HL Deb 19 July 1944 vol 132 cc991-1031

LORD RENNELL rose to ask His Majesty's Government what plans have been made or are under consideration for the settlement and housing of personnel now serving in East and West African regiments and the Pioneer and Labour Corps on their discharge from the Armed Forces, and generally what plans are under consideration to deal with urban housing for Africans in such congested and unhealthy urban centres as Freetown and Lagos; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion that stands in my name raises a certain number of questions that go far beyond the terms of the Motion, but I do not propose, myself, to refer to anything except what is mentioned on the paper. The main object of the Motion is to elicit from the noble Duke who is to reply what plans have been made or are being made on a subject which will obviously require a great deal of thought and may require the taking of powers in order to achieve the objects referred to. The matter is urgent because quite a number of men who have been called up to the Armed Forces have already been or are being disembodied as time-expired or on account of sickness or for similar reasons. It does not follow that those who have been called up from the agricultural work on which they were engaged will necessarily want to go back to the same occupation which they were following before they entered the Forces. That is the main reason for incorporating in the Motion a reference to urban housing conditions which I shall seek to elucidate.

The demobilization or return to civil life of Africans in East and West Africa falls, roughly speaking, into two categories—those who will return to the land from which they were called up and those who will find their way into urban or closely-settled communities. So far as the first category is concerned, I propose to say very little, if alone for the reason that the problem is very much easier. A great many will just go back to the communities from which they came and resume their communal existence, but that will not necessarily apply to the whole of the category since, in the different life that they have been living for the last few years, they will have become used to certain standards of life very remote and very different from those from which they were originally taken. It therefore does not necessarily follow that it will be possible to replace in the communities where they were many of the people who are demobilized.

It is obvious to all those who know Africa at all that there is, in fact, no land in Africa, large as it is, which belongs to nobody. All land belongs to somebody or rather to communities and it is in those communities alone that people who are demobilized, or disembodied, must find their place, and, naturally, they will only be able to find places if they come originally from those communities. For those who are unwilling or unable to return, for any of the many reasons which must be obvious to your Lordships, settlement on other lands will have to be provided and in order to do that the Governments concerned will have to acquire that land or take powers to acquire it since they do not, in the normal course of events, possess that land at the present moment. Domain land practically does not exist in the territories contemplated in this Motion. If powers are to be taken to resettle Africa, both on the East and West coasts, it will involve very 'careful consideration in order to avoid disturbing existing communities and arousing all the antagonisms which normally do arise when land tenure in primitive communities is touched. The amount of free land available is limited and, in East Africa, is not necessarily to-day in possession of African communities. How far it is free is a matter of opinion and has been the occasion of considerable controversy. I do not propose to touch on that.

But leaving on one side the question of resettlement on land due to the normal process of demobilization back into the communities from which these men came and turning to the difficult question of urban populations and the settlement of men in normally inhabited areas, I would like to preface what I have to say by remarking that the numbers which will fall into that category will undoubtedly be very much larger than were in that category will they were called up or volunteered. In other words, the numbers that came from the urban centres referred to in the Motion will be much smaller than those who will wish to return or to go and live in those centres, at the end of the war. The reason for that is very largely the following. I do not know whether it will be within the personal knowledge of many of your Lordships, but it is a development which has certainly struck me in the course of fairly extensive wanderings in Africa during the last four years, that the amount of education in one form or another which has been provided by the Army for Africans, has been very remarkable and in no case more remarkable than in East Africa. If I speak rather more of East Africa in this connexion than of West Africa, it is not in any way to disparage what has been done in West Africa but merely to observe that West Africa started from a higher standard of education of the Africans than did East Africa at the beginning of this war.

Those of us who have known West Africa, as I have on and off for some twenty years, have always known that the West African has shown particular aptitude for mehanical things and his training therefore in the Army in motor transport and technical services has been relatively easy. Moreover, the use that has been made of him in West Africa in this connexion has, or had up to the outbreak of war, also done considerably more than was the case in East Africa. There, I regret to say, a great many Europeans and a great many British settlers have commonly assumed that the East African was technically not fitted to do that sort of work. There has been a myth abroad there that in order to obtain a good carpenter or a good fitter it was necessary to get an Indian, and that the East African was not capable of being trained. That is complete nonsense. It has been borne out by our experience during this war that the crudest African labour straight from the Bush can be turned into a body of artisans and handicraftsmen at least as good as, and in some ways better than, the best in West Africa. Credit for this development, I am happy to say, having seen it at first hand, is due to the Army and especially to the great personal enthusiasm of General Platt commanding in East Africa.

The results achieved by the training centres into which this crude labour has been put are so remarkable that I must beg leave to refer to one or two cases. It has been found possible to train in a comparatively short time the crudest farm and agricultural labour into a type of mechanical labour that has been good enough to be employed by the Royal Air Force, for instance, for stripping aircraft engines. Again this crude labour has been employed in Signal Detachments not only as telegraphists but in far more complicated employment such as the repair and maintenance of electrical machinery, the laying and maintenance of telephone lines and the use of tele- printers. In addition to that, ordinary employment in motor transport has been made available to these men after training. The result has been in the combatant units a degree of mechanization which was never dreamed of as possible at the outbreak of war. I have myself seen anti-aircraft guns the crews of which as well as the drivers have been entirely African. Artillery regiments are now very largely African, of course with British non-commissioned officers and other personnel. A development of that sort would never have been possible but for these training centres, for which the immediate and indeed the sole responsibility rests with the officers who have trained the men, and, above all, the broad outlook and vision displayed by the military authorities in making this work possible. Satisfactory as it is to know that this has been done, and that we now have proof that the African can do this work, it is slightly regrettable that it should have been left to the Army in war to do what the civil Government should have done in the last twenty years but have not done.

After the training which these men have received and which they have now put to use in the service of this country, we shall find that on demobilization these men will not be ready to return to the primitive agriculture of their own tribes and communities. It is not reasonable to expect them to do so. That would be a waste of the training they have had, and if they were forced to do it against their will discontent would be created. Moreover, these men are now a very considerable asset to our African dependencies, and I submit that they must be assisted to earn at their trades the livelihood they are now fitted to earn. This livelihood cannot be earned on remote Bush farms; it can only be earned in the towns and settled communities. We shall therefore find that, with the very large number of these men who can now be gainfully employed at really quite reasonable wages, and can compete with the Indian craftsmen who have occasioned so many problems in East Africa, plans must be drawn, and drawn up now, for their settlement in these new walks of life.

That brings me to the reason for including in this Motion a reference to urban conditions in some of the larger West African colonies, notably Freetown and Lagos. To them I would like to add Bathurst in Gambia and, entirely in another category, Nairobi. I do not know that it is possible to say to-day that any progress whatsoever has been made in improving the urban conditions of Freetown and Lagos for the last twenty years. The conditions in these two very large urban centres are so disgraceful as to make it difficult to describe them in the language which is appropriate to your Lordships' House. The slums often beggar belief and they have got steadily worse in the last five years, naturally, by further overcrowding. The town of Lagos to our misfortune is built on a mud bank, but it is our fault and not our misfortune that the conditions have remained unchanged in the last twenty years except for a little tinkering with a street here and a cess-pool there which has produced to the traveller no visible change at all. Some urban development has taken place outside the island of Lagos which is good but it must go a good deal further. In Lagos itself, where the bulk of the population is, conditions are still appalling and no tinkering or grants from the Colonial Development Fund of £10,000 or £20,000 will make the slightest difference.

Freetown, in rather different conditions, is equally bad. There, even before the war, in spite of a prodigious rainfall—I think something of the order of 100 inches a year—there has never been an adequate water supply and for many hours of the day for many months of the year it was necessary before the war to turn off the water supply from the African part of the town because there was not enough water to go round. Conditions during this war have been made worse by the difficulty of a larger population required for military employment, by the advent of troops and of course by the advent of ships. But that is no excuse for not having done anything to make that oldest, or very nearly oldest, British West African possession even reasonably habitable. We are faced with the problem therefore of not only appalling conditions, aggravated by further overcrowding due to the war, but with the prospect of many tens of thousands of West African labourers being decanted on those places in the form of people who will want to earn a living, who will have nowhere to live, and who will presumably have to fend for themselves and be reduced once more to the level of coolie labour.

The position in Nairobi is entirely different, but in some respects even more unsatisfactory. The African settlements there, as many of your Lordships no doubt know, are most unpalatable places, consisting largely of shacks overcrowded to a degree which is unbelievable, in which no building has taken place and very little has been allowed. Very little has been allowed because of the restrictions on the types of building which may be put up there imposed by the Nairobi municipality. No doubt, with the best intentions in the world they have laid down certain rules for the permanent buildings which are of course quite unfulfillable in time of war. The result is that nothing has been built. That is an example of "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien"—the desire for perfection is the enemy of improvement. In the course of a debate in your Lordships' House on rural water supplies the conclusion to which some of your Lordships came was that it was better to have no water at all if we could not get water out of a pipe from a main. I think that that is, broadly speaking, the position in a great many parts of East Africa—that it is better to have no houses at all than to have houses which are not built to certain specifications. Why, I fail to understand. It is not that the African house is necessarily unhygienic or is necessarily verminous. In many parts of Africa climatically much less favourably situated than Nairobi, notably, for example, Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo, an African town with African house-construction, exists and is clean and tidy. If it can be done there, there is no reason why it should not be done in East Africa too.

The present position is that there is no housing and no plans that I know of for housing (though I hope to be enlightened on the subject), except a scheme to spend £80,000 to house African employees of the East African Government. That is many years overdue. There unfortunate people are, at the present moment, living in conditions, as Government servants, which are quite unbelievable. A great deal mote than that is wanted, and one thing in particular—that is, to set aside within the area of that municipality where these men alone can earn a living land which they can buy and on which they can, if necessary, build their houses. The position now is that if an African has money himself, or can get it, he cannot get a plot of land near enough to Nairobi to enable him to earn a living in the town. He has to live ten or twelve miles outside the town. The artisans we have trained, or who have been trained by the Army, cannot be expected to earn their livelihood if they cannot live in the places where they can get it. That is why I have brought into this Motion the subject of urban conditions, in the hopes of being able to elicit some information about what is in the minds of the East African Governments on this subject.

The question of what we do there seems to me not to resolve itself into little ad hoc arrangements for housing a thousand men here or a thousand men there, but it involves to a much greater extent than might appear what our Colonial policy is in respect of the Africans for whose government we are responsible. If the best that can be hoped for is tinkering with a problem like this we shall continue to have the discredit and the criticism which have been very reasonably publicized by all those British and American travellers, officers in the Army and other personnel, who have visited our African Colonies in such large numbers during the last few years. Frankly, the criticisms which they have made, and which I have heard, seem to me to be entirely merited. I have seen, in the course of my own wanderings through Africa in the last four years, no plan, policy, or vision.

Now in the case of these men of whom I have been speaking, who have served us very well and are so serving us abroad now, it does not require very much imagination to realize what they are thinking or to understand how strange things must seem to the African who has been recruited from his remote farm, trained in a school, and put on a steamer and sent abroad; or to realize the fear that must be engendered in him as to what is going to happen to him afterwards. That fear must be infinitely greater than it would be in the case of a European, so that in some respects the work and the services that these men have rendered and are rendering are as remarkable, if not more so, than those rendered by our own people. They deserve a better treatment than I can see on the horizon at the present moment. But, more than that, they deserve a vision and a policy which I would like to hear or see expressed somewhere but which, hitherto, I have neither seen nor heard either on the spot or in London. I beg to move.


My Lords, I feel that we have all been deeply impressed by the speech to which we have just listened. The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, evidently speaks from an enormous fund of personal experience, and, if I may say so, from a tremendous capacity for detailed observation and accurate remembrance. I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me that we have in him an invaluable member of your Lordships' House and one from whom I, at any rate—though I am not sure that if the Government do not mend their ways they will share my enthusiasm—hope we shall hear very often on African subjects. The topic which the noble Lord has raised to-day is one which seems to me to be of paramount importance for Africa. Africa is at the cross-roads, and it appears to me that this problem of what to do with the demobilized African troops is either a great opportunity or else a most difficult problem. I trust that the Colonial Office's policy will take advantage of this opportunity, will use it to help in the solution of Africa's problems, and will not turn it into just another of these problems.

The noble Lord has spoken with an experience which I, of course, do not share of the effect of the impact of military training on the African. He has given you a very lively and intimate description of the effects on the African of the development of his capabilities, and a picture, too, of the use to which those capabilities could and should be put in the future. To that I would only add one brief quotation from an East African paper which published a letter written from Ceylon by an African. I quote this to stress, if I may, the effect of the impact of travel and a wider experience on these men. The writer is referring to the Sinhalese and the passage to which I would draw attention reads: These people have better types of houses than our hovels in Northern Rhodesia. They are civilized and like trading much. These people send their boy and girl children to school in hundreds. I wondered to see so many girls going to school; in our country it is thought to be silly to educate a girl child. He goes on to add that the Sinhalese are curious to know about African life and he points out how fortunate it is that he and the school children know English and can talk to each other without difficulty. I quote that letter because it seems to me to put forward very clearly both the opportunity and the problem. These men will go back as torch-bearers to Africa if the torch is put in their hands, but if it is not they will go back as a dissatisfied, and a justly dissatisfied, element in the African problem.

Recently questions have been put in another place about the problems of demobilization in Africa. A question was put on December 1 of last year, and another on April 26 of this year, but the answers given by the Secretary of State were not very enlightening. One of the answers I will quote, because it is of a remarkable brevity, which I think is unjust to the problem. Asked whether he had under consideration any measures whereby demobilized Africans in East Africa could be absorbed into tasks for which they have become fitted during their service with the Armed Forces, he replied: Yes, Sir. This is a matter which all East African Governments have very much in mind in drawing up post-war plans. We can be quite sure that African Governments have these things in mind, and I think we might have concluded that that was so without the statement of he Secretary of State. What we should like, and what I hope that the noble Duke will give us to-day, is rather greater detail about what is happening.

More details have been given about rehabilitation. A long reply was made by the Secretary of State to another question on March 15 of this year, and it showed that a co-ordinated policy was being worked out for the whole of Africa. In brief, it said that certain centres were being set up at Accra and Nairobi for the rehabilitation of these men, and that action in Africa was to follow the lines already laid down in this country, or at any rate that the attention of the Governments of the African Colonies had been drawn to the matter and that they intended to follow the same lines as the legislation in this country. In addition, it was said that the assistance of St. Dunstan's had been asked for in connexion with blinded men. On this we have been given, I think, a fairly good and complete view of the Government's plans, and those plans appear to be co-ordinated and well considered; but we have no such co-ordinated view of the Government's general plan for demobilization.

We have a sub-committee in Kenya on the post-war employment of Africans which, so far as I am aware, has issued no report. I should be interested if the noble Duke could tell me whether it has in fact reported yet. In Nyasaland the chambers of commerce proposed that a committee should be set up, but about that I have no details. In Tanganyika there is a post-war planning committee which is intended to consider demobilization. That held its first meeting in April of this year. I can find no record of any such planning activity on the Gold Coast. In Nigeria a demobilization committee was set up last year and will, I understand, as one would naturally expect, have the co-operation of the Department of Labour. In Sierra Leone there is a reconstruction committee. From none of these committees, however, have we yet received any report. Moreover, admirable though the work of these committees so doubt is, their work appears to be unco-ordinated. One would like to have from the Colonial Office some general outline of a scheme to which all the reports and plans of these committees would be fitted.

The greatest progress seems to have occurred in Northern Rhodesia, where the post-war problems committee laid down certain principles. These were debated in the Legislative Council in December of last year, and since then reinstatement committees have been set up in all the main towns. The Post-War Problems Committee has outlined the situation with such clarity that I will venture to quote from its report. Regarding the demobilized African soldiers, the Committee consider that the problem is largely bound up with the broader problem of native development. This was especially so, it says, in that most of the Askari were recruited from rural areas. The returning soldiers were likely to expect a much higher standard of living, and this would involve better housing, assistance in agriculture, provision of small holdings for those who want them, and better living conditions generally. The possibility of absorbing African soldiers with some specialized training into secondary industries should, it is said, be considered. It seems to me that, put briefly, that is a very good summing-up of the general problem.

Colonel Orde Brown, the member representing native interests in the Legislature, was not in favour of the distribution of land to demobilized soldiers, except Africans, and he pressed for a plan for extensive public works, the development of secondary industries (which I understand a Committee has already been set up to consider), and co-operation with Southern Rhodesia in reconstruction. The Financial Secretary proposed a loan of £500,000 for post-war development. The Government, he said, were already negotiating for a hydroelectric scheme in the industrial area for the development of secondary industries. The situation in Northern Rhodesia seems to show that something is being done; but, if I may venture a criticism, while something is being done there is not, so far as I am aware, on any of these reinstatement committees in the main towns, any African representation. This also applies, I think, to the other committees which I have mentioned. I am well aware, of course, of the difficulty of obtaining African representation, but I hope that the noble Duke will be able to assure me that attempts are being and will be made to obtain the representation of Africans on these committees.

If I may, I will stray a little way from Africa to quote from the report of the sub-committee which was set up by the Barbadoes Conference—the Anglo-American Caribbean Conference—in March last to consider the reabsorption into civil life of persons engaged in war employment. This sub-committee presented a fairly full report, and I would venture to call attention to its main recommendations, because, although it spoke for the West Indies, its suggestions seem to me eminently suitable for Africa. It divided the problem into two parts: the re-absorption of persons in war employment and the reabsorption of demobilized Service personnel. Under the first head, its main suggestions were the stimulation and development of all staple industries, the encouragement of minor and secondary industries, the co-ordination of public works with large-scale war construction projects by commencing such works as war construction reaches completion, and the establishment or extension where necessary of public employment exchange services for demobilized per- sonnel. It suggested that the process of reabsorption of demobilized Service men should be helped by giving enlisted personnel returning from overseas and personnel serving locally an opportunity of remaining in the Services for at least six months prior to their demobilization, during which period the local Government could assist in fitting them for and finding them suitable employment.

Governments, municipal authorities, and public utility undertakings should give preference to demobilized personnel in filling appointments, provided candidates are suitably qualified. Generally, all employers should give ex-Servicemen and women preference of suitable employment. There should be close co-operation between civil authorities and the Service forces. Committees representative of all civil authorities, the Armed Forces, employers and employed, should be immediately appointed in each territory to study demobilization and reabsorption in relation to local conditions, and to prepare statistics showing (1), the probable degree of reabsorption arising from demobilization; (2), labour classifications of enlisted personnel subdivided into skilled, semiskilled and unskilled; (3), individual pre-enlistment occupational skill and/or skill and technique acquired during service; (4), occupational suitability upon demobilization; (5), availability of work. These Committees should submit recommendations to their respective Governments dealing inter alia with (1), the rate of demobilization; (2), the reception of ex-personnel; (3), their reabsorption into civil life and employment; (4), vocational, professional or technological training; (5), the profitable use of Service gratuities; and (6), emigration and immigration. I suggest that this is a very useful outline. In addition, may I suggest the establishment of central bureaux for the purpose of co-ordinating the processes of demobilization and reabsorption, where necessary, for dealing with these problems on a regional basis? Finally, they strongly recommend that when plans have been approved the respective Governments should give wide and intensive publicity to all that they intend to do for the Service men on return to civil life.

I have quoted the West Indian Conference at some length because we have not, unfortunately, any similar pronouncement from African sources, and I believe that, granted certain changes suitable to the change of continent, the suggestions put forward by that Conference are very largely applicable to Africa. Demobilization, I think, presents two facets. There is, first, reabsorption in civil life, of which I have already said something, and, secondly, the conditions, housing, food, wages and land to which the men will be returning. The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, has spoken about housing, and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, will be following me, and as he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, living authority on African conditions, I shall venture to say very little about this enormous subject. Lord Rennell spoke of conditions in Nairobi. I would venture to quote a short extract from the annual report of the Kenya Native Affairs Department dealing with the position on estates. It says: Except on a number of pyrethrum estates and a few other farms no great improvement in housing took place. The unsatisfactory native type of hut, constructed without any supervision at all, is still the only type of housing provided on many estates. It is indeed regrettable that so many employers display so little interest in their native housing, and one is forced to the conclusion that no improvement will take place until such time as it is required by law. Sanitation has been fair, but there again the lack of supervision and interest of employers in this matter has militated against any marked improvement during 1938. It would seem that the whole problem is not limited to the urban areas of Nairobi and Mombasa. In Northern Rhodesia the situation can hardly be said to be more satisfactory. There are there particular local problems and troubles. One of them is a problem not unfamiliar to us in this country and which we know under the name of the "tied cottage." Owing to the fact that it is not possible for anybody except the intending employer of labour to supply housing for labour which has so little money to pay rent, nearly all the housing around, for example, Broken Hill, is owned by the employers, and when a man changes his employment he is bound to change also his residence. This, there as here, is liable to give rise to considerable ill feeling. There is in addition in Northern Rhodesia one particularly pernicious effect of such housing accommodation provided for African workers in that it is assumed that, though a man may be married or may share a hut with another man, no provision is generally made for visitors or children, and this inevitably results in disastrous overcrowding. In speaking of African housing I cannot resist quoting from Major Orde Browne, who in 1938 stated of the Livingstone municipal compound: … the buildings were taken over by the municipality from the former management on a total valuation of £1. Even this most modest figure seems high when the buildings are inspected. Long rows of cells, about 7½ feet square and of brick with iron roofs, provide accommodation for the tenants and their families; the buildings are unsuitable in type, floors and walls being built with soft mortar Which allows of crevices forming a refuge for ticks, bugs and all sorts of pests. Ventilation consists principally of the door, which must be usually kept open owing to the heat generated by the low iron roof. The buildings have a squalid courtyard, at one side of which is the beer hall. Sanitation consists of the unsuitable bucket system, and water has to be fetched from distant taps. A monthly rent of 4s. is charged. … Next to this compound is one where the tenants pay 1s. a month and build their own houses. The result is an extraordinary collection of huts of every size, shape and condition, connected by a labyrinth of paths between fences, hedges and trees; any sort of supervision or policing must present an almost impossible task. Sanitation again consists of bucket latrines on the outer edge of the area; their inadequacy is only too obviously supplemented by the luxuriant crops which grow to within a few feet of the compound. In these two settlements some 1,800 people are housed. The 1940 report of the Copperbelt Commission stressed the necessity of the presence of wives and families if the labour force is to be a contented one. It would be interesting if the noble Duke could tell us what steps, if any, have yet been taken to implement the suggestions of the Commission that more should be spent on housing in such a way as to give the African workers gardens or small plots on which they can grow trees, flowers or vegetables or keep fowls; and what steps, if any, have been taken to carry out these recommendations.

The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, has spoken of the conditions in Lagos. There is I think very little that I can add to his truly horrific description of urban conditions in West Africa. Again I venture on another quotation in order to show that these conditions are not solely urban. The conditions on the mines and estates seem to be no better. Major Orde Browne says: The type adopted is the long 'range' usually of about twelve rooms in a line, 10 feet by 12 feet by about 8 feet high in size, built of concrete blocks with a concrete floor and an unlined corrugated iron roof; there is a narrow front veranda and an inadequate roof overhang at the back which does not sufficiently protect the windows when open; the shutter of the latter is usually permanently closed and frequently fitted with shelves to serve as a cupboard. Kitchens are of the old communal type in the centre of a square, round which the 'ranges' are built, latrines on either the pit or bucket system being situated outside; provision for a bath or wash-house is not shown in the plans. Each of the small rooms or cells is supposed to house two labourers or a man and his wife. The cubic space is about 960 feet, which may be sufficient for two adults, but becomes overcrowded immediately any children are included. Unattractive in appearance and uncomfortable to live in such houses are very ill-adapted to family life; the highly desirable object of inducing workers to bring their wives with them is thus seriously impeded. … An objectionable feature of the 'range' of rooms is the triangular space usually left open at the top of the partition walls; this is defended as providing through ventilation. In practice of course it must serve to disseminate any disease contracted by any occupant of the rooms; it was the marked connexion between internal ventilation of this type and the incidence of tuberculosis which led to the prohibition of such devices in the Belgian Congo. I hope your Lordships will not think that I have taken up too much of your time in dealing with housing conditions, but I did want most particularly to stress what had in fact already been stressed by Lord Rennell—namely, the essential need for an improvement in housing conditions if the men returning from the Forces are to be satisfied. One of the most remarkable things which have happened as the result of the recruitment of Africans for the Army has been the immense improvement in their physique due to a balanced diet. I have taken up so much of your Lordships' time that I shall refrain from quoting at length from a report by Lieut.-Colonel Fernwood Anderson on the diet of the African soldier. I shall only mention that he points out that men from 200 different peoples have been persuaded to adopt the same Army ration. The only race that seem to have presented considerable obstacles are the Somalis. The result has been a really phenomenal improvement in physique. I do not have to remind your Lordships that one of the principal problems of Africa, according to all the dietetic authorities, is the inadequate and unsuitable diet of the African, resulting in a poor physique and incapacity to do a good day's work.

It seems to me that these men returning from the Forces, having been per- suaded to adapt their diet to the Army ration, and having experienced in their own persons the immense benefits accruing to them as the result of this change of diet, might and should be used as apostles of a good and balanced diet throughout Africa. I would suggest that the Nutrition Committee in the Colonial Office should be revived, that it should be provided with additional and adequate staff, that local nutrition committees in the Colonies, which seem to have become defunct, should be revived, and that they should be re-established with adequate, trained, and expert staffs. I am aware that the provision of new staff presents one of the greatest and most difficult problems, but I would urge on the Colonial Office the desirability of starting now to train these staffs in order that full advantage may be taken of the post-war situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, has spoken about wages. He pointed out that the African, trained in a skilled trade, will expect to receive an adequate wage. Wages in Africa are notoriously low. It is true that the standard of living is very different. The price of food, the price of a meal, is, according to our standards, infinitesimal, and I am not going to suggest that African wages should be compared shilling for shilling and pound for pound with English wages, but there is no doubt that the difficulties of malnutrition in Africa have been accentuated by the extremely low wages received by Africans. I would press upon the Colonial Office the need for the establishment of trade boards and industrial councils. In the past the Colonial Office has seemed to pin its faith to collective bargaining. Collective bargaining in Africa is completely unreal. There can be no such thing. Trade unions are very few, very ill-organized, and in no position collectively to bargain. There are, it is true, labour advisory boards, but these have no executive powers, and I do urge on the Colonial Office the need for the setting up of trade and industrial councils.

Finally, I come to the land. I sincerely hope that the most extensive settlement schemes will be adopted. If I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, on any point, it is in his belief that large numbers of the men demobilized from the Army will be prepared to return to their native villages. That seems to me extremely unlikely, and if they do return it seems to me even more unlikely that they will be prepared to remain there. They have grown used to different things. They will have become, I believe, detribalized, and I do not think they will be prepared to return. Does that not give us a tremendous opportunity, by setting up agricultural settlements, of giving an example to the Africans in improved agricultural methods? I suggest that these settlements should be set up on a cooperative basis. Communal ownership and use of land is familiar to Africans, and I believe that on a co-operative basis these settlements could be set up and could be made not merely self-supporting but profitable. Above all, they could be made an invaluable example to the rest of Africa. Such settlements could, I suggest, be made in Kenya, Northern Rhodesia, and in the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, but, as Lord Rennell pointed out, there is no land in Africa which does not belong to somebody, though there is land which is not fully used.

A little time ago I put a question, not for oral answer, to the noble Duke, concerning the terms of reference of a subcommittee which has been set up in Kenya. The noble Duke replied that there was no intention of going back on Government policy, and that the committee has been set up to study the questions of detail which he said, in a previous reply in February, would have to be considered in the light of post-war conditions. He said there was no intention of adding any land to that reserved for white settlement. Frankly, as I told the noble Duke by letter, I was dissatisfied with his answer and regretted that it was a written answer. What I particularly wanted to hear from the noble Duke was whether it was intended to increase the number of white settlers above that outlined in the same statement. This information he did not give me. I do not feel that it is right or proper that there should be white settlement so long as there are Africans without land, and if there is land, as there clearly is land—the setting up of such committees admits there is land in the so-called white Highlands of Kenya—the first claimants, I submit, to that land should be Africans.

In Africa at the present time there is a period of most difficult adjustment. The old African subsistence economy is being altered and is suffering the impact of the more developed and wholly different European economy. This must be a most difficult time for Africa. It is our duty towards our African Colonies to help them through this period in such a way that what is good in their own conditions, what is solid in their own foundations, shall be preserved, and that on the new superstructure shall be added those features of our civilization which are good and which will benefit the Africans. I suggest that these men demobilized from the Army should be used and could prove invaluable allies in this way of trusteeship for the African people. Is this to be welcomed as an opportunity or regarded as yet another African problem?


My Lords, I desire to associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, said in regard to the Motion proposed in so interesting and informing a way by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell. It is to my mind not merely his experience of the last four years of service in Africa, but his very wide experience of conditions in foreign Colonies which enable him to make comparisons in certain respects between the methods we have adopted in our own Colonies and those that have been adopted by our neighbours. He will not mind my mentioning the very pleasant recollections I have myself of an association with him in studying some of those conditions. He himself, in introducing the Motion, stated that he intended to keep well within the scope of its wording. The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has taken a somewhat wider range and, although the subjects with which has dealt are of great interest and some of them of great urgency, yet I feel perhaps that your Lordships would not desire that one taking part subsequently in the debate should follow him into the questions of improving nutrition, or the establishment of trade reforms, or the question of the extent of white settlement in Africa. All these questions are of the greatest importance and some are cognate to the Motion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, but perhaps there is sufficient in that Motion itself to warrant one keeping, as the mover did strictly, to its terms.

The subject with which he dealt seems to me to have really two aspects. There is the more immediate question of the settlement of men who are being demobilized from the Forces and there is the wider question of the treatment generally of what is described as the detribalized native. It is in that connexion, very largely, that the noble Lord referred to the lack of, and it seems to me the necessity for, very serious consideration being give to the treatment of the demobilized members of our Forces, and that not merely because of any sense we may have of our obligations to them. Our obligations are many. Nobody can overlook the value of their services and nobody can fail to be affected by that very feeling reference which Lord Rennell made to the circumstances in which they joined our Forces. But there is something more than this. It seems to me that the demobilization of these men has given us an opportunity which, if we use it rightly, will be of the greatest economic value to us. Everyone who has studied the conditions of Africa must be well aware of the great need in Africa itself for men with training in mechanical and technical work. Lord Rennell has mentioned that in East Africa there was a myth that they were unsuited for such work. But that myth is fortunately exploded. I do not think that feeling ever was very widely spread throughout our Colonies in Africa, but it can hardly be said to exist now on the west side, and even in East Africa itself, your Lordships will remember, Africans have been trained and utilized throughout the making of the railway to Nyasaland and they were also utilized in Uganda in various mechanical processes.

I think, therefore, although that myth may have existed, it was restricted to certain particular areas. But the need has been everywhere felt not merely of men with training and capacity of this nature to be used in Government service and in the capitalized industries. What is in my mind is the great need for men of this class to provide the innumerable services which every community must organize for itself—every community, that is, that seeks economic advance—such as the service of transport, the making of agricultural tools, domestic equipment, building, etc. I need give only a brief reference to the very wide range of services of this nature which the community has to provide for itself, and in which Africa is almost entirely lacking. Unless something can be done to engage the Africans themselves in occupations of this kind and to improve their skill in them, there will always be a very serious lack in the economic and social development of Africa. Here is an admirable opportunity of obtaining the services of men who have received training of this description. I have heard it said that the training they have received from the Army is of a somewhat general nature, and that it does not fit them for any special occupation. I understand there is a scheme which will give them instruction in particular directions in specified trades. If that is so it is all to the good.

But I would like to make the point that, although I believe the proper use to be made of these men in trades and skilled occupations of this nature is as far as possible by the Government and wherever possible by industry, yet the opportunity will have been partly wasted unless we ourselves can do something to stimulate those secondary and tertiary industries which are so much needed in making up African economic life. The employment of these demobilized men in this way will have the effect of raising prices generally, first through the higher wages given to them as skilled men and ultimately in the raising of general wages in agricultural employment and the like. That will not be welcome everywhere but it is certainly a process that we ourselves ought to encourage. It is impossible to see how the general standard of African life can be raised unless there is at the same time a reasonable increase in the standards of wages and employment. The numbers of men who are so engaged in employment of various kinds are now very considerable, indeed there are Colonies where they run to 250,000 or 300,000. Therefore the effect of raising the general wages of this large body of men must react on the standard of living generally. To a certain extent, so far as East Africa is concerned, the employment of demobilized men in this direction will replace the work of Indians. I think that is a measure to be welcomed. I do not overlook the contribution which Indians have made to the economic life of Africa, particularly at the outset, but it cannot be a good thing that so much of the trade and so much of the skilled employment in East Africa should be a practical monopoly of Indians.

It has been suggested that one alternative form of employment for demobilized men would be on the land. I think both noble Lords who have spoken tended to feel that that in itself would not be very attractive to the greater body of men. Of course the employment of ex-soldiers on the land was very largely utilized as a means of meeting the claims of Indians who served in the last war. In their case it met with very great success, but the conditions were entirely different. The Indian soldier was a man who for the most part had a long tradition of intensive agriculture behind him, he had seldom difficulty in finding capital, and the immediate returns from irrigated land were so good as to be an immense attraction. It has been suggested that men who have served in the Forces in this war would have some objection to returning to tribal life in the native reserves, where the standards of living are very different from those experienced in the Forces and where they would come under the continual restraints and controls of tribal institutions. The Administrations, however, have for a very considerable period past recognized that there is a class of African no longer willing to resume tribal life, men who have been in Government employment, in trade and the like.

Some question has been raised also as to the availability of land for these men. It is true that all land in Africa belongs to some community or other, but some provision has been made already in that direction. In Southern Rhodesia as much as seven million acres has been set aside for purchase by Africans who wish to live an individual life on their holdings. Only a quarter of a million acres so far have been occupied on leasehold with the option of rent or purchase. A scheme was provided in Kenya Colony in the Ordnance of 1938 covering some seven hundred square miles. Therefore the immediate needs of this class are undoubtedly provided for. I think Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are contemplating somewhat similar provision, but I do not think the problem has yet arisen in Tanganyika though there is undoubtedy in the Tanganyika land law an opportunity to set aside unoccupied land for the purposes of African soldier settlement if required. I join with both noble Lords who have spoken in having some doubt as to this being a solution to be very largely adopted or indeed with very great success. Experience in Southern Rhodesia is not very impressive. Men have come to these individual leaseholds often with very little capital, some with very little knowledge of agriculture, and it is clear that if we are to settle the demobilized soldier on individual leasehold land in this manner we must be prepared to help him with capital and to give a good deal of other assistance.

Then there is the second part of the question, the detribalized native generally. I should like to use the word "detribalized" with some qualification, because I think it is difficult to say that there is a dividing line between two classes of men, those in tribal institutions and those detribalized. There is an extraordinary clinging to tribal life in Africa. There is a large body of wage earners in Africa who are migratory and who continually return to their homes. I think it is indisputable that even among the more advanced and educated Africans there is still respect for the traditional life. There is still in many quarters a desire to retain a purely African customary life and not to became cut off from it or from its affinities entirely. The effect of the constant migration of labour is that there is as yet a very small class that could be said to be actually industrialized or a very small class that could be said to have lost all interest in tribal affinities. That is to say, at the moment it is relatively a small class. But that class is growing.

It is not so much perhaps a problem in Kenya because the native there is employed generally within a reasonable distance of his own home. Northern Rhodesia is perhaps the best example. In that part the industrialist community interested in the copper mines have not been willing to adopt the policy adopted by the Belgians of stabilizing labour, but labour is stabilizing itself. The fact that so many of the children are brought up in the atmosphere of the copper mines—I would remark in parenthesis to my noble friend Lord Faringdon that in some mines 50 or 60 per cent. of the labour is accompanied by families—and are being educated there, has given us something like a community of stabilized labour. I do not think we can say the problem has become noticeable in Uganda or Kenya, but I think it is true to say that the needs of this growing class not only in East Africa but in West Africa do at the moment constitute one of the most urgent problems of African administration. It is not unjust to say that hitherto administration has been very largely concerned with the promotion of the welfare of the rural areas and largely occupied with adapting customary institutions to the needs of modern administration, though it is perhaps true to say that our British officers who have a strong traditional liking for the primitive man and feel perhaps most at home with him, have shown more interest in those areas than they have in urban conditions.

I am glad to think that in that direction their instincts have led to remarkable success, but the problem of the future is not purely that of the rural districts. It is increasingly the problem of more advanced conditions that you find in the urban areas. I thing it is true—and I am sure my noble friend Lord Rennell will bear me out in this—that in some ways the Belgian Government have been in advance of us in considering the needs of these urban classes. They have realized that they need not only special accommodation and special types of residence but special institutions for justice, a special type of education and the like. The Belgians therefore instituted the centre extra-coutoumier, and the ville indigéne which is really a home for those who have left tribal life. The ville indigéne is the native town outside the European town, admirably managed and peopled for the most part by natives who have built their own houses, and certainly an area in which the natives themselves appear to be far more comfortable and far happier than they do in the somewhat less desirable conditions of many of the towns in our Colonies. One must remember, of course, that the Belgians had no such problem to face as we had in West Africa, of large African cities. They did not have to deal with conditions such as those which Obtain in Ibadan with 300,000 inhabitants long established there—all purely African natives. They did not have to deal with any places of the type of Lagos, though I think they prevented much growing up in their areas that has grown up in Lagos. And of course they have deliberately restricted additions to the numbers of their native towns. That is one part of their system. It is perhaps owing to that that they have been able to achieve even greater success than our own in dealing with the problem of accommodation.

Although I think that in the past we have neglected this problem, with the result that there have been in many of our Colonies conditions in regard to habitation, sanitation and the like, which can only be described as appalling—and I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, had to say on that subject—I do feel that the atmosphere is changing, and I see the Administrations now taking a far greater interest in urban conditions. I think it is characteristic of this that we have lately sent out to Africa an architect to advise on town planning. It is characteristic of this that we have made an effort to rebuild part of Accra. Even Nairobi has obtained a large loan for improving its native quarters. The difficulty of course is that they have a wrong philosophy about the whole thing. Instead of building a true native town, as my noble friend Lord Rennell has said, they have insisted on perfectly alien standards of building. Everywhere I find a greatly increasing interest in the improvement of urban conditions, and I will only repeat here my firm belief that this is one of the most urgent problems with which we are faced.

We might now at the cost of a very considerable sum of money proceed with the improvement of such places as Freetown, Bathurst and Lagos—the improvement of their sanitation, their types of habitation and the like; but (and I return to this point once more) no improvements of this kind will have any permanent effect unless, at the same time, our policy is directed to the stimulating of the secondary and tertiary types of industry which must provide occupation for the great part of the inhabitants of these towns. The policy required is not merely one of town improvement. It is not merely a local government problem, as it were. It is not merely a matter of improving sanitation, or even of providing finance for town improvement or construction. It is an economic problem of wide range. It is no use giving people our standards of sanitation and hygiene and housing unless at the same time you can adjust economic conditions, so that they will be assured of being able to obtain a livelihood.


My Lords, I regret that I was not present when Lord Rennell rose to move his Motion but I have listened with great interest to speakers who have taken part in this debate. My reason for intervening to say a few words—and they will really be only a few words—is that in the past I served with these troops for many years and I know something of the problems connected with their demobilization. I have seen numbers of these troops recently, and I know what splendid work they have done and are doing. Noble Lords who have already spoken have clearly shown that they have studied the subjects of housing, secondary and tertiary industries, and re-settlement; and I feel that if the Government are to deal with the men as they deserve on demobilization, these problems must be broken down. I, realize of course that housing is very important, but I believe that as far as these soldiers are concerned that problem presents a smaller difficulty than some may perhaps assume.

There are not a great number of these soldiers in East African or West African regiments, and I feel that they can be dealt with step by step. If we wait until a great and comprehensive scheme embodying such matters as industries, nutrition and the many other things which have been mentioned, is launched, there must necessarily be considerable delay. I feel that so far as possible these men, when they go back to their own countries, ought to be dealt with, and their needs met at once. The three noble Lords who have spoken will I think agree with me in that, for if it were done it would not in any way interfere with the drawing up and carrying out of greater schemes in the future. A certain number of the men would not be dealt with immediately, but a great number could be dealt with.

In the matter of co-ordination I would like to sound a word of warning. The word "detribalization" has been used, as if some of these African regiments consisted just of men of different tribes. As a matter of fact some of them are men of completely different races. As the result of their services in this war they will have travelled a great deal and have seen much of the British Empire, so that their outlook will have been greatly broadened. The majority of those soldiers will want to go back to their own countries, and I flunk, therefore, that the Colonial Office should, and I hope that it will, take steps to ascertain how many of these soldiers they have got to house on demobilization and where accommodation for them will have to be found. A lot can be done at once. I foresee that perhaps it will make the building more expensive if the homes have to be scattered about in different towns and villages in Africa, some of them perhaps in entirely new territory. At the same time I am convinced that it is absolutely essential that this particular problem shall not be mixed up with the far greater problem of the housing of the peoples of the whole of the African Colonies.


My Lords, I think your Lordships' House, the Governments of the African Colonies, the peoples of Africa, and the Colonial Office are all very much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, for raising this Motion this afternoon. It is all to the good that the many and important problems to which he has called attention should be discussed and thought over as fully as possible. I am quite sure that the discussion we have had here to-day will stimulate, if that were possible, the interest which has already been taken in these subjects in Africa. I welcome the raising of this Motion for very many reasons—if for no other, because it does give me an opportunity of paying tribute to the magnificent work which is being done by African subjects of His Majesty from all over the African Empire. The noble Lord, I know, is fully aware of the position, but he has used the expression "called up." It is of course the case that all the fighting men and the overwhelming majority of the Pioneer Corps and others are volunteers. There is no such thing as a conscript African soldier. There may be, to a very limited extent, conscription in certain categories of labour, but the fighting men are volunteers without exception. I think it is proper that your Lordships should realize that. Africans have responded freely and very courageously to the call of service. They have served with great distinction in many campaigns, and are serving magnificently to-day in many theatres of war. There is still great work for them to do. I think that all your Lordships will feel that there is a very special duty laid on us to ensure that on their return to civil life they shall find that their Governments have not neglected their responsibilities in the matter of making proper arrangements for their reabsorption into civil life.

I welcome this opportunity not only of getting off what is an extremely hard seat, but also of making known what plans the Colonial Office and the Colonial Governments are making. I hope that I shall not be thought to be minimizing the importance of the noble Lord's speech if I try to show, in the course of what I have to say, that to a very large extent he is knocking at an open door. I must also make it plain that when I describe the plans which are now in course of preparation I must not be taken as implying that any large-scale demobilization of the African Colonial Forces is contemplated in the immediate, or indeed in the near, future. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, will forgive me if, before I give a detailed reply to his points, I refer to one or two of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon. To most of them I will reply when dealing with the speech of Lord Rennell, but there are some few with which I should like to deal now.

Lord Faringdon asked a number of specific questions as to how far demobilization plans had gone in the African Colonies, what committees have been set up and what is their composition. I shall he dealing to some extent with that point, but I think it would be helpful if, before I go any further, I make a few preliminary remarks on the demarcation of responsibilities. Your Lordships will know that the African Colonial Forces are at the present time under the complete control of the War Office, and it follows from that that the responsibility for the process of demobilization, including its timing and its extent, must rest with the military authorities. They are using the troops, and they must say, on operational grounds, when their services can be dispensed with. On the other hand, the responsibility for reabsorbing the discharged men into civil life clearly rests with the Colonial Governments, who are in turn responsible to the Secretary of State.

Quite apart, therefore, from any local committees or other bodies which individual Colonial Governments have set up to work out resettlement schemes for the future, it has been necessary to devise administrative machinery, both in East Africa and in West Africa, to secure proper co-ordination between the civil and the military authorities. Both in East and in West Africa the military Command is a single entity, and it naturally desires to have a uniform policy for the progress of demobilization; but included in each Command there is a number of separate Colonies, each with its own Government, its own Legislative Council, its own Budget and its own problems, and the plans which they will have to make for the resettlement of the men after their discharge will vary from Colony to Colony according to the economic and social conditions prevailing in each.

I have heard no one trying to maintain that the problem of demobilization in this country is going to be a simple one, but it is going to be relatively simple compared with the immense complexity of this problem in the African Colonies. It is immensely more complex there than here or in the Dominions, where the military and civil authorities are both the servants of the same Government and dealing with a single country. To meet this difficulty there has been for some time established in East Africa a Standing Demobilization Committee under military chairmanship on which all the Governments are represented, and which has a joint civil and military secretariat. This Committee functions under the of the East African Governors' Conference at Nairobi. A similar Standing Committee is now being established at Accra on the initiative of the West African War Council. Many of the African Colonial Forces are at the moment serving in the Middle East Command, and plans for the eventual demobilization of the Forces in that Command are at present under discussion with the military authorities. Among other developments, the Army Education Corps—and I was glad to hear the noble Lord pay the tribute which he did to the work done for education in the Army—have offered to provide preliminary vocational and other training preparatory to eventual demobilization.

The noble Lord also referred to nutrition. I do not think that I can quite agree with him 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 that the majority of them have done really valuable work. Following on the results of the Hot Springs Conference, my right honourable friend communicated further with Colonial Governments on nutrition policy, and the Medical Research Council have recently formed a Human Nutrition Research Unit which, under the direction of Dr. B. S. Platt, is engaged in investigating Colonial nutrition, and is offering hospitality for study and research for nutritional workers from the Colonies. The Unit is also ready to advise Colonial Governments on technical questions, and its formation is a first step towards a wider organization which it is hoped will include both teaching and research in its scope. I hope that in the near future Dr. Platt will again visit various Colonial territories for the purpose of investigating the position and advising on future plans. I might also add that my right honourable friend has very recently set up a Colonial Fisheries Advisory Committee to consider both inland and sea fisheries, and I am not without hope that that will make a really useful addition to the animal protein diet available to the peoples of Africa. As a rule there is no deficiency of starchy foods; it is animal proteins which are required, and this Committee may be able to make a really useful contribution there.

The noble Lord also raised the question, referred to by other speakers, of the making of more land available to Africans in East Africa and in Northern Rhodesia. I am very much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, who, from a fund of knowledge which, if I were even capable of it, it would take me many years to acquire, replied in some detail, so that I need scarcely pursue that subject. A good deal is being done, and steps are being taken to relieve congestion where it exists. The Government of Northern Rhodesia have put into force resettlement schemes by purchasing land formerly held by the British South Africa Company and by the North Charterland Company in the Northern and Eastern provinces. Land which will be declared native trust land is being resettled with Africans from the crowded areas.

The noble Lord also raised a very important question about the creation of trade boards or industrial council machinery for fixing minimum wages. Here there is a very real difficulty owing to the lick of appropriate persons to represent the workers. I agree with the noble Lard that it is very desirable that the machinery which he suggests should be brought into being, but we are faced with a real difficulty. Appropriate people to represent the African workers are at the moment not available. I have every hope that with the spread of education and wit a the various measures taken to improve the standard of living of the African they may be available in time, but the fact is that they are not available now and in existing circumstances it is felt that the best results can be secured by the use of the Labour Advisory Boards and the maintenance of a strong Labour Department for each Colony. The noble Lord dealt with housing, which I shall be speaking of later, but I would remind your Lordships that Major Orde Browne, from whom the noble Lord opposite quoted very extensively, is a member of the staff of the Colonial Office. He is my right honourable friend's Labour Adviser, and he writes these reports not only that the noble Lord may quote from them in your Lordships' House, but in order that my right honourable friend may act upon them. The noble Lord may take it as a fact that when he quotes Major Orde Browne's reports those reports have been read and in many cases acted upon.


They are no longer true?


It may be that the conditions which the noble Lord quoted no longer prevail. I do not want to weary your Lordships, but it is a fact that in Northern Rhodesia in particular very marked advances have been made in housing. There is some way to go yet before we reach the standard achieved by the mining companies in the Copperbelt, but great advances are being made in housing and the standard is constantly rising. There is minimum wage legislation in all the African Colonies, but experience has shown that legislation of that sort in itself is not a remedy for the conditions which the noble Lord deplores. The true remedy is the raising of the general standard of living and of education, which can only follow from improvements in housing, in nutrition and in social service amenities. Colonial Governments are making great efforts to bring about these improvements.

Turning to the main question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, I begin by saying what we have done from our end, the Colonial Office encl. A comprehensive and general statement of the need for the careful planning of schemes for the reabsorption into civil life of men serving in the Forces was issued to Colonial Governments by my right honourable friend rather more than a year ago. In it he drew attention to the necessity for close co-operation between the military and civil authorities in preparing plans for demobilization and for civil authorities to be given as long notice and as much information as possible as to the programme of release. The statement was accompanied by suggestions for the planned employment of ex-soldiers, and it was pointed out that it would be necessary to take account of the improved standard of living and pay to which members of the Forces had become accustomed during their period of service, and that special provision would be required in local schemes for the absorption into civil life of soldiers who return to civil life having acquired some special trade or skill.

Attention was also drawn in my right honourable friend's circular to the need for development, where it is economically possible, of soundly conceived secondary industries and for agricultural development, accompanied by credit and marketing schemes and for the provision of social welfare amenities. I should like to assure the two noble Lords opposite that we do very definitely look upon the return of these men who have learnt a different way of life from that which they had before, very much as an opportunity for getting on with the improvement of the standard of living in Africa rather than as a liability. The circular also made reference to the possibility of giving a limited preference—I emphasize the word "limited"—to demobilized soldiers filling Government appointments, but it was laid clown that here the interests and requirements of the public service must be paramount, and that the right course was for Governments to help ex-Servicemen to take their place in civil life on their merits rather than to place them by preferential treatment in positions which they might not be fully qualified to fill.

So much for the general lines of the directive issued by the Colonial Office rather more than a year ago. But even before this statement was issued the Governments both in East and West Africa had had the question under active consideration in consultation with the local military authorities, and in some territories Committees had been set up to report on all aspects of demobilization and resettlement. Even at this early stage the problem was seen not so much as one of providing special facilities for ex-Servicemen to gain their livelihood under improved conditions as of preparing and implementing plans for comprehensive post-war development designed to improve the social and economic life of the people by steady progress in health and educational services and in housing and better methods of agriculture.

At this point I might refer to one aspect of the problem which has very special reference to ex-soldiers, that is, the rehabilitation of the disabled. This presents special difficulties in the case of Africans, but by specialized and sympathetic treatment it is hoped that the majority of disabled men will be able to take their place in the civil life of the community and be economically independent. A centre has been established in Nairobi for the training and rehabilitation of disabled ex-Servicemen, and it is already doing valuable work. It is proposed to expand this centre so as to provide facilities for all disabled soldiers of the East African Forces. In West Africa plans for rehabilitation centres are being put into operation, and Lord Swinton has paid a visit to Nairobi with a team of civil and military officers from West Africa with a view to applying East African experience to the plans being put into force on the West Coast. An expert from Roehampton has visited West Africa and has made what I hope will be very satisfactory arrangements for the provision and fitting of artificial limbs. He is now visiting East Africa. The needs of blinded men have not been overlooked, and in Nairobi the Salvation Army, with assistance from the Kenya Government, is running a special school for the blind, which will accept cases from all the East African Forces. Arrangements are under consideration in consultation with St. Dunstan's for the provision of expert staff to assist in this important work.

The field we are discussing is a very large one, and I should weary your Lordships if I dealt more than quite briefly with what is being done in the many Colonies covered by the terms of the Motion. I can assure the House that general planning in East and Central Africa is progressing on a comprehensive scale. In Kenya a Committee was appointed by the Government as far back as May, 1941, to consider what steps should be taken by the Government to absorb ex-Servicemen into the economic stucture of the colony, and this Committee appointed a special sub-committee which devoted its attention entirely to the problems of reabsorbing African ex-soldiers into civil life. Lord Faringdon asked me if that Committee had reported. Its report was issued last year, and I have it in my hand. Attention is being given to the provision of training facilities for craftsmen and tradesmen of all cadres and to supplementing technical training which men have received in the Army, centres and workshops to be set up for providing instruction for fitters, blacksmiths, carpenters, motor mechanics, builders, tailors, butchers, bakers and laundrymen, in fact for the improvement and development of any skills which Africans have acquired during their Army life.

The economic life of the East and Central African territories must, as far as one can see ahead, continue to be based upon agriculture, and it is recommended that in Kenya the Government should actively encourage the growing of all kinds of crops by Africans by the estabment of native agricultural training centres and the organization of marketing. At the moment an expert in co-operative marketing is in Kenya to advise the Government on the constitution and development of native co-operative societies, with particular reference to marketing problems. Long-term programmes of soil conservation and agricultural development have been approved for assistance under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act together with schemes for developing water supplies in native areas.

In Uganda the Governor has recently prepared a programme of post-war development. It is not the policy actively to encourage ex-soldiers to abandon their former agricultural pursuits, since agriculture is the mainstay of the Protec- torate's economy, but the Governor agrees with the noble Lord this afternoon that there will be numbers of men who will not wish to return to peasant agriculture, and for them adequate training facilities will be provided to enable them to earn a livelihood in trade or village crafts. The Uganda Industrial Committee has recently established a pottery at Entebbe, and it is intended to develop such village industries as spinning and weaving, and brick and tile making. In Tanganyika the confident expectation is that the vast majority of discharged soldiers will want to return to their villages. The District Administration staff is being made responsible for seeing that ex-soldiers are provided with suitable employment on the land, and small provincial committees are being set up to survey the local field of employment for skilled and semi-skilled men.

In Zanzibar a Committee set up last year concluded that the problem of reabsorbing ex-Servicemen into civil life must be regarded as one with that of the development of the Protectorate as a whole. Funds have been provided by the Zanzibar Government for an experimental smallholders scheme and other projects are under consideration. In Nyasaland the Post-War Development Committee, consisting of officials and the unofficial members of the Legislative Council, has made excellent progress with the working out of post-war plans covering a wide field. It is intended to provide vocational training for the soldier who has seen service with the various transport corps or has worked in the Army in a semi-skilled capacity. Labour Bureaux will be set up within the demobilization centres to assist ex-soldiers to find employment. In Northern Rhodesia comprehensive development schemes are in course of preparation and will be considered by the Development Adviser whose appointment was announced a short time ago. An inquiry is being undertaken by an outside expert into the possibility of establishing secondary industries and the Development Adviser will pay special attention to the encouragement of rural industries.

Turning to West Africa, the Governments of Nigeria, the Gold Coast, and Sierra Leone now have planning organizations with special full-time officers attached actively at work on the planning of post-war developments and the preparations for demobilization. The Gambia has already formulated its proposals for a comprehensive development plan. Arrangements are being-made by the West African Governments to ensure that men are demobilized near their homes and that a full record is maintained and will be available of the trade qualifications of all soldiers. That should be a very valuable document. In the case of Nigeria a register has been compiled giving particulars of each man with his qualifications before he entered the Army and the type of training which he received in the Army. This will clearly be of the greatest value in dealing with the problems of demobilization and reabsorption into civil life.

Much thought has already been given by the Committees which have been set up in the West African Colonies to the problems of re-settlement of demobilized soldiers. The placing of skilled men in suitable employment is obviously an entirely different problem from that which faces the Governments in regard to unskilled men, who are of course in the majority. Moreover, the placing of individuals calls for a different technique from that suited to the collective employment of men in organized bodies. For the former, the skilled men, it is envisaged that the plans will include employment for such types of men as drivers and mechanics in road transport services, agricultural demonstrators, teachers in technical schools, surveyors and medical and sanitary orderlies. For the latter, the unskilled, 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. These proposals are at present necessarily tentative and will require considerable detailed examination when the main lines have been determined. Their consideration is, however, being undertaken as rapidly as circumstances permit. Consideration is also being given to the measures necessary for the encouragement and regulation of secondary industries, in which it will be essential to ensure that every opportunity is given to Africans to play a full part. In all this work it is the task of the Development Adviser for West Africa, working with the Resident Minister, to ensure that planning by the four Governments is co-ordinated on a West African basis.

I have dealt necessarily only very briefly and in the barest outline with what is being done in each Colony, but I hope I have said enough to convince the noble Lord that the Governments of the African Colonies are aware of their responsibilities and are making serious and sustained efforts to be in a position to meet them when the time comes. The noble Lord argued—and no one is likely to query the validity of his argument—that many African soldiers who have learnt trades or have grown accustomed to an improved standard of life in the Army will not be content to return to their villages and to a primitive life but will want to pursue trades and enjoy a higher standard of living in the towns. He urged that this makes even more urgent than before the need for improving the standards of African housing, and especially of African urban housing and slum clearance, and of improving the water supplies. Much thought has been given to this subject during the past four years, though, unfortunately, the shortages of materials, man-power and staffs have prevented much actual progress. There is, as Lord Faringdon and others have indicated, unhappily much leeway to be made up in the provision of suitable housing, and for this reason it is not contemplated at present that schemes should be devoted to the needs of ex-Servicemen alone.

Your Lordships will agree that housing schemes of the dimensions which the need demands require most careful thinking out by experts, surveyors and engineers, and it is the case that many schemes have been held up by shortage of staff. In Kenya, schemes for housing large numbers of African employees of the Government are in progress in Nairobi and Mombasa, and money will be advanced to local authorities for carrying out approved schemes of building for other classes of Africans. The noble Lord mentioned a figure of £80,000. The figure I have is £600,000, planned to be spent during the next few years, and assistance is to be given under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act by way of free grants and loans. About half of this expenditure will be incurred in providing suitably planned houses in Nairobi, where, as the noble Lord pointed out, the need is especially great, and this scheme has already been submitted by the Governor and is under consideration in the Colonial Office. Further schemes are in contemplation for increased housing accommodation in Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, and Nakuru. As regards housing in rural areas, the possibility of utilizing the provisions of the Housing Ordinance for local Native Councils is being examined, and apart from this funds have been provided for the manufacture of bricks and other building materials for re-sale at cost in Nyanza Province.

In Uganda a large-scale building estate scheme is being worked out for Kampala, the commercial capital, which it is estimated will accommodate some five thousand persons. In Jinja, the cotton port on Lake Victoria, building schemes are already in preparation. Most rural native administrations are prepared to assist ex-soldiers with loans up to 80 per cent. of the cost of the building of houses of permanent materials, and the Protectorate is considering ways of financing housing schemes by loans where necessary.

In Tanganyika experimental housing schemes are being carried out in Dar-es-Salaam with a view to the preparation of a full-scale scheme which will be submitted for assistance under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. In Zanzibar, a plan for the rebuilding of the whole native town of Zanzibar over a period of years with funds to be provided under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act is under consideration. In the meanwhile an experimental slum clearance scheme has been approved. In Northern Rhodesia, a comprehensive survey of requirements for the urban areas is being undertaken and an African Housing Commission is expected to report shortly, and a scheme embodying a housing programme for a period of years will then be drawn up and put into effect. While this work of planning has proceeded a good deal of building has been carried out, and in spite of all the war-time difficulties many improvements have been made during the past five years. A great deal remains to be done before the general standard of housing in the urban areas of Northern Rhodesia will compare with that provided by the mining companies on the Copperbelt, but substantial and real improvements have been made even during these war years.

In West Africa the Governments will have the advantage of the expert advice and outstanding skill and experience of Major Maxwell Fry, who has been appointed Town Planning Adviser for West Africa. He has now a team of architects with him and planning is proceeding on a broad scale. In Accra, in the Gold Coast, a long-term scheme of rebuilding has beer approved, and the necessary financial arrangements have been made.

With regard to Lagos, to which the noble Lord made special reference, I am glad to be able to say that the Government have in mind a comprehensive slum clearance and rebuilding scheme to be undertaken as soon as materials and staff are available (but of course they are not at present available), with a double objective of improving housing conditions and providing work for demobilized soldiers. I might perhaps say that the Lagos Development Board had made a start with town planning and slum clearance at Lagos Island and at Yaba on the mainland before the war. Slum clearance on the island necessarily stopped in 1941 when building materials ceased to be available, as the only effect of continuing the clearance work without rebuilding would have been to aggravate overcrowding in Lagos. The new programme is now being worked out by a strong committee called the Lagos Housing Committee which has been set up under the Chairmanship of the Commissioner for the Colony and it is to pay special attention to the housing of the poorest classes. It will work in close touch with the Lagos Executive Development Board, which has a Town Planning Officer attached to it and will also have the advice of Major Maxwell Fry.

The noble Lord made special reference to the Freetown water supply which in the past has given rise to very much complaint. There a really comprehensive scheme must await the end of the war until the necessary materials are available and also labour; but there has been built a new concrete reservoir for 1,200,000 gallons, which is now in operation at Hill Station and treatment works have also been completed. This is in addition to a new steel service reservoir and various War Department and Admiralty supplies. Forty-three wells have been re-opened in the town at sites approved by the medical authorities. The water from these has still to be boiled. Some progress therefore is being made, though I recognize it is not on a very great scale. But that must await the end of the war. In the meantime the Government are doing what they can to improve water supplies under war conditions.

With regard to Lagos water supply, to which the noble Lord also made special reference, it is true that a substantial increase of its capacity is also needed, but I am afraid it is also clear that any very large extension of the supply must necessarily await the end of the war. Preparatory investigations have already started and it is hoped that if pumping machinery can be made available some increase can be achieved without much delay.

With regard to the planning of Freetown, the Government have been up against very special difficulties. A Slum Clearance Committee appointed by the Governor of Sierra Leone reported in 1939 on the question of overcrowding in Freetown, and in 1941 the local Slum Clearance Committee recommended, as an urgent interim measure, the acquisition of certain specified areas of land and the creation of town planning areas. The Secretary of State approved the expenditure of funds for this purpose in September 1941, but almost immediately the Government's plan became impracticable on account of urgent Service demands for the immediate use of most of the areas ear-marked for rebuilding. Apart from this, the execution of plans has necessarily been held up by the acute shortage of man-power and material for purposes not absolutely vital to the war effort. We also had great difficulty in planning this necessary redevelopment owing to the difficulty of obtaining from the Services their post-war requirements in this strategically important area. That matter is being considered now in conjunction with the various authorities. This delay in the detailed planning of the rehousing and slum clearance scheme in Freetown is unfortunate though unavoidable as there is much work to be done in laying out the areas, formulating satisfactory financial proposals and generally for building schemes to be carried out when staff and materials are available. Housing conditions in Freetown have been made worse by the large influx of labour into the neighbourhood for works specially required in connexion with the war.

Now that the pressure of war requirements has been somewhat eased in Sierra Leone, it is hoped that these special causes of overcrowding will gradually cease to aggravate the problem. It is clear that the development of Freetown must be based on an adequate plan for the whole area affected. The Assistant Town Planning Adviser, a member of Major Maxwell Fry's staff, was, at the time the Governor telegraphed, in Freetown collecting data for the plan, and I am confident that the Sierra Leone Government for its part will do all that is possible to hasten the preparation of a comprehensive scheme.

My Lords, there is a mass of detail in these enormous territories which it is not possible to deal with in the limits of a Parliamentary debate, but I hope that I have covered the ground sufficiently to convince the noble Lord and those who spoke with him that the Colonial Office and the Colonial Governments are alive to the problems of reabsorption into civil life of their ex-soldiers and are pushing on as fast and as far as possible in providing Africa with reasonable standards of housing.


My Lords, speaking also on behalf of the other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, if they will permit me, I wish to thank the noble Duke very much for his extremely comprehensive reply, which to me at any rate is eminently satisfactory. It is quite clear that a great deal is now in progress. As a matter of fact, to summarize what the noble Duke has said, I think it can be taken as a statement of a considerably more forward and active policy of Colonial development than we have witnessed for many years past and as such it is welcome to those of us who have these matters very near to our hearts. In view of the detailed information which the noble Duke has furnished, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.