HL Deb 01 August 1944 vol 133 cc26-68

LORD AMMON rose to Call attention to affairs in West Africa, and to move for Papers: The noble Lord said: My Lords, since this Motion was originally placed on the paper there have been two debates on Africa—one in another place and one here initiated a few days ago by my noble friend Lord Rennell in a very able and informative speech. This Motion gives your Lordships an advantage in that we are now favoured with the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who has come back from West Africa. He could not have chosen a more appropriate time than the occasion of such a debate as this.


I shall not be allowed to speak on it.


That may be, but for whatever we can get we shall be thankful. The debate we had recently concerned matters of housing and health. That cleared the ground considerably and I have no intention of touching upon those matters now. I make no apology for again raising matters concerning Colonial policy so soon after a recent debate, because I am of opinion that our Colonial policy is going to be of continuing and greater importance in the postwar years. I imagine that there is nothing we shall have need to be more concerned about because of the very important part that our Colonies will play in the future of the British Empire. It might be as well to note in this respect some words of Mrs. Elspeth Huxley, in a recently published book on Race and Politics in Kenya. She says: For unless the lethargy and the lack of imagination which has, up to the present, existed in high quarters in regard to Colonial matters is dispelled, it seems doubtful whether Britain will be able to maintain her Colonial responsibilities, and certain that she won't deserve to do so. I agree, and I have met many noble Lords who also agree that that is a pretty sound observation.

West Africa has been blessed or otherwise by a very large number of inquiries and reports in recent years. There was the monumental report issued some time ago. There has also been an advisory Committee that went out in regard to education and there has been a report dealing with that. The Higher Education Commission visited West Africa quite recently. The Secretary of State himself also has visited that country. In addition, in 1938 to 1939 a Commission went out under the auspices of the Leverhulme Trust—a Trust which was formed by the father of the present Lord Leverhulme for the purposes of study and inquiry into affairs concerning West Africa. The members of the Commission were Mr. Clement Davies, Dr. Haden Guest, Colonel Sandeman Allen and myself, but the most important people were Dr. Crowther, head of the chemistry department at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, Lieut.-Colonel Doherty, secretary of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland, and Mr. Sampson, economic botanist at Kew. They were the expert advisers and I imagine it will not be disputed that they are right in the forefront of those able to advise in these matters. The report says: The general economic, administrative and political issues will be so profoundly modified by the war as to render all past experience under these heads superficial and out of date. The technical problems of agriculture remain unchanged. So the Leverhulme Trust have recently published their views on the scientific aspects of the question and those views have been passed on to the Minister. It is to that aspect that I want to direct the attention of your Lordships.

I do not think it will be thought amiss if in reference to the number of inquiries that have taken place and the number of reports that have been made I suggest that we might well ask, in the words of the Economist, "What does it all amount to in terms of the health, wealth and progress of the Colonial peoples?" I assume that your Lordships no longer visualize British Empire policy as the administration of territory for the purpose of exploiting and obtaining cheap labour but rather as an acceptance of responsibility and as a trust. It is from that point of view that I propose to ask your Lordships to consider this matter to-day. I would venture to suggest that if we were to try to industrialize West Africa in the same sense as the United States or this country was industrialized it would be of no advantage to West Africa and in fact would be a tremendous hurt which might react later to the great disadvantage of other highly industrialized nations.

West Africa is a vast territory wholly within the Tropics, and I am afraid many people lose sight of the fact that apart from India there is within this territory the largest population of any of our Dominions or Colonies. The population consists of something over twenty million people and given a long term of peaceful living and development that population will rapidly increase. There are in West Africa immense national resources—vegetable, animal and mineral—and the standard of living, while not high, is sufficiently good to provide a solid economic foundation for the mass of the people and is capable of great improvement by technical changes in the method of farming. On the basis of the present system West Africa has been for many years self-sufficient in all essential commodities and remains self-sufficient to-day. The social systems in Great Britain and in West Africa are very different. The main difference is that in West Africa people farm for subsistence on land held on communal tenure and do not farm for sale and profit on land held on individual tenure. The mass of West Africans are outside the system of money economy which dominates Europe and the rest of the world.

May I inflict on your Lordships a quotation from the report to the Leverhulme Trust? To the Briton a country's prosperity is largely measured by the figures of export and import trade. But the figures of export and import trade of West Africa are no true reflection of the conditions and standard of life of West Africans, which is determined by the African's own agricultural economy. In fact, European and American trade to West Africa depends for its existence on the money which the African earns for what West Africa calls 'cash crops,' or for what he earns when employed for wages. Such cash crops (groundnuts, cocoa and palm oil for instance) and the money results of such services, largely in connexion with the handling of these crops, and to some extent with mining, are exported. West African imports are paid for by money so earned, and consist largely of textile goods and other light consumption goods. It is notable that the firms which buy cash crops and employ African services are, to a large extent, the same firms as sell consumers goods to the African again. This simple form of export and import trade, however, is an addition to the African's own subsistence economy and the essentially barter form of internal trade in West Africa between the African people themselves. I apologize to your Lordships for that lengthy quotation but I think it is quite impossible to approach this subject intelligently if we try to compare as like with like a highly industrialized country and West Africa.

It is no good comparing directly the wages earned by workers in this country and those earned by the West Africans because the West African relies on subsistence farming and money sales or wages earned fall outside his ordinary means of livelihood. It is true that in certain areas West Africans are employed in mining and in other occupations, but they are not numerous and in a good many cases such occupation is only part-time occupation. It is time that a vigorous labour policy was pursued. How much longer are the big interests to continue to take royalties from the mines, a relic of the Royal Niger Company.? I remember visiting tin mines and seeing the really dreadful conditions under which people worked and were housed. I had a communication within the last few days from persons who held high official positions and who said that conditions have certainly not improved since 1939. It does seem that the situation calls for some attention from the Colonial Office so that decent conditions are laid down and observed. A tremendous lot of work is done now by hand labour which ought to be done by machine, with the result that men and women break down much sooner than they ought to do. The position is much the some as it was here at the beginning of the machine age in the industrial revolution. It is cheaper to work human beings to death than to instal machines.

How soon is a stop to be put to the exploiting by some of the private companies of the children of the Pagans under distressing conditions? Who is going to put right the land pressure and consequent infertility and impoverishment of the subsistence of the Pagans in these parts? Why are the companies permitted to despoil the countryside and not replace the fertile soil which they disturb? Why are such miserable medical conditions allowed to prevail? I had the unique experience of spending a week in a leper colony in Nigeria. I admired tremendously the amount of work that is done there. But what impressed me especially both there and in another leper colony which I visited I in Kano was that the doctors insisted that they could eradicate leprosy if given a proper amount of help, if the proper amount of money were expended, if sufficient authority were given to them to enable them to bring in cases out of the villages, and so forth. They think that if these things were done leprosy could be eradicated in anything from ten to twenty years. It seems to me that that is a matter upon which there ought to be no two opinions. Clearly something ought to be done to stamp out this dreadful disease if it really is possible as these doctors suggest.

There is, further, a lot to be done with regard to welfare arrangements, etc., both in the tin mines and other places. In this connexion I would ask what has been done to improve matters in Sierra Leone by the wealthy companies promoted to exploit these profitable ores there? There is, indeed, tremendous room for improvement in many matters, in housing, in food, and in welfare arrangements generally for these people. During the few days that have elapsed since this Motion was first put on the Order Paper, I have received a note from one to whom I have already referred who held a high administrative post in the country. He suggests that the efforts which are being made in Sierra Leone to establish the rice industry in swampy coast lands might be extended to other West African Colonies with advantage. He writes: Although rice is a carbohydrate food, it is more nutritious than many of the other carbohydrate foods consumed in West Africa, such as cassava, and keeps better in storage. My correspondent goes on to urge that an effort should be made to keep in the country part of the ground nut crop of Nigeria. At present the ground nuts are exported whole to Europe. The oil is pressed from them for human consumption and the residuary cake is used as a cattle food. The oil should be pressed in Nigeria, he contends, and the residuary cake used there as human food. Africans use ground nut meal readily in their stews if they can get it, but there is too little left over for them after the export of almost all of the production. That, he thinks, is 200,000 tons a year. The peculiar position of the African native in this respect is analogous to that of the inhabitants of our own fishing towns and villages. Generally speaking, our fishing ports are the only places where you cannot buy fish, and the only places where you cannot buy ground nuts and palm oil, which are so necessary for the nutrition of the people, are the places where these are produced, simply because they are all being exported abroad.

The noble Duke, in a former debate answering I think the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, said: I do not think that I can quite agree … that nutrition is a neglected subject. I think that the Nutrition Committees have been doing very valuable work. We have Nutrition Committees in a very large number of Colonies, and I think the majority of them have done really valuable work. Nobody denies that they do valuable work, but unfortunately no one can see very much in the way of results from their labours. That is the trouble. It is not a bit of good merely multiplying committees. It is not a bit of good them getting out excellent reports if those reports are not implemented, and if we are unable to trace, in any way, good effects arising from them.

There is one further matter of rather more than ordinary importance to which I would draw your Lordships' attention. It concerns the industry connected with the large peat deposits in West Africa. These deposits extend from the eastern provinces nearly to Lagos. The Geological Department of Nigeria, some time ago, put up a scheme requiring the grant of a few hundred pounds—as a matter of fact it was actually £6,000—to carry out experiments. They put forward the claim that Germany had obtained synthetic petrol from peat and that in Nigeria the peat which is obtainable is of better quality. There was an article the journal of the Imperial Institute not long ago which bore this out. The Geological Department, as I say, asked for a certain sum of money to be granted for carrying out experiments. It was refused. But that is not the worst part of the matter. Later a licence was granted to the Anglo-Saxon Petroleum Company, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and they found it exactly where the Geological Department said that it would be found. The petroleum rights have been leased to this company which has so far made no use of them.

What about it? That rather points to a serious state of affairs. It seems to indicate on the face of it that really necessary delevopment is be5ng deliberately held up in the interests of certain vested interests. I am quite prepared to give the noble Duke chapter and verse for the statements which I am putting before the House. I think he will be quite aware of these particular facts to which I have drawn attention. I put this forward in the hope that the noble Duke, when he comes to reply, may be able to point out to us that the Government are thinking out schemes in advance. It is all nonsense to go on repeating, as I have heard it repeated so often in another place, that the chief thing is to get on with winning the war. Of course it is, we all realize that. But if the war ends abruptly and we have no plans made or no ideas plotted out, then chaos is going to supervene and the last state will be very much worse than the first. I see no reason to apply any different line of reasoning to matters concerning our Colonial Empire than the line which it is proper to apply concerning our home economy. I respectfully suggest that your Lordships might think that this is worthy of consideration. I am one of those who do not believe that purely destructive criticism is worth a great deal, and I am prepared to call attention to particular lines upon which people who have given thought and consideration to these matters suggest that improvement might be embarked upon. Some of the points to which I allude are embodied in the report to which I have already drawn attention, and they might, I suggest, be followed up.

There is great need for improvement in the standard of living, for economic development on lines best suited to the natural economy and social life of these people, and for education; but the standard of living cannot be raised in West Africa without much economic development, involving construction of roads, the opening of internal markets, checking of soil erosion and a bold policy of soil conservation, the sinking of wells and adequate irrigation, widespread campaigning against pests (tsetse fly, mosquito, locusts, etc.) research into disease of plants, cattle and men, nutrition and balanced diets, preventive medicine and sanitation, rehousing, small industries, improved agriculture—more mixed farming and cattle immunization and better breeds, improved tools and credit, more subsistence crops alongside export crops, new agricultural methods, water, less pressure on land, and co-operative farming and collective experiments for more efficient production.

The noble Duke, in the last debate, said: Long-term programmes of soil conservation and agricultural development have been approved for assistance under the Colonial development and Welfare Act together with scheme; for developing water supplies in native areas. The only comment I make is that these long-term policies take too long before anything arises from them. While admitting all the difficulties of the last few years, I do hope that the noble Duke will be able to tell us that there are some schemes in preparation ready to be launched as and when it is possible so to do in order that these people in West Africa, who are, let us remember, an advertisement for the British Empire, shall stand as a justification of our right to be the heads of that Empire. The noble Duke also said that a scheme is being considered for the establishment of mobile units on development works of all kinds such as road making, water works, reafforestation, anti-malarial and anti-tsetse fly works, slum clearance and house building, anti-erosion work, and land reclamation. That sounds a very fine catalogue, but from the reports which one sees it appears that in the last four or five years there has not been the slightest indication of anything being done so that as and when the opportunity does occur—making the maximum allowance possible for the difficulties of recent years—it will be possible to get going at once.

It must be admitted that economic policy is closely bound up with social policy, and it is trite in these days to say that workers produce more if they are better fed and housed, have proper transport facilities, receive proper medical attention and so on, but the situation is desperate if the level of subsistence is as low as can be endured, wages are below the subsistence level, prices to primary producers are hopelessly depressed and the masses are diseased, ignorant, and living in hopeless squalor and poverty. These problems can be tackled, when production is low, as it is, only by capital from Great Britain and grants for social service. Has anything been done with regard to transport after the war? Has the Colonial Office staked out a claim for tens of thousands of the lorries, jeeps and other useful forms of transport which should then be available? We shall be delighted to hear whether anything is being done to stake out a claim in that direction. The military authorities, as far as one can see, will at the end of the war have millions of vehicles for which they will have no further use, and which can be of real service in our Colonies, and particularly in West Africa. What are our plans for road development?

With regard to cattle, why have cattle still to walk through the tsetse-fly bush from north to south? From figures which I obtained some time ago, it appears that 90 per cent. of the cattle that come down on the hoof are lost. I ventured to suggest to the Governor's Council in Lagos that a good deal of that loss could be avoided if an abbatoir were provided at Kaduna Junction where cattle could be slaughtered and the meat brought to the south in refrigerated vans. That would do two things; it would find a market for the farmer in the north and it would bring the meat to the south, where it is badly wanted. It would also help the farmers to improve their cattle, which is very necessary.


We have done it. We have a dried meat industry up there.


I am glad that the noble Viscount has made such a valuable contribution, and I am very pleased, because I made that suggestion some years ago. I do not want to weary your Lordships, but I would ask what is our policy in the Cameroons. The problem of Mandates must be faced again. There is too much uncertainty about the future in these areas. This country should say that it will administer them in accordance with the Mandates until the countries concerned are able to stand on their own feet. There should be no half-hearted approach, as if at some time Germany will return. I felt a little annoyed in 1938 to see some Germans still in possession, and to find that one German actually had permission to use an aeroplane in going about the country. Probably we have paid for that in other ways since those days. A decided line of action would help the administrators. Let the land be held in trust for the people and for their use.

I turn now to to my two final points, which are concerned with live stock and land erosion. With regard to the former, the veterinary service has worked wonders in the stamping out of rinderpest. Africans, as the noble Viscount opposite will probably agree, are quick to note good results. You can talk to them endlessly without effect, but when they see that something works they will readily adopt it.


Just like English farmers!


Farmers are the same all the world over. I had the advantage of seeing numbers of cattle being immunized at Zaria, and perhaps it was the finest compliment we could have that representatives of the Fulani and Hansa people complained that the facilities were inadequate; that is to say, they wanted a very much larger service than was available at the present time for dealing with this problem. It is important from another point of view. It would be worth while our putting a great deal of money and energy into dealing with this matter, because, in the words of Colonel Doherty: It is not entering into the realms of prophesy to state that the world's meat production will be short of requirements for years after the war. Unlike wheat, there are no supplies of meat in sight to suggest that these averages can be considerably increased for a number of years after the war. Along this line of reasoning, based on the information at present available, careful planning to use with skill and foresight the different varieties of natural pastures, and bring to a high state of production the existing flocks and herds, would ensure the maximum supplies of protein, which is bound to be in short supply. That is a matter on which we can cooperate with our Colonies to a very great extent, to meet not only our own but a great world demand, and thus give a considerable lift to our people there. Everywhere—in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gambia and the Gold Coast—there is the same lament that our rate of progress is uneconomic. If we could send out more experts to make a greater rate of progress with immunization and train the people in the importance of quality in cattle and in agriculture, we should work wonders.

My last point concerns soil erosion. It is only in the last few years that the world has become erosion-conscious. A very striking book was published a few years ago called The Rape of the Earth, by G. V. Jacks and R. O. Whyte. There is also the report of Sampson and Crowther in the Leverhulme Report with regard to how far soil erosion has spread. There are the articles by Sir Frank Stockdale. It is noteworthy that Field-Marshal Smuts himself said that erosion is the biggest problem confronting the country, and that there is only one solution, the education of public opinion. It is true that the position is not so serious in West Africa as in South Africa and East Africa, where it is becoming so serious that unless it is checked it may determine more than anything else whether the white man or the black man is going to be dominant there. In Northern Nigeria there are certain signs of the encroachment of the Sahara. When we bear in mind that what is now desert was once the granary of the world, we shall see that this is a matter for thought and one worthy of more than passing consideration.

It arises from a variety of causes—overtaxing the land by demanding much and giving little, over-population with inferior cattle, forest fires, unregulated tree-felling, inferior methods of agriculture, silting of waterways and the washing away of alluvial soil. These distressing circumstances are to be seen in places like the road to Onitsha, where even the main road itself is threatened. Messrs. Sampson and Crowther, the experts, express their opinion in the following terms. They say: We saw little evidence of it where traditional agricultural practices are maintained. Difficulties arise from new developments such as the growth of towns, the spread of roads and the introduction of new methods of cultivation, especially for cash crops and with the aid of the plough.… There is room for investigations in regenerating bush by coppicing some of the useful trees. Reference should also be made to the possibility that the very success of the veterinary departments in combating animal mortality, especially from rinderpest, may lead to a danger of over-stocking, which has had such disastrous results in parts of Kenya and Tanganyika. Since that was written the war has broken out, and the .great shortage which will ensue after the war will assure us, I think, that there will not be much over-stocking. To quote again: If these problems are studied in time it may be possible to avoid some of the misfortunes which have occurred in other parts of Africa, where uncontrolled developments have taken place more rapidly. I am sorry I have taken so long, but I feel that the matter is of vital importance. West Africa is going to play a very important part in our future history. Its possibilities are tremendous. But we have to recognize that the price of Empire may mean the expenditure of money as well as other things. Everything possible should be done to increase the technical and advisory staff out there, to help these people and advise them so that they can make the best possible use of the natural resources which are at their disposal. They have already indicated that they are quick to learn as they see the good results that arise from such efforts, and I am hoping that anyway we may set to work to prevent further encroachment and wasting of the land, and that indeed the desert may in future blossom as the rose.


My Lords, the noble Lord has covered the ground so fully that there is practically nothing left that I would wish to add, except to emphasize two points. The noble Lord has referred to the Leverhulme Report. In the introduction to that document it is stated very concisely and well that the future of West Africa depends upon improvement in agricultural conditions so as to raise the standard of life of West Africans, and that it is not to high wages and industrial development that these countries must look for their future. We must all be in agreement with that, as we are with the policy which has been laid down for the administration of Africa, which is that these countries are held in trust for the people who live there. Out of that policy has grown the system of government which is known as indirect rule. If agriculture is to be improved, it is not only in the actual productivity of the soil, but in making available those products to the people who live there in a form in which they can use them. That brings in its train, quite clearly, the necessity of developing those secondary industries which are closely associated with agriculture, such as, for instance, the production of dairy products and the dried meat to which the noble Lord referred; in other words, the conversion of the agricultural product into a comestible, not for export but for consumption in the country.

It is a remarkable fact that there was practically no secondary industry in any of the West African Colonies before the outbreak of this war, and in the twenty years which preceded it, I think, little or no effort was made to develop those industries. They have developed during the war, as those of us who have been out there know full well, very largely under the guidance of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, but they have developed as the result of the painful inability in which those Colonies found themselves to import the things on which they have relied to keep the European population there alive. It is a most remarkable thing that the small European populations in our West African Colonies live practically entirely on imported foodstuffs, in spite of the fact that the West African Colonies are tome of the largest producers of foodstuffs in the world. Moreover, the trading firms have encouraged, or were encouraging, the African population also to eat imported cheap canned goods, instead of contributing to the development of the agricultural industry in such a form as would enable the natives to cat what they grow themselves.

Happily that has been brought to an end by the war, because there was no shipping to carry those foodstuffs, and the people in West Africa had to turn, by force of necessity even for their own sustenance and that of the European population there, to producing what they ought to have produced many years ago, and what the French Colonies next door do produce and the French population do eat. That necessity was obviously very largely intensified by the very large numbers of troops that went out to West Africa, for whom whatever local provision could be made had to be made. It is a remarkable circumstance—though I do not want to draw any too invidious conclusions—that it was found necessary to appoint a Resident Minister to centralize and co-ordinate the activities of these Governments so as to enable their production to get under way. I would not go so far as to say that there was any active local obstruction to that development, but it is perfectly true that there was very great delay and it was very slow in going ahead. It would not have developed as it has developed had it not been for the centralized authority placed there in the person of the noble Viscount. Therefore what I think we should look to see in the policy of West Africa is the encouragement from Government sources, if it is not forthcoming from commercial sources, of the development of those secondary industries associated with agriculture to which I have referred.

There are one or two glaring omissions which are really quite remarkable. For example, it will be well known to your Lordships that West Africa can and does produce sugar cane. Nevertheless, it is a fact that there is not a single sugar factory or sugar mill in British West Africa. There is a very large production of sugar in French West Africa, but in British West Africa every pound of sugar eaten by the native population had formerly to be imported, and only latterly has an attempt been made to produce sugar in some form. It is obviously more profitable to import sugar than to produce it in the first instance, and that no doubt was why nothing was done; but the fact remains that these countries could be entirely self-supporting in a very valuable foodstuff.

My second point is on the development of the system of government. West Africa, under the system of indirect rule, has tried as a matter of policy to allow the native administration to continue administering themselves. That has always been regarded as a liberal policy, as opposed to the rather reactionary policy of direct rule. I do not myself believe that direct rule need be reactionary, but I do believe, and I have seen in West Africa, that native administration can be extremely reactionary. In recent years it has been the deliberate policy of the Colonial Office and the West African Governments to extend indirect rule from the northern territories of Nigeria and the Gold Coast and other areas, to the South. What I wish to emphasize particularly in that connexion is that the mentality which governs the native administrations in the North should not also be transported to the South.

We have seen in Northern Nigeria a lot of communities where indirect rule is practised, where the communities are happy, I have no doubt, and well administered, but entirely unprogressive, and advised in many cases by persons whose principal object appears to be to keep the native administration which they found in cotton wool and camphor like a museum specimen to ensure that it will in no circumstances be contaminated by anything like development or improved conditions for secondary industries. If that mentality is extended to the coastal districts of the South we shall have the same stagnation that we have seen in the North, accentuated in the North by the fact that it is largely Moslem, but which could easily infect the South as well. That would be a disastrous development, and preferable to that would be a return to direct administration under enlightened direction.

We must not forget that the principal industry of the Gold Coast, apart from gold mining, is the cocoa industry. The cocoa industry is a native industry that was started under native African initiative, developed with European guidance, but developed by the native African and not a European import, European trading firms have bought the cocoa, of course, but they do not grow it, they do not run it. That enterprise on the Gold Coast is possible in other parts of the coastal districts of West Africa as well, provided this outburst of enthusiasm of a few years ago for native administration does not stultify all efforts at development. The benefits of native administration can be very much exaggerated, especially when driven to the extremes which have been experienced in Southern Nigeria where, at the first go-off, native administrations to the number of over 3,000 were set up—little units which cannot be self-supporting, and which cannot have in themselves the initiative necessary to develop. I hope we shall hear from the noble Duke who is to answer something of a more progressive policy in West Africa which will continue the good work that has been done during the war. We have seen there Government Departments—the Agricultural Departments in particular—do the most magnificent work because necessity drove the Central Governments to encourage it, and their work was in turn encouraged by the Resident Minister and by the requirements of the Army in West Africa. I hope we shall hear that that is to be continued with all the resources which we have available in the period after the war, and that we shall get some benefit out of this miserable period through which these Colonies and other Dependencies have passed.

That applies also to the Cameroons about which the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, said much too little to describe the disgraceful conditions that have obtained there. We took that country over under Mandate from the Germans at the end of the last war. The Germans redeveloped their banana plantations, and it was the Germans who sold bananas here and not us. Finally, most of the works that the Germans made were allowed to fall into decay. In 1938 the German-built road from Victoria to Buea, which had been a very fine feat of engineering, had fallen into disuse because it could not be used by motor cars under British administration. That is a state of affairs that cannot be allowed to recur. I hope we shall hear what I described in your Lordships' House a few days ago as a plan with vision and with policy. I wish to associate myself entirely with what Lord Ammon said about the lack of vision that has been the keynote of development and administration in West Africa for the last twenty years, and I hope we shad never go through the same period again.


My Lords, we are at a great advantage this afternoon in having my noble friend Lord Swinton amongst us. I am sure that many of your Lordships will feel with me that it is a great pity that the noble Viscount is precluded from taking part in the debate. The comments which have fallen from him show that his tongue has lost none of its cutting edge by his sojourn in West Africa, and at any rate his presence makes speakers particularly careful of what they may say in the presence of such an expert with first-hand knowledge. The Motion we are discussing is an indication of one good outcome of this war, and that is the greatly increased interest in Colonial affairs. That interest has been very much stimulated by the remarkably interesting speeches of the present Colonial Secretary, Colonel Stanley. These speeches have been so interesting and have shown such insight that they lead one to hope his extensive Cook's tour of the Whitehall Departments may have come to an end and that he has now found a niche in the Colonial Office where his prolonged sojourn may give continuity to our Colonial policy—a continuity which has been sadly lacking in the past owing to the all-too-frequent changes in the Colonial Secretaryship.

I am also bound to say, however, that, in spite of the stimulus to which I referred, the attendance at Parliamentary debates on Colonial subjects is still very poor. In fact, one might say that 'the Colonies and the Merchant Navy run a neck and-neck race as to which can attract he poorest attendance at a Parliamentary debate! It is deplorable —in fact one could use a stronger adjective and say it is discreditable. There is one point which I should like to mention before going on. Speaking in a previous debate on Colonial matters I referred to the necessity for arousing stronger interest in the Empire by means of publicity. On that occasion I should have paid tribute to the excellent work being done by the Ministry of Information under the auspices of Mr. Brendan Bracken, although I still feel that that publicity aims a little too high up and has not got down to those levels where it is more necessary.

My noble friend Lord Ammon has very wisely focused his Motion on one aspect only of the Colonial question and that is West Africa. Certainly there are great problems there. You have such a great diversity of race, religion, culture and language. In fact, in West Africa you can at the present day progress from the Stone Age to the beginnings of twentieth-century industrialism. There is 95 per cent. of illiteracy in West Africa, and these facts show that there is really no basis at the present moment for unity in these Colonies. Therefore it follows that self-government must wait upon education and that West Africa will have to approach to self-government by way of local government, by teaching the native authorities to take responsibility; and, if I may say so, to that end we must not resent the African exhibiting independence of mind or any initiative. Equally the African must learn to work steadily and regularly. We must also play upon the fact that there are, I understand, to-day many Africans who deplore and resent their country's backwardness, and if that is so we must be patient. Although the African Press, I notice, is always urging the Government to do more, equally it also criticizes anything that the Government do. But we must be patient about that. The politically-minded African is certainly inclined to demand independence while at the same time demanding more British help. And if those are facts in the picture let us also on our part avoid the get-rich-quick element in Colonial matters; let us avoid missionizing, and let us avoid excessive paternalism.

In West Africa everything seems designed to defeat man. There really seems to be a conspiracy of nature there—disease, climate, soil, forest, rains, everything seems against man there. The essential problem seems to be to adapt the environment so as to enable men to live in West Africa in reasonable comfort and to enjoy civilized living. This continuing poverty of the indigenous people is really a challenge as well as a problem. They live on the very lowest levels of subsistence, they live weighed down by debt, by disease, by want, by exploitation. This degrading poverty, for it is nothing else, is due in large part to the laissez faire policy of British Governments up to the Development Act of 1940, which certainly marked a dramatic and vital change in Colonial policy. Up till then development was impossible. The more a Colony needed development because it was poor the less it was able to develop. It was a vicious circle. I may quote a few figures from the Gold Coast. In 1937–38 the expenditure on interest and sinking fund in that year was £659,000 while the expenditure upon Social Services was less, only £614,000. A new physical set-up must be achieved and this calls for public works, of which my noble friend Lord Ammon has spoken —works to check soil erosion, to develop soil fertility, the irrigation of great and areas, communications, transport, roads, harbours, markets, power. All these things call for great development in public works. These are problems which call for much more energetic action than has been forthcoming in the past to build up a framework of economic and social life. The social standards must be raised and the attempt must be made to control the malignant forces of nature of which I have spoken.

Agriculture is, of course, the basis of West African economy. At present it is primitive in method; it is individualistic, it is inefficient and it is poor in quality. For instance, palm products are showing themselves less able to hold their own against the East Indies. Cocoa of high quality is not encouraged by present methods. There are great areas which need irrigation, pure wells, markets, roads and transport. Equally we need health services to cope with the really dreadful incidence of venereal disease, of sleeping sickness, of tuberculosis, of malaria and of leprosy. Much of what is required in those directions can, of course, he achieved by enlightenment campaigns, by preventive medicine, by better housing, and by mass education, but even so there are other intractable problems which cannot be dealt with by such methods as those. There are large areas where mixed farming is impossible because of the tsetse fly. You cannot get manure without the cattle which the fly destroys and good farming is impossible without that manure. You cannot get health and satisfactory production without better food which gives better nutrition. You cannot improve the agricultural standard of living unless you give the producer a fair price for his product. He cannot do his job properly unless he can pay his labour fair wages. To pay those fair wages he must be able to produce a high grade crop, to process it and to have a guaranteed market. In West Africa wages are at a viciously low level because the prices to the primary producers are far too low. At the same time taxation is oppressive. These facts keep the standard of living for millions down to abysmally low levels. It is no good complaining that the African does not work hard when the diet upon which he subsists is quite insufficient to enable him to work hard. The aim ought to be Social Services which pay for themselves without reliance upon the metropolitan country. That means that the taxable capacity of the country must be increased and that cannot be clone while prices and wages are as low as they are at present.

That brings me to the crux of the whole matter which is this, that more of the wealth which is in West Africa ought to stay in West Africa. Great business interests have established themselves in West Africa, they do big business, they buy up the products and the effect of their impact upon the economy of the country is to cause too great a concentration upon the export trade. They make money in household and personal things which West Africa is perfectly well able to produce for itself and should produce for itself. They drain the wealth away from the minerals and the natural products, part of which at any rate ought to be retained in West Africa in order to build up the social and living standards. The standard of living in West Africa requires to be at least twice as good as it is at present. Wealth is taken out of the country which ought to be ploughed back into the country in order to provide the capital to produce yet more wealth. It is a situation which calls for drastic overhaul and for economic planning on an imaginative scale, planning in the development of public works and for economic purposes. My noble friend Lord Ammon has touched upon the necessity for more small industries, for the processing of products, for a leather industry, building materials, fruits, and foods, soap and pottery. It is within the power of West Africa to develop all those things.


We have started them all during the war.


That is most excellent news and I know your Lordships will delight to hear it front the noble Viscount. But much would always have more, and that something has been done should he a stimulus to try to do still more.

The question of the Cameroons has been touched upon this afternoon. Opinions, will, of course, differ as to what should be our policy in the Cameroons. For my part I consider that they ought to be brought completely within the British system and their future guaranteed within that system. Only in that way can public works and capital development and social needs receive proper attention. I do not consider that there is any call upon us to return the plantations to their former Germ in owners. They bought them cheap a speculation prices after the last war and I see no necessity why those plantations should be returned to those German owners. My view is—the noble Duke may or may not agree, I fear he will not agree—that the plantations ought to be formed into a co-operative organization under Government direction but in association with the people. I think that with the good services of the Agricultural Department these plantations offer scope for a bold collective experiment. My information for what it is worth is that many Nigerian technical officers would welcome such a step.

To my mind the co-operative movement is the key to unlock the gate of progress in out Colonial Empire. I think the time is ripe for it, the opportunity is here and now there is a demand for it. The co-operative movement seems to me to show the one way in which to break through the individualism of this crude farming from which West Africa suffers. It is the way to provide suitable tools, to get proper grading of products, to establish processing factories, to secure proper transport and steady markets, to break down the power of the moneylenders and the middle men, and to supply the credit and mutual aid which are essential to any development of agriculture in West Africa. I believe the co-operative movement does point the way in this direction; but a big drive is called for. Agricultural officers on the Gold Coast and in Nigeria, I am told, are strongly in favour of the cooperative movement. They regard it as the great hope for the future there, because they recognize that the existing individualism spells suicide in the long run. It is inefficient and wasteful. As an instance, very little planting of new trees is done and the palm tree will become extinct in West Africa without new plantings. Why not make an experiment, why not make this attempt of collectivization, the Africans retaining their rights in the land and trees but with the plantations managed under Government auspices by co-operative societies for the collection of crops, for new planting, for processing, grading and marketing?

The Colonial Development Act, 1940, recognizes that the Colonies cannot build up reasonable standards of living while relying on their own resources. It recognizes that while they must he helped, the Colonies must also be encouraged to tackle these problems in their own way. To my mind co-operation is one most hopeful way in which those problems can be tackled. The Colonial Secretary himself has stressed the importance of co-operatives and so did the Hot Springs Conference. What are the facts? A survey of the Colonies shows that co-operation is almost non-existent, although it is such a vital instrument in the struggle to improve the standard of living and of education and to enable the indigenous races to stand alone. Sir Horace Plunkett spoke of co-operation as showing the way to better farming, better business, better living. What phrase could be more applicable to the problem of West Africa than that? The Co-operative Department established in Nigeria has already improved the conditions of life with very little Government financial assistance. Once the co-operative economy is established it is a very long step towards democratic self-government. Colonial Office Commissions have recommended co-operation, but, very little indeed has been done.

Co-operation would make it possible to deal with one very vital problem in West Africa which arises out of dependence upon one or two staple crops. That dependence is a potent cause of poverty. In the Gold Coast in 1937 cocoa represented 6o per cent, of the exports. That militates against subsistence farming. If world prices slump in one of the staple crops the whole Colony is badly hit and the firms with the biggest resources use the slump to gobble up competitors. So we get giant concerns controlling the trade and the African has no defence apparatus whatsoever against such business methods. It will be within the recollection of your Lordships that this system led to very serious trouble in 1937 in Nigeria and on the Gold Coast, when native producers of cocoa were burning their cocoa as a protest against the method employed by these great firms. Following upon these troubles the Colonial Office appointed a Commission which recommended in 1938 that the Government should promote co-operation but that recommendation has never been implemented. At the outbreak of war the Colonial Office took over the purchase and shipment of cocoa and appointed the Cocoa Control Board. The native producers were not represented upon that Board. The Board has now been replaced by the West African Products Board but the native producers are still unrepresented.

May I say this in conclusion? The co-operative idea is very often confused with something existing in the minds of enthusiasts and of cranks trying to run a particular hobby-horse. It is nothing of the sort. Neither is it charitable, neither is it benevolent. On the contrary, I believe it to be the key to progress in the Colonies. It will be good business for the Colonies. It is not merely an uplift idea. In what I have said I have had no wish to be in any way controversial or to be critical in any destructive sense. I may say that I am one of those who are immensely proud of our Colonial history and of our Colonial record. Looking to the end of this war I recognize that we shall emerge from it with the immense prestige which is rightly our due because for so long we shouldered the burden of war alone. But while we shall emerge so strong in prestige I also recognize that we shall emerge from the war very much weaker in material things After this war we shall require in order to maintain our position in the world a great accession of material strength, and I believe that we can look to the Colonies, wisely administered by a policy encouraging and fostering the resources and capacities of our Empire, and find there that accession of material strength which we shall need in the future.


My Lords, I welcome the Motion brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, and I agree with nearly all he said and with much that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell. The Motion is to call attention to affairs in West Africa. That covers a wide field but it is better than trying to discuss the Colonial Empire as a whole, which is much too big a subject to deal with in one debate. Indeed I think even West Africa is almost too big a subject for one debate. I had intended to put down a Motion myself to ask if we could be given any further information on the subjects I raised in 1942 and again in 1943. It depends on the answer given by the noble Duke to-day whether with your Lordships' permission I shall put down a Motion after the Recess. There are several points to which I would like to go back. Some people seem to think it necessary to have a scheme embracing every Colony but I do not think you can make progress until you break down the whole problem and deal with it in groups. Now I come to one of the questions which I asked the noble Duke in the debate over a year ago. In answering them—and I am not referring to this in any critical spirit—he said: I hope that he will not be disappointed in 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. I pointed out then that difficulties were not made to get less by looking at them or even by talking about them. I feel that now with the war coming, as we hope, to an early conclusion in Europe, these difficulties are not made any less by being put back. The passing of the years will but add to these difficulties, and when the war is over they will added to, if they have not been dealt with before then.

There are two questions to which I wish to return. The first is the suggestion for the grouping of the Colonies into larger areas, a policy which is also advocated by Field-Marshal Smuts. We are of course dealing only with West Africa now. I am not going to repeat all the arguments that were used in 1942 and 1943, but I would like, if I may, to summarize them. The whole tendency throughout the world is for smaller units to be merged gradually into larger ones. Certainly the degree of planning that any ordered post-war system will necessitate can only be carried out if both political and economic Balkanization can be avoided and larger groups constituted. To-day the world is a much smaller place than ever before and action, if not fully co-ordinated, is bound to lead to trouble.

The development of communications has now made it possible to control very much greater areas. The aeroplane has really made the world a very small place. We have also had the experience of having a Resident Minister in West Africa—and I welcome the noble Viscount in his place here to-day. Noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have paid deserved tribute to the results of his work. I feel that the development of secondary industries will have been one of the subjects which the noble Viscount will have studied very closely. One of the problems which any industrialization has to face is the smallness of the West African market. By grouping the Colonies together you may create a large enough market to make a factory economically sound. You can also have it located in whichever Colony and to whatever area is economically and geographically most suitable. I ha /e merely taken one small problem of an economic nature to show the importance of grouping, but it would be easy to multiply examples not merely from the economic field, but equally from the political and social sphere.

In the last debate we had on this subject the noble Duke, referring to the Resident Minister, said: 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 I by the Governors of the four Colonies anti the three Service Chiefs. But this is only in war-time. Is there to be a Governor-General after the war? If there is to be no Governor-General what are the arguments which the Government find so convincing as to lead them to reject grouping? I notice that in another place a Member said: You do not find any desire for federation amongst West African Colonies. They do not want to be federated together. They want bitterly and anxiously to pull apart rather than to go together. Surely that is what we must try to prevent. If I am not mistaken, never in the history of the world has there been any case of federation which has not had to face immense difficulties and objections; for example, Australia and the United States and Canada and other places. It was due to the statesmen of those days that they eventually got federation and difficulties were overcome, as all will agree, to the advantage of those countries themselves and of the world at large. I say that whatever the difficulties we must stop this breaking apart. No Government can rely on the difficulties becoming less. In fact, in this instance the longer you encourage them to exist in separate cells the more rigid and unbreakable will those cells become. Surely the history of the whole world tells us that.

Now I want to turn to the matter of the Advisory Committee. When I raised it a year ago the late Lord Wedgwood and others gave the impression that I was trying to sidetrack Parliamentary control, whereas Lord Moyne correctly interpreted me, saying that my idea was designed to assist Parliament in its duties. And this is definitely what I still wish to do. Since then this Committee has been debated a great deal in the Press and in another place. Lately, it has been said what Committees do. There are a great number of expert Committees with expert men on them I do not doubt—men of the highest qualifications. But certainly none of these Committees fulfils the role that I visualize for the Economic Advisory Committee. I have no doubt that all these Committees have their useful places, but I want to see a General Advisory Committee composed of first-class men who come to the problems with completely fresh minds and uninfluenced by official sources.

My suggested Committee was to be of a high standard composed of public men of eminence and wide experience of all types—economists, industrialists, bankers and so on. They should be allowed to send small delegations out to different parts of the Colonies and they should report direct to the Secretary of State. I would hope that their reports would be published, as a matter of course. The last time I mentioned this idea it did not find much favour with some members of your Lordships' House. Now I hope that at least the Secretary of State will have the power to publish them should he wish. The Committee would be formed for the purpose of seeing broadly how to develop the economic life of the Colonies for the benefit of the inhabitants of those Colonies, and for the benefit of the British Empire and the whole world. It cannot be done by those smaller inter-Departmental or technical Advisory Committees. I do not want this Economic Advisory Committee to have any executive power whatever, nor to interfere in any way with the rights or the powers of the Secretary of State. I agree that Committees can never take the place of an individual man. But they can help. I feel that the present Committees which the Secretary of State has set up do not quite meet my point.

I want just to mention one or two other matters briefly. I am afraid I am taking up quite a lot of your Lordships' time at this late hour and I hope that you will forgive me. I would like now to ask if any further consideration has been given to the proposal, to which I have referred twice before, of starting a Colonial Staff College. When I originally made this suggestion—which I think met with general approval in your Lordships' House—the present Leader of the House, who was then the Secretary of State for the Colonies, said that it was attractive but that there were many practical difficulties, including expense, involved. These, I feel, can be overcome, and I do not think that it would be so expensive. Anyway, has this question of a Colonial Staff College been further considered or not? So far, I have not been given an answer with regard to this proposal; can I have one now? I did notice signs of an understanding of the problem inasmuch as the Colonial Secretary in another place said it would be necessary to bear in mind for the general training of recruits in peacetime the need for practical instruction in agriculture and the understanding by everybody of the broad principles of modern economic thought.

On the subject of recruiting for the Colonial Service I notice again that the Secretary of State for the Colonies mentioned that he was unable to complete his far-advanced plans in this regard until he had learnt more about the actual problems of demobilization. And yet, dealing with Government policy in the same speech, the Secretary of State gave the assurance that he did not want merely to repeat broad statements of principle or of pious intention; what he wanted, was to get down to brass tacks. I hope, therefore, that the noble Duke will be able to show to-day what is being done on these points. It is no use saying that it is necessary to wait for demobilization. I should like some further information on the four points which I have raised twice, at a year's interval.

I now come to another point altogether, a point which was dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, from his own point of view. I refer to the economic development of the Colonies, to the improvement of old industries and the starting of new ones. I shall take only one example of an old industry, the palm oil industry in Nigeria, the backbone of the life of Southern Nigeria. How is the competition from the Far East to be met? Less than thirty years ago, West Africa, and Nigeria in particular, was the main territory exporting palm oil, and the tonnage exceeded that of all the other countries in The world; yet twenty-five years later the exports of palm oil not only from Nigeria but from the whole of West Africa have been exceeded by the exports from Sumatra and Java, and the quality of the oil exported from the Far East is vastly better. This has been done as a result of up-to-date and scientific methods in the Far East, methods which I think are well known. I have dealt with this Nigerian problem because it is to Nigeria that I first went. It is the big Colony of West Africa. This is a case where it is necessary to improve an old industry.

Then there is the question of the so-called new industries, which are sometimes called secondary industries, and which are desirable so that the economic life of a country can be put on a broader basis. This sometimes raises political questions, but I am sure that all Parties —Labour, Liberal and Conservative—will agree that everyone can and must help in this development. I feel that there is only one way in which to look at this question, and that is in the light of the vast importance of the work of development which has to be accomplished. The purpose must be to raise the productivity of the country so that the lot of the African people will be improved. We want to develop the African so that he can to a growing extent take a great part in solving the economic problems of his own country.

However, the improvement of his education and of his health must come first. An immense amount will have to be done by the Government to increase the number of hospitals and nurses. It is a colossal task, and a colossal amount of money will he needed to deal with the two question: of health and education. This will entail not only the erection of suitable buildings throughout West Africa, but tie greater and longer task of training a sufficient number of capable African medical officers and nurses. The same is true of education. Vast sums will be needed. Only a negligible proportion of the children of Nigeria go to school at present, and therefore the first move is the provision of widespread elementary education. I have heard it stated that there are people who are opposed to the provision of higher education in Nigeria. I say that higher education is wanted at present so that sufficient teachers can be educated in the country, where they will not lose the atmosphere of their own country. The higher education which is required to begin with is to provide teacher; in health and education, but we want widespread elementary education so that every child—or at any rate the great majority of children—will go to school.

Recently a Commission went out to Africa under a member from another place, and I hope they were impressed by the importance of education. How are the children being educated in West Africa? Are they being taught the political advances which have been made in England, and are they tracing the history of industrialization of England, or are they being taught the history of their own country and something about their own agriculture, their timber, their health and their food? Lastly, and what is by far the most important, in all our teaching we must try to inculcate a sense of right and wrong according to the standards of the highest civilization. Of all the work which awaits the Government in this field, that is surely the most vital of all.

We have just finished dealing with the Education Bill in this House. That has been a matter, even in my lifetime, of the greatest controversy, yet how easily the Bill went through this House! I suggest that the development of these countries can be considered by all Parties in the same way. The Government have clone a tremendous amount. Those who, like myself, have studied and seen the development of West Africa over 45 years know what has been done, and when the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, said there had been no improvement in twenty years, that from my knowledge is not correct. There have been enormous improvements. The Government have done a great deal, and equally the commercial organizations have done a tremendous amount to improve the standard of living out there. The Government have made a notable contribution to the welfare of the Colonial Empire by providing £5,000,000 a year, but nobody in his senses believes that that amount is anything like adequate. No greater amount that we shall be able to spare from the Exchequer, however, will be more than a drop in the ocean compared with what will be needed if any real advance is to come.

Commercial organizations with their roots in Africa should be encouraged in every way to play their full part in the provision of finance and the technical services necessary to ensure its proper management. Far too much emphasis is laid en the question of what we will give to the Colonies—whether we will give them a greater measure of political independence or large sums of money to build up the standards of welfare which we should like to see established. All such gifts are of negative or of very partial value unless we keep constantly in mind our real aim, which must be to help the African to acquire these things for himself by teaching him to govern fairly and by inculcating in him those characteristics which are essential for sound administration, whether in official or unofficial life. In this task of training the African commercial and plantation companies can, if given the chance, do a great deal.

I am sure that the Dutch administrators of the Netherlands East Indies would testify to the immense debt which the native producer of rubber owes to the standard of efficiency which he learnt from the European cultivators, whom he has now very largely replaced. Similarly, the African in the Belgian Congo has learnt much from the technical development there. I would go further and say that the African to-day can learn much from the staffs of Government and trading companies in the ideals and standards which they set in their everyday work. A large business must work and build for the future, far beyond the span of a single life. It makes no sense to me to hear it said, as it often is, that because a corporation relies on English capital and largely on English management it will therefore be more interested in the affairs of Great Britain and be virtually alien in its feeling towards the Colony. Its roots are in fact driven deep into the Colony, and whether it thrives or not depends largely on the fertility and health of the soil in which it is planted. In fact, if such a company is to succeed it must identify itself with the country in every way.

It was complained that housing was bad, but it is not only in one spot, it is all over. I have seen it stated that some of the housing of commercial companies is bad. Well, it is competition that will improve the houses in those countries. How large a contribution such firms are to-day making has been well testified to by, the Resident Minister, speaking recently to a Youth Conference in the Gold Coast, when he paid a tribute which will go far to hearten all those who have found their most valuable war-time role in the comparative obscurity of the West African commercial field. He said: Those great campaigns to increase the production of farm products and ground nuts had meant organization, to a degree not generally appreciated, in the distribution of seed, in establishing collecting stations, in arranging transport, in ensuring that the producer got a fair price, and in ensuring that consumer goods, especially cotton piece-goods, reached the producer, and reached him at a lair price. It had meant also very careful control and distribution of imports and release of essential goods. All this work could not have been carried out without the integration of commercial organizations into the general plan. His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and here in the Colonies, and the millions of producers in farm and forest, owe a real debt to the firms who have given their whole-hearted co-operation to me, as Minister, and to Governments in making effective our production campaigns and in the suitable distribution of supplies. This cooperation of Government, native administrations, business and producers has gone far to meet the urgent allied needs, and nothing but complete co-operation could have achieved these results. That is the key-note—co-operation between Government, native a administrations, businesses and producers, in which they can all help each other.

I have touched lightly on the expenditure needed in connexion with improvements in health and education of the African, and in conclusion I would only say that all must work together. There is great work still to be done by the Government. As one noble Lord said, roads, railways, ports, air communications are tasks which only the Government can do. Take, for instance, that magnificent natural anchorage at Sierra Leone. There is still no mole where ships may tic up for loading and unloading. These great works are necessary, and Government alone can do them, but all must work together. Without competition there would be no incentive to efficiency, everything would be on a dead level. We should not be using the best characteristic of the British race, which is individualism. That, surely, is what we are fighting for; the other way is Hitlerism. I feel certain that all parties must and will agree to this. Some of the arguments we hear now are out of date. They are based on the view that in the past Government did not do what it should do, and neither did the great commercial firms. But for some years now the government has improved and is improving. The stimulus of the two wars, the impact of the economic crisis of 1931, and the new and more vigorous vision in the last ten years have produced an improvement in Government and in big firms alike. In future let us go forward together, remembering the appeal made by Mary Kingsley some forty years ago for religion, government and trade to regard each other as complementary members in a team of which each needed the others—religion to provide the inspiration, government the stable framework, and trade the progressive building element.


My Lords, the noble Lord who moved made his Motion in very wide terms, and no one will blame him for that, because the subject was a very wide one. I should like to start by paying a tribute to the most admirable reports produced by the West African Commission of the Lever-hulme Trust, of which the noble Lord was a member. Those reports have been of great value, both to the Colonial Office and to the Government concerned, and I can assure the noble Lord that the work of the Commission will bear fruit. Unfortunately the reports were made immediately before the war, and since then there have been great difficulties in the way of getting ahead. The noble Lord dealt very largely with Nigeria, and I propose in my reply to deal largely, but not exclusively, with that Colony. It is a great country, with 22,000,000 inhabitants, and we in the Colonial Office recognize fully that, in spite of all that has been done is the last fifty years—and a great deal has been done—very much remains to be done.

During the last five years we should like to have done very much more than has been possible but, as your Lordships know all Colonial Governments in these war years have been terribly overtaxed and overstrained by the immediate demands of the war effort. My noble friend Lord Swinton has had to go to a meeting at the Colonial Office and I can therefore pay a tribute perhaps rather more freely than if he were sitting here, to the tremendous work he has done in organizing West Africa for the war effort. It has had really gigantic consequences, and has beer most admirably performed. Practically all Colonial Governments are understaffed. Too many men were allowed to leave in the early days of the war, and since then the re has been natural wastage. Those whom the war has left are overworked and short of leave, and this applies especially to the Agriculture and Veterinary Departments, with which the noble Lord dealt this afternoon. He gave, quite rightly, a very high place to the question of roads and communications and to roadmaking and he asked me a specific question on that point. The main road system of Nigeria consists of two north-to-south roads and four east-to-west roads. Not all the links in this system have yet been constructed, and the existing stretches vary in quality.

It is a regrettable fact that not only construction, but even maintenance work, has had to be postponed during the war, as the Public Works Department has been so fully occupied with work for the Services. That acute demand has been dying down to some extent, but there was a moment when a great part of the war effort in the East had to pass through West Africa, and the Public Works Department was fully occupied with work of immediate necessity for the Services, both for the general building of accommodation for troops and the construction of aerodromes. I can assure your Lordships that that Department, understaffed and overstrained as it was, has really done a magnificent job for the Army and Navy. But there is much leeway to be made up after the war, and the rate of progress will depend on the supply of staff and materials during the next few years.

Meanwhile further construction work on the Sokoto-Maiduguri section of one of the cast-to-west roads is being undertaken this year. At the same time plans are being made for the building of new roads linking the Cameroons with the main road system of Nigeria so that the development of that extremely fertile but backward area may proceed. A road providing an outlet to the sea from the Central Cameroons is already being constructed, with assistance from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund, and an application is being prepared for two mole roads, one to provide an alternative outlet and another to link the Cameroons road system with the main road system from the Eastern Provinces and to link up the Cameroons for internal trade.

As I am touching on the Cameroons this may perhaps be an appropriate moment to reply to what the noble Lord said about the future of that territory. What I have said may to some extent reassure the noble Lord. I am not in a position to say this afternoon what is to be the ultimate future of Mandated Territories, but your Lordships will be familiar with the Prime Minister's utterances on the future of the British Empire, and I can assure your Lordships that the Cameroons will not be administered half-heartedly as if anticipating that some day they will be returned to the Germans. I cannot speak for future Governments, but it seems to me utterly unimaginable that any future Government, of whatever complexion, would entrust to the slaughterers and butchers of Europe the responsibility for the well-being of anyone in the world.

The question of roads and road construction is very closely bound up with that of general planning, and your Lordships will be interested to hear of the planning machinery which the Nigerian Government have set up. In the first place they have established an Advisory Committee on Economic Development and Social Welfare, including the three Chief Commissioners, to represent the Northern, Western, and Eastern Provinces, the heads of the Technical Departments, and -unofficial representatives, both African and European. This Committee is of its nature only a surveying body. Under it the Government have in the first place established working sub-committees and, in the second, a new section of the Secretariat specifically and exclusively charged with the co-ordination of planning activities of all the Departments.

The Government have appointed as head of the planning section of the Secretariat F. E. V. Smith, who was lately Commissioner of Industries and Commerce in Jamaica, and who will apply himself particularly to the economic and industrial sides. To deal with the rural side, Mr. J. N. Qliphant, who was Chief Conservator of Forests in Nigeria, has been appointed Adviser on Rural Development, and other officers will be added to the section as the work develops. Two sub-committees have been set up—one on rural land planning and development, and one on the economic development of the live-stock industry. The noble Lord will be glad to know that definite planning is going ahead to bring about improvements. The sub-committee on rural land planning and development, consisting of the Director of Agriculture, the Chief Conservator of Forests, and the Director of Veterinary Services, with the Adviser on Rural Development as secretary, will be concerned with land utilization, land settlement, the general policy for improved agricultural practice, irrigation, and finally with the immensely important problem, to which the noble Lord paid some attention, of soil erosion. This concerns obviously not only the Agriculture and Veterinary Departments but also the Forestry Department, the Sleeping Sickness Service, and the Administration as a whole.

I can assure the noble Lord and your Lordships' House that both we in the Colonial Office and the Colonial Governments are fully alive to the desperate seriousness of this problem of erosion. It is almost impossible to exaggerate it. In quite recent times man-made deserts had made their appearance in many parts of the world, and until quite recently it seemed that man had failed to learn the lessons of the past. I remember being immensely impressed during the campaign in the Western Desert in the last war by seeing where the whole desert had been studded with houses and there was a howling wilderness capable of supporting nothing but goats. In Australia the same thing has happened, large wheat-growing areas having been transformed into a howling desert. The lesson is being learnt in America where the "Dust Bowl" and other examples have driven the lesson home. It is fully realized that just as the Pax Romana, with its demand on African-grown foodstuffs, its large-scale Colonial development schemes, and the growth of population in Colonial territories which accompanied them, made its deserts so the Pax Britannica has already made others, and we must see to it that it makes no more. I agree with everything that fell from the noble Lord on that question.

The work of the sub-committee on the economic development of the live-stock industry, consisting of the Directors of Agriculture and Veterinary Services, is based on the principle that it is useless to maintain intensive measures of disease control and to provide extensive water supplies if the more rapid increase and improvement in herds which result are not to be made use of economically. The sub-committee will not be only making plans on paper, but considering schemes which are already in existence, and it will be concerned with the prevention of overstocking, the provision of greatly increased quantities of meat and dairy produce for the improvement of the native diet, and the development of the valuable export trade in hides and skins which is already well established. We envisage a long-term policy for the improvement of live stock, including selective breeding, the improvement of pastures and of housing for live stock, and the improvement of marketing arrangements, including fattening and transport, which in some areas is at present very inadequate. The noble Lord referred to transport, and he will accept my assurance, I hope, that that matter is receiving special attention.

The noble Lord also dealt with the question of tsetse fly and of the clearing of tsetse fly from the main cattle routes coming from the Northern Provinces. I can assure Iran that much attention has been paid by the Nigerian Government to that question. It was discussed in 1940 by the Residents' Conference of the Northern Provinces and also at the Chiefs' Conference. It was resolved that the clearing of fly from the entire length of all routes was impracticable at present, but that much advantage would accrue from clearing the bush for a distance of one hundred yards both above and below places where cattle routes crossed rivers or streams. In addition, it was resolv?d that well-defined stock routes should be established where these did not exist, passing as far as may be through country which is free from tsetse. It was further recommended that by-passes at towns be provided, that wells be dug along routes which are at present waterless, and that resting places should be established where cattle could graze and where fodder could be provided. The Government have endorsed these proposals in principle, but owing to the lack of staff either for the initial survey of routes or for the supervision of clearing, work which involves very large scale operations cannot be embarked upon during the war, though in some areas native authorities have been able to carry cut clearing work at river and stream crossings.

The noble Lord also touched on the question of refrigerated vans. I can report moderate progress only, but some valuable pioneer work has been carried out by the Nigerian Railways and the Veterinary Department in; co-operation. The railways nave designed and constructed three special cold-store wagons which they themselves provide with ice and which are much cheaper than refrigerating vans. Working with these the Veterinary Department have been able during the war to develop a trade—necessarily not a very large trade—in butter and cheese from the North for consumption in the South, and small quantities of beef and pork are also carried. That is a beginning. The development of a large-scale refrigerated meat industry in Nigeria is a much more complicated business which requires very careful consideration before capital—and to be any good it would have to be considerable capital—is sunk in it. At present the available market in Nigeria itself, with a small export trade to the Gold Coast, is not sufficient to carry the capital costs which would be required to establish the industry. The solution seems to be—I am sure the noble Lord would agree with this —a greatly increased consumption of meat by the inhabitants of the southern part of Nigeria, which would in itself be of immense nutritional advantage.

There are signs of an increasing demand for meat, and I have little doubt that this increase will continue when the African soldiers are demobilized. Here again I can give your Lordships the definite assurance that the Nigerian Government are fully alive to the importance of developing the trade in meat. Plans have been drawn up and are now under consideration by the Government for the establishment of a large abattoir in the Northern Provinces and for a dehydration and cold-storage plant. As the noble Lord, the Resident Minister, indicated in an aside, there is already a small production of biltong which has already taken place at Kano.

Then the noble Lord referred to cattle disease and the history of abating it. There, again, I can report very considerable progress. In recent years a very great deal of attention has been given to the immunization of live stock by the Veterinary Department. Every year large numbers of cattle are brought to the veterinary camps for rinderpest immunization, and the security afforded by the immunity which vaccination gives is encouraging cattle owners to build up improved herds. I do not want to weary your Lordships with a great number of figures but in the year 1941 over 430,000 cattle were vaccinated against rinderpest by the sero-virus method, while another 180,000 were temporarily immunized. In addition, 290,000 cattle were vaccinated against pleuro-pneumonia, 560,000 against blackwater, and nearly 100,000 against other diseases. In all, during the period 1931–1941, which is the last ten-year period available, a grand total of just on 14,000,000 immunizations and vaccinations were given against the various diseases to which bovines are subject.

The noble Lord also dealt with the development of peat and the possibility of abstracting petrol from it. In the time available I have not been able to find any trace in the office of an application for a grant to experiment on this process. I am grateful to the noble Lord for having raised the question and I shall look into it very carefully. As the noble Lord is aware experiments have been made in various parts of the world and they have not proved very encouraging, but I can assure him that the matter will be gone into. I can only say as regards the suggestion that there hive been some improper transactions, that if he will give chapter and verse I shall be only too grateful and I will look into it with the utmost care.

To turn to the work of the Agricultural Department, my right honourable friend's Agricultural Adviser has returned from his recent visit to Nigeria with very encouraging reports of the Department's agricultural plans. The Department has done admirable work in the past in the improvement of Nigerian agriculture and has played a very important part in the food production drive during the war. But I should like to say something of its plans for post-war development. They involve very considerable expenditure both capital and recurrent. The plans provide for the extension of the Agricultural Department to provide adequate agricultural services for the whole territory. This will involve a considerable increase in the European staff and a very much larger increase in the trained African staff.

In order to provide adequate numbers of trained African staff, greatly increased facilities for training will be required, and the Commission on Higher Education which has recently visited West Africa will no doubt be putting forward recommendations as to the form which these training facilities should take. Up to the end of 1942 the Department had already trained 23 African Assistant Agricultural Officers up to a standard approximating to that of the diploma of the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, 157 African agricultural assistants and a number of junior assistants or demonstrators to work under the native administrations. The Director's development programme calls for a much larger total staff of African assistant agricultural officers and agricultural assistants. In addition to the training of staff the Department is planning the establishment of farm schools with settlement schemes for the pupils on completion of their training. Two such schools are already in operation.

The plan also provides for the expansion of agricultural research, the appointment of additional research officers and in particular the extension of the palm oil research station at Benin which has made such an admirable start with a very inadequate staff. The plan also provides for the inauguration of a stock farm in the Eastern Provinces for solving the problems of animal husbandry and the improvement of native crops. The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, referred to the importance of getting food crops off the land. That question is being gone into. These research problems to which I have referred will form part of the plans for the establishment of research facilities for West Africa as a whole which the West African Government will be considering in consultation with the Development Adviser for West Africa. As regards the palm oil research station I think that the extreme importance to the economy of Nigeria and especially of Eastern Nigeria of improving the efficiency of the palm oil industry is generally recognized. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, dealt with that question and mentioned that the industry is threatened. I can assure him that that is very fully realized. This of course will involve not only technical research but an examination of the whole economic structure of the industry. As the noble Viscount knows very well, it is a very curious and complicated industry. The plan provides for the further development of the marketing section of the Department set up earlier in the war and for the expansion of the produce inspection service to cover all the principal exports. At present the exports covered are palm kernels, palm oil, groundnuts, cotton and cocoa.

Provision is also made in the plan for the speeding up of the extension of mixed farming by increasing the funds available for loans to farmers. Hitherto, some 2,20o mixed farms have been established and the experience so far gained suggests that an expansion at an increased rate will be fully justified. The plan also envisages the provision of funds to enable farmers to purchase machinery for handling and preparing agricultural produce. Much good land in the neighbourhood of rivers could be brought under cultivation by means of irrigation and drainage schemes. A brief survey of the possiblities has recently been made by the Irrigation and drainage engineer of Sierra Leone and it suggests that without considering schemes of an ambitious nature a great deal could be achieved in this direction at comparatively small cost. Nigeria cannot afford to neglect these great and untouched resources and it is to be hoped that it will be possible to make a start with this work as soon as trained staff becomes available.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, laid great stress, and rightly, on the importance of co-operative working and marketing. That is under active consideration by my right honourable friend in consultation with West African Governments and the Reside at Minister. I rather think he is discussing it with the Resident Minister at this moment. I cannot carry that very much further to-day. We do realize the importance of the co-operative movement in West Africa and its great possibilities as means not only of raising the standard of life but the standard of education and rendering the people there more fitted for self-government. I endorse every word the noble Lord said on that subject. We are very fully alive to the importance of co-operative marketing and a new Co-operative Department has just been set up in the Gold Coast. I quite agree with every word the noble Lord said and I am glad he stressed it as he did. The apartment of Agriculture is also responsible for fisheries work and the Senior Agricultural Officer has been engaged for some two years on a survey of the marine and inland fisheries in Southern Nigeria. Fishery development is very important both from the economic and from the nutritional point of view and the necessity for developing a fishery sere ice is now generally admitted.

Then the noble Lord also raised the question of acquiring for the West African Colonies some of the surplus Army stocks of transport vehicles which should be available in great numbers after the war. I am glad he raised that point and he probably noticed that my noble friend, the Resident Minister, nodded his head vigorously when it was mentioned. This matter is under active consideration at the moment. It is certainly desirable that Colonial Governments should have a chance of securing the use of the surplus vehicles and the Resident Minister and the West African Governments have already been giving consideration to the types of equipment which it is desirable they should obtain in this way. The Colonial Office is maintaining close touch with the Government Departments which will be responsible for the disposal of surplus vehicles and other equipment. I can assure the noble Lord that it is being very carefully looked into.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, dealt with the grouping of Colonies and the formation of larger groups. I ant not in a position to give anything like a definite answer this afternoon, but I can assure him that our minds are working along those lines. The mere fact of the appointment of a Resident Minister to deal with all West African Colonies, the fact of the establishment of the Governors' Conference in East Africa and the appointment of a Development Officer and a Joint Planning Officer for West Africa as a whole shows that we are certainly not tending towards a break-up but that the tendency is all the other way. Further than that I cannot go at the moment.

Then the noble Viscount spoke about an Advisory Committee to assist my right honourable friend. A great many Committees—perhaps my noble friend thinks too many—advise him already. Here again I have had no opportunity of consulting my right honourable friend, but for myself I believe it is better that he should be advised by Committees with various functions than by an Advisory Committee. An Advisory Committee dealing with the Colonies in general would find itself lost in that colossal task. There are committees on animal husbandry, on medicine, on fisheries and on a very large number of other subjects, and there is the quite recently appointed Economic Advisory Committee which is a very high-powered Committee composed of men of great eminence and experience. Of course, economics covers almost every field. I do not think it would be profitable to have an Advisory Committee.


May I be allowed to interrupt? The noble Duke will no doubt remember the Government Committee which Lord Haldane advised at the end of the last war. It is really that again.


I have no doubt the noble Viscount's suggestion will be very carefully considered in the Office, but I believe the breaking down of the problems which the Office has to consider is better than setting up a committee to advise over the whole field. Then the noble Viscount spoke about a staff college. Again, to my great regret, I cannot give a definite reply. A Committee has been going very carefully into the whole question of the future training and recruitment of staff. The Committee has not yet reported but my right honourable friend will be guided to a very large extent by the findings of the Committee. The report is, I think, almost complete, but until it is in my right honourable friend's hands, and he has pronounced upon it, I cannot give a complete answer. I can say, however, that plans for proper training on an adequate scale after the war are under very careful consideration and are being actively examined. The noble Viscount will fully realize that we have a great problem to face because of the almost desperate shortage of staff in the Colonial Service. While conditions make it urgently necessary that we should have a very greatly increased staff as quickly as possible, it is also very important indeed that we should not by crash recruiting take in people who may not be up to standard and who may prove a disappointment in years to come. The problem is to get men in time but not to recruit so hastily that we get people not sufficiently trained or not up to the very high standard required.

The noble Viscount referred also to the fact that when we really get going £5,000,000 a year will be a drop in the ocean. My right honourable friend has said the same thing several times. We are not able to spend that money now owing to lack of shipping, lack of men and lack of materials, but when shipping, men and materials become available we shall have to ask for more money. How much more Parliament will allow I do not know.


If part of that £5,000,000 is not spent in the course of a year does it accumulate? Is it an accumulating fund?


I think it is £50,000,000 spread over ten years, but I think we shall probably have to come to Parliament for more money before the expiration of that time. Until very recently the Secretary of State had no money to spend and Colonies had to finance themselves out of their own resources. For the first time we have some money to spend, but that will not be nearly enough when peace returns. My speech, I am afraid, has been necessarily scrappy. So many questions were asked and I have tried to answer them all. I can assure the noble Lord that with this new feature in Colonial administration of having money to spend on development we are looking with new eyes at Colonial problems, and I can assure him that we are thinking of an era of really great development.


My Lords, I think your Lordships will agree that this debate has been justified if only because of the very fine statement we have heard from the noble Duke. Without any reservation I express my gratitude to him and I am sure that in doing so I can speak not only on my own behalf but on behalf of all noble Lords present. My only regret is that there was not a larger visible audience to hear the statement. There are two points on which I should like to comment. The first is with regard to the Cameroons. I hope there will be no possibility of their going back to Germany. In that connexion, may I give a hitherto unpublished paragraph of history? In 1938 when we were out there a wild rumour rain through Africa that they were going to be handed over to the Germans. Everywhere we were met by that statement. I had to telegraph home to the Prime Minister, then Mr. Chamberlain, to ask for a denial, which he sent. It had to be cried in the bazaars. While that was a tribute to British administration it was an indication of a fear which I hope will not be felt again. My second point is about petroleum. I will send the noble Duke such information as I have and indicate the source from which I obtained it. I beg leave to withdraw my motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.