§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ The MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
My Lords, in commending this measure to your Lordships, I know I shall be pushing at an open door. We are indeed of one mind about the urgency of increasing the output from overseas of those essential foodstuffs which enrich the primary producer and at the same time help to alleviate the present world food shortage. Your Lordships will remember the speeches made from all quarters of this House during the debate which took place on this subject last November, which was initiated in the powerful and impressive speech of my noble friend Lord Dukeston, when a general desire was shown that the Government should proceed without delay to carry out the policy of overseas development foreshadowed at the opening of this Session of Parliament. It is this policy of extending and speeding up economic development overseas that is being put into practice by the present Bill. I should like to emphasize as strongly as I can, because I think our aims have sometimes been misunderstood, the firm conviction of the Government that the speedier and more widespread development of our territories overseas will benefit both the Colonial peoples, whose low standard of living can be permanently raised only by greater use of their natural resources, and the inhabitants of this country and other countries which are still suffering from the acute shortage of agricultural produce brought about by the ravages and dislocation of the war.
Viewed from the standpoint of the local inhabitants, this Bill is our most important advance along a road that has been travelled ever since the Metropolitan Government began to finance the develop- 690 ment of the Colonies. The substantial sum of £120,000,000 provided for this purpose by the Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1945 will do no more than go a certain distance towards providing those basic economic and social services without which commercial enterprise and better conditions of life for the inhabitants would both be impracticable. Colonial Governments will spend this money on such things as road and rail communications, on medical, educational and other social services, on public utility services such as drainage, water supply and electricity, and on the staff required for all these different activities. But there will clearly be little money left over after this for those new or improved methods of production which involve some of the risks of ordinary business enterprise. Capital for these projects will be provided certainly in part by private enterprise. The entrepreneur from this country or elsewhere who invests his money in the Colonies can make a real contribution to their progress, provided those safeguards required for the welfare of the local population are strictly adhered to.
But economic conditions in this country have changed profoundly since the nineteenth century, when the main economic development of the Colonial territories took place. The capital resources of private individuals or firms at this time are no longer sufficient for the large-scale expansion of primary production overseas we now envisage. We cannot, therefore, rely any longer for this purpose on private capital from outside the Colonies, and as yet its place cannot wholly be taken by capital raised within the Colonies themselves. The time has therefore come for the Home Government itself to put up the capital required, and to appoint its own agencies to undertake what will surely be one of the largest and most imaginative commercial and welfare ventures in modern times.
We are proposing in Clauses 1 and 2 of this Bill to establish a Colonial Development Corporation with a capital of up to £100,000,000. It will be the duty of this Corporation to act on commercial principles. Noble Lords will see in Clause 15 that the Corporation have been instructed to "break even." This means that they will, to the best of their ability, have to secure that this revenue, taking the lean years and the prosperous years 691 together, is sufficient to cover their current expenditure. In the early years we must, of course, expect the Corporation to work at a loss. They will have to sink a great deal of money in projects which cannot be expected to yield a return for a considerable time. For instance, I believe a large proportion of Colonial crops take five or even seven years to come into bearing, because they are tree crops. Once this initial preparatory period is over, it will be expected that the Corporation will do their utmost to pay their way in exactly the same manner as any other commercial concern. As your Lordships will observe from the terms of the Bill, there is plenty of flexibility about the way in which the Colonial Development Corporation are to be allowed to operate. If your Lordships look at Clause 1 (2) (b), you will see that they will be free to operate in a number of different ways in association with other concerns—for instance, by taking shares in them, or, if it should be convenient so to do, by establishing subsidiary or associated bodies. The Government hope that the Corporation will often act through subsidiaries formed in the Colonies. We believe that in these subsidiary companies there will be opportunities for local investment and for the representation of local interests.
This brings me to a point on which I would like to lay very special emphasis. It is the intention of the Government that the Colonial Development Corporation shall always work, wherever it may be, with the closest possible regard for the welfare of Colonial peoples. What I have just said applies, of course, equally to the activities of the Overseas Food Corporation. We have, therefore, been most careful to provide, as we have done in Clause 7 of the Bill, that these Corporations will be under an obligation to have "particular regard to the interests of the inhabitants of the territories" in which they work. They cannot establish any new undertaking in any territory until there has been full consultation with the Government on the spot. They will also be required to observe the usual practices in relation to the welfare of their employees, and to consult about conditions of employment with the representatives of those they employ. I should like to repeat, because I think it is a matter of the utmost importance about which 692 there should be no misunderstanding, that we are setting up these Corporations in the belief that they will benefit both producers and consumers alike, the Colonial peoples as well as the people of this country and of the rest of the world. The United Kingdom and the Colonies both need more goods of the kind these Colonies can provide. The Colonies cannot produce these goods without much more capital, and the United Kingdom is in the favourable position of being able to provide that extra capital. We therefore have here an example of mutual economic advantage, which surely can do nothing but good to the long-term relationship between primary producing and industrial countries all over the world.
But it would be a mistake to expect too much from this development scheme too soon. We shall be disappointed—disappointment will be inevitable—if we build our hopes on large and immediate returns. The Colonies certainly have great natural resources which have never been systematically tapped, but their development requires a combination of favourable factors which cannot be achieved without sustained effort over a fairly long period of time. It will not be an easy matter to procure, for example, a vast amount of capital equipment, such as bulldozers, tractors, rolling stock, and so on, which will inevitably have to include many types of implement which we need for use on our farms at home, and which might also easily run us into a heavy dollar expenditure.
Here is a shortage which is all the more difficult and troublesome, because in the matter of the development of these relatively undeveloped territories overseas so much depends on overcoming this shortage of capital equipment. We must be prepared ourselves to set aside some of our own limited supplies of capital equipment for the Colonies. That, I fear, is inevitable. Then there are the local factors which are another source of potential difficulty, such as labour supplies, transport and port facilities, or even pests that attack the growing plants. Any of these factors may go wrong at any time and delay the harvesting or processing of some valuable crop. The main results of this overseas production drive will, therefore, not be evident this year, or even next year. They will begin to come in some two or three years hence. But it will take longer than that before 693 we or the Colonies benefit from the full flow of cash and consumers' returns from this large overseas investment.
I now turn to the second Corporation which this Bill proposes to set up. The Overseas Food Corporation, for which Clauses 3 and 4 provide, will have a capital of up to £50,000,000 and will be responsible to the Ministry of Food. Its functions are confined to the production of, and assistance in the production of, food supplies and other agricultural products. Under Clause 3 (b) the Corporation will be charged with the first duty of promoting the production of groundnuts in East and Central Africa. But, unlike the Colonial Development Corporation, its activities will not be confined to British Colonial territories. This is the main reason why it is essential to have a second Corporation, and why the whole development plan cannot possibly be carried out by a single body. There are, of course, many territories outside the Colonial Empire in which capital investments could produce large quantities of those food supplies of which the world stands in such urgent need. Many of the openings which lie before the Overseas Food Corporation are outside Colonial territories. For instance, Mr. Plumer, the prospective Chairman of the Corporation, accompanied by a Mission from the Ministry of Food, is now discussing with the Australian Government the possibility of developing food supplies in Australia. This possibility is not limited by any means to Australia itself, but extends to the Australian trusteeship territory of New Guinea.
I am sure your Lordships would expect me to say something about the relationship between the two Corporations, because this has been a matter of some difficulty and has caused a certain amount of controversy. Both Corporations will have similar powers, but their spheres of activity—as I have already explained—and the duties assigned to them, will be different. The Development Corporation will operate only in the Colonies. If I may repeat quite briefly what I have already said, because of its importance, I would remind you that the Food Corporation will operate anywhere outside the United Kingdom. The Development Corporation will be able to undertake any project to develop natural resources and trade, or expand production in the 694 Colonies, which covers quite a large range of economic activities. The Overseas Food Corporation, on the other hand, will concentrate on the production of foodstuffs and ancillary agricultural products wherever United Kingdom consumers will benefit directly or indirectly from the addition to the world food supply. Its sphere of activity is therefore, much more limited in extent.
As your Lordships will have observed, there will be this amount of overlap between the two Corporations—namely, that both will be entitled to take on the production of foodstuffs and other agricultural products within the Colonial Empire. We are quite convinced, after examining this problem very closely indeed, that there is positive advantage in having the choice of two agencies to undertake agricultural development in the Colonies. It may well be that the nature of some project in one of the Colonies will make the experience earned by the Food Corporation in the East African groundnut scheme, or in any subsequent scheme it may undertake, invaluable in carrying it out in an efficient and business-like way. The Food Corporation will, for example, be a highly efficient organization, both in staff and equipment, to promote now schemes for the cultivation of groundnuts. In cases where it would be the most suitable agency there would clearly be considerable economic loss if it were debarred by Statute from operating in the Colonial territory.
I have heard it suggested that, because it must be the duty of the Minister of Food to obtain food for this country as cheaply as he can, the Food Corporation might become an instrument of exploitation. I want to say most emphatically that I do not believe there is any ground whatever for that suggestion. Ample safeguards are provided in the Bill to prevent anything of the kind from happening. The Food Corporation will be bound in exactly the same way as the Development Corporation by all the safeguards for local interests in Clauses 7 and 8 of the Bill. It must always function with the closest possible regard to the welfare of the people in the area or areas where it will be working. It cannot establish any undertaking without full consultation with the Government of the territory, and it must do whatever may be required to secure the safety, health and welfare of those in its employ- 695 ment. In addition to those safeguards, there is an important proviso to Clause 3 (1) whereby the Corporation cannot undertake any project in the Colonial Empire other than the East African groundnut scheme except at the express invitation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The Secretary of State would naturally consult the Government of any Colony concerned before issuing an invitation. I cannot imagine that a Colonial Government would advise him to admit the Corporation if, in their judgment, the operation of this body would be contrary to the interests of the local population.
I should like to say something quite briefly about the relationship of this Corporation towards other private or public concerns. Indeed, what I say now applies equally to either Corporation. It is not the intention of the Government that the Corporations should have a monopoly in the field of overseas investment, or that they should enjoy any such priority above that given to their competitors in the same spheres of activity. There is, to-day as I am sure your Lordships will agree, ample scope in the Colonies for all the private and public capital that is likely to be forthcoming now or in the course of the next generation, and it is not our policy to discourage the investment of private capital so long as its aims agree with the plans of the Colonial Governments for the development of their facilities. It has been suggested in some quarters that if the Government had paid more attention to sustaining existing enterprises, rather than embarking upon those new schemes, quicker results might have been obtained. For instance, it was feared that the groundnuts scheme would have an adverse effect on the supply of labour to the important Tanganyika sisal industry. I was glad to see in yesterday's Press a statement by the Sisal Growers' Association that such fears have not been realized.
I think this is one of the Bills that really need no one to commend them, for they speak for themselves. I believe that this measure will be remembered in time to come as a new and important landmark in the history of Colonial development, and that the benefits which will flow from it will be felt not only in the Colonies themselves but in this country and, indirectly, all over the world. It is an earnest of our 696 intention to play our part in increasing the world's foodstuffs and primary products and in promoting world recovery from the effects of the war. Our sincerity will be attested by the fact that we shall use a part of our limited resources of capital equipment and trained man-power for this purpose. And in making good the arrears of economic development in our Colonial territory, we shall also be assisting the Colonial peoples themselves to achieve that higher standard of living on which their welfare and the pace of their advance towards self-government both depend. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to the Minister for the very clear exposition which he has given of this Bill, and I think that in all quarters of the House—or certainly in almost all quarters—it will be agreed that it is a Bill to which we can give our general and broad support. I should like at the outset to congratulate the Government on not having laid down any sealed pattern. I have had to criticize them before now for putting too many sealed patterns into their Bills. Here, wisely, they have left the method of operation very much at large. I am sure that is right, because the activities and the conditions will vary very greatly. If I may draw upon my experience, both as Minister in West Africa and as Chairman of the United Kingdom Commercial Corporation—which was not unlike one of these Corporations; its activities were even wider and its turnover even larger—I would say that the Government would be very wise—as indeed they have already started to be—to use wherever they can the most efficient trade channels for their operations. At times they may have to create something new, but a wealth of experience exists, and I shall not be accused of any intention to cross the floor of the House—until circumstances change—if I say that I consider that in a working partnership in these matters between the State and private enterprise, whether it be here or in the Colonies themselves, there is nothing which need infringe on our political principles.
I would add this. In choosing your instruments and your agencies, do not hesitate to discriminate and choose the 697 best. That is always rather a difficulty for a Government. So many people feel that they ought to have an equal chance, that it is "Buggins's turn." It is never Buggins's turn unless Buggins is the best man for the job. I sincerely hope that they will use the trade channels, but that they will discriminate and use the best. Indeed, that is their duty as trustees for the taxpayer. They are responsible for doing that just as much as is any board of directors in a great undertaking.
The frame of the Act, the first great scheme launched—this groundnuts scheme, to which I wish all success—and a great many of the speeches which have been delivered (though not the speech of the Minister introducing the Bill) have tended to convey the impression that development in the Colonial Empire will all be large-scale development. Nothing could be further from the truth. Development cannot all be large-scale; indeed the greater part of production in the Colonial Empire will continue in the future, as it has been in the past, to be the work of millions of small producers. It was their production of groundnuts, palm oil and palm kernels that kept up our fat ration in the war. 300,000 tons of groundnuts were produced; and they worked up to a remarkable production of palm oil; and, most remarkable of all, to 400,000 tons of palm kernels, nearly every one of them hand cracked. These funny little things which weigh something like 1,000,000 to the ton, were the work of literally millions of small people in bush and forest. In the British Empire, cocoa, again, will always be the product of thousands of small farmers.
Of course it is true that the large estate, with the big factory and processing plant attached to it, is the most efficient producer, both for production in quantity and for quality. That is perfectly true of a commodity like palm oil. In these great well-planned plantations the fruit can be cut at exactly the right time; it can be processed on the spot in satisfactory expressing plants, giving much better results both in quantity and in quality. That undoubtedly, I think, is right where there is a sparse population. But we have to remember that in a very large part of the British Colonial Empire the population is not sparse; it is extremely dense. And with the improvement of health and other conditions it is growing. 698 There is a marked difference, for instance, between Nigeria and the Congo. The Congo, I suppose, is more than twice the size of Nigeria but has barely half its population. In West Africa, part of East Africa, Kenya and the West Indies, the population is dense, and therefore it is important there to improve native production. It is in the improvement of native production and grading and marketing that we shall find the largest field and, I believe, if we are bold, the highest reward.
This improvement of native production—and I am very glad that the Minister indicated this—both in quantity and in quality is the key to health and social advance. To-day, of course, the world will buy at high prices everything that can be produced in the way of foodstuffs or the raw materials of foodstuffs. Although the seller's market for fats and foodstuffs will continue far longer than the industrial seller's market, in the long run an equilibrium will come. The great production in the Dutch East Indies, when they get back to production, and elsewhere great plans come into operation, will make us competitors again. I hope, therefore, that those who come after us and will continue to be responsible for Colonial development will not hesitate to be imaginative, and if need be drastic, in their plans for native production.
I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, is to make his maiden speech this afternoon. He and I often considered together the extremely difficult problem of improving the palm oil industry in the densely populated but intensely individualistic villages and tracts of his Eastern territories. We certainly cannot establish a great private or public corporation there. I believe that it would be possible, however—and I hope I am not digressing too much if I say this—to establish a great co-operative combination of that native production, both the sporadic production of the forest and that of new plantations co-operatively owned by these village communities, with an up-to-date expressing plant. I mention those considerations because they are so important. The schemes outlined in the Bill—indeed, this applies to the groundnuts scheme itself, and I was glad that the Minister said "do not look for too quick returns"—must be largely long-range schemes. I should just like 699 to add one thing. I am very glad that Sir Frank Stockdale is to be closely associated with both these Corporations. He knows nearly all that there is to be known about tropical agriculture and he is always ready to learn. He was my mentor and partner in many schemes which we sent on foot when I was Secretary of State.
I want now to turn to one point under the Bill which was opened up by the Minister. The Bill does raise the very difficult question of which Department should be responsible in the Colonies. Quite frankly, I am not happy about the diarchy, the divided responsibility, which this Bill creates. If an operation in Colonial territory is in the future to be undertaken only by what I may comprehensively call the Food Corporation, at the request of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, it seems to me odd that the groundnuts scheme should have been started under the Ministry of Food and that the Bill should preclude its transfer to the Colonial Office. I do not want to be unduly dogmatic about this, but it would be wrong for your Lordships' House not to face up to the real difficulties that are involved. The Colonial Minister must be responsible for the Colonies. In the war it was quite right to have a Resident Minister, because many Departments, Service and Civil, were involved, and the Minister was a projection of each and all of his colleagues. In effect, he held a power of attorney from them all to take decisions on the spot. However (and I left this view on record) I always felt that when normal times, or perhaps I should rather say so-called peace times, returned, the responsibility should be on the Secretary of State for the Colonies. That is right in principle, and convenient in practice.
If there is a Corporation operating a great project in a Colony, they will be faced week by week with a mass of local problems. They will constantly and continually need the help of the local administrators and of the Colonial Government. Indeed, there must be a real working partnership between the Corporation and the Colonial Government. The Governor obviously is responsible to the Colonial Office, but the Corporation will be responsible to another Minister. I do not want to press this point 700 too strongly. I am sure it would be the desire of a Minister of Food to look after the Colonial interests, but, after all, the first duty of a Minister of Food is to the food consumers in this country. If he is a business-like Minister, his duty is to buy as cheaply as he can—at any rate to drive a good business bargain. I am not saying that the right business bargain is not the bargain out of which both sides make something, for I know that no good business is ever done, and certainly no further business is bred, unless both sides benefit by it. There is, however, a certain conflict of interests in the Food Minister's functions in this respect; I put it no higher than that.
Therefore, while I hope that we shall avoid friction, I think that by this diarchy we may fail to achieve that smooth working and quick local action and decision which are so important. I would have thought that unity of interest and responsibility would be in the interest alike of the Colony and of the Corporation itself. Buying is the function of the Ministry of Food using, I hope, businesslike channels through which to do it. I am not now entering upon a plea for permanent bulk buying by Ministers; not at all. I regard production, however, as something quite different. I hope that the Government will think again upon this matter or, at any rate, that they will treat this diarchy as experimental and watch it closely.
I wish to raise another point about which I have given the Minister notice. I have spoken of native production as being the immediate source of supplies. I believe it is, indeed, the greatest potential source in the future. We stimulated this production greatly in West Africa in the latter part of the war. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, played a very great part in that. Native administrations and small farmers were mobilized and they all played their part. Frankly, I am greatly disturbed and alarmed to hear reports that a large part of the 1946 groundnut crop has not yet been shifted from Nigeria. I have heard the figure of carry-over put as high as 100,000 tons, out of a crop of, I suppose, something like 300,000 tons, if it was a good year. I should explain to your Lordships that the groundnut is planted in May or June, it comes to maturity in the late autumn, and is harvested by the small farmer in 701 October, November, or perhaps even December.
What are the facts about this carryover? As I have said, I wish all success to the Tanganyika Groundnut Scheme, but it will not produce many groundnuts for a long time. I cannot refrain from the observation that a groundnut in the factory is worth two in the bush. However, if there is still some part of the 1946 crop to be shifted, the 1947 crop must now be accumulating on top of it. I hope I am wrong or that the reports have been exaggerated. I am very much disturbed if, in fact, we have not been able to shift the whole of this crop. Certainly, the Government have had the fullest information as to the transport needs of Nigeria. We pushed up production there greatly in the war. As Minister, I was myself the most importunate mendicant for engines and rolling stock for Nigeria. It was not easy to plead one's case because everybody wanted rolling stock at the same time—not only every country that was producing, but every Army in every quarter of the world, and the demands grew greater as bombs destroyed rolling stock and as the lines of communication lengthened. However, we were persistent and we got just enough to see us through. Actually, I think, in a year or eighteen months we increased the tonnage that railway carried by something like 400,000 tons.
I know, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton (Sir Arthur Richards, as he then was) and his extremely efficient railway organization—for the Nigerian Railway is a, very efficient organization indeed—has prepared the most detailed plans of what that railway would need in the future. The Government have told us in one of their White Papers that in planning the most essential thing to do is to put first things first. The first thing in the matter of supplies is to get hold of those supplies which are, in fact, available. If the Government have failed to provide the rolling stock to lift this crop, I must say that they have committed a double mischief. We are losing available supplies which we need urgently.
But it does not stop there. If the Government have failed in this way, just imagine what must be the effect upon the hundreds of thousands of small farmers whom we urged in the war to in- 702 crease their areas of cultivation and whom we have since assured that the need to maintain and, if possible, even expand that great war effort is still as great as ever. What is going to be the effect upon those people if they see the thousands or tens of thousands of tons of their produce lying month by month, apparently unwanted and possibly deteriorating—because these things do not last for ever. I thought it only right to raise that issue. I trust that the reports are exaggerated. I am sure the Minister will give us the full facts. But if what I have said is in near relation to the truth, then I most sincerely trust that every effort will be made to remedy so unfortunate a position.
§ 4.50 p.m.
My Lords, may 1 join with the noble Viscount who has just sat down in commending as in every way desirable the two Corporations and the scheme evolved by their birth out of this Bill? If the few points that I have to make follow, to some extent, those made by the noble Viscount who has just sat down, and if I deal with one or two others, I do so in the hope that my remarks may be helpful. They are in no way intended as criticisms of the scheme. There is one particular point which I think needs emphasizing time and time again, because it is confusing to those who have not closely followed this Bill and this scheme. It is important to realize, as the Minister who introduced the Bill has said, that there are two Corporations involved. It is perhaps an unfortunate fact that both are dealt with in one Bill, and the duality and different purposes of the two schemes are thereby apt to be confused.
I want to try to keep my remarks in regard to the two separate Corporations as distinct as possible. To take first the Colonial Development Corporation, there is one point which I think needs to be dealt with, because I have seen no reference to it, either in the Press or in speeches made. It is perhaps one of the most important aspects of this Corporation. Under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, provision has been made on a generous scale for certain types of development and for a great deal of research. It was not the purpose of those Acts to undertake production in Colonial territories; it was to develop the Colonies in such a way that production might follow. That is to say, the principal pur- 703 pose of those Acts, as I understand them, has been to provide railways, roads, communications, health services, and so on, rather than to go into commercial production by producing timber, foodstuffs or minerals.
In addition to that, those Acts have provided on a very generous scale for research. It is common knowledge to your Lordships and to all those who have followed these matters, that for many years past a vast amount of research has been done. One of our greatest difficulties has always been how to apply that research in practice. In the past there has always seemed to me to be a gap between the discovery of an important seed, or plant variety, or the improved application of a certain product to commercial or industrial purposes, and the actual practical application of that research. A great many of those discoveries are not in the early stages fit or available for commercial production, and I understand that it is one of the principal purposes of the Development Corporation to use information and material of that sort to translate what the scientist has found into practical experience in commercial and industrial production. Inasmuch as the Corporation fulfil this need, they seem to me to fulfil an even greater need than any of those that have been referred to by many speakers on this subject in another place or in correspondence with the Press.
I believe that the Development Corporation can save years of experimental applied science, which the private and commercial concern, especially the small man, cannot afford, but which the Corporation ought to be able to afford. On that Corporation I have no other comment to make, apart from one which is equally applicable to both Corporations. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount who has just sat down that there is a great danger of conflict in the subordination of one Corporation to one Minister and the other Corporation to another. In quite recent times we have seen the appalling results of diarchy or triarchy in the world of civil aviation. We have seen the result of two Ministries, not always apparently on very good terms with each other, and a Corporation from time to time apparently on extremely bad terms with both.
704 Here we have the germ of a precisely similar set-up. We have two Ministries and one Corporation involved in each case. I wonder whether His Majesty's Government would not consider that the warning of what has happened in the world of civil aviation is too serious for them to embark on an experiment which has such a profound similarity with the civil aviation set-up. But that is not the end of the difficulty, as I see it. We have the Colonial Development Corporation under or responsible to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the Overseas Food Corporation responsible to the Minister of Food. In my view it is perfectly right to have two Corporations. It is perfectly right to have a Corporation which can undertake food production in countries other than Colonial territories, and therefore it would be entirely inappropriate to use the Colonial Development Corporation for that. For that reason, I do not differ in any way with the set-up of two separate Corporations.
Apart from the difficulties to which I have already referred, I wonder precisely where that is going to lead us. It is within my knowledge that in certain foreign countries where a Ministry, other than the Colonial Ministry has intervened in Colonial territories, there have arisen precisely such differences of opinion between the responsible Ministry and the Ministry of Colonies. I do not wish to refer by name to the territories in question, because what I say may seem in the nature of a criticism of foreign countries, which would be inappropriate in your Lordships' House. But in two territories producing raw materials and foodstuffs I am aware of acute conflicts that have arisen between the different metropolitan Ministries about the policy to be followed. The solution in one case, after trial and error in regard to the experience of those difficulties, has been the subordination of food production to the local Government and its removal from the other metropolitan organization involved—equivalent in our case to taking away from the Ministry of Food and subordinating to the Colonial Office the Overseas Food Corporation.
I do not say that that is necessarily the right solution nor one which we should follow here—and for the following reason. If the first and essential function 705 of the Colonial Office is to supervise the administration and lay down the policy of Colonial territories, they must have, in the Colonial Office, as an essential guiding policy, the safeguarding of the interests of the inhabitants of those territories. As the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, has pointed out, the interest of the Minister of Food in producing groundnuts, say in Tanganyika, may not be precisely the same as the interest which is in the Colonial Office; and if the Colonial Office has to take a paternal interest in Tanganyika, it may not itself be necessarily the right body to produce groundnuts.
I, therefore, find it difficult to know what the precise answer is, unless it be something on the following lines. The two Corporations are independent bodies corporate, analogous to companies and responsible to the Government only in their general direction, not in their day-to-day management or administration. They are corporate bodies, legal entities which can sue and which may be sued, and they have their financial set-up outlined in the Bill which is now before your Lordships' House. I wonder whether those two Corporations should be responsible or subordinate neither to the Secretary of State for the Colonies nor to the Minister of Food, but to a non-departmental Minister rather than to a Department. I think the noble Earl who introduced this Bill would agree that the type of supervision of the two Corporations by whatever Ministry is now proposed should be very general and should not be particular.
If, for instance, the Colonial Development Corporation proposes the development of a certain type of tree or wood in a territory and seeks the Minister's general approval, within the limits of this Bill and their powers, I take it that the Minister would not want his Department to go into the merits or demerits of a scheme for which the Corporation is itself responsible and for operating which its officers are paid. In other words, you would not want the economic section or the West African section of the Colonial Office to follow the procedure which it would follow in an administrative matter in considering all the details of any proposal before the Minister makes up his mind. The Minister's responsibility over the activities of the Corporation must be rather tenuous on the highest possible non-departmental level. If that be so, then I submit that 706 a Minister without a Department could exercise that supervision as well as, and perhaps from a less partisan point of view better than the Colonial Office, the Ministry of Food, or any other departmental Ministry—such as the Ministry of Agriculture—which might be suggested. I venture to suggest that it is rather that sort of supervision which is in mind and which might be the alternative to the two proposals made in the Bill
There is only one other point that I should like to make before I sit down. I am still speaking of the Overseas Food Corporation, and I wish to say this in fairness to those who were responsible for initiating the scheme. I am aware that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, is going to take part in this debate, but it may perhaps be easier for another to emphasize, for what it is worth, how much we owe to the initiative, not of the Colonial Office or of any Government Department, but to a private company, for proposing, working out and starting a scheme which has everybody's praise for its imagination and scope. It would not be fair—nor, I am sure, would any member-of His Majesty's Government wish to do it—to take credit for something which belongs elsewhere. If the scheme is successful we shall owe much to the officers and direction of the United Africa. Company. The work already done only shows that, even when Government-sponsored schemes are brought into being, development is not necessarily either so smooth or so rapid as is sometimes anticipated. Because a scheme is Government sponsored, financed and organized, it does not necessarily follow that it is not going to be affected by teething troubles such as are encountered by ordinary commercial firms. We must not be disappointed at the lack of progress, for we should recognize that those responsible for this undertaking are bound to encounter some difficulties. But, with the personnel they have, they will achieve, I am sure, the results which we all hope for, and we must remain grateful to the United Africa Company for what they have done.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
My Lords, I rise to support the Second Reading of this Bill, and I hope that in doing so I may have, in full measure, that indulgence which your Lordships' House is accustomed to 707 give to a maiden speech. I count myself fortunate in being able to speak on a Motion which contains No Ingredient of Party spirit. After all, patriotism and belief in the ideals of our race is not the monopoly of any Party, and I am the happier, on an occasion like this, to be able to stand for ideas and ideals which meet with an equal amount of support on both sides of this House. I sit on this side of the House for reasons which have no relevance to this debate. Therefore I am able to speak this afternoon as a representative of the Colonial Civil Service, a Service which knows no Party, only the British Government and the policy which inspires its mission in the Colonial Empire. My memories range over thirty-nine years of service in most parts of that Empire, and during that time I have had the privilege of serving under twenty Secretaries of State, four of whom are members of your Lordships' House to-day.
To such an observer the increasing purpose which runs through our Colonial record is clear enough. The basic policy has sometimes been obscured, and sometimes its exponents have seemed to falter. The public interest and the public conscience have also shown a vacillating vitality, but always over a period of years the movement has been forward. In that sense, whatever may be said in some parts of Westminster or Whitehall, there is nothing novel or new in the conception of this Bill. It is the lineal descendant of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts of 1940 and 1945, which, in turn, were the legitimate children of a policy long struggling for expression. Truly the Bill to-day has found a favourable atmosphere in the twin circumstances of the constructive idealism of the present Government and the insistent needs of a shattered world striving to reconstruct its life.
I hope that it will not sound arrogant if I say that the Colonial Service has long since had its dreams of action such as this, and has prayed for the enlightenment of its masters—of whatever Party. We have realized that something more than the anæmic logic of the economist and the unexpurgated occasional idealism of the extempore political administrator was our crying need. We wanted action inspired by dynamic faith—faith wholly 708 held, not half held or apologetically held. We wanted effective belief and a recognition of how much work and study and thought it takes to believe in anything effectively. Our hopes are now high that we shall attain that condition. Perhaps a little later I may be allowed to say a final word about that aspect before I sit down.
To turn now to the Bill itself. The universal welcome which has greeted its general proposals has been tempered by certain criticisms of detail which, in some instances, have been so extended as to threaten the previous acceptance of its fundamental principles. It seems to me that some confusion of mind has arisen from the inclusion of the two Corporations in the one Bill, though there is no such confusion in the Bill itself. I see them as two entirely separate conceptions. The Overseas Development Corporation is, as I have said, the lineal descendant of the development and welfare policy inaugurated by the Acts of 1940 and 1945. Time had shown that £1,000,000 a year was inadequate to make any real impression on the low standard of life in the Colonies. The same was also true, indeed, of the later figure of £5,000,000 a year. Then it became obvious that the Treasury rule that any sum not spent in the year of allocation should be returned to the Treasury and lost was also an unreasonable restriction.
In 1945 the Governments were encouraged to plan for ten years ahead and the sum available was increased to £100,000,000. At the same time the old idea that the Colonies must depend entirely on their own resources and must aim at a balanced Budget every year was tacitly abandoned. Originally the annual Budget started as an annual statement of the Government's intentions over the next twelve months, but the demand of rigid financial orthodoxy in London had turned the Budget into a set of fetters on foresight and forward planning. The 1945 Act was intended to lay the permanent foundations of basic economic and social services, but it became steadily more obvious that welfare must wait on development, or at least go hand in hand with it. Improved health and education and increased production are interdependent. At present Colonial production is basically inefficient, and the 709 inefficiency is tied up with a network of tradition and suspicions, outworn systems of land tenure, tribal custom, and innate conservatism. It was realized that, great as was and is the contribution made by private enterprise to the development of Colonies, there remained a whole field of development which private enterprise, for a variety of reasons, was unable or unlikely to touch. And so the idea of a Colonial Development Corporation took shape, with the intention of supplementing, not supplanting, private enterprise, of stimulating it and of working at times hand in hand with it.
Last year, after protracted negotiations, the Nigerian Government had already brought into being the Cameroons Development Corporation, with a capital of close on £2,000,000, by which the ex-enemy plantations of the Cameroons were taken over by a. Board on which the Government, business ability, and the people were jointly represented. In the instance of that Corporation, the lands are vested in the Governor on behalf of the people and profits are to be devoted to future development and to the welfare of the people of that area. I quote this as an example in miniature of one modern approach to the development problem. It is not that the day of private enterprise is over, but the day of unfettered private enterprise is dead. There is nothing fundamentally wrong, after all, in development by private enterprise, just as there is nothing criminal in success.
I remember that eighteen years ago I was seconded from the Colonial Service to work as Governor of North Borneo at the request of the court of directors of one of the last of the chartered companies. It was a refreshing experience for a civil servant. I learned a great deal and amongst the things I learned was that a board of business men in the City of London could guide the destinies of a Colonial territory and look after its people with at least as much enlightenment and sense of responsibility as the Colonial Office itself. Indeed, in these modern corporations I seem to see the old chartered company rising like a phoenix from its ashes, in a new dress—a chartered company with a Government halo, shorn of administrative duties and concerned only with production and industry and welfare. However that may be, the awakening we see to-day is that 710 of Government to its direct responsibility for the welfare of people still in statu pupillari, and the realization that there is a whole field of developmental endeavour unlikely to be tackled by private enterprise.
After all, profit must be the main and first motive of private enterprise, while the new field of Government operation by Corporations places benefit to the country and people first, with an avoidance of ultimate loss as an essential ingredient of stability. Businessmen are to be given a dominant position on the board of the Corporation, presumably because there is needed their instinct and flair for what can be made commercially sound, and also their ability and experience to ensure it. I admit that we need businessmen of wide vision who look beyond the immediate years, who can commercialize: hope and amortize idealism—in short, who can build better than they know. There is no basis at all, as I see it, for the fear that the Corporation may enter on fields already satisfactorily occupied by old-established businesses, because that would not be development in any true sense of the word. The Overseas Development Corporation will be concerned first and last with the welfare, in the broadest sense, of the particular Colony and its people. It is true that the economy of our Colonies, and particularly of our African Colonies, is interlocked with that of Britain and Western Europe. Each needs and is needed by the other, and their prosperity must needs be mutual. So consultation with local inhabitants and their representatives on subsidiary boards, or whatever means are adopted, becomes an essential and educative feature of the system proposed.
To turn now to the Overseas Food Corporation, I regard this as different in ancestry and in conception-—so entirely different as to justify at once the distinction in the Bill. As I see it, this Corporation, with the world as its potential sphere, is the child of necessity. It is born of the war and the ensuing world shortage of food. It is an attempt by the British Government to shoulder one of its joint responsibilities; an attempt to help others at the same time as we are helping ourselves. In fact, it is another example of calling in a new world to redress the balance of the old. We share in the worldwide need of more food. In oils and fats 711 alone we are told, on the highest authority, that there is an annual world shortage of 4,000,000 tons, and that hardly in this generation will the world catch up with its diminished production and its increasing needs.
The Corporation's first object is an increase in our own and therefore in the world's food supplies. It can operate anywhere, but it can operate in a British Colony only on the invitation of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and with the welcome and good will of the local Government. If it does so enter a Colony it will do so under the fundamental terms of the dual mandate principle in the interests of the Colony and in those of the world. The object of its foundation is, surely, the betterment of the world, and permission to operate in a Colony will entail further the control of its activities so that they also contribute to the betterment of the Colony concerned. It seems to me, I must say, almost superfluous to add such a condition. All corporations operating to-day, whether Government or not, are subject to such control. Their activities would not be permitted at all if they were detrimental to the interests of the Colony.
Speaking as a Colonial civil servant and, I think I can say confidently, on behalf of the Colonial Civil Service, we welcome both Corporations wholeheartedly; and we particularly welcome the wisdom of the decision not to launch the Overseas Food Corporation under the aegis of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Surely, the best way to prejudice the position of the Colonial Secretary would be to place upon him the ultimate responsibility for the Overseas Food Corporation. The difference between the two Corporations may appear to us to be only one of emphasis—the Development Corporation placing the interest of the Colony first and that of the world second, and the Food Corporation placing the interest of the world first and that of the Colony second. It is probable that the Food Corporation will be invited to operate in a Colony only when those two interests are equal in importance and run parallel to each other. But I, at any rate, am glad that the Colonial Secretary has not been placed in the invidious position of seeming to serve God and Mammon. The division of functions between the Colonial Secretary 712 and the Minister of Food is calculated to allay any suspicion of divided and conflicting interest on the part of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I appreciate that the reputation for fairness, impartiality and justice of the Colonial Secretary is in reality the reputation of the British Government in all its operations—not of any particular Ministry.
May I say that I should warmly repudiate any suggestion that members of the Colonial Service would be over-awed by the sponsor of the Food Corporation into neglect of their duties of supervision. Nor does the suggestion of rivalry between the two Corporations, which has been made in other places, make any sense to me, knowing how they would work on the spot. May I in passing be allowed to point out that although the ultimate responsibility for the two Corporations will rest with the Colonial Secretary and the Minister of Food, their executive management will, presumably, rest with the respective boards. Heaven forbid that either Dover House or Montagu House should take an active part in their executive work. That way must lie disaster and frustration of the very purpose for which the personnel of the board has been so carefully selected.
Equally, I hope that members of the Colonial Administrative Service will not be diverted from the pressing and urgent calls of their own proper work to take an active part in the management in any of these schemes. We all know that during the war it was a case of all hands to the pumps. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton—whose magnificent work as Resident Minister in co-ordinating the war effort in West Africa won the admiration of all of us out there—would, I am sure, agree that the Administrative Service has now urgent and pressing arrears of work in its own sphere. To meet a temporary war emergency he had to use emergency powers and any staff he could lay hands on. But just as you cannot indefinitely overload a railway and neglect all maintenance and repairs without risk of complete collapse—the Nigerian Railway being at present a case in point—so you cannot overload a Service and neglect the proper limitation of its functions without risking the collapse of all that it stands for. As I see it, these Corporations—the Development Corporation in particular—have to steer a middle course 713 somewhere between those starry-eyed gentlemen who wish to paint Utopia on a. background of eternity, and the purely business outlook which refuses to consider any proposition unless the prospects are adequate and immediate. I take it that what we want is romantic realism—progress with a business sauce; in fact, dreams & à la mode, with the icing supplied by a business board.
I have noticed in what has been written and said about this Bill, a tendency to enlarge the: functions of these Corporations until they would seem to comprise all the functions of Government itself. Surely, the problems of health, tropical medicine, research, soil erosion and the like, are only incidentally the concern of the Corporations. Obviously they must so direct their activities as to prevent or avoid any aggravation or repetition of mistakes of the past. But a large-scale attack on, shall we say, the evil results of soil erosion in the Eastern Provinces in Nigeria must surely be the special concern of Government itself, and, in any case, the value of work done in this long-term fight against geological Nemesis is hardly capable of expression in any commercial corporation's balance sheet. The time taken is too long. The Corporation will have enough to do with a less ambitious limit than the earth and sky. Indeed, when one contemplates the possible field for legitimate activity by the Development Corporation, one realizes how relatively small is the sum now allocated to their use.
I do not propose to go into details about how the Corporations should or could set about their work, nor do I yield to the temptation to stray into criticism of the working of the East African groundnuts scheme. I recall from my Fiji days the caustic rejoinder of C. B. Fry in, I think, 1937, to a very vocal critic of the English Test Team's batting at Sydney in that year. He turned on him and said: "It is a curious thing that the best cricketers always seem to be sitting in the pavilion." Sitting now in the Westminster pavilion myself, I am free to say that no member of the Colonial Civil Service could fail to appreciate that retort, although they are debarred by their Trappist vows from making any such remark. I should like to add my Colonial voice in warm appreciation of this Bill. It would be idle to 714 deny that difficulties lie ahead; that perhaps too extravagant hopes are entertained of early results; that higher prices do not necessarily spell higher production unless the terrible shortage of equipment and consumer goods can be relieved; that the interest of local committees and the attraction of local capital may take longer to excite than we could wish. Of course, the British taxpayer does not look for profit save in the ultimate gratification of our mutual and reciprocal needs. But in this Bill the idea of economic interdependence and mutual aid receives an official christening, and we can hope that it will grow to a healthy maturity.
Perhaps I may be allowed one word of caution. It is true that there is an urgency behind both Corporations. In the case of the Food Corporation it is the urgency of a hungry world. In the case of the Development Corporation the urgency is not so great, or certainly not so universally obvious, but still it is an urgency—to strengthen the economy and raise the health, earning capacity and living conditions of the Colonies so that they may stand on their own feet. The social services, the educational, medical and other facilities planned and demanded must all be paid for, and those of us who have studied the question know that the bill will be immense. So we must make economic haste. But let us not make haste too recklessly. We are dealing with human beings, and to make a success of schemes for their welfare and for the welfare of the world we must carry them with us and have their sympathy and understanding. An intricate complex of traditions, habits and customs, of religious and cultural preconceptions and prejudices makes up the life of any society. The too hasty introduction of new ideas and methods may be like dropping a spanner into the slowly moving machinery of native social life. I am sure that the eminent business men who will be in control of these operations will give full consideration to the need of local knowledge and of full consultation with local people, official and unofficial, who are able to advise. These Corporations are expected at least to pay their way but not to look for profits. I expect to see them pay large dividends. Surely the dividends which they should pay are the prosperity and happiness, the gratitude 715 and comradeship of rising partners in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I should like to make one last point. It concerns an aspect which is not so easy to present. The Development and Welfare Acts have provided machinery and means to deal with the social and economic structure of the Colonies. The Bill before your Lordships provides the same for the expansion of production and industry. But there is one thing lacking, an essential thing to my mind. What is needed to attract business enterprise and capital, whether it be local or European, and, having attracted it, to enable it to thrive? It can be expressed in one word: Stability. In many parts of the Colonial Empire—and of most of them I have personal experience—the political programme hurried on from London (and I am not now speaking of official hurryings on, I am speaking of the general public) and spurred by foreign criticism has created conditions of instability which, in themselves, hinder and repel enterprise and so put further away that economic sufficiency without which all the talk about self-government and fitness for it becomes mere talk.
The Colonial Civil Service knows that civil liberty needs economic security to be safe or to have any meaning at all. But. one of its most difficult tasks is to inculcate the meaning of civil liberty. I have the temerity to remind your Lordships that Bills such as the one before us, impressive boards of business men, and the displaying of great financial generosity, will be powerless unless you have a Colonial Service inspired by the sense of mission which only a great policy and a great faith in it can preserve. I say without hesitation that you have today a Service worthy of your trust. The recruits who have come to the Service recently are of the quality which the situation demands; but—and it is a very large but—they need your trust and your support. No Service can defend a half-held faith. And to us in the Colonies it has sometimes seemed that faith at home has faltered. Words about economic progress and improvement in the standard of living cannot supply or make up for a lack of faith. It has sometimes seemed in these troubled times that we doubted ourselves.
A talented American has recently restated the case in clear terms. He says 716 that talk of democracy and freedom and self-government, used like incantations and not the counters of clear thought, have lost their magic power. They have to be thought and lived. Men have recently died for them. With humility, I too ask that we should make no confusion of life's machinery with its moral purpose—of aims with methods—that we should not, in planning the details of production, overlook the far more important planning of the environment that will automatically tend to release production and to promote liberty. The Colonial Service asks neither to be smothered in platitudes nor crucified on a cross of gold; but to be given the spiritual support, the spiritual essence which lies beyond the grasp of the economist. I look back to my early days in the Colonial Service, and earlier still to the beginning of this century, and I recall the words written at the end of his life concerning those days by the late Lord Tweedsmuir:Those were the days when a vision of what the Empire might be made dawned upon certain minds with the force of a revelation. To-day the word is sadly tarnished. Its dreams, once so bright, have been so pawed by unctuous hands that their glory has departed. Phrases which held a world of idealism and poetry have been spoilt by their use in bad verse and in after-dinner perorations. But in those days things were different. It was an inspiration for youth to realize the magnitude of its Imperial heritage and to think how it might be turned to spiritual uses.I dreamed of a world-wide brotherhood with the background of a common race and creed, consecrated to the service of peace. We believed we were laying the foundation of a federation of the world.The 'white man's burden' is now an almost meaningless phrase; then it involved a new philosophy of politics, and an ethical standard, serious, and surely not ignoble.So wrote John Buchan. The call is renewed to-day. The young men are there again looking for leadership and support—the men, as Kipling said, who… must cheapen self to findEnds uncheapened for mankind.But they have to be given the confidence that they will not be abandoned with their work half done; that we mean to press on with the task of training and fitting the Colonies for self-government, and equally that we mean to carry on with that task until the proper time comes to relinquish it; that we have a policy transcending all emergencies, even the greatest emergency of all which we are facing to-day. We 717 need for leadership and success something more than money and brains and business sense; we need that indefinable quality, compact of character and vision, which has never been lacking in our race. I support this Bill because I believe that behind it that spirit still lives; that what raises our Colonial policy above Party and above pettiness is the fact that in it the head and heart are only minor partners with the national soul.
As has been written:Is there not pardon for the braveAnd broad release above,Who lost their heads for libertyOr lost their hearts for love?Or is the wise man wise indeedWhom larger thoughts keep whole,Who sees life equal like a chartMade strong to play the saner part,And keep his head and keep his heartAnd only lose his soul?I conclude with the words of one of the greatest of moral leaders—Lincoln:The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion.I support the Bill.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
My Lords, I am indeed fortunate to be the first speaker after the noble Lord who has just sat down. Your Lordships, I feel sure, would wish me to congratulate him on your behalf. He came to this House with a great reputation, and we all agree, after listening to his speech, that that reputation is not rated too highly. He brings a wealth of knowledge of Colonial life and he has made a most valuable contribution to this debate. We look forward to his helping us in future debates to a fuller understanding of the Colonial Empire.
There are two separate projects embodied in the Overseas Resources Development Bill—the Colonial Development Corporation and the Overseas Food Corporation. They are separate and their origin was different. The Colonial Development Corporation is almost, but not quite, a descendant of the original Development Corporation Fund, which was started in 1929 with power to spend up to £1,000,000 a year—which, incidentally, was never fully spent. In 1945 a new Act providing for a fund of £120,000,000 was introduced by Mr. Oliver Stanley and was passed. The Colonial Development Corporation, which is established under this Bill, has a capital 718 of £100,000,000 with which to carry out any type of economic, as opposed to social, development in the Colonies. This Corporation has power to do almost anything, and it will not confine itself to really big undertakings.
Mr. Creech Jones, speaking in another place on December 2,1947, said that it is a Colonial Corporation to promote projects of all kinds in the Colonies. It is to lend its aid to public and private bodies already operating in the Colonies. It will found new corporations—I repeat "new corporations"—for specific purposes. It will encourage projects of a co-operative kind with which the people will be directly associated. It may possibly go into the field of industry or into mining operations, if necessary. Indeed its operations will cover a complexity of subjects. And, of course, it will be tremendously preoccupied in its earlier days in the investigation and sorting out of the kind of projects which it could support and generally encourage. We have, however, to remember that the money that is provided for it has to cover all the Colonies, and there are a great many of them. In other words, this Fund has as its first object the economic development of the resources of the Colonies. So much for the Colonial Development part of the Bill.
I now turn to the Overseas Food Corporation. I think I ought at this stage, as is customary, to inform the House that I am interested in this side of the Bill. I am Chairman of the United Africa Company who are at present the managing agents for the Tanganyika groundnuts scheme and will be the managing agents until the middle of this year—about August, I believe. It will then be taken over by the Overseas Food Corporation. We are the managing agents for the Minister of Food until that time. In this connexion, I should like to say a word, if I may, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, who spoke from the Liberal Front Bench and who referred to the work that was done by those who initiated this project in the Company of which I am Chairman.
At the end of 1945 the situation appeared to be very serious to those who were conversant with the supplies of oils and fats. They saw that a grave crisis was at hand and that the shortage of 719 those fats for the whole world, throughout the British Empire an in these Islands in particular, was going to be catastrophic. Mr. Frank Samuel, managing director of the United Africa Company, realized the dangers ahead. He naturally had a wide knowledge of tropical Africa, and he looked round the world to see what could be done. He conceived and thought out the Tanganyika groundnuts scheme. He wrote one of the most remarkable documents it has ever been my fortune to see—one of only seven pages outside appendices. It contained definite proposals for the large-scale production that is now included in this Bill—proposals for a scheme of sufficient size to benefit the British Isles and the whole world. In addition, the scheme provided for the production in a few years of a sufficient quantity of fats to replace a large part of the shortage; and yet it was a scheme that could go on producing indefinitely.
Mr. Samuel sent that scheme to the Minister of Food, hoping that it would be a contribution towards the solution of the crisis that was rapidly coming upon us in those days. Within a remarkably short time, a Government Mission was sent out to investigate the possibilities on the spot. The Mission reported, within a very few months, that the scheme was almost correct in detail and certainly correct in its broad outline. Before the scheme was sent to the Minister of Food, its author naturally and almost automatically looked into the question of how it would affect the Colonies concerned, and whether it would help them or be harmful to them. He therefore indicated undeveloped land, virtually unpopulated. There are many such places in Africa and in the world. He also had to choose land where climatic conditions—that is, rainfall, and so on—were suitable. Therefore, for the major part of this scheme he indicated the practically empty and tsetse-ridden land in Tanganyika.
It was thus apparent at once that the scheme was conceived for the benefit of the housewives of this country and for the improvement of the standard of living here and throughout the world. It would also develop the Colony of Tanganyika to an almost unbelievable extent. First of all, it would clear large tracts of that country of tsetse fly and would make 720 them fit for habitation. Secondly, it would lead to railway and road construction, and would improve and develop land where before there was nothing but bush. It would necessitate the construction of new harbours and the extension of old ones, again benefiting the country. The actual work was started only in April of last year—that is not a year ago yet—and already over 15,000 acres of bush have been cleared. It must be realized that this project covers an area of 5,000 square miles of country. Roads have to be improvised and constructed, ports improved where the landing facilities hardly exist, and, as the Food Minister said in another place, all the bulldozers and other mechanical vehicles had to be collected from the beaches of the Pacific and from all over the world.
The vastness of the enterprize undertaken by the Overseas Food Corporation in the East African groundnuts scheme cannot be measured in terms of money. It has to be translated into human labour power and mechanical power, and has to be measured against the background of the distance from the base, the lack of communications and accommodation and the primitiveness of the labour. If you heard of a project for clearing a few thousand acres of the New Forest, with equipment coming to a modern port like Southampton, with all the advantages of communication and skilled men, you would say, if it had to be done against time and in a few months, that it was some feat of enterprise. Consider then this task of clearing over 3,210,000 acres of African bush and forest, in areas literally without communications, with a port totally inadequate in its present size to meet the demands placed upon it, with roads that at all times are inadequate and which virtually disappear for four months of the year, with practically no telephone communication and with an inexpert African labour force. Considered in this way this scheme takes on heroic proportions. Difficulties of supplying from a base 6,000 miles away are another matter that has to be taken into account.
I want to say a word about the pioneering band of men who are out there. There are four or five hundred Europeans and four or five thousand Africans, working and living under pioneering conditions, and getting on enthusiastically with the 721 job. They see the urgency of it more than any man I know. I have seen some of them who flew home recently, and they are fully seized with the urgency of this scheme. Generally speaking this Bill has been welcomed, I understand, by all Parties. The only major criticism has been referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, and that is whether this Overseas Food Corporation should be under the Colonial Office or under the Ministry of Food. With regard to this first point, may I say a few words in support of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, this afternoon? Even the noble Viscount who put forward his criticism did not press his argument, and merely asked for information. His only major criticism was that the Overseas Food Corporation is not to be under the Colonial Office.
Under this Bill, however, it is plain that the Overseas Food Corporation, besides undertaking the Tanganyika groundnuts scheme, will work all over the world—in the Dominions, in foreign countries as well as in the Colonial Empire, if asked so to do by the respective countries. It is, therefore, clear that a Corporation responsible to the Colonial Office could not possibly undertake development in countries outside the British Empire. If the Overseas Food Corporation were to be transferred to the Colonial Office, still another Corporation would have to be set up to take over this sort of work outside the Colonial Empire. It may be said that there are no projects in view outside the British Empire, but I would remind your Lordships that there have already been tentative inquiries from various countries all over the world, asking for the views of the managing agents on the subject, and even whether the Food Corporation would feel inclined to go into other projects abroad. We are hoping to build up in the Overseas Food Corporation a Corporation that will have all the expert knowledge that can possibly be obtained on the subject of large-scale mechanical agriculture. As I have said, there have already been several tentative inquiries by experienced people from different countries about this scheme.
There is one other point. In the past, private enterprise invested its money all over the world. It carried out projects everywhere, in concerns such as railways.
722 There is no country into which it did not put its money. I look upon these Corporations as new instruments by which we can step up, as Lord Milverton said, the tempo of development enterprise to meet increasing need. They supplement, but do not supplant, private enterprise. In this way we shall be able to ensure that Britain continues to play a leading part in developing these great schemes all over the world.
I would like now to turn to the suggestion which has been made in another place and elsewhere, that African people would prefer to work for a Corporation under the control of the Colonial Office rather than the Ministry of Food. I hold no brief for either the Ministry of Food or the Colonial Office. Anyhow, both the Colonial Office and the Food Office have welcomed this. It is purely wishful thinking to say that the African people would prefer to work for a Corporation under the control of the Colonial Office rather than one controlled by the Ministry of Food, and the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said as much this afternoon. In Tanganyika the Africans have no conception of the difference. Indeed, in the areas where the groundnuts scheme is in operation, most of them can scarcely distinguish us from Europeans of any other nationality. They do know the Resident Governor, the Government of England and the King and Queen. They look to their Governor, and they have no conception of what is the set-up of the Government in England with regard to the Colonial Office or the Food Ministry.
If this Corporation is to work in the Colony—and again Lord Milverton has made this point—there ought to be an independent authority such as the Colonial Office to watch its activities, to see that the interests of the residents are protected; just as, if this Corporation were to work in the Dominions, the Dominion Government would watch its activities, and again, in a foreign country, the foreign Government would watch its activities to see that it did nothing harmful to the interests of the country. In other words, the Colonial Office and the Governor should be able to sit in judgment on the activities of the Overseas Food Corporation in a way quite impossible if the Colonial Office were itself operating and directing the scheme.
723 The managing agents, as I have said, hand over in August of this year. The Corporation has already appointed various officers and they have been out to the country and have been working with the managing agents. In fact the managing agents are now working practically alongside the people who are to have responsibility for the development when the Government Corporation fully takes over. This has been done in conjunction with the Ministry of Food. It has gone forward as one band. Practically speaking, most of the people now working for the managing agents will automatically work for those members of the Ministry of Food if responsibility is transferred. Those members have known all the difficulties that we have encountered with their people, and they are imbued with enthusiasm for their task. I ask you to consider seriously what would be the result were the whole organization now to be transferred to the Colonial Office. I am perfectly certain that it would make the task of this large enterprise practically impossible, and would cause very serious delay. The Colonial Development Corporation will have its hands very full and could not undertake this additional work, nor does it wish to do so.
There is one more matter to which I should like to refer. This particular Food Corporation will, I feel, prove of inestimable value to the housewives of this country and of the whole world. But there are many other projects which will occur to the minds of those who have travelled through the Colonies, particularly those who have been engaged in private enterprise—schemes to develop the waste spaces in Africa, not only the groundnuts scheme, but schemes for cattle, for ranches, and schemes like those for the palm oil plantations in the Congo.
I would like here to refer to what Mr. Ernest Bevin, the Foreign Secretary, said the other day in his great speech on foreign affairs in another place. Referring to the proposal for a Western group and speaking particularly of Africa, Mr. Bevin said:These overseas territories are large primary producers, and their standard of life is evolving rapidly and is capable of great development. They have raw materials, food and resources which can be turned to very great common advantage, both to the people of the territories themselves, to Europe, and to the world as a whole.724 Mr. Bevin—again speaking about Africa—went on to say:Therefore, if we get the plan, we intend to develop the economic co-operation between Western European countries step by step, to develop the resources of the territories with which we are associated, to build them up a system of priorities which will produce the quickest, most effective and most lasting results for the whole world. We hope that other countries with dependent territories will do the same in association with us.All that refers to Africa. Surely that is great justification for going on with all speed with the groundnuts scheme and, possibly, with others like it. The great Continent of Africa lends itself to all these great projects, and it would not be right to go on with any of them if they were really harmful and not of benefit to the country itself. But, as I have already explained, the contrary is the case. Finally, may I read an extract from a paper by Mrs. Huxley which appeared in the Journal of the Royal African Society the other day. It reads:What is now increasingly obvious is that it is not European but African peasant farming that is uneconomic, and that if these territories are to avoid disaster, the African must somehow learn to emulate the European and abandon a way of farming which is inexorably and quite rapidly destroying the fertility of the land.We have at present no justification for assuming that the great expansion in social services for which Africa is crying out—and especially health and education—can be indefinitely supported by the present economic foundation.Well, my Lords, we first of all stopped wars and continuous tribal fights in Africa. This increased the population enormously. We then introduced various health measures, and these again made the population increase a thousand times more. And now, if we are afraid to develop that country economically, because we shall be accused, by the ignorant, of exploiting it, as we have been many times and for many years, then starvation will stare its people in the face—starvation due to that enormous increase in the population brought about by us—because there will be no means of making that increase in food production which is now necessary to support the population. In other words, we have given the Africans peace and health, and now we must surely teach them to develop their countries with the aid which mechanical agricultural implements can 725 give, realizing that if we fail to do this there will be starvation on a colossal scale. For these and other reasons, which I have stated, I support this Bill.
§ 6.17 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SHEFFIELD
My Lords, it is desirable that some spokesman from this Bench should join with those who have already spoken in welcoming this Bill and in congratulating the Government on bringing it forward. We are particularly grateful for Clauses 7 and 8, which seem to us to express that sense of responsibility towards the inhabitants of our Colonial Empire which we should all feel. We realize, also, that they express not merely an ideal, but what has in fact been the best tradition of our Colonial Civil Service for many years past. There is one other feature in Clause 8 which gives us great pleasure—namely, the emphasis on consultation with other bodies or groups who have the care of these peoples very much at heart. We know that that has been the practice in the past, and we are glad that it is going to be embodied in this Bill. There have been days—they are rather far off now, one is glad to know—when economic development often meant the exploitation of native peoples. If this Clause 1s fully honoured, as no doubt it will be, that should always be prevented.
It is true that, here at home, social planning in its early stages does deprive ordinary people of the guidance of social tradition; and I imagine that that is even more true when you are dealing with more primitive peoples. Therefore, the emphasis on welfare is well laid, and we hope that it will be interpreted not just in a materialistic or humanistic sense but also in a spiritual one. If these peoples, drawn from primitive tribes, are to be introduced into industrial conditions, those responsible for them in that stage of transition should care for the whole man and not just for what might be called the embryo economic man. They need to have some philosophy of life which will enable them to stand the strain of that process more adequately than will the religion of primitive tribes. We are glad to think that in the plan already made for the East African scheme this conception of welfare has been generously and fully interpreted, and we believe that if this Bill goes forward, and the enter- 726 prises which it makes possible go forward, having always this in mind, nothing but benefit can inure to the native peoples and so to the whole community in general. I have, therefore, great pleasure in supporting the Motion for the Second Reading.
§ 6.20 p.m.
My Lords, I intend to cut short my remarks very considerably, in view of the length of the debate up to the present. I cannot leave unspoken, however, an expression of my view that it is fundamentally unsound that a Corporation should be set up by which a para-statal body can go into and either own or hold land under long tenure in a Colony, Dominion or foreign country. I have little doubt that the irruption will be welcomed with open arms, but once the honeymoon is over I fear that diplomatic incidents of the gravest order may well occur. This seems to me particularly true of any organization under the charge of the Minister of Food. We have to beware of the actions of the Minister of Food particularly with reference to the Colonies. He will be welcomed with Hallelujahs, but from what I know of the psychology of native peoples on their way to Dominion status, their growing sense of nationalism renders them particularly allergic to any accusation of exploitation, and it will not be very long before the Minister of Food is dubbed an exploiter of the first order. In so much as he will, we hope, be growing crops that will be whisked straight from the fields to the breakfast tables of Britain, I think the agitators will have abundant opportunity of saying that he is exploiting the poor natives for the benefit of those whom they will soon call the ruling class—the needs of which, from the speeches of the Minister of Food himself, would seem to be much less than those of the local inhabitants who grow the food.
Another point concerns the question of finance. Some time ago I mentioned to your Lordships the simple truth that capital investment can be financed only out of savings, taxation or inflation. At that time we were doing it out of inflation. The borrowing powers in this Bill are for a mere £50,000,000. That is a modest grub-stake in what the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, has called the game of "Shove Million." I comes on top of 727 the borrowing powers of many other Corporations. I have not kept count, but they are well on the way to £2,000,000,000, or even more, and this at a time when we confess that we are unable to save enough to provide for the renewal of our houses and factories. Moreover, we owe £3,000,000,000 odd abroad. Are we not rather dishonest to bring forward a Bill which may make people think we have £150,000,000 to invest in their lands?
Any money borrowed here has to be honoured either in capital goods immediately or, shortly afterwards, by the provision of bazaar goods for the local inhabitants. We shall want machinery and steel, and the natives will want clothes and bicycles. Those are precisely the things which do not exist to-day. We just have not got them. If we are going to invest in the scheme visualized in this Bill, we can only do so at the expense of our other schemes or by bilking our creditors. It would be completely ostrich-like of us to think otherwise. Our resourcs are already over-stretched. We have heard about groundnuts in Nigeria waiting for transport, while transport is sent to East Africa to move "the bird in the bush" there. We should have been much better off if we had stuck to what we could really grow there, and sent transport to the place where the groundnuts have always been grown.
What is the alternative to this plan? I think the political objections can be got over only by keeping the Government from operating directly in any of those territories. The territories who want to increase their resources must do so by cooperation with their producers, and if they want loans they must come to us, in the shape of the Corporations, and see what we can spare for them. But the chief and best method of increasing production is for the Government to make conditions under which the private individual will be prepared to risk his money to produce. It is an old-fashioned and unpopular view, but it is true. If anybody is going to be accused of exploiting the natives, let it be an individual or a company, and never His Majesty's Government. An individual can be indicted, and there can be no question of any diplomatic incidents. I can assure your Lordships that the terms and conditions of service under private British employment abroad will always be better 728 than those under any body responsible to the Treasury, the Public Accounts Committee and Parliament. By the very nature of things, it is bound to be so. Parliament is the first to cry out if the agents of the public purse pay more for anything than they need.
Can we get over these financial objections? We just have not the resources at the moment, and no amount of sentiment will conjure them up. We have the choice between waiting until we get them or going to some country which has a surplus of savings and production. The International Bank was designed to meet precisely that state of affairs, but they have a long queue on their doorstep. In these circumstances, I can see nothing for it but to do things on a very modest scale for a long time. We must remember, however, that any particular investment we make of our resources is only at the expense of some other vital investment or else at the expense of our creditors. Whatever methods we can find to develop the resources of our Empire, I am certain, if we want to keep that Empire, that we shall have to ensure that the resulting exports go through the proper market machinery to the best markets. The fruits of the Empire can be guided by Imperial Preferences, but never must they be directed by the Minister of Food.
§ 6.28 p.m.
My Lords, I apologize for intervening at this very late hour of the debate. Indeed, I would have scratched, had it not been for one particular anxiety which has not been voiced by any of your Lordships this afternoon and about which I should like to ask the Minister a question. Like the rest of your Lordships, I welcome this Bill. I believe it to be constructive and a fine successor to the 1940 and 1945 Acts. I know the success those Acts have had already in the Colonial territories, and I wish this Bill in future years even greater success. But I am profoundly anxious about the effect upon this Bill of the Havana Charter, which is at present under discussion. If you look at Article 30 of that Charter, you will find a provision which appears to me to say, in effect, that in the event of our signing the Charter, we shall be compelled to buy at the lowest world prices, regardless of the sources from which the goods are provided, and regardless of our Imperial interests.
729 Many of your Lordships to-night have stressed a view with which I profoundly agree, that in this Bill there must be no suggestion of exploitation. On the contrary, the one object of this Bill, if it has no other object, must surely be to raise the level of the native population of our Colonial Empire. I am sure all your Lordships will agree with me in that. But if we are going to operate this great scheme in an economic way, and at the same time are going to raise the level of the native population, it is not necessary that we should inevitably produce at the cheapest world price. Undoubtedly in Brazil, for example, where there is sweated labour, they will produce things at a much lower price than we shall be able to produce them in our Colonial Empire. May I quote another example of the immutability of things? If the franc devaluation takes place, as I anticipate it will, the very large number of groundnuts which are produced in French West Africa will inevitably, as a result of that devaluation, be produced a great deal more cheaply than they can be produced in our Colonial Empire.
I would like to ask the Minister this question: How do we stand in relation to Article 30 of the Havana Charter? And how, if I read the article aright, are we to escape the situation which appears to me to arise under that Article? May I remind your Lordships that under Article 16 we shall be prohibited by the most favoured nation clause from helping by any tariff or any such device the young industries which we hope to raise in the Colonies. I cannot help feeling, if my apprehensions are right—I trust they are unfounded—that the Havana Charter might have a most damaging effect on this Bill, which we all wish success. I hope the noble Earl, when he replies, will be able to explain how we stand under the Havana Charter. I hope that he will be able to reassure me that my suspicions are groundless, and that the scheme will be entirely unaffected by the Havana Charter.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
My Lords, I have one criticism to make of this debate in which I am certain all your Lordships still present in the House will support me. It is that it is very unfortunate that a debate of this importance to the Colonial Empire should be taken on an afternoon 730 when the House meets late and, in consequence, many noble Lords who wished to address the House have been prevented from doing so. I regret it particularly as one of the older members of the House (I do not mean in length of service, but in years) because it tends to exclude the young speakers; personally, I think that to be infinitely regrettable. I hope that noble Lords opposite will take note of this fact, and not do the Colonial Empire or any part of the Commonwealth the dis-service of arranging these debates on afternoons when those who really wish to contribute to them cannot do so.
Apart from that criticism, like every other speaker in this debate, I commend the Bill and I wish it well in every way. If one thing will make this debate memorable to me it is the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, on which I should like from this Bench to congratulate him most warmly. He is, indeed, an acquisition to our counsels in this House, and it is a sign of the value that still exists in this House that it mikes a place for men of his ripe experience. His speech was a model both of wit and of wisdom. I listened to it, I hope with profit and certainly with pleasure, from beginning to end. I was glad to hear the noble Lord speak for the Colonial Civil Service. No one could do it with more authority than he. I had the honour myself to belong to that Service for a short five years. I learned to appreciate it greatly. It is one of the finest Services in the world.
As the son of an old Indian Civil Servant, I should like to say that even that great Service, which has now ceased to exist, has found its superior in the Colonial Civil Service of the present time. The reason I say that is this. With all its tremendous qualities, the Indian Civil Service had one great defect: it concentrated on administration, but never thought enough of how that administration was to be paid for. The Colonial Civil Service, whilst careful not to serve both God and Mammon, must see, as the noble Lord very properly said, that its servants do not appear to believe that all the services which the Colonies require can somehow be fostered and paid for by manna from on high. The wealth that is needed for these services must be produced from the soil, and we can produce it only with the help and co-operation of 731 the African peoples. That is a task of immense delicacy and complexity. My noble friend behind me, and some other noble Lords, have spoken of the problem presented by two Corporations. For my part, while agreeing that there is a certain lack of tidiness about this scheme, I am inclined to think that it is well that the production of food, which will obviously be conducted under very great pressure, because of world necessity and the necessity of this country, is not to be made the responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
The great point about private enterprise in all these things was that if private enterprise was conducting any form of exploitation the Government of the Colony, and the Civil Service of the Colony, were absolutely impartial and could see that the population of the Colony received justice in every way, and that No Improper pressure was put upon them. That is still all-important and, for my part, I should not like to see a situation created in which the Civil Service of a Colony appeared in the eyes of the native inhabitants of that Colony to be concerned not only with the good administration of the Colony and the raising of its people but also with pressure to get production hastened in the interests of people living entirely out of their ken. I believe it is most important to keep the Colonial Service in an impartial Olympian position in regard to all these matters. For that reason I, for my part, while I can see certain dangers which ought to be watched very closely, hope that, whatever may be done to tidy up the situation, nothing will be done to involve Colonial Governments and the Colonial Civil Service in pressure for immediate production.
My noble friend Lord Hawke said some relevant things about the advantage of private enterprise in this matter. I think they are not to be forgotten, and the more private enterprise can be encouraged, the less danger there is of the Government getting into this equivocal position. The other point on which I feel very deeply is germane to it. In West Africa, I believe, the population is adequate to any schemes which are in contemplation. There is no lack of man-power and woman-power, although there may be lack of incentive and desire to bother with all this production. But in East Africa the population 732 is very small, and when one considers the Tanganyika groundnuts scheme, the new railways and new ports that are being built—I think there are two new railways in Tanganyika, because there is a considerable length of railway being built to new mines in Kenya—one realizes that a tremendous amount of labour is being taken by the Government for the new military base which is being planned out there. All this strain, coming upon a comparatively small native population in East Africa and in Central Africa—which in any case is apt to be drained by Rhodesia and the Rand—is a very serious matter. I cannot believe that the Governors of the East African Colonies have not already called attention to it.
In that respect, I beg His Majesty's Ministers not to forget that there is a supply of labour available in another part of the Colonial Empire. I refer to Malta, which is overcrowded. Something must be done for the Maltese, and I cannot conceive a better way of helping them than by taking them out to settlements with their families to work on some of these schemes. In Kenya Italian labour has been an immense success and I saw it before the war in the Italian Colonies. It arrived fortuitously in Kenya, through the prisoners of war, but many of them have stayed behind. They have brought their families to Kenya, where they are working most successfully and are fully earning the very high wages that are paid. Evidence to the African that the white man can work effectively on the land prevents him from thinking that he is mere help while the white man merely exploits. It also affects him in this way: that if he sees that a thing is being done well by a white man he is much more likely to think it worth doing. If it is something which we merely compel him to do, while not doing it ourselves, it is naturally not so attractive to him. That is a human point of view and I am sure it is the African point of view. I beg that His Majesty's Ministers will give serious consideration to that possibility.
I would like to join the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, in the tribute which he paid to the United Africa Company. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, has spoken of the heroic character of the work which the Company is doing in Tanganyika, and I can assure him that the 733 enterprise and endurance shown are very much appreciated in this quarter of the House—and, I believe, in all quarters. There are only two more things which I will say at this hour of the night. One is to reinforce—indeed to press—the question which was put by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. I think the Government must be careful that the policy of its Departments is correlated in this matter. It is the Departments who are negotiating these agreements, and the Departments who are thinking about Colonial development. I believe in some ways that the undertakings which we have been pressed to make at Havana and elsewhere are absolutely incompatible with the welfare of the Colonies. It means that we should be compelled either to give up these projects or to try and grind the natives down to the lowest rate for production in the world, which is not the object of these schemes. This requires the most serious attention, and I thought the point was very well put by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. I hope the noble Earl who is to reply will give us some reassurance about it.
Finally, may I say how deeply I endorse all that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said about the need for faith in ourselves? At the moment we are being suspected all over the world of a loss of faith in ourselves. We have carried things to a great point of success, and then we have abandoned them. This process of abandonment may be inevitable, and I do not wish to enter into all the examples of it that are going on at the present time. But the effect upon the world and upon our Services is very grave indeed. In Africa the Colonial Service may once again find itself urged to proceed with schemes of political emancipation, the kind of responsibility which they know to be entirely out of keeping with the capacity of the population—demands put forward by tiny half-educated minorities who in no way represent the mass of the peoples or their welfare. This is where the Colonial Service will require help and understanding. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, who can speak with such profound knowledge, should raise the issue in the House this evening, and I hope that whatever Government may be in power in this country in the future, they will remember that to allow 734 the demand for political responsibility to outrun capacity, both financial and political, is the most dangerous thing for the welfare of the people themselves and the greatest injustice which they can do to our public servants throughout the Colonial Empire.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I am sure you will agree that the House is really entitled to a little self-congratulation on the quality of this debate. I think a good many of us will regard it, when we look back, as one of a series of quite remarkable debates on the subject of the Colonies that have taken place in this House over a long period of time. I am quite certain that these debates have been one of the most important ways in which we have maintained, and even enhanced, our reputation in the country. I think that is partly due to the fact that we have in this House many ex-administrators of the Colonies and many ex-Ministers who speak from their fund of special knowledge. It is, therefore, in the sphere of Colonial matters that we are particularly well qualified to supplement the work which is done by another place, whose Members have not the same experience of the Colonies either in an administrative or in a Ministerial capacity.
For this reason I have all the more sympathy with the complaint of the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, that we have had to compress this debate into the limits imposed by a late start. I have no doubt that my noble friend the Leader of the House and the Whips found that it was essential to have the debate to-day, on account of pressure of other business; but I regret, just as the noble Lord does, that a number of noble Lords had to cut down their speeches and that other noble Lords were excluded. I am particularly sorry that we did not have the chance of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, whose knowledge of the Commonwealth we all respect and whose contributions on other occasions we have all enjoyed.
I should like on behalf of the Government to thank the House very warmly, for the reception which has been given to this Bill. I think there has been agreement by every speaker, in principle, upon what the Bill sets out to do. The 735 only criticism has been directed towards the machinery which the Bill is setting up to carry out its purposes. Before I reply to some of the points that have been made, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Milverton upon his outstanding contribution to this debate, which I think is certainly one of the most remarkable maiden speeches that any of us has heard for a considerable period of time. I do not know really whether I am qualified to say this, because I am only one of the extempore political administrators who have come on or left the stage of the Colonial Office during the long career of the noble Lord. Indeed, as a Minister of State, I fear that I am one of the type of extempore administrators who are adding to a number that is already large. The more usual practice of having Secretaries and Under-Secretaries of State, and Ministers Resident—
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The other reason for this attitude is that I am a student at the feet of the noble Lord, and I am only just beginning; so it is perhaps a little presumptuous of me to speak in that way about one of my masters. But it was a speech that was received with the utmost pleasure by everyone who heard it. It was based on a lifetime of service in the Colonies, and it was informed, I think, by that objective approach to the subject under discussion, without any Party bias, which is always the most fruitful attitude of mind in dealing with the problems that we have to deal with in this House. I am sure I am speaking for everyone when I say that we hope very keenly that the noble Lord will address us again on this and kindred subjects in time to come.
Now I will try briefly to answer some of the points that have been made. I fear that I have not studied the Havana Charter and I do not know the contents of Article 30. I will certainly ask my advisors to examine the Havana Charter, and I will study it myself and let the noble Lord know if I find that there is any conflict between the terms of the Charter and the provisions of this Bill. That applies equally to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, on 736 the same subject. Some criticism was expressed by noble Lords of the diarchy or dichotomy or division of responsibility—whatever you like to call it—involved in these two Corporations. I think there is a strong case in theory against any division of responsibility, and that case could not have been made out more clearly and cogently than by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. But I wonder whether in practice the difficulties are really as great as they appear to be. Surely the parallel is a big industrial or other firm which establishes a business in a Colony. In such cases there is no responsibility to any Government Department, to a Secretary of State or to anyone else; and yet the United African Company, Unilever's and businesses of that kind function extremely well and without conflicting with the interests of the local inhabitants. If the noble Viscount does not think that is a fair comment—
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
No, I am liking the parallel. What I want to know—and I think I should be quite happy if I could be assured on the point—is whether the Secretary of State for the Colonies is going to have within the Colony the same authority and control over the Minister of Food that the Governor and the Secretary of State for the Colonies have over Unilever's.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
That brings me to the second point that I intended to answer and which I think arises more naturally on a point put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell. It seems to me that, provided we are satisfied from experience that private firms can operate a business in a Colony and not conflict with the interests of the Colonial inhabitants and with the responsibilities of the Secretary of State, then that business can be worked just as well by a number of Corporations. The suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, was that we should have a Minister without Portfolio who would control the activities of both the Minister of Food and the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
That was not precisely what I said. I think I said a new Minister, a non-Departmental Minister, to whom could be given supervision of both Corporations.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
That was what I meant to imply. I should not like to misrepresent the noble Lord. I really think that that would be a superfluous piece of machinery, because in the first place there would in ninety-nine cases out of 100 be agreement between the Minister of Food and the Secretary of State for the Colonies. If there should be disagreement, there is the ordinary Cabinet machinery to resolve their differences. I cannot see the object of adding to the burdens of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, or of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, or of any of the Ministers, who are extremely busy.
I should like to answer more fully the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, about Nigeria, because he was good enough to give me notice of it in advance. I do not think he said, but it has been said, that rolling stock and locomotives which might have been used to evacuate the groundnuts which were already collected in Nigeria had been diverted to East Africa. I do not think any speaker has made that point this afternoon, but it has been made and it should be answered. The truth is that the groundnuts scheme in East Africa has had no effect whatever on the supply of railway material in Nigeria. The Nigerian and the Tanganyika railways operate on different gauges, and it would be impossible to transfer rolling stock from one railway system to the other. Such locomotives and rolling stock as were brought into operation in 1947 were renewals and were acquired irrespective of the groundnuts scheme. The only locomotives otherwise were Army service locomotives. But I am grateful to the noble Viscount for stressing the point. We are fully aware of the importance of getting the groundnuts out of Nigeria as quickly as possible, but the problem is not by any means an easy one. They have to be carried some 700 miles or more to the coast over a single railway.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I know that railway, every mile of it, very well. Is it not a fact that in 1944 and 1945 the most meticulous estimates were put in for what the railways would need, and that in this country in 1945 and 1946 full consideration was given in consultation 738 with the locomotive makers and the wagon makers as to where wagons and locomotives were needed? Yet, for some extraordinary reason, the one place which does not seem to have got any is the one place which supplied fats and groundnuts.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I will look into that. But—if the noble Viscount will allow me to continue—I think he will feel that there has been a distinct improvement. The difficulty is that new engines, boilers and wagons, and better repair facilities, were required to do this job in Nigeria. Those requirements we are doing our utmost to meet, and the supplies that are going out have already begun to produce results. The movement of groundnuts in recent months has been substantially above the average of last year. It will be some time before all the new wagons, boilers and railway equipment can be delivered. The main shortage is locomotive power. More new engines will be available in the course of the next few months. I can assure the noble Lord that there has been no Significant loss of groundnuts through deterioration owing to the length of time during which they have been kept there, and that we shall do our very utmost to provide in the nearest possible future the new engines and other railway equipment that are required. I believe that as many as twenty new engines are due in the course of the next few months.
There remains nothing for me to do except to thank the House again for the great encouragement which the debate this afternoon will give, not only to the Government but to the members of the Colonial Service Who will have to carry out those schemes in the territories in which they will be applied. I think it gives them the sort of encouragement to which the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, referred, and which they need to sustain them under the very trying conditions in which they work, when your Lordships, irrespective of Party, are able to give a welcome in the national interest to a Bill of this kind.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.