§ 4.41 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE had the following Notice on the Paper: To ask His Majesty's Government if they will give further information as to the functions and responsibilities of the new West Africa Council and whether it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to extend the setting up of regional organizations for fulfilment of certain functions of Colonial government to East Africa and to other Colonial fields; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is, I believe, the first debate on Colonial affairs which has taken place in either House since the present Government took office, and I should like to say how grateful I am to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, for coming here to reply to the debate. It must be clear to all the citizens of our country who study the world situation that Britain's main sources of strength and influence as a great Power 165 in the future must arise from the fact that we are associated with the British Commonwealth of Nations. Our small island of some 42,000,000 people, judged as a European Power, cannot mobilize much strength when relying upon its own re sources only. Furthermore, one result of this war has been, as it were, the shit: of power away from Europe; Germany and Italy have gone, and France has long road of recovery still in front of her. There are, therefore, only three great Powers left in the world. First, there the giant on the flank of Europe, Russia. with whom we are determined to remain in close and friendly relations. The two Powers on the western and eastern frontiers of Russia, who formerly hemmed her in, have now been rendered weak and harmless. The second great Power is the United States of America, with her immense economic resources; and we are the third. Without our Empire we are as nothing in relation to the other two: but as the centre of the Empire we can rank in every way with the other two World Powers on all matters concerning the future welfare of the world.
§ It seems to me that the British Commonwealth falls naturally into two parts: the great self-governing Dominions and the Colonial Empire. With regard to the Colonial Empire, I submit that we should follow two policies. The first is to associate the Dominions with the government and development of our Colonies, and the second is to decentralize our administration from Whitehall. It is with this latter point that my Motion to-day is concerned. I sincerely hope that your Lordships will, at some future time, debate the first proposition—the association of the Dominions to a greater degree than in the past with our Colonial development—at greater length, but I put forward this afternoon two propositions as the background for this Motion, and I trust that they will find general acceptance on all sides of the House. The first is that good Colonial government is what we seek, based on an increasing share of policy direction and executive execution by local populations as opportunity, willingness and capacity go hand in hand. The second proposition is that Government at the centre—that is, in Whitchall—is hopelessly overloaded from top to bottom.
§ Good Ministers and line public servants are, at the present time, overwhelmed 166 with details. For example, I wonder how, during the past few months, the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been able to fulfil to his own satisfaction his responsibilities to the Colonial Empire, whoa we know that at least half his time must have been taken up with the terrible and grave problem of Palestine. Again, paper work in the Colonial Office reaches desperate proportions, as indeed it does in other Government Departments, and even for small decisions endless minutes and exchanges of view take place, which make for irritation both, in the Colonial Governments overseas who arc dealing with the centre and also on the part of those who have to negotiate with the Colonial Office from without. Moreover, many Colonial Office officials at the present time are administering territories which they have never seen except on a map. That is not their fault. In the past, our system has been such that frequent travel and frequent exchange of posts with those in the territories for which these officials are responsible in London have not been possible. We alt hope that air travel will alter that in future and enable officials, instead of writing minutes or filling in files, to say to the Secretary of State: "Please may I go to West Africa for the weekend, and settle this matter straight away?"
§ Again, the working conditions for officials in the Colonial Office, apart from one or two of the seniors, are really deplorable. I have seen fine public servants, who have grown grey in the service of the country, sitting in ill-ventilated, musty, dark rooms with rugs round their knees trying to keep the draught off. I always think that a good test of office accommodation is the washing and toilet facilities, and in the Colonial Office these are deplorable; yet that is not a bad yardstick by which to judge any office. A prerequisite for good work is good working conditions, and I sincerely hope that the Secretary of State for the Colonies will, as soon as the building situation allows, look to this point to see whether his fine, hard-working staff cannot fulfil their duties under rather better conditions than at present.
§ The two propositions which I have put forward—first, that we should seek to associate the Dominions with Colonial administration; and, secondly, that we 167 are overloaded at the centre—lead me to the third point, which is that a measure of decentralization is both inevitable and essential. On October 17 the Government announced in another place the formation of a West Africa Council, instead of resuscitating the old Governors' Conference. I should like to ask the Government whether this step goes far enough, and what further steps of a broadly similar nature are being contemplated elsewhere within the Colonial Empire. If it is a fact that good government is promoted by the West African scheme for the West African Colonies, the question which occurs to all of us is why it should stop there and not be instituted elsewhere.
§ If this is so then I suggest that no time should be lost in tackling the job, for as the individual development of each Colony goes forward so does federation, political and economic, grow harder to bring about. In considering the African Colonies we must recognize that the Union of South Africa is interested in West Africa and East Africa, and whatever the future may bring as regards closer association of the Dominions nothing that we can do to promote more efficient government can be anything but good. That mere efficient government must, of course, fit into the picture of the future. Indeed, I believe that the Union of South Africa could contribute much now if we asked her and she is willing.
§ My noble friend Viscount Swinton was Resident Minister in West Africa during the time that the submarine warfare was acute in the South Atlantic. It was less acute when I was there but we were still getting a certain number of submarines. I well remember how those grand squadrons from the Union of South Africa, with their Wellingtons, went far out into the Atlantic. If those young men could help to guard our West African coasts in wartime, I am quite sure that they will find great opportunity if they will come back and help in political and economic development in peace-time.
§ Now I would like to deal briefly with the announcement of the West Africa Council. I am quite sure that we all give full support to that announcement. Lord Swinton and I—with much less experience than his—said to the last Government that we thought that the post of 168 Resident Minister ought to lapse; that there was no room for a Resident Minister once the acute problems of war-time had passed. We did say also that there should be a measure of centralization along the lines of this announcement. But the announcement itself fails to give any assurance of any measure of decentralization of power from Whitehall in the name of the Secretary of State to the new organization. It does talk about co-ordination but it does not give any details as to what powers will be vested, on behalf of the Secretary of State, in this new Council. Nor does this announcement give any assurance that certain powers will be lifted from the Colonial Governments and transferred to the new regional organizations. I must say that it is like drawing teeth to get certain powers from the individual Colonial Governments which could be better administered in the centre.
§ I would now like to deal with some of the functions which I feel should pass to this new central control. The first one is defence. We shall never, I believe, revert to the small private Armies, belonging to each individual Colony, which existed before the war. We have learnt the strategic need for an Empire reserve, and we have learnt that mobility and central direction of training for mechanical warfare make central command essential in such an area as West Africa. The second function, in this connexion, I suggest is neighbourly relations. The Resident Minister for West Africa was given certain responsibilities with French West Africa, French Equatorial Africa and the Belgian Congo, and I believe that within the boundaries of the Government's foreign policy the Minister presiding over the West Africa Council should be the focal point for the execution of these functions, for the foundation and maintenance of neighbourly relations in peacetime.
§ The third function which I would like to see controlled by this organization is research. I believe that research is only possible on a regional basis, and at the present time there is a considerable amount of overlapping between Colonies. Medical, agricultural and deep sea fishery development research are all world problems which must be worked out according to co-ordinated world programmes, each nation doing its particular part and each knowing what the other is doing. World research, I believe, can be broken down 169 into Empires and into countries, but it cannot and should not be broken down into such small single units as individual Colonies. We have the example in West Africa of the Cocoa Research Institute, which is dealing with cocoa diseases such as swollen shoot and sahbergella and is doing great work. I hope that we shall see in other fields of research—medical and marine, to mention only two—that centralization for West Africa brought in.
§ Another of these functions is supply. So long as priorities continue as a result of short supplies, I believe that pro-gratuities of imports and exports with shipping should continue to be coordinated, and finally adjudicated upon and controlled at the centre by the new organization and not left to the individual Colony. Next on the list is civil aviation. That is essentially suitable for control at this regional centre. It would be quite inefficient to have local companies and local systems. The Director of Civil Aviation for West Africa should be an official attached to the staff of this new organization. It is for consideration also as to whether local supervision and administration of Colonial development and welfare schemes in West Africa should not come to this organization. These are not charities or "doles" to Colonies but are aimed at enabling people to live better for all time through these development schemes.
§ Finally, I come to the matter of staff. I hope that the Government may be able to tell us something of this Controller of Personnel, that lie will be a staff officer representing the Secretary of State, as one of the members of this regional organization, and travelling round to different Colonies. He will see in his travels round, in the Bush particularly, much needless discomfort, a good deal of underpayment and certain petty economies, so often imposed by officials who are out of touch with those who are doing the job up country. To me one of the most distressing features of my tour as Resident Minister was the evidence of fatigue and overwork, and, in many cases, of underpayment, having regard to the family responsibilities of these grand young men. Many of them have to keep their wives and children in England while they are serving out there. I must declare with absolute conviction that many of these young men have felt neglected in the past by His Majesty's Government, in view of the 170 fine service which they have given to our Colonial Empire, service which ought to be adequately recompensed. If we are to give good government we must have happy staff. I hope that this regional organization will be the means of bringing more rapidly and more directly to the attention of the Secretary of State the conditions of these officers of the Colonial Service who, I believe, deserve a new deal —to use a phrase that is popular to-day.
§ In addition to these executive functions which I have suggested should be controlled at the centre, there is a tremendously wide field of co-ordination for the new region. Take one particular example—shipping. A ship that goes down the west coast of Africa to-clay goes into Bathurst, the port of the Gambia, and she has one set of shipping documents for Customs and harbour dues. She then goes down the coast to Sierra Leone and she has to have a completely different set of Customs papers and a completely different set of harbour dues papers. She then goes and lies off Accra with a third different set, anti she then goes down to Lagos and meets a fourth different set. Each Colony has the right to impose, subject to the final supervision of the Secretary of State, its own charges and make up its own Budget, and I am not suggesting that the financial independence of any Colony should be interfered with at all. What I suggest is that the Colonies should be allowed complete freedom to impose what charges they need for shipping, but at any rate such charges should be on a common system throughout the four Colonies, thus obviating a tremendous amount of work which shipping companies and officials have to undertake at the present time. One could make the same point with Income Tax. Let each Colony impose an Income Tax it considers right, but so far as possible let there be a common system which would allow a greater measure of standardization in firms trading among the four Colonies. Then there are telecommunications, coordinated road and rail programmes and many other fields of government which we hope will be co-ordinated.
§ In conclusion, we ought not to be afraid of lifting from the Colonial Office on the one hand, and the local Governments on the other hand, tasks which are better done by this new organization. I hope that this new regional organization is 171 going to be a pattern for others to come in the future in other Colonial fields. There are certain other noble Lords who have greater acquaintance with other parts of Africa than I can possibly claim. Here may I say that the noble Lord, Lord Halley, asked me to express his regret at not being able to speak to-day as he had hoped. His absence means that we have lost a great contribution to the debate this afternoon. I hope that this will be a pattern for others in the future. War has left us poor in material, but very rich in prestige, and I believe that we must fortify this by developing our material resources by energetic steps through efficient government. With Colonial development lifted as far as possible above Party considerations, I believe we shall fulfil a destiny marked for our people for new and even greater enterprises than we have embraced in the past.
§ 5.4 p.m.
My Lords, in rising to speak to this Motion I would add very little about the West African field which has been covered by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. I find myself in agreement with nearly all that he has said, although at one point I should like to have taken the argument a little further. If the West African picture is considered, so far at any rate as what is commonly known as West Africa from Cape Verde to the Cameroons, it is an Anglo-French picture. The map looks rather like, on a large scale, an area of property on a desirable seaside frontage where various people have picked out little bits on the sea front and run their roads and railways back from the sea irrespective of what their neighbours were doing. It is essential that before they crystallize any further, they should be brought together to develop on parallel lines; but none of these plots, large or small as they may be, can develop even on parallel lines among themselves with this Council or any other form of government which is set up hereafter over them all, without direct relations with their lateral neighbours, and with their own northern territories.
Here in this large area, simple in many respects compared with other Colonial areas, is there not an opportunity now to develop along the lines of that fruitful experiment, the Caribbean Commission, 172 especially as in this area there are, with the exception of two small Colonies, the Portuguese and Spanish Colony and Liberia, only two parties to the problem? I believe that a Caribbean Commission, or something like it, for West Africa, with the West African Council and the Centralized Council which the French Colonial Administration has in West Africa, is a practical possibility and would be welcomed by all concerned, if only to straighten out the difficulties of which Lord Balfour and his predecessor Resident Ministers there are only too well aware and which might be called the foreign relations of these Colonies with their neighbours. They must be conducted on the same lines and this can only be done by a centralized body. I suggest that an Anglo-French Commission is a body in which they can be sorted out and dealt with administratively now, without waiting any longer.
Turning to the East African field, the picture there is different. East Africa as a whole has in many respects progressed much further than West Africa, and it contains a number of problems not found in West Africa at all. But here the position is even more complicated than West Africa ever was so far as we are concerned, and it is a complication which we ourselves can solve. There are only four British administrations in West Africa, but in the East Africa and Indian Ocean littoral, excluding the Union, there are ten or eleven different British administrative entities. These entities have grown up quite fortuitously as a result of history. They make no sense economically, tribally, socially, or from any other point of view. They have been in existence so long that they have become crystallized to a degree which is already making a centralized administration in East Africa more and more difficult. The attempts that have been made to produce some order out of this—one can, perhaps, call territories on this scale penny packets—have, so far as I am aware, only been two. The first is the East African Governors' Conference, which did little more than nibble at the problems of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika, which in 1939 found itself overwhelmed by the war, and which is to-day utterly incapable of dealing with the position. The second experiment which has been made is the recently-announced Central African Council, the purpose of which I frankly 173 confess escapes me. It does not appear to have powers attributed to it and it is only a meeting place. It is not likely to produce more than the East African Governors' Council has produced, where free sovereignties meet and where no one is greater than the other.
I hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will find himself in a position to make some statement about East Africa, for a statement is overdue. Those of us who have followed this and been interested in it, have tried for two years to ascertain what was happening, and have, on more than one occasion, been told that it would be tactless at the present moment to make inquiries, that inquiries would only set things back, and so on, but that there was something going on. After two years, that something which has been going on must surely now be ripe to be picked, to be shown and to be exhibited, as I hope will shortly be done by the noble Viscount. If he does, and it does represent a step ahead of the frankly somewhat ridiculous position in which we are in East Africa, I hope is will not be a mere tinkering at the kettle with solder for fear that the noise of beating out a new bottom for the kettle might, disturb somebody's equanimity and sleep. If it is that, we shall get no further forward at all, unless it be a stage in a development which will, be announced at the same time.
The difficulties about the East African situation are perfectly obvious to all concerned. It is no good repining about the past. There are white settlers in Kenya, Indians all over East Africa, copper mines in Northern Rhodesia, and Commission territories inside Union territories. It is perhaps a pity that a lot of these things have happened, but I, personally, think that many of them are less of a pity than it is common and fashionable at the present moment to suggest. I believe that, in spite of all the criticisms made from all sides, both the white settlers in Kenya and the Indian population in East Africa have done vastly more to develop those territories than any other two factors there, and I think it is time that was admitted. Be the opinion of noble Lords what it may on that subject, the facts are that we have these problems with us and that it is no good trying to set the clock back by eliminating the people responsible for them, any more 174 than it is, in my view—what has been fashionable also—to try to set the African in the native reserves, tie him up in splints and surround him with camphor and disinfectant lest by chance he be contaminated by European influence, and put him in as a museum piece labelled "Native Reserve." That has happened too frequently. It cannot happen in Africa now because, happily, that time has passed. East Africa with its problems is exactly what East Africa was, just as is Malaya. Malaya has tin mines and rubber and a large Chinese immigrant population also, so that the problem will have to be dealt with as the East African problem must be dealt with. I venture to suggest it must be dealt with on a large scale, with imagination and not by tinkering at the pot.
If we look back over the last forty-five years, what have we not done to solve Colonial and Eastern administrative problems to the admiration of the whole world? In forty-five years the Union of South Africa was created, independence was restored to Egypt, Iraq was brought into being, Arab States, in addition to Iraq, were born through our initiative, and a large measure of self-government has been given to Burma. There remain, admittedly, Palestine, India and other problems to deal with, but among those other problems there remains one, East Africa, which is entirely within our administration and control to deal with. British administration and government run from the Upper Nile to the Zambesi. They are continguous territories where the control rests here with His Majesty's Government in London and with no one else. That is a problem which can be dealt with only by His Majesty's Government in London and must be dealt with on lines which are parallel and as great in conception as those being dealt with to which I have referred. I hope that the reply which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will make to this debate will give us some indication that the policy being pursued has that breadth of vision and that foresight which governed those other Imperial developments of which we have every reason to be proud.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, this debate is the first on Colonial affairs, as the noble Lord who introduced this Motion said, which has taken place in 175 either House since the change of Government. It is also the first debate which has taken place on the Colonies in any way in which we have confined ourselves chiefly to one point—the grouping of the Colonies—and not roamed over the whole question of Colonial administration. The West African Conference which is being set up, is really a continuation of the Governors' Conference. I feel that that is a step forward, though we have been three years or more debating whether Colonies should be grouped. When the subject was raised over three years ago, the noble Viscount who is going to reply for the Government to-day, was not unsympathetic to the suggestion I then put forward, nor were any of the members of his Party who were not then in the Government. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, the Leader of the House of that day, also made the remark that it was remarkable what a great measure of agreement had been reached in that debate between people who, on ordinary questions, did not see eye to eye. That was over three years ago. We have gone one step forward, and that step has been recent enough. It is, as I have said, the West African Conference, but it is only a step. Surely, it is not anywhere near finality. I will give the reason why I want to be a little bit in a hurry in this matter. We saw in this war that it was necessary to have a Minister of State in West Africa, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and it was recognized by all, by the Government and abroad, and everywhere, what a wonderful step forward it was. In the Colony itself, the people—the Africans—appreciated his work in those days, a work which was carried on by the noble Lord who introduced this Motion.
There is another point, and again I must say it is only a step from the West African Conference. I am dealing with East Africa and the West Indies. Not long ago it was said that if we did not take some steps to amalgamate, we were in danger of Balkanizing the whole of our Colonial Empire for ever. The noble Lord did not say that, but something on those lines was said. He knows I am not criticizing him, but with noble Lords on those Benches more keen on internationalization than I am, as I frankly admit—and the noble Viscount the Leader 176 of the House talked the other day about giving up sovereignty, and the Foreign Secretary in another place talked about a World Parliament—I cannot understand why we move so slowly in grouping together the Colonies in the British Empire. Surely, it is a step forward. If we want to internationalize everything—it was stated that we should group the countries of Europe together and make one State, and even the world—surely, it is to the advantage of the British Empire that we should move forward in that direction. Now that the Labour Party are in power I hope they will move quickly on this point. I feel they may.
Now do not forget that arguments always have been advanced against this amalgamation. It was stated in this House some two or three years ago that some of the Colonies did not want amalgamation. I saw that a question was asked in another place on, I think, October 24, about a West Indian amalgamation or about joining those areas up under the Governor there. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, in reply, stated that one Colony did not want it, another Colony accepted it with reservations, and a third Colony accepted it and said they hoped something would be set up to stimulate the idea of amalgamation. That is what I want this debate to do—to stimulate the amalgamation of those Colonies. Another reason why we should try to get amalgamation early is that if amalgamation or closer co-operation is not achieved now, national lines will tend to harden and be more strongly drawn. Lord Rennell rather referred to the same point in his speech just now. That will make the people more politically minded in their little Colonies, and it will eventually be much harder to carry through this amalgamation because of local political ideals which have grown up in the different Colonies. The fact is that if you do not bring them closer together and amalgamate them, some of the smaller Colonies will never get self-government. They will be too small to stand on their own feet if they arc not amalgamated. Surely, in advocating closer co-operation in Europe we should advocate it in the British Empire.
There is one other short point. Air communications are the means of linking the Empire together. When one sees that one can fly from one of these Colonies 177 to another in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, or from Newfoundland to England in five and a half hours, one wonders what it will be soon. I think the noble Lord who introduced this Motion talked about making it much easier for defence purposes. Surely it is vital to amalgamate Colonies from a defensive point of view. They would then be efficient, and not the inefficient little parties they have been in the past. These Colonies in years to come will surely want to play a larger part in the defence of the whole Commonwealth and Empire than they have been able to do until this war; and that cannot be done without amalgamation.
I have advocated several times in your Lordships' House that we should try to take boys in these Colonies at an early age and set up great colleges like Halton—that backbone of the Royal Air Force in this country—in West Africa, in East Africa, in Malaya and in the West Indies. Besides the fact that these boys will be taught all the technical trades it is so necessary for them to learn for the Service, they will be of great value, with that technical knowledge, when the time comes for them to go back into civil life. You could put up an efficient college under the Air Force in West Africa, East Africa, Malaya or the West Indies. The boys would get the Halton spirit besides technical knowledge in these colleges, and when they go back they would be of great value in amalgamating the Colonies. I ask your Lordships to regard this matter seriously. The question is becoming urgent. The longer you delay the harder it will be; therefore I support the noble Lord's Motion.
§ 5.25 p.m.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
My Lords, it is the custom in a maiden speech to crave your Lordships' indulgence, and in view of the short time I have been in this House and of my small experience in these matters I would crave it with real sincerity. I will not delay your Lordships for more than ten minutes and I will confine my speech to three points: first, certain provisions of the White Paper published in 1940 entitled Statement of Policy on Colonial Development and Welfare; secondly, aspects of planning and survey in the Colonies; and thirdly, one aspect of our relations with our East and West African colonies.
178 The White Paper published in Top laid down a very far-reaching policy of Colonial development and welfare. Its scope was far wider and far greater than anything that had ever gone before. But that far-reaching policy rested entirely upon two points. The first point was the setting up of new organizations at home and overseas, with any increase in staff which might prove necessary. These new organizations were thought necessary then to carry out the greatly increased tasks that would fall upon the administrators in the Colonies. The second point was capital and recurrent payments made from funds provided by the United Kingdom taxpayer to augment funds raised locally in the Colonies by local taxation. That point regarding payments was particularly important and an entirely new innovation. The payments were important in the starting of a new industry or the rehabilitation of a poor one. However, that particular point is outside the subject of this debate, and in any case it has received considerably more attention than the subject of this debate, which is the setting up of new organizations regional in character.
This particular point of regional organizations has been left in abeyance during the whole of the war. One can understand that, when one thinks of the pressure of the war. In this respect, however, I. would quote to your Lordships the first three sentences of paragraph 14 in the White Paper, which deals with this point:In the Colonies the problems of development touch upon the work of officers in various Departments, such as the administration officers, both at headquarters and in the districts, and the technical officers, and the agricultural, veterinary, medical and other services. There is need for machinery to provide for complete co-ordination between the efforts of these departmental staffs, so as to ensure that development proceeds on a balanced and comprehensive plan. The Government do not suggest that there should be any uniform system of co-ordination throughout the Colonial Empire, still less would they desire to impose any set pattern from Downing Street.I would venture to suggest that the organization, as visualized in those three sentences, is certainly regional, and its keyword would appear to be "comprehensive."
Now I would come to my second point: certain aspects of planning and survey in the Colonies. A successful plan depends upon a comprehensive survey which 179 must go beforehand—a survey which can take into account all factors, many of which conflict, and find a balance between them. It must do away with uneconomical schemes such as roads and railways running side by side, bad communications running to ports, and so on. One other aspect of the subject of survey (this also applies. to the subject of research) is that a subject should not be considered as an isolated subject, but in relation to the economic whole of the territory. If that is not done, when the time comes for that particular subject to be fitted into the whole plan it may be found not to fit anywhere. Adherence to these principles prevents inefficiency, frustration and discontent in the peoples around whom such a plan revolves or who are the subjects of such a survey. Inefficiency, bringing as it does frustration and discontent, is quite fatal to our relations with our East and West African Colonial peoples. Before we can take another step in the direction of placing more responsibility upon their shoulders we have got to win their confidence; I would even go so far as to say, to regain their confidence. If we have anything but the most highly efficient organization we shall fail to do that, for there is nothing worse than frustration for making people discontented with the particular organization which brings about that frustration.
There is one further point on the subject of survey. To a large extent, the stimulation of industry requires the extension of survey and research to the commercial field. If industry is to be stimulated, the findings of research and the findings of survey must be made easily available to those who want them, to those who may be entering or who already are in the field to which that survey and research apply. In the case of a good many small firms the initial outlay on research is far too great for them to contemplate. The risks to which that initial outlay is subject deter most small people from entering a new industry or from going a stage further in the industry in which they already are. Here I should like to say how admirable is the work which has been done by the Geological Survey. It has been of assistance to the small prospector in every conceivable way, and is a precedent for other branches to follow. However, the Geo- 180 logical Survey is very weak in numbers and it seems a shame that such a fine service should suffer because of its thin ranks.
In conclusion, may I reiterate the remarks with which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, opened the debate? The paths of this country and its Colonies must assuredly lie side by side. It is in our interests, as well as being our duty, to help them and to do everything we can for them. We have enough anxieties at this moment without adding to them by seeing the Colonies drift away from us in spirit through a defection on our part. The lifeblood of British experience must flow through the Colonial body. That is the only way in which they will get to know us; that is the only way in which we will regain their confidence and be able to give them some sort of leadership, which they badly require. It is in the belief that through regional organizations, his can come about that I support this Motion.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I am quite sure it will be your wish that I should congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, on his maiden speech. I am delighted to be in a position to do that because I have experience of the keenness which the noble Lord has shown in all matter pertaining to the Colonies. He has put in a tremendous amount of work in that connexion. I think he mentioned the word "research." I would like to say that the research he is making into these Colonial questions will be of very great value in this House. I hope we shall see him very much more often.
Lord Balfour of Inchrye, when he opened the debate, referred a great deal to West Africa. Any remarks that I make must, I fear, be confined to the other side of the Continent, to East Africa. I have a very slight knowledge of West Africa, and perhaps a little more knowledge of East Africa. After the debate we have had in this House during the last two days, it is really a comfort to he able to talk about some part of the world which has not been wrecked by bombs or which has no direct threat of starvation. I do not mean to say that the East African territories have no troubles and have not suffered through the war. They are, of course, full of troubles. However, after what I have heard in the last few 181 days, quite frankly, I have become depressed and I am very glad that the subject has been changed to one which is perhaps a little brighter.
There is one great point about this Motion. I do not believe there is any big difference of opinion amongst the various political Parties. It is a matter which should be kept out of Party politics. The object of us all, of whatever Party, was outlined by Lord Balfour in words which I cannot repeat, because he expressed himself so beautifully. The way in which I put it is that our only objective is the full development of the Colonies in the interests of all the inhabitants, both African and others, leading eventually to self-government within the Empire. If reorganization of our administration will lead to that—and I believe it will—it will be for the benefit of the whole of the territories. Let us go all out for that. I would like to say that in discussing reorganization, amalgamation, federation or whatever you like to call it, we should be guided by one principle only, and that is the welfare of the territories concerned. I have heard it said that we should have amalgamation or closer union with the object of bringing about economy in administration. Undoubtedly economy in administration will result from such amalgamation, but it should not be the aim and object; the only aim and object must be the benefit of the territories concerned.
Here I should like to draw attention, as Lord Rennell has already done, to the essential difference between East and West Africa as regards any question of amalgamation or reorganization. In East Africa all the territories concerned' are contiguous to a greater or lesser extent; they are all in a ring fence. That is not so in West Africa, and therefore the problem of amalgamation in East Africa should not present some of the difficulties which it does in West Africa. Moreover, in considering this question I think that we must pay attention to the very great changes which have come about over a period of years in travel and communications. Since our original organization was set up, we have had better roads, new roads and new railways, which have made a big difference, and also the revolutionary changes resulting from air travel, and from wireless telephony, which has not been sufficiently developed out there. These 182 changes have reduced what used to be a tremendous factor in these territories, the question of distance, to an almost negligible quantity.
The present system was set up when transport and communications of all kinds were slow. Moreover, when the existing organizations were set up, it was at a time when Tanganyika Territory was German East Africa; it was not under our control, and we had to treat it as a foreign country. We have to consider all those points in discussing the question of reorganization. Lord Rennell was bold enough to say that he hoped for some statement from His Majesty's Government on the possible reorganization or amalgamation of the East African territories. I am afraid that I am not so optimistic; I do not expect to be cheered up in the same way as the noble Lord. What I am frightened of is that if the Government give any consideration to the amalgamation or reorganization of those territories, they may impose some kind of super-organization over the present organizations. That might work, though it might be extravagant. I would go so far as to say that it might bring about some improvement by bringing the territories concerned closer together, and so introduce a certain amount of unity; but I think that it would prove cumbersome, and might be another block in the channel between those territories and the Colonial Office here. When. I say that I an) afraid of that, I am not speaking entirely for myself. There is a very strong body of opinion in those territories, a body represented by people who have served their country as officials, in a commercial capacity. as settlers and in other ways, which has expressed the same fear.
I wish to suggest: to the Government a possible alternative for their consideration. The alternative that I am going, to suggest is also the considered opinion of a respectable body—respectable in size as well as in other ways—of opinion in East Africa. I want to suggest that the best way to deal with the situation is to treat the whole of East Africa—Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika—as one region, one area, or whatever you like to call it; rub out the names "Uganda," "Tanganyika" and "Kenya" and reorganize the whole area, looking at it as one region. You can divide it into provinces if you like, but with an entirely new basis. I do not know how many provinces would be required— 183 eight, ten or twelve; that is a matter of detail. The boundaries of such provinces should take account of the proper grouping of the inhabitants of the region, and another consideration should be the economic and industrial possibilities of each province. It would also be necessary to take into consideration such things as natural communications, including rivers, and geographical features generally.
The present division of the whole of that region into three countries—Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika—has almost nothing to do with the inhabitants or the geography or the industry or anything else; it is haphazard. As an example, I should like to quote a little story which I believe to be true. It is such a nice story that I have never bothered to find out whether it is true, in case it might be contradicted. It refers to that wonderful mountain, Kilimanjaro. If your Lordships have never seen Kilimanjaro raising its snow-capped height out of the tropical central plain, you have missed something in this world that you ought to see before you die. Kilimanjaro used to be in the territory of Kenya, or British East Africa as it was then called, and just to the south of it ran the frontier of German East Africa. I have always been told that Queen Victoria presented Kilimanjaro to the German Kaiser as a birthday present. I hope that that is true. I believe it to be true, and that the boundary between the two countries, which formerly ran just to the south of the mountain, was moved so as to run just to the north of the mountain. It was not until after the last war that that little part of Africa came back under the Colonial Office, when they took charge of Tanganyika Territory.
That is the sort of way in which boundaries used to be fixed. I do not say that they were always fixed in that way, but it is an example of how they were moved without any consideration for the practical development of a country and without any relation to the tribal organization. I believe that the rest of the boundary between Kenya and Tanganyika runs along a compass bearing, or on one of those lines on the map—I forget whether it is called longitude or latitude. I suggest that the provinces into which this huge region of East Africa could be divided should be worked out on practical lines.
184 I suggest that there should be a regional headquarters under a Minister of State or a Governor-General—I do not mind what you call him—with a Council and a Secretariat. That Council should consist of officials and non-officials, and no colour or race should be barred. You want the best people who inhabit that territory to be represented on these Councils. Each province should be under another provincial Governor or Minister—the name does not matter—and he, in turn, should have a Council and a Secretariat and should be responsible for the internal policy of that province. To some extent, at first, there might be a certain amount of difficulty in some provinces in getting adequate African native representation. Therefore, to start with, no doubt, in the more backward places the African would have to be represented, as he very often is now, by a white official. But in due course, as development proceeded, the African would become able to take his place as representative of his province on the Provincial Council. Therefore, in such Councils the organization would have to be a little bit elastic and adjustable in order to meet varying requirements as occasion might arise. In the provinces, themselves, it would probably be best to have districts run by district officers as they arc run at the moment.
I have, I fear, given your Lordships a very vague outline of this scheme. I have not gone into any details. If I did your Lordships would probably be kept here until a late hour. This scheme, I contend would have a large number of advantages, and I would like to mention some of them. It has already been stated by Lord Balfour of Inchrye that there is duplication of work—I think he called it overlapping. Work is so often done in each territory on matters which are common to all the territories. Under this scheme that would be avoided. Then there is, I regret to say, in East Africa to-day clear evidence of lack of co-operation, in the administration, between the territories themselves. I do not say that the Governor's Conference reflects a lack of co-operation, but I do say that a lot of the other Departments do not co-operate and exchange views as they should do. It is when these inter-territorial conferences take place that the jealousies and pettiness of many of the people who take part in them become very obvious. The emer- 185 gence of feeling of that sort is very often the main apparent result of these conferences. Such an organization as I have outlined very roughly would, above all, speed up development. It would reorganize the territories into better and more suitable provinces, each of which would have a strong development committee with an intensive knowledge of their own province which they would pass on to the development committee established by the region, bringing the whole of the large area of East Africa into uniformity.
From there, I should hope, schemes would go to an Economic Council established by the Colonial Office. But I am not going to get on to that subject now. It is too late—I mean that it is too late to-day, I do not mean that it is too late for such a body to be established. Time is getting on and I have detained your Lordships long enough. I would only say that I have urged it before in this House; and I do think the establisment of an Economic Council, composed of experts, of men of proved industrial and commercial experience, under the Colonial Office is absolutely essential if we are going to develop the Colonial Empire as we should do. It does not mean—as has been mentioned here to-day—rule from Whitehall. It means co-ordination of all schemes put up throughout the Colonial Empire and bringing them together.
There is one other point I wish to make. I have been thinking lately whether this scheme goes far enough. In the last few weeks certain knowledge has come to me from Africa which makes me wonder if we could not enlarge on the scheme which I have outlined. I have heard that there is a strong movement in Northern Rhodesia, in Southern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland to amalgamate, and for amalgamation with East Africa. I have not gone into that as I ought to have done. I have only had conversations and proofs from people who live out there. I hold in my hand a very much abridged report of a most important conference which took place in London the other clay. It was a conference of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire. It was, in fact, held in October and it was attended by representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Eire, India, Newfoundland, Southern Rhodesia, West 186 Indies, Ceylon, Northern Rhodesia and East and West Africa.
I am going to read to your Lordships one resolution that was passed at this conference. If anybody has seen this paper they will know that it is number three on the list. The resolution reads:Unification Central African Territories. S. Rhodesia urged and Conference agreed, amalgamation S. and N. Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Northern Bechuanaland, Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda, so as to create worthwhile internal market for development primary and secondary industries.The people out there, the commercial and industrial people who make their lives arid their living out there, want this. At any rate a very large proportion of them want it. I know that they have a Central African Council. I do not know what arc the powers of that Council or to what extent it can act as a unifying concern, but it does seem to me that there should be the very closest co-operation between the region of East Africa and the region of Central Africa. It might be possible to bring the whole lot together as one region. At the moment it might be difficult to do it, for political reasons. I do not know about that, hut certainly, from the commercial point of view, the Government. should give every assistance in order to get the greatest unity commercially.
I know that the Congo Basin Treaties would stand rather in the way of such a scheme. It has been urged in this House over and over again that the Congo Basin Treaties have been out of date for years, that they should be abrogated, and that something different should be put in their place. They are holding up the development not only of the British Empire but of the whole of Africa, and with these enormous powers which the present Government are taking to themselves a mere thing like the Congo Basin Treaties is just too easy. I ask the Government and the Colonial Office not to treat the suggestion I have made as just a wild-cat and ridiculous scheme. I regret to say that I know that in certain branches of the Civil Service and in the Colonial Service, the natural reaction to anything new or to any change is for a number of people to get together to find reasons why they should say No. I know that that happens in the Colonial Office, but it may be, as Lord Balfour said, owing to the conditions under which they have to work. I hope it is not, but that may 187 be the reason. I hope that the Government will give consideration to the scheme; it is a big and revolutionary scheme. In the eyes of a large number of people who inhabit these territories it is not a foolish scheme, and I do not think that it should be put aside in this country as a foolish scheme. I believe that it would be of tremendous benefit to the territories and to the inhabitants of the whole of that part of Africa. That is the ruling consideration which this Government and everybody in this country should have in regard to such a suggestion.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I am going to intervene in this debate for a very few moments only, but if I did not do so some of my many friends, both African and European, in West Africa with whom I had such happy co-operation for more than two years, might misunderstand my silence. I also share some responsibility for the decision which has been taken. So far as West Africa is concerned, I am not going to say anything about their war effort to-day. It was a magnificent effort and I have had the opportunity of telling that story and of paying a tribute to them on both sides of the Atlantic. I think that the decision taken in regard to the more important of these four West African territories is right. I was originally attracted by the idea of a unitary system for them. It is true that it was necessary to vest great powers in a Minister during the war, but that was in a great emergency where the Minister became, in fact, a projection of every one of his Cabinet colleagues with complete authority to act on the spot. The system is different to-day. In normal times there is no place for that and there should be a reversion to the ordinary jurisdiction of the Colonial Office. As I say, I was attracted at first by a unitary system. I myself travelled over 1,000 miles a week on an average, and it was quite easy to get to any of these places by air. Wireless telephony has made all the difference in the world. Thousands of sets will be available from the Forces and communication, which has been a most appalling thing in these territories, can be completely revolutionized.
I should like to say in passing that there may be very good reasons for amalgamating Sierra Leone and Gambia. 188 Already some of the services are unified and I think that there might be a very good case for doing that. I do not believe that it would be practicable to amalgamate Nigeria and the Gold Coast at this stage or to amalgamate either of them with the other two Colonies. That is not only because of distance—not indeed chiefly because of distance, which air travel can so easily overcome—but because although these countries made a tremendous effort in the war, which in one sense was a collective effort, it was only collective in the sense that everyone in the Commonwealth and Empire was together in the war. Nigeria, in ordinary times, is far from being a unit in itself. I remember being asked whether I thought the experience of the war had made West Africans see West Africa as a whole, and my answer was No. Indeed, Nigeria has only just begun to see Nigeria as a whole, and that did not begin until Sir Arthur Richards, one of the greatest Colonial administrators the Service has ever had, had formulated a most understanding and ingenious scheme of integrating into a unitary system the different idiosyncracies and characteristics of the varying parts of Nigeria. I believe it is only in that way that you will begin to see Nigeria as a whole, and the same to a lesser extent is true of the Gold Coast. You certainly could not, at this stage, carry the good will of these Colonies which is frightfully important in making a single unitary system. At any rate, that is the view I take, based on what, after all, was a pretty intimate contact through working there for over two years.
I do not think that Sir Arthur Richards, to whose view I would defer a great deal on this, would disagree with that. I would not agree to-day to complete amalgamation, but I hope that the central organization is going to be made a reality. I feel sure that that is the intention. I think it should have certain definite functions which should become centralized functions. I hope—and here again air travel makes it so easy—that the Secretary of State himself will constantly preside over it, and I hope that there will he an Under-Secretary of State who will devote a great deal of his time to this work. Some things should be vested in that central body. There is the question of defence. I entirely agree that West African defence cannot be just a collection 189 of isolated units. I do not think it is necessary to have complete amalgamation to do this. We made a wonderful integrated system in West Africa during the war and 200,000 men were raised for every arm of the Service. That was done by a unitary Command which united and integrated the individual troops who were raised in the Colonies. It would be perfectly possible to do that while still maintaining the traditions of the individual regiments.
There should also be research and what I think was called by my noble friend, good-neighbourliness in relations with the neighbouring territories. I have had, as the noble Lord is aware, most intimate relations with the French and the Belgains and also with the Portuguese. As the French and the Belgians run their Colonies through Governors-General, it would be a very natural and convenient thing that these neighbourly relations should be conducted by this central organization. There may be other things which should be done, especially those dealing with demobilization. The second thing is this, and here I would project into the present my experience of the past. I am sure that the noble Lord will agree that if the job I had to do out there was of any use it was because one could take decisions on the spot. It is absolutely essential that this Council should take informed decisions on the spot. Governors will be able to argue out their case before it and, if it is merely then to go hack to Whitehall, you are losing the whole efficiency of this system. They must be present. They are an integral part of it, with the Secretary of State as their Chairman, and both they and the Secretary of State will have the advantage of getting immediate decisions upon the spot which cannot be done from Downing Street. That, I believe, to be absolutely essential.
I will say one word about East Africa, and I am not going to be in the least dogmatic. This has been a very interesting debate—the House at its very best—and I should like, if I may, to join in welcoming the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax, who has shown, in a singularly well-informed assembly, that he can hold his own. I can assure him that he will very readily be heard again. East Africa, of which I saw a certain amount in the war, has its difficulties. Its natural, economic and ethnologic boundaries are ridiculous to-day. The same ports and 190 the same railways serve these territories. I know the difficulties there have been, but do not let us exaggerate them, and let us approach the matter without prejudice because there is no Party business in it at all. I know the problems of Kenya; I was not Secretary of State for the Colonies for four years tot nothing. The problems of Kenya do not become more soluble if you treat them in isolation as Kenya. The more I see of this business, the more convinced I am that those problems are going to be infinitely more soluble, and, indeed, perhaps the only effective solution will be found, by treating them as part of a much larger entity.
I can say with certainty—and I know my noble friend who saw it from Cairo will agree with me—that during the war there was an entirely new spirit of unity in East Africa. My noble friend remembers, as I do, the days when the Governors' Conference seemed more like a bear garden and a dog fight. He was not the bear or the dog, but I will not specify further. I found an entirely new spirit of unity when I went there, unity of interest and a loyal understanding born in the common effort of the war. I would say to the Government, who now have the responsibility in this matter, and who, I know, will approach it without prejudice, that they have a unique opportunity in view of the new spirit now in these territories. And I would say to them: "Be bold!"
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ LORD MOUNTEVANS
My Lords, I feel some temerity in addressing you. There is a Chinese motto which runs: "It is only a very brave mouse that makes its nest in the cat's ear." In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, and the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who know West Africa so perfectly, have said, and what the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, I am glad to say, has pointed out, I hope this new West Africa Council will make a very careful psychological appreciation of the native. In a shanty in Kumasi, I discussed with the Paramount Chief what the native thought of the white administration. He told me that ha thought the African native knew where he was when under the German. He was right clown and never allowed to get up. I cannot, for international reasons, say what he thought of the French, the Portuguese, or the Belgians, but he did say this 191 about what he called the English. He said that if only they would he consistent in their policies, from one Governor to another, we should get on a great deal better. He told me that they wanted to be consulted, and that is why I am so glad the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, suggested having more representatives from the natives than we have had in the past.
The difference between Dominion status and Colonial administration is that in Dominion status you treat with the Dominions and their nationals, and that in the Colonies situated in 11,000,000 square miles like Africa, which we are discussing, there is a vast difference in the psychology of the different natives. It should be recognized by our youngsters that it is the water parasite, the hookworm, the mosquito and the tsetse fly which are the enemies of the white man, and that the native is his willing friend and would be his willing slave. The wealth of all those Colonies lies in their natives, their nationals, rather than in what they produce. I must apologize for taking time at this late hour, but I hope the new West Africa Council will study and make a really good psychological appreciation of the native and what he means in his own country, and that we shall try to lead and guide.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT ADDISON)
My Lords, I am sure everyone of us is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, for initiating this discussion. We have had the advantage during this debate of hearing speeches by men of great experience and intimate knowledge of the places about which they have been talking. I would like to join with the noble Viscount opposite in congratulating the two noble Lords who have spoken to us to-day for the first time, and to express the hope that, as they have displayed so clearly a first-hand knowledge of the matters discussed, we shall have the opportunity of hearing them again when this subject comes up in the future, as it assuredly will.
It has been rather a comfort to me, and I am sure to other noble Lords, to sit and listen to something constructive, hopeful and possible, rather than to the dismal prophecies which attach to the atomic bomb. One has felt that if only the 192 scientists would leave us alone, what could not be done in a great place like that of which we have been speaking, allowing, of course, that every art and science for human benefit must be called in to our aid. We could not have had more striking illustrations of that than the testimony given by more than one speaker to the transformation which has come over the whole scene through the possibilities of air travel, wireless communication and otherwise.
I will address myself, as well as I can, to the various questions which have been put to me, but, in the first place, speaking of West Africa, I should like to say how much I appreciated the wise observations of Viscount Swinton on this matter. Of course we are dealing here with territories which cover a vast extent. I think there are two thousand miles of coast line, and these Colonies are separated from one another. They have great ethnical and economic differences, and, as the noble Viscount said, it is only just recently that Nigeria has begun to realize that it is Nigeria. How difficult it is, therefore, to expect homogeneity to develop rapidly in great scattered territories like these!
May I, as I am sure your Lordships would wish me to do, say that we all recognize the great debt which the nation owes to the services which Viscount Swinton rendered to us in that great territory during the war. There is no doubt that the unifying lessons which were then learnt will sink in, and of course they have great influence on what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is now considering. As your Lordships know, it has been decided to set up a West Africa Council of these four territories in West Africa, and it will gratify the noble Viscount when I tell him that it is the intention of my right honourable friend that he himself shall be the Chairman. It is expected that the first meeting of this new Council of the four West African areas will take place early in the New Year. It may be that sometimes the Secretary of State will not himself be able to preside. In that case the Chairman will be the Under-Secretary of State.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary. In that way 193 it has an immediate and authoritative link with the centre of government, which is, I am sure, of first-rate importance. Then it has been decided by my right honourable friend that there should be a Chief Secretary appointed to the Council. Mr. Creasy, of the Colonial Office, will be the first occupant of that office and he will have to be served by a suitable staff. One does not want to talk about magnifying staffs, but of course he must have efficient assistance. It is expected that he will be out there some time during next month to begin his duties. This Council, at any rate at the beginning, will not have quite all the functions which some noble Lords have anticipated. It will mainly be advisory, but it is quite evident that, with the Chief Secretary attached to it, it must have general responsibility fairly early on in respect, for example, of common services like research. It will consider in common various economic and industrial matters, planning matters, and will promote cooperation between the different territories in labour, education, industrial policy, public health and so on. I have no doubt it will be developed in the characteristic British way. It is being started in the New Year in an authoritative fashion and it will gradually, I have no doubt, learn and develop as time goes on.
A vast number of common services and common problems are already ripe for its consideration, and they will be undertaken. So far as one is advised at present it will not itself be responsible for defence. So far as may be necessary, it will have the assistance, advice and I attendance at the Council of the representatives of the Staffs, but for the time being, at all events, the common direction of defence will remain with the Defence Services. At any rate, it is an effective and authoritative start and it will be made next month. That is so far as West Africa is concerned.
Now may I say a word about East Africa? Everyone was interested—at least I was very much—in what Lord Chesham and others said about that vast region. I have no doubt that what was said is perfectly true; that the demarcations between the territories have been entirely or largely accidental and fortuitous, and we must look forward to an increasing measure of amalgamation or, at any rate, joint working. As I believe the House knows, or at least those of us 194 who are intimate with the details of what is going on know, Sir Philip Mitchell has been over here quite recently and the Secretary of State has had long conferences with him on how to make the next advance. Your Lordships know that there has been established there, for a considerable number of years, a Governors' Conference, and there are now common services for a large number of purposes—post and telegraph, meteorology and, I am glad to say, civil aviation. That is the service in which, as is well known now, there has been developed a joint understanding, a joint working, in close association with the South African Union, throughout the whole length of the African continent, and the station at Nairobi will, I have no doubt, as we all get more used to travelling in this way, acquire an increasing international importance, or at all events an Empire importance.
Then a vast number of questions of research, such as matters affecting research into special tropical diseases, are already, as I think some of your Lordships know, the subject of work by joint committees, and large numbers of other topics, though I will not mention all of them, I see enumerated as being dealt with by this East African Council. But my right honourable friend has been thinking a little further on this subject, and I really can assure Lord Chesham that he can be a little more cheerful than he appears to contemplate. My right honourable friend does not propose to leave in the pigeonhole the matter of pressing forward his discussions. I am not in a position today, I am sorry to say, to make a precise announcement as to his proposals for the next step forward for dealing in a cooperative and conjoint way with these territories. I can say that an effective announcement will be made during the month of December and I think it will be made in sufficient time for the noble Lord to be able to say what he thinks about it in this House before we adjourn for Christmas. I am afraid I cannot go beyond that so far as East Africa is concerned. I think it will be considered to be a satisfactory and effective step forward. I put it no higher. That is how the British Commonwealth of Nations has developed.
With regard to Central Africa, there has already been established there a. 195 Central African Council in which Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are participants. During the last week I myself have had intimate conversations with representatives from those territories regarding future projects. There has been established already a consultative body representating Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland which met quite recently and established standing working committees on a number of subjects; one committee is dealing with civil aviation, another with public health and research questions, and another with what is generally described as public relations —one of those vague expressions which may mean much or little, but which really, as far as this group of territories is concerned, connotes getting on better with your neighbours. Another committee is working on economic problems affecting them all—transport, African housing, and natural resources. Your Lordships are well aware that with regard to railways and other thorny problems there are a number of issues which will have to be tackled and dealt with, but the consultative machinery embracing those three territories is beginning to be exceedingly well established. I put it no higher than that. It has certainly made very satisfactory progress, even since the termination of the war.
As to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, made in one part of his speech with regard to the interest in these matters of the Union of South Africa, he knows, and so do I, that it is a daily interest and that happily it is a growing interest. We could not have a better illustration of that than the African Air Transport Conference, which has led to a united scheme of action throughout the whole length of the continent. We have others on telecommunications and other matters which have already come into operation. I think, including the two Rhodesias, and Central and East Africa as well, we are beginning to have at all events the earliest developments of a regular consultative machinery on all manner of topics of interest. That is the way in which these things are rapidly developing. All I can do with regard to the two questions put down in the noble Lord's Motion is to announce the immediate coming into operation of the machinery intended for West Africa, to 196 say that in Central Africa it has begun to operate, and that an announcement with regard to East Africa will be made during the next fortnight or so, which is, I think, on the whole not so bad for a Government speaker.
Finally, I should like heartily to associate myself with what Lord Balfour has said as to the amenities which he would desire to see attached to the Government offices. I wish that some of those who write bits in newspapers about the growth of the Civil Service could have been here to hear what the noble Lord said as to the conditions in which some of the staff have to work, which I know to be' true. But it is, of course, one of the older Government buildings, and it is very difficult in these days to provide better accommodation. I am quite sure that I am speaking truly when I say I am confident that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will entirely agree with us both and that his wishes are the same as ours. We can only hope that soon they will be turned into realizations, but on that I would not be too sanguine, having regard to the present difficulties of building and accommodation everywhere. I thank the noble Lord for what he has said, and I am sure it will be very much appreciated by the staffs of the office, as it deserves to be. I think we are all indebted to the noble Lord and others for a most instructive and valuable discussion.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
My Lords, I do not propose to detain you for more than a few minutes, since I rise for one purpose only, and that is to say that in my opinion, which I hope your Lordships will share, we cannot allow this very important subject to go unheeded again for a long period. I was touched by the manner in which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House endeavoured to recommend to us in advance the rather exiguous announcement which he told us to expect. Of course, we will await that announcement with interest, if not with much hope, and I hope we shall be able to discuss the subject very shortly afterwards.
As the first Chairman of the East African Governors' Conference, who laboured in that place for five years as much as twenty years ago, I am hound to say I was not impressed by what the noble Viscount said as to the progress 197 which has been made since that date. My noble friend Lord Swinton was quite right in saying that what matters is the power to take decisions on the spot. As a matter of fact, that power was extended to regional organizations by the Coalition Government during the war. What is going on now, I fear (under a facade which conceals what is going on), is a process not of decentralization but of re-centralization. If that is the case, together with many of my friends in all parts of the House, I shall do my utmost to reverse that policy at the earliest possible date. It is an astounding thing that when we are talking of world unity and the bringing of peoples together we should at the same time be discussing the re-Balkanization of the British Colonial Empire, because that really is what is going on. What is needed now is not slow movement in the old rut; what is needed is a great constructive and imaginative effort. I would remind your Lordships that such an effort was made by members of your Lordships' House a little more than too years ago; it was made by Lord Durham, Lord Grey and Lord Elgin. It was on their word, from this House, that this great Commonwealth was built. Another such effort is required at the present time.
This is not a Party question. It seems to me to be just one of those questions which, as my noble friend Lord Cranborne has often said, it befits this House to discuss as a Council of State. I believe we can render service in that way. I hope, therefore, your Lordships will approve when I say that I will put down a Motion which will enable us to resume this discussion on broader lines, including the regional organization in the Middle East, for the statement made last night upon that subject did not seem to me at all satisfactory. We must resume this discussion on broader lines at the earliest possible date.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, in asking permission to withdraw my Motion, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, for his speech. I agree with may noble friend Lord Altrincham that this is not the end of the matter, and that we shall return to this question at a later date, I hope fortified, and perhaps even satisfied, by the announcement which the noble Viscount has promised in December with 198 regard to East Africa. Before I sit down, I should like to associate myself with the congratulations which have been most sincerely given to my noble friends Lord Fairfax and Lord Mountevans, and which are well deserved. We look forward to authoritative and carefully thought-out contributions from them on other occasions, such as we have had to-clay. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said that he hoped this debate would be stimulating. I think that it has stimulated interest in this subject, and we look forward to continuing the process of stimulation on a future occasion. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.