HL Deb 23 July 1964 vol 260 cc859-78

5.58 p.m.

LORD ALPORT rose to ask Her Majesty's Government to examine the special problems facing British communities resident abroad as a result of changing world conditions. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. It was framed, many months ago, as a Motion. I make no complaint that it was impossible to find time to discuss it as a Motion; indeed, I am grateful that your Lordships have been able to fit it in before the end of the Session as an Unstarred Question. But that it did not form a Motion is perhaps symptomatic of the fact that many people in this country do not realise that the changes which have taken place in the circumstances of the British position overseas have produced a new problem, which I think is worth the attention of your Lordships, and of Parliament as a whole—that is, the problem of the welfare of British communities overseas.

I am not referring, of course, to British communities resident in Europe. I have no doubt that those in Paris and Monte Carlo are perfectly capable of looking after themselves. I am concerned with those communities, particularly in African and Asian countries, who still form very much an element of British overseas representation and of our economic and trade activities, and who are going to live in these countries in increasingly difficult and different circumstances in the years that lie ahead.

I recognise that to-night I have to convince your Lordships that these communities do provide a problem. Perhaps I can best start by reading an extract from a letter I have received from the wife of one of our Ambassadors in a newly-independent African country. She said this: The idea"— that is, the idea of having an information bureau run by the ladies of the British community in that country— arose last year because we found so many British people here had problems which could easily be solved with a little co-operation. I think many people do not realise the need for this because they are not aware how the community has changed. It used to be much more closely knit, and every one who came was part of some organisation and was automatically looked after. Now so many come for a short term, and have never left England before and are not part of an organisation. It is a pity if they get discouraged and leave unnecessarily, especially as people here have so much goodwill towards the British. This happy relationship will not automatically continue: it needs to be fostered. I therefore put it to your Lordships that there is a problem, and it is one which with the passage of time will be more important and in which our national interest is involved.

Both the other place and your Lordships' House very properly spend much time and express much concern over safeguarding the rights of State servants whose careers and prospects have been altered, and perhaps damaged, as a result of great constitutional changes. But in future that class of person is going to be represented in our overseas communities to a very small extent only. The vast majority of the British overseas, whose importance to Britain will remain very great, and perhaps increase, will not be officials. They will not be people who have behind them the support of the influence and organisation of any State Department or service. In the majority of cases they will be going, as my correspondent from Africa said, temporarily, without previous experience of life in the countries in which they are going to live, and not necessarily under the auspices of any organisation which can look after them, either while they are abroad or when they return to this country. They will go as engineers, administrative officers, salesmen, teachers, university professors, technicians, and, indeed, in a variety of private careers; and all the time they will be contributing greatly to our interests in the country, just as they will be contributing to the interests of the country in which they serve.

I speak in some degree from experience of two or three years overseas, but the problem is one that has been concerning me for a much longer time. The first thing that these people require is information about what is going on here in the United Kingdom. Their state of morale is extremely important. It usually happens that they hear the worst about events here in Britain. The Press in various parts of the world, naturally, as part of the whole pattern, is concerned to reproduce the bad news rather than the good news, the criticisms rather than the plaudits of progress. Very soon the attitude of a community overseas to their own country, and their sense of perspective about developments in Britain, can become distorted, however much money we as a Government here may spend on information directed towards the Government and inhabitants of these overseas countries, whether in the Commonwealth or outside it.

Very largely it is the local British community that sets the tone and attitude. Where their morale is high, the prestige of Britain will be high; where their morale is low, the prestige of Britain will be low. The maintenance of this morale cannot be done entirely by the diplomatic representative on the spot. His information officer and his information service can certainly help, but so far as my experience goes, this is not sufficient.

The second thing we must bear in mind is that in these new circumstances the type of person who will be going overseas, and who will continue to go overseas and be most useful to us and the receiving country in which they are to work, will not be youngsters, not those right at the beginning of their careers, but men and women, probably already married, and in many cases already with a family. If they are to go overseas, some arrangement must be made to deal with what is, for them, in the majority of cases, the overriding problem of education. In earlier days it was fairly easy to find a British-run and British pattern of education in countries anywhere in the Commonwealth. To-day that pattern is changing. It is inevitable that it should. The standard and, tone of education overseas are diverging more and more from what they are in this country. The result is that the child who goes overseas, and has part of his education overseas, will, when the parents come back to this country, or the child comes back to this country in order to continue its education here, find himself seriously handicapped.

The British community in Malaya, for instance, has established two schools, the Raeburn Park and Tanglin preparatory schools, at which there are 650 boys and girls. They, as they claim very proudly and properly, as a result of self-help have been able to meet this problem. Their circumstances are perhaps more fortunate and easier than those of British people elsewhere: they are a numerous community. In other parts of Africa and Asia it will not be so easy.

I am sure that those who have experienced this situation will agree that it is not always sufficient to be able to send one's child home to school here in Britain, with the long separations involved, and perhaps the knowledge that the child may, through public expense, or as a result of a contribution from the company, or as a result of some inroad into one's own savings, come out for one or possibly two holidays a year. I am sure that that pattern of education, that sacrifice, which has been fostered in the past, when people have gone out for a life career overseas, will no longer obtain in the future. We shall have to think in terms of providing, with the assistance, understanding and permission of the overseas Governments concerned, some British schools overseas, primarily for our own community but also providing vacancies for children from the country in which these schools are sited. There will be increasingly the problem of language, and, as I say, the problems of standards and curricula.

Then there is what in many cases and in many families is the problem of health. Again, in earlier days this provided no great difficulty. But from my experience (and I think my noble friend Lord Ferrier will bear this out when he follows me in this debate) I saw in Calcutta how the local community there had come together to establish a very fine nursing home, the Woodlands Nursing Home, primarily for the benefit of the European and British community, but having a number of beds available for Indian friends or Indian Africans. There was no question of race, but the problem of medicine in those cases is considerable. The dietary in an Indian hospital is not something possible or appropriate to a European patient. These are practical problems which have to be faced, and which are being faced in Calcutta, and no doubt elsewhere in India, and also in Malaya, where the Gleneagles Hospital has 70 European beds and 30 Asian beds. The contribution which that hospital makes to the sense of security of the British community is very great.

The same applies to club and community life. There was in the old days the feeling that the British or European club was essentially the totem of the ruling class. That is no longer the case, or should be no longer the case. Every community living away from their families, whether here in this country or a British community living abroad, need and deserve a certain amount of social community life. The clubs can and do provide it. They must not, of course, be exclusive, but they can, and must, provide a very important social centre for a British community; and here help, particularly in the smaller areas, as I have seen for myself, for instance, in Ceylon, should and could come appropriately in certain cases from the Government.

There is finally the problem of help in time of trouble and tragedy. The changing political circumstances in the Common-wealth and elsewhere leave behind a number of British people who cannot come back to this country and readjust themselves to live here, and who carry on getting older and less independent with the passage of time in communities overseas. To a great extent they are dependent in times of trouble either upon local Governments, who may not always be able to assist them, or upon the charity of the local European and British community. As their needs become greater, it often happens that the resources of private voluntary charity to help in circumstances of need are reduced.

These people are very much our concern. They are not officials, and very few of them have been officials. They are not, therefore, the responsibility of the State here. They are private individuals who have contributed, in their own way, through their own careers, to working for this country overseas in their younger days. As I said, I think they have some claim on us as they get older.

There is one other point to which I would draw your Lordships' attention in connection with British communities overseas, and that is the reabsorption of those who return to this country. It is very much in the national interest that people from Britain should be prepared to go overseas and make what are undoubtedly sacrifices as a result of their decision to cut into perhaps a steady career here in order to serve for a period in the Commonwealth. The problems of re-absorption here on returning to this country are very great.

I have had a number of letters which have referred to these problems of finding employment. May I read very shortly some passages from one or two of them? The first is from a very experienced and extremely clever and intelligent Englishman—I think, in fact, he was a Scotsman—who has spent a good deal of his career overseas serving in an Administration, but not coming into the category of H.M.O.C.S. He returned to this country, and these are some of his comments on the experience which he had when he arrived here in Britain, at the age of 50 or so, looking for a job: With almost no exceptions, I found that the really large firms want nothing to do with returning Britons. They have copied the U.K. Civil Service and their policy is not to recruit people over 26 to 27 years of age; the only difference is that the private firms are even more rigid in their policy than the U.K. Civil Service. Personnel officers—with some notable exceptions—are also menaces to the returning Briton. By the very nature of their work, personnel officers tend to be 'domesticated' people; anyone who has worked in another country is regarded rather as an exceptional—even exceptionable—fellow who does not readily fit into their card index categories. In fairness, however, there are some notable exceptions to this generalisation; the trouble seems to be that too many personnel officers are rather inferior human material (and paid accordingly—to avoid all 'seedy' personnel officers should be a guiding rule for the returning Briton).

He goes on to say: As a model of what should be available for returning Britons, the Canadian National Employment Service could scarcely be bettered…the Canadian approach is quite different; they are orientated towards the future, not the past. They therefore judge a man's capacity in terms of the future fields in which they can employ him. Essentially, the difference is that the U.K. employer looks backwards at a man's past, and thinks of the future only in terms of that past, whereas the Canadians examine a man's past only to evaluate his capacity for work in what may be quite different future fields. Whether those criticisms are correct or not, they are criticisms made as a result of personal experience by somebody of whose judgment and integrity in this matter I personally have no doubt at all.

The machinery for finding employment for those who return to the United Kingdom from service overseas, where they have been, so to speak, in private service and not in official service, is very important. I do not know whether the writer's praise of the Canadian machinery is justified or not, but clearly he has an important point there as to the sort of attitude towards prospective employees which the Canadians have as compared with that of employers in the United Kingdom. I do not know whether his praise is justified or not, but something along those lines might indeed help in two ways, not only to provide prospects for somebody who has served overseas and returned to this country, but also to encourage people to go overseas in the capacities in which we want recruits for overseas service, knowing, as they would, that when they return their chances and prospects of re-entering into a worthwhile career here are more or less assured to them. I know there are a number of organisations which are doing admirable work along lines of this sort. The Women's Corona Society, for instance, is one; and there are others organised and existing in overseas countries, usually as a result of local initiative, to give some help, and they also are doing admirable work.

What I should like to suggest, if I may, to Her Majesty's Government is that, if they feel that I have in any way been able to prove the case that this is a problem, they should investigate it through British representatives overseas, particularly in Asia and in Africa, and in conjunction with those organisations which are particularly concerned with such matters—for instance, the Joint Eastern Central African Board, which is concerned with Central Africa, the West African Committee, and the Indian, Burma, Ceylon and Pakistan Association (I hope I have the title correct) which is an association which deals with the four countries of the Indian sub-continent and the Far East. There are no doubt similar organisations which are concerned with non-official relationships with overseas countries of this sort.

I feel that, although the problem may not be one which at the present moment hits the headlines and has stirred the imagination and conscience of this country, it is one which will be extremely important in the years ahead. We should, therefore, at this time be prepared to cope with it, and have our plans ready and working to help to tackle the problem, which is not only economic and political but of national importance to this country. I hope that the suggestion that I make commends itself to your Lordships, and to the Government as well.

6.19 p.m.


My Lords, I am indeed grateful, as I am sure the House is, to the noble Lord, Lord Alport, for putting down this Question. In a measure I share his regret that it was not in the form of a Motion. Speaking for myself, thanks to the postal strike I had rather short notice of the fact that it was coming up at all, due to the late delivery of my Paper. I propose to approach the matter from a slightly different angle from the points so ably raised by the noble Lord. Having spent many years as a member of the British mercantile community in what is now India and Pakistan, I am naturally interested in the communities there. Although I have no direct financial concern in present business activities there, I know something about their problems. Indeed, if my notes are not as tidy as I like them to be, it is because I had a surprise visit this afternoon from an old friend, a business colleague, an Indian with whom I spent the time when I should have been putting my notes into shape. Therefore, some of what I say is very much of the minute.

In so far as the noble Lord's Question refers to communities from this country who have gone to work abroad and intend to return, that is the basis of my study. Their problems are peculiar, and I, of course, refer, as I have said, to the Indian and Pakistan area. I agree very strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Alport, has said, that their problems are not only peculiarly but desperately important to our export trade, quite apart from the human side, to which I shall refer, and on that side we have our regard and duty to our countrymen who go to serve abroad.

The noble Lord referred in his Question to the changing world conditions, and to take the measure of that change, certainly in regard to the position of the community in India and Pakistan, it is necessary to look back. Not only have the changes been very great, but in so far as those communities are concerned misunderstandings have been very marked. The fact, as it always appeared to me, that the Axis propaganda went to such lengths to malign and abuse the British overseas, goes to show the measure of the importance of those Britons in our Commonwealth. Lord "Haw-Haw" and Tokyo Rose did their work, and they succeeded all too well in introducing an unjustified and unjustifiable sneer into words like "settler", "colonise" and "exploiter", a sneer, my Lords, which has been too readily adopted by too many people in this country. They tried to build up—and largely succeeded in doing so—a picture of Britain sucking its dependencies dry, whereas, as a matter of fact, the reverse was the case. My experience is that as a nation we tend to plough back more than we take out of the ground.

There are so many contradictions of this sort. We used to say, for instance, that "trade follows the flag". That is quite wrong; the reverse was the case; the flag followed the trade. There were merchants right ahead of the flag except when you go right back to the days of (shall we say?) governmental piracy. But the flag followed the trade, and now that the flag has been withdrawn the trade remains; and, as the noble Lord has said, the people who carry on that trade and that industry deserve special care.

It is hard to realise that the whole European community in the Indian subcontinent before the war, exclusive of troops and their families, was only some 25,000 in a country of two million square miles and 400 million people. In other words, the whole British civil community there, and it is about the same to-day—it is difficult to estimate it, because the figure of the European community before the war, to which I referred, included Germans, Americans and the like—is less than half the population of Watford. The very smallness of its numbers seems to me to point to individuals themselves as being important beyond peradaventure.

The contrast, of course, has been extraordinary between fact and fiction, and neither the Press nor the B.B.C. has really got the measure of the problem. Incidentally, I wish that the B.B.C. could have taken more care with their Kipling series, although recognition of his work is welcome. So far as contrasts are concerned, we talk too much of a "Solar" topi, whereas, of course, it a "Sola" topi. How many of us realise that calico came from Calicut, and that not so many centuries ago the flow of piece goods from the Indian sub-continent to this country was westwards, to be followed by an eastward flow when Lancashire attained its supremacy, again taken up to-day by the flow from the East? The trader became the merchant, the merchant became the entrepreneur and the industrialist. Of course, in terms of health, modern drugs have practically removed the perils of disease which struck down so many of our forefathers.

However, the greatest change is in the type of individual and the task that faces him when he seeks to work abroad today. The supply of younger sons and penniless orphans seeking their fortune has been dried up by two desperate wars and a new economy at home which puts a premium on playing safe—or, to put it another way round, which puts penalties on taking risks which are out of all proportion to a possible gain. These new conditions call for new considerations, which call for the examination for which the noble Lord has asked.

My Lords, it used to be "fun to export"—I quote from Mr. Harold Macmillan—and quite apart from the opportunities of financial gain, which were offset by risks to life and health which do not exist to-day, there was a sense of mission, of worthwhileness and of fulfilment in going to work in the East and to give probably a whole lifetime of service. So, as I see it, any examination of this problem, such as the noble Lord seeks, has to be two-pronged, as it were. First, the sense of mission; and, second, the financial side.

As for the sense of mission, the solution, to my mind, rests very largely with public opinion, the Press, the broadcasting media and the educational authorities. I feel that there should be no sense of guilt about our nation's reputation. We have much more of which to be proud than of which to be ashamed. It is the latter which Axis propaganda taught the public to accept. All of us who understand can, I believe, do something to rebuild our trust in British skills, in British good faith; and it is in the interests of British exports, if not on the ethical side, that this should be done.

The fact is that it is no longer easy to persuade young men to go and work in tropical countries in the East. Why? The sense of mission, to which I have referred, except as an outrider of British trade or interest in industry, has more or less gone. Financially speaking, opportunities, especially for technical experts, are so numerous in this country that it requires a very substantial financial reward to compensate for the upheaval of going to work in the East and, by so doing, dropping out of one's industry or one's profession in this country. This is a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Alport, referred. It is a sacrifice that is all to easy to overlook and one that comes to the surface only when somebody of a certain age returns to look for work. It is necessary, therefore, as I shall show, that rewards and prospects in terms of re-employment should be substantial.

Our predecessors may not all have been technicians, and for every one who survived others left their bones in the East. Indeed, Kipling was not far wrong when he wrote: Never the lotos closes, never the wild fowl wake, But a soul goes out on the East Wind, that died for England's sake. The days of risks like that are gone, but the men who survived abroad did mighty works, and in picturing the background it is fair to remind your Lordships that the railways, cotton textiles, jute, tea, steel, cement and engineering industries in that sub-continent are witness to the work they did. It is not my intention, any more than it was the noble Lord's, to refer to Service personnel, with their better organised conditions of pension and—shall we use the word?—"after-care", but, in passing, it is well to refer to the extent to which they, particularly in the engineering sides, took their share in the developments to which I have referred. It is well to remember that until 1930 there were more acres irrigated in India and Pakistan than there were irrigated in the whole of the rest of the world put together.

So much for the sentimental side of the matter; but, before leaving that, I should like to turn to what the noble Lord, Lord Alport, said about existing organisations. I think it is safe to say that the communities in the Indian subcontinent are comparatively well organised by virtue of the fact that they have been longer at it. Of course, Indianisation was conceived many decades ago, and the Chambers of Commerce are now not all purely European associations at all. They have a great deal of control over the question of employment and the like. But the European associations and similar bodies, chiefly the European associations, both of India and of Pakistan, are available to do the very sort of work among the people there to which the noble Lord referred. The joint organisation is the India-Pakistan-Burma Association, and they, with their offices in London, are able to co-ordinate a great deal of the work which the noble Lord pointed out as being so important: that returning Britons should have somewhere to go in order to obtain advice.

So far as the communities out there are concerned, they are largely urban, or grouped around factories, except, of course, in so far as the planters are concerned; they still remain as scattered, as many used to be, in the lonely up-country stations. The motor car and improved transportation has done much to make association easier, but there are times when the weather means that they lead fairly lonely lives. But, except for the planters, they are well organised. The noble Lord is quite right about the work done in Calcutta over a hospital; in fact I think it is modelled on a hospital planned in Bombay called the Breach-Kandy Hospital, which like the one in Calcutta was promoted and inspired by the European community but is by no means confined to serving them alone. Many Indians, I am happy to say, are able to make use of the wonderful facilities available in that splendid air conditioned building.

Clubs of course have come in for their criticism, but it is many years now since clubs were exclusive, certainly in regard to association with Indians. The other great advantage which the communities in India and Pakistan have is the well-established and splendidly organised High Commissioners' offices, not only at the headquarters at Delhi or Karachi but in the districts also. They are available as focal points to which any European in distress can turn for assistance. So much for the sentiment of the matter.

Let us turn to the financial aspects, on which I apologise to your Lordships but I propose to spend a long time, because they have a direct bearing on what the noble Lord was saying: that the communities abroad are important to Britain, they are important to the Commonwealth and they are important to our industry and our exports; and that the individuals themselves should be healthy and should be happy is definitely a matter which calls for proper consideration. As I have said already, we must remember that our social structure to-day puts a penalty on commercial and personal adventure, and it follows that employers have to pay substantial salaries, allowances and pensions to attract and hold men of the right type.

These rewards have to be additionally high, thus augmenting the on-cost on trade and industry, because of the very high taxation both here and overseas, especially at the higher rates of income, and it is to people with those higher rates of income to which of course we refer. Although considerable concessions in tax-free allowances are in some cases made to technicians—I know that is the case in India—it follows that an examination could well be directed towards alleviating any extra pressures of tax which fall upon individuals by service abroad.

Let me illustrate. Many large British industries have subsidiaries in India and Pakistan. Not only are these off-shoots of British industry but they take a prominent place in the industries of the country in which they are situated. But they are abroad. The problem of staffing them presents difficulties which could, I believe, be reduced. Indianisation has, quite properly, gone forward apace, in which respect I have two comments to make. But when I say they are abroad I mean that, no matter that a man may go out from here seconded by a parent company to a subsidiary abroad, he then becomes taxable in the country in which he is employed. That is one of the difficulties.

One difficulty that people are inclined to overlook is the importance of skilled and trained management as well as technical skills. I refer to this in regard to the fact that very largely the management side in India and Pakistan is in the hands of nationals, and it seems to me that with the management largely in their hands—and this is quite a problem—one of the difficulties is that exchange control regulations in these countries in regard to the movement of their own nationals coming to this country, to Europe or the U.S.A., are very strict. And although my friend who, as I say, has been here to-day, tells me he believes steps are being taken to have these pressures alleviated, I think it would be worth while for the authorities in these countries to ease, so far as they can, the restrictions on funds available for the movement of their own nationals to come to this country. I am sure that this would be to the advantage of the industries concerned. As for British nationals who are seconded to associated companies overseas, and who come to be taxed abroad, sometimes they find difficulty in arranging finance when they visit this country and their home. Why? It is because, since they are resident abroad, any allowance which they have received here is taxable in their hands in India and Pakistan, and at rates which are quite onerous.

Another point which deserves examination here arises from the fact that an allowance paid to an employee such as I have described, when on leave in this country, because he is resident abroad and taxed abroad is not allowed in this country by the tax authorities as an expense when charged to the parent company here. I suggest that this point is worth examination. Some step might be taken to clear up this difficulty so that, as we have seen, special inducements can be given to those℄and I quote who are the bearers of 'know-how'". and who, by being the bearers of "know-how" are acting in furtherance of the whole business. It is important that the movement of such men should not be curtailed by intricacies of this kind. It is not good for the overseas companies, and it is not good for the companies here.

There is another point in regard to remittances which affects people abroad, and applies especially to Pakistan. There are restrictions on the remittance of provident funds. I have heard of a case of hardship where somebody retiring with a provident fund has not been allowed to bring the whole lot home in one lump but has been forced, as a result of exchange restrictions, to have it remitted over a period of years. This is a real hardship at a time when somebody is coming to retire after a long period of years. Admittedly the countries concerned can say that they are tight in regard to exchange, but there is, I think, no restriction on remittances made, shall we say, by Pakistanis in this country to Pakistan; in fact I believe that large sums in savings pass Eastwards in this way.

There are also cases where hardship arises out of litigation, which is inevitably slow, due to the cluttering up of the courts and to consequent delays. I may say that I have personal experience of this, and it is an onerous matter. These difficulties are well-known to the High Commissioners and their offices, and I think it is safe to say that Britons have never been better served than they are at the moment by the High Commissioners and their staffs, both in India and in Pakistan. Further, it can be said that the relations between the High Commissioners and the Indian and Pakistan Governments are of the friendliest and at the highest level, as also are relations between the communities of whom we are speaking and local government offices. Nor was there ever such a fund of good will as there is to-day between the nationals of these countries and the British there, and vice versa. However, is it worth suggesting that a double-tax avoidance agreement might now be negotiated as between this country and India and Pakistan? Existing tax arrangements provide a measure of relief, but the details of the income tax coding on both sides are becoming so complicated that I would put forward for consideration this suggestion, for what it is worth. I suggest that the time may have come when a double-tax avoidance agreement might be made in order to smooth away some of the difficulties and obstacles to the industrial intercourse of which we have spoken and to the two-way flow of the personnel upon which we so much depend. An agreement of this sort would cut both ways. Both here and in the East the time has come for a simplication of the complex coding system which now exists.

My Lords, these are some of the special problems that I feel should have further examination, in the interests of the communities of which we speak. However, I come back more or less to where I began, to say that in my view the building of faith in the Commonwealth, belief in the place of the British people in it, and a re-kindling of the thrill to the individual of a business career is more important than anything else; and that thrill can be embellished by a more sympathetic understanding and encouragement from us here.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend Lord Alport has managed to get a little time to raise this question in Parliament, because these British communities abroad of which he has spoken receive little recognition, either in the Press or among the public. But they deserve our fullest support because they are doing an immense amount of good, both to our own country and to the countries in which they reside. They are doing good to our commerce; they are doing good to the spread of our ideals of freedom in the world, and they are helping a lot in the development of schemes for aid to less developed areas and in the maintenance of British interests and prestige all over the world.

These British communities abroad are most varied. They give a picture of great diversity. I believe that in the United States there are nearly a quarter of a million British subjects living in scattered communities all over the territory of that country. There are some ancient communities further South. They have been there a long time. Within the last twelve months I have had the privilege of visiting five communities in South America, in Peru, Colombia, Uruguay, Argentine and in Brazil. The Argentine, I should think, has probably the largest and best organised community living in one city. A great number of them in Buenos Aires are people of dual nationality, both British and Argentine. Some of these communities have been there for four or five generations. Meeting and talking to them, it is difficult to understand that some have never been to this country; but they are brought up as British, and you would never know that they were not born in Britain. They have a strong community sense. There are over 21,000 of them now.

There are few trades and professions in which the British community is not represented℄engineering, shipping, accountancy, insurance. The British Chamber of Commerce in Buenos Aires is a very active body, with over 300 members. The budget of the British Community Council last year was £53,000. Then there is the British and American Benevolent Society, which runs various homes for the aged. There is even a British Council school, with which I was particularly impressed. It is not only for British pupils, but for large numbers of Argentinians who want to learn English. It is now expanding its premises. While I was looking at that school my wife had the pleasure of looking at the British Hospital which was founded in 1844. It is one of the best-equipped and most efficient hospitals in Buenos Aires.

My noble friend spoke more of the communities in other continents, such as in Africa and Asia, and we are very conscious of the new difficulties which many of these communities have to face. So far as the Government are concerned, the Plowden Report on the Future of the Overseas Services said (and we agree) that it is one of the essential tasks of British missions overseas to protect and support the many-sided interests of British subjects and communities overseas. The officers of the Foreign Service and of the Commonwealth Service are always ready to give advice and assistance to individuals, as well as to the many voluntary societies representing British interests.

As my noble friend has said, the new problems arise very much from change of status. In Buenos Aires the status and position of the British community declined a great deal under the régime of Peron, but that does not mean they are not in good heart, for they are in very good heart indeed. All over the world one sees the same kind of epidemic disease; in the middle of this century it is getting worse and shows no sign of getting better: that is the disease of nationalism, which is a very evil thing. A great many of the new emergent countries which are acutely affected by this disease are in the habit of expropriating the property of foreigners who reside within their territories, or of taking various measures to restrict trade. They hurt themselves more than anybody else because they discourage investment and their own development. They also hold back the general development of world prosperity and the ability of all countries to help each other. Compared with that perhaps the harm they do to British residents is small, but we must charge ourselves with the duty of seeing that we do our best for the latter and that we get the best compensation we can. We always do our best, although it is not always anything like adequate.

My noble friend mentioned a great many topics, among them education and information. I agree that it would be a good thing to do more in the way of providing English education for British residents, but the demand for secondary schooling follows different patterns. Parents do not always want local schools for older children who can manage to go to school in this country. The very good secondary schools which were founded by earlier British residents have often benefited other nationalities as well as British children. They change with changing times. There are many schools in foreign and Commonwealth countries which still belong to the Headmasters' Conference.

Then our other support for schools is largely through the British Council. It is given to a number of English schools in twenty foreign countries and in some other countries it is given to local secondary schools. There are 18 schools in India and Pakistan; there are schools in Cyprus; and my noble friend mentioned one in Malaysia. There is also one which has received a grant of £6,000, the International School at Dar es Salaam. Their aims are similar to those mentioned by my noble friend. We agree that an extension of these educational facilities would have a good effect on recruitment to overseas posts.

He also rightly mentioned the problem of information, pointing out that it was bad for the morale of our residents abroad to hear the wrong news from the wrong people. The primary aim of our overseas information services is to help many people of other countries to better understanding, and the climate thus created will in turn benefit the British communities. As for maintaining morale among British communities abroad, the part played by the B.B.C. is outstanding. The General Overseas Service is on the air for 23 hours a day; in addition there are regional services in the English language for particular areas like the West Indies, North America, and Africa; and it is fair to say that this service, which is enjoyed by so many British residents abroad, is surpassed by no other nation. We also provide British Council libraries and British Information Service reading rooms where English newspapers can be read. In some countries there are information service bulletins produced by information services which are available to British residents.

There are many other points which my noble friend raised and which I was very interested to hear. Some countries, as he knows, have set up comprehensive organisations to which most of their nationals living abroad belong, but in Britain we have generally to a large extent met the needs of our communities abroad by means of a very large number of voluntary societies and institutions which by their presence and their work have done so much for the happiness of our people abroad. I should like to mention in connection with that the Voluntary Service Overseas organisation, consisting of young men and women from 18 to 22, who do not get much publicity but go out all over the world to the most remote places, and I think that they are probably doing just as good a job as the American Peace Corps. Any kind of organisation to help the purposes my noble friend has at heart would, of course, be much better if they did not overlap in any way with what we have already℄that is, our missions abroad, the British Council and this vast number of voluntary organisations. But we shall be glad both to consider what my noble friend has said this afternoon, and also to discuss with him any further ideas which his experience and service abroad will make particularly interesting and valuable to us.