HL Deb 22 July 1952 vol 178 cc123-74

4.23 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the Report on the Colonial Territories for the year 1951–52 presented by the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Cmd. 8553) to Parliament; to comment upon certain important matters not covered by the Report and not dealt with by Her Majesty's Government, to the detriment of Her Majesty's Colonial peoples; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this afternoon we have the opportunity, which comes very rarely in this House, or indeed in another place, of considering the Colonial Territories as a whole. From time to time Motions are put down on the Order Paper to consider some portion of the Colonial Empire, but on this occasion, and almost on this occasion alone, we have a chance to look at the broad picture and to take a panoramic view, if I may so call it, of the problem as a whole. In the first place, I should like to thank all the officials both at home and abroad for their work during the year. The Colonial Territories are going through a very difficult period just now—a period of great change—and we owe a debt of gratitude to all the officials who are helping to make that progress into new ways of life easier than it might otherwise have been. Nothing that I say—although perhaps here and there I shall be somewhat critical—is to be taken as involving any criticism of the officials. Where I criticise—although for the sake of brevity I may not always say so—it will be intended as a criticism of the Government in general and of the responsible Ministers in particular.

The Report which we are considering to-day is a good, sound, staid, Victorian document. It is full of facts and a sure remedy for insomnia. It is rather like a Kensington Square, where the murmur of traffic is heard in the distance; but in the Square all is quiet; a baby lies in a perambulator and a cat licks itself staidly and in surfeit on a doorstep. One has the feeling that, so far as the Report is concerned and, indeed, so far as the Government also are concerned, there is no assurance that these mighty surges of feeling that are present in the world to-day—surges not only of feeling but of passion—have impinged upon their consciousness at all. Where do the Government consider the Colonies are going? Do they think of the matter at all? There is no answer in this Report; and there is no answer in this Report because, in that sense, no one is thinking of the matter. That is what I fear.

Our experience, when we took over in 1945—and I am sure that my view will be confirmed by the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, who was our first Secretary of State for the Colonies—was that the Colonial Office was still traditionally minded. By tradition it did not initiate policy or ideas. The policy came from the Colonies, through the orthodox channel of the Governor. The Governor was appointed—sometimes with no previous Colonial experience—and until retirement he was treated as a sort of demi-god. No attempt was ever made to check the opinion that he gave—or rather, as it so often amounted to, the ruling he gave—on any problem. Therefore, following from these two planks of the Colonial platform, there was no central organisation; no one thought of the Colonial territories as a whole, how they fitted into the modern world, where they were going and at what pace. There was no central assessment of political intelligence, strange as that may seem. There was no central police organisation, in spite of the fact that the Colonial police force is the largest in the world. There was not a single soul in the Colonial Office responsible for police matters. There was no one in charge of training, recruitment or uniforms. There was no system of visits by which matters could be checked up, because, as I say, until the Governor, the demi-god, had spoken ex cathedra, no notice could be taken or inquiry made of "rumblings off." This was no doubt a very good system when it was originally evolved. It was evolved in the time when it took a sailing ship from four to six months to get to a Colony, and from four to six months to come back. Therefore, the only contact the Government had with the Colony was by the leisurely despatch that went out and the leisurely despatch which came home.

Although in 1945 communications had been tremendously accelerated since those days, the organisation in the Colonial Office had not been similarly accelerated, and there was no centralised system. During our period of office, and during the period of office of the various Colonial Secretaries, considerable changes were made and a more centralised system was brought into being. Also, a number of excellent Reports were produced, not only the Annual Report, which is a mine of information—and I do not want any one to think that I regard it otherwise—but also the Regional Reports, which deal with the various regions in the Colonial Empire, and the Report of the Colonial Research Council and other bodies. In fact, there is a tremendous supply of information. But I am afraid that, for one reason or another, that information is not widely read; and there is still, as I shall attempt to show in a moment, some need for a greater drive to get that information over to the public.

As to the form of the Report, as I say we do not want to do without anything that is in it. The mass of statistics which it provides for us is excellent, and we like to know in detail what is happening in the various Colonial territories. I myself think—and I make this suggestion—that in future the Report should open with a general survey, not only of what has happened but what the Minister thinks is going to happen or ought to happen—in other words, what I may call imaginative musings, either by some official in the Colonial Office or by the Minister himself. This Report is prepared for the Secretary of State by an official, and he does the job very well. But I say that this is a time when we should have, in addition, these appreciations by the political head of the Department. I think: your Lordships will be with me there. It would be very interesting to us all to have this information. We should then know what the Minister thinks—because this is the Minister's Report to Parliament; what is the tempo in the Colonies; what he thinks is likely to happen there It is, after all, points of that sort that we want to know. If it be said that no Colonial Secretary can be expected to know what is happening, the answer is that every business man and every soldier has to make an appreciation, and I do not see why the Secretary of State should not make one, just the same as a person in any other walk of life.

I think, too, that it is a good plan occasionally to take a thing up by the roots; after all, we are an old country and a lot of weeds have grown among the corn. I think that that would be all to the good and I am all for it. I also think that it is a bad thing to change the Ministers in the Colonial Office too often. Unfortunately, in spite of the shortness of the period during which the Conservative Government have been in office, there has already been a change, and an important change, in the Ministerial ranks. Mr. Lennox-Boyd and I often do not see eye to eye on many things, but I must say that he has taken a great interest in Colonial matters for many years. When I was sitting in another place he was one of our most persistent critics—but ho did "know his stuff." I think a Minister always realises very quickly which of his critics "know their stuff" and which do not. Mr. Lennox-Boyd did. If I may say so, I think it has been a great mistake to take him from his post as Minister of State for Colonial Affairs and to put another person in his place. However good that person may be, he cannot possibly have the knowledge of Mr. Lennox-Boyd. This change has not been well received by the Colonies. They think that if Ministers can be changed about in this way and taken from one place to another it shows that the Government do not consider their interests very seriously.

I should like now to say a few words about some of the matter; which I think should have been dealt will by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the way I have suggested; that is, by what I called "imaginative musings"—if it is possible to think of the present Secretary of State indulging in imaginative musings. First of all, the talk of ladder-climbing This expression is one which is often used by the Conservatives. I do not quarrel with it, but we are told by the Conservatives that the Colonies are at some stage up the ladder; some are higher than others, some are at the foot and so on. What we are never told, in this talk about the ladder, is what happens when they get to the top of the ladder. Are they to perch there like trapeze artists, or are they to get down again? That is a simple question, but it is a difficult question to answer. It goes to the roots of the policy enunciated here, which, to some extent, is misleading. That policy is self-government within the Commonwealth. That is self-evident. But what does "self-government" mean? It must mean something different as regards, for instance, Nigeria and as regards Mauritius and St. Helena. You cannot use the same criterion for Nigeria, with a population of about 30,000,000 and a vast area, and St. Helena, which any of us could walk round in a morning or less. It should be a different criterion.

There are three types of Colony. There is first the Colony which can, and which, we hope, will in time, be a Dominion; there is the one which, combined with the others, could become a Dominion; and the third, which, either by reason of lack of economic resources or some multiracial problem or the like, can never become a self-governing Dominion, can never stand on its own feet. It is because of the recognition of that fact that I have ventured to put forward the suggestion for a Grand Council of the United Kingdom and Colonial Territories. I do not say that that would be the best solution; but it is a solution. And the Government have not put forward any solution. These territories which cannot be Dominions should be combined in a Grand Council which would meet every year and make recommendations to the various Parliaments concerned.


May I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Would this body have executive responsibility? Would it be an advisory body? Would it be usurping the authority of the Secretary of State? What would its responsibilities be?


I would say that it would not have executive responsibility. It would not take away any of the authority of the Secretary of State over any of the Colonies concerned. It would make recommendations. After all, the Council of Europe does no more than that; the United Nations does no more. It would make recommendations which would be very seriously considered by the Governments concerned, and it would give an opportunity to the representatives of the Colonial Parliaments to meet and exchange ideas. It would have a permanent secretariat by which the various economic and other problems would be considered from day to day. We must remember that we are living in a changing world, and unless there is some body such as this which can hear the views of these people we are placed in great difficulty. If there is not such a body it will be necessary to have a series of ad hoc organisations to deal with each crisis as it occurs. I do not want to pursue that idea at any greater length—this is a King Charles's Head of mine. I mention it only because, while your Lordships may not consider it so, it is the sort of problem with which we ought to be dealing—not how many raspberries will grow on Saint Lucia, although that is important.

The second problem is the problem of multi-racial societies. Where are they going? We get the stock answer: "Partnership." But what does partnership mean? It may be a very good thing, but we are not told anything about it. How can you get partnership in Kenya between a young Briton from Rochdale, a Boer from Elandslaagte, an Indian from Mombasa, and a warrior of the Masai? That is the policy which the Government have laid down in this Report, but there is no attempt to follow it out and analyse it. We are entitled to know—we are a House of Parliament—what is the meaning of this expression. Expressions without definitions, as the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, has said, are only embarrassing.

Then there is no general policy for agriculture set out in the Report. It has been suggested that what is needed in these countries, particularly in Africa, is not some huge plantation scheme but an application of the methods of scientific agriculture. I see the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, sitting opposite to me: I am speaking in the presence of a master. But I should have said that the experience we have had in this country and elsewhere can best be applied to these countries by means of a model farm with an experimental research unit, with a marketing organisation, that being the hub of the wheel, the satellite co-operative or individual holdings being serviced by it. I hope the noble Viscount agrees with me. So you do get the benefit of the two systems. If you have a big plantation scheme, as we have seen in the case of groundnuts in Tanganyika, things are liable to go wrong—that is, of course, an under-statement, but they do go wrong. By this system, we can bring to the native farmer the resources of the latest agricultural knowledge and, if we have the central model farm with all the services possible, knowledge can be given in the best possible way to the farmers without any dislocation of their normal way of life. Because one of the troubles of plantation farming, as your Lordships well know, is that the normal way of life is often broken up and a man is divorced from his family for many months in the year, or even for many years at a time.

I should like to ask why there is no mention in the Report of the Trusteeship Territories. I do not know whether your Lordships are aware of it, but the Committee of the United Nations which deals with trusteeship matters is Committee IV. I was one of the representatives on that Committee in 1950, and the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, was a representative last year in Paris. I gather that his experience on that Committee was much the same as mine. On that Committee, the British representative is in the dock. There is no question about it: he is in the dock, and all sorts of small States, such as Guatemala and Liberia, take the greatest pleasure in savagely criticising our Colonial methods—not, I may say, based on any facts, but on no facts at all. On one occasion, when I personally was getting very tired of listening to the British Government being savagely attacked in this way, I made a statement in defence, and one of the Secretariat came along and asked if it was a filibuster. So rarely has any British defence been made in this Committee on this subject that they thought that even to suggest that there might be any defence at all to these savage accusations was to "do a filibuster"—to talk it out. That is a problem because, after all, we have to send in every year a report on these Trusteeship Territories. Parties from the Trusteeship Council go out and inspect the territories, and again their report goes to Committee IV.

I was more than concerned, I was horrified, at the attitude of mind displayed by the nations in Committee IV towards our Colonial problems. There was no attempt at all to understand them. There was only savage criticism of what they imagined we were doing. I think the Government ought to see to it that in future their representatives take a much firmer line in that Committee, even at the expense of hazarding and jeopardising something in another Committee. We do not say anything in Committee IV, lest we hazard or jeopardise things in another Committee. I think we ought to make it known to the people in this Committee that we have nothing at all to be ashamed of in our Colonial administration which in many ways is a pattern for the rest of the world. Anything I am saying in criticism now must not be taken in any way to derogate from that: the very fact that I am here saying these things shows the great interest that we take in the Colonial territories and their affairs.

Again, there is no mention in the Report of how world trade affects the Colonial Empire. It affects it enormously. Take the case of cotton. A few years ago we went on our knees to the cotton people in Lancashire, asking them to supply us with cotton goods for the Colonies, but they were not interested. They would not supply cotton goods far the Colonies and we had to buy Japanese piece goods, ordinary grey cloth, and get them printed elsewhere—I believe in Belgium. The people in Lancashire are crying out for trade and they have got the Colonial Office to put an embargo on Japanese goods. I have every sympathy with Lancashire—


It is not a question of the Colonial Office putting an embargo on cotton goods going to the Colonies. The noble Lord is mistaken there. What happened was that the Colonies themselves put on the embargo.


I am glad that the noble Earl has made that correction, because it is an important point. But I assume that the Colonies did not do that without some hint from the Colonial Office. The noble Viscount need not look so perturbed.


I was not looking perturbed, but I went through exactly the same experience when I was the Colonial Secretary some twenty years ago. At that time, the Colonies were only too anxious for us to do the same, because they said that we bought their goods and the Japanese bought nothing from them.


There is nothing between us. I am glad to hear that the initiative came from the Colonies, but the fact is that an embargo has been imposed. Whether the initiative comes from the Colonies or from the United Kingdom does not matter very much. Looking at it again from the point of view of the Colonies, what I want to ensure is that we shall get a sufficient supply of these goods for the Colonies. That is my only point, and surely it is a worth while point to make, in view of the fact that we had such difficulties years ago.


The noble Lord is not being quite fair to Lancashire. He said that Lancashire had not been interested in supplying the Colonies; but last year, in fact, Lancashire, or Britain, supplied 890,000,000 square yards of cotton goods, against a total consumption in the Colonial Empire of just over twice that amount. It is not quite fair to say that no effort has been made by Lancashire to sell.


I am grateful to the noble Lord for that information, but I am talking now of about three or four years ago, when things were very difficult and when we needed to mop up a good deal of money in the Colonies after the war era. They had not a lot of piece goods, and at that time we could not get a number of Lancashire firms to take a great interest.


"A number"?


Of course, there have always been a certain number of firms in Lancashire who have had the African trade and have done very good business for many years; but we could not get the Lancashire firms who normally did business in other markets to enter the Colonial market at that time.


I do not think that that is fair, but I will not argue. I am speaking from my recollection.


Surely the people in Lancashire were being advised by the noble Lord's Government to try to develop other markets—dollar markets. The amount of labour and machinery available in Lancashire was inadequate for developing everything at once. It was the noble Lord's own Government who directed the priorities in Lancashire away from the Colonies in favour of the rest of the world.


I do not admit that at all, because we tried very hard to get a certain proportion of the goods from Lancashire. I remember it very well because I saw a number of people myself on this point. The main point was that these other places were their traditional markets, not that they were forced by the wicked Labour Government to go into the American market. Their point was—and there is a good deal in it—that these were their traditional markets and they wanted to keep them. I do not want to quarrel with Lancashire; I should like to see them keep their traditional markets, but I do not want the Colonies to be left high and dry.

Then there is the question of rubber and tin. The price of rubber to-day, so far as I am aware, is about 40 per cent. of what it was a year ago. Rubber is our biggest dollar-earner and, up to a short time ago, we were earning from rubber from Malaya alone more dollars than from the whole of the United Kingdom export trade.

Since the war the standard of living in this country has been maintained largely by rubber and tin from Malaya, by oil palm and cocoa from West Africa, by copper from Northern Rhodesia, and the like. It is of the greatest possible importance to us that the price of rubber, and also that of tin, should be maintained, not only from our exchange point of view but also from the point of view of Malaya itself, which has to bear a very heavy expense in dealing with the emergency. Yet we find a sub-committee of the American Senate congratulating itself that United States officials have gained a signal victory over "greedy" international tin cartels, and that this success has saved American taxpayers at least 500,000,000 dollars. They tell us that the international combine of British, Dutch, Bolivian and Belgium tin producers had waged a "shrewd, unrelenting campaign" on the United States Treasury, but this had been blocked "magnificently" by courageous American officials.

It seems extraordinary to me, if that is the fact, that at the moment tin producers from Malaya and elsewhere should have been charged with "gouging" the American taxpayer. It seems odd that while every Liberal in America who once had a cup of tea with a Communist is being persecuted, such a stand in favour of the Communist forces in the world should have been made in the United States—because it is nothing else. If the prices of rubber and tin are forced down in South-East Asia it will be one of the greatest contributions that could be made to the Communist cause; no one can deny that. However, the attitude of the sub-committee of the American Senate, who are praising American officials for their action, is as I have indicated. All I can say is that it augurs very badly for the future; and if tin and rubber prices are going to be depressed in this way (because, after all, America controls the world price in these commodities), then I think General Templer's efforts are going to be made very difficult indeed.

I should like to say a word about the Colonial Office and the Colonial Development Corporation. Here again, nothing appears in the Report. I suggested during our debate oil the Colonial Development Corporation that we should use the Corporation as an agency of highly specialist projects, much as in the United States private enterprise now acts. I understand that many of the big civil engineering firms no longer act to any extent on risk; they act on an agency basis. They act on commission even in the United States. I have suggested that the Colonial Development Corporation should be so used, not where they are going for an ordinary commercial risk but where there is some exceptional risk—where there is an entirely new project that has never been tried out in a certain place or even at all. In circumstances such as those, I have suggested to your Lordships and to the Government that the Colonial Development Corporation should be used as an agency just as any other agent would be used.

It seems to me that there is a complete difference of approach between the Government and the Opposition in the matter of the Colonial Development Corporation. The Government regard it merely as they would a private enterprise corporation which has not had the success it might have had. We regard it as an entirely new application in Colonial development, and we do not believe that the setbacks it has suffered should make us put it into cold storage, as the Government appear to feel. I should say there is nothing in this Report which really recognises the need for a wholesale development of the Colonies. I am one of those who do not believe that the Colonial Office can develop the Colonies as they should be developed. It is a task for almost every agency and organisation in this country. For example, the Inns of Court and universities already play a great part in higher education, both in regard to the Colonial peoples and the peoples here. The Daily Mirror group have bought or established newspapers in West Africa, and have certainly raised the standard of journalism there. In a small way (I wish it were much greater) the trade unions and the co-operative movement have done some work in Colonial territories in fostering trade unionism and co-operation; and—again in a very small way—county and borough councils are bringing officials to this country and giving them instruction here. But what is really needed is a different attitude of mind on the part of the public—an attitude of mind which does not look at the Colonies as things apart, but as part of the warp and woof of our everyday life. We want a new attitude to public relations at home and abroad. I have no time to go into it now, but at some time I may even consider initiating a debate on that subject, because it seems to me so important.

My Lords, before I close, I should like to say just a word on Malaya. I am sure we all feel that General Templer has done well. To him and to the officers under him, both military and civil, we owe a debt of gratitude. They have been grappling with an immensely difficult and important task. As was said in the debate which we had on Malaya some months ago, the political and military problems are to some extent interwoven; it is impossible to separate the one from the other. For instance, there is the question of the squatters. Four hundred thousand squatters have been resettled. That is a big task. It looks a big task on paper. But when you look at it from the human point of view, every one of these squatters has had to be lifted up from his home, taken away from the little plot of land he cultivated, or away from the little business he had started, and landed clown in a village with a number of other people whom he has never met in his life, and has been expected to start life again. I understand that there has been difficulty, and that the granting of new land to squatters has not gone quite as swiftly as it should have done. One of the ways in which we shall gain the confidence of the squatters is by granting them new plots of land and, if necessary, by lending them money to start their little businesses up again. It is all a question of confidence between rulers and ruled. I did ask on a previous occasion—but we never heard the answer—whether there could not be a closer concentration of authority in Malaya; whether there could not be an electoral college electing one Sultan instead of nine, and whether enough attention was being given to rural economy, especially to rural education, child welfare, mixed farming and diversified cash crops.

I should have liked to say something on West Africa, where there is a fascinating development going on before our eyes. In a single generation a tribal system is developing into a modern State. There is a gentleman still living, the Reverend Mr. Ogunbiyi (he is now well over 80 and until recently was a member of the Legislative Council in Nigeria), who when a young man, a missionary in Africa, lived under the old system. He tells me that when he went from Lagos to one of the towns up-country, to Ibadan we will say, almost every mile outside the Colony of Lagos was fraught with great danger, and he had to get permission and passes from one Chief after another as he went along the road from Lagos, now a road along which any of us can motor with the greatest of ease, in the greatest of comfort, in a few hours, or even less. Therefore, in one man's lifetime the whole situation in West Africa has completely changed. Finally, I am sure that all your Lordships will join with me in saying to the people of the Colonies who read of our debate, and will read it, I hope, with great interest, that at the beginning of this new Elizabethan Era we send to our Colonial fellow-citizens a message of hope and good will, in the certainty that they and we together will solve our problems and achieve a fuller life in a spirit of brotherhood. I beg to move for Papers.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, in intervening in this debate, I had intended to speak with great brevity and, I hope, to the point. After listening to the speech of the noble Lord who opened, however, the brevity may perhaps be not quite so emphatic. But I should like to start by saying how much I have appreciated the speech which we have just heard. If I may say so, it seemed to me a signal instance of the healthy effect of going into Opposition. No one listening to the noble Lord would have guessed—if he did not know it—that the Party which the noble Lord represents had been in effective charge of the Colonial Office for as many years, almost, as the present Government has been months. I admired very much the way in which, like a catherine wheel, he fired off sparks of bright ideas in every direction and on almost every subject, things that ought to be done, things he wanted to know, and how to deal with a multi-racial society—which is probably one of the most baffling problems in the world today. Of course, I share his high opinion of the Conservative Government. No doubt they may be expected to solve the problem in very much shorter time—


May I just say to the noble Lord that my point was that the Conservative Government say they have solved it. All I want to do is to get from them a clearer definition of the solution. They say that they have solved the problem through partnership. I want them to tell us exactly what they mean by that.


My Lords, would the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, explain what his view is regarding the statement on partnership which was made by the representative of his Party who was Secretary of State for the Colonies in another place, and who spoke at about the same time that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, was making a statement on partnership in this House? Will the noble Lord say whether he agrees with what those two speakers said?


I am asking questions of the present Government. The present Government is now in effective control, and it would be against all Parliamentary tradition to do anything which would relieve the Government of the responsibility of answering on a difficult question of this kind.


I have no authority to speak on behalf of the Government. I am endeavouring to make a reasonable comment of, I think, a reasonable bystander with some knowledge of the circumstances of which he speaks. I do not intend to follow the noble Lord too far in this bout of imaginative musing, which I suppose he gave us as a specimen of what he would like to see in the Report of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. May I suggest that the noble Lord knows just as well as I do that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is not administering the Colonial Empire. That is not his function. He is responsible to Parliament for the proper government of those Colonies. He does not himself administer them. Much of what the noble Lord said seemed to me to be based on the underlying idea that the Secretary of State ought to be in charge of a number of things which he certainly is not in charge of. He spoke of centralisation in the Colonial Office which had been effected by the last Government, and of a number of things which I suggest have to be regarded with great care, especially in view of the growing emphasis upon the fact that the Colonial Governments must be given increasing power to look after themselves in all these things. I personally—and I have served under quite a number of Secretaries of State—should bitterly regret seeing any attempt to turn the Secretary of State's Annual Report into a kind of political pamphlet or imaginative novel dealing with what he would like the Empire to be, or his dreams of the future.

The Report—and this one, I suggest, is an admirable example—comprises a summary of what the British Empire stands for. Essentially, it is the Secretary of State's account of his stewardship for the previous year, and, as such, surely it must be a purely factual document. Necessarily, it tells us of something accomplished, something done—not "to earn a night's repose," because there is no such thing for a Secretary of State for the Colonies nowadays. It is a factual record of what has been accomplished against a brief initial statement of our Colonial policy. High policy, like high Heaven, rejects the lore Of nicely-calculated less or more. When we turn to this Report, on page 90, we read: Medical and Health Services: A year's work in public health cm never represent more than a short stretch or a long road; and it must be viewed against the background of general achievement and the magnitude of the tasks ahead. I suggest that those words sum up not only work in public health but the whole field of Colonial administration and endeavour.

As the noble Lord said, we have recently had debates in this House on the various aspects and problems of Colonial administration—on Malaya and Central Africa, the Colonial Development Corporation, the Colombo Plan and a number of other matters of vital interest to the Colonies, and in a day or two we are to have a debate on the Gold Coast. The possible subjects of debate are so important and so numerous that I should like to avoid the risk of hurried superficiality by not attempting the impossible task of dealing with all these problems in one debate or one speech. When you reflect on them you recognise that each one merits a long and separate examination—agriculture, land tenure, health, education, co-operative societies, trade unions, financial policy and so on and so on. I happen to be only too conscious of the difficulty of dealing fairly in a few sentences with problems that occupy the lifelong attention of better men than myself. It is so easy to over-simplify the baffling problems of the Colonies. However we are all now agreed, I think, on the main objectives of Colonial policy. Our differences arise over attitudes of mind and over the speed and the method of reaching our objectives. And it is here that the sport of what I may call "political gliding" has become so popular. I hope that the analogy will appeal to the noble Lord who opened this debate, because, in some respects, I. thought he gave a very good example of what he had learned in his time in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.


May I say that the noble Lord's speech, as usual, derives obviously from his Victorian ancestors. He has not realised that this is 1952, not 1852.


I am not sure that I recognise the noble Lord's reference. I must accept that he has some reference. In any case, as I was saying, political gliding is now a most popular sport. The thrill of rising to unpredictable heights by skilful use of uprising currents of hot air is accompanied, of course, by the likelihood of unexpected descent at an unforeseen destination. That, I suggest, is just the danger of generalising so easily about these problems. Therefore I refrain, with what I hope is commendable restraint, from offering any advice to the noble Earl who is answering this debate. The triumphs of science have been gained by studying facts. I suggest that we have to study the facts, and the Report we are considering shows that an attempt has been made to deal with Colonial problems by studying the facts, by seeking out natural movements and by trying to work in harmony with them. Our remote ancestors fought plagues with sacrifices to angry gods, and many millions of dependent people in the Colonial Empire are still in that position to-day. When I read the popular Press, I sometimes think that that also is the way in which some people think it is suitable to treat the electorate of this country.

It is surely important that Colonial people should know what it is we have to offer in our way of life—its conquest of poverty, its high standard of education and its diminution of disease. But that is not all. What we call civilisation stands for something quite apart from telephones and tractors, electric washing machines and electric lights; it stands for the imponderable things of the mind and the spirit. These are the things which naturally can find no place in the Report of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, but, none the less, without them all this material progress will never achieve the end which we have set ourselves and which is to bring up the Colonial communities in that way of life. Material progress is, I suppose, an increasing control of our own environment. All those concerned with the actual fulfilment of our Colonial policy know only too well the danger, which is increased by careless speeches in this country, of Colonial peoples thinking that there is some basic right to a certain standard of living. The hard truth is that no people is entitled to, or ultimately likely to get, any higher standard of living than can be earned by their own industry, enterprise and skill. That is what we are trying to do with the Colonial Empire: we are trying to give them the skills, to give them the means of achieving these things; but only they can achieve them for themselves.

Our way of life, about which we talk so readily, is not transmissible either as an intellectual conviction or as a delectable toy. If it is not deeply felt and deeply believed, it has no hope of continuing, and it certainly cannot be reproduced. The Report before us tells us, in cold, unassuming English, a tale of amazing achievement. I suggest it is a matter for great national pride. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who proposed this Motion, has paid great tribute to the work of the Colonial Service and also has expressed the indignation, which we all feel, about the attitude taken by some members of the Trusteeship Council towards our work in the Colonies.


My Lords, may I correct the noble Lord, because this is an important point? It is not the Trusteeship Council, but the Trusteeship Committee of the United Nations Assembly. The Council is a permanent body and the Trusteeship Committee receives the report from the Council.


I am grateful for the noble Lord's correction. We both refer to the same people, whose own domestic conditions compare unfavourably often with those prevailing in our Colonies, although they seize the opportunity of condemning our work there. As has been very well said, the backward peoples of the Colonial Empire need medicines and doctors far more than political slogans and trade unions, and they need scientists and proteins far more than tracts and Members of Parliament. As Colonel Van der Post has said, many of them have been violently up-rooted and transplanted over-night, as it were, into social and mental soil which is alien to them. Above all, they need political peace and quiet; and how, indeed, are they to get it when even the issues of economics have become clouded with emotion? That is one of the major problems which beset us in Colonial affairs. How are the people of the Colonies to be given the opportunity of reaching mental stability in these matters?

Our Colonial policy may be said to have risen on the stepping stones of its dead selves to a higher sense of human responsibility; but the fact that so much remains to be done, while it may be a spur to further endeavour, is certainly no cause for shame to us. Democracy is not a magic talisman or alchemist's formula. It is just a key which unlocks the door of opportunity. But if the industry, the ability and the spiritual urge to win better things by one's own efforts are not there, the door swings idly on its hinges and no one passes through. The fact that power is given to people in the Colonies does not mean that it is going to be well used, or even justly used. If I may say so without being unduly controversial, our imperial ideals are in danger of being submerged under a flood of words, poured out sometimes by men who are anxious to claim personal credit or Party credit for the rising standards of thought of the age in which they live, which belong to no Party.

Before concluding, I should like to say one thing about the United Nations and the Trusteeship Council and their Committees. They have borrowed their standards from the standards of the British Colonial Empire, the standards in which we have led the world. But when we look at the most critical of our critics, the South American and other countries, we find that their domestic standards do not bear examination. It is part of the international habit to-day to be high-minded at of her people's expense in other people's affairs. I should like to give an example of how our Colonial policy is misjudged. We find at a university in the country of our North American friends lectures going on in which British imperialism is treated with considerable criticism—I had almost said, with disrespect. Almost next door to that university you will find an Indian reserve—I am thinking of one at the moment. There are in that reserve 75,000 adult Indian American citizens, only 20 per cent. of whom are literate; there is no school accommodation for 15,000 of their children, and they are administered by an entirely non-Indian Secretariat. And that work of enlightenment began in the year 1863. I am not saying this in condemnation, but only in support of what I say, that speed is a thing which is not possible in many instances: great speed is possible in no instance, but sometimes the human material with which you have to work does not admit of anything approaching the speed which one would wish for.

I had thought of making a comment upon the noble Lord's idea of a great Council of Empire. It is one of those ideas which sound attractive at first sight. But if you examine it, what would this Council be doing? Even in meetings summoned in small areas of the Colonial Empire it is difficult enough to get a suitable basis of understanding to make the meetings worth while. When you remember that our Colonies extend over the whole width of the world, and comprise within them almost every problem, economic and racial, that you can possibly imagine, I do not think that a general Council of that kind would do other than perhaps provide a sounding board for the political charlatan. There are not enough men of ability in the Colonies at present even to go round in managing their own affairs at home, let alone to send men to a big central Council to get a view of world affairs with a Colonial background. Therefore I suggest that the idea is very much before its time, and that the Colonial world is not ripe for it. In conclusion, I would say that there are some things which we cannot hope to change. Recently I came across a prayer which I thought might well be adopted by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It read: Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, after listening carefully to the stimulating generalities in the speeches of the two noble Lords who preceded me, I fear that my own contribution this afternoon will be extremely prosaic. I merely want to ask the noble Earl, Lord Munster, for a little information about the West Indies. The noble Earl has just returned from a visit to the West Indies, and I am sure we should all be glad to hear from him some of his first-hand impressions of those delightful countries. I am sure that all his impressions were instructive, and I hope that some were entertaining. I wonder whether he had an experience resembling one which I had when I was in an American Indian village in the Savannah region of British Guiana. I went into a village school to attend a meeting of the villagers. Of course, the Savannah region is very hot all the year round, as it is two degrees north of the Equator: it is an expanse of flat grassland and, so far as I know, no American Indian has ever left British Guiana. I took up an English primer and read the following sentence—this was the book from which the children were learning to read English: The Scottish nobleman walked out of his castle into the snow. I am sure the noble Marquess, Lord Aberdeen, will appreciate the implied compliment in that educational practice, but I have no doubt that the textbook has now been scrapped, and I am sure that by this time he will be as pleased as everyone else. That story also illustrates the extreme difficulty which these territories have of finding enough money for their education and other social services. Another reason why I am asking these questions about the West Indies is that the Colonial Office have just published Command Paper No. 8575, which gives the best picture we have had of this region since the Moyne Commission's Report in 1939. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking the Secretary of State, and the anonymous author, who is no doubt some able and distinguished public servant, for a document which will be extremely useful to everyone who is interested in the affairs of this region.

My first question is about the population problem in the West Indies. Your Lordships will remember that in 1948 the Evans Commission reported on the possibility of settling surplus population from the islands on the mainland territories of British Guiana and British Honduras. This Commission took the view that these territories might be able to absorb 100,000 persons, including 25,000 adult workers, in a period of about ten years. That, of course, was four years ago, as the Report appeared in 1948. We have discovered since (I think there is general agreement about this) that the economic development of these two territories will be slower, more costly and less considerable than the Evans Commission thought possible at the time of their Report. Would the noble Earl agree that there is no prospect of resettlement on anything like this scale?

There are two reasons why I believe that an assurance of this kind, in a state- ment made on behalf of the Government by the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State, would do a great deal of good in the West Indies. The first is that one of the principal considerations preventing British Guiana and British Honduras from accepting federation is the fear that if they do so they will be swamped by immigrants from the islands. They both have an under-employment and an unemployment problem and feel, quite naturally, that any increase in their population should be catered for by the provision of extra jobs as they become available. In British Guiana there is also the East Indian's fear of racial domination. The other reason why I think a statement of this kind would be welcomed in the West Indies is that the island territories ought to realise now that they are not likely to find any substantial outlet for their surplus population in the next twenty or thirty years. The experts tell us that the population of the whole region will be doubled in thirty to thirty-five years. If the islands fail to realise that they will have to provide for this growth in population out of their own resources, they will sooner or later find themselves up against a very serious economic, and also, probably, a political, crisis. Such a crisis may be inevitable, although I hope it is not. But they have a better chance of avoiding it if they are prepared to meet it.

My next question is about federation. I do not want to embarrass the noble Earl in any way on this subject, and I want only to ask if he can say whether any progress has been made in the West Indies in dealing with various preliminary matters which have to be settled before the forthcoming Conference in London can take place. He may not be able to add anything to an answer to a Question which I asked on this subject a few weeks ago, and I shall understand if he is unable to give any further information. There are two subjects connected with federation that I should like to mention quite shortly. The first is a Customs Union for the British Caribbean; and secondly, the unification of the public services in the region. I should like to ask the noble Earl whether he is in a position to make any comment on either of these two topics.

Your Lordships will remember that the MacLogan Committee (a committee of experts which had been appointed to inquire into the facts) reported last year in favour of a British Caribbean Customs Union. They took the view—which I think everyone would share—that existing trade restrictions lower the standard of living of the population, and impede the growth of a diversified economy. This Report is now before the Legislatures concerned, and for that reason the noble Earl may not wish to comment upon it. If I may express a personal opinion, however, I should like to do so quite briefly to your Lordships. It seems to me that Free trade within the whole British Caribbean region, however desirable it may be—and I think everyone will be agreed about its desirability—will never come about in practice without federation. Most of the territories cannot afford to lose the revenue they now receive from duty on goods imported from their neighbouring territories in the Caribbean. They could not afford to make this severe sacrifice in revenue. But as members of the Caribbean Federation, they would be compensated for this loss—that is the proposal, understand, in the federation plan—out of revenue received by the Federal Government from its tariff on imports from outside the region. Another reason why I do not think that this Customs Union is possible without political federation is that the local Legislatures are not likely to agree to delegate their powers to decide commercial policy and fix rates of duty to a body over which they would have no control, and which would not be responsible for its decisions to them. I am driven to the conclusion—and I have studied this matter with considerable care—that if the island and mainland territories sincerely desire a Customs Union, they will have to federate.

The other matter to which I should like quite briefly to refer, which is also connected with federation although not, I think, dependent upon it, is the unification of the public service in the British Caribbean. Your Lordships will remember that in 1949 the Holmes Commission reported in favour of a unified public service. The Commission considered that the unification of the administrative and technical grades in the Government service would do so much for administrative efficiency, and also for constitutional advance in the area, that it should not have to wait for federation. This Report also is under consideration by the Legislatures in the West Indies, and I shall quite understand if the noble Earl cannot comment upon it.

Arising out of the Report, there is one question which I should like to ask the noble Earl. Can he say which territories (I do not think I gave him notice of this particular question, so I shall not expect an answer, though he may be able to give one) have carried out this extremely important recommendation of the Holmes Commission's Report—the recommendation that a cadet grade should be created in the administrative service for which the main qualification would be a good university honours degree? It has been a tragedy for the public service in the Caribbean that there is no way for university graduates to enter the administrative service. This has prevented the West Indianisation of this important service, and so long as the highest educational qualifications are required for the top posts in the Civil Service—and I think we can assume they always will be required—these posts will be open only to persons recruited from outside the region, unless this new form of recruitment of university graduates can be introduced. Another consequence of this system has been that when local men have entered the administrative service they have almost always done so by promotion from the clerical grades. Your Lordships can imagine what happens when elderly clerks, who have spent all their lives in offices, become district officers, with a wide range of responsibilities and often having to administer an enormous area of country. I feel sure that the new University College of the West Indies will, in the course of time, provide an opening for the right type of entry. But it is only the West Indian Governments who can enable them to start their careers.

May I ask the noble Earl further whether he can say anything about the situation in British Honduras? I feel very unhappy about the position there. The economic situation seems to be getting worse, while the political situation is stagnant. There has been considerable unemployment in this territory ever since the depression set in in the forest industries of chicle and mahogany. This will be aggravated if the Colonial Development Corporation pulls out of its banana venture in the Storm Creek district (which was about to start when I was in British Honduras) and out of its livestock venture in the interior. It will be a bitter disappointment if the Colonial Development Corporation is obliged to reduce by a very considerable degree its activities in British Honduras. It may be left with nothing but the hotel at Belize, which would be a poor compensation for the large schemes which would have been abandoned.

May I ask whether the noble Earl can say which schemes the Colonial Development Corporation has decided to abandon, and which schemes it has decided to continue in British Honduras? I am quite sure that tremendous resentment and bitterness will be felt if the Colonial Development Corporation and other sources of British capital for British Honduras fail to materialise. I would ask whether the Government are considering ways and means of helping this territory in its present economic difficulties? There is no doubt that the political development of British Honduras is lagging behind the political development of its neighbours in the British Caribbean, and this gives some plausibility to the absurd allegation of Guatemala that the people of British Honduras are being coerced into submission by British officials in Whitehall. The fact remains that all the local authorities outside Belize are appointed and not elected, and that the elected members of the Legislative Council are still a minority. A Commission appointed by the Governor to inquire into constitutional reform recommended last year that a majority of members on the Legislative Council should be elected by universal adult franchise and that a democratic system of local government should be introduced as soon as possible—that is to say, a system of elected village councils. I should like to know whether the noble Earl can say what likelihood there is that these reforms may at any rate be begun in the near future.

May I say this, in conclusion, about British Honduras? No one who has been there can fail to be immensely impressed by the proud independence of the "Baymen" and their confidence that the British connection will help them to maintain this independence whenever it is threatened by any foreign country. There is a tremendous sense of loyalty to the Crown. I remember hearing the most touching expressions of loyalty from members of village councils right on the border of Guatemala. These are people who fully deserve whatever help we are able to give them. They have a very fine Administration under a new young Governor, and I am quite certain that this Administration also deserves any support that we can give it.

There are just two further questions, and I will make them as short as possible. May I ask whether the noble Earl has considered the desirability of holding another conference of Governors of the British territories in this area in the Caribbean? A meeting of West Indies Governors was held in Barbados in 1949, and I had the privilege to attend those meetings with a number of officials from the Colonial Office. The Governors were unanimous in their opinion that this meeting had been useful and that other meetings at an appropriate time in the future should be held for the discussion of their common problems. After the lapse of three years since the meeting at Barbados, I feel that the Government might consider whether the time has now come to ascertain the views of the Governors about another meeting.

The last question may seem exceedingly pedestrian, although I think it is of some importance. I want to ask the noble Earl about bananas. Bananas are important to the housewife here—a point that I need not emphasise—but they are also important to West Indian producers because, after sugar, they are the most valuable export crop. The curse of the banana has been its liability to disease. The Gros Michel has been wiped out by Panama disease, and the Lacatan variety, while immune from Panama disease, develops leafspot unless the plants are constantly sprayed. The Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad has been making some very promising experiments with a variety of banana which contracts neither of those diseases. As the Jamaica banana plantations were destroyed by the hurricane last year this would be an ideal time to introduce a disease-free plant. I should like the noble Earl, if he can, to say whether this new variety will be available in the near future, as the result of the work done by the Imperial College. The Report is a great record of achievement, and I hope I may be allowed to say that there is no finer body of public servants in the world than the members of the Colonial Service. I should like it to go on record that we do pay them a tribute of appreciation of their work.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, before I turn to the one or two points that I wish to discuss on this Report I should like to say one word about the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that Colonial Office Reports should be prefaced by "imaginative musings." I think that on reflection he will probably agree that that is misconceiving the object of these Reports. The object of these Reports is surely to present the facts of the gradual development of our Colonial Empire and the position as it is to-day and not as it may be in the future. Certainly I would suggest that what is wanted is the setting out of the real facts without any. political gloss. The noble Lord will remember, from our common days in another place, that Supply Days existed very largely for the particular purpose of enabling the Colonial Secretary of the day to provide those "imaginative musings" if he felt so inclined; and it falls to the Under-Secretary, in winding up the debate, to reply to questions which Members may have put regarding the details set forth in the Report.

Personally, I am bound to say that I thought this was an admirable Report, written on the whole in a very interesting way; and I feel perfectly certain, from long experience of reading these Reports, that they should present the facts simply for those who are interested in any particular part or aspect of Colonial policy who read the Report year by year. In this way these aspects can be followed through. I think the noble Lord, with his long experience, on reconsideration will probably agree that that is the correct procedure.


May I say that I do not disagree with what the noble Viscount has said? I said that I would keep this Report as it is but hake before it a preface giving the Colonial Secretary's own view on the development—if you like, his political view. I agree that I would not alter the form of the statistical side.


I am sorry, but I do not agree with the noble Lord. I believe the proper place to give utterance to these political ideas is either in your Lordships' House or in another place, where they can be debated or challenged. I think it is wholly improper to mix up fact and fiction.

I regard this whole Report as one of extraordinary interest, but what I particularly want to deal with is the financial aspect of Colonial development. In the debate in another place last week the Colonial Secretary took a rather optimistic view, I thought, of the prospects of raising funds for development over the next few years. I wonder whether the public at large realise, for example, the size of the requirements of the Colonial Empire. Tucked away in an obscure paragraph on page 42 of the Report your Lordships will find these words: Provisional figures of colonial gross capital formation … for 1950 and 1951 suggest that the annual rate is rising and that it passed the £300 million mark in the latter year (no adjustments being made for changes in price levels). It is worth recording that the roughly corresponding figures for the United Kingdom were about seven times as great for the three years ending in 1950 and six times as great for 1951. If your Lordships will look a little further on you will see that for the last few years, certainly since the war, the indebtedness of this country to the Colonies, which is represented by their holding of sterling currencies, has been rising steadily year by year and has now reached the fantastic (as I think) figure of £1,100,000,000 sterling, while the total of schemes approved under the various Acts for the whole of the Colonial Empire amounts to only £456,000,000 sterling. It seems to me that there is a gross disparity between those three sets of figures, and they suggest the extent to which this country is going to have to tighten its belt, if we are to repay these sterling balances, as in honour bound we should.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies also said—I think quite rightly—that it was of great importance to interest local capital in the development; and I noticed that in the £456,000,000 it is suggested that the local capital resources have provided £220,000,000 as against loans in this country of £78,000,000. The Colonial Secretary went on to say: It is not only desirable to get local capital but desirable to have it known that our object is to try to get local participation in resources belonging to them. He continued: If we can get a United Kingdom Company to take an investment which 'hurts' it is very important to do so. My answer is that under the regulations and legislation for that matter at present in force, the task is being made unnecessarily difficult. Very largely the difficulty dates from the Finance Act of 1951 which, possibly some people may say, imposed certain justifiably stringent conditions. But certainly those conditions to-day, in my submission, do not encourage British capital to help in providing local resources. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies in the debate in another place last week—


The Minister of State.


I beg your Lordships' pardon—the Minister of State, in the debate on Thursday last, said this: If companies engaged in Colonial enterprise care to set up locally-controlled subsidiaries for the purpose of conducting their Colonial business, the United Kingdom tax will apply only in the case of profits distributed to shareholders in this country. In that matter the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given specific assurances that he has no intention whatever of allowing any section of previous legislation to impede this particular development. I cannot help thinking that the Minister of State, in winding up, must have unduly abbreviated his words because, in effect, what he says there is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is not bound by the terms of previous or existing Finance Acts—and, of course, that is not the case.

At present, certainly under the terms of the Finance Act of 1951, the Minister of State's statement as therein quoted could apply only to a brand-new company set up in the United Kingdom starting a brand-new subsidiary in an overseas Colony. Any United Kingdom company already trading overseas in a particular Colony and having assets in that Colony and wanting to set up a subsidiary in that Colony and transfer to it those assets, in order to carry out the suggestion of the Colonial Secretary, would almost certainly find itself up against very restrictive, and indeed penal, clauses which are contained in the Finance Act of 1951. I therefore venture to suggest that if, as I believe, the Colonial Secretary is right in wanting additional local resources, if he is right in believing that one of the best ways of getting those local resources is for United Kingdom firms to set up subsidiaries in the various Colonies, then it is essential, to carry that out and to avoid what many people consider the penal taxation, to amend the existing provisions of the Finance Act when the Finance Bill comes to be considered next year.

5.52 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships long, or to follow some of the previous speakers in their examination of financial matters, or the more general considerations that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, put before your Lordships. There are two things which strike me in reading this Report. The first that I should like to deal with is the question of the Colonial Service and its recruitment and conditions. Your Lordships will have seen that recruitment for the Service has been at a very high level for a number of years—four times the pre-war intake rate—but, in spite of that, 1,000 vacancies in the Service remained unfilled at the end of the year. That short-staffing of the Service has two effects. First, it has the effect that a number of posts are unfilled, and no doubt a number of officers do not have deputies. A secondary effect is that the officers in the Service have to perform longer tours of duty. There is less possibility of reliefs for sickness, leave and so on. So it seems to me that it is of the greatest importance that the Service should be brought up to strength.

Most of your Lordships have known cases of officers who have had to perform tour after tour of two or three or more years' duration, probably in unhealthy stations, over-worked through shortage of staff and lack of relief. It has occurred to me that something might be learnt from the system in force in another territory, administered not by the Colonial Office but by the Foreign Office—that is, the Sudan. The Sudan Service from its beginning insisted that it was necessary for officers, in order to retain their energy and intelligence for the whole of their service, to come back home once a year. So annual leave has been the rule in that Service. Officers come home for a comparatively short leave every year; they get a complete change of surroundings, of society and of climate, and they are back again in their posts after a short time, probably before there is any need for a relief. If an officer is away for only a month or six weeks, in many jobs things can carry on as they are; whereas if he waits for two and a half years and comes home for six months, the whole job has to be handed over to somebody else for that period. Now, in view of the ease of air travel, it seems to me that it would be perfectly feasible for annual leave to be introduced in most territories in the Colonial Service, instead of the present two-and-a-half-year or three-year tour. There is no doubt that officers would benefit not only in health but from having a change of surroundings and meeting new faces and having contact with different society altogether. I suggest that even the extra cost of air travel might be counter-balanced by the fact that there would be less need for additional officers on the establishment to cover leave periods.

The other point that I should like to deal with, at only slightly greater length, is the question of education. I must say that that was the only part of this Report that seemed to me a little disappointing. I may be wrong, but it appeared to me that there was not much sense of urgency in the section on education—perhaps, even, there was some complacency. Your Lordships will remember that the subject is dealt with in paragraphs 521 to 545. I say, to start with, rather boldly perhaps, that the order in which the different sections are dealt with is possibly the wrong order, in that higher education and university education are put first. It seems to me that, logically, certainly in the case of backward populations such as those of the Colonial territories, primary education is the first thing that should be dealt with. It is good to know that there has been so much progress in the higher education, university education, university colleges, technical colleges and all the rest, but those are only the end stages of the process of educating the people of these territories.

We know the Government policy which was stated by the Colonial Secretary. Your Lordships remember that the first object is to help … the colonial territories to attain self-government within the British Commonwealth. To that end we are seeking as rapidly as possible to build up in each territory the institutions which its circumstances require. Secondly, … to pursue the economic and social development of the colonial territories so that it keeps pace with their political development. A policy of that sort requires a large body of educated people, and if you start with a small literate section of the population you are drawing on only a small proportion of the resources of the territory in manpower and intelligence. A document was issued two years ago, No. 7987. on the British territories in East and Central Africa. With your Lordships' permission. I will confine my remarks mainly to those territories.


May I interrupt the noble Earl for one moment? Has he now left the subject of education?




I should like to point out to the noble Earl that he has been explaining to the House where he thinks mistakes occur in the drawing up of the Report, and where education is lacking or insufficient in Colonial territories. He will, of course. realise that practically every word in those paragraphs dealing with education merely summarises what transpired under his own Government.


I think the noble Earl has probably mistaken me. Perhaps I have not been making myself clear. I will come on to my suggestions later. The document I have just referred to, which was the Report on 1945 to 1950 in East and Central Africa, gives certain figures for primary and secondary education, and, among other things, it mentions the percentage of children of school age attending school in a few of the territories. In one case the percentage was something like 17 per cent., in another it was 20 per cent., and in another 25 per cent. The Annual Report that we are discussing this afternoon does not give any figures of that sort. There is one figure in paragraph 531, which describes the startling increase in the number of school places in two West African territories—Nigeria and the Gold Coast. We are all very glad to hear of that. But I suggest that the Report would be of more use if it contained facts on the numbers of children of school age for whom there were school places in each of the other territories—in fact, in each of the territories of the Colonial Empire.

The Report I spoke of earlier contains some facts on Kenya which are worthy of study. In 1948, the Beecher Committee reported on the high rate of wastage in primary and secondary education, and recommended that efforts should be concentrated on improving the quality of the primary schools and expanding the capacity of the secondary schools. Of course, that brings out the underlying difficulty in education: that in order to expand your primary and secondary schools you have to increase the number of teachers, and therefore you have to increase the number of teacher training establishments. But at the same time, until you have increased the number of your primary schools, you are drawing your teachers from only a very small percentage of the population.

The problem is, how to correlate the needs of teacher training and higher training with primary and secondary teaching and the spread of literacy. Of course, in an ideal world you would have a nice, tidy, ship-shape system of thorough primary education for all; then go on to select your most promising pupils from that field, and train them as teachers and as administrators for the society as a whole. But that will never happen. That might have been done by our grandfathers and our fathers, if they had thought of it in time. But we cannot hold back the tide of African aspiration; political development cannot be stopped until educational development has caught up with it. So, to my mind, one of the biggest problems facing the Secretary of State and the Colonial territories as a whole, is how to correlate the education of these people with their political advance.

I should not like to end without paying a tribute, as other noble Lords have done, to the members of the Colonial Service, both in the Colonial Office where they produced this admirable Report, and in the territories overseas. Here I come back to the intervention of the noble Earl. My suggestion is that the Report would be of greater value if it gave facts and figures about the educational situation in all the territories.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies, would your Lordships bear with me for two minutes in drawing attention to a problem to which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, referred and, indeed, in regard to which he was good enough to invite my concurrence with the views that he expressed—namely, this important subject of research, experiment and demonstration in indicating to the natives, particularly in South-Central Africa, how best in the light of modern science and technology to employ their land? There is a fearful waste of reasonably fertile land going on amongst many of the tribes in South-Central Africa—what is called, shifting cultivation. The tribes waste their land. It gets thoroughly exhausted. Very often they attempt to grow one crop only, with no attempt at introducing mixed husbandry with a proper balance by rotation, which would, of course, enable the fertility of the land to be maintained.

I go the "whole hog," if I may say so, with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, subject only to two considerations: first, that there should be established, where possible, demonstration areas, as near as possible to the native villages; and secondly, that the demonstrator not only should be a man reasonably well trained in modern agricultural science, but must be a native, not a European. In those areas which I myself visited as Chairman of the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Royal Commission, with, I may say, a somewhat vigilant agricultural eye, I was immensely struck by the difference that was taking place in those areas where a European demonstrator was attempting to inculcate up-to-date methods of husbandry and where a well-trained native demonstrator, up against far less suspicion on the part of the natives, was carrying out a similar process. Subject only to those qualifications, I most cordially agree as to the enormous importance of inculcating scientific methods among African tribes, particularly in South Central Africa, and carrying out what I think is called, in most parts of the world, an extension service, to convey the more economically valuable results of scientific research to the actual agricultural practitioners.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, this being an unpremeditated incursion into the debate, I propose to avoid all generalities and to devote my remarks almost entirely to one subject which has already been touched upon at some length by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—that is the question of the future of the West Indies, particularly in regard to their surplus population. The noble Earl is, unfortunately, all too correct in his assertion that if the present rate of increase continues we shall see the population of the West Indies virtually doubled in less than a generation. The populations of the various Islands are, unfortunately, already on a very low standard of living. In most cases that cannot be attributed either to any fault of their own or to faults of the Colonial Office: it is simply due to the fact that there are far more people settled on small territories than those territories can possibly maintain, particularly having regard to the fact that in practically all the islands there are large amounts of ground which are virtually hopeless from the point of view of cultivation, though it is quite marvellous to see what the inhabitants can accomplish on virtually bare rock in conditions in which any European cultivator would not even begin to think of putting in seeds.

But the position remains that in Jamaica, for example, with its 4,400 square miles, there is already a population approaching 300 to the square mile. In Grenada the figure is, perhaps, double that, and in Barbados the situation is very much worse still. In fact, throughout the whole area it is probable that there is no outlet for surplus population. Even the Island of Dominica, not itself overpopulated, with its 300 square miles, does not offer any refuge for the surplus populations of other islands. The only places where there is any hope of accommodating surplus populations must be British Honduras and, to a much greater extent, British Guiana. One can perfectly well sympathise with the inhabitants of those territories in their fear that the incursion of a large number of people from the surplus population of the West Indian Islands might harmfully affect their own standard of living. But when one considers that British Honduras has some 8,000 square miles, with a population of, I think, something like six to the square mile, and that British Guiana has an area almost ten times as great, with a population of perhaps four to the square mile, it is impossible to believe that those two territories could not offer a permanent home for tens of thousands, indeed for hundreds of thousands, of the surplus population of the West Indies. I hope very much that the noble Earl, Lord Munster, in his reply, will be able to give us some assurance that the whole of this great problem—one of the most important, affecting, as it does, the whole Colonial Empire, and indeed the future of the Empire as a whole—is receiving the consideration it deserves from Her Majesty's Government.

There is just one point on which I must cross swords with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and that; is on the question of bananas. He suggested that this would be a favourable time to try a new banana which is alleged to be immune to both Panama disease and leafspot. If that admirable institution, the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, has really succeeded at last in producing such a banana it will confer an inestimable blessing on the West Indies. But there are two points of which I must remind the noble Earl. First, that it is not merely a question of immunity from disease. One has also to have regard to palatability and aptitude for travel—which last is one of the most important and difficult points in regard to bananas. There are many varieties of banana which in their own countries grow very well, and which could be successfully grown on a small or even large scale in the West Indies, but which, owing to their peculiar characteristics, cannot be brought to this country.

The second point is that the noble Earl was perhaps hardly accurate in saying that the banana plantations were destroyed by the hurricane of last August. It is true that that year's crop was destroyed, but I have no doubt that the noble Earl is aware that the banana is an herbaceous perennial; and indeed the fruit from the same root stocks is already being harvested, although all those which had grown more than a few inches above the ground are producing at the present time stems of very poor quality owing to the hurricane. I can assure noble Lords that I speak with some knowledge, because I myself happen to grow bananas in Jamaica. Therefore, the new banana, even if it does satisfy all demands under the headings of palatability, resistance to disease, and aptitude for travel, cannot well be introduced, at least on a large scale, for a number of years, because it must take several years to produce the quantity of suckers necessary for it to be distributed on a scale sufficiently large to affect the banana crop for some years to come. But if bananas can be revived in the West Indies, that will go a very long way to providing increased cash revenue of the utmost value to the small settlers there.

Again, I would stress that this is a problem the importance of which cannot be over-emphasised, because unless, on the one hand, within a few years some action is taken both to increase the food which can be grown in the West Indian Islands for home consumption and to increase their export crops (from the proceeds of which they will be able to buy food from abroad), and, on the other hand, what is almost more important, to find some outlet for at least a portion of the surplus population, then, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has said, a crisis is bound to arise which will affect not only the islands themselves but the whole Colonial Empire. For that reason, I do hope that Her Majesty's Government will attribute to this question the importance it deserves.

The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, certainly deserves well of your Lordships' House for initiating this debate. But I could not help a feeling of mild amusement at the changed attitude—a most welcome change—on the part of the Opposition. Only a few years ago the Socialist Party on every platform were abusing the Colonial administration as examples of Tory maladministration and extortion. I am glad to think that they have now, at least in this connection, "seen the light." Another point I noted was that the noble Lord very lightly glossed over the unfortunate proceedings hitherto of the Colonial Development Corporation. I thought that the conception of that Corporation was excellent. Its only fault was the fact that it was so very badly administered in its early stages. I cannot help wondering what could have been done, say, for the West Indies with one half of the money which was squandered uselessly through Socialist maladministration.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, it will probably be agreed that it would be a fatal mistake to think that your Lordships' House could discuss the whole of this Report in the course of one afternoon. I was grateful, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who initiated the debate, and other noble Lords who have spoken since, gave me advance information on matters which they intended to bring to the attention of the House to-day. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, played almost every instrument in this document, sometimes in a loud and boisterous fashion, but I received some sort of sense of happiness in that he was criticising a Report no less than seven-twelfths of which deals with the period during which he reigned in some responsible position at the Colonial Office. I am sure that other noble Lords who take an interest in Colonial matters were glad to hear him condemn the actions which his own Government took during the time when he occupied a post in the Colonial Office.

As was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson, this document is produced annually by the Colonial Office and it gives an account of the more important matters and events in Colonial affairs during the year covered by the Report, which in this case is to March 31, 1952. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, knows well, during, that period the collapse in rubber prices in Malaya and the debate on the Colonial Development Corporation in this House had not occurred, and neither of these matters would find mention in this Report. As we have been informed, it was never intended that this Blue Book should delve into any questions of detail. It was intended to give a factual summary of all that has occurred within the Colonial Territories. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, will be familiar with that point, because he was in the position that I occupy during a period when certainly two, if not three, of these Reports were issued.

So far as the structure of these Reports is concerned, it follows, with minor improvements, the pattern set by the noble Lord's Party in 1946, which has been adhered to ever since. Therefore, I was somewhat surprised that the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, suggested that the details of the Report should be altered, when he might well have made an effort to alter them at the time he was at the Colonial Office.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl in how many years it will be possible for the Opposition to make any criticism of the Government without having them sheltering behind what was done during our period of office? If we had remained in office, we ourselves would have made changes. I do not want the Government to be so lost in admiration of us that they should never change anything we have done.


I have honoured the noble Lord in silence from afar off and near at hand. But this Report covers over six month during which the Party opposite were the Government. Nine-tenths of what occurs in this Report was prepared by them and brought into operation by them, and it is remarkable to hear them get up now and criticise their own work and actions. It was the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, himself, who suggested that it would be useful to give in this Blue Book a general summary of what the Secretary of State proposes to do. Whether he meant what the Secretary of State proposed to do in the following year or had proposed to do in the previous year, I do not know.


The following year.


The noble Lord talked about businessmen and military authorities making appreciations. I have never heard in all my life of a military appreciation handed "on a plate" to one's opponents in which they can see the line of country that is going to be followed when the next battle takes place.

The Colonial policy which has been followed by successive Secretaries of State has never been the subject of a great deal of Party quarrelling. The objects which every Party have set out to achieve are in great measure identical and only in detailed matters, some of which I am prepared to admit are of the utmost importance, are any differences of opinion likely to arise. The House will probably remember that after the General Election in October the new Secretary of State took an early opportunity of making a statement on Colonial policy, and I should like to remind the House of what he said. He said that certain broad lines of policy were accepted by all sections of political opinion as being above Party politics, and that two of these were fundamental—namely, to help the Colonial territories to attain self-government within the British Commonwealth, and to frame and plan the economic and social development of the territories so that it keeps pace with the political development. My right honourable friend also emphasised that he did not intend to make any change in these aims. Having looked through the Report of the debate in another place at that time, I am not aware that any member of the Opposition, or indeed of my right honourable friend's own Party, differed from the views he had expressed. To a large extent these answer one of the principal questions addressed to me by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore: Where are the Colonies going? If the noble Lord will turn to the observations of my right honourable friend, he will see that they are going precisely in the same direction in which we have endeavoured to steer them for the last ten or fifteen, even fifty, years.

There are one or two other important matters to which I should like to refer before I come to reply to the questions which have been addressed to me to-day. Probably the most important is the question of the constitutional changes which have occurred in various territories during the period covered by the Report. One of the most noteworthy examples is the new Federal Constitution which was set up in Nigeria. It is only natural that the Government, and indeed others, will watch with considerable interest to see how this new Constitution develops. It is a completely new Constitution in a country which is the size of Western Europe, with a very large population. On Thursday we are going to discuss conditions in the Gold Coast, and the House will not expect me to anticipate what I have to say on that occasion. In West Africa there have also been constitutional changes in Sierra Leone and Gambia. Your Lordships will recall that we have recently had a full discussion on the proposed constitutional changes in Central Africa, and the House may also be aware of the changes which are contemplated in Tanganyika. In the Caribbean area, where I went at the beginning of this year, a new Constitution has been proposed for British Guiana, while an extension of the existing Constitution of Jamaica is now under discussion. These struck me as the most important constitutional changes mentioned in the Blue Book to which I should make some reference.

Before I begin to answer some of the questions which have been addressed to me, I should like to pay my tribute to all members of the Colonial Service for the work they are doing, in this country and overseas, to steer the Colonial territories to the state which we are all anxious to see. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, was perfectly correct about the critics in the Trusteeship Committee who criticise from time to time the work which we are doing as trustees. I too have heard in New York the Trusteeship Committee in their deliberations, and I too have expressed some surprise at this criticism offered by individuals from foreign countries who have never had any Colonial territory to look after in their lives.

There was one matter which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, raised which to me was a source of great interest. I interrupted him at one stage in order to ask him whether he could elaborate on the proposal he had made—namely, the suggestion of a Council for Greater Britain. This is a matter which has been raised on many former occasions, but to-day I had hoped that the noble Lord was going to put to the House views, which may or may not have been put before, about the function and purpose of such a body. It is, I think, only natural that we should immediately welcome any proposal and any plan designed to strengthen the ties of friendship which exist between this country and the Colonial territories. At the same time, it is also important to realise how such a plan would operate, and how it could fit into the existing pattern of government, both here and in the Colonial territories. As I say, many proposals have been made over a period of years and their objective can never be lightly disregarded.

But, as I see it, there are some very real practical difficulties which still have to be overcome. I refreshed my mind on two debates which took place in this House many years ago on a similar project. I think the noble Lord will be the first to admit that he is aware that in many cases there is a serious lack of sufficient community interest between parts of Colonial territories to provide any common ground upon which the Council could exercise its functions; and that some of these territories, in point of fact, as he said, can never hope to become full and independent members of the Commonwealth. If this new body had the effect of removing Colonial administration to any extent from control by Parliament, I do not believe that members of this House or of another place would be prepared to divest themselves of their existing responsibilities. The House will well know that it is, and always has been, the duty of a Secretary of State to formulate policy, and it is the duty of Parliament to control it. I do not believe that Parliament would surrender that duty to any outside body to-day.


May I ask the noble Earl whether the Colonial territories are any more diversified than the members of the United Nations or the Council of Europe? If it is possible to have international organisations, why is it not possible to have an Empire organisation?


I will answer the noble Lord, but what I should like to do is to draw his attention to one or two of the difficulties which face one immediately—and, indeed, they have faced successive Secretaries of State in the past whenever the subject has come up for discussion. What would happen if this new body were purely advisory? If the Council acted in an advisory capacity, I cannot believe that it would be able to get members from the Colonial territories to serve, if they saw that the advice they gave was continually being neglected. If the body had some executive authority, such power as it had might well clash with the powers of the Secretary of State and ultimately with the power of Parliament as well: indeed, it might go further, with executive authority, and override the position of local Governments, some of which already have a ministerial system of their own. I could not conceive of anything more disastrous than two sections of public opinion, in this country and the territories overseas, arguing with one another whether the Council or the Secretary of State was correct in diametrically opposite views which both had, in fact, given.

Then there is a third point. The present tendency of Colonial constitutional development is in the direction of increasing local autonomy. But if the new Council attempted to centralise control of Colonial affairs more closely in London than it is to-day, then most of the territories overseas would immediately raise serious objections, if they thought their own constitutional rights were being jeopardised or curtailed, or becoming of secondary consideration. Whichever way one may regard this proposal, and I myself believe there is something to commend it, I frankly see the possibility of considerable differences of opinion and a certain amount of controversy emerging which might well, in the end, do more harm than good. However, I think there is probably a problem to be solved, and, naturally enough we should be ready and anxious to consider any constructive and workable proposals, more especially if they were received from the Colonies themselves. But I do not think that we should in any way seek to impose upon these territories an arrangement which did not really satisfy their needs and aspirations. I will say no more. Perhaps at some future stage the noble Lord can further develop his arguments, and, indeed, study, if he has not already done so, the debates which have occurred in this House in past years and which were concerned with similar proposals.

The noble Lord dealt with multi-racial communities, and he was doubtful about what partnership really meant. I have always taken partnership to mean exactly what Mr. Griffiths said it meant. I thought that it was a reasonable definition to employ in order to explain quite clearly what was intended. My right honourable friend has no difference of opinion with Mr. Griffiths on that point. But when we come to multi-racial communities, both past and present Colonial administrators have given much thought to this problem of plural communities. We are all aware, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said in the course of his speech, that it is one of the most perplexing problems which we have had to face. It is, I think, equally obvious that the difficulty cannot be solved by merely applying the principles which led to the establishment of the older Dominions, although possibly some assistance may be derived from the pattern of the Swiss Constitution, which has solved the problem of constitutional development for members of different European races.

But in the Colonial territories, as the noble Lord well knows, the situation differs from one to the other, and no two territories are wholly alike. Indeed, in the case of one territory where there is a single race it is difficult enough on occasions to get any agreement; but in a country where there is a multi-racial community, and where its people are at different stages of development, we automatically come face to face with a complex problem, for which there is no clear answer or, indeed, any hard and fast pattern of procedure which can be permanently followed. I would mention that in those territories where there are plural communities, each of which can look for an assured future for its own descendants, we subscribe to the views which were expressed by the former Secretary of State in 1950. These territories must achieve internal and political stability before they can achieve self-government, and we must obviously retain ultimate control until such stability has been gained and won.

That does not mean to say that so long as Parliament retains control it is not the duty of the Government of the day to encourage every conceivable development which will lead the racial groups to maintain good relationships and close partnership. That, indeed, is an absolute necessity if self-government is ever to become a practical possibility. While the Government can do a great deal to provide the framework within which this good relationship can prosper, they cannot force it upon the multi-racial groups, but the communities themselves could possibly find a way in which they could live and work together. I am not endeavouring to lay down a dictum that self-government in lands with plural communities is impossible. On the contrary, I believe it may be possible to achieve, but the pattern of progress is going to be very long, very difficult and possibly slow. The widely scattered parts of the Commonwealth all have different characteristics and different histories, and in many instances they are in a completely different state of evolution. The internal problems of these territories with plural societies cannot really be solved by external devices of the Government in this country alone, but assistance can be given from here to build up those free institutions and simultaneously to work for the close partnership and free cooperation of peoples dwelling together in these territories.

I pass very briefly—because I have a great deal to get through—to touch on the next subject which was raised by the noble Lord who initiated the debate and, indeed, by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, behind me. Agriculture is one of the most essential and important industries in the whole of the Colonial territories, and it is a problem which has been pressed upon the Colonial territories for many years past. From time to time—in fact from year to year—new devices, new machinery, and new methods come to the front, and they are all practised and experimented with in Colonial territories. A central farm has been established where peasant farmers are settled in the immediate area, and they can look to the central farm for assistance in the control of their land and their crops. One such farm is already working the Gonja Development Scheme in the Gold Coast, where there is an area of 30,000 acres managed by a company subsidiary to a Gold Coast statutory board. Later the area will be split up into individual farms, which will look to the company at the centre for certain common services and for guidance in agricultural practices. The Nigerian Government and the Colonial Development Corporation have subscribed the capital for a large pilot scheme at Mokwa, where 39,000 acres will be divided among ten villages. There will be a cropping scheme for each village, planned and managed by the company responsible for the project, and 5,000 acres have been reserved for a training farm to be run by the company.

In addition to all that has been happening in agriculture generally, it would only be right to say that we are now working in the following ways, which I should like to mention to the House in view of the observations which fell from the noble Lord behind me. In the first place, we are endeavouring, by persuasion and propaganda, to induce the peasant to conserve his soil and improve crop yields by the proper use of crop rotation, manuring and cultivation. We are trying to help the peasant to overcome the difficulties caused by the very limited time which is available in a hot climate to break the land before sowing. We are endeavouring to improve the varieties of planting material from agricultural department nurseries. We are interested in the use of insecticides and fungicides and fertilising techniques suitable to the peasant producer. We are also endeavouring to introduce methods of processing peasant crops, in the provision of simple implements and, above all, in the development of marketing schemes.

From there may I pass to the Colonial Development Corporation. That is a subject which we have debated once already and which we may at some time in the future debate again, but I have really nothing to add to the observations which I made on a previous occasion and, indeed, which were amplified by a statement made by my right honourable friend in a debate in another place last week. On publicity, with the noble Lord I have heard that there is a serious lack of public opinion in this country on the Colonial territories. I have no doubt that such ignorance does exist, and that we should do everything we can to remove it. Obviously, the schools are the best place where some history of the Colonial territories can first be taught. A few months ago I took that matter up with the Minister of Education. She is very anxious for further facilities to be afforded, and is very sympathetic to the idea. But unfortunately her powers of action are severely limited by the fact that the curriculum in these schools is a matter for the county education authorities and not a matter for the Minister herself. If, however, any noble Lord could exert his influence with the county education authorities, I should be only too pleased to offer my full and strong support. A short time ago—I think during the time the noble Lord was at the Colonial Office, if indeed I dare mention it—there was staged during the Festival of Britain a Colonial touring exhibition which has now been seen by over a million people, and in the course of this year and in the beginning of next a revised version is to be held in four cities in the North of England. All the civic leaders in the cities are co-operating, and the Secretary of State, the Minister of State and myself have all undertaken to visit one or more of these exhibitions.

Now perhaps I may turn to the Evans Commission. It is quite true, as was said by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that it was set up some years ago and published its Report in 1948. The idea was to investigate the possibilities of settling some 100,000 people in the territories of British Guiana and British Honduras in the next ten years. The recommendations in the Report included extensive preliminary investigations, in view of the lack of information about the interior of the two territories. Until these investigations have been completed, and the scope for the development of the resources of both territories car be better assessed it is not possible to express any definite view on the scope for immigration. While I cannot give the noble Earl any assurance to-day that these two territories would be suitable for the immigration of 100,000 people, I can agree with him that we should not neglect any opportunity of finding means to solve the overpopulation question.


I take it that the noble Earl will agree that it will not be possible to settle 100.000 people in those territories in the next ten years, and that this preliminary investigation will occupy a very long time.


I think that may well be true, but, on the other hand, a preliminary investigation may find out something of which we are ignorant at the moment. It may well be possible for industrial development to bring in a number of people from other territories. The noble Earl raised the question of federation in the West Indies, and there I have nothing further to add to a statement which I gave in this House some time ago. With regard to the Holmes Report. I can tell him that it has been before various Legislatures, but all we know is that it has been considered in St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica, where it has been accepted, and we are going again to follow the policy laid down by the former Secretary of State in the last Government. We do not wish to express any views on the recommendations in the Report at the present time.

The noble Earl also asked me about British Honduras. In this case a Com- mission was set up in 1948 to consider the form of constitutional advance. The Commission, for some reason with which I am not familiar, took over three years to make their Report and reach their conclusion, and it was only in April of last year that the Report was presented. It has since been under discussion by the local Legislative Council, and the Acting Governor informed us this month that he hoped to have the Legislative Council's Report in the next few weeks. The noble Earl also asked about the possibility of increasing the grant-in-aid in order to enable that Colony to spend more money on public works. The Colony entered on its new financial year this year with a surplus of £90,000 but we recognise that the Colony would be faced with considerable new expenditure on the current costs arising out of a development programme which they have undertaken, and also to meet the improved scale of salaries of Government servants. We propose to make a grant-in-aid this year and in the next three years to assist in meeting the cost of the public works. The assistance proposed for this year amounts to £43,750. Moreover, quite apart from the grant-in-aid on the animal Budget, we have recently agreed to make available £700,000 from Colonial Development and Welfare funds for the next four years to assist in meeting the cost of the Colony's development plan, mainly on agriculture, forestry, communications and other public works and social services.

At the same time the noble Earl asked me about the Colonial Development Corporation's activities in British Honduras. I understand that the Corporation are considering whether it will be possible to establish a modified scheme this year in their livestock undertaking, in association with local interests. I am not in a position today to communicate the result of the discussions which they are having. As regards bananas, the Corporation have no intention of bringing to an end this activity. There has, unhappily, been an outbreak of leafspot, which is now under control, and they have an unidentified root disease which has reduced the yield of the plantations. The cause of the disease is being investigated but no results are yet known.

Finally I come to the question of the discovery of a new banana. That is, of course, as was said by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, the Lacatan. It is taking the place, to a certain extent, of the Gros Michel which was a banana in production for many years but which is subject to leafspot and Panama disease. The new Lacatan banana is subject to leafspot but is immune from Panama disease. I have no doubt that in the course of time, by further hybridisation, we shall be able to find a banana which is resistant to both the existing known diseases. It would be wrong for me to raise false hopes, but during my journey to the West Indies I heard that such a banana had been discovered. I am afraid, however, that I can give the noble Earl no further information on it than that.

Now I come to the complex questions which were addressed to me by the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson. Perhaps I may deal in the first place with the remarks which he made concerning the capital requirements for Colonial development, with particular reference to investment by United Kingdom companies. The noble Viscount drew your Lordships' attention to some observations which fell from the Minister of State in winding up the debate in another place last week. I think it is probably true to say that the remarks of my right honourable friend might in fact have been misinterpreted. What the Minister said might perhaps be taken to mean that one section of the 1952 Finance Act, which prohibits the transfer of companies abroad and the establishing of subsidaries except with the consent of the Treasury, would in no case be invoked against the establishment of locally-controlled subsidaries in Colonial territories. This is not quite true. A general consent is about to be issued which will promote unreservedly the establishment of locally-controlled subsidiaries for the purpose of starting new industries; but in other cases the section will still apply. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, however, given specific assurances that in administering the section full weight will be attached to the great importance of development within the Colonial Empire. I hope my noble friend will accept that correction of the statement which was made by my right honourable friend in the course of the discussion in another place last week.


If I may interrupt the noble Earl, that, of course, does not answer the point I tried to make, so far as concerns the taxation, which many people would regard as penal, in the event of a company which was already trading in a particular area forming a subsidiary and transferring to that subsidiary its exising assets. As I understand it, the Chancellor, whatever his good intentions may be, is prohibited under another section of the Finance Act from making any concessions on this point. It was that which I hoped the noble Earl would bring to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for remedy next year.


I will certainly bring that point to the consideration of my right honourable friend so that it may or may not be included in the Finance Act next year. But the noble Viscount will not expect me to have full knowledge of the detailed sections of the Finance Act. However, as I say, I will bring to the attention of my right honourable friend the observations which the noble Viscount has made.

I will say a word or two with regard to Colonial sterling balances. The high level of these balances is a feature of the present situation, as the Secretary of State has pointed out on more than one occasion. In the long run the only answer to the problem is increasing the productive capacity of the United Kingdom. An indiscriminate release of supplies, particularly of capital goods for the Colonial territories in the immediate future, may well jeopardise this aim; but everything possible is being done within the limits which must always be imposed upon us to solve the problem in both the long and the short term. I do not want in any way to accuse the noble Viscount of having exaggerated the position, but he must also take into account that a very large amount of these Colonial sterling balances held in London consist of special funds held by the Colonies for particular purposes. It is convenient to them that these funds should continue to be held in London in the future, as they have been in the past. These funds are for pension funds, savings bank funds, sinking funds, currency funds and marketing boards funds. I should think there would be many others as well. But all the Colonial currencies are fully backed by sterling currency securities. As I say, these funds are held here for a special purpose. Therefore, they could not be disposed of at will for the purchase of goods, even supposing such goods were available. To a very large extent, the Colonial sterling balances represent not an unsatisfied surplus on current account but an accumulation of funds held and maintained for the special purposes which I have just mentioned.

Those, I think, were the principal questions addressed to me by the noble Viscount. There was the question of recruitment raised by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. I agree with him that we should be only too happy to see the vacancies in the Service filled as well as possible. It is true that we tried a twelve-months' tour in Nigeria to encourage recruiting, but that, I believe, has now had to be given up. But if we can increase the intake within the Service then, quite clearly and obviously, the position of the permanent staff, who may be working at the present moment under considerable difficulties, will be to some extent relieved. I regret having occupied so much of your Lordships' time, but it was important to reply to as many of these questions as I could, all of which deserve a close examination and, indeed, a reply. I was going to call your Lordships' attention to some observations in the Motion which the noble Lord has on the Order Paper but, having listened to him and to the debate which has taken place here this afternoon, I would say that Her Majesty's present Government there seem to me to be doing nothing to the detriment of Her Majesty's Colonial subjects.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to all those who have taken part in this debate, and particularly to the noble Earl who has just sat down. There is no doubt that he has taken a great deal of trouble and tried to answer all the points that have been raised. I will not say that he has done so to our complete satisfaction (it is impossible for any Minister to do that, so far as an Opposition is concerned), but he has given us an able speech, one which we shall study at more leisure than we have this evening.

So far as I am concerned, I raised certain points because I thought they were important, and because I believe that there are problems which it is necessary not only for the Government but for the public opinion of this country to study. We have not touched upon public opinion to-day, but we shall touch upon it at a later date. While some of the solutions that I have attempted to make may not be the best—I do not claim that they are necessarily the best, although I have not heard any better ones yet—I think it is incumbent upon those who criticise them to show that they have better solutions, because, in criticising the solutions that have been suggested to the various problems, it is not enough for anyone to say: "That fellow's idea is no good." It is necessary to say: "I have a better idea." Otherwise we shall get the position where the problem becomes acute—it is not yet acute—and no solution will be offered by public opinion in this country. There is one thing I should like to do before I conclude, and that is to welcome the intervention by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe. All of us always listen with great respect to anything he has to say. I am glad that he supported me on the question of central farms for African rural development. Personally, I should entirely accept the two conditions that he has made. With those few words, I beg to ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.