HL Deb 09 February 1943 vol 125 cc951-79

VISCOUNT TRENCHARD rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have any statement to make on the methods of staffing and administering the Colonial Empire; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, nearly nine months ago I put down a similar Motion and there was an interesting debate. My noble friends Lord Hailey and Lord Moyne and others took part. The present Leader of the House was then Secretary of State for the Colonies. Now we have a new Colonial Minister. At the time of that debate, last May, the Government were not ready to give an answer to my question and, in fact I think the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, would have preferred me to postpone the matter, but I wanted to have a debate so that the Government should hear the views of other noble Lords as well as my own views. I remember that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said then that it was very remarkable what a great measure of agreement was reached in that debate between people who, on any ordinary question of politics, might not see eye to eye; but he added that he could not be expected to declare the policy of the Government on matters so far-reaching and fundamental to the future of our Empire.

My speech on that occasion raised five points: (1), Recruitment of the Colonial Civil Service; (2), organization of the Colonial Civil Service into a single interchangeable and independent Service; (3), the establishment of a Colonial Staff College; (4), the creation of a Colonial Advisory Board; and (5), the grouping of Colonies into larger groups. The object of my raising these points now, nine months later, is to ask whether the Government can state more definitely whether progress has been made on these matters. In the interim since the debate we have had a most interesting discussion on Colonial policy raised on December 3 last by my noble friend the Earl of Listowel. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, in reply made an inspiring and useful speech on how the Colonial Empire had been developed and the progress it was making to-day. The noble Earl who introduced the Motion made, if I may say so, an extraordinarily interesting speech with much of which I thoroughly agreed, but there was one remark of his to which I would like to refer to-day because it expressed the view of a large number of other speakers in the debate without, I venture to suggest, sufficient justification. The noble Earl said, amongst other things: We can now atone for our past neglect by pledging ourselves to an unprecedented expansion of all essential services as soon as peace returns. I would like to comment for a moment on that expression, "past neglect."

It must be admitted, of course, that in Colonial administration, as indeed in all other questions, we have not done all we could; but when you review all we have done, how we have brought civilization and civilized government to many of the most backward races of the world, I submit that in this broad review we are entitled to great credit. We regret, of course, the inevitable mistakes we have made, but there is nothing in our Colonial record, as a whole, which calls on us to approach the question as sinners seeking to make atonement. I am one of those who went to Africa many years ago—over forty years ago in my case. In those days human sacrifice was rife, cannibalism was indulged in mainly because it was thought that if you ate your enemy you would transfer the virtues of his body to your own. In other words if they ate a white man they would be as good as a white man. And unfortunately it happened that they killed and ate one of the bearers who was with me in one of my columns. There were no roads in those days, only tracks like animal tracks on which you had to walk in single file with soldiers to protect you, and these tracks twisted and turned in the most bewildering fashion. As I say, these tracks were more like animal tracks than roads. More often than not men and women would be waylaid, captured and often killed by unpleasant means. People lived in stockaded and walled towns. They dared not go away from their villages for any distance, and freedom did not exist. The part of Africa to which I am referring was dense bush and in it nobody was safe. Certainly it was often unsafe for anybody, and in particular for any European, to go to draw water without an escort. Intertribal fighting was constant and never ceased.

Think of all of these countries now. There is absolute local peace. Roads are open and there are no walled or stockaded towns. These have crumbled into dust or ruins. Civilization has come, perhaps more rapidly than it can be absorbed in some respects; but respect for human life has been learnt and fear of the consequences of what may happen if human life is not respected is now widespread. All this has been done by British brains, British money and British spirit assisted by the wonderful West African soldier who early realized what civilization meant through his contact with the British officers and British N.C.O's of those days. Some noble Lords have, at times, suggested that we have concentrated too much on the economic side, on the material development of progress and on trade. I would like to argue that we have done the reverse and that it is on the economic side that we have shown shortcomings. Because, if we have succeeded in one respect more than in any other it is in that great work of instilling into the minds of all those people that spirit of freedom for the individual and the community on which democracy is founded. And this has been done in a very short time. When we first went to those countries there was no such thing as freedom for the individual. Yet now the cause of many of our difficulties to-day is the fact that people have absorbed the spirit and traditions for which we stand, such as freedom of thought and belief in democracy, who are not yet qualified to apply this knowledge. This, I say, is the very measure of the success with which we have imbued them with our ideas.

These views have been strongly supported in America in a pamphlet published, I agree, as long ago as last May. It was published under the auspices of Mr. Henry Luce, by Mr. Buell, reporting the findings of a committee of the editors of the American papers Time, Life and Fortune. I quote their exact words because I think that what was said by that committee was rather remarkable: Yet with its share of stupidities and errors and despite its tragic failure to settle the Irish question, Britain used its power to create a world climate that was congenial to the advance of liberty. The pamphlet went on to say: Had not Britain exercised its military and economic power to maintain order, less humane Powers would almost certainly have done so or the greater part of the world would have remained under decadent despotisms. I do not want to read too much of this and to weary your Lordships, but I think it is important that it should be realized by your Lordships what is being said in America. The report went on to say: Throughout the British Colonies the Open Door of equality of treatment was largely the rule. Britain allowed a German or other foreign merchant to trade on the same basis as an Englishman, thus reducing any economic justification for seizing British territory. In short, through a combination of naval supremacy and an enlightened Governmental policy, Britain maintained international stability and confidence, making possible a great economic expansion which benefited, at least materially, not only Britain but the entire world. This helps to explain why no major war was fought between 1815 and 1914. And during most of that amazing century the ideas of democracy were nearly everywhere advancing. Now that came from America. Those are the opinions of a committee, not of British people but of impartial inquirers who have made exhaustive inquiry into our Colonial administration. They do not speak, as many have done in this country, of "past neglect" or of any outstanding question of "atonement."

Some of our critics abroad seem to think that we make money out of our Colonies and that this has governed our policy. In some cases, it has even been suggested that if we were to take off some commodity or personal taxes it would show that England was not intending to enrich herself at the expense of the Colonies. This is often thought by many foreign critics and by certain people in the United States. It is true, surely, to say—indeed I am certain of it—that not a single African or Indian living or working in the Colonies pays any tax to the British Treasury, nor does any Colonial Government pay over any tax to the British Treasury. This is a fact which cannot be too widely known abroad and also in this country. I was very glad to see it stated and clearly emphasized by Professor Goodhart in the American Outpost, a paper published in January by Americans in Britain. It is, of course, true to say that commercial firms have made profits by trading in the Colonies. On the other hand, I think it can be safely said that these profits have not been in excess of that ordinary interest which is necessary to justify the capital at stake. On the whole, these profits have been precarious and varied with losses, which people are so apt to forget when they look at profits. The losses have been much heavier than people realize. But the loss to the shareholders is not a loss to the country in which the money was invested. Investigation will show, too, that the profits are not only small in comparison with the capital risked in the country but are small compared with the benefits they have given to the country which, it must be remembered, can never be taken out. But I think it will be desirable perhaps in the future that some system of taxation should be devised whereby the taxation on the profits is divided so that a greater proportion goes to the revenue of the country in which the trade originates.

I fully endorse Lord Listowel's hope when he said that: National Independence in time to come surely does not mean that the non-European world will be broken up into an even greater number of small States which was exactly what happened, with fatal consequences, on the Continent of Europe, at the end of the last war. I am also in full agreement with his remark that "standards of health and nutrition throughout these territories"—referring of course to the Colonies—"could not improve appreciably so long as they were expected to live on their own meagre resources." He went on to say that he believed that "this paralysing survival of laissez faire was jettisoned for good by the Colonial Welfare and Development Act." That is a far-reaching Act which, though all too small, as both the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, will agree, is a very good start towards developing these Colonies.

In my previous speech I suggested that an important line of advance was to appoint as soon as possible to responsible posts the local inhabitants who, for the sake of simplicity in that debate, I called Africans. This suggestion was taken up rather largely in the local Press in West Africa and elsewhere. I should like to emphasize that these appointments must depend a great deal on how quickly the local inhabitants have developed a sense of responsibility, and how soon they have become, in thought and mind, qualified and competent to accept that responsibility. I want to repeat what I have said before, that for some time yet some of the Africans will not be as competent as the Europeans whom they will replace, but they will learn only if this development is carried out. But it must be carried out slowly, and in some cases very slowly. Even if progress is as good as we would wish in the future, for many more years the British Empire will still have to provide the nucleus of the Colonial Service, and help tile people forward on the path which we hope they will tread. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said: It is proper for them to remain for a period, and perhaps for a period of generations, under the ægis of a great Power which can provide them with the advantages derived from wide experience in statesmanship and administration, and give them the support of great financial resources and military power.

I wish now to refer to the method of recruitment of Europeans for the Colonial Service, which is still the backbone of efficient Government administration. I referred to this at some length in my previous speech, suggesting three sources. The first is the traditional type of young men from the universities, between 22 and 24 years of age. Secondly, boys of 18 or so on leaving school, provided they can give proof of being sufficiently well educated. I remember stipulating here that there should be no arbitrary insistence on the possession of certificates or diplomas, and I was glad on that occasion that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, gave the assurance that this should be so. Thirdly, recruits should be drown from the first two classes I have mentioned, who should enter the Service much later, up to the age of 30, when they would have gained working experience of the world and could be judged on practical achievement. In my opinion, recruits should be taken equally from each of those three groups—one-third from the universities, one-third from young men leaving school, and one-third from older men up to 30.

The proposals made a short time ago for the reform of the Foreign Office have, I am glad to say, much in common with the suggestions which I made for the Colonial Service. Their system of recruitment is to be recast to make entry possible for all types, and their aim is to have wider training and equality of opportunity for all. A maximum of 25 per cent. are to be chosen not strictly on an examination basis, and up to two candidates annually are to be taken from those between the normal age limit and 30, as I have suggested for the Colonial Service. There is another principle which I suggested for the Colonial Service and which the Foreign Office is proposing. The report in The Times says: The efficiency of the Service has suffered from the disparity in conditions of service as between posts at home and abroad and the new combined Service will be entirely separated from the Home Civil Service, and will be treated as a self-contained and distinct Service of the Crown. My own words last May were: The Colonial Service, at home and abroad, should comprise a single interchangeable Service, independent of the rest of the Civil Service. The points of resemblance between the Foreign Service and the Colonial Service are greater than between the Colonial Service and the remainder of the present Home Civil Service. I feel sure that the Treasury, having accepted the principle and the money involved for the Foreign Office, must now agree to the same thing for the Colonial Empire, the most important of all. It is more than ever necessary to shoulder the cost of these improvements.

I went on to propose the establishment of what I called a Colonial Staff College, to be attended by all able and promising members of the Service, from home and overseas, at the age of 35 or thereabouts, with the object of bringing them into contact with each other and with the outside world, and to broaden their outlook, to stimulate their enthusiasm and to make them progressive and constructive. The more they can learn of such subjects as commerce, industry, transport and shipping, the less likelihood there will be of the present attitude of suspicion and aloofness towards traders. For this programme it is necessary to stimulate and focus public interest on the Colonies, and bring informed opinion to bear on them. This can be done, in my opinion, only by a representative Colonial Council.

There has been much discussion on various forms of Advisory Committees. Speeches have been made and articles written from which it appears that my proposal was a little misunderstood. I had no intention of setting up a board to advise on every subject dealing with Colonial administration; I had in mind the setting up of an Economic Advisory Council which would deal in the broadest outline with the necessary economic development of the Colonies. For instance, had such a body been in existence in 1934 it would have been in a position to expose the lack of foresight of the Nigerian Government with regard to the development of civil aviation. As it was, the local Government wrote, even as late as 1934, when the whole world was flying, that it fully appreciated the advantages of an air service, but was not prepared at the moment to commit itself to the provision of an expensive, permanent—mark the word "permanent"—landing-ground at Lagos or elsewhere. Again, if this Council had been in existence the delay in starting the building of Takoradi harbour would have been shortened by years. As it was, it had to wait until that great man, Major Guggisberg, arrived there, more or less as an outsider, not coming from the Colonial Service, and forced the construction of that harbour. And the Council would consider such questions as whether there should be more roads or railways or both in various parts of Africa in order to open up the country more. I do not want to detain your Lordships, but I should like to mention that five years ago I found that the road from one of the ports was blocked so that the railway could benefit, and elsewhere the same sort of tiling was to be found. It was not until just before this war that those roads were opened. I am glad that they were opened just in time, for we need all the communications we can have.

I never meant that this Economic Advisory Council, to which I know the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood objects, should deal with such subjects as education, health and all the other different activities of government in any way whatever. I based my original suggestion on a Government Committee which was set up in 1918, under the chairmanship of Lord Haldane, to inquire into the "responsibilities of various departments of the Central Executive Government and to advise in what manner the exercise and distribution by the Government of its functions could be improved." That Committee was an extraordinarily powerful one, composed of men of great capacity, and not idealists—men who knew what was wanted, men like Lord Haldane, Mr. Montagu, Sir Robert Morant and Sir George Murray. They recommended that: The preservation of the full responsibility of Ministers for executive action will not, in our opinion, ensure that the course of administration which they adopt will secure and retain public confidence, unless it is recognized as an obligation upon Departments to avail themselves of the advice and assistance of advisory bodies so constituted as to make available the knowledge and experience of all sections of the community affected by the activities of the Department. They went on to say: So long as advisory bodies are not permitted to impair the full responsibility of Ministers to Parliament, we think that the more they are regarded as an integral part of the normal organization of a Department, the more will Ministers be enabled to command the confidence of Parliament and the public in their administration of the Services. This, I feel certain, is correct. That advice is sound, if one is to avoid professional isolationism, when applied to the broad questions of economic development of the Colonies.

I tried to make it clear before that the Council I suggested would strengthen the hands of the Colonial Secretary, and also of Parliament. The members of the Council would, of course, be appointed by the Secretary of State. The membership should be mainly unofficial and nonpolitical, and it would be for the Secretary of State to decide whether to publish their reports or not—though I personally hope that generally he would publish them. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, who was then the Colonial Minister, was rather doubtful at that time whether it would be possible to keep it outside the arena of politics if it were to make annual or periodic reports to Parliament. I do not, however, consider the presentation of those reports to Parliament to be so important—though it is important—as the actual appointment of a Council, the creation of which to my mind is long overdue. And I would earnestly ask the noble Duke whether he will represent these proposals to the Government. They have already been very strongly supported and, if I remember rightly, Lord Hailey, among others, supported them in the discussion that day.

Finally, I come to the grouping of Colonies into areas under Governors-General. It seems to me that a step has been taken in this direction by the appointment as a war-time measure of a Minister of State in West Africa. When I last spoke to your Lordships on this Colonial subject, I referred to my last, and my first, visit to Africa. Since then I have had the opportunity again of visiting it. At the end of October last year I had the privilege of being able to fly all through Nigeria, the Gold Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. I also flew through Iraq, Palestine and Egypt. The Official Report of the debate in your Lordships' House had been widely publicized, and was the subject of discussion everywhere I went. In going through West Africa this time I found everyone agreed on one point: that the war experiment, if I may so call it, namely, the appointment of Lord Swinton as Minister of State in West Africa, was a wise and necessary step. Not only did I hear on all sides that Lord Swinton was doing his job well, but there was universal approval of the idea of sending a Minister of State to that country. This only shows that it would be an advantage to group the Colonies together, and it seems that we are progressing towards that desirable end. I hope the Government can assure us that they are going to continue on similar lines in the future.

May I add one word on this point of grouping the Colonies together? Nothing is going to be more important than the means of transport and communication between the various Colonies themselves and the Mother Country. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, has a Notice about air transport on the Paper for tomorrow, but I must not enlarge on that; but I do hope that the Colonial Office and the Colonies themselves will see to the full development and utilization of civil aviation at the earliest; moment that circumstances permit. There is nothing that can play a bigger part in helping to solve these Colonial problems than quick transport and communication. I hope the noble Duke will be able to tell the House what progress has been made in the methods of staffing and administering the Colonial Empire. I beg to move.


My Lords, the noble Viscount was good enough to inform me beforehand that he intended to take me gently to task for adverting, during the last debate in this House on the Colonies, to what might be called the seamy side of our Colonial record. I should like, if I may, to remind him that in drawing attention to this aspect of past history I have kept good company. The noble Lord, Lord Moyne, when he was Secretary of State, referred in public to the backward areas in the Colonies as "our neglected estates," and, listening very carefully to the noble Viscount's speech—listening to what he said, and not reading between the lines—it seemed to me that he was himself very far from being uncritical, and that he pointed out quite a number of defects, both of policy and organization, for which he suggested some extremely interesting remedies. The reason why I have regarded it as more profitable to dwell upon the shortcomings rather than upon the undoubted benefits of our Colonial record—benefits which the noble Viscount has described so comprehensively in his speech, and which no unbiased person could fail to recognize—is that the shortcomings are what teach us the changes which are needed after the war and the immediate reforms that might be taken in hand. Complacency is a far greater danger than discontent.

It is, I think, a peculiarly opportune moment to discuss the staffing and training of our Colonial administration, and I think we owe a very great debt to the noble Viscount for giving us this opportunity. The forward policy for which we are all looking after the war and which is, to some extent, being anticipated by actual events in the Colonies, will certainly depend for its success upon the personnel at home and overseas—in the Colonial Services and at the Colonial Office. These men, and perhaps women, must be properly equipped to deal with the increasingly complex problems presented by the modernizing of primitive economic systems, by the steady growth of social services, and by more rapid constitutional and political progress throughout the Dependencies and the Colonies.

May I put forward one or two practical suggestions? There is, I think, some scope for improvement—and indeed this point has been emphasized by the noble Viscount—in the training of our excellent officials at the Colonial Office. Like the staffs of other Government Departments, they are at present recruited simply and solely by the Home Civil Service examination. This undoubtedly ensures a high level of intelligence and a useful background of general culture. But methods of training should keep pace with the times, and a university education does not give either practical experience of conditions in the Colonies or a technical knowledge of the many and varied subjects with which an official at the Colonial Office may be expected at some time or other in his career to have to deal. The first of these defects has fairly recently been remedied, in part at least, by the practice of sending junior officials for a couple of years to a Colony, but it is vital that when sent out they should stay long enough to get a real grasp of work in the field, and that they should visit Colonies differing as widely as possible in social structure and political development. Beyond this useful and salutary innovation little has been done to counter-set the purely academic training of the average civil servant.

In the modern State with its vast and increasing range of responsibilities, the Civil Service has surely become a profession requiring as high a degree of specialization as medicine, or the Services, or the Bar, but how many of the young men, excellent as they are, who pass to-day from the university to the Colonial Office, have had even an elementary grounding in modern social subjects such as economics, sociology, law, constitutional history and the British Empire, or the comparative development of public social services? This intellectual void could in practice be filled by a course of special study on similar lines to that already provided for recruits for the Colonial Services. The theoretical knowledge acquired in this way would yield a maximum return if taken after some practical experience in the Colonies, and that is one of the main reasons why the noble Viscount has insisted that those who go to the Colonial Staff College should do so at a comparatively advanced stage.

I should like to see a broad extension of existing facilities for Colonial studies at the universities such as Miss Margery Perham has advocated in a most interesting letter published recently in The Times. I am not thinking merely of the older universities. A School of Colonial Studies might well be grafted on to London University. For reasons which I have no time to enter into now, I myself would be inclined to press this plan rather than the scheme for a Colonial Staff College which has been just described by the noble Viscount. The system of exchange between Whitehall and the Colonies should perhaps be applied more frequently to the senior officials at the Colonial Office, so that they may not lose touch at a later stage in their careers with the needs, and the change in needs, of the Colonial peoples, or forget the immense practical difficulties of administration in the field. It is probable that a higher degree of mobility and interchange between the two branches of our Colonial administration would secure the advantages without perhaps incurring some of the disadvantages of amalgamation or unification of the whole Colonial administration which has been advocated by the noble Viscount. A minor change, which one would welcome at the Colonial Office, would be the appointment of more Colonials to posts in the Administrative Department. I can speak from personal experience of the excellent work done by two officials of non-European descent who are at present assistants of the Welfare Officer in the Colonial Office. I hope their success will lead to the employment of Colonials whenever the necessary qualifications can be found, and of course they are admittedly difficult to obtain in many other Departments of the Office here at home.

Turning for a moment to the Colonies, I should like to say just one word about one of the most difficult and controversial problems which I think the noble Viscount did not mention. So much depends in the Colonies on the personality of the Governor that we cannot be too careful to make sure that the right man is found for the job. The customary practice, the present practice of appointing a new Governor from the Colonial Secretariat, must give rise to grave doubts lest the qualifications of District Commissioners, of men of long experience in the field, and of members of the technical services may be overlooked. Headquarters should not be allowed to monopolize the highest appointments. Another, perhaps less important defect of organization to which the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, in a recent debate drew attention, is that impoverished Colonies are apt to lose their Governors to wealthier Colonies that can afford higher salaries, and are therefore condemned, though obviously they stand in urgent need of progressive, go-ahead men at the top, to a succession of plodding mediocrities. I draw attention to the position and leave it, if I may, to the Government to propose the proper remedies.

Another difficulty in the matter of efficiency which has also been mentioned before, but is not at present satisfactorily met, is that a successful Governor will find his term of office brought to an end when he has occupied if for five years, however excellent the work may be that he is doing and however much he might still do if he were left to complete what he had undertaken. But perhaps the biggest contribution to increased efficiency at the top would be a system of retirement for senior officials on a pension proportionate to their services. Without this power, which is now being sought by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in relation to the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Services and which is described in the White Paper to which the noble Viscount has already alluded, you are apt to get promotion by seniority of men who are not really suited to undertake greater responsibilities, or to have promotion by real merit which is bound to take the heart out of older men who are passed over in favour of their subordinates.

The need for drafting local inhabitants into the higher grades of the Colonial Administration, on which the noble Viscount has laid so much emphasis, so as to give them the benefit of the best practical schooling in self-government, should I think provide food for thought about certain salient features in the present organization of the Colonial Office. Whatever may be said in theory about an open door to all citizens of the Commonwealth, the unified Administrative Service is still mainly staffed by Europeans, birds of passage regularly on the wing from one Dependency to another, and this is in practice a barrier between the local population and the higher posts in their own Government. If in the interests of efficiency—and they must undoubtedly be put very high—unification is retained for quite a long time in the technical services we should start at the earliest moment to obliterate the distinction between an Imperial and a local service on the purely administrative side. Many authorities, I think, including the noble Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Halley, have recommended that after the war the Colonies should be grouped together for administrative purposes. If that were done, it would be a simple matter to split the Colonial Service into a number of self-contained administrative bodies, the West African Service, the East and Central African Service, the West Indian Service and the Far Eastern and Pacific Service, each operating within its own sphere like the Indian Service or the Civil Service in the Dominions and here at home.

The problem of recruitment on which the noble Viscount also touched is in essence a question of sifting the best men out of the maximum number of candidates. The field of choice should, I am sure, be widened to cover new social and educa- tional categories. This is a point which has been made again and again. It has been repeated to-day and it has been made in previous debates on the subject in your Lordships' House. Of the 260 administrative appointments made to the Colonial Service between 1927 and 1929, 236 or approximately 90 per cent. were allotted to graduates of Oxford or Cambridge. It is astonishing that the eighteen other universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland should not have supplied a larger proportion of entrants. Most unfortunately we have no official figures for recent years—although the Department may have perfectly good reasons for not publishing them—but I must say I should be surprised if the emphasis on a certain type of education had been entirely displaced. I cannot help thinking that the time has come when a university degree should not be regarded as quite so high a qualification as in the past, for there are many men without a university education whose practical experience and personal qualities are full of promise for a useful career in the Colonial Service. There is, I think, room for criticism of present methods of sifting material for the Service. An interviewing board is always apt to get a superficial impression of a candidate, and even with the assistance of his whole school record can do little more than hazard a shrewd guess at his probable intelligence and qualities of personality. If selection is retained, the official interview might perhaps be supplemented by an intelligence test conducted by trained psychologists. This method has been successfully tried out for getting candidates for Commissions in the Army.




There are no doubt two schools of thought on that point. I know there are many who say that this innovation has worked extremely well and produced some excellent officers. The scientific test of general intelligence, which would include quickness of response, initiative and adaptability, ought surely to provide a more sure criterion of fitness for the Service than the customary brief cross-examination. I am not saying the one should supplant the other, but rather that they might be dovetailed together. There is quite a weight of authority in favour of restoring the time-honoured practice of a competitive written examination. It is undeniable that no other system can give the same guarantee of impartiality, but though it ought undoubtedly to be used whenever circumstances permit, I should be inclined to treat it at present as a happy exception to the general rule of selective entry. I have endeavoured to offer these few suggestions, which I hope are constructive and practical, with the thought that they might receive the consideration of the Government and get a careful examination from the Secretary of State for the Colonies and his very able assistant on the Front Bench opposite and from the Department. In that spirit I conclude my contribution to the debate.


My Lords, I think the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion is a very dangerous man, dangerous because he presents his case with such attraction in your Lordships' House. He referred to me in the course of his excellent speech as probably differing from him. There are many things with which I entirely agree—he has convinced me, converted me—but there are one or two things on which I think the other side should be stated before the Government come down on one side of the fence or the other. I think it would be extremely dangerous to group Colonies under stronger Government—dangerous for this reason, that it puts the man on the spot in a stronger position than he occupies even at the present time. The Colonial Office may find it far more difficult to deal with the Governor of Africa than he does to persuade the Governors of individual Colonies what it is that Parliament at home wants. The whole of our system of democratic government in this country depends upon the criticism of Parliament being applied to Colonial administration. If you put a further wheel in the machine, a further Governor who would be able to be quoted as an authority contrary to the wishes of Parliament, then you would make that criticism all the more difficult.

The noble Viscount thinks quite rightly that it might be more efficient, and he instanced an admirable argument which I had not heard before, about the ridiculous way in which the people on the spot may refuse to build roads for fear that they will compete with the railways and reduce railway revenue. That ought to have been stopped long ago, but it would not have been stopped if there had been a Governor of Africa. That stupid policy would be applied not by the Colonial Office but by the Governor-General whose revenues depended upon that obscurantist policy. The noble Viscount said to my great distress that he heard nothing but good about the position of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, as pseudo-Governor of Africa during war-time. I think probably the noble Viscount is all right in war-time, but I remember that neither in your Lordships' House nor in another place is there a more convinced protectionist than the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. Under post-war conditions, under the conditions of the Atlantic Charter, it is absolutely necessary that we should not have people who are convinced of one particular set of doctrines occupying positions of such authority. That is by the way. I dare say the noble Viscount is very good in war-time.

Another point on which I wish to touch is the noble Viscount's suggestion that there should be an Advisory Committee on economic questions. That raises a very big issue. An Advisory Committee on general subjects, I think your Lordships would agree, would hamper Parliamentary influence upon administration and would therefore be deplored, but now that the noble Viscount brings the suggestion forward attractively with special relation to economic matters, I am afraid he will have the House with him. I do hope your Lordships will see the other side. The tendency now is, and has been for generations, to develop Africa, to make the African work, to make him produce the goods we all want. We all want more Colonial products now than we were accustomed to have when I was young. The only way to get them is to develop Africa, and it is from that point of view that the noble Viscount urges this Advisory Committee on economic affairs.

Please look, my Lords, at the other side. The African—the natural African—works to produce things for himself. He works on his own land to produce food for his family. If you want to develop the country you have to make the African work harder, and somehow get him into the labour market. During the last quarter of a century we have seen in Colonial matters an industrial revolution taking place exactly parallel to the revolution in this country at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century, the industrialization of an agricultural community. It was bad enough for our people to be flung unprotected info the industrial system. The same thing is happening throughout Africa, India and Asia to-day. Do remember in your passion for developing these Colonies, that it means the industrialization of these people, that it means making them work, that it means substituting for the old slavery a new form of slavery, not as bad as the old but having the same evil effects.

This is not a one-sided question. Every time you get cocoa, or rubber, or tin, it means that some people are working harder; even being worked to death. And they have to work without any of the protection that our ancestors had a century and a half ago. They are flung into this industrial pit. Before we increase their labours, before we increase the benefits to ourselves that arise from those labours, let us remember that our government of our Colonies is, and always has been, a trusteeship for these people. Let us not give way to that Passion for exploitation which has pervaded every other Empire in the history of the world. Let us be actuated by the desire to do our best for the people. To do the best for these people is not to make them work for us, but to allow them to work for themselves.


My Lords, I would not have intervened in this debate—unfortunately, I was not able to get here in time to listen to what the noble Viscount responsible for this Motion had to say in moving it—if it had not been for a few words spoken by the noble Lord who has just sat down. He suggested that the zoning of Colonies would interfere with Parliamentary control of conditions and arrangements in those Colonies. I have great sympathy with him in that matter, and I have felt that in a great many of the debates on this subject that have taken place in your Lordships' House in the last few months, not only has that point of view been overlooked, but the point of view of the Colonies themselves has been overlooked also. I hardly ever hear—in fact I have never heard, except, perhaps, from my own mouth—the suggestion made that the views of the Colonies themselves should be taken upon these matters, and that we could learn from them, through such expression of opinion as they can give us, what they feel about these plans now being laid down for zoning for internationalization, and so on.

In your Lordships' House a short time ago the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, made a most admirable speech in which he defined the conditions, the very varying conditions, which exist in the Colonies of the Empire. If you go to Africa—which I gather formed a great part of the theme of the speech of the noble Viscount who moved this Motion—you find most varying conditions. You find conditions where the natives have risen to the extent of living in comfortable houses and using food and raiment and so on very much like that which we ourselves use. But on the other hand, in Central Africa, you find conditions which result in the natives still living in kraals, and still scratching at the ground in a primitive way. They are, in fact, living in conditions from which we hope very much to see them rise, and in respect of which we should do everything that we can to raise them. So, if you are going to zone, you are going to put under one Governor-General Colonies in which the most varying conditions obtain; conditions which it is absolutely impossible to assimilate at the present time. I suggest that that aspect of this matter should be very carefully looked into.

Now let us turn to another part of the world—the West Indies. It is suggested that they should be zoned, that they should be federated and that there should be a Governor-General. I spent a number of years in the West Indies; I had these aspirations myself, and I did my best, so far as I could in my small way, to bring these things about. But where you get a large number of islands with varying populations—because you have different kinds of natives of the negro type in the West Indies, some coming from one part of West Africa and some from another, some speaking patois French and some pidgin English and many of them talking very good English indeed—living as they do, growing different crops and so forth, you will find that desire for unification or federation is not as extensive as it is shown to be in your Lordships' House in a debate of this kind. So, what I want to suggest—and it is the only reason I have risen—is that not only the Colonial Office but also noble Lords who participate in these debates should take such steps as they can to investigate and find out what the people in these Colonies themselves want under the new plans which, no doubt, are good in themselves.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will agree that we are very much indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, for having brought forward this Motion this afternoon, and for the very valuable and informative speech which he made. I think that your Lordships will have welcomed in particular the tribute which he paid to the really invaluable work which has been done, and is being done, by the Minister Resident in West Africa. That work is beyond all praise, and I am sure that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State would wish me to endorse most heartily all that the noble Viscount has said on that subject. I am sure also that he will be grateful to the noble Viscount for the tribute which he paid to the progress which has been made in recent years in the West African Colonies. The Colonial Office is very well accustomed to having brickbats thrown at it; it is not so familiar with bouquets, but they are none the less welcome, and I thank the noble Viscount for what he said. Many of the things which he said needed saying, and need publicity not only in this country but throughout the world. They come very much better from the noble Viscount, with his very wide knowledge and experience, than they would from a Government spokesman, and I am very grateful to the noble Viscount for saying them.

The noble Earl opposite also made a most interesting contribution to the debate, and one which I can assure him will be very carefully considered. The day may well come when he in his turn will be Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office, and then I think he will find that some of his criticisms relate rather to the past than to the present. I have been only a very short time at the Colonial Office, but I think he would find, if he was in my place, that the Office is very much less academic than he supposes. My experience is, as I say, a very short one, but I find that, if I want to talk about any subject concerning any part of the Colonial Empire, it takes me only two or three minutes to get in touch with a man who has first-class, first-hand and quite recent experience of that part of the Empire. I can assure the noble Earl that the old division between the cloistered and the secluded life of Whitehall and the life of the Colonial administrator in the field is to a very large extent a thing of the past.

He also made some interesting suggestions as to methods of recruitment, and I am sure that they will be borne in mind. I think, however, that he scarcely did justice to the immensely great pains which are taken to secure men of the very highest quality for the Colonial Service. It really is not a question of a relatively short interview settling the matter. There is a very exhaustive process of inquiry, not only into a man's ability in examinations but also into his qualities generally, and the final interview with the Board is only almost the culminating process. One of the functions of the Under-Secretary is to see, as far as possible, every one in the junior ranks who goes out to the Colonial Service. The Secretary of State sees the "swells," but the Under-Secretary sees everybody that goes out. In the very short time that I have been in the Office, I have been immensely impressed by the high quality of the young men we are securing for the Colonial Service. It seems to me that they are going out there very definitely, not so much for a career, but because they really do feel a vocation not only to the Empire but to mankind. They are men of the highest quality; there is not one of them I should not be glad to take into my own regiment. The other suggestions which the noble Earl made will be very carefully considered; I can assure him of that.

To return to the noble Viscount who moved the Motion, his object in moving it, as he told us, was to ascertain from the Government what progress has been made during the last nine months, during the time which has elapsed since he last raised a similar question, in five main respects: methods of recruitment of the Colonial Service, organization of the Service into a single interchangeable and independent Service, the establishment of a Staff College, the creation of an Advisory Board, and the grouping of Colonies into larger groups. I can assure my noble friend that all these matters are at this moment under the most active consideration. I hope that he will not be too much disappointed if I am not able now to go very much further than that. I would remind him that it is only two months since we had a full-dress debate on Colonial policy, and that in war-time communications are inevitably slow and consultations more difficult than in peacetime; and I would, with all respect and with great deference to his immense experience of these matters, remind him of the enormous complexity of these questions.

We in this country have a uniform Civil Service, a common system of pay and grading, a common method of entry, a single central control and one legislative body, Parliament, to vote the necessary funds. Our own Civil Service would be very different indeed if every Department of the State were in a position to run its own Service, to determine its own establishments for the different grades, to fix its own scales of pay and pension conditions, and to recruit its own staff, subject only to a very general degree of supervision from a central authority, and under a system of loose federation under which officers might from time to time be moved from one Department to another. I am sure that your Lordships can readily imagine the complications of such an imaginary arrangement; but they are very much less than the actual complications of the Colonial Civil Service, where differences of race, of language, of climate, of geographical situation and, perhaps more important than all, of the stage of political, economic, and social development reached by the populations, have all to be taken into account.

It is perhaps too generally assumed outside that the Colonial Service is a body of men employed and controlled by the Secretary of State. I do not for one moment suggest the noble Viscount assumes anything of the kind, but I think that view is very generally held outside. The Colonial Service is, of course, nothing of the sort. The Colonial Service is, in fact, a collective name given to a great body of officials who make up the public services of the respective Dependencies. Each of these public servants is employed, not by the Secretary of State, but by one or another of the Colonial Governments. The salaries and conditions of service are financed and controlled by the local legislative bodies. We are sometimes apt to think of the Colonial Service in terms of European officers, but the officers sent out from this country are numerically only a small fraction of the whole, and the proportion of such officers to those locally recruited varies according to the capacity of the different Colonies to provide suitably qualified staff from local sources.

I have said enough to show that the organization of the Colonial Service into a single interchangeable and independent Service is by no means a matter which concerns His Majesty's Government in Downing Street only. Legislative bodies all over the world are also concerned, and the processes of investigation which are inevitable before alterations can be effected must necessarily be lengthy. The organization of the Colonial Service must always be viewed against this background, and experience has shown that two main principles of development are needed and have to be pursued simultaneously with a just balance maintained between them. The first principle is that the share of the Colonial peoples in the partnership of governing Colonies must be a real one. Every opportunity must be given to Colonial peoples to man their own public services and to manage their own affairs.

This means not only that all posts in the public service of the Colony should be thrown open to the inhabitants of that Colony—that is the case already—but what is necessary is that those inhabitants should be able to get sufficient training to qualify them for service. Some Colonies—I will not mention any names—have reached the stage at which educational and training facilities and general social advancement are sufficiently broadly based to enable the Administration to rely on the local population for staffing the greater part of the public service. In other places this stage has not yet been reached, and it is necessary for the present and will be necessary for some considerable time to come to import substantial numbers of European officers to carry on the complex functions required for modern administration.

This brings us to the second principle, which is that the Colonial Empire, taken as a whole, requires the services of a substantial body of officers of European stock recruited mainly in this country and in the Dominions. The functions of these officers, as I have suggested, is to supplement local resources of man-power at the higher levels and to help to create those conditions in which these Colonial populations which have not already done so can develop to the stage of being able progressively to take over the management of their domestic affairs. It is, of course, this body of officials which the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, had particularly in mind in making his suggestions. For obvious reasons the officers selected for this part of the Colonial Service must be men of very high quality, both personally and professionally. Past experience has shown that such officers cannot be attracted and retained on the basis of allocation to individual Colonies. Some Colonies are large enough and rich enough to offer full scope for the career of a high-class administrative and professional officer; many Colonies are not so situated.

To meet this difficulty, some thirteen years ago, on the recommendation of a Committee presided over by Sir Warren Fisher, the then Secretary of State, Lord Passfield, introduced a policy of unification of the Colonial Service. Under this policy grades in the various branches of the Service which are normally filled by recruitment from this country were combined into a series of unified services on a professional basis: the Colonial Administrative Service, the Colonial Legal Service, the Colonial Medical Service, the Colonial Agricultural Service, and so on. Since this system was introduced an officer recruited for any one of these branches entered a Service not confined to any one Colony but spread over the whole Colonial Empire. While he remained a civil servant employed and paid by the Government of the Colony in which he was for the time being serving, he was available to be posted by the Secretary of State to any Colony in which his services might be required, and his prospects of promotion were not confined to one place but extended over the whole Colonial Empire.

By this means the Colonies have been, and are, continuously being provided with a pool of highly qualified officials whose position throughout the Colonial Empire can be varied from time to time. There can be no doubt that this unification scheme has been of inestimable value to the Colonies during the period that it has been in operation, and that the Colonies have secured in this way staff of a higher personal and professional quality than they could possibly have obtained by any other means. In fact, the justification for the policy lies in its results, which are open for the world to see. But there cannot be and should not be anything static in Colonial administration. Events are moving with immense rapidity and the war has speeded them up with an even greater rapidity than before. Organization must march with the times, and it is essential that there should be flexibility to meet changing conditions. It may, I think, be assumed that the two principles to which I have referred—the progressive development of local public services and the assistance of that development by a unified Colonial Service, recruited in this country or the Dominions—will remain in force for some considerable time to come. But it is none the less necessary for the Government to examine the whole position and to see what adjustments and improvements are necessary in the machinery of the service. I think it would be unwise to assume in a matter which is at once of such importance and of such complexity that methods and procedure which are appropriate in conditions of 10 or 12 years ago will be equally appropriate in what may be very different conditions after the war.

That examination is being undertaken. It is being undertaken in and by the Colonial Office, but your Lordships will appreciate that it cannot be done entirely here. The Colonial Governments will have to be taken into consultation, and full weight will have to be given to their views. Much spade work has to be done before any proposals can be offered as a basis for public discussion. We are at present in the stage of spade work and investigation, and any attempt to indicate probable lines of action would be premature, though Parliament and the public, both here and in the Colonies, can be assured that when there are proposals to discuss full opportunity will be provided for them to be debated, both in Parliament and in the Colonial Legislatures. I hope that the noble Lord will be satisfied with that assurance, and will recognize that it is impossible for me to make a premature statement on the very complicated questions which are involved.

Then I come to the noble Lord's fourth I main point—the creation of a Colonial Economic Advisory Council. The proposals he has made this afternoon differ in some important respects from those which he made in his speech of last May. Then he seemed to contemplate a Colonial Advisory Council which should cover the whole field of Colonial government and administration: this afternoon he has made it clear that what he has in mind is an Economic Advisory Council. Last year he seemed to contemplate that the Council should be responsible to, or at all events report direct to, Parliament: this afternoon he has made it clear that he contemplates no such drastic constitutional change, and no division of the Secretary of State's responsibility to Parliament. These are new proposals, and I cannot at this stage commit my right honourable friend in any way, but I think I can, say that the suggestions which my noble friend has made this afternoon are more likely to commend themselves to him than those he made last year. I can certainly assure him that my right honourable friend will carefully consider the proposals he has made.

I now come to the noble Viscount's fifth and last main question, that of the grouping of Colonies into larger groups. This again, like his first three, is a question which concerns not only the Government of this country but the Governments of all Colonies concerned, and it is clearly one of very great importance and of very great complexity. In East Africa, the East African Governors' Conference has been in existence for a number of years, and it was put on a more formal basis as a result of the recommendations of a Joint Select Committee of 1931 on Closer Union in East Africa. The Governors of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika and the British Resident at Zanzibar are full members of the Conference, while the Governors of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are associated to the Conference and attend meetings when subjects are under discussion which are of interest to their territory. Meetings of the Conference are normally not held more than twice a year, but special meetings are called in addition as occasion arises.

In the intervals the business of the Conference is carried on through the Conference Secretariat. The staff of the Secretariat has been very greatly increased since the outbreak of war and now has the handling of a good many questions of joint concern. In addition, it is used to a great extent as a channel of communication between the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, East Africa, and the Conference of East African Governors. The great mass of the correspondence exchanged between the Colonial Office and East Africa on defence and economic matters, now passes through the Conference Secretariat instead of direct with the Governors, and there is a tendency for the practice to spread to all matters in which more than one of the East African Governments are concerned.

In West Africa there is the central machinery provided by the appointment, to which the noble Lord referred, of the Resident Minister—the noble Lord has made reference to his splendid work—and there again the tendency has been somewhat similar. The central element of the machinery in the Minister's Office is the West African War Council presided over by the Resident Minister and attended by the Governors of the four Colonies and the three Service Chiefs. There is also a Service Members' Committee which bears the same relation to the War Council as the Chiefs of Staff Committee bears to the War Cabinet. The noble Lord will, I think, be interested to hear of these developments.

May I say once more how valuable I believe his speech to have been and how sincerely the Government welcome his valuable suggestions towards the development of an up-to-date and progressive Colonial system? I hope he will not be disappointed by what I have said. I know that I have not been able to give him anything very positive, but I have tried to assure him that things are moving. I hope he will be satisfied that we are moving in the direction he desires, and that his representations have had an effect upon the Government. I hope, therefore, he will withdraw his Motion.


My Lords, in asking leave to withdraw my Motion I should like to thank the noble Duke for his full reply, which I shall read carefully when it is in print. So far as it goes it is most satisfactory, but there is one thing that I hope the noble Duke will convey to the Secretary of State. He seemed to point to the difficulties in the way of carrying out many of the suggestions that I have made. I agree that there are difficulties, but after a long experience I am bound to say that none of those difficulties is going to become less formidable as the world develops. If these reforms are not put into force now, it will be more difficult than ever to carry them out five years hence. I have too often seen that with the passing of the years difficulties have become greater and more formidable still. I therefore feel that the Government have to take a chance and go ahead rather than allow these difficulties to overwhelm them. I thank the noble Duke for all he has said, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.