HL Deb 20 March 1956 vol 196 cc590-628

3.26 p.m.

LORD GLYN rose to call attention to Colonial Office Paper 306 concerning the reorganisation of the Colonial Service and constituting Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service, with special reference to paragraph 13 of that document; 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 make no apology for bringing this matter to your Lordships' attention, because there are some thousands of individuals who are serving this country and who are in considerable doubt as to their future, and the sooner they have their doubts set at ease the better. In paragraph 13 of the Colonial Paper there was an indication that Her Majesty's Government were considering this proposed reorganisation which would undoubtedly greatly improve the circumstances of a large number of Her Majesty's servants who are serving in the present overseas service. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that the date for decision laid down in the White Paper was April, 1955. It is now March, 1956, which seems a sufficient interval of time to have enabled Her Majesty's Government to come to a decision on this important matter.

I think it is appropriate to draw attention to the position of many civil servants overseas, and for that reason it is advisable to divide them into age groups. For obvious reasons, if they are divided into age groups a better indication is given of how the impact of this alteration will affect the individuals. Assume that one age group is from forty-five to fifty-five years. Those people have served the country in territories overseas where in some cases the tendency to-day is towards self-government: it is not a general rule, because each territory varies. Some territories have stated that they hope the British officials serving there will continue to serve after independence or selfgovernment—whichever word your Lordships like to use—is achieved. But when reaching the age for retirement of forty-five or fifty-five, it is natural that those people, who have given the best of their lives in serving in those territories, and have reached the zenith of their careers, entertain considerable anxiety about their future. Unfortunately, there is little doubt—and this is a matter which I want to emphasise—that the majority of people in that age group then propose to leave. If that is so, it leaves a serious gap in the administration, and I do not think anybody here can blame those people, because they have been left in doubt so long as to what Her Majesty's Government propose to do.

The next age group into which they can be divided is between thirty-five and forty-five. In that group a large proportion are married people with families, and in the White Paper there is a suggestion of a lump sum compensation. I have had the opportunity of talking to a considerable number of people in that age group and they say, "If we have an opportunity of a lump sum, it is going to help us over our hump of difficulty in educating our families. Therefore, we are very much inclined to accept it, to pay for the children's education and one thing and another." It has to be remembered that in this Service there are a large number of men who, with their wives, in their devotion to their country's interests give up a great deal. One of the things that they give up is the ability to be with their children during their most impressive years. Therefore it is natural that when there is an offer of a lump sum payment the wife should say, "Let us accept it and get home." That is the attitude of mind of a good many. It is a strong temptation for men of that age group, which is a most important one in the Oversea Service. It is the age when people have had experience in a junior capacity, are looking forward to their promotion and are probably carrying out functions of great importance to the territory where they serve. Therefore, I am afraid that unless Her Majesty's Government are willing to make a statement (I hope, to-day) to show that they are willing to take these people out of the individual control of the territories where they serve, and offer them a situation in which they will be the servants of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, there will be great difficulty in persuading these people to continue their service.

The third category is the category of twenty-five to thirty-five years of age. There is little doubt that the majority of those young men are anxious to continue their careers. They have made up their minds to take up this work as district officers, and so on, and a great many of them are anxious to continue. But, at the same time, their future is uncertain. One cannot blame anybody in these days who feels that his future is uncertain requiring some definite statement by his employer (in other words, Her Majesty's Government) as to what his prospects are. That is the position as regards those age groups. As I have said, it varies in different territories. In some territories the individuals who are going to take charge of government have already made it clear that they want certain people to stay on to help them, and there is no doubt that there are certain places where it would be of great benefit if they did.

Within the last few hours, Her Majesty's Government have issued a White Paper on the Federation of Malaya. It is Command Paper 9714. I apologise for the English that is used in this sentence but I think it is worth quoting: The practical problem which might arise is not whether there would be full scope for Malayanisation but whether it will be possible to retain and recruit enough qualified officers to provide the Federation Government with the efficient, experienced and stable administration which it will need for carrying out its policies during the coming vital years. "Malayanisation" is the type of word which, I suppose, will be adopted in regard to every territory which gains some form of self-government. It means, of course, that an increasing number of the people of that territory will, quite rightly —I am not quarrelling at all about it—be offered and will accept situations in the Civil Service, and inevitably that will mean the dismissal of a certain number of British.

This is a matter in which it is especially necessary for Parliament here to realise the feelings of these servants. They have nobody else to speak for them. They can look only to Parliament at Westminster—and, after all, we have that responsibility. In paragraph 13 of this White Paper an indication is clearly given that Her Majesty's Government are considering some form or other by which security of tenure or security of position will be guaranteed to these individuals; that they will become the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government and not be at the whim of whatever may be the local government of the territory that attains self-government. That is a responsibility that should not be shirked.

There are probably more people in this House who have intimate knowledge of the government of a colony than there are in most other assemblies. Therefore it seems to me that it is a matter of the utmost importance that a decision should be reached. The tragedy is that if one meets these people and talks to them, one finds that they are quite prepared already to believe that they are going to be let down. There is a horrible feeling that we let all our friends down and placate other people. That is very bad and quite without excuse. Here is a typical example of what has been said: half a promise made in a White Paper to which all these people pin their hopes, and month after month has passed with no indication from Her Majesty's Government whether they are going to implement that promise. I realise that we are passing through a difficult financial period, but it is rather alarming to think that something less than the subsidy we pay for pigs would meet this situation. It seems to me that if we expect to get good service from the servants we employ overseas, we must treat them fairly, and I do not think that at the moment they are being fairly treated.

The next point I should like to mention is the attitude of the Oversea Service itself. Personally, I believe in a true Commonwealth Service, because the time has come when we ought to encourage spheres of influence throughout what used to be called the Colonial Empire, where the Dominions could take a share and play their part. They are anxious to do so. I see no reason why it should be confined to the United Kingdom. The geographical position of a good many of these territories would surely enable some of the Dominions to give great attention to them, as they are in close proximity to them and know their requirements and needs. I believe it is of great importance at the present time that discussions should take place between Her Majesty's Government and some of the Dominion Governments as to whether there could be some interchange of Her Majesty's servants who have served in those territories, if they passed from the direct control of the United Kingdom to the control of one of the great Dominions.

The other matter which I think ought to be emphasised is that a great many people seem to take the view that, because self-government is granted to these territories, there is no longer good work to be done. I hold the view that in fact there is far greater work to be done: more responsible work; work which will really matter and which will leave a recollection with those who initiate the first stages of self-government. How much help can be given by men trained in fie Service and accustomed to administration? There is no doubt that that help is of great assistance to any newly formed Government. It means, of course, that there must be tact on both sides, and the individuals who are recruited must be persons who recognise the desires and the enthusiasm of the people in the new territories which are becoming self-governing. These people need to be handled with care and with trust.

I believe, therefore, that it is of the greatest importance that we should impress on boys at public schools and universities the fact that it is quite wrong to imagine that the British Empire and those who serve in it are not going to be so important as they used to be. For the right people, dealing with the thing in the right way, it is going to be far more important and satisfactory. But if there is a great exodus of highly trained people, it is difficult to see from whence they are going to be replaced. In Nigeria, the greatest in size of our colonies, there are already 28 per cent. of vacancies and it does not look as if they will be easily filled. Certainly, we shall not fill them if what I see in the daily newspapers to-day is true—namely, that the cinema authorities here do not propose to allow the film of the Queen's journey in Nigeria to be shown because, they say, it is of no interest to the public. That may be a box office point of view. But what will be the point of view of the people from Nigeria who come here and find that the film has been refused a showing in this country? Surely it can only be disastrous. And that is the sort of impression left on any young man who might be willing to join the Oversea Service.

Some of us have been in different parts of the Commonwealth and we know what tremendous changes are taking place. I believe that one of the most impressive and important services is the High Commissioner Service, which I believe has done a wonderful job. I believe that the representatives of the High Commissioners ought to have a special place in our thoughts and our position—indeed, if I may be forgiven for saying so, I think they ought to have an ambassadorial position. It always fills me with sorrow at the opening of Parliament here, to see a Gallery full of the diplomatic representatives of every country and, mixed up with them, the British High Commissioners. Why should they not have a place set apart? Why should they all be put in a box with foreign representatives? To me that does not seem to be right. I recognise that somebody has ordained that that should be so, but I feel that the time has come when the High Commissioners ought to be given a position and place which will show that they are recognised as of the utmost importance. After all, they are the link through which we can operate, and they are the only kind of link which does and will join the Commonwealth with the Crown.

My Lords, there is one other point that I must mention in connection with this matter. I believe that one of the great things that has happened in the last few years, since the enactment of the Statute of Westminster, is the recognition of the fact that the Sovereign is also Queen of Canada and of the great Dominions equal with us. Surely, that ought to be the setting in which all the authority and the administration of the Commonwealth and those countries which are coming forward to self-government should hold their position; they should be recognised as one of many territories over which the Sovereign presides. There are certain people who feel that that position is not sufficiently recognised. I think it ought to be taken as a matter of course that the Sovereign goes equally to Canada or to New Zealand or to whatever Dominion she wishes to go, and it is a matter not of astonishment but of fact that should always happen without comment, because otherwise I think it dwarfs the great position of the Sovereign of this country.

Then, my Lords, there is one last point that I should like to mention. I understand that the noble Lord who represents the Colonial Office is unable to be here to-day. I am sure we all sympathise with him for the reasons that prevent his being here, but I hope and believe that it will be possible to-day for Her Majesty's Government to say something in regard to paragraph 13 of the White Paper, which is quite definite, quite clear and something that can be understood by every individual serving in the Oversea Service. After this interval of time, I see no reason why there should be further procrastination. We must put ourselves in the position of these men who are serving this country and have done so for years out in the outposts of these territories, wondering what their future is, looking to Parliament here to give a line so that they can make up their minds. What have they done that makes it impossible for the Government to come to a proper decision to help these loyal servants of the Crown? My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side of the House are glad that the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has thought fit to place this Motion on the Order Paper to-day, because not only is the subject an important one but it is an urgent one, as he has so rightly said, and we feel that he, with his long interest in the Commonwealth and the Colonies, is a fit and proper person to raise it in your Lordships' House. As the noble Lord has pointed out, there is an important problem so far as the members of the Colonial Service are concerned, but there is an equally important problem so far as the Colonies themselves are concerned. If he will forgive my doing so, that is the aspect to which I propose to confine most of my remarks.

In all colonial territories which are approaching self-government there is a natural desire that, wherever possible, posts in the Civil Service, in the Technical Services and in the Armed Forces shall be filled by people from the country concerned. None of us would complain or do complain about this attitude: it is, as I have said, perfectly natural. It therefore follows that there is a desire that expatriate officers shall leave as soon as possible. But if the country is to be well administered, it is quite impossible to dispense immediately or in the near future with the services of many of these expatriate officers. Those are the horns of the dilemma upon which most of the Colonies or Colonial territories approaching independence find themselves.

How has it been dealt with in the various territories? On the Gold Coast, which in many of these matters is regarded as a kind of test case, Sir Reginald Saloway gave his impressions a short time ago in a letter to The Times. As many of your Lordships will know, Sir Reginald was at one time a member of the Indian Civil Service, and after India became independent he transferred to, or was engaged by, the Gold Coast Government and rose to great heights. I believe he was Colonial Secretary and on occasion the officer administering the government. He said this: The need to retain the services of British officers is fully recognised by the Prime Minister of the Gold Coast and his colleagues. But there are difficulties. Not the least of these arose from the need to provide a scheme for compensation for officers who lose the protection of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. One had paradoxically to produce a scheme for compensation for loss of career and provide in it inducements for an officer to continue his career in the Gold Coast. It is obvious that the two aims are not easily reconcilable, However, we did our best and I am glad that a large proportion of British officers have decided to carry on. Quite recently the same problem arose with regard to the Federation of Malaya and the way in which this problem was solved is contained in Command Paper 9714, to which the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has referred. The problem has been dealt with in somewhat the same way, dividing the operation into two phases: Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 starting almost immediately, allows expatriate officers to retire at any time after reasonable notice and with the High Commissioner's approval, such permission not to be withheld unless proceedings for the officer's dismissal are being taken or are about to be taken; and Phase 2 beginning when the Public Service Commission is established with executive powers, where- upon a full lump sum compensation scheme for loss of career will be brought into operation: that is to say, the officer will, on retirement, receive his own pension plus, at his option, either an additional allowance or a lump sum compensation. The right to retire on compensation will be exercisable at their option by all entitled expatriate officers on giving due notice. The Government also have the right to require officers to retire. In addition, every entitled expatriate officer will have the opportunity to say whether he wishes to be retained in the service after Phase 2 commences, namely, after July 1, 1957. If he does, his case will be considered and he will be informed of the minimum period during which he may expect, subject to health and efficiency, to be retained.

I happened to be an adviser to the Malayan delegation whose deliberations are contained in this White Paper, and this problem of the expatriate officer was one of the most difficult which the delegation had to face. I believe that when one considers the proposals which I have lightly sketched, they will be found to be very fair and, indeed, handsome. They redound with considerable credit to Her Majesty's Government, to the delegation from the Federation of Malaya and To Their Highnesses, the Rulers. There was, of course, an obvious risk, and paragraph 56 of the Report of the Constitutional Conference states: But there is a risk that if in practice the Government makes it clear that it intends to exercise that right"— to retire officers— many valuable officers will opt to go whatever inducements the Government may offer to certain officers to stay; all officers will feel sooner or later their services may be dispensed with and many of the best, who can most easily obtain other attractive employment, are likely to leave as soon as possible. … The practical problem which might arise is not whether there will be full scope for Malayanisation but whether it will be possible to retain and recruit enough qualified officers to provide the Federation Government with the efficient, experienced and stable administration which it will need for carrying out its policies during the corning years. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, for using the word "Malayanisation," but I can assure him that it is a word which is now commonly used to denote a certain process and it is well understood by those who use and hear it.

In Nigeria again much the same problem arises, and I should like to quote an article in The Times by Miss Margery Perham, who, as your Lordships may know, is a distinguished expert on affairs in Africa and writes occasionally with much influence—or at least I hope she has influence, because she usually talks a good deal of sense. She says: The problem of running a modern welfare state has come very suddenly and the shortage of trained staff is very acute. The leaders have immense plans under way for training their own people, but until these mature they are utterly dependent on the present British staff, and need many more. In the north"— that is to say, the north of Nigeria, the Northern Region— their need is so great—there is not yet one qualified northern doctor among the population of 17 million—that they dread independence, for it will leave them open to colonisation from the south. They plead passionately for more British staff, but there are simply not enough available. Why is this so? The problem must be approached from the point of view of the individuals asked to take the strain of the new relationship. Money is one element, but perhaps the least problematical. Security is another, and is more difficult because the politicians who so sincerely offer it may not be in a position to fulfil their promises. But the most difficult is the psychological element. The new relationship demands that men who have been masters should become servants. This is especially difficult because the new masters, though often of character and ability, are necessarily inexperienced and may often be working more for personal or party ends than for the public good. That is the problem, and I understand that the position in the Overseas Civil Service is one of considerable difficulty. The latest figures published of which I am aware show that there are 1,160 vacancies in the administrative and technical services, and I shall be glad if the noble Earl who is to reply can inform us whether the position is still acute and what the figure of vacancies now is. Another question which comes to one's mind on which the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, did not touch and which is important is the quality of the recruits. Is it going down? Is the lack of a feeling of security affecting the quality of man who is prepared to enter not only the administrative but the technical services?

What is the solution to this problem? The solution I would suggest is that we should have a service recruited, paid and pensioned by the United Kingdom Government, which should also guarantee its security. These officers would be available for secondment to any Government which required them, whether colonial, or formerly colonial, and whether within or without the Commonwealth. This would include Colonies, Protectorates, Protected States, Trust Territories, Condominia as well as independent members of the Commonwealth and countries like the Sudan and Iraq.

This has had support from a number of quarters. Not long ago The Times had a leader on these lines. And to go back to Sir Reginald Saloway, who, as I have said, has had considerable experience in this field, I may mention that he said in his letter to The Times It is my view that the only solution to this problem is the establishment of a Commonwealth Service for which Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom accept responsibility. The cost of such a service to the Treasury would be infinitesimal in relation to the benefits which would derive from it. The proposals of the Government, as Lord Glyn has said, are nebulous in the extreme. In Colonial Paper No. 306, to which he referred, in paragraph 8, the Government have created something which they have called: "Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service." It consists of the officers who were formerly on the list of the Colonial Service. But, so far as I can see, nothing has happened but the change of name. There has been no "sea change." It is merely a question of the rose smelling as sweet under a new name. What we require, I think, is implementation on the lines I have suggested—with which I am sure Lord Glyn would agree —of paragraph 13 of this Colonial Paper. This paragraph says: Her Majesty's Government are aware that various proposals have been put forward for constituting a Commonwealth Service or an Oversea Service directly employed by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The decisions embodied in the present statement are not intended to exclude development along some such lines should this be found to be desirable and practicable. Pausing there for a moment, I should have said that it was eminently desirable and practicable. There is an overwhelming body of opinion which would support those views. The paragraph continues: But this is a question which needs and will receive very careful examination in the light of changing conditions. It involves complicated administrative and constitutional, as well as financial, problems, and Her Majesty's Government feel that they are not yet ready to reach any conclusions upon them. That was in 1954. It may be that the Treasury are being obstructive on this issue. I think it ought to be pointed out to the Treasury that if officers are seconded to these territories, it would mean that these territories would pay the United Kingdom Government for their services and would pay a portion of their pension rights. It would not mean that the Treasury would have to Stand the cost of the Service; it would recover the cost to a very large extent—possibly almost entirely—from the countries to which the officers were seconded. I suggest that if it is the Treasury which is obstructing the Colonial Office and, I presume, the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Government has the choice of either submitting to the Treasury or very seriously injuring the Commonwealth. In my view there is no time to lose. Much time has already been lost. What we want from the Government is "Action this day."

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by saying how deeply grateful I am sure all members of the Colonial Service will be to the noble Lord who introduced this Motion for the deeply understanding and sympathetic way in which he dealt with their known difficulties. I find myself in complete agreement with everything he has said, and I will not weary your Lordships by attempting to repeat any of it. I also appreciate the different point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who emphasised—as indeed it is necessary to emphasise—the very natural desire of these nascent nations to manage their own affairs. And managing their own affairs means starting their own Services with their own people.

We have always to remember, however, the difficulty in which the Colonial Service to-day finds itself. We were reminded at one time by the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, that when the Indian Civil Service handed over their duties to an independent India, 75 per cent. of that Service had been Indianised; the members of the Service had had the time and the opportunity to train their successors in the responsibilities of forming the main support of the Government. That is not the case everywhere with the Colonial Service. They have not had that opportunity, and they have not had that time; and that fact is at the root of a great deal of the difficulty to-day. We all know that when these countries obtain independence there will not be enough trained men—and this applies to women, too—of their own nations to manage an efficient Government or to be the support of an efficient Government. While it is true to say that a great many of the leaders of these new nations today fully appreciate that they cannot, at the moment, do without the help of what was, and still is, known as the Colonial Service in all its branches, they are, in many instances, the slaves of their own past speeches. They have run with popular emotion and have clamoured for the departure of the Colonial Service, whom now, in their own hearts, they know they cannot properly do without. That is another of the great difficulties which confront both those who manage colonial affairs from this country and those who are trying to form new Governments in these places which are gaining independence.

I have before me the White Paper on reorganisation of the Colonial Service, and I feel particularly impelled to speak to-day because I am frequently appealed to by parents as to whether or not they should encourage their boys—or girls, as it is in some instances—to go into the Colonial Service. And I have to admit —and your Lordships can appreciate that it is with deep regret that I admit it—that I do not find the answer to that question easy to give. One of the reasons is the indecision which seems to me to lie beneath this facade of words which make up the White Paper we are considering to-day. If we analyse what substance lies behind this Paper, we find, as Lord Ogmore has pointed out, that it is very little.

Before referring in a little more detail to the Paper, I should like to say that I take it that there is no question that a Service surely implies continuous employment, It is impossible to have a Service which is a collection of casually employed people. A Service implies traditions, corporate feeling, esprit de corps and all those things which we have associated with what I suggest is the splendid record of the Colonial Office up to date. And it is impossible to maintain traditions or esprit de corps in the casual circumstances for employment which seem to be contemplated in this White Paper. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has pointed out, it does not get us any further to call it Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service. That does not make any essential change in the actual state of affairs to-day. I suggest that the state of affairs should cause deep concern and disquiet to us, as it does to members of the Service.

It seems to me, too, that whatever is said and whatever financial inducements may be offered, we cannot hope to get the right kind of recruit for the Colonial Service unless the atmosphere in which the members are asked to work is one of sympathy and good will. There are only too many instances to-day where the colonial servant is working in an atmosphere of hostility. I believe it is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, said, that the colonial servant is fighting a battle on two fronts—and one of the fronts, I regret to say, is Whitehall. He is not satisfied that he will get the support which he feels he must have in order to enable him to do his work properly and be a credit to the Service of which he is so proud.

I have no quarrel with the statement in the White Paper of the needs of the present and the future. It is perfectly true to say that never in our history was there a greater need for the best men we breed—and the best women, too—for the jobs in the Colonial Service in its new form. As I have already suggested, this Paper does not help us in any way to see how we are going to get the quality Or quantity, unless some definite step is taken by the Government of this country to show the members of the Service that the British Government stand behind them and will see to it that they get a fair deal. I am not implying criticism of the new Governments of the Colonies: I am implying criticism of the way in which the members of the Service are liable to be treated by the Government in this country.

The reference to possible Treasury objections on the score of finance are easy to make. We all know that the Treasury consists entirely of brains, which has led to an atrophy of the heart, but that does not necessarily excuse neglect to treat our servants fairly or, indeed, generously. I heard it said the other day —and I think this expresses what one feels, although in a somewhat absurd form—that while it is possible to get the Treasury to give hearty approval to providing, shall we say, £50 million for the Volta scheme, they would not hear of allowing £50,000 to be spent to get the personnel necessary for that scheme to be a success. I feel that that is one of our difficulties.

In my view, enough has been said about the need expressed in this Paper that both sides—that is, the British Government and the Government of any Colony which needs these officers—should act in partnership. But that is a mere phrase too. What does it mean? I should like some explanation of what the Government see as the future of the Colonial Service. I would ask the direct question: has the Colonial Service any future? What is the Government's attitude on that? In that connection, I suggest that, in the Schedule on the last page of the White Paper, where there is given a list of the Services about to be combined as Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service, beginning with the Colonial Administrative Service and going through most of the letters of the alphabet to the Veterinary Service, it is necessary to draw a distinction between the administrative service and the professional and technical services. Members of the professional services have a market value outside the Colony where they may be working, but the administrative officer has no market value, in the ordinary sense, outside the kind of work he has been trained to do in assisting the Government of a Colony. So in this matter of whether there is any future for the Colonial Service, while we all know that there is a future for the professional and technical officers, because in a foreseeable time they will be needed to help in the Colonies, the question remains: will there be in the future any need of the administrative officers?

One of the difficulties I see in the proposal, sympathetic though one must be towards it, to form a Commonwealth Service, with a pool of officers who will be sent on request to serve in various parts of the Commonwealth and Empire, is: how do we train these men in future? I can see the value of an organisation like that as part of the liquidation of the present Colonial Service, so that the British Government can guarantee to these men in the future their pay and emoluments, and the career they expected when they entered the Service. But, looking to the future, in what way can new recruits be trained when increasingly, under the scheme, all the junior posts in the Colonies will be taken, quite properly, by the natives of the Colonies? One cannot suddenly produce an expert administrative officer just by giving him that name. What real need will there be for a pool of technical and professional officers?

I suggest that all that would be needed in London would be a recruiting office, through which the Colonies could get a surveyor, an engineer or a doctor, as required. I suggest that the present organisation of the Colonial Office is unsuited for that kind of work. Men with professional qualifications, whom, presumably, we are trying to recruit, will not be prepared to wait while the Colonial Office refer, painfully and slowly, to all the references they have given: these men want an earlier decision than they are able to get from the normal Government Department. For all these reasons, it is desirable that there should be some definite statement as to what has happened about Section 13 of this White Paper. I think those complicated problems to which it refers have defeated the Government, despite two years' consideration.

I made a note of one thing which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said; and on this point I should like to conclude. I know that superficially the idea of a Commonwealth Service is attractive, but if one analyses it to see what it means, I find great difficulty in understanding how such a Service could function, and why. After all, in the Colonial Service to-day there are New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians, and members of the Commonwealth from all directions. It is open to any boy or girl who feels attracted by that kind of work to enter it; and so long as that kind of work has to be done, surely it is better that it should be managed by an organisation in London, which has been doing it from time immemorial, as long as the British Empire has existed. I know that in days gone by the idea that Canada should exercise a particular interest in the West Indies, or that Australia and New Zealand should be particularly interested in Fiji and the Pacific Islands, has had a superficial attraction. I suggest, however, that it is increasingly unnecessary, owing to the development of communications, and that in fact, apart from the use of the word "Commonwealth", or, as has been suggested, the fact that it provides a means of liquidating with honour and dignity the present Colonial Service, a Commonwealth Service paid for and managed by the Government of this country would not at the present moment be the best solution.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, we have just heard a speech from a noble Lord who, I suppose, would rank as one of the most distinguished ex-colonial servants alive. So much has been said in this debate with which I agree that I can manage to be extremely brief. This debate, and indeed this White Paper, is a manifest of our concern in this House for the members of the Oversea Civil Service. As each noble Lord has spoken and unfolded the problem a little further, the more gigantic has the problem begun to appear. One reads in almost every paper of the daily Press of one burning question or another in the Colonial Empire; one reads of the doings of violence; and one hears of the work of agitators. But this honourable band of men and women in our Oversea Civil Service do not agitate their claims, as the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has said. It is therefore for us to guard their interests as closely as we can.

Twenty-three years ago I was accepted for what was then called the Colonial Civil Service; but a whole world of change has come since those clays. In common with most other professions in the early 'thirties, there were many more applicants for the jobs than there were jobs. Now it is much different. I imagine that the number of applicants is just about the same as it was—I understand that we have allowed no diminution of the standards we expect from applicants—but the number of jobs has risen three or four times, and now we have this tremendous shortfall. If there is to be a shortfall, let it be in quantity rather than in quality; but do not underestimate the effect in the countries concerned of this shortfall in quantity. I heard recently—I have not the details with me—of a bridge in Nigeria which had proved impossible for the public works department to build because of the lack of staff. The work was taken over by a company from a foreign country and the bridge is being built without the supervision of the public works department with materials supplied entirely by that foreign country.

Attention has been drawn to the fact that this White Paper is not exactly "hot off the press." I think there was in the minds of many of us the example of the Sudan: that the Sudan was the winding up of the Service, and that what we are talking about to-day is something rather different. What we are talking about is the transition period and the vital importance of maintaining continuity: it is important to the people of the Colonial Service, to the Colonial Governments concerned, to their political stability and their common-sense stability, and to this country as a whole. A large number of overseas civil servants are concerned because where the tempo of transition is running fastest is where we have the largest number employed—the Gold Coast, Nigeria, the Federation of Malaya and Singapore. I took the point of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, about the difficulties of the administrative officer who is not a technician who can sell his sword in any market. I agree substantially with the first premise made by the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, where he divided the members of the Service into three age groups and gave his impression of what was going on in the minds of each. All my experience and that of the people I see leads me to the conclusion that he is substantially correct.

I think that our greatest difficulty at the moment is with the first group the noble Lord mentioned—namely, those nearest to the top of the ladder. In my day there was a good chance, if you had a good job in the Colonial Service, that one day you might end up as a Governor. In those days the Colonies slumbered away; they were not really of much interest to the rest of the world, nor did public opinion in Britain regard them highly. If you returned from abroad and mentioned the name of the Colony in which you had been serving, you were likely to find that the man to whom you were talking surreptitiously crept to the atlas to discover where it was. Now the chance of a man somewhere near the top of the ladder of becoming a Colonial Governor is not very great, because nearly all our Colonies have become so hitched to world politics and world economics that, unless a man has a knowledge of those two things, there are only a limited number of territories in which he can rise to be Governor.

The position in which a man like that finds himself in the ordinary circumstances of life has already been sketched in by others. That is the most expensive part of a Colonial Service servant's career, because, as has been said, if he has sons they will be being educated in England, and he thus committed to keeping two separate establishments. His eye is rather apt to wander, because he will probably realise that if he goes right on to the end of his service and retires in his fifties his chances of getting any other employment in industry or commerce, if he is only an administrative officer, are absolutely negligible. We cannot expect people to want to put their foot on the bottom rung of the ladder unless the top of the ladder is secure and attractive, and so long as there is no obstacle to reaching the top of the ladder other than by the exertion of climbing the perpendicular.

I like this idea of Her Majesty's Over-sea Civil Service because it is flexible; it is capable of expansion, perhaps as far as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, suggested. But I feel that something must go in conjunction with it. If you are going to guarantee a man a job somewhere, you may well, particularly if he is a rather senior man, have to lay him off for about two years before you can find a job for him overseas. I think you may well then have to employ him in this country in the home Civil Service. The home Civil Service will not be eager to allow outsiders into their ranks, and that is not entirely surprising. But if you do not go quite so far as amalgamating the two Services, you must get them to agree and accept some kind of joinder.

I have one last point, and that is the question of people who have put their whole life capital into this Service, or are intending to do, and who may find, when they have become masters of their work and are perhaps some ten or fifteen years older, that their appointment is prematurely terminated. There seems to be an argument for investigating carefully something analogous to life assurance: for, after all, here is a man who wishes to ensure the security of his family, as he does in life assurance. If he has his whole career completely without interruption, he reaches a time when die need to pay for this assurance ceases. If his time is prematurely terminated, the money is forthcoming. I should have thought the parallel was close enough to make it well worth investigating. It may be that the Government have done so. If they have, I should like to hear the noble Earl's view.

I wish to ask the noble Earl who is to reply one question. Can he tell us how many officers have applied for enrolment in Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service? That is all I have to say on the subject. This debate will be read carefully in many different lands by the members of the Service. I am glad to see that the White Paper takes one paragraph to pay a warm tribute to these people. They, and thousands like them, whose names will never reach the history books, will place, and will continue to place in the future as they have in the past, so many other countries in their debt.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, for his courtesy in allowing me to intervene at this moment. I can assure the noble Lord that his speech will not be long delayed by what I have to say. I should like to refer for a moment to what was said by my noble friend Lord Ogmore about the Gold Coast. As it happens, I was in the Gold Coast for about six weeks at a time when the changes were coming about. During my visit, I travelled all over the country and met, I should think, the great majority, if not all, of the officials who would be affected by those changes. I remember that, with only one exception, to which I will refer in a moment, they all had only one idea—to make the new experiment a success. There were no disappointments or recriminations on personal grounds. They were all animated by the same spirit: that the decision had been taken and that whatever lay in their power to do would be done in order to make the experiment a success. From the Governor down, that was the feeling.

The exception of which I spoke was one official who certainly was rather disturbed about what he thought might become of the work which he had built up over many years. He was apprehensive lest something of what he had done and, still more, of what he hoped to do, might, under the new dispensation, tend to go backwards. But again, upon personal grounds he was not a man with a grievance. I have always remembered that, and I have always felt the greatest admiration for the Oversea Service from that time for what I thought was the admirable spirit they displayed in view of changes which clearly greatly affected their future. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned Sir Reginald Saloway. I had the great pleasure of meeting him, and certainly I would be much disposed to regard with attention anything that he might say upon administrative matters. That is, in a sense, by the way.

My object in rising this afternoon is to refer to a matter upon which I touched for a moment or two in the debate on Cyprus last week, when I said that I thought some of the difficulties we are facing there to-day sprang from the Prime Minister's not having accepted advice which was tendered to him to make the appointment of Governor there a political appointment. I spoke about six years during which our political affairs had been lying fallow there. I think they were largely, from the political point of view, six wasted years—wasted years in a Colony where clearly an acute political situation was boiling up. I should like to extend that remark a little this afternoon. It seems to me that we have now to look at appointments of Governors from rather a different point of view. I do not know that I could say in most, but certainly in many of our remaining Colonies the problems are now essentially political. The spirit of nationalism spreads, the demands for independence and self-government grow, and the Colonial problems are now, in many instances, no longer only administrative or about representation of the Sovereign.

Then again, in addition to the spirit of nationalism and the searching for independence there are all the new problems of social services and welfare which have been coming to the front in the Colonies —problems essentially new. The Colonies wish to conic into line with what we are doing here and with the new ideas of welfare and social problems. I feel that on those accounts a man who is in sympathy with those new ideas and who has acquired good first-hand knowledge of them in the House of Commons, a man skilled in the arts of conciliation and negotiation, who knows that politics is the art of the possible, should in future be increasingly considered for appointment as Colonial Governor. In that respect, although it is not a Colonial Governorship, I feel I might refer to our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, who is making such a great success out of the way in which he has handled the extremely difficult problems created by Central African federation. There is a good example of the way in which a politician, a man with experience of the House of Commons has been extremely suitable in the appointment which was made and has probably handled the problems in the Central African Federation more successfully than a man without that political experience could have done.

Without in any way setting a rigid rule —there is no need to set one; the Colonial Secretary and the Prime Minister of the day must, of course, be left free to appoint the man whom they feel most suitable for the conditions of the post in question—I have the feeling that in the future men with political experience should be considered more freely than they have been in the past for appointments as Colonial Governors. It may be said that that might deprive some members of the Oversea Service of what they would regard as the plum appointment in their Service. Sometimes these things have to happen. A great number of most admirable and even distinguished naval officers have just been told that they are to be put on a list which means they will never go to sea again. Sometimes in the course of progress and the forming of new ideas people have to suffer setbacks. But if the idea is right, that is no reason for not proceeding with it.

The appointment of Colonial Secretary in a Colony is an important and a distinguished appointment which, of course, would still be the preserve of the Over-sea Service, and should, in future, carry with it, more often than it has in the past, the honour of a K.C.M.G. If my idea were in any way adopted, I think that that should, in future, be considered almost as a rule, as it is in the Armed Forces where men of certain seniority are awarded that honour. At any rate, that is the idea which I should like to put forward this afternoon. Naturally, I do not expect for one moment that the noble Earl who is to reply to the debate will give any answer on that point, but I should like to think that the idea may be taken into consideration, as I have arrived at it after a great deal of thought. Undoubtedly, in many cases the situation in a Colony might be eased and ameliorated if a man with such political experience as I have spoken of were considered for appointment as Governor.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, I join with others in my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, for giving us this opportunity once again to survey certain aspects of our Commonwealth affairs. I always feel that we should approach this subject with great humility —it is, after all, so vast. Behind the businesslike terms of the noble Lord's businesslike summons "to call attention to Colonial Office Paper 306," I wonder how many good citizens up and down the country have any idea what a depth of meaning and what a world of significance is hidden there. Perhaps the future of a great segment of our Commonwealth is at stake. We are discussing the fate of men who, if they care to remain at their posts, can give us just that extra confidence in the future development of the Commonwealth but who, if they leave—and not for a moment do I suggest there is any suggestion whatsoever of desertion —may throw that future into obscurity. The noble Lord has presented his Motion in straightforward, simple terms which suggest, to my mind, two approaches. First of all, there is the White Paper itself, which refers to the fate of the servants of the Oversea Civil Service. Secondly, there is the long-term problem of a Commonwealth Service for the future. It is in that order that I propose to make my comments.

As I see it, this White Paper sets out the terms which are supposed to satisfy the servants of a newly-named Service in anticipation of the different conditions in which they will serve if they elect to remain on in countries which are now passing over to the full status of self-government. The truth is, of course, that the White Paper is not sufficiently attractive. In each case, apparently, formal agreements are to be signed which will guarantee satisfactory terms to these officers if they stay on. I do not know what the position is in regard to these formal agreements. I imagine that there may be one round the corner in the case of Malaya; but, be that as it may, the naked truth is that this White Paper has not yet done its job. Nigeria has been freely quoted. May I quote a striking example from Eastern Nigeria, where I understand from a reliable source that in eighteen months' time about 70 per cent. of the European personnel in administration will have disappeared. Of course, that means nothing less than risking the complete breakdown of that administration.

May I attempt to analyse the difficulties, and from that analysis indicate, as I see it, the only way out. Without in any way moralising over the situation, but speaking of it simply and objectively, I would say that we face a situation in which certain territories will receive self-government before they are fully equipped for it. We have to recognise a process of going through the constitutional drill, so to speak, expecting these good men to remain and hoping that on the ground all will be well. At the other end, these territories themselves seem to want to have their cake and eat it. May I quote what the Secretary of State said just over a year ago soon after his return from Nigeria: African Ministers in every Region and in the Federal Council of Ministers pressed on me urgently the need in Nigeria far British officials, both administrators and experts in other fields. They urged on me to do all I could to see that the people of our race, to whom we all owe such a deep debt of gratitude, stay in. Nigeria during the coming difficult years and encourage in every way ether people to come too. Much as African loaders may express this desire for these good men to remain in Africa, there are many obstacles to any scheme which places on the local Government the financial burden of maintaining these overseas officers. When, in a constitutional sense, we still have control in these territories, it is logical to recognise a divided responsibility. The officer is paid and pensioned by the local Government, but the rules governing his appointment, recruitment leave and so on, are formed by the Secretary of State here. That is defensible— and, of course, it is argued—so long as we have final responsibility here in Whitehall. But, once responsibility passes to an indigenous dispensation, it seems to me that it will be difficult to ensure, merely by signing a formal agreement with the Territory, that conditions of service are maintained which will be attractive enough to these men.

May I give your Lordships an example? Imagine the position of a Finance Minister in a territory overseas presenting his Budget. He comes to an item marked "Basic and expatriate pay of European officers." Is not an Opposition always going to attack him and his Government for supporting the overpriced foreigner at the expense of the cheaper indigenous talent? Is not the situation going to be thoroughly enjoyed by the vigilant but not very responsible nationalists, supported by a not very responsible but very vigilant Press? In those circumstances, the European officer will have to face a lot of unpleasant treatment. Political Parties in the territory will make capital out of his predicament. He will have to withstand the jealousy of his own African or Asian colleagues, young men who are more and more replacing him; and, not only that, hut perhaps a European officer or financial secretary may become a kind of "Yes-man," afraid perhaps of standing up to his Minister.

I cap see only one way out of this predicament, and that is that Her Majesty's Government, in some sweeping gesture of statesmanship, should assume entire responsibility, both for pay and for pensions of the Oversea Civil Service. It could be argued that the expatriate portion of pay might be a legitimate charge on the Treasury, but that the basic pay, which is nothing more than the local Government pay their own local service, should remain a charge on the local Government. That is quite logical, but if we want to keep this Commonwealth and Empire together, we have to consider not what is logical but what is psychological. These men are the cement which binds together the bricks. I suggest that only the best cement can suffice. Better dispense with them altogether than offer them terms of ambiguity and doubt, doubt as between African and Asian, on the one side, and Englishman, on the other, whether it be at individual or at governmental level.

I suggest that a fair way to regard these salaries is in the nature of an assurance policy such as any one of us takes out in business or family life. The life assurance analogy has been referred to. Supposing, for example, that £x million are spent by Her Majesty's Government on colonial development and welfare, and that, as a result of a deficiency of trained administrators and technical officers, that money may be regarded as lost or partially lost, then it would seem only wise to have spent an additional but much smaller sum, £y million, on making the terms for these good officers fool-proof, because they alone can ensure that these various schemes of development are seen through to their conclusion. Again, to use another example of an insurance nature, supposing that the business of the great trading houses in these countries begins to shrink as a result, either of lost confidence or of restrictions imposed in those countries, we can assume that Her Majesty's Government are going to lose a large sum—£x million—in taxation, although the expenditure of only £y million on ensuring that the terms were satisfactory to the officers remaining, would have meant the continued receipt of that taxation by reason of the confidence which would have been left to these various great trading houses. I wonder if the views of the trading houses have been sounded in regard to the position of the Oversea Civil Service.

There is another method of accountancy which I suggest is not difficult to consider—I refer to the possible use of Colonial Development and Welfare funds for this purpose. I suggest that in principle we are being asked to accept nothing new by regarding the salaries of the Oversea Civil Service as a charge on Colonial Development and Welfare. Since 1945, local funds in colonial territories have provided more than half the finance under this heading. Some of these countries are developing a strong financial position and are now able to forgo much or all of the new allocations made under the latest instalment of the Act. The Gold Coast now demands no money at all; Uganda, on the last occasion, wanted only half a million pounds. It seems to me that we are moving into new circumstances, when British charity will not be required, certainly in regard to colonial development and welfare. Therefore, I suggest that the Treasury should be able to set aside and allocate sums which would have fallen under the heading of development and welfare in order to be able to finance a reduced Oversea Civil Service—for obviously the Service will be reduced.

I would again underline what noble Lords have said in regard to the need for urgency in this matter. I am thinking particularly of the third age group referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Glyn—the younger men. In ten years' time, men who are now 35 will—so they argue—be too old to take jobs in this country. At the moment, they say, they are young enough to fit themselves into conditions which are unknown to them in this country. But men of 45 find it rather hard to do that, so their attitude is "Let us go while the going is good." If the noble Earl who is to reply can in any way indicate steps which go a long way beyond this Colonial Paper 306, he will have gone a long way also to reassure not only these keen men but a waiting Commonwealth outside.

May I finally turn to the other aspect, that of a certain amount of idealism referred to, in particular, in paragraph 13? I was overawed by Lord Milverton, who from his great experience seemed to pour cold water on this conception of a Commonwealth Service. I have to confess that for me, without that experience, it has much more than this superficial attraction. Paragraph 13 seems to make a concession to the idealists, and I suggest that the way to approch the subject is to set our sights high and try to think out the Service which, if we could wave a magic wand, we should create in our dreams, and then come down to earth and see how that kind of Service would fit in with the practical problems of administration and control and finance.

The term "Corps d'Élite" has been referred to, the conception being that such a Service would be extremely difficult to enter; that service in it would be regarded as a privilege, and, more important, that it should be open to all —in other words, that it should be multiracial. Paragraph 13 speaks of an Oversea Service directly employed by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. While the United Kingdom would remain for many years the focus of recruitment, I suggest that, very gradually, there should be the introduction of enlistment and recruitment from other countries. The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, referred to the fact that the Service is at this moment open to these countries, but I wonder how many New Zealanders and Australians there are serving in it at the moment. Is it too much to hope that such a Service, instead of being responsible to Whitehall or to the Secretary of State, either in the Colonial Office or in the Commonwealth Relations Office, might be placed in some direct relationship with the Crown through some independent office whose functions have yet to be defined? In days when more and more there are conflicting tugs at our loyalties within the Commonwealth—as the latest example we have the position of gravity as between Pakistan and India—would not such a Service, perhaps a Service of only 2,000 hand-picked men, around whom could be erected the future structure of the Commonwealth, help to hold us together? Would it not be a worthy sort of scaffolding? One has the problem of fitting that great conception, as I see it, into the present position.

I know that there are many questions which have to be answered. Is such a Service to be a new and separate Service, Imposed on existing conditions and running parallel to the existing Service? Alternatively, is it to grow, gradually, from existing present conditions? Of those two alternatives probably the latter is by far the more practical. Again, would the functions of this Service be reserved for territories of colonial status or for territories of Commonwealth status, or for both? I am assuming that within about fifteen years there will be left only the twenty or twenty-five smaller territories—what one might term the island fortresses —which could never be economically viable on their own, and that for their benefit both a Service and an office must always continue. But it seems logical to assume that such art office and a Service would become an appendage of an expanded Commonwealth Relations Office. I understand that already there are liaison officers of the Commonwealth Relations Office on the ground in Malaya. But if such a Commonwealth Service is to live up to its name, in my view it should be a Service available for any part of the Queen's Realm, whether it be one of the smaller remaining territories or one of the thirteen or fourteen final Dominions. The difficulties are, of course, daunting and frustrating, but I suggest that, when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meet over here in June, they might well consider this matter. If, as I suspect they may be, their reactions are favourable to it, could not a Royal Commission be appointed to go into the prospects not only of a Commonwealth Service but of many other allied problems? The noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, has recently mentioned leadership in ideas. Here indeed is an idea—and a great one. Could it not be examined? Could it not be tried, even if it should fail? If it does fail, I say it would be a worthy failure. A poet has said, I think, that 'Tis better to have loved and lost, Than never to haw loved at all. I feel that some such wisdom should perhaps govern this great concept of a Commonwealth Service.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate so opportunely and ably introduced by my noble friend, Lord Glyn, this afternoon, but several things have been said which have suggested to me some reflections which I should like to put before your Lordships. It seems to me that we have before us two different questions, though they overlap. One is how to treat properly, and secure the continued use of, the services of men who are or have been in the Colonial Service; the other is a much wider and longer problem of how to ensure that there are always available, for the service of other countries which need them, British experts with that experience which we have developed and can continue to develop in this country, and also of course in other parts of the Commonwealth. It is obviously important that men in the present Colonial Service should be properly treated in the circumstances which we all know are now developing. It is also important that their valuable ability and experience should be utilised by those Governments to whom those services and that experience would be of great value. They have much that they must remember from the past, even if it is also true: that there is much that they have to try to forget. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, quoting Miss Margery Perham, it is a rather difficult transition from the position of having administered as a member of a ruling class, to the position of serving as a civil servant in a self-governing territory.

I believe that the main and basic problem is much wider in scope, in that it has a vista of time that goes beyond the careers of existing Colonial servants and is also wider geographically, in the sense that it should also be concerned with the problems of rapidly developing countries, whether or not they are, or have been, in the British Commonwealth. There are many such countries which need the kind of expert assistance we, and some other countries, too, can give them if we organise ourselves in such a way as to respond to demands and requests when they come.

This second and wider problem is not at all an easy one to solve, and I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, that the right solution is not to be found in a Commonwealth Overseas Service, because such a Service could not, looking over the years to come, be able to recruit and secure the proper kind of experience to meet the demands of the future. If a country (whether or not it has been in the British Commonwealth or has had special relationship with us, such as we find in the Middle East), desires in the development of its new system of administration the assistance of British experience in, for example, the creation of a system of public finance, that country does not want somebody who has had training in a Commonwealth Service but somebody who has had training in a Treasury, whether it be a Treasury in Whitehall or in Canada or elsewhere. That is where we should look for the centre of our organisation for the problem of the future. I should like to see this problem envisaged as a problem of the Civil Service as a whole, possibly at a certain stage in due association with the Colonial Services of other parts of the Commonwealth—for example, great Dominions like Canada. I should like to see, as part of the definite and recognised duty of the Civil Service, that it is prepared at any time to meet the request of an external Government for an expert in any kind of public administration—Board of Trade, Treasury, Public Works, or whatever you like.

If that duty existed, it would follow, although it would not necessarily be the duty of every civil servant to go abroad, that the Service would need to see that there were always suitable people who had volunteered and were prepared to go abroad if required. It would also be an essential part of that system that when a foreign request was made and an officer was sent, he would be seconded in such a way that when that job was done he could return to the Civil Service, and do so under conditions which provided that he would not be prejudiced by the fact that for some years he had been working abroad rather than at home.

In putting that suggestion before Her Majesty's Government at this moment, I should like to suggest the background of opportunity against which this problem should now be considered. I suppose that never in the world's history has there been a period when over so wide a range there have been attempts at rapid development of hitherto undeveloped countries, or when that problem of development has involved such intricate and complex questions of administration. Anyone who, like myself, has been concerned with these problems of development (and I have been concerned in a number) knows that the core and crux of the problem of development is more often than not the problem of finding the requisite administrative ability to carry through the development scheme, whatever it may be. Many countries now in this process of development would like to find appropriate foreign experience if it could be found under proper conditions; but if that is to be done there must be in the countries from which those men are to come a system whereby they can quickly be found and made appropriately available for whatever the demand may be.

The future of our influence in the world and of our relations with a great part of the world depend very largely on whether we find a proper solution to this problem. There was a time when our influence, whether in trade, culture or ideas, depended largely on the existence of an unchallengeable Navy. That time has gone. There was a period, which lasted rather longer, when our influence largely depended on the fact that we had material and physical and potentially combatant forces equal to those of any other country in the world. That day has passed. There has been a period, which has to a large extent lasted longer than those two, where over a great part of the world—the underdeveloped world in particular—we have been able to exercise a kind of superior administrative and political authority such as was associated with the old Colonial Empire. That period also is passing. The problem of our future in our relations with other countries is very largely that of how to continue a not lesser influence without the political authority we have had in the past. The transition is difficult. It is not impossible, but it will be impossible except with a proper organisation to meet the kind of needs we have been discussing to-day.

I know how difficult it is at present, when a great opportunity arises, to find for a foreign post of great executive authority, somebody who has exactly the right experience within our own system. But it can be done. In a particular case which I have in mind it was done. But I know how difficult it was to do. It would be much easier if a proper organisation were set up in Whitehall, an organisation which should not be restricted only to finding appropriate civil servants but should also be in touch with special experience outside in the business and manufacturing world. Such an organisation, upon a request being received from a foreign Government, would thus be able to find, not only from within Whitehall but from within the British economy as a whole, the kind of experience that was wanted.

If we can do that, the advantage in spreading our ideas and influence over the world would he an inestimable advantage in relation to the trouble and expense involved. We cannot go in for anything comparable with the great Point 4 system of America. That is enormously expensive; I think, too, that in value fat money it gives much less than a system designed to secure that executive positions under a foreign Government are filled on request by those with appropriate British experience. I think that one man in direct executive office is of immensely more value both to the country to which he goes and to the country from which he comes than a dozen people in the kind of advisory relationship that the Point 4 association normally means. My Lords, I had not meant to trespass upon your time to-day, but I should like to put it to you that these problems should be considered against the rather wider background which I have endeavoured to suggest to your Lordships.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, this debate seems, with the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Salter, to have gone off somewhat at a tangent. Certainly it was a very fine conception that he put forward of what seemed to be almost an international Civil Service of experts of all sorts available to go anywhere. But that seems to me to be slightly different from the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, which, I think, was to draw attention to the British Colonial Service or Oversea Service, and primarily to the problems of the administrative officer, because when we talk of the administrative Colonial Service we are not talking of experts, we are talking of all-rounders, people who are expert only in the qualities of dealing with other human beings.

Many noble Lords with far greater experience than I possess have spoken, and I should, at the end of this debate, like to put only two points to the noble Earl who is to reply on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. First, I would underline one point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood: that is, the difference in the financial cost to the country employing them of expatriate officers and indigenous officers. That is a point which is already relevant in some countries. In Rhodesia, the additional cost of employing an officer from the United Kingdom or from the Dominions as compared with one whose home is in Africa is talked about freely at the moment. That, I am sure, will be a factor which will influence the choice of officers for these services, and unless some such scheme as Lord Birdwood outlined can be brought in whereby the difference between the two scales could be borne by Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, it seems that in the selection of officers that will always be a factor quite different, and possibly somewhat contrary, to the factors of efficiency and suitability on which they would normally be chosen.

I should like to underline one other point, because it has not been specifically mentioned up to now. We know that there is a pressing shortage of young men for the Colonial Service. You will be told in any Colony that the Service is considerably under strength, and when each batch of cadets arrives there are always fewer than are required to fill the vacancies. So the Government have to offer sufficient attractions to draw plenty of the right type of young men. In the old days the attraction of the Colonial Service lay in the responsibility and the independence which even a young, junior officer enjoyed overseas. In those days he was practically a dictator in his own territory, responsible to the Governor and to the Secretary of State. The new factor in this situation now is the rise to self-government of the colonial peoples, and what is wanted from the administrative officer is a complete change of outlook—the new relationship of which Miss Margery Perham wrote. That is something that Her Majesty's Government have to publicise.

The type of person who will be attracted by this new relationship is not necessarily the same type as that which formerly filled the ranks of the Colonial Administrative Service. Now he has to be an adviser; he has to be willing, one might say, to work himself out of a job by fostering the growth of local community feeling and local government institutions. And he is responsible to elected Ministers and Governments of the country he serves. The reward will not be the same as the reward of the colonial officer formerly. His reward will be in assisting and advising, on a basis of complete equality, the political leaders and the administrators indigenous to the country. Those are factors which have to be made clear. It is no good recruiting officers on the basis that colonial administrative jobs are the same as in the old days. It must be explained that new qualities and a new outlook are wanted. If that is explained, I am sure that there will be plenty of young men coming forward to fill the Service.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, may I, at the beginning of my remarks, express to my noble friend Lord Glyn, who moved this Motion, the Government's gratitude to him, because on more than one occasion he has, at our request, postponed discussion of it. I regret that my noble friend Lord Lloyd is not here to-day to answer the noble Lord's questions, but I will do my best to give your Lordships as full a reply as possible to all the points mentioned in the course of the discussion. As noble Lords have said, this Motion is of first-rate importance, and I have no doubt that the Report of the debate will be read with great interest by the many thousands of men and women who to-day form Her Majesty's Oversea Colonial Service. There is little disagreement which the Government would have with the observations which the noble Lord put forward. The White Paper No. 306, published in June. 1954, is now in operation and I am advised that it has had generally a good effect. So far nearly 10,000 officers have applied and have been accepted for enrolment as members of the Oversea Colonial Service. This figure represents the great majority of those eligible to join, so that it may be said at once that this Paper was well received by the mass of the members of the Oversea Colonial Service. In contradiction to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, I would say that it has done its job and done it reasonably well.

Before I refer to the main portion of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Glyn, perhaps I could deal with some of the questions addressed to me. In the Colonial Service to-day there is a number of persons who come from the full self-governing countries. I understand that it has been a principle of the British Colonial Service for many years that individuals who were born outside this country are eligible for recruitment for the Colonial Service as members of the British Commonwealth. On the question of vacancies in the Service, which was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Glyn, Lord Ogmore, Lord Milverton and Lord Winster, I may say that the Colonial Office are now filling some 1,500 posts abroad every year and, so far from diminishing, the overall demand continues to increase. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, I would say that the quality of recruits is good, but, as in industry to-day, we could do with a number of well-qualified candidates for every single vacancy which exists in the Service. It is hoped that during the present year we shall fill some 1,400 vacancies, the largest demands being for administrative officers, agriculturists, teachers, engineers, doctors and nurses.

The noble Lord, Lord Milverton, asked whether the Government had any views on the future of the Colonial Service. If I say merely that the prospects for the Colonial Service are satisfactory and that I should not be so downhearted as he is in looking to the future, I hope he will forgive me, as his question is a little outside the terms of the Motion. He will forgive me if I do not go beyond making that observation this afternoon. The benefits which were expected from this Paper are those set out in paragraphs 6 and 7 and I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that I think it has been accepted that they are of a substantial nature.

The noble Lord, Lord Winster, suggested that men with political experience in another place and, I take it, in this House as well should be appointed as Governors of colonial territories. As the noble Lord knows, in the past, and in the very recent past, Members of both Houses of Parliament have been appointed to governorships, and I think it is true to say that neither this House nor another place has been disappointed with the results which have been achieved. But I think that in the future, as in the past, the majority of Colonial Governorships must be filled by men who have made the Colonial Service their whole active career. I think it would be unfortunate if we should hold out few hopes to those in the Colonial Service who have climbed to the top of the Service that this plum may also be within their grasp, and should decide that these posts would invariably go to Members of this House or another place.


My Lords, I was most careful to say that I did not propose to make that an inflexible rule and that full discretion would be left with the Colonial Secretary and the Prime Minister about recommendations for Governorships.


I think here that the exception proves the rule and that colonial servants should hive the great majority of Colonial Governorships available to them. I pass on to deal with the interesting observations made by my noble friend Lord Salter. There was a great deal with which I agreed, especially in the suggestion that there should be always a body of expert British opinion available for visiting the colonial territories to give expert advice. I come to the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and of the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. There is a considerable difference in the salaries for expatriate officers and for local talent, but without information which I do not have at present I cannot give the noble Lord an indication of what the difference in cost would be. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, that it would be physically impossible for the Government to take over the paying of the pensions of the whole of the Oversea Colonial Service. He might well ask me whether that would include compensation paid to those officers whose places are taken by local talent. The local Governments are the employers of expatriate officers in every case and it is obvious that Her Majesty's Government could not assume the full responsibility without careful and continuous thought of what the results might be. I do not honestly believe that the salaries for administrative officers and others who are performing duties outlined in the appendix to the White Paper are a proper charge for Colonial Development and Welfare Funds to meet.

Finally, I turn to the interesting observations made by my noble friend Lord Tweedsmuir, who thought it would be possible to have some form of insurance against premature termination of service. I think the noble Lord knows that anybody in the Service to-day would receive compensation if his services were terminated when the Colony in which he served achieved self-government. But I hardly think it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to undertake to insure every colonial servant against this eventuality. Nevertheless, it is an ingenious idea, and I should like to communicate with my noble friend after I have discussed it with my right honourable friend the Colonial Secretary.

May I now refer back to the While Paper and to the main part of the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has moved. Paragraph 13 of the White Paper, about which many noble Lords have spoken, referred to the possibility of setting up a Commonwealth or Over-sea Service and pointed out that this raised a good many problems. I can assure my noble friend, and other noble Lords who have taken part in the discussion, that these problems are being examined very seriously, and I hope it will be possible to make a statement in the fairly near future about the results of this examination. Meanwhile, within the existing framework, we are trying to secure reasonable conditions of service and the safeguarding of pension rights, and that where constitutional changes result in early retirement adequate compensation is paid for the loss of a career.

Discussions to this end have already taken place with the representatives of several territories. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who said that so far they had all been very fair indeed, and I think that is true. I am certain, as will be understood from the prevailing feeling in your Lordships' House this afternoon, that the whole House would agree that until those territories which have attained advanced or complete self-government can produce enough properly qualified officers to staff their own Services, it is desirable that they should be able to retain a proportion of experienced British officers. Indeed, in most of the overseas territories where this question at present arises, the responsible Ministers have, as my noble friend Lord Glyn has said, approved this course, and many of them have publicly stated that they hope the British officers will remain. The problem is not, therefore, only one of securing compensation for those who leave; it is also necessary to see what Her Majesty's Government and the oversea Governments can do between them to induce those whose services are still needed to remain, and to bring others in to fill posts which cannot yet be filled from local sources. That is the task which is facing us, and it is not an easy one.

Let me say this to my noble friend. We do not intend as a Government to let down the Colonial Service in any way whatever. I might say, further, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, that there is no need for the Colonial Service to-day, any more than there was in the past, to fight, as he described it, on two fronts. We are protecting their interests to the best of our ability, and we are determined that in the end the colonial servants shall secure a fair deal. I can say no more to-day but, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, I hope that my right honourable friend will be able to make a statement on the whole subject in the fairly near future.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for his reply, although I do not think it is satisfactory, because it is putting off still further a matter which is of deep concern to thousands of officers serving overseas. One has heard so often the words "in the fairly near future." I hope the explanation may be, as the noble Earl, Lord Munster, has said, that this is a matter which it is felt ought to be announced by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in another place, and that therefore it was not possible for him to delegate such a statement to the noble Earl who replied to-day. Assuming that to be so, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.