HL Deb 20 May 1942 vol 122 cc1083-128

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL rose to ask His Majesty's Government to state their policy for enabling the Colonial Empire and Mandated Territories to make a maximum contribution to the war effort; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I imagine that to your Lordships it must be a rare if not unique event for the Colonies to be discussed twice in this House within a fortnight; but the greater frequency of our discussions on this subject is one side of the increased importance attached to our Colonial territories with the spread of the war in their direction, and our own awareness of the vital part they are called upon to play in defence of the Commonwealth.

The events of the last few months, which have been exhaustively discussed in this House, have shown among other things the immense difficulty of successfully defending areas in which the native inhabitants are secretly or openly hostile, or even sullenly indifferent to our cause. Our failure to win the sympathy and co-operation of the natives has largely contributed to the Japanese victories in the Far East. We now know, for instance, that the Fifth Column that developed in Malaya would steal the plans of our aerodromes and defensive positions, and that Fifth Columnists guided our enemies through the jungle and even flashed signals to enemy planes during the black-out. In Burma we are told on reliable authority that on many occasions the local inhabitants have actually taken up arms against our troops. No less striking has been the added power of resistance when the defenders have had behind them full-hearted popular support. It was the patriotic spirit of the Filipinos that enabled General McArthur to make his splendid stand, and it is the courage of the local defence units and the loyal determination of the thousands of civilians who kept open communications, distributed food and maintained the essential services that has enabled Malta to stand out against the most sustained and intensive air attacks in the history of warfare.

What I am anxious to ascertain is whether at this moment we have a policy that will succeed in rallying the Colonial peoples in defence of their freedom. The main emphasis of Colonial policy hitherto has been economic. That includes gifts to the Imperial Treasury and the sacrifice of imports to save shipping space and eliminate unnecessary luxuries. These monetary gifts have been substantial and extremely generous. The diversion of the surplus wealth of the Colonies to war purposes has been coupled with an attempt to raise the standards of the poorest inhabitants by improved Social Services and better economic conditions. It was the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, who insisted in his Dispatch of June, 1941, that the Colonial Welfare and Development Act should not be suspended by the effects of the war, and that plans for the further development of what he called "our neglected estates" should be immediately drawn up by Colonial Governments for examination by the Colonial Office. His enlightened and progressive policy as Secretary of State will be a creditable page, I believe, in. the history of our Colonial administration, and I venture to hope that the economic and social objectives which he had in view will be adopted by his successor. Perhaps the noble Lord opposite will be good enough to tell us how much progress has been made under the Act since he took office. It may also be necessary at some time to say something about the Colonial Research Advisory Committee, which I am glad to hear the noble Lord has appointed. It will be particularly interesting to know more about its composition; whether it will include members appointed from outride or whether it will be a purely Departmental Committee.

Turning to the military aspect of our Colonial policy, we have to examine the position in the light of the Japanese entering into the war. With the invasion of their forces into the Indian Ocean and, at the same time, with the increasing subservience of the French to Germany, most of British Africa is now directly threatened by the Axis Powers. We should surely brace the population of our Dependencies to meet the shock of air attack or sea-borne invasion by inviting all the help they car: give in the preparation of our military measures. Should not policy change its emphasis with the times, and shift its stress from economic assistance to direct military co-operation in the war effort? The actual extent to which we can make better use of the vast reservoir of African man-power is limited, of course, by our supplies of equipment, but within those limits there is surely much that might still be done to improve morale and provide at any rate elementary training in the methods of modern warfare. I should like to commend to the noble Lord for his attention an article in the Economist of May 2, entitled "Colonial Commandos" in which a suggestion is thrown out for the training of guerrilla bands with local Chieftains and their kinsmen in leading roles in West African territories.

Conditions of service and opportunities for promotion are factors that influence considerably the morale of troops, and any suspicion of unfair discrimination on grounds of class or colour causes grumbling and inefficiency. It is curious in this connexion that the Gold Coast and Nigerian regiments which played such a gallant part in the East African campaign are still invariably officered by Europeans. There is not the same chance for Africans to rise to commissioned rank in locally-recruited units, and this makes it virtually impossible for the best educated Africans and the sons and relatives of tribal Chiefs to join the Armed Forces. Natural leaders in these parts are thus debarred from military service. I remember hearing how, during the campaign in Eritrea, after all their white officers had been wounded or killed, a company of West Africans crossed a river under heavy fire led by their Company Sergeant-Major.

In Mauritius dissatisfaction with the method of recruitment for military service was voiced quite recently in the Council by representatives of the coloured population. They complained with some bitterness that the war effort of the island was being seriously impeded by colour bias. They stressed the segregation which had begun long before the war of native islanders in a separate company of the local Territorial Defence Force, and a similar isolation of the two communities in watertight compartments since the introduction of conscription. They also pointed out—may I clarify something for the noble Viscount the Leader of the House?


My Lords, do I understand that the noble Lord was speaking of Mauritius?


Yes. These are various criticisms and complaints that have been made recently in the island of Mauritius. I was saying that representatives of the coloured population in the Council had also pointed out that white and coloured men have served together in the ranks of the Free French Forces recruited in Mauritius. But I think that perhaps the chief grievance has been that coloured battalions are entirely officered by Europeans. This is all the more remarkable because the white population of the island numbers only some 10,000 as compared with 360,000 Indians and Africans of which 10,000 have reached a fairly high standard of education. Whether or not there has, in fact, been any unfair treatment of the local population it is certainly unfortunate that a sense of grievance should be widely prevalent at the present moment. I need not underline the strategic importance of this outpost of Africa in the Indian Ocean, The deep water harbour of Port Louis, with its graving docks and ample accommodation, renders the island an ideal stepping-stone for the Japanese en route for Madagascar, and a haven from which their submarines or commerce raiders could sally forth to molest our trade routes. One, therefore, hopes that the authorities in Mauritius will be encouraged by the Colonial Office, before it is too late, to do their utmost to allay these symptoms of popular resentment.

There have also been murmurings in the West Indies about lack of opportunity for rendering service in the war. Those who desire to join the Forces have been advised to go abroad to England or Canada because there is no local unit in which they can enlist. They remind us that in the last war there was a West Indian contingent of 15,600 men recruited from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, British Guiana and the lesser West Indian Islands, and sent across to Europe as an expeditionary force. They were mainly employed in garrison duties, but in Palestine some West Indian battalions were in the front line of the advance against the Turks. In this war, of course, the limiting factors of shipping and equipment feature far more prominently than they did at that time. But would it not be possible to train a small number of men, with a minimum of equipment, for Home Guard or garrison duty on the islands? One has to consider, I think, the moral effect of such a gesture on the population in addition to its purely military value. But if the answer from the Government is that we do lack the equipment and other resources to provide even the rudiments of military training, might we not draw upon West Indian reserves of unskilled labour to release able-bodied men in this country for more urgent duties?

We have to consider the future, and the latest developments in the war may soon bring British Africa within striking distance of enemy aircraft. I hope the Government can assure us that A.R.P. services are in process of construction. It was reported in the Press that after the Japanese attack on Ceylon the recruiting offices in Colombo were besieged by A.R.P. volunteers. If this report is correct, it sounds as though we had been caught napping by the Japanese. But provided we delay no longer in these matters, there is probably still time to make the population of the main ports and the larger towns of West and East Africa A.R.P.-minded And this should give a splendid opportunity for instilling into Africans a sense of direct participation in the defence of their homeland. The need for preparations against air attack is admittedly less urgent in the West Indies. But the naval bases we have leased to the United States are an obvious and legitimate military target, and it might give a fillip to morale if civilians in certain areas were told that, in an emergency, they would be called upon to act as air-raid wardens, fire watchers, and so on, and were forthwith instructed in the elements of passive defence. There is certainly in the West Indies a widespread feeling that experimental black-outs are no longer enough.

If the indigenous peoples of our widely-scattered Dependencies are to turn all their energies to the prosecution of the war, we must arm their minds as well as their bodies. We can do this only by convincing them that they are fighting for their own future. It is not enough to point out that if the British Commonwealth is defeated they will become enslaved by the strongest Axis Power. They cannot be certain that this is a black as well as a white man's war unless they can be persuaded beyond any shadow of doubt that the peace which follows it will be a black as well as a white man's peace. What I believe, and what I venture to recomment to the noble Viscount opposite, is that we need a supplement to the Atlantic Charter, which described so well the aims for which we and our Allies are fighting. This supplement might be called the British Colonial Charter, and it would add to our list of war aims the achievement of those conditions of life which are sought by the peoples of our Dependencies.

It is a noteworthy fact that the Prime Minister, in the account which he gave in another place of the Atlantic meeting, expressly excluded the Colonies from the terms of this historic agreement. His actual words are worth recording: At the Atlantic meeting, we had in mind, primarily, the restoration of the sovereignty, self-government and national life of the States and nations of Europe now under the Nazi yoke. … that is quite a separate problem from the progressive evolution of self-governing institutions n the regions and peoples which owe allegiance to the British Crown. We have made declarations on these matters which are complete in themselves … and related to the conditions and circumstances of the territories and peoples affected. According to this important statement, therefore, we are obliged to dig out our Colonial war aims by looking up official utterances made at different times by Ministers of the Crown in Parliament or in public gatherings, and by referring to the published Dispatches of the Secretary of State. Even so, we shall have to confine ourselves, in accordance with the Prime Minister's words, to Ministerial views about "the progressive evolution of self-governing institutions" in Colonial territories. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, has repeatedly pointed out in this House, the main emphasis in these days has shifted from the political to the economic and social aspects of Colonial policy. The somewhat negative doctrine of political trusteeship has been transformed by the acceptance of our primary responsibility for promoting social welfare, which involves the abatement of poverty and the building up of health and other services.

The noble Viscount opposite has the good fortune to have access to the War Cabinet. Could he not propose that scattered Ministerial dicta about the Colonies should be summarized and superseded by a brief declaration of wartime policy, with which the Prime Minister could be personally associated, and which would convey to our Colonial subjects a solemn assurance of active assistance in their economic betterment and social advancement, as well as, of course, repeating the ancient but precious pledge about ultimate self-government throughout the Empire? I think we should perhaps add to such a statement that the provisions of our Colonial Charter, though they can be tried out only very tentatively so long as the war continues, will be implemented to I the hilt as soon as post-war conditions permit.

Declarations of principle, however, are apt to evaporate in pious hopes unless we face the practical consequences. There is one obstacle to progress in several of our Dependencies which must gradually be overcome. I am referring to deliberate discrimination against the native inhabitants by a minority of white settlers, expressed in its acutest form in policies of racial segregation and in the virtual monopoly of the best agricultural land, of skilled employment, or of educational opportunity. Such policies have proved a sharp disappointment to the European settlers themselves, and, of course, a disaster to the coloured populations under their guidance. The war provides a unique opportunity to break down the barriers of privilege, whether it be class privilege here at home or colour privilege abroad. If we can offer now a sure prospect of a future without colour prejudice against the native inhabitants, and promise a generous dose of European science and capital to overcome the backwardness of their social development, we shall really give the Colonies something worth fighting for, and silence every critic of our Colonial administration. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has put forward his plea for measures for securing the greater co-operation of the Colonial peoples in our war effort with such studied moderation that I am sure he will receive very considerable support for his proposals. At all events he has disarmed criticism in advance, for he recognizes, as we must all recognize, that much that was said, as the result of the first shock of the loss of Malaya and Burma, about the total failure of our Colonial policy, and many of the arguments for an entirely new policy which were based on those impressions, were not justified. They have led to very unfortunate consequences both outside the United Kingdom and at home. We find the American Press, as the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, pointed out in this House recently, full of statements about the "acknowledged bankruptcy of British policy." Any student of Dominion and Colonial history will remember that there has been no time for many generations in which charges of the bankruptcy of our policy have not been brought against us. Year after year we in India used to listen to statements about the bankruptcy of British policy and the loss of British statesmanship, so much so that some of us almost came to the conclusion in the end, a conclusion shared by some of our more acute financiers at home, that fortunately bankruptcy, after all, did not mean ruin.

It has unfortunately also led to a great spate of very unjustifiable criticisms of British policy in the native Colonial Press. Let me read you the last that I happened to see: British policy, well-intentioned in its origin, has been sabotaged by greedy financiers, dividend-hunters, pension-eaters, Imperialists and hordes of pests of this kind. It is not good for us and for our war effort that we should give any encouragement to statements such as I have referred to in the United States, or that we should give any encouragement to our Colonial Press to write for somewhat unsophisticated people in this strain. The attacks on our policy have in truth involved the use of a number of false analogies; and, looking carefully through the history of recent events, it is indeed difficult to say that what we have suffered in the way of military disaster in the East has conveyed any clear lesson of the failure of our civil administration.

The Philippines have been quoted as an instance; yet the Filipino people are in fact very much more akin to the people of a South American State in every way than they are to that mixture of peoples found in Malaya—one-third Indians, one-third Chinese and one-third a people who are subject to their own native rulers. The fact that Thailand was not under foreign rule did not prevent her making a tame and almost immediate surrender. The noble Earl has already referred to Malta. Not even the fact that we have recently had to withdrawn from Malta her more or less responsible Constitution has affected her loyalty or the gallantry of her defence. Palestine before the war was frequently quoted as the most unfortunate instance of British Colonial administration, and yet it does not appear that either the Arabs or the Jews have attempted to use the war as a weapon for forcing our hands. The noble Earl referred also to Burma. I have here a record of a recent statement made by the Governor of Burma, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, who, after all, is not a member of the Colonial administration but has led a more reputable life in English political circles. He said this: So far from there being any considerable disloyalty among Burmans, the Japanese have been unable to get a single Burman of any weight to join them since the invasion began. In fact, there is not a single Burman Quisling, and I am proud to add that the number of people who went over to the enemy from political motives was infinitesimal, and my Ministers acted loyally with me to the last. The policy pursued in Burma cannot at all events have affected the more advanced and responsible classes there.

Putting aside for a moment all the false analogies that have been used, and admitting the difficulty of drawing any clear lesson from these events as regards our civil administration, it does of course remain that the spirit in which a people is likely to face the invader depends not only on the quality of our rule, but on the extent to which we have trained them for arms and provided them with equipment. Rightly or wrongly, it has always been our policy to endeavour to avoid placing on Colonial peoples the burden of military expenditure. Forced levies of troops have always been distasteful to us. We have rejected the conception of militarization. There are some Dependencies in which the outlay on defence accounts for less than one per cent. of the total expenditure. Even an area such as Ceylon has spent less than 2½ per cent. on this head, and there are very few Dependencies indeed in which the defence expenditure has reached 5 per cent. of the whole. Circumstances may force us to change our policy in this respect. With all our traditional dislike of a policy of militarization we cannot forget that the creation of Defence Forces has also a definite political aspect. We are committed to a policy of conceding to the natives of those countries a progressive share in the government of their own affairs. Self-government is a concession in constitutional terms to their feeling of self-respect and self-esteem. But service in a national force may be, and indeed must be, a powerful agency for attaining the same object. In a realistic world the bayonet is as much a symbol of power as the ballot-box, and a wide extension of the Defence Forces may be no less necessary a process in the formation of national consciousness and the promotion of a sense of responsibility than the development of political institutions.

Clearly it is not easy to make any far-reaching alteration in the policy to-day. But on one point I venture to express agreement with the noble Earl. It is in regard to the grant of Commissions to non-Europeans in the existing local military units. Those of us who lived through the long controversy over the admission of Indians to full commissioned ranks in the Indian Array will not need to be reminded of the reasons which military authorities found it necessary to urge against this measure. But those were the days when we maintained an Army in India for a single and restricted objective—the defence of India against attacks on the North-West Frontier, and the maintenance of internal order. Now that the most remote of our Colonies is liable to be involved in world war, we must not think merely of technical efficiency in its narrower sense. We must have in mind the need for stimulating in the people at large an interest and pride in their own forces as agencies of national defence. We shall not achieve that if we restrict them to the non-commissioned ranks. We shall, if nothing else, have against us the more influential and educated part of the population, for we shall contribute to that difficult and embarrassing complex which troubles every people that feels itself to be openly marked with the stigma of inferiority.

Let me be clear, however, on one point. No one can contemplate a radical and far-reaching change in this respect—no one who knows the circumstances of the people. The mischief in India lay in the fact that there was an absolute bar to entry into the commissioned ranks of the Army, and it was all the more conspicuous, and all the more felt, because we were at the time freely admitting Indians to the most responsible posts in the civil administration. It is merely the removal of this absolute bar against the grant of Commissions in local native forces in the Colonies that I advocate.

The noble Earl urged a second measure as necessary to secure the fuller interest of the Colonial peoples in their own defence—the issue of a British Colonial Charter supplementary to the Atlantic Charter. It is difficult to say how far the loudly-expressed resentment shown in India and Burma of the Prime Minister's answer on the subject of the application of the Atlantic Charter to those countries was a real sign of the disappointment of frustrated hopes. But what was really sought was, of course, a pronouncement definitely fixing the manner and the date on which those countries would be given full responsible government after the war. So far as India at any rate is concerned, it has received in the Declaration of March last, an answer as complete as any which could be given as a supplement to the terms of the Atlantic Charter.

I have read in many of the Colonial papers a number of expressions of disappointment that the Government did not take the occasion to issue a statement containing a more detailed definition of our Colonial policy than they had hitherto seen their way to produce. But here, of course, we must discriminate. We must not fall into the error, which I fear is becoming a somewhat common one, of speaking of our Dependencies as though they were situated in Africa and were all inhabited by primitive peoples. Ceylon, Malta, Cyprus and some of the West Indies are asking, as India and Burma asked, that they should be given a definite guarantee of responsible government at a definite date after the war. But there are other Dependencies which are asking less, for they naturally realize that responsible government to them must be much further off. They ask, however, for a clearer statement of what we intend to do to increase the authority of their representative institutions, about the further association of natives in the administration, and about the steps we intend to take to improve their social and economic standards.

It is true that this demand may come only from the more advanced section of opinion; but that is a section which common prudence forbids us to disregard, for it is this element which in the long run will determine the attitude of the people at large towards our Administration. Their demands set me, at all events, to examining a somewhat voluminous collection, which I once was instrumental in having prepared, of the statements regarding Colonial policy which have come from Ministers of the Crown in the last twenty years. I do not wish to be critical on the subject. It is only too obvious that there are difficulties and even dangers in issuing general declarations regarding the objectives of our policy. A Government must always have a tendency to speak as optimistically as possible of the destination it has in view but to be reticent about the obstacles that stand in the way. The tendency on the part of the Colonial peoples must be to ignore the existence of obstacles, to complain that we have broken faith with them if we have to point out that obstacles still exist, and to blame us for not removing them. But I do feel, nevertheless, that the more advanced people of the Colonies may not unreasonably ask for something more explicit than they will find in the statements to which I have referred and which the noble Lord mentioned.

Considering their volume, they have a singular unanimity. Throughout them all runs the assurance of our determination to fulfil the obligations of trusteeship. All the more recent pronouncements are at one in holding out the promise that the Dependencies may eventually attain self-government. That unanimity is all to the good in its way, but it is not very informative. No one can deny that the sentiment of trusteeship has played a great and most beneficent part in the development of our system of civil administration in the Colonies, but, as the noble Lord has pointed out, trusteeship has to-day a new and more positive meaning for us, which has already been expressed in our legislation here and will need to be expressed still further as time goes on. And there is another point, The use of the term is irritating to the Colonial people. It was intensely unpopular in India. It is becoming equally unpopular in the Colonies, for it has implications on which it is unnecessary to enlarge but which, if I were a native of the Colonies, I should equally resent. If we need to express ourselves in a formula at all, let our relations be of those of senior and junior partners in the same enterprise, and let it be said that our contract of partnership involves the progressive increase of the share which the junior partners have in the conduct of the undertaking.

For the rest, I do not see the impossibility of framing a declaration which will give a more concrete and more informative statement of our intentions. The good will is there, the purpose is there. But the statement, if it is to avail us, must be honest. If we do not believe that a Colony of small population or resources can, standing by itself, ever achieve responsible government, let us frankly say so now. If we do not believe that a Colony with a settled European population can ever attain self-government under any form which will place the native majority under the political control of the European minority, then let us say that now also. If we do not believe that the self-governing institutions best suited to a native population are those which follow the model of our own Parliamentary institutions, let us say that also. You can, perhaps, afford to offer attractive generalizations about the future to highly-civilized people. They know the rules of the game, and can draw their own conclusions. But if we are to have the co-operation of more simple people we must have their confidence, and we shall not have that if they ever have reason to feel that we have misled them or allowed them to entertain false hopes about their own future.

There is one further point that may not appear directly relevant to the Motion but is to my mind fundamental. If there is a complaint of the apathy of some of the Colonial peoples towards our rule, it is nothing compared with the apathy of the British people towards their own Colonial possessions. If a little of the industry put into amassing information about the countries of Central Europe had been transferred to the Colonies, we might perhaps have had a sounder military policy in regard to the defence of our Dependencies, and certainly we should have had a more informed public opinion on which to base the policy of civil administration. The fault goes right back to our system of education. We cannot blame the class of politicians for it because, naturally, the politician takes his chief interest mainly in those matters in which there is a stimulus of public opinion behind him.

When I say that it goes back to our system of education, let me illustrate this with a few facts regarding the extent to which Imperial and Colonial matters appear in some of our most important examinations. Your Lordships will find a very interesting reference to it in the recent book by Lord Elton. I shall only summarize some of the facts I have obtained on the subject. It is possible to obtain a first class in history at either Oxford or Cambridge without any knowledge of either American or Imperial history. Of the eight centres which deal with the higher certificate examination only two have a special Empire paper. In the Oxford and Cambridge joint Board Examination for the higher certificate, history is a special subject; in the latest year of which I have figures, only twenty-two students took the paper in British Colonial history. For the school certificate, out of nine examining centres, only five have a paper in Imperial history, and out of the vast number of students taking the school certificate only 225 at the Cambridge centre, 600 at the Oxford centre, 44 at the Welsh centre, and 20 in the London Matriculation took the special paper.

It would almost appear that, taking our schools generally, Imperial history shares with religion the fate of being one of those subjects that schoolmasters are not encouraged to discuss with young children—with this difference, that if religion has much that is disputable, the history of the Empire is felt to have an element of the disreputable! But however horrifying the motives with which our shameful ancestors acquired this discreditable possession, the fact remains that we are to-day responsible for between 45,000,000 and 55,000,000 people in our Colonial Empire. Our faith as regards all other aspects of our political life is in the collective wisdom of public opinion; but we can only secure the benefit of that opinion for the better direction of Colonial affairs if it forms itself on a basis of knowledge. It might almost be some compensation for the temporary loss of one of our richest Dependencies if it brings home to the British people the necessity of acquiring that knowledge now.


My Lords, with the greater part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, I find myself in complete agreement, but I wish he would not, as Lord Vansittart did yesterday, impart into his speech an attack upon politicians. We are all politicians in this House. It is a sort of hangover from the—


Perhaps the noble Lord will excuse me. If I did not do so, I certainly intended expressly to exclude the politicians. I said that the politicians naturally took an interest chiefly in those matters in which there was public stimulus behind them.


After all, we are all politicians, and we had better defend ourselves, because there is quite enough attack on politicians coming from Fascists without our turning to this particularly attractive target ourselves. As a matter of fact, the noble Lord was for a long time a civil servant and therefore saw his natural antagonist in the politician, but now he has become one himself.


I am sorry, but I really must deny both charges.


I claim that this High Court of Parliament is essentially a political body spending its time on democratic rule by reason, as does the other Chamber, and therefore we are all politicians and, I hope, some of us statesmen. I was particularly anxious to claim Lord Hailey's support to that idea of giving Commissions to the coloured people in the Colonies. That is a point on which the whole of your Lordships' House is now heartily agreed. But unfortunately it is not a point on which the noble Viscount who is going to reply can give any answer to-day. It is a question for the Army, but I do think that is one definite step forward we might take. In this way we might establish better relations with what are called the subject races, really our fellow subjects.

The difference between the native under British rule and the native under French rule is that the French coal-black Senegalese nigger can strike his chest and say "I am a French citizen. "You do not get that same sense of citizenship in any part of the British Empire. Except possibly in the West Indies there is no pride in British citizenship. I believe that sentiment could be produced in this Empire of ours much more easily if there was the same treatment for the coloured people in the British Colonial Army that does exist in the French Colonial Army to-day. The French Colonial administration is definitely inferior to our own, denying justice, exploiting the natives, living with their women, and generally committing all those deeds which are so conspicuously absent from our own administration. But the French have this one advantage that they do not attach any importance to colour. They will ask a coloured man to have a drink or a cigarette; they treat him as an equal French citizen. The unfortunate thing in our Colonial Empire is that you get no such feeling among the educated black fellow-subjects of the British Crown.

To get that, what is wanted is not promises of self-government hereafter but equal treatment now, such as Commissions in the Army and official posts in the Governments concerned. I do not know whether your Lordships have noticed, but some of those Governors who have joined the de Gaulle French administration are coloured people. We have not got a single Governor or executive anywhere who is a coloured man, and it is in that direction that we might go with the greatest advantage to the comfort and contentment and patriotism of our Colonial peoples. I hope that is one of the things that will result from this debate to-day.

I think Lord Hailey was altogether too optimistic in his judgment of the Colonial Services at the present time, particularly so far as the war is concerned. I do not think we have got the best of all Colonial administrations in the best of all worlds in this war. I do not think the Colonies have made that contribution to the war which we had a right to expect. It is true they have contributed large sums of money, sometimes too large a part of their Colonial revenues, but they have not tackled the problem as we in this country have done. We have been somewhat remiss in postponing the problem of the use of man- and woman-power, but at last here everybody is at work, all are doing that for which they are best suited so far as an imperfect machine will allow; but that has not happened yet in the Colonies. We are not using their man-power either for military services or for productive services, and it is quite time that a change was made. It is now nearly two and a half years since the war started, and two years since this question was raised in another place.

There was some hope of getting from all Governors ideas of what they could offer in the way of services. Of course there was then plenty of shipping available, and it was easy to suggest that it would be rather a mistake to burn cocoa and that it would be better to serve it out for nothing among those people who wanted it. Now, however, shipping is a great difficulty. It is very difficult to get things produced in Africa or in the West Indies to this country or America. But it is quite time the new problem was tackled. I should like to know from the Governor of every one of our Colonies what he thought that Colony could do to help the Empire in the way of troops, in the way of producing munitions of war or in the way of producing those supplies which are needed. We know now pretty well what goods are needed by this country and how varied arc the munitions of war. The Colonial Office should know by now what machines they have got in every Colony, what railways, workshops and various factories and machinery are available for making, not munitions only, but all those other goods which we require. If it is not possible to bring the raw product to this country, it may be possible to treat that raw product on the spot and ship it in a condensed form.

The problem in the case of Africa is the development of roads as it also is elsewhere. There was no road, for instance, from India to Burma. Now is an opportunity for developing works of national importance. We are already developing air supply across some of these Continents. If it is a question of getting away our produce I think the development of transcontinental roads might be of great service. I need not point out that a few ports of lading are infinitely better than a large number of ports when you have a very small amount of shipping available.

Then there is the question of making these different Colonies self-supporting. There is not only the great difficulty of sending goods from them to the Mother Country or to the seat of war, but there is also the extraordinary difficulty of getting anything sent out to those Colonies. I should think that a year from now, in not one of the Colonies will there be any petrol or tyres left. They have got to become self-supporting far more than they are at the present time. They have got to learn to make their own soap and candles, their own beds, their own fishing boats and so on. I do not think it will be long before Kenya will have to start making her own ox-wagons. As this civilization develops every one of these Colonies tends to become more and more a "desert island" supporting itself. This is the problem that every one of the Governors should have been considering long ago. He should have been considering how to make his Colony carry on, both how to get supplies from here and how best to supply the goods that we need here. We are too apt to consider our exports, to think of what things we want to export. I wish everybody would cease to be export-minded and become import-minded, and find out what is needed, what is needed in the world, what Russia needs and what other countries need. When we find out what they need then we can try to equate the Colonial possibilities of production; to get from these Colonies the things most needed and not the things which the Colonies are most accustomed to produce. The production of goods in the Colonies has hardly yet been tackled, and I shall be interested to hear from the Secretary of State, the Leader of the House, what he is proposing to do about this development. I think, fortunately, a change may now have taken place.

I turn from production of goods to the production of fighting men. In the last war with less need for men, certainly less need for garrisons than there is in the present war, we actually drew more largely than at the present time on coloured troops from the Colonies. The West Indian regiments were excellent in the last war, and the East African Rifles, the West African regiments, were all over the Near East. From the Cape there came up regiment after regiment of coloured troops and, of course, we relied far more in the last war upon Indian troops in the West than we have done in this war.

When we are thinking of defence at the present time let us consider as an example the case of Mauritius. How can we spare troops for Mauritius? We cannot have adequate policemen everywhere, yet we may be attacked anywhere. You cannot spread the Army out thin as butter all over the world. In that case more and more disasters follow. We must rely on local effort. I do not know what is being done in Mauritius, but there you have a population, largely French I suppose, but certainly as capable of defending itself as the population of Hong Kong would have been if it had had the chance. Is anything being done in Mauritius in the way of providing Home Guards, in the way of providing them with the essential elements of war, in the manufacture of high explosives which is fairly simple, and in the supplies of rifles and anti-aircraft puns? And of course Mauritius is only one example. There are the Seychelles and thousands of islands all over the seas which are in danger from Japan at the present time. We cannot defend them all, but we ought to take steps to give the people the chance of defending themselves.

It is all the more incumbent upon us to do that because this is the war of the coloured peoples more than our war. They are the people who are considered by Hitler as being sub-human. Their prospects, if Hitler wins, are even more gloomy than ours. We should be merely exterminated; they would be enslaved for ever in the most degrading form of slavery; and they know it. Our propaganda may not have been too efficient in the Colonics, but it has been good enough to show the coloured people of the British Empire what they have to expect if Germany is triumphant. It is their war, and they are only too anxious to serve but they are not allowed to serve even as much as in the last war.

Take Palestine as an illustration. In the last war there were two brigades of Jewish troops used, but in this war, for some reason which I do not pretend to explain, Jews are barred out of self-contained units of the Regular Army and are only allowed in Pioneer companies—a degrading form of service for people who wish to risk their lives. The case for Home Guards in Ceylon, Mauritius, India, is getting ever stronger. I do not believe when invasion takes place in those countries the demand can be resisted. There was great reluctance to Home Guards being formed in this country, but when the threat of invasion came near enough we got Home Guards. However strong the demand is for Home Guards in India and in the Colonies, I am perfectly certain it is stronger in the Mandated Territory of Palestine. There you have 500,000 people who know that their homes, their lives, their families are absolutely at the mercy of their most embittered enemy, but they are not allowed to have arms. Those who get arms are put in gaol. It is a most extraordinary position, and we are up against a blank wall of opposition.

It is not the exclusive privilege of Britons to be allowed to die in the defence of liberty. It is quite time we made it clear that in this war there is no colour bar. This is not an eighteenth century struggle between two sets of established combatants. This is a war of religion, the religion of liberty against the religion of force and tyranny. In such a war there can be no colour bar. Our religion embraces those of every colour; it embraces all men. In the Russian Armies, those magnificent Armies which have put to shame all our efforts, you find no distinction of race, colour, creed or class. I hope the time will come when we too shall find ourselves side by side with such comrades of all classes, colours, creeds and races in our fight. I know well that when that time comes, when we do accept the aid so willingly proferred by these people, Jews and Indians and Chinese, then at last we shall be irresistible and shall carry to victory our cause, the cause which depends on no one man, on no one leader, but upon the consciousness of fraternity and love of freedom.


My Lords, it is so long since I ventured to address your Lordships that I feel as if I were engaged in making my maiden speech, and I sincerely hope your Lordships will think so too. My only excuse for intervening at this time is the fact that for a good many years, some time ago, I was fairly closely connected with our East African Colonies; and for three years in the last war I had the privilege and honour of serving with, or alongside, our African native troops. I venture to think the noble Earl who initiated this debate has done us a considerable service because there are certain things that we may learn. There are two main ways, I think it is fair to suggest, in which a Colony—and I would say here that I shall be referring chiefly to East Africa because it happens to be the country which I know—can help us in this combat. A Colony may provide us with troops, with equipped and trained men to fight beside us, and it may also provide us with material and more especially with food.

If you take men first, there was at the beginning of the last war a very strong impression throughout this country that it would be comparatively easy to raise a large native Army from amongst the teeming millions of Africa. Towards the end of 1914 I had the honour of being sent out with Colonel Kitchener, brother of the Field-Marshal, to institute an investigation and make a report on that problem. We found that there were one or two obstacles in the way. The first one was that the millions of those countries do not, in fact, teem. There are not "teeming millions" in our African Colonies, which, though they are large in space, are really sparsely populated for the main part. Furthermore, at that time, a very large proportion of the population there consisted of people whom we should now describe as being constitutionally unfitted for modern warfare. That is the same thing, of course, as saying that they are peaceful, industrious folk who do not like fighting.

In contradiction of what has been said to-day, I venture to say that it has been proved that it is necessary to have a nucleus of Europeans as a leaven to African troops, and that nucleus must be formed of the best men. When I say "the best men," I do not mean those people who are now somewhat contemptuously referred to as "wearers of the old school tie"—though I venture to think that wearers of that tie have no particular cause to reproach themselves with what they have done when it came to fighting. What I mean is that these men must be the best in the sense that they must have the best technical knowledge, they must have the best method of teaching, they must be men of determination, courage and character, and they must be men in sympathy with the African other ranks with whom they serve. These two factors are definitely limiting factors with regard to the number of troops you can raise. When the war broke out, in the King's African Rifles the white personnel, consisting almost entirely of officers, was in the proportion of one to twenty-five or thirty natives. Among the German Askaris the ratio was one to about ten, and the Germans were about half of them officers and half of them N.C.O.s. So good were our best men that when the war broke out our African battalions, our King's African Rifles, were quite able to take on the Askaris of the Germans with their greater nucleus of white officers.

But new units came into the field which had not had the long training of their predecessors. It may be also that some of the new officers had less knowledge not only of their troops but also of the language—and, as your Lordships will understand, ability to use some modicum of their language is necessary when you are leading Africans or any other troops for that matter—and as a consequence towards the latter end of the campaign, in 1917 or 1918, we increased the numbers of the white personnel by having a good many white N.C.O.s. I do not think that we ever reached anything like the same proportion of whites as the Germans maintained to the end, but I think we got to somewhere about the region of one to fifteen, which rather tends to show, to my mind at any rate, that the latter experience supports the theory that, up to the present, it is necessary to have a nucleus of Europeans if you are to have the best standard of native troops.

During the last war we raised in East Africa thirty-live battalions, I think, of the King's African Rifles. We had at the start only two battalions and these other battalions were raised for the most part in a period of twelve months or little more. General Sir Reginald Hoskins pressed their formation with great vigour and determination. Now this war has been going on for two and a half years, and we are in a better position to-day than we were then, because we have now as a recruiting ground Tanganyika where there are vastly greater numbers of what we may term fighting tribes. We have also, I should imagine, better opportunity for recruiting from Abyssinia. In the last war we recruited a number of troops from Abyssinia, and very excellent soldiers they were. I venture to hope, and I have no reason to doubt, that we have gone a long way towards the recruiting of African battalions for the King's African Rifles. But, as your Lordships are well aware, numbers are not everything. In fact, numbers in the Army to-day are probably less important than they used to be. If we had any doubts about that General Sir Archibald Wavell and the Italians between them have proved it for us. They have shown that a comparatively small, well-trained, well-equipped body of men, with their hearts in the cause for which they are fighting, are capable of taking on a very much larger body who may in fact be better equipped than they are. Therefore I think there is evidence that we are raising—and I do not think when the Government answer this debate they will have any difficulty in showing that we are producing—an Army which is well-equipped, well-trained and perfectly ready to fight on our side whoever they may be called upon to face. And I know that they are fully capable of fighting on even terms against any troops in this world—at all events in a warm or temperate climate.

I am happy about that side of the picture, but when I come to the second side of the picture—namely, production, and more especially the production of food—I am not so happy. But if I may with your Lordships' permission digress for a moment, there is something which I have forgotten. I would not have your Lord-ships think that the King's African Rifles are the only native troops who should be mentioned in this connexion. I did not mention the Nigerian Battalions, the W.A.F.F. the Gold Coast Regiment, alongside whom I have fought and whom I know to be equally as fine fighting men. I have spoken more of the King's African Rifles perhaps for the simple reason that I know them better. And now with regard to the production side. We must all be aware that East African soil is most fertile. Agriculturists there can produce, amongst other things, wheat, barley from which you can make excellent beer, maize, millet, rice and other cereals, cattle for beef, sheep for mutton, butter, cheese and ghee, and I have no doubt plenty of other things, but that in itself is sufficient to provide a suitable menu for any troops in the world. Moreover, that production can be stimulated and expanded with great celerity. There still remain large plains which do not require clearing, draining or manuring, and which will produce in some cases two crops in a year.

The expansion of production there is infinitely easier than it is in this island of ours. If your Lordships will look at your maps, you will notice how short is the route to supply our Armies in the Middle East, and there is a considerable quantity of coastal craft, including dhows, by which this produce can be taken to the scat of war. I would hope that that production would be sufficient to supply nearly all the needs of our Forces in the Middle East, but my information is to the effect that it is not. My information, which I trust is faulty, is that there has been very grave dissatisfaction, perturbation and even indignation among the civil population of East Africa, both white and black, at the slowness with which the Administration there have taken up total war in the matter of production. There have been repeated complaints. If my information is correct—and I expect that the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, can support me here—it is only a few months since the civil population in one Colony forced the Administration to take action and to go forward to secure increased production.

If my fears in this matter are correct, it is surely not too much to ask His Majesty's Government to issue orders to those who administer those territories to go forward 100 per cent., and give every impetus to a drive to obtain the production which is there for the asking. If the Government find that among those in the Administration there are some who are unable or who are disinclined to supply the necessary drive for this most essential task, which is one that total war demands, then I venture to hope that the Government will say to them: "Now is the time to get out. We shall replace you by men—and there are plenty of them—who are determined to see that we get total production and that our shipping and our men are spared."


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, in the course of his speech, protested against those sweeping condemnations of Government Colonial policy which represent it as a total failure. If I may say so, I fully agree with what the noble Lord said on that subject. I should never wish to speak on any Colonial subject in a spirit of depreciation of our Colonial administration. I think that many who feel compelled from time to time to criticize our Colonial administration do so, perhaps, in a spirit of "much would have more." We feel so immensely proud of the great achievements of our Colonial administration at its best that we feel impatient—perhaps sometimes too impatient—about cases which seem to fall below that very high standard. I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, will be the first to agree that Colonial administration owes a great deal to vigilant individuals and societies who endeavour to follow up and watch over matters in the various Colonies and bring them to the attention of the Colonial Office.

I should like to confine my remarks this afternoon to Kenya, and to matters there connected with the war effort and war production. In Kenya, when recruitment of the natives for military purposes opened, there was a very good response indeed, but that recruiting has now been closed, and, instead of that, we have what appears to be conscription for labour service. The conscription, it is stated, is for public work, but some question arises as to how far this really means agricultural labour for private Europeans. If this question arises, it is because of the past record in Kenya in these matters, which arouses apprehension. I hope that there is nothing in this new measure in the shape of forced labour for private interests. Kenya Africans have already been deprived of their best lands; they have no political power, and they have no representation on the Kenya Legislative Council. This matter of the conscription of labour, therefore, requires most careful watching. We have had assurances from the Colonial Office that there are adequate safeguards for this conscripted labour, but I think that we want not merely assurances but guarantees. We want guarantees of an adequate inspectorate of this labour, and that there will be wage standards for this labour which will tend to raise the standard of living.

I should also be very grateful for some information as to what is being; done to maintain food production in the Native Reserves, now that this labour is being taken away to the European farms. If 55 per cent. of the man-power in the Reserves is being drawn off—it is a high figure, but I believe it is a correct one—then the question of the maintenance of food production in the Reserves certainly arises. I emphasize this point because war now menaces our Dependencies so grimly that it is essential to follow a Colonial policy which mobilizes the manpower and the resources of each and every Dependency for the prosecution of the war in any theatre of war. To this end I feel that in every way possible it is necessary to explain the nature of the struggle and the nature of the issues involved to the native peoples, so that we may secure their full co-operation in the prosecution of the war, and their co-operation so far as possible under their own leadership.

To return to this question of the conscription of labour in Kenya, the conscription is limited to natives. I believe that the measure does contain power to apply compulsion to Europeans, but in effect it is limited to native Africans. It is stated to be necessary in order to meet the call which was made by the Minister of State in Cairo for increased production for the war in the Middle East. This call for increased production does not appear to have resulted, as one might have expected it to do, in a careful investigation of such matters as the production potentialities in Kenya, or the better use of native labour, or the more efficient development of the Reserves and of the European farms. It did not result in any scientific inquiry of that sort, it has only resulted in compulsion being exercised upon the natives to work upon European farms.

The time-table speaks for itself: on October 3 the Kenya Farmers Association called on the Government to press the natives to assist in the war effort by producing more labour; on October 10 the Government suspended recruiting for the Army and then asked the employers to notify their requirements. Pretty fast work! The local Press welcomed all this as what it called "a practical expression of Government native policy," and it spoke of the necessity of encouraging among Africans a right attitude to work and of encouraging a large body of Africans to look to agriculture outside their Reserves for employment. Well, in reply to these statements in the local Press came a very simple letter from an African, in which he pointed out that the black men did not primarily exist to become labourers for the white. Following on this, a Committee dealing with African labour was asked to consider whether legal compulsion to ensure labour for production and essential services was necessary. So the European farmers seem to have got their way. They wanted more labour; they induced the Government to stop recruiting for the Army, they induced the Government to distribute labour to the farms, and they got a Government Committee appointed to put through the conscription of labour. And all this was done under the pretext of war requirements!

Now the Committee have reported, and the Report deals wholly with African labour for European farms. "Essential services" have become farm work. War requirements drop out of the picture in the Report of the Committee, and on page 13, paragraph 39, the Committee say: The underlying principle is that natives must work. Present circumstances do not permit of idlers and loafers. Those no doubt are very admirable sentiments, but the work is to be done by the natives for Europeans. Work for the development of the Native Reserves is never mentioned. And the compulsion applies to Africans, and not Europeans. From which we deduce that there are no idlers or loafers among Europeans, but only among the Africans. The Report does, however, dwell upon the necessity for adequate inspection of the conscripted labour; but unfortunately it appears that the Government are not able to supply the three new inspectors who are required and the Labour Department is asked to do the best it can, and to get what help it can from the already very hard pressed District Commissioners. So that it appears that compulsion will be accompanied by inadequate inspection.

The Committee did not tackle the question of the very unattractive pay and conditions of work on the farms. These of course vary, but a typical wage is 3½d. a day in cash and 7d. a day in kind. A married man with a family cannot of course live upon those wages, so (hey have to grow their own food. That, in other words, means that the Native Reserves are called in to subsidize the European farms. Also there is no proper standard of accommodation for the native labour which is enforced amongst the farmers. That matter also is not dealt with by the Committee. The Committee made no inquiry into the alleged shortage of native labour. They did not go into such matters as where the alleged shortage exists, what it is due to, whether, for instance, it is due to the poor conditions and pay to which I have made reference. They did not inquire whether the shortage is due to bad organization, or to war requirements, or to obsolete methods of work. They made no inquiry to find out if voluntary recruitment had in fact broken down; the Committee just assumed that compulsion was necessary.

They did not even discuss what war products Kenya might supply. They did not discuss the capacity of Kenya to supply what it is being asked for. They did not discuss how to mobilize labour and agricultural resources in Kenya. No questions of the social and economic results of the compulsion of labour were considered. And let us remember that labour conscription in Britain and conscription of African labour to work for Europeans are two very different things. Here conscription of labour is applied to those who are politically very highly developed, who have a voice in the Government, whose Members of Parliament keep very vigilant watch over what happens; but in Kenya those conscripted enjoy none of these things. They are an ignorant people, dominated by an alien minority.

I would like to ask, if I may, if this forced labour enactment in Kenya and the penal sanctions which accompany it conform with the provisions of the various Forced Labour Conventions. If these native Africans are drained away from their Reserves to work on the European farms, their tribal life is dislocated, food production in the Native Reserves suffers, and subsistence is prejudiced. There are now 268,000 natives employed outside the Reserves, over 90,000 of them on agricultural work. The Committee agree that not more than 55 per cent. of the males in the Reserves ought to be drained away. I do not know what the figures are at the present moment, how that percentage goes. Two causes, of course, operate to drive the natives out of their Reserves. One is that the Reserves are very congested; more land is necessary. The second is that high taxation makes it necessary for the natives to seek work outside the Reserves. I think it should be noted that the Committee reported that no difficulty was experienced in getting men for military work, and that no difficulty existed in getting men for farm work where the conditions of employment were good. On the other hand, the Committee passed over the fact that Africans have their own economy, which should be developed and which should be given technical assistance and turned to the benefit of the war effort.

This conscription of labour for the European farms must check the development of native agriculture in the Reserves and check any advance in new methods, or in marketing, or in transport. The farms get cheap labour and their economy prospers, while the economy in the Native Reserves languishes. The Kenya land policy has rooted out the Africans from the highlands, and now it forces them to return to the highlands as conscripted labour. The Labour Party is opposed to compulsory labour, and to legislation which forces natives to work for white settlers. In this instance the white settlers appear to have used the demand for increased war production for their own advantage. We have conscription unaccompanied by any assurances about a new land and agricultural policy for the natives in Kenya or of any social or political developments—no assurances that Africans eventually will be given representation in the councils of the Government. It is a policy which sets back production in the Reserves, which disturbs native life, which disturbs the economy of the territory, and which prejudices freedom of development. When I consider it, I think it well to recall some words which a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Amery, wrote in 1935 to the present Prime Minister. He said, "The British Government only succeeds when it experiments with freedom." I do not think this legislation could be described as an experiment in freedom.

May I, in conclusion, dwell for a moment upon one or two aspects of the last debate? The noble Earl who moved this Motion referred to the fact that there had been two debates upon Colonial policy in your Lordships' House in the last fortnight, and welcomed that as showing more interest in Colonial matters. I have an idea the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, was a little surprised when, in a speech I made in this House, I said that in years gone by the Colonial Office had not occupied a position of very high status in the hierarchy of Government—that it had not been regarded as one of the great plums of office in the formation of a Government. The present holder of the office is good evidence that that evil tradition has passed away, but I recollect that the present Prime Minister, when he was appointed to the Colonial Office some thirty-five years ago, wrote to an old teacher at Harrow saying, "The office is not one of great responsibility." That indicates clearly the reputation which the Colonial Office has enjoyed.

In referring to the last debate, I should like to mention the point brought forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, about the grouping of Colonies, and to say how very much I agree with what he said on that subject, and about the tendency nowadays for small units to merge into large. I have often wondered if some such grouping of the Colonies with the appropriate

Dominions is, perhaps, one of the future solutions. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, was opposed to the idea of grouping and, in particular with regard to the West Indies, said that questions of distances and difficult communications; made it impossible. I should have thought that distances and communications were no more difficult in the case of the Colonies than in the case of India, but I do not think questions of distances or communication are a conclusive answer against this proposal for grouping. I feel that Lord Moyne was speaking about grouping more from the point of view of difficulties of culture and unification, while I imagine the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, had in mind more the advantages which would flow to administration from these very groupings. I also agree with what was said about the necessity of Governors serving a long term of office and also with the proposal that, occasionally, Governors should be brought in from outside for appointment to Colonies. The noble Viscount, the Secretary of State, in replying, said it would be to the detriment of the Service if the plums of the Service were given to outsiders.


I think I said "always given to outsiders."


It might be possible occasionally to introduce a Governor from outside without any detriment to the pay or prospects of the official of the Civil Service who nominally would have had that post.


On occasion.


Only on occasion. There are very few Colonies which would not benefit through a Governor being brought in from outside for a term of office. I believe it is in this grouping of Colonies that a great avenue of advance opens out. I notice that the noble Viscount was sympathetic to the idea of grouping although, as is very characteristic in this country, he prophesied that it would come about by a rule of thumb and not by planning. The only thing I would add is this. Everyone who heard it must have been impressed by the spirit of the closing passage of the Secretary of State's speech in the last debate, when he linked trade and Government and a high standard of religion and ethics as the concomitants of a successful Colonial policy. I thoroughly agree, but I would include a fourth. The strictest and most vigilant attention to matters of health in Colonial administration is also another keystone to success.


My Lords, as Lord Winster has just said, the noble Earl who opened this debate, Lord Listowel, said it was rather an event for a debate on the Colonies to occur twice in this House in a fortnight. He regarded that as evidence of increasing recognition, on the part not only of noble Lords but of the people of this country, of the importance of the Colonial Empire. I entirely agree with what the noble Earl said, and we who work in the Colonial Office very warmly welcome these debates. Apart from everything else, they may lead to a better understanding in this country of the immense complexity of the issues with which we have to deal. The noble Earl in his opening speech made it clear that though the Colonial contribution to the war effort might be either military or economic, he was on this occasion concerned principally with the military aspect, and it is with that aspect that I propose principally to deal. At the same time he did, in the course of his speech, trench on the economic sphere. That was not only natural, but indeed inevitable because, after all, in a total war, it is quite impossible entirely to separate the two. Everybody, whatever he is doing, must be engaged in some way in the war effort, and one of the main problems which we have to face is how to allocate manpower as between the economic and the military spheres. It may be for the convenience of the House if I deal first of all, before coming to the main subject of debate, with one or two questions of an economic character which have been raised, although I should make it clear that I shall deal with that aspect fairly lightly.

The economic policy of the Colonial Empire was the subject of debate in this House about a year ago, before I actually became a member of your Lordships' House. At that time the main problem that faced my predecessor, Lord Moyne, was how to dispose of Colonial products in view of the disappearance of European markets. He mentioned in particular the question of sisal in East Africa and the question of palm products in West Africa. To-day, as noble Lords know only too well, the situation has radically changed. With the temporary occupation of our very rich territories in the Far East, and with the immensely growing demand for raw materials for purposes of war production, the contribution which the Colonies in Africa and other parts of the world can make must be looked upon from an entirely different angle. In particular, I would quote such commodities as tin and rubber. The problem now is, not to find a market for our surplus commodities, it is to raise our production to the very maximum we can attain, and to see that it is used to the best possible advantage.

The House will not expect me in a debate of this kind to go into detail of individual commodities. After all, the debate is primarily concerned, as I have said, with the military aspect, and I would assure noble Lords, and in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, who, I regret, is not in his place at the moment but who showed a special anxiety on this point, that we are at the present time in constant and close contact with the Colonial Governments upon it. As noble Lords know, supply centres have been set up both in East Africa and in West Africa to deal with both imports and exports, and those keep in touch not only with the Colonial Office but with the Supply Departments in this country. We are not really so idle as some noble Lords seem to think. We have realized the importance of these problems, and we are doing everything in our power to encourage and assist the increase in production which is really essential at the present time.

These problems of production raise difficult issues. They raise first of all the issue of price. We have to see that the producer receives a fair price, and not only a fair price but perhaps even more than a fair price, if we are to attract him to raise his production to the very maximum. Then there is the question of transport. You may be able to produce all that you want to produce—no doubt we have not reached that point yet—but, even so, you may not be able to get the produce where you want it. That, of course, raises the whole question of shipping, which, as noble Lords know, and as the noble Lord, Lord Winster, with his experience certainly must know, is one of the most difficult problems that we have to face at the present time. Then there is, finally, the question of remuneration for the products raised. Primitive peoples do not wish, like more advanced peoples, to be paid in money; they want to be paid in consumption goods. That raises the question of our export trade. Thus great difficulties are involved. All I wish to do is to assure the House that we are tackling this problem energetically and, I hope, successfully.

Then there are certain other questions which may be regarded rather as long-term questions of development—that is to say, questions of development not entirely connected with the war. In this connexion I should like to refer to the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, mentioned in his speech. The House will appreciate that the amount of progress which can be made with schemes under this Act is limited by circumstances arising from the war. For one thing there are considerable numbers of members of the Colonial Services, especially in Africa, who have been taken into the Armed Forces or are being used in some other way for war work. There is also the question of materials, especially such materials as steel and concrete, which are in very great demand for war purposes at the present time. I would, however, like to make this quite clear to the House: the policy of His Majesty's Government is to encourage development under the Fund as much as is practically possible, war or no war.

The House may perhaps like to know that up to date, under the Act passed in 1940, 118 schemes, involving an expenditure of £1,500,000, have already been approved. Since I came to the Colonial Office, now just three months ago, 48 schemes have been finally approved, and in addition a further 35 have reached the stage of final consideration for submission to the Treasury for approval. The House will see, therefore, that not even the war has entirely stopped development under this Act, which I think, and I believe most people think, is one of the most progressive measures which have been passed into law during the last half-century.

There is another point on which the noble Lord asked for information—the Colonial Research Advisory Committee. The intention to set up this Committee, as he will know, was announced in the White Paper on Colonial Development in 1940. After the fall of France it was decided temporarily to defer its establishment, and one of the first things I had to do when I came to the Colonial Office was to decide whether the time had yet come to bring it into operation. I decided that it had, because I think, although we are so much absorbed in the present, we also ought to have our eyes upon the future. This, I am sure, is a view of which the House will approve. The functions of this Committee have already been announced in another place on April 28, but I should like to repeat them for the benefit of noble Lords. It is proposed that besides advising on the expenditure of the sum of £500,000 a year provided by the Colonial Development and Welfare Act for research, the Committee should advise upon and co-ordinate the whole range of research in Colonial studies, irrespective of the provenance of funds. As regards the composition of the Committee, it was explained that for the present it is proposed that it should consist of a limited number of persons competent to speak with authority on questions of research, but with power to take into consultation any outside authorities whom they might consider appropriate, when considering proposals on matters on which the members of the Committee could not themselves speak with authority. The noble Lord will see, therefore, that it is not a mere Departmental Committee, and it will in fact include a number of scientists to advise on various sciences.


May I interrupt? Do I understand that it has been appointed?


I am just coming to that. It has already been announced that the Committee has been established, and a Chairman has been appointed. The Chairman is my noble friend Lord Hailey. I think the House will be very grateful to him for accepting the Chairmanship, as nobody better qualified could occupy that position. It is indeed public-spirited of him to add to his many public activities So far as the names of the other members of the Committee are concerned I am not yet in a position to announce them, but I can assure the House that great progress is being made, and I hope the Committee will soon be completed. As I have said, it will include some eminent scientists to deal with the various questions which may arise.

Now I come to a question which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, the question of compulsory labour for Africans in Kenya. The noble Lord was good enough to give me notice that he would raise this question, but he gave me very short notice. I will, however, deal with the matter to the best of my ability. I can assure him that the Colonial Office dislikes the system of compulsory labour in principle just as much as he or anybody else does. The system in fact, in our view, can only be justified by the exigencies of war. It will last no longer than is absolutely necessary; but we believe it to be essential if the campaign for increased production which has been put in operation is to produce the goods. His Majesty's Government regard the maximum production in East Africa, especially of foodstuffs, as a vital necessity, first of all, to replace lost sources of supply in the Far East; secondly, to assist to the uttermost in supplying the Middle East, while at the same time saving shipping on the long voyage from the United Kingdom and elsewhere; and thirdly, to enable the territories themselves to be self-supporting in foodstuffs so as to reduce their imports to the minimum.

I got the impression from the noble Lord's speech, though he did not actually say so, that he thought that this scheme had merely been put into force for the convenience of white settlers. I do not think that remark was quite worthy of him. The sole reason for this scheme is to be found in the war situation and the production situation, which make it, in our view, unavoidable. In our opinion, and in the opinion of those who have considered this question, the maximum production can only be obtained under European management. No stimulation of native production could possibly produce the results which may be expected from a campaign for increased production on European farms. In fact, certain crops which are urgently required are not produced at all in the native areas, particularly wheat. Maize is the principal product of the native areas; wheat is produced practically entirely in the European area. The noble Lord asked whether this reduction of labour in the Reserves would lead to a diminution of production. I think it must lead to some diminution. If you take away a number of labourers you are almost bound to have smaller production. It is just one of those cases where we must balance the urgent needs of the situation as best we can. The noble Lord said that 55 per cent. of labour was being taken from the Reserves. What he did not say was that before the scheme was brought in 49 per cent. of the labourers actually worked outside the Reserves, so the number working outside has only been increased by 6 per cent.


Which brings it up to 55 per cent.


Exactly. When war broke out with Japan steps were already being taken to provide more labour, by means short of compulsion. The question became of rapidly increasing urgency owing to two factors, the changed situation in the Far East and the threat to the Indian Ocean, and the nearness of the planting season. Therefore, a Committee, to which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, referred, was set up, the members of which included the Labour Commissioner and also a very well-known gentleman in Kenya, Archdeacon Owen, who has always been regarded as a champion of the native cause. That Committee unanimously recommended compulsion. We believe that the safeguards will be adequate. We have taken every possible care to ensure that they should be as wide as possible and that there should be the minimum of hardship and dislocation of native life. Steps have already been taken to extend the inspectorate of the Labour Department—I think that was a point to which the noble Lord referred—to ensure that proper conditions for employees are maintained. Bad employers will find it very difficult to get their applications for labour approved. Recruitment will be spread evenly, so that no Reserves are denuded of man-power while others are let off lightly.

Now I come to another point made by the noble Lord about which I think he was really misinformed. He said, as I understood, that conscription in Kenya is limited to the natives. That is not true. He said, I think, that in theory Europeans were subject to conscription but that in fact they were not called up.


I said there were powers of conscription.


In fact, on the outbreak of war, all Europeans between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were called up for military service except those exempted by a special Tribunal, and further steps were taken later on in the form of reserved occupation regulations which prevented those exempted from leaving their jobs. In effect there are practically no Europeans who are not either in the Armed Forces or essential occupations already. The difficulty has been rather to persuade Europeans that their duty lies in civil employment than that they should join the Armed Forces. I am certain the noble Lord did not mean to mislead the House, but I thought myself justified in explaining the position fully. I think I have now dealt with the noble Lord's main points. As I say, we do not like the principle of compulsory labour in the Colonial Office and we have only employed it because of the necessities of war. Moreover, we are only doing in Africa what we have had to do in the case of our own people in this country. The noble Lord heard just before he rose a very striking speech by my noble friend Lord Cran-worth. One of the things that he complained of was that Colonial Governments were not taking sufficient measures for the proper pursuance of total war. Yet now we hear a complaint from the noble Lord, Lord Winster, that too strong measures have been taken. At any rate, I do not think the steps were avoidable in the circumstances. They will not be continued any longer than can be helped.

So much for the economic aspect. I am afraid I have dealt with it at rather greater length than I had intended, but it is essential that we should understand that when the question is what manpower is needed for productive purposes and what can be spared for military service, you should be in a position to balance the needs of the one against the other. I now come to the military aspect. Before I deal with that in detail I should like to say something with regard to some remarks by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, at the beginning of his speech. The noble Earl referred to events in Malaya and Burma, and he said—I paraphrase his remarks—that events had shown the difficulty of successful defence in areas in which the native population was hostile or indifferent. I think that I am interpreting him correctly. That, of course, raises a very wide question, which has been answered to some extent by the noble Lord, Lord Hailey. What Lord Hailey said I think we might very well, all of us, take to heart. I would like to add only a few words myself on this point. So far as Malaya is concerned—that is the part about which I know most myself—I do not think there is any evidence at present that the population as a whole was either secretly hostile or indifferent. On the contrary it remained perfectly friendly throughout. The reason the people of Malaya did not fight was clearly stated by the noble Lord, Lord Hailey. It was because we had not armed them to fight and had not trained them to fight. That is the real reason. The Filipinos fought because they were, to some extent, at any rate, armed and trained, whereas the Malayans were not.

So far from training the Malayan and other Colonial peoples to fight, our policy for the last fifty or sixty years has been to train them not to fight. We gave them the Pax Britannica. We conferred upon them the benefits of happiness, peace and prosperity. As Lord Hailey said, we never approved of great native Armies. When Italy conquered Abyssinia one of our main apprehensions, as noble Lords will remember, was that Italy might start a great native Army in Ethiopia. We used to say—at that time, with pride and even a certain amount of smugness—that we limited troops to the numbers absolutely necessary for maintaining law and order. I remember that very well. I was at the Foreign Office at the time. If any of my predecessors before the war had suggested conscription for Malaya he would have had a very hostile reception both in your Lordships' House and outside, from members of all Parties. It may have been a wrong policy—I do not say it was—but it was a policy which was universally accepted and applied.

It was indeed applied equally to our own people at home. We did not arm our people here and we did not train our people here. That is why we found ourselves without either the necessary equipment or the necessary personnel to deal with the crisis when it arose. You cannot create Armies in a moment or even a few months. You are, as Lord Listowel said, limited by lack of supplies of equipment and ammunition and you are also limited by lack of personnel to train. Finally, you are limited by the immense demand for man-power, to which I have already referred, for other forms of war effort. Still, that has been our policy in the past. But at any rate in the last few months we have been attempting, not unsuccessfully, to move in the direction which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has recommended. He has suggested, and I am sure we all agree with him, the importance of securing the cooperation of the native races in Africa with the British Government and with the British authorities in the defence of these centres. He has suggested that there is at present colour discrimination which is hampering that co-operation, and I think he indicated his view that if there were a greater proportion of African officers in these African units there would be, or should be, immediate improvement in that respect. Of course, that is entirely a matter of opinion, on which different people will take different views.

The noble Earl stated that the Gold Coast Regiments and the Nigerian Regiments which played such a gallant part in the East African campaign invariably had white officers. That might be used as an argument either way. It might be used as an argument against the noble Earl's main contention, and this was, to a certain extent, I think, borne out by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cran-worth, who spoke of the African regiments from personal experience. But, in any case, I would assure the House that it is not the policy of His Majesty's Government, in units such as those to which the noble Earl referred, to have any discrimination in principle against commissioned rank for African officers. On the contrary, in organizing for war the principle has already been definitely accepted that there should be no discrimination on account of colour in granting these Commissions. It is true that the number of African officers who have up to now been commissioned is extremely small, but that is due to military reasons and to the lack of suitable candidates. But I think we may hope that with improvements in training and education further candidates will shortly be forthcoming. If they are, there is really, at present, nothing to prevent them receiving Commissions.

In any case I would not agree that there has been a reluctance on the part of Africans to co-operate in the defence of their countries. Already reference has been made in the debate to the great and gallant part which has been played in this war by the King's African Rifles, the Royal West African Frontier Force and the Royal Rhodesian Regiments in the East African campaign. In addition, the Africans have provided many Pioneer units which have done magnificent work not only in their own commands, but in the Middle East as well, as was, I think, mentioned by the noble Earl. And now let me refer to the Home Guard. Many Colonial peoples are already members of the Home Guard. We have Home Guard units for Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Gambia, Aden and Mauritius. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, who wanted to know how many men we have in the Home Guard in Mauritius, how many rifles and other weapons have they got, what is their general equipment like, how many A.A. guns there are, and so on. He went on to say that Mauritius is in danger of being attacked by the Japanese. In these circumstances I am sure he will not expect me to give him exact figures with regard to the Defence Forces.


You might give them for Palestine.


In St. Helena too we have Home Guard units, in Trinidad, in Bermuda, in British Honduras, Fiji and Tonga, and I very much hope that the Home Guard will soon be extended to all Colonies.


Can you not include Ceylon in that long list which you have just given?


I think that Ceylon has already got a Home Guard unit, but I would like to make certain before giving a definite answer. In any case, the Defence Forces of Ceylon are very much more highly organized than those, perhaps, of other places further away from the war. I would in this connexion emphasize that in the Home Guard there is no limitation to Europeans. Anybody, whatever their race or colour, can go into the Home Guard. The noble Earl asked about Civil Defence and A.R.P. He can be assured that we have constantly, from the Colonial Office, urged upon Colonial Governments the importance of getting their A.R.P. organizations into proper working condition. Only the other day I had a further telegram sent to all Colonial Governments on this particular subject, asking how far their preparations had got, what they had done, whether there was anything further we could do to help them, and so on. The answers we got were, on the whole, very satisfactory indeed.

The noble Earl and Lord Wedgwood have asked questions regarding the position in Mauritius as far as the local Defence Force was concerned. I think it was the Earl of Listowel who suggested that in the organization of this Force there has been discrimination against people of colour. As he said, it would be deplorable if bad feeling was aroused on such grounds at a time like this. He was good enough to give me notice of what he was going to say, and I have looked into this matter. I have found no evidence that there has been discrimination as against people of colour. What there is, is a certain degree of racial segregation. Instead of white and coloured people being all lumped together in one company, you have a white company and a coloured company. Now I cannot see anything objectionable in that. It is not implied that one company is better or worse than the other.


Are they paid the same?


All that is implied is that the force on this basis works better, and I think, indeed, that it has been found to work better. With regard to Lord Wedgwood's question, I will find out what he asks and let him know. My impression is that the companies are paid the same, but I will verify that. To return to the main point, if we take the analogy of India—though of course that is not a complete analogy—it is easy to imagine the chaos which would be created if, in a certain area, you lumped together the men of all castes, creeds, and races in a single battalion. I know there is not a complete analogy between India and Mauritius, but there are in Mauritius, too, conditions which may make this partial segregation desirable. At any rate that is the view of the authorities on the spot who have their own local opinion and local knowledge to go upon, and I personally am not prepared to disagree with them.

I should now like to pass for a moment to the other side of the world, the West Indies. The Earl of Listowel raised the question of their war effort. He spoke, I think, of the desire of the West Indian people to render more service to the Empire and he reminded the House of the contribution which they made during the last war. He will, I am sure, realize, as the House will realize, that conditions now are not the same as they were in the last war. For one thing there are to-day great difficulties about transportation overseas, for the sea is now as much a battlefield as any part of the land. There are also difficulties of equipment. But a much greater factor which we have to bear in mind is that the labour of West Indian people is urgently needed for the production of commodities which are absolutely essential to us at the present time, such as sugar, bauxite and other materials which will be in the minds of your Lordships.

I can, at any rate, assure the noble Earl that this question is under constant review, and I would like to take this opportunity of saying how much His Majesty's Government appreciate the widespread desire of the West Indians to serve in the Armed Forces of the Crown. Although there is no special West Indian unit, arrangements have been made for the entry of qualified individuals into the R.A.F. and certain skilled trades in the Army, and West Indians recruited in this way are already rendering very good service. The West Indies are also, of course, represented in the Merchant Service, and West Indian seamen thus contribute to the vital service which is being rendered to the war effort by the Merchant Navy. West Indians have also the opportunity of serving in the local Forces, which are playing their part in this war. The noble Earl has mentioned the Home Guard. I have already said that units of the Home Guard have been raised in a number of the West Indian Colonies, though not yet in all.


I think that the noble Viscount mentioned only Bermuda. Do the larger West Indian Colonies maintain a Home Guard—Jamaica, for instance?


I mentioned also Trinidad and one or two others—British Honduras and Bermuda. There are not units of the Home Guard in all the West Indian Colonies as yet, but we are encouraging their formation in any way we can. It must be remembered, of course, that the immediate risk to the populations of the West Indies is not so great as it is in other parts of the world, and whether there is an immediate threat or not must make a certain difference. We are anxious, as I say, to encourage the formation of these units, and as far as I know the West Indian Colonies are anxious to form them.

As regards the utilization of civilian labour, many West Indians have been brought to this country for munition work, and British Honduras has sent a forestry unit which is doing very good work in Scotland. I saw some of the members of that unit the other day at the Colonial Office. They are very good men indeed, and very pleased with their reception here. I have never seen people who seemed happier, in spite of the difference in the climate. I hope that further opportunities will occur of making use of the labour available in the West Indies for war purposes. The supply available, however, has been inevitably diminished by the calls made on it by the United States for the construction of air bases. In some cases, such as Trinidad, the whole of the available surplus labour has been taken for these purposes. This is certainly a war object, and therefore we cannot complain that West Indian labour is being used for this purpose. We welcome the desire of West Indians to serve, and we mean to meet this desire in any way we can, but what can be done must depend entirely on circumstances.

The noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, referred to Palestine. I know that he will not expect me to answer him on that point to-day. As your Lordships will be aware, the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has put down a Motion on this question of the Defence Forces of Palestine for a day shortly after Whitsun. I do not wish to trouble the House with two Government replies on exactly the same subject within a few weeks; moreover, I think it would be better that the Government reply should be given in answer to a full debate on the subject, rather than in reply to one or two passing remarks by one noble Lord. At the same time, I can assure the noble Lord that the Minister who replies will give full attention to what he has said to-day.

Finally in the closing passages of his opening speech, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke of the possibility of a Colonial Charter. He suggested, as I understood it, something on the lines of the Atlantic Charter and complementary to it, defining the policy of His Majesty s Government on Colonial questions. I sympathize very much with his. desire, and I appreciate the reasons which he has for putting forward the suggestion. I would, however, remind him that there is no complete analogy between the Atlantic Charter and the Colonial Charter which he proposes. After all, the Atlantic Charter was drawn up to deal with a completely new situation. It was designed to define our policy in the new circumstances created by Hitler's aggression. The position in the Colonial Empire is quite different. It is not a new situation; it is what I may call a continuing Situation. The principles governing our policy have often been declared, and they have not changed. Moreover, as the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, pointed out, it is very difficult to lay down certain clearly-defined principles for the whole of the Colonial Empire, in view of the intense diversity of this Empire, and the differences oil development in the various parts of it. There is also a danger that, if one made such a general declaration, certain of the less developed peoples might wish to run before they could walk; and, if they were not really fit to run, and we did not think that they were, they might charge us with a breach of faith.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, quoted the words used in another place on this subject by the Prime Minister when he came back from the Atlantic meeting. I had intended to quote those words myself, because I think that they define the position far better than I can. I do not think that there is anything that I can add at the present stage to what the Prime Minister said. I can, however, assure the noble Earl, that I will bear very carefully in mind what he said on this subject, and, if in the future it should seem that something more might be said, and some further declaration made, I shall certainly not forget the hint which the noble Earl has given me to-day.

I have now come to the end of what I am afraid has been a very long story. But though it has been a long story, it has to me at any rate been a story which has been worth telling. It is, on the whole, a comforting story, and an encouraging story. In all these vast territories of the Colonial Empire, north, south, east and west, there is no doubt that the Empire is girding itself for war. Each has its part to play and each, so far as circumstances permit, is at any rate beginning to play it. I do not want to overstate the case. I confess to the House that I feel very deeply the responsibility of being steward to so great a heritage at such a time as this. Much has been done, though much remains to be done. But I would end, as I began, by assuring the House that His Majesty's Government, and I in particular, warmly welcome the help of all, whether in this House or in this country and, most of all, of those in the Colonial territories themselves whose freedom, happiness and prosperity are bound up with our victory, in the solution of these great and complex problems.


My Lords, I should like very briefly to thank the noble Viscount opposite for his extremely interesting and full reply to the Motion which I put down. I am sure that the House will be convinced of one thing by the two speeches made by the noble Viscount who leads it, and that is that he is an entirely worthy successor to the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, and will continue to pursue a policy conceived in the same progressive and enlightened spirit. I was not altogether satisfied—but then, who is?—with the reply which I received on the two main points of my remarks—namely, that there should be a greater number of Commissioned officers of African blood in the African units, and that something in the nature of a Colonial Charter should be drawn up for publication by the Government. I think, however, that on both those issues I had his good will, if not any guarantee of immediate action; and I am sure that the support which I received, in a modified degree, from the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, on both these points, will be even more persuasive from the point of view of the Government than my own hesitating remarks. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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