HL Deb 06 July 1955 vol 193 cc455-77

2.45 p.m.

LORD OGMORE rose to call attention to the situation in the colonial territories with particular reference to the Report of the Secretary of State for the Colonies for the year 1954–55 (Cmd. 9489); and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am afraid you may think that the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper to-day is expressed in rather wide terms. It is put in that way intentionally, because I feel that once a year we should have a general debate upon the annual statement of the Secretary of State, looking upon the colonial problem as a whole and using by way of illustration the conditions in any particular colonial territory that is apposite. On occasions when I have put down Motions relating to one territory or to a rather narrow field, the objection has usually been expressed by noble Lords opposite that the Motion was too narrow and that they could find little to say about it. I hope that to-day they will not criticise me for putting down a Motion in terms which I trust will satisfy them, as well as noble Lords on this side of the House. As your Lordships know, the debates in your Lordships' House are widely reported in the colonial Press. Though possibly they do not always get a great deal of publicity here, that is certainly not the case in the Colonies, and I, for one, after any colonial debate in which I have taken part, find that a fine crop of leading articles comes to me and is garnered into my files.

There are two schools of thought about the Report itself. One says that it should be cut down a great deal and a lot of it expunged; the other says that as this is the only Report we have in the year, it should be a full one. I must admit that I am a protagonist of the second point of view. Even the infinitesimal proportion of the British public that is interested in the Colonies can hardly be expected to go chasing round bookstalls looking for the latest individual reports on the various territories. I hope that Mr. Evans, who edits the Report, will die in the last departmental ditch, or roast in the hottest bureaucratic fire, before he agrees to the slimming of the Report.

The contents of the Report, of course, do not make light reading. It is full to overflowing with facts, and it is almost entirely a work of reference. However, it is a most valuable work of reference, and I make no complaint about that. Nevertheless, I feel that the way in which the subjects are dealt with generally is a little irritating. For example, if a reader wants to ascertain conditions in Malaya, or in any other territory, he has to chase through all the headings so that in the end he can obtain a complete picture. I suggest that it might be better if the Report gave a complete picture under each territorial heading. It is true that there are pros and cons. In some ways it might be easier, if the reader wanted to look at the labour or medical conditions, say, to look at all the territories under the one heading; but I imagine that for most readers it would be more convenient if all the subject matter relating to one territory were put under a territorial heading, rather than under a subject heading.

As to the ideas behind the Report, I have often suggested to your Lordships that one of the great defects in the Colonial Office and in our colonial set-up is that there has been no planning organisation whose concern has been to plan for the future. The Colonial Office has an immense knowledge of the Colonies and a vast amount of factual information, but the Ministers and the senior officials are immersed in day-to-day matters. The Colonial Office is a Whitehall in itself. Clouds darken the horizon: the storm can be anticipated; but it never is, and the ensuing deluge always takes the British public completely by surprise. When a series of riots takes place it is the practice to set up a Commission comprised of people with one common qualification—that they know nothing whatsoever about the area on which they are to make recommendations. We go from crisis to crisis, as it were. In most cases, the reasons for the crisis can be foreseen. I do not know whether it is too late now, but, if it is not, I should welcome the setting up of some small body in the Colonial Office, divorced from day-to-day matters, whose duty it would be to consider the future, much as in the War Office there is a small staff always thinking out the future and making plans to meet possible contingencies.

I propose to refer to some of the major problems in the colonial territories, most of which are referred to in the Report. The first one to which I propose to refer—and it is only a short reference—is the recent Report of the East Africa Royal Commission (Cmd. 9475). This is a voluminous, careful and thought-provoking Report. It is far too great a subject to deal with at any length to-day, and I think, with your Lordships' permission, that we ought to have a debate on it in the autumn, if my friends on this side will agree, and the Government will agree, because it is of vital importance to Africa. I have read a good deal of the Report and there is one observation that comes to my mind at the moment this is, that to some extent the proposals appear to be framed in an agricultural and industrial vacuum. The proposals require fundamental changes in custom and tribal ownership of lands. It is not always realised, I think, by the framers of a Report how difficult it is to get these customs and ownership rules changed, even in the United Kingdom. In the main conclusions on chapter 5, paragraph 4, it says this: One principle is fundamental, viz., if modern economic institutions are to evolve they must be freed to the fullest extent from he political authority of the tribe when it is obstructive.

In Britain even small changes in land custom are violently resisted. The Government, in spite of pledges by Welsh Conservative candidates, and in spite of the desire by Welsh people, put the Whips on and in the last Parliament the English Members defeated the wishes of the Welsh people over land reform in Wales. In the United Kingdom, therefore, we are still not free from the political authority of the tribe, even when it is obstructive. I am glad to note that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who was recently one of our tribal leaders, our tribal representatives, in this House—as an elder, of course—agrees with me.

Another extract from paragraph 5 in the same chapter says: It will be necessary to enlist the support of those members of the tribes who command the confidence of the people so that the essential transition from this old tribal system of tenure to one which meets the requirement of economic progress can be accomplished with the least possible social disturbance. Take our own system here. In my view, a good deal of the legal administration and the organisation of the legal professions of this country is an ancient but rickety edifice, long out of keeping with its surroundings. Only a fortnight ago the Government brought in a Bill to shore up its sagging walls, but any suggestion of reform calls up the strongest opposition from the politicians and the lawyers; so we in the United Kingdom have found it impossible to command the confidence of the people in the essential transition from this old tribal system to the new one which is required. Why, therefore, should we expect primitive African tribesmen to be so much more enlightened, versatile and elastic than English politicians or English lawyers?

While these recommendations are to some extent perfectly sound—many of them are perfectly sound from an agricultural and industrial point of view—they really beg the broader question which is whether you can easily transform these customs and traditions, if you want to do so, purely for economic reasons. I should have said that the basic African agricultural needs include the provision of land, new and old, for agricultural development on modern lines and the provision of the necessary services from a central pool for finance, equipment, marketing, seeds, and so on—the sort of suggestion I have put many times to your Lordships for this central organisation, which I call the hub and the wheel, the hub being the central marketing and servicing organisation, and the spokes and the rim of the wheel being the farmers, co-operative or private, operating in contact with the centre.

To turn to another issue, we are much concerned to-day with a large number of small territories, some of them not particularly small in size but economically small, in the sense that in all probability they will never be able to stand on their own feet. We have loaded up many of these tiny islands, usually about the size of the Isle of Wight and with something of its population, with an imposing and expensive governmental superstructure of executive councils, legislative councils, municipal corporations and so on. Places like Singapore, Malta, Aden, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, the Seychelles, and Gambia, are all in this situation. I should have thought that what we ought to have done—it is a little late now, of course—was to have one council or territory for all domestic affairs and another larger body outside, in connection with our own country here, to deal with their external affairs.

The present Government and the Colonial Office have given no leadership up to now on this particular question, which has become acute recently in the case of Malta. There is over here at the moment a deputation from Malta, and they, I understand, have been seeing the Government and have had a conference with them. It may be that the Government will make a statement on the result of the conference. All I have to say is that the Government should remember, in whatever solution they come to on this problem, that others are watching the present conference and its outcome, and will inevitably regard it, rightly or wrongly, as a precedent. I am fairly sure that a claim for similar treatment will soon come from quite a number of territories. Therefore Malta, in my view, cannot be regarded in isolation. Although it has elements which make it almost unique, it will be regarded as a precedent. Then there is Cyprus. I was going to say a good deal about Cyprus today, but in view of the welcome news that the Government have decided to call a conference between themselves, the Greek and the Turkish Governments, and that the other two Governments have accepted the invitation, it would be better to say nothing more than to support the Government in their proposals and to hope that they will have an entirely satisfactory outcome.

Now I move forward to the difficulties which are being experienced in various places on the question of the relationship between the Government and the Opposition. We might, I think, if we had had these high-powered gentlemen thinking about some of the problems that are facing us, have had some guidance on this matter; but in fact the boats in the various Colonies and colonial territories have been pushed out into the stream with very little guidance from anybody, and the proper relationship between Government and Opposition has never been worked out. No leads have been given to them. In this country we have, over centuries, in a rough and ready way worked out the principles for ourselves, so far as there are any. They have never been written down, but there are unwritten rules of the way in which Governments treat Oppositions and the way in which Oppositions expect to be treated by Governments—not always the same thing. They are fairly well known and, by and large, we do play according to the rules. But in these new territories there are no rules. No one has ever suggested what the rules should be. The position has become difficult in the Gold Coast because so far there is obviously a failure there in the maintenance of proper Parliamentary relationships. Recently there was a threat by a Minister with regard to the Opposition, to which we should certainly object most strongly if it were made here by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, or by any of his colleagues. I do not think for one moment that he would make such a threat. This threat was to execute, imprison or expel the Opposition Leaders at a later date. I imagine that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, would join with me in deprecating that very much, however much at times he might feel inclined to sympathise with that Minister.

The National Liberation Movement in the Gold Coast is the Opposition. That has grown up recently, and it has grown up because of the objection felt by the people in the Central Area of the Gold Coast, the Ashanti people, to what they regard as the undue dominance of the politicians in the South. They have suggested that the God Coast Constitution should be changed from a unitary Constitution to a federal one, in view of the differences in standards, experience and background of the various parts of the Gold Coast. They also suggested that there should he an inquiry into the activities of the Cocoa Marketing Board, but what they really want is an inquiry into the business side of it, the Cocoa Purchasing Company. They ask for the appointment of a mediator to go out there to see if he can bring the Government and the Opposition together. They have suggested someone of the status of Professor Hancock, Professor Weir, Professor Mackenzie or Dr. Ivor Jennings for the purpose. They want the Constitution to be known and discussed before the Act of Independence is passed and to be a schedule to it. Finally, they want the Prime Minister to agree to an election immediately after the Act of Independence has been passed.

It is not for me to say whether all or any of these demands or requirements—call them what you will—by the Opposition in the Gold Coast are soundly based. I do not know; I think it would need an Inquiry to find out. But the tension in the Gold Coast at the moment, especially in Ashanti, where there is a large number of armed police and troops, calls for a mediator, someone of the calibre that they have suggested, to go out there to see whether he can bring the two sides together. I feel that, fundamentally, there is a failure to work together in a proper Parliamentary way as a Government and an Opposition. Quite frankly, for that failure I think that we in this House and our colleagues in the House of Commons. both Government and Opposition, must all take a certain amount of responsibility, because we have never really given the people help in the way that they should have had help to try to draw up a series of rules, or given them the necessary advice from our long experience in the delicate business of handling a Parliamentary democracy.

This brings me to a further point. It can see a difficulty looming ahead quite soon, and nothing has been done to meet it or to prepare for it. The Commonwealth is overwhelmingly Asian. Soon, when the new territories come into it, there will be almost as many African members in it as Europeans, and there will soon be knocking at the door the new countries—Malaya, the Gold Coast, Nigeria, the West Indian Federation and the Central African Federation. What is being done in this country to prepare the way? What is being done to prepare the old countries for the reception of the new, or the new countries for the sort of way in which they will be expected to carry on when they are independent members of the Commonwealth? Nothing much was done in the case of India, Pakistan or Ceylon, and I imagine that nothing much has been done now, because we are inclined to treat this subject as an unmentionable—as something that must never be mentioned. That is complete nonsense. These are the sort of delicate questions that ought to be dealt with now, and if there is anything that we can do to smooth the advent of the new territories into the Commonwealth, then we should do it, because in some cases they have nothing like the long experience of, for instance, India and the Indian Ministers behind them. They are coming into this new realm of world affairs and Commonwealth affairs with very little preparation indeed.

Independence, as vie know, does not mean self-sufficiency. To use an analogy, it is rather like an aircraft with navigational aids from the ground. It looks as if the aircraft is going along at its own sweet will, in any way it likes; but, in fact, it is rigorously confined to certain air routes and is all the time in contact with the ground and using navigational aids. That is what will be necessary for many of these new States when they become independent. They will not be in a position to handle their own economic affairs. There is, and there will be for a long time, a great need for economic and technical assistance for them, and it will be necessary to second from the other Commonwealth countries, including our own, a large number of technicians to assist them in developing their economies. Only recently in The Times there was a most interesting and valuable letter from Ministers of the Northern Nigerian Government appealing for anyone who had resigned from the Sudan Service to go to Northern Nigeria where they were only too anxious to receive them. In Malaya to-day the same thing applies.

There is a great shortage in Malaya of technical assistance, particularly in agriculture. I had a letter about it only yesterday. In the development of those countries, that is one of the prime necessities. I believe it will not be done by expecting people to go out for many years, for the rest of their lives, to these territories. During the time that I was Chairman of the Colonial Research Council we found that, and we did our best and eventually succeeded in getting common terms of agreement between the universities, the research organisations here and the Colonial research organisations, so that a man could go out for a time to the Colonies and then return to this country, either to the research organisations here or to the universities. First-class men will not be obtained unless something of that kind is developed throughout the various branches of service, both Government and otherwise.

I regret to say that the nationalised industries, as yet, do not take this point of view. It is not enough for research organisations or even for the Government; this same latitude, this same elasticity, must pertain in all branches of our national life—trade unions, cooperatives, private industry, nationalised industry, municipalities and so on. In other words, if a town clerk is required for some place in Africa, it should be possible to get him from a municipal organisation here to serve a few years and then to return to his organisation in this country. But the nationalised industries do not take that point of view. The Coal Board is a defaulter. My information from Nigeria is that the coal mines there have applied for people from the Coal Board, and the Coal Board will not guarantee that, if those people come back to this country after service in Nigeria for a few years, they will retain their seniority. In other words, they must come back and hope for the best. I do not think that is good enough. A nationalised industry such as a Government service or the municipalities should lead the way in this field, and I hope that the Coal Board will do so. I should like to ask the Minister a question about the Overseas Civil Service. How does this fit into the pattern? Is it anything more than an old lamp under a new name? My information is that not much is happening in the sphere of the Overseas Civil Service. Are there any recruits coming from other parts of the Commonwealth? Are there any Asian or African recruits? Are there any Canadian or Australian recruits?

Now I should like to say a word about the economy of Malaya. As we all know, there is a great need for diversifying the economy. There is a need for the production of primary and cash crops, to lessen dependence upon tin and rubber, and a need to replace old rubber trees with young and high-yielding strains. There is a great need in Malaya for capital to carry out these objectives. In fact, there is a great need for capital in all territories. I am rather surprised to see that last year far less capital was poured into the colonial territories than the year before. There was a statement quoted in The Times which I thought rather misleading—not through the fault of The Times. That statement implied that the World Bank had sent representatives to Malaya who had recommended that £90 million-plus (that is, a little more than £90 million) should be spent on the Federation and £71 million, or a little more, on Singapore. I must admit that, from the terms of paragraph 327 of the Annual Report, I thought that this meant that the World Bank was going to spend this amount; that that was the recommendation by the Bank. But by no means. It appears that this was simply a recommendation by the Bank to the Governments of the Federation and Singapore that they should spend this amount. But there was no suggestion as to where they are going to get it. I imagine that the Federation and Singapore know as well as anybody what they require: what they want is someone to provide the money, and I hope that the Bank will do something more than make a pious exhortation; I hope they will come up with some cash. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, will tell us what is happening there.

Finally, I should like to say a word about the Aden Protectorate. Tribesmen, or anybody else for that matter, do not revolt or engage in warfare, ambushes and other war-like excursions without a reason—there is always something behind it. I think we were all startled only a fortnight ago to find that the Government had been bombing the homes and property of the tribesmen under their protection in the Aden Protectorate. In Roman times that part of Asia used to be called "Arabia Felix." I imagine that in these days we might call it "Arabia Infelix." While I was at the Colonial Office my attention was called to the Aden Protectorate by the excellent irrigation schemes there installed by the members of the Aden Agricultural Department. In certain areas, the desert was yielding high and very good crops from the irrigation. Then we had the anti-locust patrol, hunting and destroying the hoppers before they could take wing. But to-day the Government have turned our ploughshares into swords, and they have bombed, I think indiscriminately, the property of these tribesmen.

The tribesmen are a property-owning democracy, and I should have thought that, for that reason alone, they might have had some call on the sympathies of the Government. The Government are advocating a property-owning democracy here, yet are bombing it in Aden. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, objected to my use of the word "indiscriminate," but what else is it when the Government launch Thunder-jets against helpless villages, and when the good and the bad, the well-to-do and the poor, the evil and the innocent, are all treated alike? What discrimination can there possibly be in that? I should like to ask the noble Lord what is beneath it all. What is this seething beneath the crust of the Aden Protectorate? Have the Yemen any influence? Have they been supplying arms to the tribesmen?

It has been suggested that, basically, this is an economic issue, that some of the tribesmen who are camel-owners object to the motor transport which is being introduced by firms into the Aden Protectorate and is taking away their business. That is an economic argument. If it is true, why do the Government not try to deal with the economy, rather than by bombing the homes of people who might have nothing to do with this matter at all? If the Yemen have an influence it will be necessary to deal with them rather than with the villages we have been dealing with. We are told in a heading in the Daily Telegraph of July 2 last that Air control breaks down. We are told that the 1st Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders and one squadron of the Life Guards have been sent there. Does that mean that the bombing has now been found to have been as useless as it was indiscriminate? I think that the House and the country ought to have information on that point. I hope that your Lordships will not think that I have been too discursive in introducing this Motion. But this is a big subject and I have tried to pick out the important factors and the problems that. I think should be picked out on this, our annual review of the Report by the Secretary of State. I beg to move for Papers.

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, in reading this Report no one can fail to be impressed by the immense amount of work which is being done by many devoted officials, and I think we should pay a tribute to our officials who are doing this work. Certainly, this Report rebuts the charge, which we still hear, that we are neglecting our colonial territories. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that it is a pity that this Report is not presented in a more readable form, and that it does not reach a wider circle in this country.

In spite of the fullness of the Report, I am left with the impression that no one can guess what it is trying to achieve. Here we are dealing with millions of people who have been left behind in the great material advance achieved by the Western World—-people who are awakening and who are disturbed. Into this scene of confusion are poured hundreds of experts: there are American experts, supplied by the Foreign Operations Administration of the United States Government; there are United Nations experts, supplied under the Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance; there are experts under the auspices of the Overseas Territories Committee of O.E.E.C.; and there are experts reporting to American corporations on the opportunities for private investment under the auspices of O.E.E.C. We read in this Report that there has been financial aid from the United States, under the Mutual Security Act; financial aid through the International Bank; through the Colonial and Welfare funds; through public loans, through loans from the British Government and through grants-in-aid from the British Government for many specific purposes—reconstruction, emergency supplies and assistance, war damage, rehabilitation and resettlement. Some of these efforts are welcomed by the local inhabitants; some have been coldly received with suspicion, and others positively rejected.

It is not surprising that a clear picture does not emerge from all these operations. The territories and peoples involved are scattered and diverse and, particularly in Africa, there is a general reaction to any happening in a particular area. In the different territories the stage of political responsibility varies so much that in one, for instance—the Gold Coast—a responsible British Minister could speak of the last stage having been reached before the assumption of full responsibility for its own affairs, whereas in other territories the first stages along this road have hardly been reached. In looking at this confused picture it is necessary to get clear in our minds the simple fact that, in potential capacity, these peoples are not different beings from Europeans. They have been left behind in the race for material progress for two simple reasons: first, they have been hemmed in with restrictions, embodied in tribal customs perpetuating a mere subsistence economy; secondly, a hampering conception of security has dominated their economy and restricted their action. This is a lesson which sonic of our would-be reformers have not yet fully learned; and the backwardness of these people should be an ever-present warning against the deadening effect of restrictions upon the potentialities of human enterprise. But restrictions are always difficult to remove, and age-long restrictions are hallowed with reverence. Those who have been kept in darkness cannot face the light without danger to the sight; and in endeavouring to free these peoples from their restrictions we must act with caution. If we must be clear what we are doing we must also be clear that if the aim is to raise the standard of living of these peoples these restrictions must go. And the only way that they can go is by outsiders, who are not so inhibited, coming to live among them and teaching them. Colonists are not, therefore, usurpers but potential benefactors—and the only possible benefactors if raising the standard of living is to be our aim. Let us be clear on that.

If my analysis so far is right we must also keep a very clear idea of what can and cannot be done by Governments. We must distinguish between business and charity—and I use the word in no disparaging sense: charity is a proper ingredient in any professedly Christian or religious society. But we must keep a clear distinction between charity and business. From some expenditure—the charitable side—no direct material return is to be expected. It will be used to mitigate the dangers involved in breaking down age-long traditions and restrictions. But, for the rest, if these people are to be freed from restrictions they must be encouraged not to rely upon the Government for everything. The Government must not do what the people can be encouraged to do for themselves, so I think that the main concentration of Government activity will have to be upon communications, water, the provision of power, and possibly some pilot schemes, and upon health and education. Housing should be linked with industry. With the building of factories there must also be housing provision. Settled labour, replacing migrant labour, is essential to modern agriculture, and the two things should be developed together: but, as an overriding principle, aid must be concentrated where it is likely to be most effective. That is an old maxim of the classical economists which has been too much overlooked in recent years. The work of the many experts to which I have referred should be made to fit in with the picture that I have sketched.

There are two others matters dealt with in the Report to which I should like to refer. First, I should like to welcome the very clear movement towards federal grouping. There are the Federations of Nigeria, of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, of Malaya and of the British Caribbean. This is a pattern which is encouraging in our picture, but as these Federal Governments emerge, I should like to see a more definite attempt made to associate the Home Government with them on a basis of equality within the scope of their functions. I should like to see a British Minister jointly responsible, with the local Ministers, for external relations and external trade, so completing a Federal set-up in which this country is associated in the federal capital. I think that we have to do more thinking and more experimenting in consultation with these developing territories for I do not consider that it is either in their best interests or in ours that the ultimate commercial relations between them and this country should be as they are now between this country and members of the Commonwealth, with all sorts of trade barriers between them.

The other matters to which I shall refer are Sections 472 to 475 dealing with the proposed Organisation for Trade Cooperation—the former G.A.T.T. I have already referred to this matter in your Lordships' House and I do not want to repeat what I said then. I should, however, like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government really consider it in the interests of these colonial territories to stimulate, or artificially to encourage, uneconomic production on the promise of a secured market in this country. That is not the way to build a stable economy in these territories; nor is it the way to treat the consumer in this country. I should have thought that the recent trouble over grapefruit might have been a lesson. So much nonsense is talked about dumping; yet all over London, at this moment, shop windows are full of goods being offered at reductions of up to 50 per cent., at prices at which the goods cannot be repeated. In fact, they are guilty of dumping their goods upon the market, and I have no doubt that there are other traders who dislike and resent their action, and would like it made illegal. The logical outcome of the type of thinking which is shown in these paragraphs would be to make such sales illegal. No, my Lords, it is a normal and salutary feature of trade to sell sometimes in this way.

It is a different matter if a Government takes a hand in the game, or if there is too great a concentration of power in the hands of a single organisation. But such cases must be dealt with by inter-governmental action. Duties are quite an ineffective weapon. It is unfortunate that today Governments having so much power tend to believe that they have still more power than they do, in fact, possess. Consequently, they are apt to look upon the normal functioning of the market with suspicion. It is necessary to keep on repeating that a stable economy is built only upon processes which can be performed economically. I should like to plead against the action proposed on other grounds. What causes trouble in the world is when you allow a practice in your own country, and declare it unfair in another country, and then discriminate against it. Any action taken in discrimination should surely be based upon some clear moral principle that the practice is wrong or unfair, whether at home or abroad.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to return to the picture of the vast and developing African territories. May I express the hope that Her Majesty's Government will help the development there in the following ways. First of all, by a better instructed information service, and by helping through that information service to allay local fears concerning capital investment in those territories overseas. Secondly, by reviewing their taxation policy in relation to British companies operating in those territories, because taxation policy at present nullifies any local concessions granted to British companies. Thirdly, by giving clearer guidance to the local administrations as to the objectives, both short term and long term. This involves presenting an. overall picture of the economy in a wide area, so avoiding the danger that a local administration may try to achieve a poor self-sufficiency in too small a region. This is particularly necessary in prospecting, which may have to be undertaken over the area covered by several different colonial administrations. For East Africa, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, the Royal Commission has made a Report which will be particularly helpful for this purpose.

While I am referring to this wider aspect of the colonial problem, may I say one word more? At this moment, the Foreign Ministers of the European countries, including our own, are addressing the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on the subject of a renewed drive for European unity. Her Majesty's Government have laid great stress upon the overwhelming necessity of greater unity in Europe. These European countries are all deeply committed in Africa, as, indeed, we are. Several of them administer colonial territories there; others have close associations and links, cultural, economic and commercial. Africa needs the best Europe can give in administration. What greater stimulus could Her Majesty's Government give to European unity than to invite an overall European approach to the problem of African advancement? Here is a chance of uniting Europe in a common purpose, a common task, continuing a work in which they have all had a hand and from which no European country can be excluded without grave dangers both in Europe and in Africa. The Council of Europe is a consultative body. Let Her Majesty's Government for once consult it upon a big issue. The very act would give the Council life which it has lacked, and might produce some useful suggestions on the problems which we have been discussing to-day.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships in all quarters of the House are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, for giving us this opportunity of considering the Colonial Office Report. Circumstances this afternoon are such that upon two of the colonial issues uppermost in our minds we shall not touch in any detail in this debate. I understand that shortly a statement will be made on one of those subjects—Malta. The other subject, Cyprus, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has said, there is no need—indeed it would be inappropriate—to debate today. I should like to reiterate what the noble Lord said in extending a welcome to this proposed conference and expressing pleasure at the acceptances that have been given to the invitations.

Without in any way debating the subject, I suggest that in this conference—at which. I know, no subjects are barred for consideration—five basic facts should form part of the background of the discussion. We may remind ourselves of them to-day and agree upon them. The first is that our legal right to Cyprus is unchallengeable; the second, that in the interests of peace and security for the free world—including Greece—we must retain Cyprus as a military and air base; and the third, that the powerful Turkish minority can no more be coerced than can other nationals. Their views and their wishes must be considered as much as those of other nationals. In the fourth place, our duty and determination must be to maintain law and order and to use such force as is necessary to that end. Fifthly, let us bear in mind our record of achievement in Cyprus. It is one of which we can be proud in terms of improved circumstances.

It was in 1878 that Cyprus was first occupied by us, with the agreement of the Sultan of Turkey. The population was then around 200,000 and the revenue was around £200,000—that is to say, the revenue was about £1 per head of the population To-day the population is some 500,000 and the revenue £9,500,000, or £19 per head of the population. There were few schools then; now there are more than 700. There was not a single printing press; now there are around fifty publications ranging from dailies to half-yearlies—and not all of them support Her Majesty's Government. I suggest that these basic facts might well be remembered in giving our welcome to this conference. I have seen in the Press a statement that in some quarters this Government move may be considered as a sign of weakness or surrender. I cannot see any justification for such a view. Initiative in a difficult situation has no need to be labelled "Weakness." Equally, determination to maintain law and order and to repress terrorism by all the force necessary for that end is a duty of Her Majesty's Government to be carried out on behalf of all Cypriot citizens, whatever may be their original nationality.

Both noble Lords who have spoken underline the sentiment, with which I am sure we all agree, that full and wide colonial development requires a foundation of healthy economic conditions in every individual colonial territory. We must admit that regrettably low standards of living still persist in various parts of the Colonial Empire, including that part with which I wish to deal—namely, the Caribbean. So long as these standards of living continue, so long is our colonial trust unfulfilled and our colonial task unfinished. The Chief Minister of Jamaica, Mr. Manley, has to-day returned to the United Kingdom to continue his negotiations with Her Majesty's Government. I hope that in the near future Her Majesty's Government will be able to make a statement reporting the results of these talks with the First Minister and showing that the economic conditions in Jamaica can be improved as the result of agreed steps. The background to these Jamaican talks—indeed, to our whole Colonial Empire policy—is mirrored in Britain's own economic policy. The question I want to submit to your Lordships this afternoon is this: is the policy which we are following in this country, which is best suited to our own industrial needs in a competitive world, a policy which assists to the full, or does it possibly impede, the fulfilment of our colonial trust and purpose?

Led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, supported by the President of the Board of Trade, Britain has firmly declared for the policy of international multilateralism, which is also supported by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. I would label it "the new Tory Liberalism." This policy requires strict rules for international trade, based on non-discrimination, reduced tariffs, no new preferences and rejection of reserved markets. At present this policy is riding high. How long it is going to do so is a matter open to debate. It is not appropriate that it should be debated to-day, but I expect that vie shall be debating it some time in the future. To-day, along the lines of this policy, we are striving, and striving successfully, for new export markets in a technical world. Aircraft exports are over £60 million, motor car exports are booming, and Britain hopes to lead in the manufacture and export of electronics and later on in the industrial use of atomic power It is in these directions that the Government hope to find the means of absorbing any slack in employment or loss in export values caused through older industries, such as part of the textile industry and even the glove industry in the West Country, being unable to face a competitive world and the conditions of competition in which multilateralism has involved us.

The question I would ask your Lordships to consider i this: if this policy is planned and carried out further at the expense of our colonial interests and our ability to help our Colonies, as we must if we are to fulfil our colonial trust. have we not, in punning multilateralism, restricted ourselves so much that we are unable to develop our Colonies in the way in which it is our duty to do and in the way we must do if development is to take place? The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, spoke of uneconomic production. We cannot talk about uneconomic production in a single crop economy, where the whole community depends on being able to produce a traditional crop of fruit, vegetable or other agricultural product. We cannot switch these men over to some other industry in the interests of a theoretically free trade world. In fact, we have to safeguard the employment of these men and give them an opportunity of earning a living in their trade, even though it may not be, theoretically, an efficient trade.

I submit that in the interests of our home economy we have accepted restrictions which prevent colonial development to the fullest. No Colony today can conclude bilateral trade agreements for the disposal of its products to any foreign country if such an agreement entails preferential discrimination of imports into that Colony. We have accepted on behalf of the Colonies restrictions preventing them from discriminating in their import policies so that they can have a. chance of building up secondary industries protected by regional tariffs—it may not he a protective tariff for ever but only one needed for the period of nursing and developing the Colony. But if, as is the case, we want to get away from one-crop economics, we must be able to give the Colonies opportunities of protection for a period of time. In our policy we declare that we want to see colonial territories getting away from single-crop economies; but our actions belie our intentions.

I guess that the Government reply wilt probably be a twofold one. First, they will say that the higher volume of world trade resulting from successful multilateralism will be reflected in an increased demand for colonial produce. The other reply will be that we have secured at Geneva a waiver concession aimed at assisting distressed colonial producers. As regards the first, let me quote the words of the Minister of State to the Board of Trade, in which he put the Government defence clearly. He said: The aim of the Government's overseas policy is to hold the doors of world trade open; the larger the volume of international trade, the larger the volume of Commonwealth trade and the larger the volume of British exports. This seems rather like saying that the bigger the total number of runs made in a cricket match, the more runs must be made by one side. That is a fallacy, as England has found in the West Indies, in Australia and in other parts of the world. In the long run it may be that the Government's contention is true, but it takes too long and it is too indirect to give help along those lines. It does not bring comfort or early improvement to those who live in conditions which we reject as unacceptable—to the unemployed banana grower, to the distressed tobacco grower or to the grower of citrus fruit or vegetable oils in the West Indies—to throw a stone into the middle of the pond, because they are right on the outside. That does not help them very much, because the ripple takes too long to get to the edge and, when it does, it is only a little ripple.

The second defence which I expect we shall hear—namely, that the waiver concession gained at Geneva is going to help—hardly bears examination. The concession is described as allowing us to give increased preferential tariff margins for certain colonial products imported into Britain. However, the concession is so hedged about with restrictions and limitations that I submit it is of little practical value. In two or three minutes I am going to describe to your Lordships some of those limitations and restrictions. If I am wrong in my description, if I have misread the document, I hope the Minister will correct me. I want to get the matter right. I do not think it is unfair to ask the noble Lord whether someone who is deploying a case is deploying it correctly or otherwise. If, in reply, the noble Lord says that, broadly speaking, I am correct in my description of the limitations, then I will leave it to your Lordships to judge whether it is a worth-while concession or otherwise.

The first restriction is that we can use this concession only where the United Kingdom market is the main receiving centre for the produce of a distressed colonial industry. That cuts out our helping industries in the Caribbean which may be thoroughly distressed but do not export to the United Kingdom as their main market. I looked at the figures of West Indies trade in the 1953 document. For 1953 the West Indies exports as a whole totalled £1153½ million, and the United Kingdom accepted some £56 million, approximately half. Therefore 50 per cent. of the exports of the West Indies could not be helped by this concession which we have obtained at Geneva. Further, we can give increased help to imports into this country only if we are the main receivers of that particular product produced in the West Indies. Much of the value of this concession is whittled away if it can apply only to half, or only to part of the half, of the total export trade.

Next, the concession can operate only provided that neither this nor any other country receives any benefit for itself, its home industry, its home agriculture or its export trade. Who can say what a benefit is? Who can say whether we are or are not getting direct or indirect benefit? Moreover, why should not this country get some benefit from colonial trade? We gladly pay, and we invest largely. It is not immoral to try to get some benefit for ourselves or for the Colonies with whom we are trading. Then, we cannot try to operate this rather thin concession without the prior consent of all the thirty-four contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, any one of whom can object and delay action. Cuba does 1.1 per cent. of the total trade of the contracting parties; Nicaragua does .1 per cent. and Peru .4 per cent. But each has the same right of objection as Great Britain and America, who share between them approximately 40 per cent. of the trade.

Finally, if any one of the thirty-four contracting parties does object, Britain has accepted an obligation to enter into discussions with a view to limiting the proposals we put forward to help our Colonies. This means, in effect, that if we propose something and any one of the thirty-four contracting parties objects we are obligated not to maintain our position but to start a line of retreat and modify our proposal at once. I find it curious to think of a battle where one side goes into the conflict with the declared intention to start a retreat, for an unspecified distance, at the smallest sign of resistance. It does not make a very powerful arguing point for Great Britain to deal with any one of the thirty-four objectors if we have at the beginning declared that if anybody objects we will start a retreat. The only question then to be decided is how far we retreat.

It is because of the situation I have described, and because I think we are, by our economic policy, in danger of sacrificing some of the interests of agricultural workers in Jamaica to the interests of the engineers at Coventry, that I would ask the Government to think again before we hand over to an outside power our freedom and ability to fulfil our colonial trust. Thinking again may delay the entry by Great Britain into this new trade organisation; but I submit that delay is worth while if by delaying we retain the freedom to fulfil that trust that we all wish to see implemented by this country.

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