HL Deb 21 May 1952 vol 176 cc1232-86

2.58 p.m.

LORD HENDERSON rose to call attention to the vital importance of providing economic aid and technical assistance to under-developed areas, and to the work under the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East and the Colombo Plan; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I do so with some confidence because I believe there will be general agreement in all parts of the House that the Motion refers to matters which ought to be brought to the attention of your Lordships from time to time. We are all concerned with the plight of the under-developed areas of the world. We recognise the need for assistance to be given to them by the economically advanced nations. We appreciate the great importance of their economic and social development in the scheme of human progress, and we realise what a stupendous task is involved in bringing these peoples to something approaching the level of modern, advanced nations. I am sure, therefore, that we are all gratified by the fact that the Government and Parliament of this country have put Britain amongst the nations foremost in providing aid for these areas.

Some of the activities in which Britain is engaged relate to under-developed territories for which we have special responsibilities, and here, by means of the Colonial Development Corporation and in many other ways, we are making a considerable contribution. But we are also engaged, on a cooperative basis, in other activities which are directed in the main to assisting nations which are independent. In the category of collective action are both the Colombo Plan and the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, to which reference is made in my Motion. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, who will be speaking for the Government, has recently attended the annual conference of both these organisations, the one at Karachi and the other at Rangoon; and I feel sure that he will welcome an opportunity to tell your Lordships something of their progress and the prospects.

My Lords, most of us I think are fairly familiar with the Colombo Plan, which is primarily a Commonwealth co-operative effort. But, speaking for myself, I cannot say that I am as well acquainted with the purposes and operations of what is conveniently called the "Ecasfe" Commission, because I think its Report for the past year has not yet been issued. In geographical terms, the latter organisation covers more territories than does the Colombo Plan, but it is not clear what is their mutual relationship, though I am aware that a representative of the E.C.A.F.E. Commission attended the recent Colombo Plan Conference.

This difliculty of understanding the position extends also, so far as I am concerned, to the Mutual Aid operations of the United Nations and its specialised organisations and special commissions; to those of the Point Four Programme, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development which, I believe, also have links with the Colombo Plan, and to other organisations which I gather are engaged in mutual aid in that part of the world. Of course, I am thinking mainly of operational functions, services and activities. There does not appear to be integration, by which I mean that there does not appear to be a single overall plan under which the various activities of the different organisations are correlated. There is no organic unity. But it does appear that there is some practical form of co-operation and consultation. No doubt the noble Marquess will be able to tell us whether this is effective and whether it works well. He will be able to tell us whether efforts are being made to avoid duplication and overlapping, and whether they are reasonably effective. I mention these points because it is obviously of prime importance that all the organs of mutual aid should not only be animated by a single common purpose, but also that they should be co-operating and not competing instruments in a comprehensive unified effort.

This task of helping to facilitate and accelerate the development of the under-developed countries must, I submit, be regarded as a major responsibility, if we are to succeed in our purpose of progressively raising the levels of productivity and living standards. There can be little doubt that if this is not done, the political stability of vast areas, and in some measure that of the world as a whole, cannot be assured. This is a consideration which I think we must all constantly have in mind. We have become accustomed in recent years to say that the world is divided by the Iron Curtain into two parts—the Communist and the non-Communist. A far older division is that between the under-developed areas and the developed areas, the peasant countries and the industrialised countries—or, to use a familiar phrase, the poor countries and the rich. It is said that the gulf between the advanced countries and the under-developed countries is wider to-day than it was before the war. No one should underrate the seriousness of such a position. But whether that general conclusion is strictly accurate or not—and I have no reason to doubt its accuracy—there is available a wealth of firsthand information and statistical data which makes it clear beyond any doubt that the vast majority of the people in the depressed and distressed countries live in conditions which are in startling and disturbing contrast to those of the economically advanced countries.

It is not easy to comprehend the sum total of human tragedy which flows from all the poverty, hunger and disease of the vast areas to which the Colombo Plan relates. Probably only those who are personally familiar with the Asian and similar lands, and who have had actual contact with, and visual sight of, the appalling conditions which exist there, can fully understand how formidable is the problem, how pressing its urgency and how varied its elements. I am sure that noble Lords will look forward to the contributions which are to be made this afternoon by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, who have all had personal association with those areas and, in the case of two of them, are associated with the plans for the social and economic improvement of the conditions of the people.

Statistics have given us indices for mortality, disease, food, clothing, housing and a score of other relevant economic and social factors, and they reveal a tragic picture. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with masses of comparative statistics. The situation has been described in detail on other occasions. One comparison will suffice to show how dire is the poverty in which the masses of these people live. The average income is only about £20 or £30 a year, or roughly 10s. a week; whereas it is about £400 a year in the United States and £200 a year in this country. I quote from one United Nations Report: The peoples of such areas … are unable to produce the raw materials and the finished goods which their physical well-being requires; which are needed by people of other countries; and which they would be capable of producing if assisted by great technical knowledge and capital equipment. This puts the problem fairly and squarely. The tragedy of these areas is unrelieved mass poverty and their crying need for technical, scientific, financial and capital equipment resources, which are indispensable if the people are to be enabled to lift themselves out of their poverty and insecurity. Not for them are the benefits of New Deals, schemes of social security, national health, free education, powerful trade unions and so on, which have their permanent place as essential elements of organised life in countries such as our own. It would, I think, be difficult to pick out any problem confronting the world that is more menacing than this problem of poverty, in all its varied forms, which presses so heavily upon the vast territories and huge populations.

These are, in the main, the disturbed areas of the world; they are the areas which are potentially explosive. It is not to be wondered at that in the Far East, in South and South-East Asia, and in the Middle East there has long been deep nationalist ferment, acute popular discontent and a spirit of revolt—always latent and sometimes violent—against these terrible conditions, and also against the almost unrestrained exploitation to which they have been so long subjected at the hands of their wealthy and often corrupt ruling classes. If ever human conditions were intolerable and calculated to produce widespread political disturbance and instability, they are those to be found in many of the under-developed areas. As President Truman said two or three weeks ago: Mass suffering has been used by every dictatorship of our times as a stepping stone to power. The surprising thing is not that Communist imperialism has directed special attention to these peoples, sought to exploit the shocking conditions in which so many of them live, and endeavoured to capture and harness the national independence movements to their own remorseless chariot; the surprising thing is that Communist propaganda, sabotage, violence and aggression have not succeeded in bringing all these areas under Communist domination. By capitalising on disorders and discontent, by using the old but still effective slogans of anti-imperialism, by intensive propaganda against "colonialism," world Communism is constantly endeavouring to envelop Asia and other under-developed areas in the tentacles of a new imperialism. But, by and large, this militant drive has not met with the success which its organisers and inspirers expected. The threat of force does, nevertheless, remain a dangerous one, and will continue so until it is either defeated or brought to an end by a peaceful settlement covering the whole of the area at stake, and until recognisable progress has been made by efforts to raise the living standards of the peoples concerned.

The free nations have made, and are making, three outstanding contributions to the security, political stability and economic development of the free parts of Asia. There is, first, as I have just mentioned, the great military defence effort which is being made in Korea, under the United Nations; in Indo-China by France, and in Malaya by our own country. These efforts have to be carried through to a successful conclusion in the way I have just indicated before a great and expanding development drive can have a fair chance. Conflict and constructive enterprise cannot go together. The second contribution has been made by this country, and it was a conspicuous contribution. By giving freedom to the old India, to Burma and to Ceylon, we recognised the political aspirations of their peoples for national independence, and we gave them the same rights to determine their own destinies as we ourselves exercise. The effect of these decisions has not been limited to the countries concerned; a profound impression has been made on the minds of the peoples of other Asian lands. "This measure of political faith unprecedented in constitutional history" (as it has been described by the Pakistani Foreign Minister) shows one of its smaller fruits in the fact that all these newly-independent countries are parties to the Colombo Plan; and they realise that this fine Commonwealth scheme is designed to bring needed help to them, as to other members of it.

It is of course true—we knew it already and I do not doubt that there is a growing realisation of the fact in the countries concerned—that independence, whether within the Commonwealth or outside it, does not in itself provide an immediate or a speedy solution of the complex of internal human, social and economic problems. What it does is to give them the opportunity and responsibility to tackle their problems in their own way, subject only to the compelling limitations which affect all countries, to a greater or lesser extent—namely, the general world economic and political situation. Let me add that a similar policy is being pursued—necessarily at a slower, but always at a steady rate of progress—in the Colonies and other territories for which we have responsibility. As we all know, within recent Years a whole series of constitutional developments has been carried forward. In these territories British policy is not, as the Communists allege, one of Colonial exploitation. It is, on the contrary, one of political and economic co-operation designed to bring them progressively but surely to the full status of self-governing partners. We have been following the very reverse of the policy which Soviet Russia has pursued. While Communist Russia has been pushing out the frontiers of overbearing dictatorship, we have been enlarging the frontiers of freedom and independence. I do not think there can be any doubt that this is one of the reasons why the Communist bid to get control of the national independence movements in the under-developed areas has so largely failed. I repeat, this is a conspicuous contribution.

The third major contribution has been made in the great constructive enterprise of mutual aid. In a recent reference to the Four Point Programme, President Truman declared that the Fourth Point: Helping the free peoples of the world to help themselves—to produce more—to raise their living standards—and to achieve decent satisfying lives—is in the long run the most important of all. To-day, a whole network of international agencies and national organisations are engaged in helping the under-developed areas. This unique co-operative effort has not been long under way, but no one can read the Progress Reports, such as that of the Colombo Plan's first year, without realising that, despite the deep-seated difficulties of the time and the complexities which beset us all, much sorely needed assistance is being provided; and the pace at which assistance is given is expected to quicken. What is actually being done at the moment may seem—and undoubtedly is—little enough, by comparison with the enormous needs of the areas and peoples; but I think it would be unreasonable not to recognise that the enterprise of Mutual Aid is at a very early stage, and that it has been set in motion at a time when the world's political and economic difficulties are particularly acute. It is therefore a matter, I think, for sober satisfaction now, and for encouragement regarding the future, that a good beginning has been made in providing much-needed practical assistance to the under-developed areas, and that this assistance is enabling them to undertake and accelerate major projects which are necessary to economic advancement and social improvement. Here again, I do not think it can be doubted that Western initiative is playing a vital part, not only in strengthening the material and mental resistance to Communism but also in the building up of new and solid foundations for the peace, freedom and development of great sections of the human family.

I think there can be no doubt that the whole of free Europe is aware that without the generous aid which the United States have been providing on a large scale the post-war rehabilitation and economic recovery of European countries, including our own, would have been far slower and infinitely more difficult, and that resistance to the unceasing attempts at Communist expansion might have been far less successful. I have no doubt in my own mind that Marshall Aid for Europe and Mutual Aid for the under-developed territories will be ranked amongst the greatest acts of constructive statesmanship, and that, in due course, they will be assessed as having had far-reaching, if not decisive, effects for the good of mankind generally. As I have said, we all know what Marshall Aid has done for Europe. We all realise that in one form or another we have benefited from it, both nationally and as individual citizens. It has helped us to bear our austerities and it has encouraged us to greater efforts. I am far less certain, however, whether more than a very limited number of people have any real idea of what is actually being done under Mutual Aid. It is not at all easy to bring into focus all the many and varied activities that are being carried on under Mutual Aid in the receiving countries.

It must be infinitely more difficult to get not only the pledge but also the fact of practical help across to the peoples of those countries. I realise that this is largely a matter for the national Governments and other authorities, and it may be that they are doing something about it. But it seems that it should be possible to do something quite effective in these days of radio, loudspeaker, cinema and other media of mass publicity, which the Communists have not been slow to exploit to get their subversive propaganda across in the same parts of the world. I stress the importance of this matter, because economic and social improvements are bound to be slow. There can be no sudden dramatic change on a national scale, even under the six-years programmes which are being operated under the Colombo Plan. More rapid progress may be possible in certain sectors and within limited areas, especially under the guidance of the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation. I will give only one example. It relates to a rice-producing district of Bengal. In conjunction with the Government of Bengal, a World Health Organisation team got busy in an effort to rid the district of malaria. As a result, the disease-carrying mosquito has been swept away. There have since been no new cases of infantile malaria, and production in the rice fields has been increased by 15 per cent.

There are many other important limited achievements with impressive results to the credit of these two Organisations in dealing with health and land problems, both of which have a direct bearing on raising the level of food production. The more knowledge of local social and economic benefits of this sort can be spread among the people in other parts of the under-developed countries, the more the present discontents are likely to be eased by the hope and promise of better things to come for them. I repeat that we are confronted with a challenging problem, which will not permit of sudden improvements on a grand scale. Economic development on the scale required by the under-developed areas, bringing with it national prosperity and greatly improved living standards for the common people, requires sustained effort over a long period of years. There is no short cut.

The Colombo Plan recognises this fact and the Governments concerned are engaged, in the first instance, on six-year programmes. We are told that the implementation of the development programmes is essential to arrest the decline—I repeat, to arrest the decline—in the present low standards of living and to provide a foundation for further advancement. That is a necessary objective, but at the same time it would seem to be a very modest objective when set against the pressing human requirements of the peoples. The Colombo Plan also recognises that the rate and scope of development will always be subject to the impact of external factors and forces, both political and economic. The movements of world prices for raw materials, the special efforts that are called for to deal with the sterling area's balance of payments problem, the economic consequences of rearmament, the shortage of capital goods, and so on, all impose a restrictive effect on development.

I think I am correct in saying it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and of the United States Government also, despite their own great requirements, to ensure, so far as possible, that reasonable supplies of capital goods are made available for the development programmes of the under-developed areas. I hope that the noble Marquess may be able to assure the House that there is a good chance of Her Majesty's Government being able to give effect to their present intentions in this matter. In this connection, I hope the noble Marquess may be able to tell us whether there is any prospect or proposal that Japan will be associated with the task of providing Mutual Aid. That defeated country, like Germany, has made remarkable economic and industrial recovery, and it would seem both reasonable and right that she should be able and willing to make a practical contribution, by way of capital goods, to the rehabilitation and development of areas which suffered so grievously at the hands of Japanese military imperialism a few years ago. Japan herself has received considerable aid from the United States during the period of Allied occupation, and with her industrial power largely restored, she should be in a position to help her poorer neighbours.

There is just one more point I want to make about the Colombo Plan. It is encouraging to note the annual expansion of the revised six-years programmes, and the substantial increases that are being made for agricultural development and social improvement. This is of first importance, especially in view of the fact that there is less food for every mouth in the world to-day than there was before the war. The Colombo Plan Report tells us that as a result of the disastrous drought from which India's food production suffered last year imports of 5,500,000 tons of food grains had to be brought in to fulfil the requirements of a strictly rationed food supply. When we remember that India's population increases at the rate of between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 a year, and that the saving of every life by preventive or curative medical services means another mouth to feed, the need for rapid developments in agriculture to raise food production becomes too obvious to require emphasis. What is clearly and urgently needed are speedy improvements in agricultural methods, techniques and implements, as well as the improvements that will come more slowly from major projects of irrigation, power, communications, and so on, by which more land can be brought under cultivation and production yields considerably increased.

This, it seems to me, emphasises the crucial importance of technical assistance and training, which is one of the principal services provided under the Colombo Plan and also under other agencies of Mutual Aid. I read, fox example, in one report that an agricultural specialist demonstrated in some part of India, by what I suppose was a pilot scheme experiment, that improved varieties of seeds, crop rotation with legumes, the use of manure and fertilisers can increase the wheat yields 100 per cent.; and that a new variety of potato increased the yield from 119 to 245 bushels an acre. Illustrations of this sort—and they can be multiplied—show that there are great possibilities of substantial increases in food production being achieved in a relatively short period of time, provided that there is real concentration of effort and that proper use is made of scientific services and the other agricultural aids which Mutual Aid can make available even in present world conditions.

We know how much attention has been given, and continues to be given, in this country to increasing food production, because we realise how important it is to the national interest. Circumstances in this country are, of course, very different from those in the Asian countries, but there seems to be little doubt that, despite the most severe handicaps under which Asian agriculture has to operate, the output of food production is capable of fairly rapid increases. Such an achievement would be a real contribution to improving the feeding of the undernourished populations of these countries. But, as I have already said, progress in most directions is bound to be slow until the political and economic conditions of the world have taken a turn for the better. So long as international conflicts and tensions continue and so much of the labour, materials, productive machinery and financial resources of the major free nations are required for building up defence forces against possible aggression, so long will there be powerful economic factors which will limit the scale of assistance which can be given under Mutual Aid. I think it is clear, however, that when the present limiting factors have been removed it will be necessary to think and plan and provide on a far greater scale than is now possible. Far greater attention will have to be given by all concerned to bringing about, as speedily as possible, definite and recognisable improvements in the living conditions of the poverty-stricken masses, so that there will be a firm human basis upon which the great long-term programmes can be confidently and successfully undertaken. I beg to move for Papers.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, the vital importance of providing economic aid and technical assistance to under-developed areas has been so thoroughly dealt with by the noble Lord who moved this Motion—and indeed, it is a subject upon which opinion on all sides of the House and everywhere in the world is now, generally speaking, agreed—that it is hardly necessary for me to emphasise that particular side of the matter any more. If I had to make any comment other than that I agree in the main with everything that the mover said, I would say that I think it is perhaps a mistake to emphasise too greatly the poverty and misery of South and South-East Asia and to apply the most modern European standards to the state of the people there, It is apt to give a rather distorted picture. I am not for a moment trying to underrate the dire need of these people, but I say that merely in the interests of getting the perspective right. I would suggest, also, that it is not quite fair to say that all the rulers, or to imply that most of the rulers there have been oppressive, regardless of the needs of their people. I have some considerable experience of many countries in those areas and I know that that is not a very accurate generalisation however tempting some individual instances may have been to make it.


If the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, may I say that at that particular point I referred specifically to Asia, the Far East, South and South-East Asia and the Middle East. When I made the point to which the noble Lord has just referred. I did not take in only the particular area which he mentions.


I hope I did not misinterpret the noble Lord; I had no intention of doing so. I was delighted to hear him say, and emphasise, that there is no short cut in these matters. I have myself, amongst others, been trying to emphasise that for some time. The principle of international obligation to help those in need has to-day a well-recognised moral basis, quite apart from the material fact that peace and prosperity for the human family depend upon the progressive elimination of unnecessary poverty front the world. The idea behind E.C.A.F.E. and the Colombo Plan is the well-recognised one that it is the duty of the advanced nations to help those who are under-developed and less advanced. There are many possible approaches to this question, and mine would naturally differ slightly from that of the noble Lord who moved the Motion, because of my lifelong association with administration and with the job of carrying out policies and translating into action desires and aspirations which are sometimes not so easy to carry out as they are to think out.

The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is, as we all know, an arm of the United Nations. It has not, and never has had, any material resources to offer to the Governments of Asia in their development programme. From the time it started in March, 1947, it has engaged in collecting essential data, making analytical studies of specific problems, and thus assembling information to serve as the basis of action. Everything from mineral resources to the use of chemical fertilisers, from power alcohol to iron and steel projects, from flood control and inland waterways to the manufacture of D.D.T., has come within the ken of E.C.A.F.E. It has worked in conjunction with all that confusing number of organisations—whose operation, may I acid, is not half as confused as one might think. They are, in fact, working fairly well together and very efficiently, and the amount of overlapping has been reduced to a minimum. It has worked in conjunction with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, and even with organisations like the International Children's Emergency Fund.

Not the least of its services has been the promotion of a sense of regional consciousness in South-East Asia and the discussion of common problems between representatives of those countries—an area, incidentally, which, as we cannot too often emphasise, contains one quarter of the world's population. Speaking generally, it is I think true to say that the people of South and South-East Asia live hard lives and die young. With the exception always of an oasis of higher standards in Malaya, where the level has always been higher than that in other countries in South-East Asia, the standard of living generally is low, and has always been so, while the population has been growing at an estimated rate of 20,000 a day. In the original Colombo Plan Report, I think it is estimated that the population of this area of 570,000,000 people will have increased by 150,000,000 to 720,000,000 by 1970. There, alone, is a terrible problem, without looking at any problems of the past.

The urgent overriding problem is obviously food, and, second only to that, the development of the great natural resources of the area. The countries of South and South-East Asia are too poor to provide out of their own resources for even the bare minimum of development needed to prevent living standards from falling still further. That is one of the major problems—not to improve the standard of living, but to prevent it from falling any lower than it is to-day because of the number of lives which are saved as a result of our improvements in health standards. Furthermore, if birth control is not practised, there is no foreseeable hope of success in raising the standards of these people. It is noteworthy throughout the world that the birth rate is highest where the living standards are the poorest, so that a vicious circle emerges. Population increases faster than the means to feed it, while every betterment of health and living conditions, by reducing the death rate, neutralises any effort that agriculture may make to catch up.

As we have found in the Colonial Development Corporation and in other organisations, the first stages of development are the most difficult and costly. Power stations, irrigation works, roads, railways and ports are extremely expensive things, and the countries concerned could not supply the capital goods or the trained personnel without outside help. Hence the Colombo Plan of 1950, which owes its existence largely to the insistence of Australia that something must be done to translate all the fine aspirations and all the collected data into real action. It is interesting to note that E.C.A.F.E. numbers, and has always numbered, amongst its members China and the Soviet Union. That is where the challenge lies. The free world, and in particular the Western Democracies, have to meet the challenge of the two Communist Powers. If China and the Soviet Union can show greater material progress and a more successful attack on poverty than the free nations, then the temptation for South and South-East Asia to turn to them will be magnetic in its power. The nations of this area want liberty and independence as well as prosperity, and they are extremely suspicious of economic imperialism. That is why they have been a little chary of accepting aid from the United States and other sources, even when it has been offered. But if we fail, if the efforts of these people, stimulated by our assist- ance, proves unsuccessful, then they are likely in their disillusionment to turn elsewhere. The Kremlin has its wares in the window and its travellers on every road.

I have seen it estimated that from universities, technical training colleges and trade schools in the Commonwealth countries of South and South-East Asia about 150,000 trained men are being turned out annually. That sounds a great contribution until you consider it in relation to the immense population of the area, but, still, it is a great achievement, and a growing achievement. The number of colleges and men rises steadily, and it is desirable that they should, when one reads of the immense plans which are being made by China and the Soviet Union for dealing, by their authoritarian methods, with circumstances like these.

The countries concerned need capital goods and consumer goods which must be paid for out of either overseas assets, loans from private investors or the International Bank, or from gifts and loans from Governments outside the area. The £2,000,000,000 which it is proposed to spend in the next six years is a very small amount in comparison with the needs. We should, I suggest, always try to remember that target-setting is not planning. Indeed, let us suppose that the requisite finance is available, that capital and consumer goods and all the necessary technicians and experts are produced and suitable, and detailed blue prints of what has to be done and in what priority are complete. Still that is not enough. The spirit of the people in each of these countries must believe in reform and must give it enthusiastic support and their understanding. It is not enough to provide finance and to hire or train personnel. You want honest and efficient administrators, and if you do not have honest and efficient administrators your plan still cannot possibly succeed. These administrators have to reflect the awakened spirit of a people no longer resigned to an unprogressive marginal subsistence. That, I suggest, is the major problem of all.

After all, the new thing about the Colombo Plan and other United Nations organisations is the recognition that economic health, like peace, is one and indivisible. It is the expression of a feeling that the present contrasts between standards of life in different countries are as undesirable as similar big contrasts within the same country. The economic development of undeveloped countries is nothing new; it was undertaken by private enterprise at their own risk throughout the nineteenth century. Their achievements were very notable and the increase in productive capacity was remarkable. But the inspiration, the enterprise, the skill, and so forth, remained foreign, and the efforts lacked the co-ordination and the sustained consistency which would have been present had that inspiration been indigenous. In any case, and in brief, it is the fact that foreign enterprise operating on the old traditional lines is no longer acceptable and is looked at askance by world opinion.

May I say a word about one or two of the other organisations? U.N.E.S.C.O. is also taking a hand in this area. As your Lordships know, U.N.E.S.C.O. aims now at providing to a total of about thirty-two countries assistance in education and science in order to help maintain their economic progress. It already has ninety technical assistance experts in the field, and it maintains constant relations with the Colombo Plan and with the United Nations Point Four Programme. Its aim, in a nutshell, is to help countries develop their own technical and trained personnel, their own facilities and resources and their own economic programmes.

At this point I may say that the economic predominance of the United States makes the fortunes of primary producers more than ever dependent upon what happens in America. The violent changes in world economy since 1949 have been brought about by American strategic stockpiling, by rearmament and by the war in Korea, reinforced a little, perhaps, by speculative forces. High prices or their exports would obviously be of great assistance to under-developed countries. Increased export earnings should enable them to improve their living standards and to finance programmes of economic development designed to diversify their economies. But the benefits of high export prices are illusory if they are dissipated through internal inflation. If the same events which stimulate the rise in export prices at the same time cause a scarcity of imports of consumer goods, and so forth, then the primary producing countries cannot take advantage of their high export earnings to raise their standards of living and to accelerate their economic development. That is one of the problems which must qualify success in this matter.

Furthermore, the situation is extremely unstable. A change in the political climate could bring a sudden and severe reversal of economic conditions. An end to rearmament or to the Korean War would doubtless precipitate depression in primary commodity markets. There is no doubt that the problem of instability in the markets for primary commodities is still one of the utmost importance in the countries of South and South-East Asia. The experts acknowledge that their approach to the problem of economic stability has limitations. Population is increasing rapidly; and food production, generally and relatively speaking, is not. I have already mentioned birth control, or its absence. It is easy for us to talk of the importance of agriculture and an improved yield. Generally speaking, to do this on any scale means mechanisation; and the obstacles to agricultural mechanisation in these countries are very great. Not the least obstacle is the ignorance and lethargy of the illiterate and undernourished cultivators, hidebound by prejudice and often sunk in fatalistic resignation. Those are the things which underline the remarks of the noble Lord who moved this Motion, to the effect that there is no short cut. Speed is not possible in putting these matters right.

There are, of course, greater difficulties still than are generally thought of, notably the extreme fragmentation of land and the virtually complete lack of capital. Group farming, I know, is one suggested remedy, but the question arises, who is to finance the farmers? In areas such as the countries of the East, the rate at which it would be possible to borrow capital locally is so high as to put it out of the question. That seems to mean that the only solution is with the Government and Government agencies, such as land mortgage banks, agricultural development corporations, and so forth. But unless the Governments of the countries of South-East Asia, with or without the aid of the Western Powers associated with all these plans, and international organisations are ready to make credit available to the large farmer who is short of capital and the village groups of small farmers, then mechanisation will be too slow for the salvation of these areas. We have those two mutually contradictory factors: that speed is hardly possible and yet the whole thing is a race against time.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has plans for 114 F.A.O. experts in this field, of whom I understand seventy-seven are already there. They are dealing with the world's most urgent food problem, which is increased rice production. Perhaps I may quote in passing a classic example of a successful operation on perhaps a small scale—F.A O.s successful eradication of rinderpest in Siam. The vaccination campaign was carried out by Siamese veterinarians assisted by F.A.O. technicians. That is an example, I suggest, of what may be done by people in these countries, trained to do the work under the help and guidance of experts from outside.


Can the noble Lore say how long it was before that experiment was successful?


I cannot say when it started, but it must have been within three years because that is the period, practically, of the operation of F.A.O.

The other organisation is the International Labour Organisation. The basic aim of the is to raise living standards throughout the world and to secure peace through social justice. And skill is one of Asia's vital needs. From the I.L.O. headquarters in Geneva, technical assistance missions are sent to all parts of the world. Australia is now an important centre for higher education for Asian students. I understand that nearly 2,000 students from Asia are taking advanced courses there. Another country which is playing a part is the Netherlands. There the whole field of higher education is being adapted to the needs of international services, especially for students from under-developed countries. It is interesting—in fact it is important—to note that, though technical aid under the Colombo Plan is on a Government to Government basis, such aid is also available to private industry and business, provided the aid sought is sponsored by the Government of the country in which the private industry or business is established. We all know, I think, the figures for the proposed distribution of this £2,000,000,000 which is to be spent in the next six years: 32 per cent. on agriculture, 34 per cent. on transport and communications, 6 per cent. on fuel and power, 10 per cent. on industry and mining and 18 per cent. on social services.

But, for the successful working of the Colombo Plan, two main considerations must exist: co-operation between aid-givers and aid-receivers for the mutual benefit of both, and tine preservation of the independence of the aid-receivers. In that sense the Plan is unique, for aid without any strings attached is provided and received. I would mention, in passing, the great effort which the United States, apart from her collaboration in the Colombo Plan, is making under the Mutual Security Agency, which, I believe, is directed by Mr. Averill Harriman. Considering all of these organisations, in conclusion we must ask: is the programme succeeding? There are, as I suggested, big question marks and unsolved problems which may wreck it: the population increase, economic and political stability or instability—matters which are interdependent—and the very uncertain future.

I would emphasise, also, that Moscow is underlining the benefits which underdeveloped countries could reap by increased economic relations with the Soviet Union and China. The Soviet offer made at the recent session of E.C.A.F.E., of which, as I reminded your Lordships, the Soviet Union is a member, was to supply capital goods which countries of the region urgently need for the execution of their development plans, in exchange for raw products to be sent to Russia. The Soviet Exhibition at the Bombay Fair and the Soviet overtures to Japan in the economic field illustrate what the Colombo Plan and its sponsors are fighting against. It is a great task of statesmanship and it means that, while never completely shutting the door on the very remote possibility of the Soviet Union co-operating with the West for the benefit of mankind, we have to proceed with all haste independently with our own schemes. As a final word, I suggest that there is a danger which may beset the British Government in this matter—the danger of over-extending ourselves in relation to our own strength. We have very heavy responsibilities in our own Colonial territories. Charity still begins at home. I suggest that that is as good a political motto as it is an economic and family one. Therefore, I suggest that while we cannot avoid bearing a fair share of the contributions to world betterment, we should never forget that that betterment ought to begin with our own people, and our own dependent and protected people.

4.6 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is an admirable thing that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, has brought this matter before the House to-day. To my mind there is no question, of any character, the importance of which transcends that of this whole issue. In a debate on the economic situation which we had in February last, I ventured to make some observations on this subject, and the replies which I received I could hardly describe as being particularly satisfying or satisfactory. But there was the excuse that possibly on that occasion we were so concerned with our own domestic economic position, and with the many problems which it presented, that this wider aspect of the question did not receive the consideration due to it. I entirely agree with what has been said by the mover of this Motion with regard to the humanitarian aspects of this problem, with regard to the danger of Communist infiltration into these backward countries owing to the conditions in which the people live. I also entirely agree that that constitutes a very grave menace to the peace of the world, but in my observations I want to concentrate rather more on the economic side of this problem.

I cordially agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, that one has to proceed cautiously and wisely in this matter; one cannot expect results overnight. But I think there are very encouraging signs to-day. It has taken us a considerable time to wake up to this problem, as I will indicate in a moment, but I believe that we are moving in the right direction to-day, in fact since the Resolution of the United Nations Assembly in December, 1949, with regard to the vital necessity of developing the latent resources of the backward areas, followed within the month by President Truman's Point Four in his Inaugural Address. From that moment, there has been a terrific acceleration, and I am happy to say that in it we are getting the most remarkable co-operation that I have seen in any international body. The United Nations itself, and its Specialised Agencies—the F.A.O., W.H.O., I.L.O. and U.N.E.S.C.O. —are doing first-class work, all of which is co-ordinated.

I may perhaps reply here to one point that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, although I am sure that the noble Marquess will deal with it when he comes to reply. We now have all these great organisations of the United Nations co-operating in the policy pursued with regard to what is known as technical aid, and that co-ordination is achieved by a body that goes under the title of T.A.B. —the Technical Assistance Board. I have seen this work. I have seen the results of it. For nearly five years I was Chairman of the World Food Council. I have seen that work in operation it is first-class, and there is real co-operation going on there.

In reply to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, I would say that the Board are really alert and alive to the fact that it is impossible to bring about great economic development in a backward country, with all its own customs and its traditions, unless you understand the spirit of the people and really know what is in their minds. Every expert who goes out into the field in any of these countries is put through a preliminary training in regard to the whole social structure of the country concerned, and in those respects. I think quite invaluable work is being done through this technical assistance. But in face of something that I am going to say later, the measure of what is being done in relation to the problem we are up against is almost too infinitesimal to be believed. The total amount that they have in mind, up to date, for all these different bodies together is 20,000,000 dollars. I appreciate that for a year or two years they could probably spend very little more, even if they had it, because the supply of technicians is not available. But a great effort is being made to stimulate all the sources that can provide technicians—such as the universities, societies and other bodies. Their aid is being invoked and, what is probably much more important, the training as technicians of the nationals of these different countries is also proceeding very rapidly indeed.

The only point I want to make on this particular question is that the amount of money made available for this technical assistance must be very greatly increased if vie are to begin to do the job and be of assistance to some of these organisations, the specialised agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation. Its total income is 5,000,000 dollars, and there has been the greatest trouble of getting even that sum from the member countries. Last year we had to prepare a budget on the basis of 4,500,000 dollars—which I think (though I cannot remember the exact proportion) is less than 1 per cent. of what the United Slates Department of Agriculture spends. It is perfectly ludicrous that a great world organisation concerned with food and agriculture should be in a financial position such as that. On that side I think things are proceeding, and I believe that we shall go forward. But I agree with Lord Henderson that there has got to be a far greater effort. We are not doing nearly enough.

The other thing we have to realize—and I think we have got to do a little forward thinking—is that it takes a very long time to put any of these ideas over. To-day, everybody accepts the need for technical and also financial assistance in regard to the backward countries. But let me remind the House that it was in 1946 that that was first said. It was said by a Preparatory Commission over which I had the honour to preside. The Commission was composed of eighteen nations, amongst which were the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. We were asked to make recommendations with regard to the improvement of the diets of all people and the stimulation of agriculture throughout the world. We had one look at our terms of reference and said that it was utterly impossible to do that job in isolation, because agriculture is so integrated into the economy of every nation in the world that we should have to go a little wider. We had a discussion as to whether we should return the brief or whether we should embark on what was really an economic survey of the world's position. We decided on the latter course. We produced a unanimous Report. Although I kept on stressing that we wore asked only for facts, and were not asked to agree on anything, we got this unanimous Report. That Report, which was based on an examination of the whole position, stated that if we were to avoid another crisis in the world, the development of the latent resources of the backward countries was vital, and that it was necessary to see that they had technical assistance and financial aid.

That was the unanimous decision of the eighteen nations, and it was subscribed to three mouths later by the sixty nations forming the Food and Agriculture Organisation. But until 1949, when this bomb burst in Paris, not one single thing was done by any Government—and that applies to the Government of this country. I am not interested in its particular colour, because I am quite sure that any Government would have done exactly the same. But that is the position. It took three years for us to wake up to the fact that we had got to lend a hand and do something about these backward countries; that that was absolutely vital to the world and, in particular, to the great industrial countries. I would remind both the members of the Government and the members of the Opposition—because they were all responsible for it—of one important argument with which the United Kingdom delegate agreed. During the 1914–18 war there was a tremendous stimulation in production. When the war was over, great efforts were made to restore the damage and restock and re-equip the world. Things went very well for a time, but eventually, when all these things had been done, it was suddenly discovered that the world's purchasing power was not equal to the increased production which had been brought into being. The crisis of 1929–32 was the result.

We had a look at the position after the 1945 war, and we came to the conclusion that it was very much more serious, because the increase in production during the 1939–45 war was quite astronomical as against what happened at the time of the previous war. To give one example only, during the war years the United States of America doubled its industrial production. We reasoned it out that every country, save those that were war devastated, had increased its production; that every country had need to export in order to meet its balance of payments; that Germany and Japan would be returning as competitors in the world market; and that there would not be enough room for everybody. The only possible thing to do, if we were to avert something much worse than the crisis of 1929–32, was to develop the latent resources of backward countries, which, as in the nineteenth century, would create new wealth upon which it would be possible to carry out an ever-expanding world trade. That was the considered view, and that was the reason why this was done and why our conclusion was inserted in the Report.

We have now woken up to the fact that we have got to get on with this work. The point is, at what pace are we going to proceed? There have been four Reports recently on this subject, all of them first-class. I recall that, when I mentioned them once before, the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, said that I had been talking about volumes or something of the sort—but that is beside the point. The first of these four Reports is one prepared for the President of the United States, and is known as "the Gray Report." In my view it is one of the best Reports that have ever been issued on this whole problem of the world's present economic position, and it presents ideas on what you are to do and how you can bring about the development of latent resources of the backward areas. That Report, I think, was accepted by everyone as one of the most progressive and forward pieces of thinking that we have had on this problem so far.

It was followed by the Rockefeller Report which was called: Partners in Progress—a Report to the President by the International Development Advisory Board. Published in March, 1951, this also was a most useful Report. It was followed by a Report on Measures for the Economic Development of Underdeveloped Countries, which was published in May, 1951, by a group of experts appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. That Report is quite outstanding. I mention these publications especially because I think that this whole matter is so important that we simply must not have another time-lag of another three years before people wake up to the fact that something has got to be done. We have to get on with the job at once. The final Report which I would mention is entitled Measures for International Economic Stability, which is a Report by a group of experts appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It was published as recently as November 27 last year.

If noble Lords take the trouble to read these four Reports they will find the same theme running through all of them—namely, that the latent resources of the backward areas must be developed and that the more progressive nations have to find the necessary capital for this purpose. It is vital in the interests of the whole economy of the world that they do it. The figures given in these Reports are quite astronomical. As I say, it would not be possible to spend the money to-day, but we are rapidly getting to the point when it will be needed, because the technical aid which is being given by these bodies to which I have referred is gradually creating a situation in which it will be possible to undertake great fundamental development schemes side by side with the progressive movement from the wooden plough to the steel plough, which is the way we have to go. It is not possible to bring mechanisation into village agriculture right away. You have to proceed step by step, and as you take those steps you will find that the moment will arrive when a great electric scheme will become necessary if you are going to be able to carry on your development work progressively. It will not be long before the astronomical sums which are talked about in these documents will be wanted. If they are forthcoming they will save the world.

These Reports are very thorough They analyse the position in the individual countries. They indicate the amount of savings which might be furnished by these countries themselves and how much those savings might be increased by a little technical assistance with regard to their financial structure, their financial organisation and management. Figures are given to show what would he needed to raise the per capita national income of these areas by 2 per cent. Estimates are given of the amounts of foreign capital required. It is stressed that there must be a constant flow of capital from the Western industrialised world, and the details of such investment which the Reports lay down as necessary indicate a figure of from 10,000,000,000 to 14,000,000,000 dollars a year. At the present time the flow is somewhere between 1,000,000,000 and 1,500,000,000 dollars a year.

One of the Reports, which I will quote because it presents arguments on the basis that these staggering figures can be found, says this: These amounts are large but they are not beyond the capacity of the developed countries to provide. The national incomes of the countries of Western Europe, Australasia, the United States and Canada aggregate about 350 billion dollars a year. If they were to transfer 2 per cent. of this amount annually to the under-developed countries it would he equal to seven billion. Neither would this he a very high target. in 1905–13, the United Kingdom exported capital to the extent of an annual average of £143,000,000, which was 7 per cent. of her annual national income, and similarly loans and grants from the United States have been running at over 3 per cent. of her national income in the past live years. What we have to consider is this: is it necessary to take this question almost more seriously than we have ever taken any question in our lives? My view is that it is. I believe that unless we get down to this fundamental, while we can exhort our people to work harder, while we can exhort them not to press for increased wages, while we can go on fighting and trying to export enough to enable us to get food and raw materials to maintain our standard of living, in the end we are all going to be defeated. And, to my mind, there is no answer to the problem save that of these loans. Of the practicability of this course I am absolutely certain. What is needed is real leadership, and that leadership, I believe, has got to come in great measure from this country. After all, for a hundred years we led the whole world in her social and economic progress. We have probably forgotten more about foreign lending and of the technicalities of that somewhat complicated business than any other nation in the world.

There is also this factor to be remembered. Europe, in her day, was a great lending Continent, and a tremendous amount of technical knowledge and real ability in this field is still in existence on the Continent to-day. I believe that there are resources that few of us realise to-day in some the great banking institutions of countries like Belgium, Switzerland and, possibly, Italy. It is leadership that is needed for the mobilinsation of all these factors arid then, in co-operation with the United States—who have carried practically the whole of this burden up to date—we can go forward in this great movement. The generosity and the imagination which have been shown by the United States it is almost impossible fully to appreciate. Overnight, almost, they have taken upon their shoulders the burden which we carried for a hundred years. Heaven knows! we made mistakes enough before we really learnt the technicalities of the job; and they, as I say, have assumed it almost overnight. America has become the great creditor nation of the word. I think her generosity, as exemplified in the Marshall Plan and in the aid which she has given in other ways, is something which does her the greatest credit imaginable, and a great tribute should be paid to the people of the United States for the way in which, as a nation, they have faced up to their obligations The point I wish to stress in closing is that I believe the time has come when we should not merely have a discussion in this House but should take action. If I were back in my old post of being a Prime Minister I should put one Minister on to this job and let him do nothing else, because to my mind it almost transcends every other issue facing us to-day.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great interest to what the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, has been saying. Before I say anything further, I should like to express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Henderson for having raised this extremely important question. I want to look at it especially from the direct human point of view: I want to look at it from the standpoint of poverty and disease. During the years before the end of the war and since, it has been part of my ditty to visit a great many foreign lands, including those in the Near East, India, Malaya and Hong Kong. In all those countries I have been impressed by the very low physical standards of the people.

I thought I might bring to your Lordships' notice this afternoon a volume entitled The Cost of Sickness and the Price of Health by Professor C. E. A. Winslow, who is Emeritus Professor at Yale and one of the advisers of the Executive Board of World Health Organisation. In the first chapter he sets out the position of the world's population in the developed areas, the intermediate areas and the under-developed areas—the per capita income, the food supplies, the number of physicians per 100,000 of population and the life expectancy at birth in years. I do not want to weary your Lordships with all these figures, because we are dealing with a problem that is fundamentally simple. It is how to get many millions of people, especially in the East, at present living at a very low standard—below any reasonably decent standard in many instances—out of that condition and into one where they can produce as the natural resources of their lands would permit them to do, if only they had the power, energy, ability and materials to do it. The first thing these people must have is the living energy to do the job. They must have health. Professor Winslow points out that the expectation of life at birth in the developed areas, like Britain and the United States, is 63 years; in the intermediate areas, 52 years: and in the underdeveloped areas, 30 years. That means, of course, that in the under-developed areas a large number die in infancy and a large amount of potential human energy is never able to be used at all.

The way to deal with this problem is not by elaborate schemes of financial assistance to industrial and agricultural projects, but by providing the finance to enable a sufficient number of doctors to go into the under-developed areas to report upon the changes necessary to make those areas healthy and actually to attend upon the population. I should like to quote a conversation I had over a year ago with the Minister of Health for India, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, a woman of distinction, who understands the medical aspect of the question very well. I congratulated her on now having at her disposal 50,000 doctors to attend the ailments of the people of India. She smiled and somewhat ruefully said, "Yes, but we cannot afford to employ them." The majority of doctors in India live in the towns and only a few are fully employed. In many of the rural areas there are no doctors at all. There are no people to give any kind of advice on hygiene, sanitation, water supplies or anything else. Consequently, diseases which could easily be prevented or controlled take their course and reap a tremendous toll of human life and suffering, and so damage the labour power of those who have become adult and live in those areas.

My noble friend Lord Henderson referred to a project of the World Health Organisation in Bengal by which they reduced malaria to nothing at all. I do not think my noble friend mentioned the period of time which that took. I believe that is important, and for that reason I asked the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, how long it took to eliminate rinderpest. He said three years. In the case of the control of malaria in Bengal it took two years—that is to say, it was a short-term proposition. We could do the same with other diseases, which would mean a positive revolution in the condition of India. Many other noble Lords who have served in wars will know very well the difference there was in Salonika between the First World War, when malignant malaria was rampant, and the Second World War, when there was no malaria at all. Not very long ago I visited Salonika and they could tell me nothing about malaria. Such a disease no longer existed. That is a very important matter, because the machine that is really needed in agriculture in all under-developed areas is the human machine—the arms and legs and muscles of the body. No other machines are possible. The appliances which the Indian people use are extremely primitive and must continue to be so for a long time. It is no use sending elaborate machines to those areas with their present primitive social systems. We must wait until they themselves, by their own efforts, have got out of their present difficulties, which they can do if they can get rid of malaria and other diseases—because malaria is by no means the only one.

Another interesting point about the malaria experiment in Bengal, which I think will appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, is that not only was malaria diminished, but crops were so much increased that in the two years land values had doubled. That is a sign of a very healthy increase of production. I myself regret that land values have doubled, because it is more difficult to convey land from one person to another, but that does mean that the land has become more productive. I believe that the best way of attacking the problem of poverty in the under-developed areas is by the organisation of an attack on a wide front by a large number of doctors. The poverty really springs from the fact that the people are so diseased—if they do not die early, the span of life is short and is frequently interrupted by disease.

Let me return to what I said to the Minister of Health for India. I congratulated her on having 50,000 doctors. But only a comparatively small number of those are really employed as doctors. A great many of them sit in bazaars and sell medicines across the counter, and do not themselves carry out the medical profession in the way it ought to be carried out and as I am sure they would prefer to carry it out. I say that because during one year I visited every Indian station where a large number of doctors are employed, and I saw and talked to the majority of the Indian doctors employed in India at that time. They are men of high standard and great ability, who did excellent work during tie war. A great many of them are at present unemployed.

If we could get help from the World Health Organisation to undertake a great campaign of malaria eradication in India, Malaya and the other countries of the Near and Far East, I believe we should make as great a contribution to the solution of the economic problem of production in those countries as in any other way. I believe that a great medical programme of that kind is one of the things we should aim at achieving at an early date. It would certainly be much less expensive than anything else; it would fortify the human machine by making it healthy and it would make the land much more productive. To take the case of India, the land now produces only a limited amount, as a large proportion of the people the cultivating the land spend over 40 per cent. of their time incapacitated by sickness and unable to work. If that state of affairs could be remedied and the people made healthy and able to produce, there would then be a tremendous boost in production by the people themselves, in conditions they understand. It is not because I do not realise the importance of the other problems which have been dealt with by other speakers that I do not touch on them, but because I believe that this particular medical point is one about which my own experience qualifies me to speak more fully and directly than about any other. I feel that no greater contribution could be made to the solution of world problems at the present time than to have a large-scale attack on tropical diseases in the underdeveloped countries.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, has touched on a particular aspect of this matter rather than on a general one, and it is my intention to do the same. The impressive speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, is one of the highlights of the debate this afternoon—indeed, the whole contribution which Australia has made to the Colombo Plan is most impressive. There are certain sides of the Colombo Plan, and of the whole scheme, which feel have not been sufficiently dealt with up to date. Without wishing in any way to detract either from the importance or, as Lord Bruce said, the necessity of development in South-West Asia, if alone for our own salvation in the future, the practical application of the Plan is something which fills rue with a certain amount of misgiving. Next week we are to have a debate in your Lordships' House on the Colonial Development Corporation. There is one aspect of this debate and that which we are to have next week which is common to both—namely, the practical financial possibilities of doing what is required. I so much believe that they should be taken together that I should like to see a calculation made (it is difficult to extract tie figures from the many economic White Papers published) of what sums are available, arid from what sources—especially so far as this country is concerned—for the development of under-developed areas generally that is to say, not oily areas affected particularly by the Colombo Plan but many of our Colonial territories and areas in the self-governing Dominions—as, for example, in Northern Australia.

The total sums involved, even without going to the full extent of the programme referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, are, in fact, astronomical. The sources from which investable capital is available are extremely limited, whether from this country or even from the United States. The surplus which is being used by the United States for foreign investment is already so large as to make people in the United States themselves doubtful about how far the United States can go on carrying the burden of the foreign investment which is required. Our position in this country has formed the subject of a great deal of discussion everywhere, and especially in your Lordships' House. The available surplus for investment from here is probably smaller than the programme upon which we have already embarked. In the last Report of the Colombo Plan it is stated that for the Plan period a sum of £1,868,000,000 is required to be invested in the public sector—that is, excluding investment from what might be called private sources. Of that sum from public sources, £250,000,000 is to be made available in the form of the release of sterling balances—that means primarily, the release of balances held in this country which are owed by this country and which, if used for this purpose, take the form of what are commonly known as unrequited exports.

There is then £834,000,000 required from other sources, and it not clear from the Report what those other sources are and where that money is to come from. Specific contributions are referred to from Australia and New Zealand, and a possible contribution from the World Bank. The contribution from Australia is especially remarkable. because Australia is, on the whole, a capital-importing country and not an exporting country. The Report goes on to say: In the first year the programme of estimated requirements of external capital in the public field, apart from the private field, is £156,000,000, in addition to £50,000,000 from the sterling balances. I should like to know whether the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, is in a position to state where it is expected that that £156,000,000 for the first year is to come from, in addition to the sterling balances, which obviously come from here.

There is one source of capital which I feel has perhaps been unduly neglected. I have recently had the opportunity of seeing a report written by a member of the International Bank, as a result of a tour of the Far East, Australia and New Zealand. There are two extracts from that Report which, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to read, because. I think they have a bearing on the practical possibilities of carrying out the Colombo Plan. The Report says: We have already mentioned the need for foreign assistance in the technical field"— that is, technical people— But this is part of the answer only. There is a graver form of waste than inefficiency. It is negligence in tapping available financial resources"— that is, local available resources. The Report goes on: I am referring to a frequent attitude of Government planners and policy makers towards private investments. … It is not easy to trace the real causes of this attitude. Sometimes the planners and civil servants have indeed displayed more imagination than have private interests. Sometimes they contend, and rightly so, that private capital is not available. … But more often they have just neglected the existence of private savings and capital in other countries. I think the explanation of why that is so is comparatively simple. It is due to the general attitude, not peculiar to this country but peculiar generally to the war and postwar periods, that Governments ought to do this, and Governments ought to do that, whereas the whole of the development that had taken place in the world up to the beginning of this century was done entirely by private initiative and private investment.

Obviously it is much easier to mobilise a Government or Governments—difficult as it is to get agreement between two or three of them—to do something than it is to mobilise the available resources of private investment. In certain areas—notably in one of the main areas in South-East Asia—where capital is required, insufficient attention has been given, in my view and, I think, in the view of the Report also, to mobilising local financial resources in India. Without those we shall never succeed by Government loans and taxation in contributing more than a negligible amount to carry out the Colombo Plan or any part of the Plan, such as that to which the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, referred, even on the medical side. In proof of what I say, I find in the Report on page 67, paragraph 20 (which is headed "The availability and use of private investment") the sentence: Private investment supplements public investment "— which continues with the obvious platitude— and helps to expand the national output. Of course, it does. That is putting the cart before the horse. There is no necessity (and I think it is a wasteful operation) to start by saying what Governments can do here, there and everywhere. Even though they can do something—perhaps provide capital—that is not the way in which the world has been developed up to date. In fact, it is the very opposite.


The noble Lord is not suggesting that this Government could do anything toward mobilising Indian resources?


No. I suggest that the members of the Colombo Plan respectively can mobilise their own resources within their own countries. In a plan of this sort I think the whole difficulty resides in getting Governments to agree among themselves on, for instance, priorities.

Parenthetically, I should like to go back for one moment to what the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and other noble Lords have said. It seems to me that the first necessity in these areas is the development of food and the production of food. The production of food is not so attractive, and certainly not so spectacular or visible, as the production of an industrial plant. In the Colombo Plan programme, in these various countries great emphasis—to my mind, much too great—is placed upon industrial development. The purpose of industrial development is admittedly to create greater wealth in a country, greater productivity, and to have a greater surplus eventually to buy food. It is no good having a surplus to buy more food if there is no more food to buy. The first thing is to have the food. No amount of invisible exports from India or industrial surplus from India, to take one example, exportable to other countries, will provide the people of India with more food if there is no more food for them to buy.

The first necessity for those areas, therefore, is the production of food, and to my mind the production of food—with a certain amount of development in the form of roads, transport and suchlike—is essentially as objective to be followed by private investment, rather than by public investment. So far as I know, with the exception of Soviet Russia, the production of food on a large scale by Government enterprise is practically unknown. Where it has been tried—and during the war it was tried in one or two areas of which I am aware—it was not a success and proved unprofitable. Production of food is essentially a matter for private initiative, and private initiative which ought to be, and can be, financed by private local investment rather than by Government funds. Therefore, from reading the Report, I arrive at this conclusion: that an undue emphasis is placed on industrial production in South-East Asia, and a totally insufficient amount of attention has been paid to mobilising local resources for development—too much reliance, on the contrary, being placed on contributions from other countries where, in point of fact, we know that the creation of capital is not going on rapidly enough for them to be able to provide more than a negligible contribution to this immense plan. As I see it, the major fruitfulness of this plan is already, and will be more so, the achievement, in which the Australian Government has played a very great part, in bringing together the Governments of so many areas in South-Eastern Asia to sit round the table to talk to one another. That is beyond price. Whether, on the other hand, the financial organisation behind this plan is likely to be successful or to produce a contribution at all commensurate with the needs to which the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, referred, I am very much more doubtful.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, as I listened to this debate, my mind went back to 1950—two years to this very date. We had ended the Sydney Conference; we had formulated our plans, and we were asking each other, before departing for our various homelands: "What are the prospects?" There were optimists, and there were those less optimistic. Most of us felt that we had lone the best we could in a very difficult set of circumstances. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, that there may be a danger of stressing over-much the poverty of the Far East, but I do not think it is any use ignoring the facts in the Far East. It was poverty in the Far East which brought about the Colombo Plan. We realised that there were so many factors—unpredictable factors, and factors over which we had no control—likely to intervene, that we were not prepared to make any very definite forecasts. We had asked each Government in each country of the Commonwealth and South-East Asia to be good enough to submit plans of their own as to how they thought they should develop their own natural resources.

We asked them to tell us what financial contribution they could make to shoulder the cost of those schemes which they put forward. We waited until October, 1950, for their replies, and we waited with some concern. We were worrying whether they would submit some grandiose plans because they knew the bulk of the financing would be on other people's shoulders, We received their plans in October, 1950, and we were amazed at the modesty of them; to find how realistic they were, and how much those concerned appreciated the difficulties which had to be dealt with and the need to share fairly the financial burden, having regard to the financial resources available. But one thing we should all agree with as to the aim of that Plan, and that is that there cannot he a grander aim than that of mobilising the natural resources of the Commonwealth for the purpose of developing these countries in which, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said, over a quarter of a million people live to-day. That was the aim of the Plan.


A quarter of the population of the world.


I am much obliged to the noble Marquess. Of course, the figure is not a quarter of a million but a quarter of the population of the world—about 570,000,000 people. Let us remember that the representatives of these countries in South and South-East Asia, which were now to be the receiving countries, were confronted with a difficult problem. They realised the need for some development. They had to work in accordance with their resources; they could not develop on the lines required to meet the needs of their countries. Now we get these plans. The cost of the plans was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell. How did we get that total? Each of these countries had submitted a list of schemes. Each of those schemes was vetted. We obtained the total cost of each scheme and we added them all together; and we arrived at a total of, roughly, £2,000,000,000. Those figures were, as I say, well vetted: the total was not a guess.

Now, when we look back to-day we ask whether it was worth while our going to Colombo or to Sydney, or having the London Conference; we wonder whether we did any good. Again I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. Incidentally, I should like to say in passing that I would, with great respect, advise him henceforth to confine his remarks, as he did to-day, to non-Party questions. If I may so, he is very much better when he does that. To-day he made an informative, far-reaching and helpful speech. I have heard the noble Lord when he has delved into politics, and I feel that, in view of his great experience, he makes a better contribution with speeches of this kind. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said that he had examined these schemes and he believed that the people of the Far East are no better off than they were in 1950. He gave a good reason, which was the increase in the population. That increase in the Far East outruns anything we can do. The subject of birth control would not go down very well in India and Siam and such countries. And so we get in twenty years an increase of 150,000,000 in the population—three times the total population of this country. It is impossible to formulate any plan to raise the standard of living. The problem is to maintain it.

When we decided to publish the Report, in October, 1950, I was in New York. I was called upon to attend many meetings of editors and broadcasters to try to explain the Colombo Plan. In case noble Lords are not aware of it, I may tell them now that there are no finer cross-examiners anywhere than the editors of New York newspapers. They were very much concerned about the question of whether we intended to raise the standard of living. I said that I was afraid we could not. But, I said, we were going to maintain, so far as we could, the present standard of living, in spite of the increased population. They showed some disappointment with that statement, but Americans have shown some responsibility for the Colombo Plan, and they are now actually taking part in the work of the Committee in Colombo.

With regard to the matters which were put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce of Melbourne, I must say that I rather admired his technique. The noble Viscount has referred on previous occasions to the points he mentioned to-day. He was dissatisfied with the replies he received and he has brought the points forward again in order to give the Government another chance to answer them. I think he is hoping for a better reply to-day. I am not going into the various matters to which the noble Viscount referred. He has posed some difficult questions. But what can we do? I agree that the problem of finance is a very difficult one indeed. We are told that we may overstrain our own resources and I agree that that is a danger. We may indeed, in our sympathy With the under-developed areas, strain our own resources and do more harm than good. Lord Bruce gave an indication that Russia had seen the problem quite clearly and was doing her best to prevent our dealing effectively with it. It is, indeed, her policy to prevent us from doing anything to ease the fate of these hungry millions in the Far East. And that, I think, is in turn an indication of what our policy ought to be.

I do not wish to prolong the debate. We are anxious to hear what the noble Marquess is going to tell us about the two very important Conferences which he has attended. We felt, in May, 1950, in difficult circumstances, that we had laid the foundation, and I think the structure now being built upon that foundation is a worthy one. If these millions are not fed they may be attracted to Russia. The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, referred to Pakistan and private investment. I do not know whether in his busy life he has found time to read the First Annual Report of the Consultative Committee on Economic Development in South and South-East Asia, which I have here. If he has he will have found in it references to Pakistan. In paragraph 10, on page 32, the Report says: To encourage private investment in schemes of national importance, particularly in industry, assistance is offered both directly and indirectly. In the first place, profits up to 5 per cent. of the capital investment are free of tax. Import duties on capital goods have been abolished in the 1952–53 budget. In 1949, the duty on such goods had been reduced from 10 per cent. to 5 per cent, Capital goods were exempted from sales tax in:1951–52 and as a further incentive to industry, the import of certain basic requirements, such as iron and steel, ingots, blooms, billets, slabs, &c., has also been made free of duty.… Well, my Lords, the Committee have at any rate appreciated the need for private investment, and they took a very good step forward to encourage it.

There are two names in my mind this afternoon—names of men who were closely associated with this scheme, neither of whom is with us to-day. One was the then Foreign Secretary and the other was the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Never shall I forget how, during those very difficult days in Australia, when I was leading the British delegation, I got, in every communication I received from them, which I treasure, the most friendly encouragement. They indicated their desire that this policy, which they had helped to put forward, should succeed. I am satisfied that they did not labour in vain. In Colombo, in January, 1950, the late Mr. Ernest Bevin championed this great idea for all he was worth; and when Mr. Ernest Bevin championed any idea he did not usually drop it. I am satisfied that his work done in Colombo in January, 1950, has not been in vain. There is no alternative for South and South-East Asia but that we do all we can to keep the area from the claws of Communism. If India were to go Communist, then, as sure as I stand here, Asia would go Communist. Therefore, whatever it may mean, even if it meant some easing in the expenditure on armaments, so far as I am concerned I should think we were spending more wisely if we spent in this direction. The time will come when we shall not need to spend quite so much on armaments. I should like the noble Marquess to give some indication to those in the Far East that, if and when our burden is eased, we shall do still more to assist them to deal with the poverty throughout South and South-East Asia.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for having initiated this debate, and for two reasons: first, because it gives me an opportunity, of which I shall try to take due advantage, to give the House some brief account of my stewardship at these two Conferences, and, in spite of some criticisms which have been expressed this afternoon, to convey to the House my own firm and genuine belief in the present value and the future potentialities of the work which is being done, particularly in South and South-East Asia; and secondly, because it gives me an opportunity of saying something which may be new to certain of your Lordships, although not to the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, as to the nature, function and composition of both these two main organisations, the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, and the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee, which I find are, on the whole, little understood and not a little misunderstood in this country.

In making the penultimate speech of this debate, I do not propose to devote many words to proving the case for urgent and determined action in that part of the world covered by the main burden of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and those who have followed him. As the name of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East implies, it embraces the bulk of Asia and the Far, but not the Middle, East, whilst the Colombo Plan is concerned with the more limited region of South and South-East Asia. But even within the narrower confines of the Colombo Plan territory, as has already been said, there is something like one-quarter of the population of the world concentrated, the great bulk of whom are condemned to a life-long battle for survival. More than 80 per cent. of them contrive to scrape some sort of an existence from the land in conditions which would be regarded with incredulous horror by the more fortunate peoples of the West. The main task, therefore, that confronts these countries is to raise the standard of living of the inhabitants ultimately to a more adequate level, but I agree that their efforts are for the moment perpetually complicated by the pressing and baffling problem of a steadily increasing population. In South and South-East Asia, the figure of increase is 1 per cent. a year. It may, at first sight, seem an almost negligible figure, until one begins to reflect that in India alone there is a population of something between 300,000,000 and 400,000,000, and that an increase merely of 1 per cent. represents the need to provide for between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 additional mouths every year. It may, therefore, well be that, in the development of their plans, the first preoccupation of the countries concerned must be limited to an intensive struggle simply to keep pace with the increase, and only when they have overhauled that situation will they be free to turn their attention to a general improvement in the standard of living.

In talking to various audiences since my return, I have found a rather surprising tendency to attribute this increase of population wholely to a sharply rising birth rate, but it is, of course, also due in very large measure to a steeply falling death rate operating at the same time. But, even so, although the last thing that one wants to do is to regard human beings as so many economic units, it is perhaps worth noting that even with such advantage as can be taken in these countries of recent scientific techniques and discoveries to lessen the impact of premature mortality, the fact remains that, according to State Department calculations, whilst in the developed areas of the world ninety-two out of every hundred children reach the age of fifteen, in the under-developed areas the figure is only fifty-four; and the corresponding figures for those who reach the age of sixty are, for the developed areas seventy and for the under-developed areas no more than fifteen. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that most of the countries of South and South-East Asia, though historically old, are politically young. India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma. Indonesia and the Philippines are all faced with constitutional, economic, social, and administrative problems deriving from their still recently-acquired independence, and it would be, in those circumstances. manifestly both futile and unjust to expect them at the same time to cope with this colossal question of future development unaided by the countries of the West.

There are three main channels along which external help can be directed, not to replace but to supplement the efforts made by the countries of the region on their own behalf: the provision of finance, by way either of grants or of loans (although, in practice, finance does not at the present stage constitute the main difficulty); the supply of capital goods and the furnishing of technical assistance. These are the fields covered largely both by the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East and by the Colombo Plan, but the approach of each of these bodies is, I think, sufficiently different to prevent duplication. I am glad to say that the danger of overlapping has now been further averted by an invitation recently extended to and accepted by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, just prior to the Colombo Plan meeting, as a result of which he attended that meeting as an observer and made a very valuable contribution to it.

The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is, of course, an organ of the United Nations, the counterpart for its particular area of the world of the other two Economic Commissions, the Economic Commission for Europe and the Economic Commission for Latin America. Several countries with interests in Asia and the Far East, such as France, the Netherlands and the U.S.S.R., send delegates to the meeting of the Economic Commission though not to the Colombo Plan meeting; and in addition Nationalist China and Korea are represented as members or associates. The Colombo Plan, on the other hand, was, in its inception at the meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers at Colombo in January, 1950 (whence its territorial title was derived) a family party, though the intention to extend it more widely was present from the outset and has now been realised by the inclusion of Burma. Nepal and the three associated States of Cambodia. Laos and Vietnam, while Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines send observers and, we hope, may in due course apply for full membership. Moreover, the Colombo Plan organisation has received a most welcome reinforcement by the accession to membership of the United States, which, though it does not operate directly through the agency of the Colombo Plan, nevertheless makes a most valuable contribution towards its objective and is largely guided in the canalising of its aid within the region by the discussions at and the subsequent report of the meeting of the Colombo Plan Committee.

In view of one reference in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, it may be of interest to say that it was decided at the Economic Commission's meeting at Rangoon, to ask the United Nations Economic and Social Council to agree to an extension of the geographical limits hitherto imposed upon the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, to enable Japan to come in, but that country is not at present associated in any way with the Colombo Plan. It is certainly true that Japan could make a very useful contribution to the development of countries in South and South-East Asia. The countries in that area are already looking to Japan for capital and consumer goods.


May I ask the noble Marquess a question? Japan has been mentioned before. Will the noble Marquess be dealing with the Treaty which has been reported between Japan and the Formosa Government?


No; strangely enough, I shall not, because, with all respect to the noble Viscount, it does not seem to me precisely relevant to the discussion upon the material which has been raised so far in this debate.


No, but it is, or might be, an economic question. It is not such a foolish question.


I did not say it was a foolish question. I said merely that. I was not going to deal with it because hitherto it had not been raised, and it does not seem to me to be relevant to the discussion which we are conducting this afternoon. The noble Viscount may think otherwise. As long as the world is short of dollars the possibility of Japan increasing her exports to the non-dollar areas in general in South and South-East Asia is limited; so we can only hope that if a change comes about in Korea, the situation may improve from that aspect.

If I were asked to define the respective functions of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East and the Colombo Plan, I should be disposed to say that, apart from certain obvious differences in geographical area and national membership, the main distinction could be stated in terms of an old and implacable enemy of mine, one Euclid, who divided his propositions into theorems and problems, and, as I always thought, rather smugly appended to each the letters "Q.E.D." in the one case, and "Q.E.F." in the other. So I think it is with these two organisations. The Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East is primarily concerned as the theorem, to demonstrate to the countries concerned how things can be done. On the other hand, the Colombo Plan organisation comes in as the problem, and is primarily concerned to carry out the actual undertakings.

Thus, the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East devotes a great deal of attention to surveys of and working parties and conferences upon various of the main questions of common interest to the region as a whole—such as flood control, standardisation of statistics and of technical terms, the expansion of village industries (which is a very valuable supplementary activity in countries where seasonal employment, in particular in agriculture, is so rife), transport by road, rail and inland waterways, and the possibilities of mobilisation of internal capital—a subject which may be of some interest to my noble friend Lord Rennell. It also produces a most useful annual statistical survey of the region, as well as quarterly statistical bulletins. It has at its disposal the full range of the Specialised Agencies, as they are called—the International Labour Office, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and so on.

At the Colombo Plan meeting, on the other hand, only the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development attended, represented by an observer, by invitation. The Colombo Plan is concerned not with these general considerations but with particular projects. It is of importance in this connection to realise what the Colombo Plan is and what it is not. It is not in any sense a master-plan prepared by the developed for imposition upon the under-developed countries. It is, indeed, not in itself a plan at all, but rather, I should prefer to call it, an imaginative essay in co-operation, whereby the under-developed countries prepare their own six-year plans and the developed countries are thereafter at liberty to decide by bilateral arrangements which of the under-developed countries they are willing to help, and in what enterprise, and to what extent.

It has been said that the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East possesses no funds save what it receives from the United Nations to meet the salaries of its secretariat and the expenses of its approved investigations. The Colombo Plan equally has no central pool. The estimated costs have already been mentioned this afternoon, and the programme represented by the figure of nearly £2,000,000,000 has the backing of promises by the United Kingdom, by Australia, Canada and New Zealand to provide various sums. The contribution of the United States will be seen in the Colombo Plan Report, at page 7. As this has not been referred to in any detail, perhaps I may just draw attention to it: Finance on a substantial scale has also been extended…by the United States Government; in 1950–51, about 70,000,000 dollars were made available to countries now associated with the Consultative Committee"— of course that was in the days before the Colombo Plan was actually in operation. During the year ending 30th June, 1952, approximately 150,000,000 dollars more will be extended in grants under bilateral agreements.…In addition, about 280,000,000 dollars were authorised for loans to countries in the area during the period since 1st July, 1950. This included a loan of 190,000,000 dollars to India for wheat. The Report goes on to indicate that the International Bank has also negotiated loans which have been of very great value. The United Kingdom has made a very considerable contribution, not only by its release of sterling balances but also by its sales of capital equipment, to the countries of the area. In the past three years, the United Kingdom has supplied nearly half the South and South-East Asian imports of metals and engineering products. Our exports of these goods are running at two and a half times the prewar volume. The Colombo Plan took nearly 20 per cent. of our exports of machinery in 1949. As regards value, the figures were £53,500,000 in 1949–50 and £58,000,000 in 1951. The prospects now are, I think, better than at one time seemed likely; and there are signs of the ability of the United Kingdom to maintain that figure during and, one hopes, after the current year. On page 60 the Report says: Provided that orders have been placed in good time,"— that is an important condition: there is no reason to believe that, in general, Colombo Plan projects will be seriously retarded by failure to obtain capital equipment at the appropriate stage in their execution. This provision of capital goods has, I think, enabled progress to be made on a number of large-scale schemes in the area—and may I just say this in passing? One or two noble Lords, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, inclined to the view that there had been an undue concentration upon industry at the cost of agriculture. There have been many moments, I am glad to say, when the noble Lord., Lord Rennell, and I have taken the same view on current politics, but on this particular subject I am somewhat disinclined to agree with him. I should have said it was much the credit of the countries concerned that they have been willing to put as much emphasis on agriculture, as distinct from industry, as, in fact, they have proved willing to dc. The tendency in a new country, I think, is always rather to turn to industry, because it is there that you get your results; you get an appearance of great development and of participation in the general industrial development of the world. At the same time you may let your agriculture fall behind.

I think one of the important results achieved by the Karachi Conference was that we were able to convince the countries of the region that greater emphasis was required to be placed upon the agricultural production, as distinct from industrial output. I hope very much that, when the schemes come to maturity, that agreement will bear fruit. After all, the sort of main schemes with which they are concerned are very much bound up with the development of agriculture. Where they branch off into industrial matters it frequently occurs that the factories which they propose to set up are designed to produce goods which will increase the production and development of agriculture in the country itself. Taking Ceylon, for instance, there is a scheme, first, for a cement factory which is now actually working and enables housing to be pushed forward. Secondly, there is a scheme for the production of fertilisers which are of great value in increasing and varying the particular agricultural products of the country. These have all formed parts of the Colombo Plan programme.

Many of the schemes are, of course, of a large-scale irrigation character. In Ceylon again there is the Gal Oya project which is now well under way and intended ultimately to irrigate 130,000 acres; and a hydro-electric scheme providing 75,000 kilowatts. In India there are the multi-purpose river valley projects for irrigation and electric power, such as the Bakhra-Nangal scheme, where one of the dams across the River Sutlej will not be much smaller than the great Boulder Dam in the United States. And there is a £37,000,000 project in the Damadar valley. The Pakistan projects include, one to produce 140,000 more kilowatts of thermal power, and improvement of ship repair and docking facilities particularly at Chittagong; also the Lower Sind Barrage Scheme, which I was fortunate enough to be able to see when I was there. This will increase the cultivable area by over 1,500,000 acres and should be completed next year. In Thal, in the Punjab, there is a composite scheme which I did not actually see but of which I saw a very interesting film. This scheme extends over an area of 2,000,000 acres and includes irrigation, land colonisation and road development. It must be remembered that these are not isolated schemes. They are conceived as balanced development. Where you have a scheme built up like this Thal scheme you have provision for your roads, your housing, your schools and so forth. So you have the whole composite project going forward as one whole.

I think technical assistance is of immense importance and that is perhaps, in these days of somewhat straitened financial circumstances in this country, the field in which we can give the most direct and the most prompt assistance. There are three kinds of technical assistance: bringing home to this country for training people front the countries of the area; sending out specialists from here to assist on the spot; and the provision of technical equipment—which is itself a very important matter—in order to provide methods of instruction in the various schools, technical colleges and laboratories, arid so forth, which are being set up for training people locally upon the actual ground. When we speak of technical assistance I think we must bear in mind that we are not talking merely about sending out a few very highly qualified persons to these countries. What is meant by "technical assistance" is increasing the degree of knowledge right down the scale to the actual foreman working on the job. Until that knowledge percolates down there will always be the risk that the staff will not be available to prevent breakdowns, in spite of the very considerable sums which are being spent on these different projects. We ought in this country to be the main source of such experts. After all, in the past British engineers, administrators and teachers have been found all over the world, and they are still almost everywhere, for the need of them is greater than ever.

This increased need comes at a moment when our manpower is stretched almost to the limit and there is no lack of opportunities of employment at home. But it is important to remember that there is in the Ministry of Labour special official machinery, the Employment Service Department, for finding experts such as are required. The late Government set up, under the Chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, the Technical Personnel Committee, consisting of officials and representatives of industry and the universities, part of whose task is to examine what can be done to increase the supply of technicians. This Committee is still at work and has a sub-Committee which concentrates its attention on overseas requirements. One of our chief difficulties is to find ways of assuring these specialists about their future on their return from posts abroad. Her Majesty's Government have agreed to release civil servants, if necessary on secondment, and industry and the academic world could also play a part if they could agree to the release of certain members of their staffs on generous terms. Men are required of a wide variety of skills—academic staff of all kinds, chemists, industrial experts, doctors and surgeons (as the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, pointed out), high level administrators and agricultural scientists. Most particularly, we need men of eminence and high calibre and with a real sense of vocation; men who will be prepared to approach in a pioneering spirit the task of creating much out of little; men with personalities that will inspire the respect of the people among whom they work.

I think we should all feel that this country was failing in its duty, and at the same time losing something of its status in the world, if such men could not be found. I believe that the combination of all these various agencies and parallel forces now at work in this part of the world is capable of producing, over a period of time, most notable and lasting results. But the change cannot come from one day to another, nor can the achievements of a six-year plan be detected in much more than outline at the end of the first year. Nevertheless, the great strength of these organisations is in the immense importance attached to them by the actual countries of the region in which they work and in the manifest determination of these countries to make these tasks a success. It is perhaps not surprising that at the start some of the projects devised under both organisations were to some degree "airborne." It is to the credit of such conferences of both bodies as have already taken place that they have succeeded in re-establishing solid contact with the earth and reducing or reshaping schemes to conform to the realities of the economic situation. I gather that at the previous meeting of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East the task of resisting the frontal attack by the Russian representatives had largely rested with the delegates from the Western countries. It was interesting and heartening to observe that on this last occasion the counter-attacks were carried out by the countries of the region themselves, without the need of external support—and very effectively, too.

Before turning to some of the points made by noble Lords in their speeches, I should like to pay tribute to the obvious pains which the Government of Burma, in the case of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, and the Government of Pakistan, in the case of the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee, had taken, with so much success, to assure the smooth working of the Conference and provide for the comfort of those attending. As frequently happens on such occasions, the contacts and conversations between delegates of the various countries which took place in the Green Room or in the wings were not less important or friendly or helpful than those presented upon the stage of the plenary sessions. I am sure that it will be a satisfaction to the House to know that relations between all the Commonwealth countries and the British Colonies taking part in both Conferences could not have been more cordial and co-operative, both in public and in private. Indeed, the harmony between them seemed to cause genuine astonishment to some of the delegates from other countries, who had apparently been persuaded that the United Kingdom held the Commonwealth at the full length of its arm and the Colonies under the full weight of its foot.

If I may, I will turn to some of the points that have been made by noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lard Henderson, said that there was no single overall plan. That is perfectly true. My own view is that that is an advantage. So long as we succeed in preventing overlapping between such agencies and plans as exist, I am not so enamoured of the large-scale plan as to want to see it applied all over the world_ I believe that plans conducted on this scale and to this degree are more likely to have the effect which is required upon the inhabitants of these countries, to establish a more cordial and warmer sense of co-operation, as distinct from dictation, than any overall plan could ever hope to achieve.

The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, with his great experience, gave us an interesting speech. I think that I have dealt in what I have already said with some of the matters that lie raised. He spoke about population. If any steps are to be taken about this aspect, they are not a matter for the Colombo Plan Consultative Committee. This is a matter which must be handled by the countries of the area, according to their own requirements and desires and the policies of their own Governments and people. The noble Lord spoke of balanced development, and I entirely agree with that. I think one of the strengths of the Colombo Plan Organisation is that it has produced schemes which are balanced in this development and which fit into a logical scheme of economic priorities in the countries which are concerned.

The noble Lord further spoke of the fragmentation of land, of ignorance and lethargy, and said that the only solution lies with Governments. In spite of what my noble friend Lord Rennell said, I think that at this stage of the plan the only solution lies, to a very large extent, with Governments. The Colombo Plan Organisation insist upon the hope that private investment will come into the de- velopment of these schemes. But until you have got a stage at which you can mobilise such private capital for investment as may be available, in these various countries; until you have something to show which will attract the private capital into these developments, then although I may not normally be greatly wedded to Governments' taking part in these things to such a large extent, in this particular case—and you have to look at the circumstances of each country you are dealing with, and deal with them on their local basis and not by comparison with what might happen in some, other part of the world—I think it is right to say that, in the beginning, development is bound to be to a large extent under Government auspices.

The noble Lord asked whether the programme was succeeding. It is early days to say. But as I have already said, the most satisfactory aspect of it is that those who are chiefly concerned with it are determined that succeed it shall. That is the best incentive and the best impulse to make it succeed. I quite agree that over-taxing and over-extending ourselves at home is not likely to improve the prospects of our being able to help in South and South-East Asia, and that is a factor which we must always bear in mind.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, dealt with the economic side. I must take this much credit to myself as to say that I think I have read at least three of the Reports to which he referred, and very admirable documents they are—although I think that when one sets out on a scheme like the Colombo Plan it perhaps tills one with a certain depression to be confronted with the astronomical figures to which he referred. The Technical Assistance Board, to which the noble Viscount referred, the Technical Co-operation Council and Co-operation Bureau which have been set up under the Colombo Plan, not working at cross-purposes but working in the same field and with very close liaison between them, will no doubt lead in the course of time to very substantial development. But the noble Viscount probably will not be very pleased with me when I say that at this moment, and with the situation that confronts us at home, it would he difficult for us to embark upon any promise in regard to vastly increased funds for the future. At the same time, we have committed ourselves to the work in this area, not merely as a gesture but as a reality; and we do mean to concentrate great attention on it, to carry it forward and put as much zeal—and if zeal does not carry us far enough, as much more material contribution as we can make available—towards producing its success. When he talks about leadership in this country, I may say that certainly in matters of this sort, this country has an unrivalled experience; and it may well be that it is just the sort of field in which this country can assert, or, if the noble Viscount prefers, reassert, its leadership.

I have ventured to deal with certain of the points made by my noble friend Lord Rennell. He asked me, in particular, where the £156,000,000 came from. That was an estimate of a figure required in September, 1950, when the Plan was first drawn up. The reason why I cannot tell him where the money came from is that the money has not, in fact, come from anywhere, because, owing to the increase in the receipts in the Budgets of the countries themselves, they have been able to finance that expenditure out of their own increased resources. And therefore it has not been necessary to look outside their own finance for the provision of that sum.


Hear, hear!


I am delighted that that information causes my noble friend transitory satisfaction. Something was said about the need for getting this Colombo Plan idea across to the people. Of course, that is, to a large degree, a matter which the Governments themselves must do. I would say only that while I was out in Pakistan I saw several films similar to the one to which I have just referred, which were shown to us just as they are shown in the villages all over Pakistan, from a travelling cinema at night, with people gathering round. I hope that in that way the possibilities and the achievements will be brought home to a substantial number of people.

I did not intentionally omit any reference to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest. I fully share his view of the importance of the medical aspect of this problem, and if I may give him, in passing, one ray of encouragement, in addition to saying that these new develop- ment schemes are balanced development and, therefore, will provide better housing, better education, better hospitals and medical attention, even under the Colombo Plan itself, I think he will find that the New Zealand contribution to Ceylon (merely to give one example) has gone to the creation of a tuberculosis hospital in Colombo. That is only one aspect, which is, I fully agree, capable of almost infinite expansion. I think the desirable method of progress is to get the balanced policy developed on all sides, and going steadily forward, certainly not forgetting the medical side, which is so essential to all progress.

I want to say just one other word before I close. A good deal of emphasis has been laid this afternoon upon the value of these plans as a deterrent to Communism. That is, of course, perfectly true: contentment and prosperity are the most powerful antidotes to Communism in any country. But, at the same time, I think it would be wrong to place too much emphasis upon the anti-Communist purpose of these plans. Our purpose is not necessarily to exclude Russian trade from the whole area: our purpose is to increase all trade inside those areas. I think the real way to look at the efforts which have been made it not as an ideological conflict but as a great humanitarian undertaking.

If I may end on a more personal note, it was to me not only an intensely interesting but a greatly encouraging experience to have the privilege of representing Her Majesty's Government at these two Conferences. If my presence was of any effect—and I venture to hope that it may have been—in convincing the countries of the region of the deep and abiding concern of Her Majesty's Government with the welfare of the region in general, and with the steady expansion of the activities of these two major agencies in particular, I shall be proud and happy to feel that the main purpose of my mission was fulfilled. I found everywhere the most genuine good will towards this country, full and sympathetic understanding of her immediate difficulties and generous recognition of the efforts she is making, not only to restore her own equilibrium but at the same time to succour, sustain and hearten the multitudinous peoples of that diverse and vital area of the world.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, at the end of the discussion which has taken place I feel that I was fully justified in placing on the Order Paper a Motion which dealt with aid to under-developed areas. With the exception of myself, I think every speaker who has taken part in this debate has spoken from personal knowledge of the areas we have been discussing. That emphasises the importance and value of their support to the Motion, because it is clear to me that on this issue there is general agreement in all parts of the House. There may be differences of emphasis On one aspect or another, and differences have been expressed. There may also be doubts on one aspect or another—the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, raised one doubt—but I think by and large there is complete agreement it your Lordships' House as to the urgency and gravity of this problem and as to the need for Her Majesty's Government to play their full part in the organisations to which they are party, particularly in connection with the Colombo Plan.

I should like to thank the noble Marquess who has replied on behalf of the Government. He has dealt with a number of the points which I put to him, and I am grateful for the information which he has given. In this connection, I would mention also the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, and the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. Between them they have clarified my mind to some extent as to the relationships between the various agencies and organisations dealing with mutual aid, and the inter-relationship and functions which exist between them. There will be great interest in your Lordships' discussion, not only in this country but in other countries. It may be of interest to your Lordships that during the course of our discussion a Medical Officer by Bangkok and another from Iraq have been sitting listening to your Lordships' views on these urgent and important matters which concern their countries. It is interesting to know that on a short visit to this land they should be able to take the opportunity of hearing matters affecting them discussed in your Lordships' House. Having said that, I do not think there is any need for me to detain your Lordships any longer and, with the permission of the House, I will withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.