in another place appeared to be based on the assumption that there was going to be a Fund, and it was argued that it would be preferable to create a Fund into which would be paid the full £5,000,000 each year. The principal argument in favour of the creation of such a Fund is, of course, that, without it, the actual amount of assistance granted to Colonies may, over the period of ten years for which the Bill makes provision, fall far short of the £50,000,000 which is the maximum amount of assistance for which the Bill provides. It is argued that any part of the £5,000,000 not expended in one year should be carried forward for expenditure in subsequent years if the Colonies are to derive all the benefit for which the Bill makes provision.

There is a variety of reasons which determined His Majesty's Government to draw the Bill in the form in which it is presented to your Lordships. Some of the reasons are of a rather technical character relating to difficulties of accounting, and with these I do not think I need trouble your Lordships because, after all, they were not in any way decisive. Our principal reason for deciding against the creation of a new Fund was that we felt that, in the expenditure of sums of this magnitude, Parliament must have a direct responsibility, and would wish to be in a position to exercise a measure of control over the purposes to which the money is to be devoted. If the maximum annual allocation were paid into a Fund, Parliament would not have the same opportunity of exercising its critical faculties with regard to the scope and nature of the schemes for which money was issued from the Fund as it will have in considering estimates of the amounts required to be spent during the year. In the debate on the Third Reading in another place several honourable members expressed the view that Parliament ought to be very directly associated with the exercise of the responsibilities of His Majesty's Government in carrying into effect the objects of this Bill. From the explanation which I have just given it will be seen that this very natural and proper aspiration will in fact be achieved in a very real sense.

Another criticism of the procedure by which any sum voted, but not expended during the year, has to be surrendered to the Exchequer, was that it might place Colonies under an irresistible temptation to rush into wasteful expenditure in order to use up the money during the year for which it has been voted. This temptation may of course arise in a good many cases when money is voted annually by Parliament for specific purposes, but it ought not to arise as regards expenditure under this Bill. One of the main objects of this Bill has been to ensure the permanence, for a long period—a decade—of assistance to Colonies for development and welfare. If therefore a scheme has once been approved, no Colony need now be under any apprehension that, if it has been unable to expend its whole provision in any one year, the necessary outstanding amount will not be made available in the following year.

I now come to the Advisory Committees. It was an essential feature of the Statement of Policy issued in February that in planning expenditure under this Bill the Government would enlist the help of two Advisory Committees, one of which would consider development and welfare schemes, and the other, consisting of scientific experts, would deal with proposals for expenditure on research. The ideas which we had for the composition of these Committees were explained to your Lordships by my noble friend the late Under-Secretary for the Colonies in the course of the debate on March 20. It still remains our intention to appoint such Committees as soon as practicable, but we have had to recognise that persons of the eminence and stature that we should desire will not be able to find the time for such work at the present moment in the middle of the war. So we have decided to dispense with the machinery of the Committees for the duration of the war, and we shall deal departmentally with any proposals on which progress can be made.

Before leaving this part of the Bill I should, perhaps, mention that there are two Amendments which I shall move in the Committee stage of which the principles were accepted, with my entire approval, in the course of the consideration of this measure in another place.

As to loans—a very important part of our proposals—I now turn to that part of the Bill under which it is proposed to authorise the remission, in whole or in part, of certain loans for the repayment of which various Colonial Governments are at present nominally liable. The details of these loans, which were granted for a wide variety of purposes, and the reasons for their remission were fully explained in a Financial Memorandum which accompanied the Bill when it was introduced in another place. The common characteristic of them all is that the Dependencies concerned are not now and are not likely to be in the near future, if ever, in a position to repay this indebtedness, and it seemed to us entirely inconsistent that we should be proposing further assistance to these Dependencies by way of grant while at the same time continuing to demand repayment of old indebtedness. In effect this part of the Bill clears the decks for action, and will give the Colonies a clean start when the time comes for the new policy of development to be brought into effect. I am sure that is a sound policy, and that it will be welcomed by the Colonies.

Your Lordships will expect me to say a few words as to the extent to which we may be able to take advantage of the provisions of this Bill in present circumstances. As I have already said, at this moment all our thoughts, energies, and resources must obviously be concentrated on the prosecution of the war, and therefore much that we had hoped to do under this Bill will have to be postponed. In present circumstances there is hardly a part of the Colonial Empire that is not directly affected by the war in one way or another. It is useless to pretend that at present we can carry on as usual with the normal services of the Government, meagre though some of them are, still less is there at present a chance of much development. The men to plan and carry out this development are not available. Government servants must take on military duties and all sorts of new tasks in civil life imposed by the war. Even if the men were available, there would be difficulties about the materials; so many of them are wanted for vital war purposes. Therefore, we must face the fact that, especially in the areas directly concerned with the war, there can be very little development. But at least this Bill, if it becomes law, will ensure that such development as is possible does not have to stop for lack of funds.

In the special case of the West Indies there is both less reason to hold up development, for they are more remote from the theatres of war, and more reason for going ahead with development, for the recommendations of the West Indies Royal Commission have shown the urgency of so doing. I am happy to say that we have found it possible to appoint a Comptroller of Development and Welfare for the West Indies, and I am now able to announce that I have chosen Sir Frank Stockdale, at present Agricultural Adviser at the Colonial Office, for this post. He is admirably qualified by long and wide experience in the West Indies and other parts of the Colonial Empire to undertake this important task. An Inspector General of Agriculture has already been appointed, and I hope that before long I shall be able to make known the appointment of other members of the Comptroller's expert staff. The exact amount of progress that the Comptroller and his staff will be able to make is difficult to estimate at the moment. Many plans of development must be held up owing to the difficulty of obtaining the necessary materials. Yet I have no doubt that the Comptroller and his staff will be able to do most useful work. They must first visit the several West Indian Colonies, and establish necessary contacts with the Governments and leading personalities. Then they will be able to survey the position generally and to set in hand the preparation of schemes for individual Colonies or groups of Colonies. They can be assured that if men and materials can be made available from local resources the money will be forthcoming for the carrying out of urgent schemes. I may perhaps recall that the necessities of the immediate moment have been met by the provision of £350,000 for relief works announced in the Statement of Policy issued by my predecessor.

So much for what we hope to do even during the war if this Bill is passed. It will, I am afraid, be only a tithe of what we had hoped to do had the war not come upon us. Had there been no war, the figure in the first clause of this Bill might have been, not five millions a year, but a good deal more, and there might have been a real prospect of spending it all. We had plans for rationing it out among the various Colonies so that each Colony would know in advance roughly how much it could count upon and make its plans accordingly. All this may still be possible when the war is over, and I would recall to your Lordships the Statement of Policy of last February, in which it was stated that if the amount of assistance provided under the Bill was found to be insufficient, it would always be open to Parliament at any time to increase the total.

But there are after all things more important than money. It is not the money that we spend in our Colonies that binds them so wonderfully to us to-day. I do not think that we have yet begun to measure the depth of the feeling that binds even the remotest island of our Empire to us. It was no revelation to me when I came to office to see this, but it has exceeded anything I could possibly have imagined or believed. I do not think there has been a day since I came into the Colonial Office six weeks ago when I have not received a telegram or a despatch saying, "What can we do to help Britain in her hour of peril?" It is the universal complaint of almost every Colony that, owing to their geographical position, there is not more that they can do to help. They look, I think, almost jealously at Malta, whose people have been privileged to bear and withstand with fortitude so many Italian attacks. Your Lordships will have seen in your newspapers this morning the report of the fleet of 200 aeroplanes presented by voluntary subscriptions and votes from local revenues. Apart from this, there have been generous gifts to the general War Fund, to the Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance, and various war relief organisations. In the last few days I have had a cheque for £250,000 from His Highness the Sultan of Johore, a third contribution from the Rajah of Perlis, and a splendid gift of five million rupees from Ceylon. I do not know whether I value more these princely and munificent gifts at one end of the scale or, at the other end, the no less generous gifts which keep coming in from some of the poorest of our Colonial Dependencies and from individuals scattered throughout the Seven Seas.

I have here a list—not by any means a complete list—of some of those gifts. Very moving and inspiring they are. If I am not detaining your Lordships too much, may I for a moment or two read a few examples? They would last an hour if I read them all. Tristan da Cunha, the smallest, poorest, and, for all practical purposes, the most remote of our Colonial territories, has sent a gift of woollen comforts knitted from their own home-made wool. Then in West Africa a Chief brought an old flintlock gun to the local authorities saying that now this trouble had come upon us he wanted to pay for it to be licensed—the fee for the licence was no small sum—so that it could be put to the service of the King. Another African wrote to the Colonial Secretary offering his services. As for the spirit which prompted him I cannot do better perhaps than use his own words. These were the words: My reason for applying are due: (1) Hating Hitler and his Hitlerson; (2) dislike-ness of Nazi and its Nazism; and (3) abhorring Dictator and its Dictatorial ruthless ruling. In many cases my country are representing in Europe such as on Coronation, therefore why not in conflict when Europe is at Agony, my country must share it also…Being impecunious, financial assistance is impossible therefore I must offer my own services instead. I am giving your Lordships selections from the gifts of an Empire. From Cyprus there is a gift of money to the family of the first British soldier killed in France. A contribution comes from the Falkland Islands. The sum of £100 was returned to New Zealand for the Red Cross appeal by six hundred lepers in Fiji—a very touching gift. There were fifty live turtles for His Majesty's Navy from Georgetown. In December, 1939, a gift on a bigger scale from an old friend of mine, Sir Ali bin Salim, of £200 to the Admiralty to buy Christmas presents for the children of naval personnel who had lost their lives in the present war. There was a gift of thirty-two shillings to His Majesty's Government from the Swahili community at Eldama Ravine, Kenya. The chief and people of Machame and Kibongoto, Tanganyika, impose a tax upon themselves of a proportion of each person's 1939 harvest for the use of His Majesty's Government in the war. I could go on for a long time quoting from this list.

I think it is one of the most encouraging and striking things that people who have no means, end not knowing very much about it, still from their instinct of what we stand for are rallying to our cause at this most important moment. And it is not only by money that our Colonies are now seeking to serve. One and all they are pressing to contribute their man-power to the common cause. They look jealously upon Cyprus, whose contingent was first in the field in France. Now Africans from West Africa are joining with Africans from East and. Central Africa in war upon the Italians. From other parts of the Empire come anxious requests: "Could we not help in the provision of munitions and warlike supplies?" It is invidious to particularise when all are anxious to help in any way that they possibly can.

I have spoken of money and manpower and munitions. But more important than all these is the spirit which animates the whole of the Colonial Empire. There was a time, even before my day, when Latin was often heard in speeches in your Lordships' House. That has rather gone out of fashion. But there is a Latin motto on the arms of one of our boroughs which I think might be the motto of our Empire. I venture to quote it: "Castello fortior Concordia." That, I think, is the motto on the arms of Northampton. I cannot imagine anything more perfect for the arms of our Empire, as symbolised in the feeling to-day. In such times as these we do realise more than ever the wonderful loyalty of our Colonies to the Throne and their oneness with the Mother Country. There is an immense inspiration and encouragement in this harmony of spirit that binds us all together in the face of the danger which now threatens. May I ask your Lordships, by giving this afternoon a Second Reading to this Bill, to show that we in this country not only are fully mindful of the loyalty and affection of the many millions of people in our Colonial Empire but are mindful also of the duty that we owe to them? I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Lloyd.)

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Addison has asked me to say a few words in whole-hearted support of this Bill. My Party welcome it and support its principles and we will do all we can to facilitate its passage. I would also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Lloyd not only on the way he explained the Bill, but on the magnificent expression he gave to the very highest feelings of our people with regard to our Colonial Empire. It was a very fine story of Colonial support in this war which he gave us.

It is no disparagement of the author of this Bill, whom I admire with all your Lordships, or for my noble friend when I say that during my short life there has been one great Colonial administrator, the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. He had the great Imperial vision. When my noble friend Lord Lloyd was appointed to his present office I personally congratulated him. He and I are poles apart in politics but in this matter we are as one. I told him he had a tremendous opportunity, an opportunity not second even to that of the late Mr. Chamberlain. I must mention one other Colonial administrator of the past, the late Duke of Devonshire, with admiration. It was he, a Liberal Unionist, who laid down the great principle that the Colonies were held in trust and in the White Paper (paragraph 3) we see the harvest of the seeds sown by the late Duke of Devonshire. May I read to your Lordships the words? His Majesty's Government are trustees for the well-being of the peoples of the Colonial Empire, and the spontaneous and wholehearted support given by the inhabitants of every territory to the common war effort is the best testimony to their appreciation of the way in which this trust is being discharged. I have heard it said that this Bill is academic. I hope your Lordships will agree with me in repudiating that. As I see it, it is no academic Bill. It is a Bill of the greatest importance, which shows that we mean really to develop the Colonial Empire in a more vigorous way than we have done in the past. There was a lot to be said for the old system of allowing a Colony to develop itself with its own resources, but it led to great neglect in certain parts of the Empire. My noble friend mentioned the magnificent response of the people of Cyprus. I think I am right in saying that I remember him agitating for the better development of Cyprus. I certainly did myself and I have heard many of your Lordships commenting in this House upon the neglect of Cyprus. Now we find Cyprus without one safe and large harbour after years of agitation. Successive Governments have neglected certain of the Colonies and now is the chance to make that good. The West Indies is another example. The West Indian Commission has made its report and some of its recommendations have found their way into this Bill. I do not want to dwell on that except to say how much we welcome the new spirit embodied in this Bill and therefore how much we support it.

My noble friend referred to the great part the Colonies could play in this present war. There is no doubt about it, the whole of our Colonial peoples can have no choice whatever when they compare our policy of trusteeship and the rights of man, which is what we are fighting this war for, against the Nazi doctrine of Herrenvolk, the master race dominating and exploiting other peoples. What chance have the untutored and primitive natives of the African Colonies if these gangsters win the present struggle? What chance have they of justice and fair treatment? At present Dutchmen and Norwegians are being transported to Germany for forced slave labour—the Germans fellow-Nordics, as they wrongfully describe them. What chance would the natives of our Colonial Empire or of any other Colonies have of fair treatment or justice from the Nazis? If that is made known, and I hope it will be made known—my noble friend has a magnificent opportunity of spreading the truth about this struggle throughout the Colonial world—the response will be even greater than it is now. We have vast reservoirs here of strength and wealth that we can mobilise in this struggle. I hardly like to suggest this, but if it were possible for my noble friend to use modern means of transport and travel by aeroplane to the Colonies during the war and deliver the speeches he is capable of making there, to the notables and natives and our fellow citizens, I am sure that would have a great effect.

Now I should like to be allowed to say something else which, fortunately, I can say although my noble friend would not be able to deal with it now even if he agreed with it. A few days before the collapse of French resistance, before this illegal, unconstitutional Bordeaux Government of surrender was formed, a noble offer was made on behalf of His Majesty's Government of an act of union between the British and French Empires. In spite of what has happened in metropolitan France one knows that the great majority of Frenchmen are with us in spirit and there remain the great French Colonies. Belgium has been overrun but there remain the Belgian Colonies. Portugal may be threatened next. What chance without our help would the patriotic Portuguese have against the attacks of the mechanised Atillas, as my right honourable friend Mr. Bevin calls them? Imagine what we could make of a great Zollverein in Africa—a development of the Congo Agreement—with the French Colonies, our own Colonies and the Belgian and Portuguese Colonies, not into one system of government, of course, but for mutual aid in such matters as transport and trade, combating of tropical diseases, the development of agriculture, and mutual defence. We should have an immense aggregation of power there. That may be called visionary. It is the sort of thing that would have appealed to the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain if he had been alive to-day. If my noble friend framed a policy on those lines he would have no warmer supporters than among those for whom I speak. That is the suggestion that I venture to make to His Majesty's Government. I do not expect a reply to-day because it is a delicate question, but it is worth exploring and canvassing and deserves consideration. I hope it will not be lost sight of. We support this Bill, and we hope that in spite of the war the more urgent services will be continued, because we feel sure that any money that Parliament votes for this purpose will be a very fine investment and will bring; many returns.

4.44 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend the Marquess of Crewe, himself a former Colonial Secretary, would have greatly desired to be here this afternoon to express support to this Bill on behalf of noble Lords on these Benches. As he is engaged in public service elsewhere, he has asked me to say a few words. In no quarter of the House does this measure and its policy receive a more hearty and indeed a more enthusiastic support than here. For my own part I regard it as one of the very best pieces of constructive work proposed by any Government in recent years. There have been all through history two conceptions of empire. Prevalent through the centuries has been the conception of empires held by force for the prestige and the profit of the metropolitan countries. But also there has grown up the idea of the empire held by good will for the benefit of its varied peoples, helping them to fit themselves for the fullest self-government and finding its greatest glory in their welfare. Using the word in no Party sense but in its broadest sense, that is the conception of a liberal empire. That is the one which this country pursues.

In welcoming this Bill I think we should express our gratitude to three men who are specially responsible for this policy. Two of them are members of your Lordships' House—Lord Moyne for his work in the West Indies and his recommendations and Lord Hailey for his remarkable achievements in Africa—and the third is Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, the Minister who adopted and framed this policy. We are grateful to the present Colonial Secretary, who as Chairman of the British Council has rendered for long devoted work in the service of the Empire, and we welcome his action in proceeding with this policy, even in these days of military stress and financial strain. I do not desire to strike any note of controversy, but I must put it on record from these Benches that we greatly prefer this kind of Imperial policy to that of Ottawa. The Ottawa policy increased the obstacles to world trade, tried to canalise the commerce of the Empire within its own frontiers, not relying, as Mr. Joseph Chamberlain did, on spontaneous preferences voluntarily given, but on a series of formal bargainings in which, so far as the Colonies were concerned, the Government in Whitehall, in the last resort, conducted the bargaining for both sides. A policy such as that, in our view, was misconceived and wrong. This, on the other hand, is well devised and right. I have no criticisms to make of it and no Amendment to propose.

We know that many of our Colonies and Mandated Territories are, socially, very backward. It is right not to wait until there is widespread discontent, protests and riots before adopting a constructive policy of this character. Indeed, perhaps we have waited already rather too long. The blame must rest not only on successive Governments, but upon Parliament, and both Houses of Parliament, which have been too slow to apply the criticism and stimulus which are so necessary for good administration. In the House of Commons each year the Colonial Estimates are discussed but, as a rule, the whole day is given to matters of controversy at the moment—Palestine or whatever it may be—and there is no general review and survey of the Colonial situation. In your Lordships' House sometimes my noble friend Lord Olivier will raise questions about the West Indies, or the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, matters relating to Malta, but again there is no occasion in the year when we give our minds to the welfare of the Colonial Empire as a whole.

It has been suggested recently that there ought to be a Standing Parliamentary Committee to keep a watch on these matters. I do not myself favour the constitutional principle adopted in France, where there are Standing Parliamentary Committees dealing with various branches of Government and exercising something in the nature of a controlling influence over the Executive of the day. On the whole, I think that system works badly. In America there is complete divorce between the Legislature and the Administration, which also, I think, if I may respectfully say so, is a constitutional arrangement not so good as our own. But there is much to be said for dealing with the Colonial Empire by a Standing Committee, not only of the House of Commons but of both Houses (for this House contains many men of wide Colonial experience and mature statesmanship), which should sit at intervals throughout the year and should form a centre in which suggestions could be made and considered and through which conference could be held with the Ministers of the day.

We have heard much of the desire of the Colonies and also of the Mandated Territories to help in the war effort. I had an opportunity this year of visiting Cyprus and also Palestine, and I found there considerable criticism: chiefly that they were not given adequate opportunities for joining combatant units. Both in Cyprus and in Palestine there was a feeling of indignation that they were being restricted to pioneer or labouring units and were not allowed to join the fighting ranks. That shows a very good spirit. The noble Lord the Colonial Secretary gave a number of examples of the sentiment that prevails in the Colonial Empire. I might add one illustration that struck me—not indeed from the Colonies but from India—when it appeared in The Times some time ago. A former battalion commander of the Indian Army mentioned that he had seen in the battalion records that had reached him a reference to a reply that had been sent by a simple Indian reservist who had received notice to rejoin the Colours. He wrote a card to the King-Emperor: "Your Majesty, I am coming." This policy will help to preserve the organic union of this great Commonwealth, which includes a fourth of the whole of the earth and within which there are no frontiers and therefore perpetual internal peace—this Commonwealth, which is now fighting strongly on behalf of the highest interests of all mankind and is more than ever, as Wordsworth said of England, "A bulwark of the cause of men."

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, having recently investigated conditions in South Central Africa as Chairman of a Royal Commission, I should like very warmly to support the Second Reading of this Bill. It is surely characteristic of the temperament and quiet determination of our British race that, while the enemy is not merely at our gates but actually on our doorstep, this House should be calmly deliberating the merits of a Bill to promote the more progressive development of our Colonial Empire and the welfare of its inhabitants. This is also a friendly gesture of no small value in the light of their spontaneous and unwavering support in the present grim struggle. May I say how delighted I am to see my old friend and colleague Lord Lloyd, not merely undertaking the difficult task of administering the Colonial Office, but also that of securing the passage of this Bill? I bear in mind what a progressive Imperialist and a wise administrator in several parts of the British Empire he has proved himself to be. As this Bill necessarily applies with special emphasis to such parts of the Colonial Empire as are situate in Africa, it is at any rate reassuring to me to find that one who has such a large measure of knowledge of different parts of Africa is in charge of this Bill and of the Colonial Office.

One feature of this Bill has, I think, not been sufficiently emphasized, but it is a very important feature. Hitherto, under the old Colonial Development Act, moneys could only be applied to certain limited purposes and could only be expended in the way of capital and not upon maintenance. I very warmly welcome the new departure in policy which enables money from the British Treasury to be applied in continuous development and not merely once and for all in a single capital outlay. But, of course, such expenditure involves a certain measure of United Kingdom Government control—control by the Treasury and also by the Colonial Office. I earnestly hope that that control will not be too tight and too severe, because, if it is, it will only stand in the way of developing that sense of responsibility in the white man and the native alike which will induce them to carry out, according to their ability and in the light of their experience, the work which it is essential that they should do if these countries are to be properly developed.

The remedial objectives, if I may so describe them, are said to be agricultural, industrial, social, medical and educational. I earnestly hope that emphasis will be put upon the agricultural objective before all others, because in most Colonial territories the attainment of all other objectives is conditional upon it. Without efficient husbandry native peoples cannot be nourished; and malnutrition, which is, alas! so widely prevalent in many parts of Africa, not only evokes discontent but also produces a widespread susceptibility to disease and consequent ineducability. Social progress is impossible under such conditions. See that the native can adequately develop his own land and support himself out of it, and then see what you can do to improve the medical service, the educational service, and, of course, other social services of every description. Prevention is better than cure, and preventive treatment of social ills in these countries lies mainly in wise husbandry. I am going particularly to ask that, although this is a very welcome and much-needed stimulant, in the way of larger finance, to the development of these countries, particularly the Protectorates, it shall be a stimulant and not have an enervating effect. Do not let us arrest the progress of territorial evolution and a sense of local responsibility by tying these Protectorates permanently and too tightly to the apron-strings of Whitehall. Let us be trustees, not permanent wet nurses. Prime the pump of development by all means, but insist thereafter that the handle operated locally shall lift the water of economic progress.

I should like to ask the noble Lord one question: can he indicate with any clarity the separate destinies of these two Funds? For instance, I want especially to know whether the all-too-small Fund which is set aside for research is going to be applied solely to research work, and not in any way to the giving of the continuous help of a scientific character which the progress of agriculture and other industries necessarily requires. Do not let us confuse research with that continuously-needed technical and scientific advice, founded upon already ascertained knowledge, which must be available to those who seek to overcome the numerous handicaps which confront agriculturists who seek to win a livelihood from the soil, particularly under tropical or sub-tropical conditions. I do not know that any fact which came to the notice of my Royal Commission was more distressing to us than the discovery that, because in Northern Rhodesia for a couple of years the revenue of the territory was not adequate to maintain an agricultural chemist, that chemist was dismissed. For all I know, there is no agricultural chemist in that territory to-day, although, except perhaps in the field of biology, there is no demand of a scientific character that is more insistent than the demand for the advice which a properly equipped agricultural chemist can give.

As I say, I hope that a goodly part of both these Funds is going to be devoted to agricultural purposes. The surface of the land, after all, is the only true source of wealth. Minerals, valuable though they may be, are decaying assets; and, above all, subsistence must come before the production of exported cash products. I do want most earnestly to express the hope that so far as the Development Fund available for agricultural purposes amongst the natives is concerned, subsistence husbandry should come first. I suggest that a definite proportion of the whole of this £500,000 should be set apart for developing subsistence agriculture in the interest of the natives.

Under different conditions from those prevailing to-day, I should have hoped that the Research Fund would be very much larger than it is. I hope that this money will not be applied in small driblets spread over a large variety of relatively unimportant scientific investigations. I venture to ask my noble friend to do what he can to see that this research work is concentrated on some of the really big problems, such as that of the tsetse fly and its resulting sleeping sickness and trypanosomiasis. Vast areas in Africa are thereby rendered wholly uninhabitable by cattle, thereby killing animal husbandry. In Northern Rhodesia, five-eighths of the whole of the vast territory is uninhabitable by bovine stock, or indeed by any domestic animals, because of the prevalence of the tsetse fly, and half of Tanganyika is similarly affected. There is a great problem there which can be solved only by systematic research on a big scale, supported by adequate financial resources. To take another example, there is the really important problem—it is not merely a health problem but an economic problem—of the nutritional requirements of the native population. Adequate nutrition is essential not merely for the maintenance of their physical efficiency but also to promote their resistance to disease.

In the light of one small item which I notice in the Schedule to the Bill, I would ask my noble friend to be careful lest money is wasted on so-called ecological research. There is an item in Part II of the Schedule for the wiping out of a loan to Basutoland which was made for the purpose of an ecological survey, the amount concerned being £3,070. We found in Northern Rhodesia that these ecological surveys may result in wholly misleading deductions, tending to inhibit or to restrict development. I venture, if I may, to refer to one short paragraph which appears in our Report: …dogmatic pronouncements in official or semi-official publications to the effect that large areas of territory are permanently un-suited to human habitation or economic utilisation, through alleged irremediable infertility or adverse climatic conditions, should be made with the greatest caution. Such statements have in the past in several parts of the world been falsified in the light of experience and in the face of scientific discovery and technical achievement. I make that observation because, after all, ecology is a science which deals with the most suitable habitat for plants, for animals and for human beings; and you may have a very good botanist, such as the gentleman who carried out the ecological survey which I have in mind, who may nevertheless be ill-equipped for giving a sound opinion upon whether the country that he surveys is fit either for farm animals or for human beings. If from such a survey the deduction is made that the country is not fit for the white man, all I can say is that it may have a very serious effect upon the whole future development of such a territory. After all, there are many territories which, if an ecological survey had been made some thirty years ago, would have been regarded as unfit for white men, but which are to-day inhabited by white men living in a condition of health and of relative prosperity as the result of drainage, irrigation, the removal of the danger of malaria and other scientific achievements.

I want in passing to say that I hope that in this development work, and also in the research work, we shall labour in co-operation with other countries who also have the care of natives and who are doing good work in that direction. I would particularly mention the Belgian Congo. Long ago, but within the lifetime of many of us, the Belgian Congo and its administration were a by-word amongst the civilised countries of the world; but I venture to say that to-day there is no area in Africa which is being more progressively administered or which is being governed in a more enlightened manner than is the Belgian Congo. That is to me a strong reason why so far as possible we should co-operate wholeheartedly with other countries that have the same problems to solve and that are carrying out their work efficiently.

There is only one other matter to which I want to refer. May I express in the presence of my noble and learned friend the present Lord Chancellor my delight that he found it possible to wipe out when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer certain irrecoverable debts which have hung like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of many of these unfortunate Colonies and Protectorates for many years past, and showed no possibility of their ever being repaid, even if it were possible occasionally to pay interest upon them? Most of them were, I take it, bad debts, and they are well out of the way. But I want particularly to refer to the case of Nyasaland, and I want quite gratefully to express both to my noble friend the Colonial Secretary and also to the Lord Chancellor my high appreciation of the adoption, at least in part, of a very strong recommendation of the Royal Commission over which I presided that the Nyasaland debt should be dealt with in the manner in which this Bill deals with it.

That debt is charged, let us remember, upon a relatively small country, with a relatively immense native population—incidentally I may say of a good, competent and educable type, thanks largely to the work of David Livingstone some seventy or eighty years ago—but a country without any mineral wealth, and with large areas of wholly unproductive and tsetse-fly-stricken land. This capital debt is due to the construction of the Trans-Zambesi Railway a quarter of a century ago and the construction of the two-mile-long Zambesi Bridge which was completed only five years ago in that country—or rather it is not in that country, it is just over the border in Portuguese East Africa. This railway and the bridge are mainly employed for the consignment of goods from countries other than Nyasaland to the port of Beira, and a large part of that expenditure, particularly on the Zambesi Bridge, is traceable to the earnest desire during a period of extreme depression to find employment for our own unemployed people in this country. These debt charges hang like a heavy pall over Southern Nyasaland; and Southern Nyasaland, far the most beautiful area in the whole of South Central Africa, except possibly for the Victoria Falls, contains an extremely fertile tract of country occupied by European cultivators of exceptional skill and enterprise. There are, I believe, no better tea planters in the whole of Africa than those in Southern Nyasaland, and there would also be promising developments in the production of tung oil, sisal, and other products but for the stifling effect of this debt.

This Bill provides that a quarter of a million of that loan in respect of the Trans-Zambesi Railway which has been guaranteed by the Nyasaland Government shall be wiped out. I cannot help wishing that the Government could have seen their way to increase the amount by another £300,000 and wipe out the whole of this very heavy burden, which is depressing the whole of the most promising part of that very attractive Protectorate. When the standard revenue of Nyasaland exceeds £450,000 a year it is provided that half the excess is taken for the repayment of past loans. This is a crippling condition, and I earnestly hope that in future it will cease to be imposed. Incidentally, it stands in the way of the immediate amalgamation of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland which I and my colleagues unanimously recommended in our Royal Commission Report. With these few words I most warmly welcome the Second Reading of this Bill.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies I want to make a suggestion to him. I was extremely interested, and I am sure your Lordships were, in the examples he gave of gifts from various parts of the British Commonwealth, and I wonder whether it will be possible to publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT a complete list, or a largely selected list—larger than the examples which he gave. That, I think, would have a very profound effect, not only on the givers as a tribute of our admiration and gratitude, but also as indicating to the rest of the world the essential spirit of unity inside the Empire. I hope the noble Lord may be able to give favourable consideration to that suggestion.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, let me first of all express the great personal gratification I feel for the reception which this Bill has met with at the hands of every member of every Party in your Lordships' House this afternoon. I know that that satisfaction will be felt most particularly, when he reads it in the OFFICIAL REPORT, by the author of this Bill, my predecessor in the post I now occupy. I would thank my noble friend opposite who spoke first very particularly also for his eloquent support of what this Bill sets out to do. I never should have doubted that he would approach a matter of this kind with the vision which I think he always has. I have not always agreed with the direction of that vision, but I have always recognised that it was there, and he is right in saying that it must be an inspiration, even to the least important of us, to feel that he has the opportunity of carrying on the great work initiated by predecessors like Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Milner and other occupants of that great post. I cannot say very much in answer to his remarks about French Colonies, the Belgian Congo and such cognate questions, except that I think we can hope that those who think alike in this war are likely more and more to work together in the prosecution of that war, and that this generalisation will apply to the Colonial field is, I think, a very sure hope.

I would thank my noble friend Lord Samuel, too, for the support he has expressed on behalf of the Liberal Party. My noble friend can speak with particular value on Colonial questions inasmuch as he himself has served for long and with great distinction under the Colonial Office; and I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to him in my other capacity as Chairman of the British Council for the immensely valuable work he has done in the Eastern Mediterranean for the Council in the last two or three years. Only a very few days ago I came across some echoes of the value of the work he had done for us in Cyprus particularly. When he mentioned Cyprus I think he was himself aware that his contribution was not a small one to the splendid spirit that is animating the whole of that island to-day. I shall not attempt to follow him, if he will forgive me, into old controversies like Ottawa and Preferences, over which we battled for many years on most platforms in this country, but always on opposite sides as far as I remember. But, however that may be, the Free Trade spirit in this country, I see, persists strongly in the Liberal Party. I do think that, whatever be our views, we can find in this Bill a solid ground for union and agreement on economic as well as other aspects of the Bill. I should like to echo the tribute paid by Lord Samuel to my noble friend Lord Moyne, who sits behind me, and to Lord Hailey, who has not yet returned, and to say how fortunate we consider ourselves in being able to secure their services on the advisory committees which are being set up.

My noble friend Lord Bledisloe, who spoke next, has a knowledge of agriculture that is known to us all. When he went to New Zealand he inspired the New Zealand farmers with his knowledge; and he struck such awe into my non-agricultural heart that I have been sending notices to and fro to those who assist me in order to get knowledge of terminology I have never heard of before in my life. The difficulty of agricultural production to-day is that there is, of course, a large surplus owing to the loss of European markets—an immense surplus of tropical products. It is impossible for that to last very long, and we feel certain that, when conditions readjust themselves, there will still be great scope for exports from our Colonies. I agree with most of what my noble friend said about the importance of agriculture, and particularly subsistence agriculture and nutrition. I can assure him, as to the question he put about the Research Fund, that that is intended to deal with big and fundamental problems such as the tsetse fly, in the tackling of which great areas in West Africa have been cleared in the last few years and are being increasingly cleared with enormous success. In Central Africa, to my knowledge, there has also been great progress in this respect.

As regards the Nyasaland debt, I gather the position is this, that apart from the war debt—something round about £950,000—the indebtedness remaining unremitted is £103,000 for the redemption of railway subsidy. This has already been funded, and is being repaid by sinking fund contributions. Such funded indebtedness has not been included in the present remission. If I may suggest to my noble friend, these are really details—important details—which are perhaps more appropriate to the Committee stage, and I shall be fully prepared to answer him in Committee on any points of that kind he wishes to raise.


As to any point I wish to raise on Committee stage, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to have some conversation with him?


I shall be only too glad at any time to discuss that with the noble Viscount. There only remains the observation made by my noble friend Lord Marley, who suggested that a list of the gifts should be published. If I may make the suggestion, perhaps the most convenient way would be for him to put down a question "not for oral answer," which would result in the list being published in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I thank your Lordships very much for the reception given to this Bill.

On Question, Bill read a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.