HL Deb 24 July 1952 vol 178 cc271-94

3.59 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, in rising to make a few remarks upon the subject of the Gold Coast and the Motion which is before the House to-day, perhaps I may indicate how I look on the present situation there, and why I propose to make, if I can, only one point this afternoon—a point which relates to the Colonial Service and the task which has been given to them in that country. The accepted policy, as we all know, is to accelerate the progress towards complete self-government in this particular Colony, and your Lordships have had the benefit of a masterly survey by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, in opening this debate. I do not propose—indeed I do not think it is possible to do so—to add anything to so complete a summary, and I do not propose to differ from most of the sentiments behind the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore. I will not go into the question which he asked me about the Nigerian police, except to say that Nigeria is a very big country and, as be probably knows, the system varies as between the South and the North.

To go back to the Motion; the experiment—if that is the right word to use—is in full swing, and it is too early to judge of either its success or its failure. There are, however, no return tickets, once a policy of this kind has been accepted and carried so far. The decision has been made, and I want to try and look forward and not back. I should like to think that anything I say will be constructive and helpful, because once we have such a policy we must all be anxious that it shall succeed, whatever may be the difficulties, and it would ill beseem me, with my recent connection with the West Coast of Africa, to say anything that might embarrass the Governor, Mr. Nkrumah, the Prime Minister, or his Ministers, in the terribly difficult task which they have undertaken. Only those who know the degree of unpreparedness of the Africans can fully appreciate the magnitude of this task. If we grant that there may be the top men of adequate ability to shoulder the responsibilities of government, even they lack experience and must initially be in need of friendly advice and guidance. I take it that nobody will deny that it is our duty to give them that advice, and to make it easy for them to accept it.

We all want them to succeed, and it is in our interests, as well as theirs, that they should not fail. No one expects them not to make mistakes, but we hope that they will have the capacity to profit by the mistakes they are sure to make. But that is only half the picture. The great test will come in the sphere of local government, below the top sphere. They have to build up, from the village level to the top, an African service with reasonable standards of ability and integrity. I suppose that no one would deny that at the present moment the Gold Coast could not dispense with the aid of European personnel in any of their Departments. It will be a severe test, not only for the Africans but also for the Europeans who are asked to accelerate the process of making themselves redundant. It is clear, I think, that success can be achieved only if there is mutual confidence and good will, a courteous acceptance of help and an equally courteous and wholehearted offering of that help, with no reservations whatever. The need of confidence within the country is even more urgent than that of creating it outside.

As I see it, it is no use saying that without the help of Europeans there would be a steady drift towards chaos. We should see to it that adequate help is given to enable the Africans to build up a service of their own which can increasingly stand alone. The Africans have so much to learn, and education of every kind must be pushed on in order to produce the young men and women for the purpose. Not only in the sphere of government, but also in trade and commerce, agriculture and industry, there must be produced men who are capable of taking responsible positions with credit to themselves and to the country. May I suggest that nobody will be more pleased than the European firms in that country if the evolution of competent and reliable African personnel can be accelerated? In my experience, there have never been enough of them to fill the posts which would readily have been given to them had they been available. I have spent many years on the West Coast of Africa and, like many other noble Lords, I have many African friends there. I wish them every success in this adventure and in their attempt to develop the latent ability of their race.

There are one or two things which, as a friend, I think I can say. Many Africans make impatient claims that they are potentially and in practice the equal of Europeans in every respect. It may be so, potentially—I do not know; but the European has at least a longer experience and a great deal more acquired ability. I suggest that the time has come to treat and judge the African as an equal, and not to expect a lower standard from him and condone it when you meet it. We should say to him the old words: Comes new to test your manhood, Through all the thankless years, Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers. That is what the African requires to-day—the judgment of an equal talking to an equal, just as we should talk to each other and point out each other's faults when they are visible.

That brings me to my point about the Colonial Service. I have noticed that in discussions about the Gold Coast and its rapid approach to self-government, little is often said about the Colonial civil servant. He tends to be the forgotten man. But these are the men upon whose loyalty and devotion the whole hope of success depends. And to enable them to do their job properly their conditions of service must be such as permit them to fulfil the appallingly difficult task that has been given them to do. They are trained to be a silent service and we are not likely to hear much from them; but disquieting stories are in circulation about their treatment under the new régime. I do not say that these stories are true: I do not know. But they have had sufficient publicity to make it worth while for the noble Earl who is to wind up this debate on behalf of the Government to give an assurance that they are not true, and that the Secretary of State would not countenance treatment which must nullify the effectiveness of these men and make their task impossible. I cannot help remembering the lines which were written many years ago: On the stage their act hath framed For thy sports, O Liberty! Doubted are they and defamed By the tongues their act set free, While they quicken, tend and raise Power that must their power displace. I know that in an atmosphere charged with emotion rash things are said, and that no one can control the Press. But surely the principle that the Civil Service is left out of political strife should obtain in a new State striving to prove to the world its capacity for responsible government.

We are told that not only Africa but the world watches with interest the Gold Coast experiment. Certainly the potential sources of capital for development in that country are so watching it. Perhaps to say that interest in general is world-wide is rather an exaggeration, but one thing is certain: the members of the Colonial Service, whether it be the administrative civil servant or the members of honourable professions like medicine or engineering, are watching this experiment with the deepest interest. Some anxiety, too, is felt amongst the parents of potential recruits to the Colonial Service. I am aware that direct recruiting for the Gold Coast Service has ceased. But those working in the Gold Coast are still members of the Colonial Service, and never was there a time when it was so necessary to send forth to those countries the best that we breed. The young man of to-day is not lacking in the spirit of adventure; he is not unsympathetic to our Colonial aims, and is as susceptible to ideals as ever. But you will net get the quality—and that is what matters to-day, more than quantity—of recruits that is so imperatively necessary unless it can be made clear that the conditions of service are such as an Englishman can be asked to undertake without indignity, and that there is no necessary antagonism between working with the Colonial people for their self-government and the retention of one's self-respect.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, those of your Lordships who know that I left the Gold Coast only eight weeks ago, after periods of service there which totalled seventeen years, will expect me to speak with understanding of that country, but I am most anxious that I should not appear in any way dogmatic when I state opinions of my own. I should explain that I was not a member of the Government or of the Civil Service in my later years in the Gold Coast, but merely formed my opinions of public affairs there as I do in this country. I am well aware that it would be possible to find many people who have served in the Gold Coast longer than I and who hold quite different opinions from mine.

I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, by saying that there does not seem to be in the Gold Coast an atmosphere of totalitarianism. At the time I left the country in May great interest was being shown in the emergence of a new Opposition Party called the Ghana Congress Party; and I believe it was the emergence of that Party which led Dr. Nkrumah to make some rather strong statements—and I think rather regrettable statements—in a speech made to his supporters. But the fact that that Party has been able to emerge is in itself a sign that it is still possible in the Gold Coast for people to have freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Nothing, I would suggest, has been more remarkable during the eighteen months or so that the present Government of the Gold Coast have been in office than the growth in responsibility of those who have held posts of great responsibility. Naturally, those members of the Convention People's Party who have not been appointed to Government offices, and have not had the same opportunity as their leaders of realising some of the hard facts of government, have not seemed to develop quite the same sense of responsibility. However, one hopes that they will advance in that respect in time.

I do not think that there is a disposition on the part of any of the thoughtful Africans of the Gold Coast to dispense at the present stage with the services of expatriates in the government. It is particularly in the technical posts that the Gold Coast Government desire to have expatriate staff: in less technical posts they feel—and in my view, rightly feel—that there are Africans sufficiently educated, and of sufficiently strong and stable character, to hold the appointments themselves. But I entirely agree, if I may say so, with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, on the great importance of seeing that the expatriate civil servants get conditions suitable for them in the Gold Coast.

The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, is somewhat exercised about the immigration laws—and I shall be interested, as he will be, to hear what the noble Earl has to say on that matter in his reply. But I have here the Gazette notice from which the noble Lord quoted, and I am a little surprised that he found it difficult to know whence the authority came. For this Gazette notice, No. 1452, appears above the name of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and External Affairs. I should like to complete the quotation which the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, made from this notice concerning the provision of reliefs for commercial firms. The passage quoted by the noble Lord was: The provisions relating to reliefs have now been cancelled and in future the allocation granted to a commercial or an industrial concern will be regarded as including provision for the reliefs. But the sentence immediately following says: Any firm considering that it will, as a result of this alteration in immigration procedure, suffer real hardship should apply to the Director of Commerce and Industry in accordance with the terms of this notice for an increased allocation. That notice sounds to me a reasonable one. I think that no doubt behind it is the desire of the Government to encourage the firms to follow increasingly a policy of Africanisation, but the end of the paragraph from which I have just quoted seems also to indicate a readiness to inquire justly into the needs of particular firms. Anybody who knows the Gold Coast will, I am sure, agree that the policy of Africanisation is one which every firm must ultimately adopt if it is to continue and to flourish in the Gold Coast.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, said in regard to Government service and the constitutional advance of the country, it is a question of speed; and there are difficulties in the way of a firm which desires to increase its African staff in the higher levels. It is not always easy to find an African who has had the requisite experience. It is perhaps less easy to find a sufficient number of Africans who have the necessary integrity. I would echo the hope which was expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, when he said, I think, that he hoped that the people of the Gold Coast would pay great attention to the reputation which they make in the world by their stability—a stability which must be, of course, not only political stability but stability of character. Nevertheless, I, as an educationist, have no hesitation in saying that the flow of suitable men for commercial posts of responsibility from the schools and colleges of the Gold Coast is increasing and will continue to increase.

If I may say a word on the matter of "swollen shoot"—the importance of which cannot possibly be exaggerated—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, was somewhat over-simplifying the position when he said that if the campaign for voluntarily cutting out has been successful, then there is no need for compulsion. Many people—I should not have thought the number was as high as 90 per cent.— have agreed to the very unpalatable task of cutting out their diseased trees and cutting out also a belt of healthy trees around them, with the result that in a good many areas great progress has been made towards the eradication of the disease. It is just at that time that the farmers and others become conscious of the need of completing that eradication in the area by compelling the few recalcitrant people, who have either not the sense to see that cutting out is necessary, or for some other reason decline to do it. I would suggest, therefore, that it is the very success of the cutting-out campaign—though that success should not be exaggerated—which has made a demand among the farmers for the compulsion of the few.

In conclusion, I should like to echo the tributes which have been paid to the Civil Service of the Gold Coast. I believe that if the Ministers of the Gold Coast were here they would echo that tribute themselves, because during the last eighteen months they have, seen that these officials are the people from whom they can learn, from whom they can get support and whose impartiality they can trust. What seems to me the most serious problem in the Gold Coast at the moment is the over-working of the civil servant. A tribute has been paid, and rightly paid, by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, to the energy wits which the Ministers in this new Government have tackled the outstanding problems of the country. That energy cannot be denied, whether one agrees or disagrees with the policies which they have pursued. But these policies and this energy have placed a very great strain on the more senior civil servants, and I feel it is incumbent upon the Ministers of the Gold Coast Government to recognise that there is a limit to their own physical stamina and to that of the expatriate civil servants. With the very happy associations that one sees between the African Ministers and the English civil servants, with the greatly increased sense of harmony that one finds among the races in social life, and with the clear drop in the political temperature in the Gold Coast, it is my belief that we can look forward with confidence to this great experiment having increased success as the years go on.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I feel some trepidation in following the noble Lord, Lord Hemingford. He has spent more years of his life in Africa than I have spent weeks. But I am certain that your Lordships would wish me to congratulate him very warmly on his most helpful and informed speech. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, for having put this Motion on the Order Paper. Once or twice in the past, when we have had Colonial debates, I have thought it a pity we have discussed the whole Colonial Empire at large, because no one country has the same problems as another. Therefore, I welcome this opportunity of discussing the problems of one place this afternoon. I welcome it because tile Gold Coast is a long way away and is net very much in the news. With Persia and Egypt crowding the headlines, we hear little of what goes on there. But there have been recently a series of long and informed articles about the Gold Coast and its affairs, in the Daily Telegraph from Mr. Eric Downton and in the Daily Express from Mr. Sefton Delmer, neither of whom is a young, inexperienced or irresponsible journalist. In both those articles stories were told and questions raised of a distinctly disquieting nature, and therefore perhaps it is an advantage that these matters can be ventilated here this afternoon.

I was very pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Milverton make the point about the necessity for the African being treated as an equal in every way—that is, paying the same respect to the European as the European is proud to pay to the African. It does seem to me that, whereas no European may now, with impunity criticise an African, an African can take it upon himself to loose any amount of unrestrained language on the European and if the English Press and the English Parliament were to treat the African Press and African politicians in the way we are treated in our turn, I think our negotiations would go very much more slowly. We are dealing now on terms of equality and, therefore, criticism such as has been levelled in your Lordships' House this afternoon, must not be taken unkindly. It has, I am certain, been offered solely with the intention of helping. That is the spirit in which I should like to offer a few remarks this afternoon.

Of course, the important question, as I think every previous speaker has indicated, is the question of the rate and the direction of progress. There is no going back now; we are pledged, and we are carrying out our word. The only doubt this progress raises in everybody's mind is whether we are not going too fast for the capabilities of the country. That problem raises itself every time. In short, are the Africans proving themselves? That is the question to answer There is no getting away from the fact that what has happened in the Gold Coast in the course of the last three or four years is, on the face of it, pretty impressive. Great progress has been made, greater than many people, I think, were prepared for. For that, a great deal of thanks is due to the civil servants and the officials. Some people would say that they have helped too much and not laid a strong enough hand on some people's arms. But that success does not alter the fact that there are apprehensions that, in some things, the Gold Coast is not getting off on the right foot. Those articles to which I have referred clearly indicate a state of affairs, which may be only a flash in the pan—which we hope is only a flash in the pan—but which, if not corrected by the Africans themselves pretty soon, may lead to serious maladministration and much injustice.

I know that a period of three or four years is a very short time to judge a people who are feeling their way towards self-government and feeling their way towards democratic control. After all, it has taken us about 700 years to get where we are now, and not all of us perhaps are quite clear where that actually is. The Africans have had but four years, and tribute should be paid to them for having gone as far as they have. I think perhaps the cause of some of the uncertainty, and some of our doubts, may lie in the personality of the Prime Minister himself, Dr. Nkrumah—or, should I say, both the Prime Ministers, because there are clearly two Dr. Nkrumahs. There is the one, a sober and responsible statesman who is the whole time reaffirming his desire for his country to stay within the British Empire, who is pleading for moderation, who suggests that the time is not yet ripe for his country to achieve full self-government, who wants to learn and wants to learn slowly. That is the Prime Minister Dr. Nkrumah. Then there is the other Dr. Nkrumah, the Party leader, who takes a very different attitude towards the British Empire, who talks about a Federation of West Africa, including, mark you! French West Africa. That hardly seems practical politics at the moment

Perhaps it would be charitable to suggest that it is the Party and not the Party leader who is giving vent to ideas and sentiments which cannot possibly help, which cannot possibly improve the relations between our two countries. The Party itself has a strong Communist tinge, a clearly anti-British tinge. The way in which it was returned to power and the course of the elections themselves would certainly bear no inspection in an English court of law.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I should like to ask him whether he is at this point quoting the Daily Telegraph or stating his own views.


I am indeed basing my remarks, as I said a few moments ago, upon the articles in the Daily Telegraph. If they are not true, I am certain that the noble Lord will be able to give us further information.


I myself voted in the election of February, 1951, in the Gold Coast, and I will take noble Lords into my confidence and tell them that I voted against the candidate for Dr. Nkrumah's Party. I had no difficulty in doing so, and I did not see anybody else have any difficulty in doing so; and I do not think it is fair to say that the election was not properly conducted.


In the presence of a noble Lord who himself voted in the election, it would be a very rash man indeed who suggested that any corruption took place. I repeat that I was basing my remarks on these articles, but if the noble Lord says that they are not true, that is an end of it; I will not press the point. I was also glad to hear the point about the Opposition raised by Lord Hemingford. I do not know how strong the Ghana Congress Opposition Party is, but it is essential to the Gold Coast that there should be as strong an Opposition Party as possible. It will, I am certain, be to the advantage of the country that there should be as strong an Opposition as possible.

My Lords, these and many other examples may, as I say, be only growing pains, but they are clearly matters which will have to be watched most carefully, and if the country's Administration is to be free of corruption and is to be efficient, as efficient it must be, these faults must be corrected at the earliest possible stage. One must readily admit that the Africans have gone far. After all, a hundred years ago the Gold Coast was not a very civilised and not a very politically sophisticated country. But the Africans must also be prepared to admit the enormous part which the British have played in that development. It seems to me that too often the part played in Africa by British business men is forgotten. Some hundreds of millions of British hard cash has been invested in the Gold Coast, and some 50,000,000 dollars now accrue to the sterling area from the Gold Coast.

There is no doubt, of course, that the British have made mistakes; but so have others. Some of the policies which the Africans themselves have adopted towards their labour in the cocoa and diamond trades are, in my view, not all that they could be, and I am quite certain that if the British were to practise some of those policies they too would be readily criticised. But, my Lords, I think proper attention must be paid to the attitude of the business firms in West Africa at the moment, who perhaps pay more attention to the policy of Dr. Nkrumah's followers than Lord Hemingford thinks they ought to do. Perhaps they have not got Lord Hemingford at their elbow to assure them that all is not as bad as it seems. There is talk of penal taxation, threats of appropriation—wild threats, no doubt, but ominous to firms who are trying to carry on in the Gold Coast, firms who do not know how much is behind these threats and what is the real risk of appropriation.

Lord Rennell referred to the great Volta scheme, which was due to cost about £100,000,000 but has now gone up, in the manner of these things, to £200,000,000. There was talk a little while ago—again, I am quite certain, unfounded—which seemed to me quite extraordinarily like the language of Dr. Mossadeq. The British Empire and England cannot afford another Abadan, and those—be they individuals, firms or nations—who are being asked to put, and are considering putting, their money into this great scheme may be pardoned if they hesitate a few moments before investing large sums of money if they feel that there is likely to be another Abadan. No person or company will invest any more money in the Gold Coast unless they think they are investing in a country which will enjoy, for many years to come, firm government, good government and honest government. It will be a great disaster for the Gold Coast if it does not get such government.

There is no reason for Great Britain to be ashamed of her stake in the Gold Coast and there is no reason for us to apologise for it. There is no reason to hide the fact that if we were to withdraw completely the prosperity of the Gold Coast would not only come to a standstill but would certainly slip back. There is no reason to disguise the fact that the idea of self-government now for a people 90 per cent. of whom are still illiterate fills some people with apprehension. There is an enormous amount of good will in this country directed towards the Gold Coast, and I think we are entitled to ask that the same amount of good will should be reciprocated. We want to see self-government work in the Gold Coast; we want to see democracy work. The world has seen what done have done in Burma and Ceylon and are trying to do in Malaya. Whether the world thinks we have clone it too fast, and sensibly, is another matter—our good faith is established there. So is our good faith in the Gold Coast. We are most keenly interested in seeing that this scheme works. That does not prevent us from expressing our apprehensions that they may be in for trouble in the Gold Coast. What they are doing in the Gold Coast now does not really amount to democracy; it is only the pilot model for democracy, and it is to the greatest interest of the Gold Coast and ourselves to see that this pilot model does not crash.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, the debate initiated to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, is of considerable interest to noble Lords in all parts of the House who are acquainted with the political problems of the Gold Coast. It is not surprising, therefore, that other noble Lords who have joined in this discussion are those who have intimate knowledge of that country and were able to give your Lordships their personal experience on what is occurring there to-day. I personally welcome this debate, in that it gives me a chance to tell your Lordships something about recent events which have occurred in that country. In doing so, I hardly think there will be any necessity for me to cover any of the post-war period of the political and constitutional history of the Colony. That was dealt with in a generally accurate statement by my noble friend who moved this Motion. I suppose it is true to say that immediately on the grant of a measure of self-government to any Colonial territory, wherever it may be, there emerges at once a section of public opinion which believes the territory to be unfit for any constitutional advance; and alternatively, there is another section of public opinion which believes that the advance which has taken place has not gone far enough or fast enough. But whichever of those two beliefs may be true, one is bound, I think, to recall, as was mentioned in the course of the debate, that mistakes and errors do occur in the early stages and that it is and must only be by experience that lessons are learned which, as the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, pointed out, will be of benefit for the future.

My noble friend behind me reminded your Lordships that the late Lord Addison, when he led this House, informed a noble Lord that he would speak to the Secretary of State for the Colonies at that time to see whether the Order in Council for the new Constitution of the Gold Coast could be debated in this Chamber. What the result of his inquiries were I have not been able to ascertain, and therefore I am not really in a position to give the noble Lord any information on it. The Order in Council was not ultimately debated, but the House will be aware that on March 5 of this year my right honourable friend announced in another place that it was proposed to substitute the title of Prime Minister for that of Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Assembly. I do not really think that that change of title, important as it was, was so fundamental as to call for any preliminary announcement in this House. Nevertheless, the views which my noble friend expressed to-day will be carefully considered in the future.

Now as I pointed out earlier, mistakes of policy and errors of judgment are bound to occur in the early stages of any kind of self-government, but I feel that some of them might have been avoided if the new Government had been faced with an active and vigorous Opposition. That point was made forcibly by the noble Lord who opened the debate. For o some years, it is true, there have been several political Parties in the Gold Coast in addition to the Convention Peoples Party—which, for convenience, perhaps I may be allowed to refer to as the C.P.P. Dr. Danquah and a few supporters of the United Gold Coast Convention were elected to the Assembly in 1951 and have since acted in opposition to the Government. In April this year, I understand, a new Party was elected—the Ghana Congress Party. These Parties were united with various elements opposed to the C.P.P.—that is to say the Government Party—but it is, I am advised, too early at the moment to estimate their full effectiveness as a vigorous fighting force.

There can be no doubt in your Lordships' minds about the need of an active Opposition. It keeps the Government up to date and will presumably, for one period of its life, be called upon to form an Administration. At a Conference which was held by the Secretary of State at Accra last month when he was there, my right honourable friend pointed out forcibly that democratic countries have invariably found a vigorous and constructive Opposition absolutely essential to the proper working of democracy; and attempts are being made now to establish this vigorous Opposition, which I think all of us hope will ultimately succeed.

The connection between this country and the Gold Coast is, as we all know, of very long standing; and there is in the Gold Coast, as I think there is in many of the territories in British West Africa generally, a deep sense of loyalty and affection towards the Crown. But on the other hand there is this desire for self-government in the Commonwealth which has been so often expressed. During the visit of my right honourable friend to which I have just referred, the question was raised and was discussed by him with representative Ministers. At the conclusion of the meeting a statement was issued which I should like to read to the House. The statement is as follows: During his visit to the Gold Coast the Secretary of State had meetings with the Ministers. The Prime Minister and other representative Ministers made clear their wish for self-government within the Commonwealth. There was discussion on the meaning of this term and of what constitutional changes were involved It was agreed by the Secretary of State that when the proposals had been formulated by the Gold Coast Government, after consultation with the Chiefs and the people of the Gold Coast, they would be examined and discussed between Her Majesty's Government of the Government of the Gold Coast. At the present time my right honourable friend has not entered into any commitment on behalf of Her Majesty's Government for any constitutional changes, apart from giving an undertaking that whatever proposals are made will in fact be examined.

May I turn now to deal with a question of really major importance—namely, the position of civil servants. It was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, and by the noble Lords, Lord Milverton and Lord Hemingford. The Africanisation of the public service in the Gold Coast has been the official policy of that Government since 1926, but it has not yet proved possible to implement it as rapidly as was originally hoped. Most of the junior service have always been African, but in the senior service there has been a lack of suitably qualified African candidates.

In March of this year, my right honourable friend agreed that, subject to proper and adequate safeguards for the interests of officers appointed by him, a separate Gold Coast public service should be established for which the Governor would be solely responsible. It will still be necessary to recruit overseas officers who will be members of the unified Colonial Services and for whom the Secretary of State will continue to be responsible, but where possible future overseas recruitment will be on contract to posts in the local service and all future African recruitment will be to this local service. A further important stage for the formation of a local public service was the acceptance by the Legislative Assembly in April of this year of the main recommendations of the Lidbury Commission. This will substantially increase the opportunities of Africans in the lower grades to earn promotion on merit.

I hope that a too hasty recruitment of Africans into the service will not lower the standards of administration, and that this new local service will be allowed to develop with a tradition of impartiality and, above all, complete and absolute freedom from political interference. In an effort towards that end, the Constitution vests control of the public service in the Governor, acting in his discretion, and sets up a Public Service Commission to advise the Governor on his responsibility for the service. As I have already mentioned, my right honourable friend is ultimately responsible for the officers he appoints. It is quite true that the introduction of the new Constitution has imposed serious strain on the senior service, the majority of whom are still overseas officers, and it was recognised from the first that it would not be easy for all of them to accept the new Constitution; therefore provision was made to enable them to take early retirement if they so wished. I suppose it must be obvious to us all that nothing could have been more disastrous for the future of that country if any large number of officers had taken advantage of this option, and fortunately very few of them have so far done so.

During the early days of the new Government, a number of attacks were made in the Legislative Assembly upon overseas officers, especially those in the administrative services. These attacks and the increased burden of work which the officers had to carry coincided with a rise in the cost of living, and those three facts did a great deal to lower morale. That morale fell still further when the Gold Coast Government in December of last year withdrew a motion in the Legislative Assembly which was set down to approve the main structural recommendations of the Lidbury Report. Lately, these attacks have, fortunately, died down, and the Government is reasserting its authority to maintain and to protect the public service. The Lidbury Report was ultimately considered by a Select Committee composed practically entirely of Africans. That Select Committee endorsed the main recommendations, including the provision for increased pay for almost every one of its officers. In April of this year, the Report came before the Legislative Assembly who accepted it without a Division.

That Report—and this, I think, will cover the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, in the course of his speech—reaffirmed the need for overseas officers and consequently the necessity to offer on every occasion fair and reasonable conditions of service. It makes certain important points which I should like to read to your Lordships. They are as follows: The fact has to be faced that there are not enough suitably qualified Africans available immediately to fill all vacancies in the senior grades of the service. This situation is likely to remain for the next few years.…The Gold Coast is recruiting in a competitive market for the services of those expatriate technical and professional officers it needs.…It is an accepted fact that even our sister territories do not have the same difficulties as we have in recruiting in the overseas market.…Any reduction in existing remuneration would certainly reduce the flow of expatriate candidates to this country below what is necessary and would have the effect of diverting them to other Colonies which would be only too pleased to have them as they do have a certain number of unfilled vacancies.…The principle of equal pay for equal work and parity of treatment of African and expatriate officers is attractive but is not compatible with the policy of expatriate recruitment as a temporary expedient. At the end of last May, Dr. Nkrumah, the Prime Minister, at his own request, met representatives of the Senior Civil Servants Association, and addressed them. If I may, I should like to weary the House for a few moments with some of his observations. He said: I realise that your Association is largely composed of European officers and I would like to say a special word to them. The country needs your services and this need will continue for some time to come. The declared policy of Government is that the higher ranks of the Gold Coast Civil Service should be quickly Africanised; but this I must say does not mean that serving European officers will be treated unfairly. They will be treated with fairness and with strict impartiality.…In all honesty we do not wish to drive any of you away. We want you to stay with us to help us build our country into a place which will command the respect of the world.… His concluding words were: A final word to civil servants from overseas. The country not only needs you but welcomes you as well. These moves to reassure the overseas staff are naturally welcome, but I feel bound to point out that many of these overseas officers are in fact still anxious about their future, and those anxieties were expressed with great force to my right honourable friend during the occasion of his recent visit. We all know that it is very easy, and sometimes very simple, to damage morale, and time is always needed afterwards to heal the wounds which these attacks leave behind.

I think the Gold Coast Government now recognise that it will continue to need the services of these overseas officers, and I hope that that Government will not relax its undertakings to provide conditions in which the public service can discharge its duties and responsibilities without fear of the future, and—as I mentioned before and as is all-important—free from all forms of political interference. As your Lordships will readily appreciate the events of past months must have had some effect on recruiting, but it is often the case that territories which are approaching self-government have proved Jess attractive to overseas recruits. I think the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, asked me about vacancies. If my recollection serves me correctly, there were about 100 in the senior grade to fill. I will certainly let the noble Lord have the figures on some future occasion.

From what I have said, I think it is clear, as the noble Lord, Lord Hemingford, rightly pointed out, that the public service has been subject to considerable and increasing strain for some years, and that has resulted in a clogging-up of the Government machine. In preparation for the new Constitution, a series of Ministries, under which various Departments were grouped, was set up in the closing months of 1950. At the same time, intensive preparations for the elections in the following year were proceeding and that involved almost all members of the senior service. Representative Ministers were returned at these elections and naturally wished to review many policies of the former Government. They were, I suppose, like all politicians, anxious to justify their election, as best they could, by pressing on as quickly as possible with all schemes of reorganisation and development.

At the request of the Ministers, as has been pointed out to-day, the reform of local government, which was foreshadowed in the Coussey Report, was pushed rapidly ahead, and there was an accelerated plan for education, including free primary education. A beginning was made with the large-scale application of the technique of community development, particularly in the Northern territories, and the draft development plan was revised and enlarged. So your Lordships will see at once that all those obligations and all those duties naturally imposed a very severe strain on the senior service. I would mention, in passing, that, economically, it has been possible and feasible to tackle those questions solely because of the remarkable buoyancy of the revenue. In 1946–1947 it was £7,500,000; in 1952–1953, it is estimated to be £33,500,000.

The expansion of the public service has, as I think your Lordships will observe, barely kept pace with successive extensions of the field of Government activity and operation, and during the next year or two the service likely to suffer temporary dislocation, while the new structure recommended by the Lid-bury Commission is being introduced. In addition, if it is decided to proceed with the Volta River project—which has been mentioned by various speakers this afternoon—a very heavy additional burden will be placed on the machinery of Government. This will, of course, involve a reassignment of priorities under the existing development plan.

These accumulated burdens on the public service have caused the new Gold Coast Government some anxiety, and that anxiety is increased by the suspension, as already mentioned, of overseas recruitment to the administrative service, more especially at a time when the Gold Coast Government fully recognise that their vacancies cannot yet he filled by African administrative officers. Normal wastage, which goes on month by month, is causing a steady decrease in the number of experienced administrative officers.


Will the noble Earl forgive me for interrupting him?—I am obliged to him for giving way. I have often wondered whether it would not be possible to get a rather different type of officer. I appreciate the difficulty of which the noble Earl has spoken. It seems to me that now we want more the type of man who is trained in this country in local government and so on, particularly for the provincial and other councils that have been set up. It may be that if we could get more men of that type we should be able to overcome the difficulties which are at present being experienced.


There may well be some truth in that. The difficulty is that overseas recruitment has been entirely suspended for the administrative service at the present time; and, of course, normal wastage of administrative staff is going on. It is our hope that the Gold Coast Government, when they proceed with the full development of their country, will realise that an adequate administrative service is all-important; that it is, in fact, essential if their various difficulties in the technical services—for which technical services. I think, overseas recruits will still be sought—are to be overcome. It is equally our desire that, if the Gold Coast cannot yet call on a sufficient cadre of experienced African administrators, they shall, until that help is available, look once more for recruitment from overseas. I apologise for dwelling so long on the public service, but it is, I believe, a matter of the utmost importance to the Gold Coast. So long as they have a happy and contented public service, freed from political interference, then the prospect of better government within that territory may be far more feasible and easy to reach.

I will pass from that matter, if I may, to a matter which was referred to by several noble Lords who have spoken to-day—namely, the question of investments. We all know that the investors of capital overseas are, one and all, highly sensitive to any political developments which may affect their enterprises. There must always be, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, rightly pointed out, a need to create the right conditions which will attract investors; and anything which hinders that confidence in a territory—more especially a territory which is advancing towards self-government—must obviously be deprecated. It certainly can, and will, do a territory no good whatever. There are large sums of capital, mainly British, which are invested in the Gold Coast. But apart from the Volta River project, there appear to be few immediate openings for large-scale investment of fresh capital from overseas, although existing companies might well, in the normal course of business, wish to develop or expand their present interests. Before embarking on such schemes, whether financed out of capital reserves or through the raising of fresh funds, they will be bound to take into account all political risks involved.

Fortunately, the Gold Coast Government themselves recognise the need to maintain the good will of overseas investors. Dr. Nkrumah himself, when introducing the Development Plan in August last year, gave some assurance about his Government's attitude to technical help and capital investment from overseas. He reaffirmed the Gold Coast's need of such help; he recognised his Government's responsibility to maintain conditions that would attract it, and he acknowledged that it could not be obtained unless his Government was—and here I quote his own words: sound and stable and fully alive to its responsibilities for preserving the rights of property owners. I pass from that, having only made a brief reference to it, because I think that your Lordships will see that Dr. Nkrumah and his Government are fully alive to the need for pursuing a policy which will not frighten away the would-be investor when he is called upon to lend his money for some industrial project within the country.

I pass now to the immigration policy which was introduced in 1949 and which has been mentioned to-day by the noble Lords, Lord Rennell and Lord Hemingford. That policy has recently been reviewed by the Gold Coast Government and, with minor changes, it has been approved. The procedure established under the policy, as the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, may well know, makes it necessary to obtain the permission of the principal immigration officer to enter the Gold Coast. Overseas businesses are allotted a fixed number of entry permits for their staff, but applications to increase this number are usually granted, and permits to staff fresh businesses are also normally given, unless the Government consider that the business would be detrimental to the economic development of the inhabitants of the Gold Coast. Permission to enter the Gold Coast to establish a new retail business is not normally given.

Following the Cabinet review in the Gold Coast, minor changes were announced a few weeks ago. It is now necessary to send copies of applications for fresh or increased entry permits for business purposes to the Director of Commerce and Industry. It was previously the practice for the immigration authorities to consult the Director, but the new procedure is designed simply to speed up the process of consultation, and I understand that there is no ground for apprehension that the grants of permits will be more restrictive than hitherto. I am not in any way acquainted with the details of the order, or with the changes which were made as the result of the review by the Gold Coast Cabinet, but I can tell your Lordships that the Director of Commerce and Industry, to whom applications have to be sent, is now on leave in this country, and if your Lordships were anxious to make contact with him, I have no doubt he would be happy to place his services at your Lordships' disposal.

Lastly, I come to the "swollen shoot" disease, about which observations were made by the noble Lords, Lord Ogmore, Lord Rennell and Lord Hemingford. On assuming office the new Gold Coast Government announced the suspension of the compulsory cutting-out campaign against the "swollen shoot" disease, and in June of last year they announced its replacement by a voluntary cutting-out campaign, with increased rates of compensation, which they called the New Deal for Cocoa. Unfortunately, very little cutting-out took place during the early months of this voluntary campaign, and in order to make the need for it and the nature of it widely known an intensive publicity campaign was launched during the first weeks of this year. As a result of this publicity, and following the visits to the Gold Coast, in April of this year, of delegations from the cocoa-manufacturing industries of the United Kingdom, and the United States, the Gold Coast Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources announced in the Assembly on April 25 that general cutting-out would be resumed forthwith.

Since compulsion was suspended, I am advised that there has been a considerable spread of the disease in areas where farmers have been non-co-operative. In the Eastern Province probably something like 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 trees may have been newly infected. In Ashanti, where, while compulsion was applied, diseased trees were removed as soon as discovered, there are now some 30,000 known diseased trees. The annual Gold Coast cocoa crop has fluctuated between about 180,000 and 270,000 tons over the last five years, depending very much on weather and other factors, not only disease; but unless satisfactory progress is made with the disease-control campaign the crop is likely to show a decline over the next few years, for which fresh planning will compensate only in part.

I am told that the statement made in the Assembly on April 25 had a generally favourable reception throughout out the country, and that, initially, considerable progress was made with cutting-out. Since then there has been a gradual building up of opposition in certain areas, and the Minister of Agriculture recently found it necessary to state in the Assembly, in reply to a question, that If all methods of persuasion fail to convince a recalcitrant few, the existng law will have to be invoked to protect the interests of the majority. From that it would appear that the Gold Coast Government are alive to the gravity of the "swollen shoot" disease and its ultimate threat to the whole economy of their country. They are determined to bring the control campaign to a successful conclusion, and we shall all watch their efforts with interest.

The noble Lords, Lord Ogmore and Lord Rennell, both mentioned that recently there have been allegations in the Press of corruption in Gold Coast public life, including allegations against Ministers. The Legislative Assembly have recommended to the Government that an inquiry should be instituted, and the Government have decided to set up a com- mittee to hold an inquiry. The Government have asked the United Kingdom Government for help in finding an independent, external chairman of the committee of inquiry.

My Lords, I hope that I have replied to all the questions addressed to me to-day. I have tried to put before the House a balanced account of this country. I hope that I have not minimised the difficulties or exaggerated the problems, and have presented a fair summary of the facts of the case. I cannot tell, any more than other noble Lords, what the future may hold in store, but we shall all continue to watch the working of this political experiment. I can only hope that the politicians and educated people in the Gold Coast will read and digest the observations which have been made in this House to-day, not only by myself, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, but by noble Lords who have vast practical experience and knowledge of that country.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Munster, for his full reply. He has answered all the questions I raised. Before asking leave of the House to withdraw my Motion, I wish to take this opportunity to emphasise the truly appalling figures of the spread of "swollen shoot" disease which the noble Earl has given, in the hope that these figures will really cause anxiety and fear in the Gold Coast and lead to the remedy being applied more rapidly than in the last few years. After the statement the noble Earl made about the appointment of a Committee, under the chairmanship of a gentleman nominated in this country, to inquire into the allegations of corruption, I am sure your Lordships will feel that the Gold Coast Government are doing their best to clear themselves of the charges which have been made in the Press, and have adopted a course which shows both wisdom and foresight. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.