HL Deb 23 July 1957 vol 205 cc55-62

3.40 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I hope and expect that this Bill will be welcomed on all sides of the House. The Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation took over the properties in Tanganyika from the Overseas Food Corporation in 1954, and then became responsible for carrying forward the experimental part of the work of what had initially been the much more ambitious effort of the groundnuts scheme. I do not wish to go in any way into the past history of this scheme. The work of the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation has been quite separate, except that it has had the advantage of using some of the ground cleared by the Overseas Food Corporation.

The task set the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation was to take this ground and conduct experiments for its best use, employing Western knowledge and techniques. The outcome would, it was hoped, be a profit to those working the land and a value to other marginal lands in East Africa and elsewhere in Africa. For two years before really getting down to work, the Company devoted their atten tion to research and investigation. Then they took the three main areas and developed them in the light of what research had indicated they were best suited for. In one case, it was mainly cattle; in another tobacco and other crops; and in the third, mixed farming.

The scheme has been going most satisfactorily, but another five years will be needed before it will have been proved to the satisfaction of all concerned that the schemes can stand on their own feet as well founded and the methods used can be established as of broader application. Originally, £1,700,000 was allotted for the purpose of the Corporation until October of this year. This money was to be outside the ceiling set by the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts for normal development and welfare schemes. Of this amount, a balance of about £500,000 has not been spent, those responsible for the Corporation's activities having proceeded with care and thoroughness. The purpose of the Bill is to give the Corporation, through the Tanganyika Government, the continued support they require for their programme up to 1962 at a cost which is estimated should not exceed £500,000. It would have been possible up to 1960 to use ordinary Colonial Development and Welfare funds for this purpose, but that would have meant so much less for other schemes, and after 1960, when the present Colonial Development and Welfare Act conies to an end, there would have been uncertainty. For these reasons, it was felt best to have the Bill which is before your Lordships. To avoid any overlap or dual provision, subsection (3) of Clause 1 specifically rules out these Colonial Development and Welfare Funds after October.

The latest news of the Corporation's activities is to be found in the Annual Report, a copy of which has been placed in the Printed Paper Office. I will not take up your Lordships' time with the details of what is a very satisfactory story. Results in all three areas are most encouraging, and these are due to the Chairman of the Corporation, Mr. Stuart Gillett, his board, and all the members of the staff. It will be seen from the Report that for the year 1955–56 gross expenses were £550,000 and gross receipts £365,000, leaving a net cash expenditure of £185,000. It is expected and hoped that in the coming years this net cash expenditure will steadily decrease, until by 1962 the items will be self-balancing, It is to meet this declining expenditure that the £500,000 is to be allocated.

One of the most encouraging features has been the continued success of the African tenant schemes. These schemes, which have been established in all three areas, are designed to promote the evolution of a class of African yeoman farmer. Land, tools, seed and instruction are provided for selected peasant farmers who show the initiative and desire to leave the subsistence economy, and they are brought on to the final stage of managing, unaided, their own small estates. The schemes continue to grow, and the number of tenants has now passed the 200 mark. The whole scheme is on a non-racial basis, and although at the moment only a few of the Africans are in the higher grade of employees, the aim is for more. Much has been learned in the last years about agricultural conditions and practice, and more may confidently be looked for in the coming five years for which the £500,000 is sought in this Bill. The lessons will be of great value, not only for the area where the experiments have taken place, but for Tanganyika genera-ally and, indeed, all those parts of Africa which are faced with similar problems. I beg to move.

Moved, that the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Perth.)

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, we on this side welcome the object of this Bill, assuming, as we take to be the case, that it has had the blessing of the Tanganyika Government and of the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation itself. The explanatory note is a little confusing, and that is why I listened carefully to what the noble Earl had to say. I want to be quite sure that this amount is in substitution for the amount agreed to be paid under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act; and that I understand is the case. I say that because in the Foreword to the Report of the Corporation, to which the noble Earl has referred—a Report which, I may say, came into my hands only a few minutes before we came into the House this afternoon—I notice this statement: As noted in Chapter 1 of this Report, Her Majesty's Government has signified its preparedness in principle to continue providing the Corporation with assistance from United Kingdom funds—additional to the sum provided by the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts—for a further five years from the 1st October, 1957, subject to terms which are presently under consideration. From that reference it would appear that the Corporation were under the impression that they were going to get this £500,000 in addition to the balance of £1,700.000 which they were getting under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. I take it—and I should like confirmation of this from the noble Earl—that that paragraph in the Foreword is incorrect, or, as least, incorrectly expresses the agreement between Her Majesty's Government, on the one hand, and the Tanganyika Government and the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation, on the other. If the noble Earl will give us that assurance then we shall be quite happy.


My Lords, I have great pleasure in giving that assurance. The position is as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, has explained and understood.


I am much obliged. I noticed that, in the Annual Report for last year on the Colonial Territories, at page 18, it is stated that encouraging progress continues to be made by the Corporation in its various enterprises. I was very glad indeed to read that note, which was practically the only reference to this Corporation in the Report. I am rather surprised at that, because this is an encouraging activity on the part of the Colonial Office and of the Tanganyika Government, and I am therefore rather surprised that they have not patted themselves on the back more than they have. There is just that brief note that progress is encouraging, which does not in any way, to my mind, sum up the situation as it is. It is not often that we have to chide the Government for not giving us sufficient information about their good works. We often have to chide them in other respects. They should be chided here, because they have done a great deal of good, I think, in Tanganyika, as I shall show in a moment.

It was always said in the Army that the British Army had the finest manuals in the world, and the least read. I am not sure that that does not apply to Colonial Reports as well. There are a large number of them and one has to do a sort of detective investigation to get out some of these things. I have had to hunt through all sorts of Blue Books to get any reference to the Corporation and what it has done during the preceding year. As I say, it was only a few minutes before the House sat this afternoon that the actual Report of the Corporation, to whom we are about to agree to give £500,000, came into my hands. I am grateful to the noble Earl and to the Leader of the House for enabling me to see it, even at that moment. If I had not seen it then, I should not have seen it at all. But, as this is a very interesting Report and as it is a very important Corporation, I should have thought it might have been better if noble Lords and Members in another place could have had the opportunity of reading and studying this Report at more length. I do not know whether it would be very costly to print it as a White Paper, a Command Paper or a ministerial Paper, but if it were possible, in some way, to enable those of us who are interested in these matters to have this Report so that we can study it, I am sure that it would be well worth the expense involved.

As the noble Earl has said, the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation took on the land and some of the work which was done by the Overseas Food Corporation in what is familiarly known as the Ground-nuts Scheme. I am glad to say that the Corporation has made steady progress. Its work is summed up in Chapter I of the Report, where it is stated that the Corporation's activities are divided into three parts. The first refers to "The Transferred Undertaking"—that was the undertaking of the Overseas Food Corporation. The second is the "Rufiji Basin Survey Scheme"—a vast area in which the potentialities are being explored by the Corporation. The third is the Ruvu Ranching Scheme, which (if I may adopt a personal note), I myself suggested many years ago. I am pleased to see that that is now being developed by the Corporation.

The background, as I have said, is the development of the area originally dealt with by the Overseas Food Corporation, and then other areas into which they did not enter. The commentary on it can be found in the Report of the East Africa Royal Commission. This is another of those voluminous Reports which are of enormous importance, which take a great deal of trouble, involving years of work, but which, so far as I know, are practically unread in Parliament, unfortunately. This Report is almost a guide book to agricultural and social development in East Africa. I notice on page 327 of the Report this statement: It is interesting to find that much the same results—the excessively heavy burden of capital costs when such schemes are put down in uninhabited bush, and the tendency to switch from full mechanisation with direct employment to a tenancy system—have been reached by the Overseas Food Corporation in Tanganyika. This organisation, whatever its shortcomings in attaining its original objective"— and I should like noble Lords who occasionally talk about the undertaking of the Overseas Food Corporation without always realising what its present state is to bear this statement in mind— is still of great value for experiment in this vital subject of the economic posibilities of employing mechanised aid, and if it did not exist, a similar organisation would certainly have to be created. The undertaking has recently been transferred to the new Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation, the first objective of which is self-supporting agricultural production on land already held by the Overseas Food Corporation. A second objective is to undertake, participate in. or promote agricultural production and development of other areas in the Territory. The long-term policy is designed in particular to stimulate and assist African farmers to achieve much higher production and standards of living by their own efforts, suitably guided, and augmented by the provision of mechanised cultivation operations which they, as individuals, could not otherwise undertake. The Report goes on to describe the sort of pattern of agriculture which is developing in this area, with the Corporation providing agriculturists to supervise the agricultural operations, and providing tractors, mechanical aid and various kinds of credit. In fact, it is the sort of system which for one, have been suggesting, as the noble Earl, Lord Munster, well knows—and we have had debates on this—for many years. I often suggested that some such pattern as that should be evolved. I am particularly pleased to see that this pattern is being evolved in Tanganyika. I cannot understand why the Government have [...] publicised this, unless it is that they are afraid of some of their more extreme Back-Benchers and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, who would no doubt take them to task at this essay in socialism. Then the Report goes on, at page 328 (paragraph 85): While it is far too early to form any opinion as to the success of these experiments, it would be difficult to overestimate their importance. They bear directly on a main need of East Africa, which is the application of managerial and technical knowledge and of capital in order to modernise the indigenous economy, so that the people are finally left with bosh the trained ability and experience with which to create their own capital for their own future development. There is just one further quotation I should like to make from this most valuable and interesting Report, a landmark, if I may say so, in the history of East Africa. It is at page 387, which deals with race relations. The Report says this: By far the greatest part of a new policy"— that is to say, how the European settlers can exist side by side with the African farmers— will be concerned, however, with African fanning. Our approach here has usually been associated with a tribal conception which may develop into a local patriotism which should not be discouraged so long as it does not become a vested interest conflicting with territorial needs. Moreover, in the passage from tribal forms of society to a wider modern economy, individuals may feel a sense of being lonely and lost unless an organised form of economy is there to help them. In this respect planned settlement schemes, and the work of such bodies as the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation and of co-operative societies, may fill a very general psychological need. Our meaning is not that Africans are hopeless and need control but that the road forward needs planning. We judge it essential in this planning that the people themselves should feel a sense of participating in its creation and administration, and we think that African local governments should be associated in the selection of pilot areas. Both within the framework of such schemes and outside them, however, it is vital to take cognisance of the emerging African individual and to help him to develop his sense of leadership and initiative. Nothing can be more important in this regard than personal acquaintance and friendship. So your Lordships will see that, on the best possible authority—or, at least, what I regard as the best possible authority on East Africa—namely, the Report of the East African Royal Commission, the work of the Tanganyika Agricultural Corporation has been commended. Therefore, we on this side gladly welcome this Bill; we congratulate those concerned with the Corporation—its general man ager, the board and others—on the work they have done, and we wish them every possible success in the future.

4.1 p.m.


My Lords, it is very nice to hear the words spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, in respect to the work of this Corporation. Let me first assure him that the present Bill is blessed by both the Government of Tanganyika and by the Corporation itself. In relation to his request about the Corporation's Report, I am sorry that there was a delay in laying the Report in the Printed Paper Office. I will see whether we cannot do what he suggests—that is, have further copies made available in a more convenient form. Lastly, it is also rather nice to be accused of hiding one's light under a bushel, and I will certainly bear in mind what the noble Lord says for future publicity. Whatever may be the origins of this Corporation, there is general agreement that its present work is excellent and valuable, not only for Tanganyika but for all of Africa.

On Question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of July 15). Bill read 3a, and passed.