HL Deb 26 January 1944 vol 130 cc519-58

THE EARL OF LISTOWEL had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government, what is being done to prepare for the organization of security, material development, and welfare services throughout the Empire on a regional basis, as a step towards the system of international collaboration foreshadowed by the Atlantic Charter and the Moscow Conference, and whether the subject of regional co-operation will be on the agenda of the forthcoming Conference of Prime, Ministers; and move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, it is a concidence, but I think rather a happy coincidence, that this debate on the Empire should be taking place on Australia Day. Perhaps we should all wish to begin the afternoon by conveying our greetings and best wishes to that young Dominion and our deep gratitude for the wonderfully great contribution that Australia has made to the war. This is the first time in my recollection that a debate on the Empire as a whole, as distinct from problems relating to any of its constituent elements, has been initiated by a Motion from these Benches, and I think perhaps it is, therefore, a suitable moment to clear up certain misunderstandings about the attitude of the Labour Party to the Empire. I do not suppose anyone in these days imagines that we are "Little Englanders," to use that ancient and well-worn expression, and that we desire to cut off this island from its Imperial connexions. It is scarcely less a travesty of our published policy and of the repeated public declarations of our Party leaders to suggest that we are indifferent to our obligations towards India or the dependent Empire or unmoved by our kinship with the Dominions.

In a recent debate in another place a speaker seemed to think that, save for a small handful of Colonial experts, the Labour Party was only just waking up to the existence of the Empire. The fact is that for many years we have studied Imperial problems with the utmost seriousness and with real anxiety to do our best for all who give their allegiance to the British Crown. An Imperial Affairs Advisory Committee meets fortnightly during the Parliamentary Session and reports to the Executive Committee of the Labour Party. On the strength of these reports the Labour Party published last year a pamphlet outlining its policy in relation to our Dependencies in Africa and the West Indies. I need hardly remind the House, if further proof is not otiose, that the Party leaders have shown their sincerity in word and deed. Mr. Attlee is a Vice-President of the Imperial Parliamentary Association and my noble friend opposite, Lord Snell, is a joint treasurer of that admirable club for the members of Imperial Legislatures. Mr. Herbert Morrison, in one of the statesmanlike speeches which he made last year on the main issues of internal and external world affairs, told his audience in the north of England that he regarded the British Commonwealth as a great factor of world stability and progress, and he mapped out at the same time an ambitious programme of post-war economic and social development.

The truth surely is that the Empire is not a monopoly of any political Party, that the welfare of all its inhabitants is of common concern, and that its contribution to the future of the family of nations is acknowledged by everyone to be a tremendous national responsibility. The essential difference between Conservatives and Socialists, to my mind at any rate, is a difference of emphasis, of focus, rather than a sharp cleavage on any matter of basic principle. The Conservative tends to underline the traditional aspect of Imperial relations and to look perhaps with special favour on people of British descent overseas whose enterprise and industry have carried the British way of life into remote and originally backward areas. The Socialist is inclined to be suspicious of tradition as the enemy of change and to champion the indigenous population whose political emancipation or economic advancement is apt to be slowed down by the selfish claims of the European.

These and other differences of emphasis are crystallized in the two familiar words, "Empire" and "Commonwealth." An experienced political speaker will know almost instinctively whether his audience will respond more readily to the finished picture of an ordered hierarchy or to the rough sketch of a straggling procession of peoples moving steadily towards equality and freedom. But to blurt out the wrong name may be unpopular and, possibly, embarrassing without necessarily being incorrect. If we follow the precedent set by the famous Balfour Report of the Imperial Conference of 1926 we can use either "the British Empire" or "the British Commonwealth" when we are speaking of the whole area coloured red on the map. This may not please the legal purists or even the compilers of dictionaries, but I think it corresponds pretty closely to what the average man means when he makes use of either of these everyday expressions. Both the Empire man and the Commonwealth man are in fact talking about exactly the same thing, although, of course, it looks entirely different according to whether you are viewing it with piety from the Right or with impatience from the Left. We believe the time has now come for a joint effort by us and the Dominions, following the inspiring example set by Australia and New Zealand at Canberra, to work out an agreed plan for the future of inter-Imperial relations, Imperial foreign policy and Imperial defence, in order to be able to speak with one voice about the peace settlement in Europe and the Far East and about the organization of the Empire in the world as it will be alter the war. I submit that this should be the main task of the forthcoming Conference of Prime Ministers.

What I am concerned with in my Motion is only the second of these questions—the organization of the Empire in the post-war world. It is a subject to which statesmen and men of vast experience in Imperial affairs both in this country and in the Dominions have, for a considerable time past, been turning their minds. The direction in which their minds are moving is towards a more complex system of co-operation, involving an adaptation and expansion of our present network of Imperial contacts, to meet the enormously increased requirements of the post-war period. They assert in common that the British way of making progress is by the co-operation of equals for their common advantage, and not by the coercion of subordinates under a superior authority. The protagonists of federal or international authority may be too distant from the political scene to realize that their projects might stand a better chance of acceptance if they were revived a hundred years hence. But the place surely for the philosophy of politics and society is not, wherever else it may be, in the exchanges of Parliamentary debate, and the practical man may be excused for concentrating on more limited and immediate objectives. We cannot expect the Dominions and foreign countries to join with us in this unprecedented co-operative effort, unless we make clear from the outset that there will be no interference with existing national sovereignty.

There is a remarkable consensus of opinion that this adventure in co-operation lies in a regional combination of States and Dependencies having common interests in the same area of the globe. The desirability of increased co-operation on regional lines has been emphasized in recent speeches by Mr. Curtin and Field-Marshal Smuts and, in this country, it has been advocated by, amongst others, Sir Edward Grigg, the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Prime Minister himself. What they all have in mind is the establishment after the war of consultative Regional Committees, to assist Governments with their considered advice about the many problems that cut right across political boundaries. The latest and most recent contribution to constructive proposals on these lines is the recommendation of the Australian and New Zealand Governments in favour of a South Seas Regional Commission with representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Australia and New Zealand, to advise on the welfare of native populations in that area. I wonder very much whether the noble Viscount opposite can tell us anything about the attitude of the Government to these proposals.

But agreement—and agreement is obviously essential if any progress is to be made—about the structure of regional co-operation will only be possible if there is reciprocal respect for existing sovereign rights. There was, I thought, a passage in what Field-Marshal Smuts said last month, about the need for devolution and administrative decentralization from Whitehall to dependent British Africa, that sounded ominously like a rumbling of distant thunder. He was proposing that our African Dependencies should be given in the near future a further instalment of self-government and administrative responsibility; not individually, but merged with their neighbours in larger units each under a Governor-General. This would mean, of course, that in West Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa you would have three entirely new political entities each with something approaching Dominion status. In West Africa there may indeed be a case for inquiry, though it would seem at first sight that early unification might be impracticable and so high a degree of autonomy might be dangerously premature. A more promising line of advance would surely be regional organization. In West Africa it would inherit the co-ordinating activities of the present Resident Minister, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. Can the noble Viscount say—I apologize to him for addressing these questions because, although I sent my notes to him, I did not include these specific questions—whether the Government are thinking of West Africa in regional terms (and of course by West Africa we mean French possessions as well as British), and might it not be said as a general proposition that West Africa is just as suitable for regional development as the West Indies or the Pacific?

May I revert for a moment to the Smuts plan for devolution throughout British Africa? In East, Central and Southern Africa the facts have been recently and minutely examined and the conclusion cannot really be in doubt. I need hardly remind your Lordships that in 1931 a joint Select Committee of both Houses turned down the proposal of the Hilton Young Commission for the amalgamation of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, because African witnesses objected to closer association with Kenya and to the interposition of a Governor-General between themselves and the Colonial Office. In 1935 amalgamation was again mooted by Kenya and again rejected by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in face of the opposition of African and Indian opinion. Only last month a meeting of representatives of the Indian communities in these three territories passed a unanimous resolution against amalgamation after the war. The Bledisloe Commission reported quite recently, in the year war broke out, on the desirability of closer union between the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. They were against a federation or early amalgamation of the three territories, and one of their main reasons was the restrictive tendency of native policy in Southern Rhodesia. But Southern Rhodesia is already straining violently at the leash. Its Prime Minister, Sir Godfrey Huggins, speaking in the Legislative Assembly on May 5 of last year, is reported as having said: I do think as soon as the embarrassment caused by the war departs we should, as a Colony, definitely put up a big fight for immediate amalgamation with the Northern Territories.

I think that that is a serious warning of which everyone should take note.

Finally, there is the intensely difficult and delicate relationship between the three Protectorates of Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland and the Union of South Africa. Three times since 1920 has the Union asked permission to incorporate these territories. The Dominions Office has steadily refused, on the last occasion, as recently as 1935, because the Bantus are terrified of the Union's native policy, and would regard any action taken without their consent as a breach of their agreement with the Crown. Let us clear the ground for effective post-war co-operation in Africa, by repeating that we cannot consider any change in the status of our African Dependencies without the prior consent of their native-born inhabitants. To put the matter quite bluntly the British public has been nourished too long on the milk of trusteeship to stand for the spread of racial discrimination to territory directly under its control. Parliament and public opinion have acknowledged over many years their inescapable duty of sheltering from policies of segregation or parallel development those who can rightly claim the protection of the British Crown. It will be generally agreed that Field-Marshal Smuts was driving home an important truth when he said that the Commonwealth and the dependent Empire have lived too long in watertight compartments, and that there should be, after the war, a real partnership between the Dominions and the adjacent British Dependencies. It is indeed encouraging to know that we can look to South Africa, under his great leadership, to associate more closely with its poverty-stricken neighbours, and thus to play the leading part everyone desires it to play in the economic and social development of the African Continent.

I am asking the Government to say as much as they can at this moment about the composition, the functions and the powers of the regional bodies they have in mind. The original statement of the Government's intentions was made in another place in July last year by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I should very much like to know, if the noble Viscount who is going to reply can tell us, what has been done to implement those intentions, and particularly whether any approaches have been made to Dominion Governments or to foreign Governments whom we should expect to participate. I should like also, if I may, to submit certain practical suggestions for the consideration of the Government. I believe it is vitally important that Colonial peoples should be represented in the inner circle of discussion, and be encouraged to take an active part in every branch of the work of these regional organizations. They would thus supplement the direct representation of Colonial Governments and of any States participating on account of their strategic or economic interests in the area. I do not think it would be possible for these bodies to function efficiently without the backing of a permanent secretariat such as the Secretariat of the League of Nations or the International Labour Office. It would be staffed by civil servants with a sound knowledge of the subjects liable to be dealt with.

In a world-wide system of security by continents or regions, such as we see growing up in Europe to-day, it will be essential for every separate region to plan and to co-ordinate its own security arrangements. How far regional bodies, as distinct from the ordinary Diplomatic and Service channels, can be utilized for this purpose is a matter for the Governments concerned to decide. I believe that the main objective of these regional bodies ought to be to speed up material development. This can be done by planning politically discrete and heterogeneous units as an economic whole and by stimulating among relatively poor and backward peoples such key social services as public health, education and housing. The three essentials of expanding production and higher standards among these long-neglected dependent communities are a free market, abundant capital investments and sufficient expert technical advice. It would be in accordance with the terms of the Atlantic Charter if, after the war, the Governments of the United Nations were to make a concerted effort to free the channels of world trade. The lead might very properly come from us, as the Ottawa experiment in Empire self-sufficiency has taught us a bitter lesson in Empire self-insufficiency. The growth of heavy and secondary industries overseas during the war has emphasized the impossibility, from the point of view of all concerned, of a complementary trade relationship. Both the Dominions and ourselves will have to look increasingly to world rather than to Empire markets to receive the products of exporting industries. Nor should it be forgotten that the preferential duties which are paid by our Dependencies, even if they do not contravene the terms of any treaty, are, in fact, an offence against the spirit of trusteeship. We can also invoke in support of a lowering of Colonial tariffs the reference in the Atlantic Charter to equal access for all nations to trade and raw materials.

If, as I very ardently hope, we do revert after the war to our traditional and time-honoured policy of the open door, and if there is a general drive to clear away existing obstacles to trade, we might use these regional bodies to prepare local agreements for the removal of trade restrictions. A no less useful function for such bodies would be to arrange for undeveloped areas to borrow capital from countries with an investment surplus. Loans for opening up communications, for establishing public utilities, for assisting native agriculture and secondary industries, and for capital expenditure for the equipment of essential social services, are long-term ventures unattractive to the private investor. The only hope for these backward areas lies in a joint effort by the Governments of the highly developed industrial nations to finance the initial outlay of capital they will require. There is no doubt that the £5,000,000 a year which was voted by us under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act will be a mere flea-bite. I was glad to sec that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, speaking at Leeds a fortnight ago, emphasized the insufficiency of this sum.

Finally, to guarantee that such regions advance on the right lines and in accordance with the latest views on health, education, agriculture and other problems relating to the local economy, there should be a permanent staff of technical experts. They would act like the Caribbean Research Council of the Caribbean Commission, as a common and growing pool of up-to-date information, on which any member of the Regional Association who desired to do so could draw. There is one other task which I believe that these Regional Associations could profitably undertake. Like the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, they should receive and publish regular reports about the Dependencies in their area, compiled by the responsible national administrations. That is the existing practice of the Mandates Commission. I should like that practice to be enlarged a little. At less frequent intervals, the Regional Commissions should themselves publish a review of progress in the direction of self-government and improved standards of life, and they should be given whatever powers may be necessary to obtain information for this purpose. Experience has conclusively shown the value of publicity in keeping Governments up to the mark, and I should like to think that the affairs of all dependent territories were an open book for world opinion to read.

The aftermath of the war will be a great historical opportunity. Whatever we do or do not do then will leave an indelible mark on the lives of millions. The political leaders of the United Nations will then complete the work which has been done by their Armed Forces, and on their decisions will depend how long and how far the world is really free from fear and want. It is surely the duty of this country, as the major Power with the longest and most varied experience in the art of government, and as the only major Power with literally world-wide interests and commitments, to do its best to assure that neither we nor others allow this opportunity to slip. I hope that this country will give a bold lead by its proposals for closer collaboration inside and outside the Empire towards the integration of the British Commonwealth in a wider system of organized international co-operation, without which promises of peace and plenty will be the most cruel deception. I beg to move.


My Lords, your Lordships' House has on various occasions debated the general problems of the Colonial Empire in recent years. On two of those occasions it has done so on the Motions brought forward by the noble Earl who has just spoken with such width of knowledge and with so much ability. On both those previous occasions, in November, 1941, and December, 1942, I had the privilege of supporting the general propositions which the noble Earl then laid before the House. I was glad to notice on this occasion a certain measure of reciprocity, for the noble Earl, speaking for the Labour Party, for the first time, so far as I can remember, made some scathing observations with regard to the effect of the Ottawa agreements upon the Colonial Empire and called for their speedy abandonment. I noted and welcomed those observations.

Such debates have also taken place of late in the other House of Parliament, and there have been many articles and letters in the monthly, weekly and daily Press, and particularly a series of very able articles in The Times. All this shows a great interest on the part of the public and also a great concern, and a greater interest and a greater concern than have been shown before, I believe, in the memory of any of us. That has been due partly to specific events in various parts of the Colonial Empire. There has been the long depression and discontent in the West Indies. Efforts have been made to bring remedies to bear through the Colonial Welfare Act and in either ways. There has been Lord Hailey's remarkable, and indeed monumental, survey of the African Colonies, and of late there has been the shock to public opinion owing to events in Malaya and Burma, and the absence of any very marked proofs of vehement local resistance to the attacks made upon them by Japan. Last of all, there have been the Atlantic Charter and the declaration of the Moscow Conference, striking a note of internationalism which raises the question of how far the existence of any Colonial Empire can be sustained in the modern world.

In the previous debates which have taken place here, and also in the Press, I have ventured to suggest that it is essential that the British Parliament should be more closely identified than it has been hitherto with the administration of the Colonal Empire, and that that could best be achieved through the appointment, as a regular organ of the Constitution, of a Joint Standing Committee of the two Houses on Colonial Affairs, not to exercise any executive or controlling powers, and not at all to be analogous to the Committees of the French Chamber and Senate, but to be limited to the functions of inquiry, report and recommendation. This proposal has received a considerable measure of support also in the other House. However, this is not the occasion on which to press this proposition, or to expect any Government reply, for it is clearly not covered by the terms of the Motion of the noble Earl, and if I were to elaborate it I should be introducing an element of confusion into this debate. There have been other proposals for dealing with Colonial problems, one of which has been the establishment of a Colonial Development Board. More important than any, of course, is the fostering of the continual growth of self-government in the various Colonies themselves. This Motion, however, deals not only with the internal organization of the British Colonial Empire, but also with its external aspect. It refers to dealing with matters on a regional basis as a step towards the system of international collaboration foreshadowed by the Atlantic Charter and the Moscow Conference; and it is to that that I would chiefly address my observations.

The rest of the world is interested, and has a right to be interested, in the manner in which the British Colonial Empire is governed, and such interest ought not to be resented by us. All countries, and especially those which have been called the "have-not" countries—Germany, Italy and Japan, which have no great and prosperous Colonial Empires—are interested in getting their supplies of raw materials from the vast areas of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and in finding markets there for their own products. The prosperity and the good government of our Colonies affects those countries also, and affects in a very direct degree the neighbouring Colonies of other States. Most of your Lordships will have read the very remarkable and interesting book by Mr. Wendell Willkie, called One World. That very title shows the note which he wishes to strike and the idea which is now seething in the minds of men all over the globe, that this is one world, and that the well-being of each part of it is the concern of all of them. That is the note which is struck in the Atlantic Charter and in the declarations of the Moscow Conference.

And most important in this respect is the interest that is taken in the British Commonwealth and Empire in the United States. We are all aware that the most important aspect of British foreign policy is the question of Anglo-American relations, and British Colonial questions have a very considerable bearing upon it. Mr. Winant, who is a good friend of this country and measures his words when he speaks, said that in America there was a greater divergence of viewpoint on British Colonial policy than on any other subject. The question of India again, on which unfortunately American opinion is exceedingly ill-informed, has great influence upon American public opinion in its relations with great Britain. The memories of the War of Independence are still not dead, the Irish question has had a profound influence upon Anglo-American relations, and in general it is what is called British Imperialism in its various aspects which is the one really formidable obstacle to close and wholehearted friendship and co-operation between the United States and this country.

When we cast our eyes to this year and next year and perhaps the year after, and envisage the great campaigns that will have to be fought on sea and on land for the rescue of Malaya and Burma, and when we remember that the United States will be taking a very leading share in those campaigns and will be called upon to make great sacrifices on land, on sea and in the air in order to secure a victory, it is natural to expect that they will be keenly interested in what is to be the future fate of those vast territories which will be restored to the British Empire largely through their efforts. The people of the United States are keenly interested in these matters, and public opinion there governs. The Prime Minister has said that our affairs and those of the United States will be a good deal mixed up together, and that is true; but we must take all measures of precaution that we can to secure that they shall not be tangled up, and that the inter-relation of British and American action, military, naval and air, shall not cause any divergence of view or of action between ourselves and the United States.

That, broadly, is the situation of the British Colonial Empire in the world to-day, and the question is whether there is need for some great and important development of policy in order to ensure that our Colonial Empire shall take its place in the new international systems which are now perhaps in embryo. At the beginning of these discussions, in the earlier part of the war, some voices were heard in this country suggesting that all the Colonies of all the Colonial Empires should be pooled together, and that each one should be administered by some form of international body. Those voices now are seldom heard, because as soon as that proposition is analysed and examined by practical men, statesmen and administrators, it is seen to be one that ought not to be supported, either in the interests of the Colonies themselves or of international relations. The present Colonial Secretary, Colonel Stanley, said a few months ago that His Majesty's Government were convinced that the administration of British Colonies must continue to be the sole responsibility of Great Britain, and I think that that is the general opinion of all Parties in this country. That, of course, does not touch the question of Colonial self-government to which he was not referring in that connexion.

But there are various ways in which this international interest might very properly be displayed, and there are various precedents. The first was in relation to what was called the Congo Basin—the Berlin General Act of 1885, which dealt internationally with a very large part of tropical Africa, extending far beyond the bounds of the Congo Free State and covering about a million square miles. That General Act laid down that the administration of various territories in that great belt of Africa should not be merely left to the unchallenged and unchecked sovereignty of the particular countries governing it, but there should be laid down the general rule of the "open door" throughout that area for the trade of all nations, and further, that the welfare of the inhabitants should be the governing principle. There was, however, no machinery provided for supervision to effect those objects. But the Act was useful, because when grave abuses took place in the Congo Free State at a time when it was the personal property and domain of King Leopold II of Belgium, it was open to this Parliament to take action to secure a remedy. It happened indeed that I myself, as a very young member of the House of Commons more than forty years ago, had an opportunity of bringing forward a Motion drawing attention to abuses in the administration of the Congo which, being accepted by Mr. Balfour, then Prime Minister, was the origin of the inquiries made by our Government and by the Belgian Government into Congo maladministration, and led to the transfer of the whole territory to the Belgian State from King Leopold and to the speedy reform and remedy of all these abuses. So that international Act, signed by the Powers in Berlin in 1885, although it gave no control, did give a locus standi to the other signatories to endeavour to ensure that its provisions should be observed.

Then in 1919, after the last war, when dealing with the territories severed from the German and Turkish Empires, the system of Mandates was established under the supervision of the League of Nations, and this country held Mandates for Iraq, Palestine, Tanganyika and our portion of the Cameroons (about one-sixth of the whole), and others were held by some of our Dominions, and by France and other States, all under this method of international supervision. It worked, I venture to say, exceedingly well. Again I had in opportunity of some first-hand knowledge, since I had to represent the Government of Palestine before the Mandates Commission at Geneva, and had experience at close quarters of the working of the system for about five years. The Mandates Commission of the League of Nations showed great competence, great impartiality and scrupulous fairness, and took great pains; and I think it may be said that the system has worked exceedingly well.

Now there is this new proposal to which Colonel Stanley, on behalf of the Government, has given his adhesion—namely, a system of regional conferences to which the Resolution of the noble Lord very largely relates. I foresee some risks about these conferences. The idea is that the Governments of various Colonies belonging to different Powers, say in West Africa or East Africa, or the West Indies, or wherever it may be, should meet in periodic conferences to deal with matters of common interest. There are different methods of government in these various countries—for example, in the Portuguese Colonies; and others in South-West and South-East Africa—and it might be that the various speeches and motions made in these conferences, which I presume would be public, would be regarded as stirring up dissatisfaction in the neighbouring Colonies between the native populations and the Government. Besides which, it is an unfortunate manifestation of human nature that the troubles of our neighbours are not always a source of unmixed regret. They help to console us for our own; and it is possible that various Colonies of one nationality might not be very sorry to think they are more free from troubles than their neighbours. In addition, all these Colonies are usually competitors in trade one against the other.

I am not sure that local Governors and their staffs are necessarily the best people to adjust differences that may arise between them, or to deal with questions of policy that ought rather to be within the purview of the metropolitan State. There is always a risk that closer contact may give rise to greater friction. Still, although there are these risks, I do not think they are a reason for not making the experiment. There may be an advantage in bringing differences of opinion out into the open. It may prevent their festering and causing sores. I should myself support the proposal to make the experiment, and every endeavour should be made to ensure its success—that is to say, if the other States concerned also favour it, we in turn ought not to withhold our support and participation.

This idea of regional conferences and co-operation has, as the noble Lord has said, received in the last week a great impetus from the action of the Australian and New Zealand Governments at the Canberra Conference, which has arrived at a definite agreement. That agreement has been made public, and it is now being signed. This House will not pass without sympathetic attention anything which affects the interests and welfare of Australia and New Zealand for, in spite of geographical distance, we regard all these matters as a close concern of our own. The interests of Australia and New Zealand are, of course, very largely identical. The character of their populations, their strategic situation, their attachment to the British Commonwealth —all these things have naturally led them to hold common views and to pursue the same ideals. Nevertheless there has been no question of the amalgamation of the two into one State, nor indeed of a federation—by a federation meaning a single Parliament and Government. That is not proposed. Rather is the suggestion now for something in the nature of confederation between the two Governments. I believe, myself, that in the principle of confederation—that is to say, a permanent union between Governments and possibly Parliaments—lies the pattern for solving the international constitutional problems of many parts of Europe and of the world.

This new union between Australia and New Zealand that has been formally effected is in no way detrimental to the continued unity of the British Commonwealth as a whole, to which all here attach prime importance, not only for the sake of our own interests and status, but also for the sake of the interests of all parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and because we believe it to be of service to the world at large. On the contrary, in the very interest of the unity of the Commonwealth as a whole, this new development in the Southern Pacific should be welcomed. The closer Australia and New Zealand come together, the more they can add to their own political stature, the more they can increase their influence and authority in the world, the more they make their knowledge and experience fruitful and their power effective, the better it will be for the Commonwealth as a whole. The Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. Curtin, said at the Canberra Conference: That the Dominions could act both as separate units and as members of the British Commonwealth, would not weaken but strengthen the ties binding the nations to the British Commonwealth. And he went on to say that this agreement is "a landmark in the constitutional growth of the British Commonwealth." That, I believe, is true.

There has to be a constant readjustment of the relations between the centre and the other parts. In methods of consultation and co-ordination of policy, there has been a continual adjustment going on, and going on for a century and more, between the powers and actions of the metropolitan State here and those of the various parts of the British Commonwealth, always in relation to the underlying and permanent problem of how to combine the unity of the whole with the liberty of each part. Sometimes the tendencies are centrifugal, sometimes centripetal. Mr. Curtin himself, while now supporting this policy which seems at first sight centrifugal—away from the centre—has been advocating a contrary tendency in the form of a more formal organization of the Commonwealth here in London, suggesting that there might be a more permanent organ for consultation between the various portions of the Commonwealth. It has often been suggested that the Imperial Conference ought to have a permanent standing organization with a permanent secretariat; but that proposal has not received approval in Canada or in South Africa, and it would be well to be very cautious in pressing from here any of the Dominions to take action rather in advance of what their own public opinion would approve. If anything is to be done in the way of creating a permanent Imperial secretariat, the initiative should rather come from the Dominions than be pressed upon them by the Government here at home.

All these matters will no doubt be discussed at the meeting of Dominion Prime Ministers, which has been long desired and will be eagerly welcomed, when it comes about in the near future. The Canberra agreement is regional, but not isolationist. Not only does it recognize Commonwealth responsibilities but, more than that, it recognizes the importance of international considerations—using that word in the wider sense. Mr. Curtin has described it as "a regional understanding serving a global ideal." Mr. Fraser, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, said at the Conference that, like Australia, New Zealand regarded membership of the British Commonwealth as the fundamental principle of her external policy, but wished to collaborate with other Pacific Powers in assuring the security of the Pacific. He went on to say that peace was indivisible and the machinery for the preservation of peace should be world-wide.

Thus we see that Australia and New Zealand regard themselves, first, as a kind of dual body working together in their own immediate interests; secondly, as loyal members of the British Commonwealth, which plays its part in world questions as a whole; and, thirdly, as anxious to participate in what the Prime Minister has called "some world institution" which will act on behalf of all nations in trying to guarantee the peace of the world. Therefore they have suggested as immediate measures an international conference of powers interested in the Pacific to exchange views on problems and to secure post-war development and native welfare. They also propose that a South Seas Regional Commission be established, consisting of representatives of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Australia, and New Zealand, with advisory functions dealing with the welfare of the native populations. As the noble Earl has reminded us to-day this is Australia Day, the anniversary of the foundation of the Commonwealth, and I should like to join with him, as we all would wish to do, in sending congratulations on this anniversary, and also on the successes that have been achieved by the magnificent war effort of Australia and of New Zealand, including Maoris, who with unsurpassed valour have greatly contributed to the victories obtained in the Middle East and in the Southern Pacific.

Finally, there is one other point relating to the international issue to which I would invite your Lordships' attention. Besides this proposal for regional organizations of an international character, it has been suggested that the Mandate principle under the League of Nations might be extended to include all Colonies of all nations French, Dutch, Belgian, Portuguese, as well as our own. Such an international commission should not have executive or administrative functions, but should give an opportunity for the ventilation of grievances, should bring to bear the moral effect of publicity, and above all, should enable all the countries of the world who are signatories of the Atlantic Charter to assure themselves that in practice and over the course of years the principles of that Charter are, in fact, observed in the Colonial Empires of the various great Powers. Such a Mandates Commission, or whatever it might be called, a body on the model of the Mandates Commission, would not have the last word, as the Mandates Commission did not. The Power which administers any Colony must have the last word since it is responsible for maintenance of order, for finance, for defence, and nothing could be worse than to divorce responsibility from power. But while still retaining all the powers of administration that now exist in the hands of the metropolitan State, still very useful functions could be performed, I believe, by an international authority of that kind, if it were generally desired by the various countries concerned and particularly by the United States.

This proposal and the proposal for Regional Conferences are not alternatives. They are not mutually exclusive. You can have both the occasional Regional Conference among the representatives of the various States that have immediate interests there, and a world-wide organization which would no doubt work with committees dealing with the different parts of the globe, representing all the Powers who are interested in Colonial questions, whether holding Colonies or not, and therefore including the United States. At this stage I would not suggest that it is the duty of His Majesty's Government to formulate any cut-and-dried schemes, either with regard to regions or with regard to wider authority. Let these ideas fructify in the minds of those concerned in this country, in the United States and elsewhere, and then when the war is over let us go to the council chamber, having considered these matters beforehand; not going there in any spirit of negation, not in a mood of resentful resistance of any tendency on the part of other countries to interest themselves in the future of the one-fourth of the globe which lives under the British flag; but rather in a receptive spirit anxious to participate in the fulfilment of any desire that there might be for all countries to take a friendly concern in the advancement of those who in the course of history are still the more backward peoples of the world.


My Lords, after the two extremely eloquent speeches your Lordships have heard this afternoon, I am afraid you may consider me guilty of some temerity in intervening in this debate. If I do so, it is because I think the subject has been treated from many sides and most exhaustively by the previous speakers on rather general grounds. What I wish to do, with your Lordships' permission, is to ask for certain detailed information about what I may call the embryonic regional authorities that are already either in existence or are foreshadowed. Before I do so, however, I feel that, to-day being Australia Day, it would be unseemly in any speaker not to preface his remarks on such a subject with a few words of congratulation to our great Dominion. Previous speakers have done so, and I should like to add my small voice to theirs.

I should like also, if I may, to say how much I was struck by the noble Viscount's remarks about American opinion. A by-product as it were of these Regional Commissions which are suggested would be, and I think the noble Viscount implied it, an improvement La our relations with the United States of America, for if the United States partake, as it is suggested they should partake, in the deliberations of the Commission, they would thereby come better to appreciate the difficulties of Colonial government and, understanding those difficulties, would become perhaps more sympathetic and more tolerant. I was also extremely glad to hear the noble Viscount on the defence of the Congo Treaties and the Mandate system. There could be no doubt in the mind of anybody who has studied Colonial history, that the history of these treaties has shown them to have been entirely for the benefit of the peoples in the countries concerned. I think sometimes that their usefulness is overlooked or minimized by certain outside interests.

The embryonic authorities to which I referred are, of course, the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission, to which my noble friend referred, and the Middle East Supply Council, which neither of the previous speakers mentioned, and which seems to me, for reasons I shall give in a moment, to be of quite peculiar interest; and then there is the Pacific, in regard to which we have had as it were two declarations: the Hailey declaration to the Institute for Pacific Relations Convention and the recent declaration made at Camberra. Finally, there is the Smuts plan and various other statements in connexion with regionalism in Africa. The Anglo-American Commission has issued a Report. It is a Report which those who have had the misfortune to read any number of Reports and memoranda will have welcomed for, among other things, its brevity. That is of course a commendable quality for those who have to study reports and in this case it is perhaps as full as could be expected. It is, however, to be hoped that a later Report may give us greater detail.

My noble friend on the Front Bench mentioned publicity. I wonder whether His Majesty's Government can tell me whether in their plans they have made allowance not merely for the issuing of annual reports like this Report of the Caribbean Commission, but also for the holding in public of the deliberations of these bodies. My noble friend pointed out the importance of publicity, and I think there is yet another reason why publicity for this kind of body is of particular importance. It seems likely that there will be, we all hope in the very immediate future, a very considerable number of International Commissions of one sort or another. Some of us are very anxious about the relation of those Commissions to the peoples of the countries for which they speak. Some of us fear that they will become somewhat remote from the electorate. I believe this remoteness can be counteracted by publicity and public deliberation. I am not quite clear from the Report of the Caribbean Commission what are its intentions with respect to representation on this Commission. There are at present, as I understand, only English and American representatives, with, I believe, the Dutch co-operating on the Caribbean Research Council and the Canadians, I understand, taking part in certain deliberations. It would be interesting if His Majesty's Government could give any information as to whether it is intended to enlarge the scope of the Commission by including representatives of other countries.

This Commission in its Report points out that it consists of three bodies, the Commission itself, the Research Council and the West Indian Conference. The West Indian Conference is of particular interest because it is suggested that this Conference should include representatives of the territories within the area. With your Lordships' permission I will read a short paragraph from the Report relating to the Conference: The two Governments have agreed that the democratic approach to the solution of the Caribbean problems must envisage conferences and consultation with local representatives. It has therefore been accepted that a regular system of West Indian Conferences should be inaugurated, each territory to send two delegates. The Conference should meet as occasion arises; it should be a standing body (that is not to say that the representatives at the Conference should always be the same people, but it should have a continuity of existence). The personnel of the Conference would be varied according to the subject discussed. The possibility should be left open of inviting other countries than the British and American to participate. The Conference should be advisory but it would be hoped that it would attain a really influential position, and it would be open at any time to the interested Governments to agree among themselves to delegate to it any specific powers which they may think desirable. It was also agreed that the representation as suggested does not establish a basis for voting in the Conference. Should voting be neces sary, the basis for voting should be a subject for further discussion. The institution of this Conference seems to me to be of the greatest possible interest in connexion with the setting up of these Regional Commissions, because one of the big difficulties and one of the things which has given rise to the greatest anxiety, in the territories included within the purview of this Commission, has been the fear of the people in those territories that the Commission will act as a buffer, an intervening veil between themselves and the metropolitan Governments with which in the past they have been accustomed to deal. Of course their dealings with those Governments in the past have not always been entirely to their satisfaction, but none the less they arc themselves in no doubt that they very much prefer to deal with a Government which they can approach directly rather than through a somewhat indefinite body responsible to nobody or, if responsible, only indirectly so. Therefore, while I welcome the institution of this Conference, I would like to ask His Majesty's Government how it is intended to appoint the representatives to this Conference. It has been suggested— I do not find it in the Report, but I believe it is so—that the representatives are to consist of at least one unofficial member, the other, I take it, being an official member, from each territory. Perhaps His Majesty's Government can give some information at least as to how the unofficial member will be appointed.

Now I come to the Middle East Supply Council. This Council seems to me—I am surprised other noble Lords have not mentioned it—of particular interest, because it includes not only Colonial territories but also the territories of other sovereign Powers. I would be interested if His Majesty's Government could tell me whether they have any plans for the perpetuation of this Conference, whose immense value has been shown in the present time of emergency. There is no doubt that after the war the Middle East will be capable of immense development. It will be capable of being enormously enriched, and in enriching itself it will enrich the rest of the world. This Council, I suggest, should be so developed as to become the nucleus of a regional organization whose work would be invaluable. Again, I ask for information. I realize that the noble Viscount has had no notice of these questions, but I hope it may be possible for him to tell us whether there has been any report from the Council. I have not seen or heard of one. While I realize that in time of war much of its work must be secret for security reasons, nevertheless any report of its activities would be of enormous interest.

That brings me back to the West Indian Conference. I shall be interested to know if His Majesty's Government have any plans for the perpetuation of this Supply Conference as a regional organization, and whether they have considered at all how it can be democratized and how the peoples of the countries within its purview can be represented upon it. It will be most difficult to organize the Middle East after the war on account of many national jealousies and divisions in that area. This Council has, by tact and by skill, overcome those difficulties and I believe that were it possible to continue its existence it might serve an invaluable purpose.

Then we come to the Pacific. On the Pacific we have two statements, the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, and the Canberra statement. I wonder if His Majesty's Government can tell me whether any steps have been taken to follow up Lord Hailey's statement to the Conference of the Institute of Pacific Relations or whether perhaps the Canberra decisions were, to some extent, inspired by that statement. Whilst com-mending the enterprise of the Dominion Governments concerned, I cannot help remarking on the lack of representation which they envisaged on this South Seas Commission. Perhaps His Majesty's Government have further information and can tell us whether it is intended, for example, that the Dutch, the Chinese or the Soviet Governments should be asked to send representatives. To my mind it is very surprising, coming as it does from our two most democratic Dominions, that there appears in the scheme outlined at Canberra no provision for any democratic representation, no advisory body such as the West Indian Conference. In passing I should like to say how strongly I value this particular report. We are rather too much inclined to think that because the Pacific peoples are scattered and live in small islands, they are therefore backward. That is a delusion. A considerable number of these Pacific territories are inhabited by peoples who have quite considerable experience, within a limited sphere, of course, of self-government. There will be no difficult in finding in those territories suitable persons to represent them on a Pacific Conference.

I come now to perhaps the thorniest and most difficult subject, that of Africa. There has been a number of statements on the African proposals. The earliest that I find in recent times is a Motion in the Southern Rhodesian Legislature of May of last year calling for a Pan-African Conference. In the Northern Rhodesian Parliament in August of last year the unofficial members moved a Motion demanding that Northern Rhodesia should be represented on a Pan-African Conference. Then there was the Smuts plan. The Smuts plan, although it has given rise to very considerable anxiety amongst the Africans of the territories concerned, for the reasons which my noble friend outlines, none the less seems to me to be an eminently practical plan. It does not envisage, as I understand it, any political junction, any kind of political federation between African territories. Indeed what Field-Marshal Smuts proposed, in his own words, was a Consultative Council meeting regularly to discuss the common interests and policies of Southern Africa without any of the States renouncing their present political connexions … South Africa looks towards closer relationship and larger co-operation with the neighbouring States to the north. It is unfortunate that Africans should, for reasons which, I am afraid, may to some extent be justified, be somewhat suspicious of their South African neighbour, because the part which South Africa can, and should, and inevitably will, play in the development of Africa must be enormous.

The proposal of General Smuts was followed by a statement by Sir Godfrey Huggins in November. I think, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to read it to you, because, frankly, it includes certain phrases which I wish it had omitted. The statement reads: I think the first stage in bringing about the closer co-operation which General Smuts visualized would be a confederation with a Consultative Council of all the countries concerned to plan to meet common problems. An important preliminary step would be the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia with Nyasaland, in order to reduce the number of Governments taking part in such a Conference. As my noble friend has pointed out, this amalgamation has been adversely reported upon by repeated Commissions, and I regret very much that Sir Godfrey Huggins should have sought to combine it with the other scheme which, in my view, and, I understand, in the view of His Majesty's Government, has no necessary connexion with it.


My Lords, may I ask whether Lord Bledisloe's Commission reported in favour or against?


Against. Moreover, not only is this confederation, in my view, quite unnecessary to the regional authority, as outlined by the noble Viscount and the noble Earl, but also it is clearly—at any rate in the case of Nyasaland—a very dubious benefit to anybody. The Nyasaland Europeans in the Convention of Association in August last year decided that so far as they could see it was impossible to discover what were likely to be the advantages to Nyasaland. As my noble friend has pointed out, the alarm and dismay of the native populations of the other Protectorates, Swaziland, Bechuanaland and Basutoland, constitute a factor which must be taken into account, and one which, whether well justified or not, it would be improper to ignore, since I am sure it must be contrary to the policy of His Majesty's Government to force incorporation on territories whose populations are opposed to it. Finally, there is, in this connexion, the resolution of the Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in East Africa, which was passed at Nairobi in October. They, if I may say so, rather put themselves out of court, since they coupled with their demand for closer union a demand for the abolition of the Tanganyika Mandate and the Congo Basin Treaties, which I am sure the noble Viscount would agree would be a tragically restrictive step.

With regard to West Africa, we have already had reference to the work of the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. Some of us had the privilege of hearing him speak in a room in this House when he was in England a few months ago. We were all interested in and impressed by the account which he gave us of his work. We should, however—if it is not impossible to give it for security reasons—be very much interested if His Majesty's Government can give us any further information about this work, whether they can tell us if it is building the foundation on which can be established a regional authority for West Africa, and whether, if there are any plans for such an authority, those plans include representation for the native peoples. It does seem curious—and I think the noble Earl mentioned this— that it is only in the Caribbean that these plans for regional organization have really progressed beyond the most shadowy and vaguest stage. All these plans are, I know, welcomed enthusiastically by the members of my Party. We believe, however, that the success of these plans must depend upon the democratic element that is introduced into the bodies set up to work them, democratic representation of the peoples in these territories combined with publicity, and, if I may say so, a truly international representation on these matters I hope that your Lordships will excuse me for the length at which I have spoken, and will not feel that I have wasted your time or have gone over ground which other and more eloquent speakers have already covered. I thank your Lordships for your patience.


My Lords, before I come to the main subject of the debate I am sure that the House would wish me, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, to follow the example of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and others who have spoken to-day, in paying a tribute to Australia on the occasion of her national day. Australia is always in the minds of all of us, and especially in these very strenuous and indeed critical days. The deeds of her troops in the Middle East and in the Pacific and the deeds of her sailors and airmen in every theatre of war throughout the world have inspired us all. I sincerely believe that there is to-day an understanding between the two countries which is closer than it has ever been before. At any rate, if there is anything that His Majesty's Government can do to promote that mutual understanding your Lordships may be certain that we shall do it.

I would now like to come to the subject of the debate. When I first saw the terms of the Motion put down by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, I was, I must confess, tempted to think that it was somewhat premature. I freely admit that that would have been both unfair and un- true, because, after all, I think your Lordships will agree that it is never premature to discuss Empire policy. The more we discuss it the better, and the more likely we are to arrive at wise and well-considered conclusions. It is, I think, one of the most encouraging developments of recent times that there has been such an increase in the number of debates on Imperial subjects in both Houses of Parliament, and especially in your Lordships' House. In those debates, as, I think the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has already said, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has always played a prominent part. I know, too, that he has always impressed us with his transparent sincerity and objective outlook.

He began his remarks to-day with an exposition of the attitude of the Labour Party towards Empire problems. I thought that I detected in his remarks a faint note of gentle reproof. He suggested, as I understood him, that his Party had been the object of unfair criticism on the part of other Parties, that these had alleged that there was some lack of interest on the part of the Labour Party in Empire questions. He complained that his Party had been misunderstood. If he expects me to range myself in the ranks of these critics, I can assure him that nothing is further from my mind. I do not say that I have always agreed with the noble Earl, or with the Party which he represents. It is perhaps inevitable that different people will look at problems from rather different angles. But during the time that I have been at the Colonial Office and at the Dominions Office, I have always found the Labour Party displaying the keenest interest in the problems of the Commonwealth and of the Colonial Empire.

There is no doubt that there was a time when the country was divided between what were called Imperialists and Little Englanders, and it may be said that at that time it was perhaps true that the Imperialists belonged mainly to the Parties of the Right and the Little Englanders mainly to the Parties of the Left, because those Parties were more immediately concerned with domestic problems. I thought that I detected in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, a faint echo of his early days in his references to British Imperialism, but I believe—and I am sure that he will agree —that that phrase, in the sense in which it was once used, no longer has any meaning, and that the era of which I have been speaking is now long past. I would certainly join with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in hoping that the time has now arrived when questions of Imperial policy, like questions of foreign policy, will be taken out of the arena of Party politics and treated objectively and on their merits.

Certainly there is much that the noble Earl said to-day with which all of us, to whatever Party we belong, will be in very general agreement. There are other matters on which we do not see entirely eye to eye. The noble Earl made certain remarks about some aspects of African policy. His tone was mild, but I thought that his words were somewhat provocative, and he will certainly not expect me to agree with him on those. I certainly could not accept the view that the Conservative Party is less interested in the welfare of the indigenous rather than of the white inhabitants of Africa. The steady progress in recent years and the appointments which have taken place of Africans to responsible posts are evidence of the interest which we, like the Party to which the noble Earl belongs, have always taken in this aspect of Colonial policy.

At all events I think it is clear that neither the noble Earl nor I wish to approach these questions in a spirit of political controversy, but rather with a genuine desire to find solutions which take account of often conflicting considerations and often extremely difficult considerations. If I have any quarrel with the noble Earl to-day, it is because I think that he pressed rather too strongly for definite declarations of Government policy on a number of thorny constitutional issues, which I should have thought could hardly be tackled by Parliament in a country which is still, we must remember, fighting for its life. That is what I meant when I said that I was tempted to feel that his Motion was premature. As he himself has said, some of these issues are extremely controversial. They are likely to arouse strong feelings not only in this country but in the Colonies themselves, and they might well dissipate that concentration upon the war which is really essential if victory is to be achieved. I am quite certain that questions of that character—extremely contentious constitutional questions—must be put into cold storage until the war is over and full attention can be given to them.

The noble Earl, referring to the question of the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia, which was also mentioned by Lord Faringdon, quoted some words of Sir Godfrey Huggins, the Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia. But the House will note that Sir Godfrey himself recognized that a solution of the problem of the Rhodesias must be postponed until (I quote his words) "the embarrassment caused by the war departs". In that respect I find myself rather inclined to emulate Sir Godfrey rather than the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, who pressed strongly for an immediate declaration of Government policy. And the same inevitable delay must be imposed, I think, in respect of other problems of equal importance, both in Africa and elsewhere. I do not say for one moment that Government Departments should not be considering these problems and preparing the ground for future action. Of course they must be doing so, and I know from my own experience in the Colonial Office that they are already devoting much time to these matters in order that they may be able to deal with them properly when the opportunity comes. It is evident, however, that Government declarations on extremely controversial issues at the present juncture could not do any good, and might possibly do a great deal of harm. We should rouse the protagonists on both sides, and we should leave the controversies in the air without any prospect of early settlement; in fact, you would get the worst of both worlds.

I have no doubt that your Lordships will share this view, and will not expect any detailed declarations from me to-day on individual issues. Nor do I propose to deal with the reference of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, to his proposal for a Joint Standing Committee of both Houses of Parliament. He himself said that that came a little outside the scope of this Motion. I am not in a position, either, to answer all the questions of detail which were fired at me by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon. I had the sensation, when he spoke, of a man faced by a machine-gun. I had not the time even to take all his questions down, much less to prepare answers to them. The noble Lord, as he said himself, did not give me notice that he was going to raise these questions. I will answer those that I can deal with, but I am sure he will understand the position if I cannot deal fully with them all.

What I can do, and what I think the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, really wants me to do, is to expand what my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary has already said about Regional Commissions for certain areas, and try to put it in its place in the picture of our general Imperial and international policy. I think we must recognize that this idea of regional international machinery is still a novel one to some people, and that it does not yet command universal acceptance. For instance, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in his interesting speech to your Lordships, was still, I thought, not entirely happy about it. He accepted it as an experiment, but I thought that he still hunkered after the principle of mandatory control which was tried out after the last war; indeed, he liked that principle so much, if I understood him, that he would wish to see it extended from ex-enemy territories to all Colonial dependencies. Perhaps that may be due in part, if he will not think it impertinent of me to say so, to what I may call the innate conservatism of the Liberal Party. On the whole I have the impression that they always prefer what they are accustomed to, whether it is Free Trade in its most complete—perhaps he would say its most unadulterated—form or Mandates. They know about these things and they feel happy about them.

Like the noble Viscount, I have had some little practical experience of the Mandate; Commission at Geneva, and while no one—certainly not myself— would wish to belittle the magnificent work which it has done—it was really extremely fine—I do not believe that it necessarily provides the best solution to our problem. There was always, at least in my day, an element among the representatives on the Mandates Commission recruited from nations who had themselves no practical experience of Colonial government, and, although they were always actuated by the very highest motives, I confess that at times there was a certain unreality in their proceedings. The beauty of the new idea of Regional Commissions is that the members who are going to sit round a table and to pool their experience will be representatives of nations who have themselves Colonial possessions in the areas in question, and they for that very reason will be in a position to tackle these questions on an entirely practical basis. At any rate, His Majesty's Government feel that Regional Commissions may prove in many ways a notable advance upon the older system. I do not want to dogmatize this afternoon. I think it was the noble Viscount himself who said we have got to think all these things over, not to come to any hard-and-fast conclusions, but be ready to discuss them when the war comes to an end. I do hope that he on his part, with all his very long experience, will give this new conception full and objective consideration.

I should add one further comment. This idea—I have called it a new idea of constructing machinery to link together existing territories for certain purposes where joint action is obviously desirable, is really nothing new in the British Colonial Empire. It has already for some time been the recognized practice, of which there are notable examples. I think the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, referred to some of them this afternoon. I also would like to refer very briefly to some of them. First of all, there is the East African Governors' Conference. As your Lordships know, through this organization the Governments of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Zanzibar are able at present to discuss and co-operate over matters of common concern. Naturally, under the impact of the war, that machinery has been expanded, so that today questions of defence, production and supply are being dealt with centrally and efficiently by the East African Governors' Conference. The House will note that the final responsibility still rests, with the Governments of each individual territory. They will note also that any development must be examined in the light of the consideration that in this particular area we are dealing with territories in different stages of constitutional development and with different racial composition. What will be the form which the further evolution of the machinery in this area will take it is not for me to say to-day. I think it is just one of those cases in which we shall have to feel our way in the light of experience. But at any rate there is in that area a rudimentary regional organization in being.

The same is true of West Africa. In the West African Colonies regional grouping is already developed to a very considerable extent. We must, of course, remember that in one very obvious respect West Africa differs from East Africa. Our territories in West Africa are not contiguous, they have no common boundaries, they are separated from each other by areas of hundreds of miles, controlled by foreign Governments. All the same, in spite of that, even before the war the West African Governors' Conference was beginning to function, and it was doing valuable work. During the war, during the time that I was at the Colonial Office, a further step was taken. The Governors' Conference was superseded to some extent by the organization created by the Resident Minister, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. Originally Lord Swinton's organization was limited to questions which were related to the coordination and stimulation of the war effort. More recently, through the Civil Members Committee of the West African War Council, the Resident Minister has extended his activities to cover all important matters which arc of common concern to the British West African Governments. Thus, the fullest use is being made of the organization by the West African Governments, whose own responsibility again remains unaffected.

Of course, this new development in West Africa has been enormously facilitated by developments in the area. It is possible for people now to pass from end to end of West Africa in a few hours, which before might have taken a matter of days. That is a development which we may assume is a permanent one, and will be helpful to further increases of common action. The functions of this new organization—and I say this in particular to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel— cover those spheres of administration, security, material development, welfare services, etc., which he specifically mentioned, I think, in his speech. The success of this Swinton organization has been extremely striking—I think your Lordships are already aware of that—and in my view there is no doubt that the cooperation which has been created during the war will be maintained and, I believe, extended in some form or other when hostilities are over.

I give, if I may, one other example in Africa of this collaborative machinery. This is in an area a good deal further south. In 1931 His Majesty's Government here in this country, in response to an approach by the Southern Rhodesian Government, expressed their full appreciation of the co-operation between the Governments of Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia on all matters of policy of common interest. In pursuance of this policy inter-territorial conferences between the two Governments named and the Government of Nyasaland have been held since 1935, with most useful results. Further, as a special war measure a step has been taken to establish a secretariat, which deals centrally with certain matters affecting the war effort of the three territories. Here again, of course, the independent position and responsibility of the three Governments remain unimpaired. They have built up this machinery for the purpose of consultation and collaboration.

I will give your Lordships one last example from another part of the world, the Caribbean. There the problem, as the House knows, is of a different nature. Neither the needs of the area nor the geographical factors are quite the same as in Africa, and therefore a different type of organization had to be built up. Not long after the outbreak of war it was found desirable to appoint a Comptroller of Development and Welfare for the West Indies. The object was to enable economic and sound development to proceed as evenly as possible in spite of the disturbance of the war. Of course, except for U-boat attacks on shipping, the actual conflict, was kept, fortunately, away from the Caribbean. But the effects of war go much further than the area of actual hostilities. In the Caribbean, as elsewhere, trade was seriously dislocated, and every effort had to be made both to maintain the economic life of the area and to make the fullest use, for the purposes of the United Nations, of local productive capacity. Under the able direction of Sir Frank Stockdale, of whose extremely fine work your Lordships are already aware, this organization has achieved a very great measure of success. It has proved to be an innovation of the greatest value.

I have given you some examples of how the principle of regional collaboration is already being applied with success in the British Colonial Empire. I have done that because I want your Lordships to see that it is not quite a new and untried experiment. What is now being suggested is a development of an already existing machinery. It will be seen that the approach of His Majesty's Government to this problem has always been empirical. They found particular problems in particular areas, and they built up ad hoc machinery to deal with them. That is the British way, as your Lordships know, and I am quite certain it is the right one. It is not the slightest good devising a theoretical system and then imposing it, like a sort of bed of Procrustes, on all areas alike, whatever the local conditions may be. One must suit one's machinery to the special circumstances of the area. On that basis I should have thought there was no limit to the advantages to be obtained by co-operation and collaboration. That, at any rate, is the view of His Majesty's Government, and it has seemed to them, in the light of their own Colonial experience, that it is a principle which, now that it has been tried out on a small scale, might well be extended to the international field with advantage both to all Colonial Powers and to the world at large. That is really the reason for the declaration of my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary in another place on July 13 last to which reference was made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, this afternoon.

I should like again to quote the exact words which my right honourable friend used in order that they may be fresh in the mind of the House. This is what he said: His Majesty's Government would therefore welcome the establishment of machinery which will enable such problems to be discussed and to be solved by common efforts. What they have in mind is the possibility of establishing Commissions for certain regions. These Commissions would comprise not only the States with Colonial territories in the region, but also other States which have in the region a major strategic or economic interest. While each State would remain responsible for the administration of its own territory, such a Commission would provide effective and permanent machinery for consultation and collaboration so that the States concerned might work together to promote the well-being of the Colonial territories. An important consideration— I would say this in reply to Lord Listowel who mentioned this aspect— in designing the machinery of each Commission will be to give to the people of the Colonial territories in the region an opportunity to be associated with its work. That is the answer to one of the questions he put to me. My right honourable friend went on to say: The Commissions can only be set up as the result of consultation and agreement with other countries, especially our own Dominions, and the machinery can only be settled by discussions. We have already one example of such international collaboration on a small scale in the Caribbean. The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, referred to it this afternoon. The Anglo-American Commission, about which he asked me a. very large number of detailed questions, of which I am afraid I can answer on the spur of the moment only a few, was set up, as your Lordships know, on a consultative basis with representatives of the two countries concerned. The noble Lord asked me whether there was any intention of widening the representation. As I understand it, the position is this. Representation has hitherto been confined to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of the United States of America. So far as I know, there has been no Dutch or Canadian participation in the work of the Commission itself. There may have been some consultation with Canada on shipping, but that would be outside the Commission itself. I cannot give him any information about the future, but that is the position as it is to-day. This organization, as Lord Faringdon himself said, provides concrete evidence of how regional organizations on an international basis can be developed. The Report of the Commission which was published last week is extremely encouraging—I think he would agree—for the future.

The Commission is an attempt by ourselves and the United States to co-operate in the solution of some of the problems in the Caribbean region—not all the problems; it does not cover them all, but it does make a start on the solution of some of them. It is not what some newspapers have suggested—it is not an experiment in joint government; it is not an experiment in joint control. It does not alter the relationship between His Majesty's Government and the Colonies in the Caribbean area. The Commission has no executive authority, and there is no interference with sovereignty. Lord Listowel himself said this afternoon that that would be a great mistake. Both the United States and ourselves retain our own responsibility, and the position of the Colonial Governments remains unaffected. It is just an experiment in practical collaboration.

In the view of the Government, its success provides justification for proposing an extension of just such similar machinery to appropriate areas throughout the world. That was really the reason why my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary was authorized to make the statement he did. It was the success of machinery of that character already in existence which enboldened His Majesty's Government to authorize this wider proposal. The statement was not, of course, a statement of Government policy in the sense that it demanded immediate action. That was clearly impossible. This idea of Regional Commissions, as I have said, is an entirely new conception in the international field. It will require very careful consideration by other Governments, both Dominion Governments and foreign Governments, who have Colonial responsibilities. All will no doubt wish to give it the careful consideration which so far-reaching a proposal certainly deserves.

What my right honourable friend did was to throw out a suggestion for the consideration of other Colonial nations in order that, when it had been fully considered, they might voice their considered views. On the whole the results have not been discouraging—they have been most encouraging. General Smuts, with his unrivalled experience of world affairs, has given this conception his full blessing, and, as has been said this afternoon, within this last week it has had further important public support from the Australian and New Zealand Governments. In the Report of the Conference between the two countries held at Canberra they have jointly adumbrated a scheme for just such an organization for the South Pacific. His Majesty's Government in this country welcome the Conference as a whole. We believe that it has been a valuable innovation in inter-Imperial machinery and inter-Imperial relations. I am quite sure, as Lord Samuel indicated this afternoon, that the multiplication of links between the members of the Commonwealth must strengthen the Commonwealth as a whole. In particular, we warmly welcome their declaration with regard to a Regional Commission, and we should be very ready to discuss these ideas with them at the meeting of the Dominion Prime Ministers which, as your Lordships know, it is hoped to hold at an early date.

Lord Faringdon asked me certain questions arising out of the Report of the Conference. I am afraid I am not yet in a position to give him an answer to these. No doubt other Colonial nations are also equally considering the possibility of some such international organization in the areas in which they themselves are interested. For certain of them, the problem is doubtless an extremely difficult one at the moment, because their metropolitan territories are still occupied by the enemy. Declarations of post-war policy of great importance may well be impossible for Governments which are out of touch with their constituents. We really must not be too impatient. There are other nations, too, without direct Colonial responsibilities—they were referred to in particular by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. These nations may also feel an interest in this subject, both from the point of view of world peace and because they are buyers of the products of Colonial territories or sellers of goods to be consumed there. All I can say at present is that the omens, so far as public declarations are concerned— those declaration to which I have already referred—are encouraging. At any rate His Majesty's Government have made their position perfectly clear. They will welcome the establishment of machinery of a collaborative and consultative nature to facilitate the discussion and solution of problems which transcend the boundaries of political units in appropriate areas.

I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who asked, would it be the intention of His Majesty's Government to include West Africa within the areas in question. Well, I do not think His Majesty's Government would rule out any appropriate area. But what precisely those areas are to be must depend upon future discussion between the nations concerned. What is more, His Majesty's Government would be very ready that the sphere of the machinery of these Commissions should include such questions as public health, education and housing, which were mentioned by the noble Earl. I am quite certain that, on all such matters as these, pooled experience would be immensely valuable. In addition, I imagine also that the Commissions would concern themselves with questions such as communications, which play so great a part in the development of backward areas. I have already dealt with the point about the association of Colonial peoples in work for these Commissions. I was going to quote again what my right honourable friend has said. We certainly agree that it would be important to give to the people of Colonial territories an opportunity to be associated with such work. Certain questions of detailed machinery were raised this afternoon. Were there to be reports to the Commission by individual Governments? Was there to be a secretariat? Was there to be adequate publicity? I do not think the House would expect an answer to that sort of question this afternoon. This must be a matter for consideration by the nations who take part in the Commissions, if they are set up. You might well find that the different Commissions ought to have a rather different machinery, and that you might have to adapt the machinery to the individual circumstances of the part of the world with which it dealt. These are all matters which will have to be thought out later.

I hope I have said enough this afternoon to make it clear to the House that the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to Colonial territories is in no ways negative, that indeed it approximates in many respects to that which was enunciated by the noble Earl himself in his opening speech. The development of regional organizations is already going on in the Colonial Empire itself. We certainly wish to see that development extended and that both the British Dominions overseas and foreign Colonial Powers should be associated with those wider developments. My Lords, I have expounded our views. We shall await with confidence the favourable response of other countries which will make possible, when the time comes, the more detailed discussions which my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary foreshadowed in his speech of last July.


My Lords, I would like first to say how much I welcome, and I am sure we all welcome, the first speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, after his return to this House following a serious illness. I know that we all felt his absence from our debates and we are delighted to have him back. I think furthermore that the House can congratulate itself on knowing that he is back again at the top of his old form. I am exceedingly grateful to the noble Viscount who replied for the Government for the immense pains he has taken to give the fullest possible answer to my question. I am perfectly certain that what he has said will be very widely considered both in Parliament and outside and that it will give considerable encouragement to all those who have studied the problems of the Colonies and who believe that progress will be made in future on regional lines. There was one little misunderstanding between the noble Viscount and myself with which I will not weary the House, but perhaps I might have a word with him afterwards about it. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.