§ 2.58 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD rose to call attention to the problems of British Colonial territories, and the need for a full review of policy to improve the economic and social conditions of their peoples; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion that stands in my name on the Order Paper. May I thank the Government Chief Whip for having made this debate possible this day, and also thank noble Lords who have shown interest in it by notifying their intention to speak.
§ It is not so many years ago that the Portfolio of the Secretary of State for the Colonies was one of the most important and most sought after in the British Cabinet. As a consequence of granting independence to some 700 million people since the last war and the merger of the Colonial Office into the Commonwealth Office, and then of the Commonwealth Office into the Foreign Office, the old responsibilities of the Secretary of State for the Colonies now rest with those of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. We all know and appreciate the very heavy work load and the many pressing problems that fall upon the Secretary of State. One must often give thought to how such a Minister will be able to carry out the detailed administrative decisions which are required in colonial territories. It 15 was not so many years ago that there was a Colonial Service, a Service that offered to some of the best men of this country genuine and real career prospects: prospects of service to the community and, at the end of the day, the opportunities of high office. To-day the Empire has gone leaving only a few small territories for which we are still responsible, and instead of that large Service we have only a few officers overseas and we have a small Dependent Territories Division in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
§ It seems to me that the main purpose of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is to further the interests of this country with sovereign and independent countries, and one must question whether a small division in such an Office will be able to carry out its responsibilities to dependent peoples. I have given this matter careful thought over recent years, while I was in office and since, and my own view, which I think is shared by my colleagues with whom I served in the last Government, is that the results of merger have not as yet had any ill-effect upon our dependent territories. Certainly my right honourable friends, Mr. George Thomson and Mr. Michael Stewart, when they became Secretaries of State responsible for colonial territories, gave detailed attention to dependent territories. But I think there is a considerable risk that the interests of dependent territories could be lost. The main safeguard, if not the only safeguard, that the dependent territories would then have is Parliament itself.
§ There was a time when Parliament was deeply concerned in colonial measures. From time to time deep passion was to be seen in both Houses, but to-day, apart from odd Questions about individual policy in an individual territory—and again with the possible exception of Rhodesia—we hear perhaps only a whisper of colonial matters in either House. It is certainly a very long time since either House has considered what the role of this country should be as a colonial Power. Therefore I think we should remind ourselves at the outset that we are to-day a colonial Power and that we shall remain one for very many years to come, and the ultimate authority and responsibility, not only for good order 16 and government but for the economic and social development of the people, rests with this Parliament. The economic problems of the Solomon Isles and the Gilbert and Ellice Isles in the Pacific are just as important to us as the problems of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and the racial tensions of Bermuda are as much ours as are those in Wolverhampton and Notting Hill.
§ This debate is important. It certainly gives us an opportunity to hear from the noble Marquess what the views of the new Administration are in regard to colonial territories and future colonial policies. I am certain that the noble Marquess is aware of a deep disquiet in colonial territories, first in relation to the proposed immigration policy, in which it appears that citizens of our dependencies are going to be treated in the same way as aliens. I think they also share the alarm of many that the Commonwealth appears to be at the edge of disaster. There is a real fear, particularly in the primary producing countries, that the consequences of Britain's proposed entry into the Common Market will have not only a severe impact upon their livelihoods but for some the effect of their whole economies being destroyed.
§ We have some 18 dependencies to-day, with some 5½ million people. There are 4½ million in Hong Kong, and at the other extreme is little Pitcairn Island where there are 120 people who rely upon the passing ship for a doctor. Except for Hong Kong most of our territories to-day have some form of democratic constitution. They have Ministers who strive against great difficulties to raise the standards of their people. By and large they are dependent upon officials who come from this country, and it is a great tribute to the Governors and other officials who serve overseas that they work so well with the colonial Ministers.
§ The Bahamas and Belize both have constitutions which could take them into independence, and as I understand it the date of going into independence is theirs. However, I should be grateful if the noble Marquess would confirm that his Administration support and stand by the view of the previous Administration that we should not hold back any territory that wishes to go into independence, but, on the other hand, we should not seek to push any territory faster than it wishes to go. 17 In my own view the political developments within our colonial territories within the next few years will be marginal. Certainly adjustments are likely to be made, giving greater responsibility to local Ministers, but I do not myself see any major significant political change.
§ A policy to which I think we should be giving more attention than perhaps we have done in the past is on the improvement of the economic and social standards of the people. We have not neglected these countries; we have put considerable sums of money into them each year, but there is no doubt that more could have been done in the past. I believe this is due to the fact that our aid has been spread very thinly over independent Commonwealth countries. But with the small number of people who are left I think we should now give special attention to making a bigger impact upon these territories. If we exclude Hong Kong, with some 4½ million people who have a dynamic economy and who, I think, will be able to deal with most of their social problems, we are left with about a million people.
§ In the first place there are the Gilbert and Ellice Isles of some 200,000 people. This group of islands depends in the main on copra and phosphates. It seems to me that the real chances of industrial development there must be remote, in view of their isolation; they are some 2,000 miles away from Sydney, the nearest big city centre. Already there is severe unemployment and it is expected that in the next four or five years a further 800 who are to-day employed on Ocean Island producing phosphates will lose their employment. I wonder whether the noble Marquess can give us any idea of the decision of the Government on the review that was commissioned by the last Administration on the Gilbert and Ellice Islands? Further, can he say how the Government view the finances, particularly of the Gilberts, as a consequence of the loss of earnings from phosphates?
§ If there is isolation for the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, this is not the case with the West Indies Dependencies, the Turks and Caicos, the Caymans, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat. These are relatively poor islands. In many of them the men have to go to neighbouring islands or to the United States, or Canada, 18 to earn a living, and for that reason some of them are known as the "remittance islands". There is little change of agricultural development, but they see in surrounding islands increasing prosperity and development, particularly in the American Virgin Islands and in the Dutch and French Colonies.
§ There is no doubt at all that economies of these islands could be radically transformed through tourism but these are relatively small islands, and, as I understand the problem, in order to provide for a real infrastructure, for hotels and residential development, the developers will need to take considerable quantities of land as compensation for the cost of development. This will change drastically the whole racial balance in the islands. I saw one proposal which visualised some 30,000 or 40,000 Canadians, Americans and Britons going to dwell in an island with a local population of only some 7,000 or 8,000. The noble Marquess will be aware of the deep concern felt by Mr. Stoutt on some proposals that were agreed to a few years ago which created internal difficulties and possible internal security risk. Can the noble Marquess say what decision was arrived at and whether the Government were able to assist the Chief Minister in breaking that earlier agreement?
§ Then there are the Seychelles, those very beautiful islands in the Indian Ocean. Here again, they depend largely on copra and cinnamon, but with the advent of an international airport capable of taking the largest of aircraft there is to-day a real tourist potential. But a great deal will need to be done in technical education, particularly in the field of crafts, in order to deal with the tourist development. Can the noble Marquess say whether monies will be provided for this development in education, and can he say also what progress has been made on the major scheme of reclamation of Victoria? I should also be interested to know what progress has been made in the clearance of slums behind Victoria and their replacement by new houses. Housing in the Seychelles is a very major problem, and the scheme that was agreed by the previous Administration will make a considerable impact, if it is going forward.
§ Gibraltar raises a quite different issue. If it were not for the attitude of Spain, 19 Gibraltar to-day would be a very thriving community. But circumstances do not appear to have changed or to be likely to change, and therefore I hope that the Government will confirm the previous Administration's pledge of full support to the people of Gibraltar. Can the noble Marquess say whether housing schemes are going forward, and also hotel development, and in particular the hostel project, which was essential if a housing scheme was to go forward. I believe that the real fear, however, in Gibraltar is the Government's new immigration proposals. The previous Administration, while they could not make a special alteration in immigration law so far as Gibraltar was concerned, were prepared to allow Gibraltarians to come into this country without hindrance. Can the noble Marquess give an assurance that this policy of free entry by Gibraltarians into this country will continue?
§ Much of our aid programmes in the past have been for the essential development of education and health, and these have made great impacts. But, in my view, what we should now be concentrating on is our investment in industry, if it is possible—agriculture if that is all that is available—in order to provide employment, so that the economies of the territories may eventually create their own expansion. I must say that I have profound concern about the ability of these territories unless a very special effort is made in the next few years. Money is important. I am bound to say that I have thought that even the past Administration could have found more money for some of our dependent territories, but it was always difficult to decide whether one should reduce what one was able to give by way of aid to countries like India and Pakistan. where clearly the need was greater than perhaps in the dependent territories. But I must say on reflection that these territories are our responsibility and therefore we should, even at the expense of independent Commonwealth countries, provide more for these countries for which we have this direct responsibility.
§ Money is not the only problem. We have in the past conducted a series of development programmes, but I should like to see placed before Parliament a comprehensive programme for all our dependent territories, for it to be costed 20 both in terms of money and manpower, and for Parliament to undertake a specific commitment over five or ten years to fulfil that programme. I believe the present basis of working on three to four years, which is a stretch for the Treasury, is not sufficient, and is not adaptable to the needs of dependent territories. While money is important, I think, above all else, much more expertise and manpower overseas in the territories is needed. From time to time I became slightly cynical: one could get £4 million for Gibraltar, some £6 million for the Seychelles, but one could not help but have a feeling that the Treasury permitted such a figure, well knowing that the territory would be unable to spend that money in the given time. Few of these territories have the local planning abilities or even the supervisory resources. I should like to see a special effort in the field of manpower overseas.
§ Ministerial responsibility in the F.C.O. is important. In view of the fact that political development, political changes, are going to be minimal, and the real need is for economic development, I wonder whether it would not now be better if the Dependent Territories Division of the F.C.O., and the responsibilities for dependent territories, were now passed to the Minister for Overseas Aid, who is a Minister in the combined office. Such a Minister would not only be responsible for finding the money; he would have a responsibility to see that the money was spent. Another reason for such a change is this. I have always been slightly unhappy about a Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responsible for dependent territories, having also political responsibilities for the countries neighbouring the dependent territory. I think it unwise to have a Minister who is responsible—shall we say?—for Gibraltar, having political responsibility for Spain; similarly with the Falklands and the Argentine, and Hong Kong and China. Above all else—and this became very clear to me in the passing of the months—the dependencies need to feel that the Minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is their friend and will fight for them, not only with other political Ministers but particularly with the different Departments who become involved in overseas affairs. They want to feel that when 21 they come to London the Minister they see is a Minister who will go and fight for them.
§ I should like to turn briefly to Hong Kong. This is a territory which is a tremendous credit to its own people. I would pay a special word of tribute to Sir David Trench, the Governor. He has been Governor now for seven years, and he will give up office this year. Great developments have taken place. I remember defending the Hong Kong Government on education. I should have thought now, looking at the strength of the Hong Kong economy, that it would be possible for Hong Kong to adopt free compulsory education. The numbers are relatively small. I know it may be difficult to implement this, but If believe it would have a great psychological effect in the territory.
§ Personally I do not see any real democratic government developments in Hong Kong. The presence of China and the attitude of China will make it necessary for Hong Kong to retain very much the system of government that it has to-day. If that is so, there should be some authority who could inquire into the activities of officials in the territory. I was always a keen supporter of having an Ombudsman in Hong Kong. I took note of the views of the Governor and of the importance of UMELCO, and the creation of the city officers. I thought that if the general public had any criticism, or any doubt about official decisions, this provided a proper way of inquiry. But the more I have considered the matter and discussed it, the more I am convinced that an Ombudsman ought now to be appointed in Hong Kong; that he should be an official similar in position to that of a High Court Judge, and should have full powers of investigation. I should be happy to see such an officer working with members of the Legislative Council.
§ The Urban Council does present great difficulties. The area of responsibility is very narrow, and I wonder whether education could not be a subject which the Urban Council could take greater interest in and responsibility for. I should also like to develop a hobby-horse of mine, of which I have spoken on many occasions with my friends in Hong Kong. I have no doubt at all that the Legislative 22 Council should have a much wider representation than it has to-day. This is very much in the hands of the Government, but I should like to see many more of the ordinary folk on the Legislative Council and fewer of the successful business and professional classes.
§ May I now come to the question of staff? We merged the Colonial Office into the Commonwealth Office and then into the Foreign Office, which meant that members of the home based Colonial Service had to opt to the Diplomatic Service or be returned to home Departments. Many officers felt that they could not undertake an obligation to serve overseas and, as a consequence, in the last two years we have lost many very valuable officers. When the O.D.M. has been merged with the F.C.O., I understand their officers are to be home based. Would this not now be an opportunity for inviting back into the F.C.O., into the Dependent Territories Division, those experienced colonial officers who may wish to join? The finding of experienced officers in the future is going to be very difficult. In many of our territories overseas we have to depend on contract officers. I hope that the Government will find ways and means of encouraging members of the Diplomatic Service to volunteer for service in colonial territories, clearly on the understanding that such service would in no way prejudice their future promotion within the diplomatic field. I take the view that experience of administration in colonial territories would be of great benefit to such an officer should he serve in an Embassy or a High Commission overseas.
§ As regards the future relationship of the home country and the colonies, as I have said the Bahamas and Belize will become independent, but it seems to me that there is no real desire for independence by the rest. Certainly, as a consequence of their neighbours' attitude, it is not an avenue for Hong Kong, Gibraltar and the Falklands. But I wonder whether there is some way by which the social stigma of colonial status could be removed. Gibraltar and the Seychelles wish to find something closer than colonial status and I do not know whether the associated States in the Caribbean could provide us with a possible answer. I take the view that the associated States in the Caribbean have been a very great 23 success indeed, and we should not judge them all by the difficulties of one.
§ At the beginning of my speech I spoke of the importance of Parliament. To-day, there is a lack of interest in the colonies, as well as a lack of contact and knowledge. This is due mainly to the isolation of many of these territories and the distances involved for those who wish to visit them, as well as for those of their Ministers who wish to visit this country. Such visits are indeed rare and contact is minimal, but the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has done a great deal. Members of Parliament visit those territories from time to time but at a heavy cost, particularly for the small territories. Furthermore, there is no real chance of a follow-up visit to assess the effect of changes. Hong Kong is perhaps an exception in that the Services provide annual visits, and it is possible for Members to visit there fairly frequently.
§ The Government could help by making more funds available to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for the special purpose of Members visiting dependent territories, but my own feeling is that that is not sufficient. What we need to-day is not only contact, but a far greater knowledge of what is going on in those territories, which is important if this Parliament is to fulfil its responsibilities to those people.
§ I have come to the view that there is only one way by which this aim can be achieved. I do not see Parliament finding time for regular debates, and even Question Time in another place is curtailed in regard to colonial territories matters. Therefore, I would ask the Government to consider very carefully—they should not dismiss this suggestion out of hand—whether it would be a good idea to set up a Select Committee on colonial matters on the lines of the specialist Committees in another place. Members would there have an opportunity to question officials and Ministers, and, regular visits could be made by members of that Select Committee. Also, I do not see why we could not make greater use of Service aircraft. I believe it is absolutely essential that Parliament should have greater knowledge and contact. But, above all else, we must give hope and encouragement to local Ministers 24 and elected members to show them that they are not alone in trying to deal with deep and difficult problems. I am quite certain that a number of difficulties would disappear if there could be greater contact between this Parliament and the officials and elected representatives overseas.
§ I come back to what I said earlier. We have not neglected these territories, but we have a great deal more to do. I should like to see the Government undertake a review, perhaps bringing together the various existing development plans and those that are in the course of being prepared. There should then be a firm commitment by Parliament to carry out those policies, and to make the dependent territories something of which this country can be proud. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE (THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN)
My Lords, I should like, first of all, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for introducing this Motion to-day and for giving the House an opportunity of discussing what he has described as an extremely important subject, to which Parliament may not always have given enough attention. I think we all know the noble Lord's interest in and knowledge of the subject, and I was very impressed by the thoughtfulness of his speech. I certainly undertake to read it very carefully and to consider the many points he has raised, of most of which I think I have taken note. It may be for the convenience of the House if I speak now, early on in the debate, and give your Lordships the general outline of the Government's thinking and policy towards the dependent territories. Then, if I may, at the end of the debate I shall do my best to answer some of the questions which will no doubt be raised during the debate.
Although, as the noble Lord has told us, the former Colonial Empire has now, in a sense, virtually ceased to exist, Britain is left with colonial responsibilities all over the world. To-day there remain 18 dependent territories with a total population of only five million, of whom something over four million represent the population of a single territory—Hong Kong. The populations of the other 17 25 territories range from nearly 170,000 in the Bahamas, to a mere 80—that is my figure at the moment—on the island of Pitcairn. The majority of these territories comprise small scattered islands or groups of islands in the West Indies, and in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
It would be misleading to assume that, because the territories themselves are small, the problems connected with their administration and development are therefore easier to solve. The contrary is the case. Unfortunately, the diversity of their economic, social and political problems is as great as that encountered in guiding the larger former colonial territories to their present independent status. In some cases the difficulties are accentuated by the smallness of the territories concerned. The following examples illustrate the diversity and complexity of the problems confronting us. Gibraltar, British Honduras and the Falkland Islands are the subject of historic international disputes. In the New Hebrides we and France work together in a condominium. There is over-population in the Seychelles, accompanied by a high birth rate which slows the pace of economic and social development in a territory short of natural resources. In the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony, with a total land area of only 383 square miles, scattered over 2 million square miles of the Pacific Ocean, difficulties of communication inhibit the development of central administrative machinery and hence any rapid improvement in economic and social conditions.
Problems of a different nature, my Lords, face the territories in the West Indies. Some of these smaller territories, lying in the shadow of the wealth of the United States, are subject to influences and pressures from the North American continent which would severely tax the political and economic expertise of much larger communities. Although the prosperity brought to some of these islands through the development and growth of the tourist industry is welcome, it has not always proved to be, as the noble Lord pointed out, an unmixed blessing. Such development has in some cases brought attendant problems in sharply raising the cost of living, to the disadvantage of the indigenous inhabitants, or creating acute shortages of labour and 26 the necessity to employ immigrant labour. Against this background, the 18 remaining British dependent territories scattered around the globe cannot be regarded as presenting a single problem susceptible of solution by a single panacea. They represent 18 separate problems. The problems of each require and receive individual consideration by Her Majesty's Government.
My Lords, I do not intend this afternoon to deal with the rather special circumstances of Hong Kong, but I should like to echo what the noble Lord has said with regard to the tribute he paid to that Colony. I do not think I can let the opportunity pass without placing on record my admiration, and that of my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, of the way in which the Government and the people of Hong Kong have developed the Colony since the war and have overcome the really most formidable problems with which they have been faced; and I am sure that all thanks and tributes are due to Sir David Trench and his colleagues for the part that they have played. I will of course take into account the noble Lord's remarks concerning the Ombudsman, which is a very interesting thought, and I should like to give it some attention.
My Lords, the problems of running the remaining dependent territories have tended to be rather sharply divided between the political and the administrative. Some of the political problems are external ones involving third countries, and I think we can leave these mainly on one side this afternoon. The others are internal problems affecting the desires and aspirations of the inhabitants; and if we treat these as a special aspect of the purely administrative problems we have what amounts fundamentally to a question of management. Up to 1961 the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Colonial Office had sole responsibility for all matters concerned with the management of the dependent territories, and I think I need not go into details of the arrangements which were made in that year under which responsibility for the handling of aid and technical assistance, including the management of the Overseas Civil Service, passed largely to the Department of Technical Co-operation and later the Ministry of Overseas 27 Development. The noble Lord, Lord Garner, was directly involved in the subsequent merger of the Colonial Office with the Commonwealth Relations Office, and he knows much more about the detailed effects of this decision than I do. But I think he will probably agree with me that, however desirable and necessary this merger was, the division of responsibility had the effect of complicating the management of the dependent territories, particularly since it was not always possible to make a tidy distinction between issues of "policy" and "administration".
It was partly with this sort of consideration in mind that the decision was taken last October to reunite these two aspects of policy and administration by bringing the Overseas Development Administration under the direct control of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. It is a statement of the obvious that the Secretary of State bears ultimate responsibility for the good government of the dependent territories. This responsibility is discharged in each territory by the Governor or the Administrator, working mainly through a body of dedicated civil servants. Now in most territories the vast majority of these civil servants are recruited locally, but in almost all of them the top civil servants and most of the experts, such as doctors, engineers and even teachers, still have to be provided from overseas. They come from four main sources: first, permanent and pensionable members of Her Majesty's Oversea Civil Service (in other words, the former Colonial Service), whose numbers are now inevitably diminishing; secondly, contract officers; thirdly, the Corps of Specialists, administered by the Overseas Development Administration; and then, finally, in recent years, a small number of administrators from the Diplomatic Service—and, in part answer to a question or comment from the noble Lord, it seems to us likely that the numbers in the last two categories, which include those in the Diplomatic Service, will tend to increase in the years ahead, and I quite take his point on this.
This provision of expert manpower cannot be regarded in the dependent 28 territories merely as a bonus, as it can be in those independent countries to whom we make similar expertise available: it is an essential tool of government. Unfortunately, many of the territories are small and do not possess the more elaborate facilities available in the larger independent countries. To the extent to which this makes it more difficult to find suitable people to fill such posts and to provide continuity in them, we recognise that it is essential to make the conditions of service sufficiently attractive, and we hope in future to ensure that the dependent territories obtain a rather larger share of the experts available. Already, before the noble Lord tabled his Motion, steps had been taken to improve the situation. Indeed, he knows better than I that in 1969, while the Party opposite still held responsibility, two senior officials, one from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and one from the Ministry of Overseas Development, had presented a report on the future staffing of the remaining dependent territories. Following this report, in August, 1970, a new section was set up within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to take over from the Ministry of Overseas Development sole responsibility for the recruitment of administrative staff for the dependent territories. This is now fully operative.
In September, the Assistant Under-Secretary of State in charge of the Dependent Territories Administration Division of the Office, in consultation with the Overseas Development Administration, began a review of other administrative problems in the light of changing requirements. In the course of this he has undertaken a comprehensive tour of the territories in the West Indies to examine conditions on the spot. This review is still not complete, but a further team, including the Assistant Under-Secretary responsible for recruitment policy in the Overseas Development Administration, is starting in February a tour of the Western Pacific dependencies in order to examine the effectiveness of the present machinery for the recruitment of expatriate civil servants, with particular reference to the terms and conditions of service now being offered; and the Hong Kong Government have put in hand a similar review of the terms and conditions of their public service.
29 Meanwhile, my Lords, at home it has been decided to set up, as the noble Lord knows, a new department in the Office to deal specifically with general problems affecting the dependent territories as a whole. The final shape of the new Department is not yet settled, but it will absorb the existing section dealing with administrative staff recruitment, and in addition will deal, in consultation with the Overseas Development Administration, with terms and conditions of service for the whole body of expatriate overseas civil servants. It will also handle, inter alia, the complex economic and financial problems arising from differential rates of taxation, property development and the like. The establishment of this new Department will help to preserve the expertise inherited from the old Colonial Office, which would otherwise tend to disappear as a result of natural wastage.
It has been the policy of successive Governments to regard the reasonable needs of the dependent territories as a first charge on the aid funds which can be made available in any given year; and I should like to say something about aid. Most of the territories are small and, as I shall show, the sums already being spent on development and budgetary assistance are in some cases extremely high when measured on a per capita basis. But we propose to take this concept of giving priority to the dependent territories still further by extending it into the field of technical assistance, including the provision of expatriate civil servants, wherever vacancies cannot be filled by recruitment from within the indigenous populations.
In this way the flexible policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the development of political institutions in the dependent territories will be supplemented and reinforced by development programmes calculated to improve economic and social conditions with all possible speed. I say "with all possible speed" because the rate of social and economic growth of the remaining dependencies, as with all developing countries—and the noble Lord made a point of this—is governed as much by absorptive capacity as by the availability of capital aid. Our programmes of technical assistance of course go a long way towards increasing absorptive capacity by the provision of training facilities for indigenous people 30 and in the interim by providing expatriate expertise: our capital aid is complementary to this, and in recent years the main constraint on the amount which has gone to the dependencies has been their ability to absorb it. This is a problem to which increasing attention must be given.
The 1969 figures are the latest I have for actual disbursements under the aid programme and there are some interesting points in them. In that year our total official bilateral aid disbursements were £179 million, of which over £13 million went to the present dependencies. In other words, those people living in the dependencies—far fewer than 1 per cent. of the population of the developing world—receive about 8 per cent. of our bilateral aid. Looking at the 1969 figures in another way—on an aid per capita basis—the same preference in favour of the dependencies is apparent. For example, the figure of aid for St. Helena was over £80 per head, for the Turks and Caicos Islands £69 per head, for Monserrat £22 per head, and for the Solomon Islands £20 per head, all of which are far in excess of the comparable figure for the independent countries of the developing world.
In the capital aid field I should like to acid another tribute to our predecessors in office and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in particular. There was indeed a dramatic upward rise in aid disbursements to the dependencies over the four years prior to 1969. To give one example, the capital aid for the Pacific dependencies almost doubled in that period. Present plans provide, over the coming four years, for the dependencies as a whole a further substantial increase.
In the time available to me I cannot go into all the many ways in which development has been hastened in the territories that we are considering, but one or two examples may be helpful. In the Caribbean region many of the problems and the professional skills required to solve them are similar. With this in mind the Overseas Development Administration (and its predecessor) have since 1966 maintained a British Development Division in the Caribbean, based in Barbados. The task of the division is to ensure the effective deployment of the British aid effort in the region and to provide technical assistance to the Governments of the area. It has experienced 31 technical and professional staff, considerable delegated powers and widespread contacts with the island Governments and with other donors, including the newly-formed Caribbean Development Bank, also situated in Barbados. It is therefore able to take a regional view on all appropriate issues and is able to provide a continuous stream of expertise. The help of the Development Division is available to the dependencies in preparing applications for aid. devising terms of reference for technical assistance missions, briefing experts, supervising works and assignments and evaluating results.
In the Pacific, the economic problems caused by small territorial populations living in tiny communities spread thinly over thousands of square miles of ocean are enormously difficult to solve. For the past two years a specially constituted economic planning unit has helped the local Administrations to identify and examine a number of important developmental opportunities. The growth of private investment in the Solomons (particularly in timber, oil palms, and milling) holds promise for the future, and even in the far less richly endowed Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony progress is being made with the family planning programme, in coconut improvement, and in training of merchant seamen for overseas employment.
My last example is the Seychelles Islands and it illustrates particularly well how a large injection of development aid at the right time can bring dramatic changes. For this also we are deeply indebted to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. Formerly the economy of these islands has been almost entirely dependent on exports of copra and cinnamon, supplemented by capital and budgetary aid from the United Kingdom. But with the opening of the new international airport in mid-1971, the Seychelles will have the opportunity to generate, through the development of tourism, a large new source of revenue. With the aim of fostering the orderly development by private investment of a successful tourist industry, the Government have to establish the economic, social and political conditions which are necessary to attract investors.
32 In consequence we are financing the building of a new port at Victoria, the capital, and the provision of adequate public services such as electricity, water, sanitation and roads. In addition, funds are being devoted to the expansion of agriculture, education and low-cost housing so that all the inhabitants of the Seychelles may be enabled to participate actively in the development of their economy and to benefit directly from it. The cost of all this is high, some £8 million over five years. But the result is worth while. The economy, once relatively stagnant, is now expanding, and the Islands now have a reasonable prospect of becoming economically viable within the next decade.
In addition to development aid and technical assistance, we shall continue to provide budgetary aid to those dependent territories whose own revenues are insufficient to cover their recurrent expenditure; that is to say, the day-to-day running costs of their administrative, economic and social services. Neither we, however, nor most of the territories concerned, like this form of aid. We do not like it for two reasons. From Her Majesty's Government's own point of view, budgetary aid represents an open-ended commitment. In common with the peoples of the underdeveloped world generally, the inhabitants of the dependent territories expect to share in the increase in world prosperity; they expect better schools, medical services, roads and administrative services generally. This is only right and proper and perfectly natural; but to the extent that the revenues of the dependent territories do not grow pari passu with the cost of those services, a growing burden of budgetary support is thrown on the British taxpayer.
From the point of view of the dependencies, budgetary aid is, by its very nature, an unproductive form of aid. Of itself it creates no new economic resources or sources of revenue. Moreover, territories receiving budgetary aid are subject to unpalatable financial controls from the United Kingdom. The degree of control has been progressively relaxed in recent years, but even so, my Lords, it tends inevitably to have an inhibiting effect on local endeavour. This tends to militate against our traditional policy of encouraging the peoples of the dependent territories, through their elected or nominated representatives, to assume increasing 33 responsibility for the conduct of their affairs. We intend, therefore, to bring budgetary aid to an end wherever possible.
This does not mean that we propose to limit the dependencies' expenditure more rigorously; on the contrary, the emphasis is on increasing their revenue. We shall assist them liberally with aid, technical assistance and also with development aid to exploit their natural resources to that end. The economic outlook for most of the remaining dependent territories has undergone a remarkable change in recent years. For example, who could have foreseen a few years ago the spectacular growth of mass tourism and the increasing demand for homes for holidays and for retirement? This has opened up exciting and interesting prospects, particularly for the Seychelles and the Caribbean dependencies, enabling them to turn their resources of sun and climate to economic advantage.
The commercial exploitation of the mineral deposits of the Solomon Islands is now beginning and the markets for their timber and copra seem likely to expand. We confidently expect that over the next decade these developments will gradually reduce, and eventually eliminate, the territories' dependence on Her Majesty's Government for budgetary support. We recognise, however, that we may need temporarily to increase the level of our support during the first critical years when the costs of development are high; but results have not yet begun to appear in the form of increased revenues.
My Lords, I am afraid that I have taken rather a long time, but I hope that what I have said indicates how very deeply Her Majesty's Government are conscious of their responsibilities towards the peoples of the dependent territories; and that they are actively and effectively engaged in improving the machinery under which the territories are administered. I should like to leave the matter there for the time being and, by leave of the House, at the end of the debate to deal with some of the more detailed points.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ EARL COWLEY
My Lords, I ask your Lordships' indulgence as I speak in this very important debate, important especially for Bermuda particularly at this time. I have lived in Bermuda for 34 the past eight years and I hope that what I have to say about the economy and problems of that tiny Colony will be of interest to your Lordships. Bermuda covers an area of only 21 square miles. It has a resident population of 50,000, of which 60 per cent. is coloured. This number is increased by 400,000 tourists per annum, 90 per cent, of them coming from the United States and Canada. As well as being one of the country's greatest assets, the tourist trade is one of its greatest problems. After the 1968 riots a Committee was set up under the chairmanship of Sir Hugh Wooding, former Chief Justice of Trinidad and Tobago, to investigate the cause of the riots. Its Report was published in 1969. On tourism it stated:The Bermudan living in Bermuda is encompassed always by the artificialness of holiday enjoyment.Further, it stated:'The place is small and all of it is geared to providing attractions such as will keep it high on the list of famous resorts. This is important and keeps the economy buoyant, but it breeds a holiday attitude towards daily life on the part of many, particularly the young.Tourism in 1969 produced an income for Bermuda of £27½ million, a very large proportion of which was in American dollars. The tourist industry is designed to cater for the demands of the American tourist which makes the problem of economic independence worse. On the one hand, my Lords, Bermuda is a British Colony with a British-style Government and the trappings of British colonialism; yet on the other hand its economy is very closely tied to the American dollar. Until the beginning of last year there were three legal currencies in use in Bermuda—the American dollar and the Bermudan and English pounds sterling. Now there are only two—the American and Bermudan dollars which are on a par with each other.
Like a tug-of-war this Colony treasures its ties with this country in order to offset the very strong and real influence of America. Because of Bermuda's geographical proximity to America, 43 per cent. of its imports come from there; whereas the United Kingdom provides only 21 per cent. of its imports. Thus it is unlikely that Bermuda would ask Her Majesty's Government for complete independence because there is a fear of complete economic domination by the 35 United States. The Colony's desire for economic independence can best be shown by its attitude to the last devaluation of the pound sterling, which was not popular and which resulted in the introduction of the split bank account system; so that any exterior sterling accounts would suffer from a future devaluation of the pound sterling.
Another very large form of income to Bermuda is from exempted companies, incorporated either by private statute or by registration. Each company bears a duty of 480 dollars per annum and a duty of a per cent. of the nominal capital. At the present time there are more than 1,700 exempted companies in Bermuda. I am sorry, my Lords, for not being more precise, but the Bermudan Government said that their statistics were rather vague in this field. These companies have written guarantees of exemption from any taxation up to and until March, 1996. In Bermuda there is no income tax, capital gains tax, taxation on profits, or death duties; but what is far more important, my Lords, is that there are no tax treaties between Bermuda and any other countries so that financial information can be exchanged. The only forms of taxation are, therefore, import duties, purchase tax and a land tax; and coupled with tourism, the total effect of this on the economy is reflected in very high retail prices.
Just before the first election under the new Constitution in 1968, Bermuda underwent its first major riots following a serious strike. The rioters were few in number and were mostly young people. They were influenced by the Black Panther Movement of the United States and a local Black Beret cadre was set up. Most of the damage in this not was done to coloured-owned property. The result of this was a major swing to the United and Bermuda Party, basically a Conservative Party, on the part of many coloured and white voters away from the Progressive Labour Party, basically a Left-Wing Party. The P.L.P. came under attack from the Wooding Committee for its part in the riots. The Committee reported that in their opinion the P.L.P.'s platform assumed a positively racial character. The Report advised urgent reforms, that there might be full racial 36 integration if civil strife was not to take place again. It stated:Black men and women must be, and must be seen to be, in truly authoritative positions in Government, in commerce, in the hotel industry, in the professions everywhere.The Bermuda Government have made reforms and have brought in a much tougher version of the British Race Relations Acts. The Government leader, Sir Henry Tucker and his colleagues, fervently desire an integrated society, but the problem is whether the changes will come fast enough to wipe out the concept of an antiquated white oligarchy, or whether the coloured people will not wait any longer and put the tourist industry and foreign investment in jeopardy.
One of the main areas in which racial tension has arisen is in the Bermuda police force. The Bermuda Government have tried to find coloured recruits from Bermuda and the Caribbean but with little success, due to few applications and applications from people who do not fulfil the required qualifications. So in order to keep up the numbers, it has been found necessary to recruit policemen from the United Kingdom, which has caused ill-feeling on both sides. The police force has been attacked as being biased towards the white community, and the white policemen strongly object to this unjustified slur on their integrity.
During the last two years, the problem of drug peddling has increased in Bermuda. Because of its geographical position and of the number of airlines using Bermuda as a destination or as a stopover from all over the world, there is a great danger that the Colony could become a clearing house for drugs. The authorities, both American and Bermudan, have tightened up their controls considerably, with remarkable results; but this has only pushed up the retail price of drugs in the United States. This results in high rewards for the smugglers and more people willing to take the risk of being caught. The real problem can only be solved by stopping the source of supply, which cannot be done without an international agreement. In fact, there exists a complete vicious circle.
The influence of the Black Panthers is limited at the moment. But the main problem of the Bermuda Government is: Can they solve the discontent of the young coloured community fast enough 37 to pacify them, without at the same time antagonising the small but influential Right Wing section of the white community? Perhaps the 1970 disturbances show that they have not succeeded in this task; but I contend that the next elections will be the real testing ground.
In conclusion, I feel that Bermuda's problems can only be solved by the Bermudans themselves. Any solution arrived at by Her Majesty's Government would at best be only of a temporary nature.
I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government three questions, of which I have given prior notice. First, what do Her Majesty's Government feel would be the effect on trade with Bermuda and on Bermuda's trade with other Commonwealth countries and EFTA countries, if the United Kingdom joined the Common Market? Secondly, what is Her Majesty's Government's attitude to the split banking account system as practised in Bermuda? And lastly, what specifically do Her Majesty's Government think their obligations and responsibilities are to Bermuda?
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD GARNER
My Lords, there falls to me the extremely agreeable task, on your Lordships' behalf, of congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, on his maiden speech. It is particularly refreshing for one who has retired from the public scene, the subject of our debate this afternoon, to hear a voice so young but ready to join in this discussion. I gather that for the noble Earl the agony of a maiden speech was even more trying than usual, since it was in November last that originally he put down his name to speak in this debate. The debate was deferred twice, and therefore for the whole of the Christmas Recess he had hanging over him the worry, which ought to have been well behind him two months ago, of speaking to-day. The voice may be young, but the mind is certainly mature. I am sure that all noble Lords were impressed by the first-hand account of the noble Earl, in a speech full of common sense and valuable information, and I trust that we shall often hear him speaking to us in the future.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for initiating this debate, and for giving us an extremely useful analysis and some very thoughtful proposals, 38 leading to a helpful and informative reply from the noble Marquess. It is somewhat embarrassing for me, a Cross-Bencher, to comment on speeches, first by a noble Lord who has been my Minister, and secondly, by a noble Lord who would have been my Minister, had I stayed in the Service. But I think I have detected a sufficient degree of harmony between the two Front Benches this afternoon to remove any potential awkwardness.
The obvious factor about the dependent territories which has been underlined in both opening speeches to-day, is of course that they are an incongruous lot with really very little in common. I do not want to speak in detail this afternoon about any of the individual territories, except to give one general impression about Hong Kong, which has come into the debate. I visited Hong Kong. It left a strong impression on my mind, and I should like to refer to that. It is a most extraordinary place. Statistics alone show that it has increased in population from half a million to 4 million since the war. It is calculated that since 1950 one million refugees have come in from China; and not only has Hong Kong coped with the refugees, and with many other things at the same time, but the Colony has produced an area which is thriving, flourishing and clean, with excellent public buildings and schools—possibly there could be more, but there are some very fine schools—and with an extraordinary housing development programme of which any town or city in this country could well be proud. It is calculated that no fewer than 40 per cent. of the total population are housed in Government housing. I think that this is an achievement worthy of note, and worthy of the tribute that has been paid. It is due to successive British Administrations. I would certainly like to add my name to the tributes paid to Sir David Trench, who in my experience has always shown the most unruffled determination to get on top of his problems.
No doubt the Government in Hong Kong is a somewhat strangely anachronistic authoritarianism; but it suits more or less the peculiar circumstances of Hong Kong at the present time, though I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, that there is scope for some changes. When I read of the enthusiasts in the United Nations talking about 39 colonialism being a crime against humanity, I wish very much that they would go to Hong Kong and see what has been done, because few such small areas in the world have made anything like a comparable contribution towards solving the refugee problem and other problems. They are taking (I think the figure is) 50 refugees every day, and have been doing so for years on end.
As for the territories in general, as I say, there can be no single big plan for all this miscellany, no overall plan, because they simply do not fit into any single pattern. Indeed, the only link between them is their historic association with Britain and also, perhaps, their uncertainty about their distant future.
Over the years many plans have been made for new arrangements, to give a new status or to devise new names. There has been talk in the past of a new statehood, implying something that was short of total sovereignty and full Commonwealth membership. There has been talk of free association. It was hoped that this arrangement would, for example, meet the criteria of the United Nations. There has been talk of integration with the United Kingdom, often with the consequence that there would be representation by the individual territory in the Parliament at Westminster. In other cases, there has been talk of federation with neighbouring territories. But all those ideas bristle with difficulties, and not one of them will work satisfactorily in every case.
In recent years we have gone pretty far down the line in accepting mini-States as independent full sovereign Powers, separate members of the United Nations and of the Commonwealth. Indeed, we have gone very much farther than anyone would have thought possible or likely, even 10 years ago. But it does not really seem to us to make sense to go farther still. A prophecy is always dangerous, bearing in mind what I have just said about how ideas have changed in the last decade, but most of the dependent territories have no hope, and few of them have any desire to stand on their own feet in complete independence. I was attracted by the idea that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, threw out for a Select Committee to focus ideas on the dependent territories. I particularly welcome this 40 if it is seen as a means of keeping contact and understanding between Britain and the territories abroad. I should be a little more worried about it if it were to intervene in questions of administration—although I do not mean to imply that everything in administration is right.
I agree very much with Lord Shepherd's analysis of how things developed over recent years. Personally, I should have an open mind about his idea that the dependent territories should be linked together with the Overseas Development administration. Obviously they have to work together very closely, and are under the same umbrella, because that is so much easier. I certainly should not be one to claim that nothing needs to be done. Indeed, I feel that I have some personal responsibility, because, as the noble Marquess was suggesting, I was implicated in a number of changes in recent years which to some extent, I think, call for remedial action now; because nothing is more important in our relationships with the colonial territories than a development of close personal contacts between those in headquarters, both Ministers and officials, and perhaps others, and those in the field—or perhaps it is more appropriate to say in the bush or on the Rock. What is essential is to develop understanding, mutual trust and personal knowledge.
By and large, I think this worked well in the days of the old Colonial Office in its prime. But then what happened over the last ten years? As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, first there came about the creation of the Department of Technical Co-operation, as a result of which the Colonial Office lost a large portion of its staff: it became a shrinking department; and I think I remember the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, saying at that time, when he was Secretary of State, that his job was to work himself out of a job. There was no future; it attracted no new blood, and morale was sagging. So in 1966, when I was still in the Service, the old Colonial Office was merged with the Commonwealth Relations Office, and then two years later the new Department was merged with the Foreign Office.
I am not saying that any of those decisions was wrong: far from it; I think they were entirely right. But, as the 41 noble Marquess reminded your Lordships, I was a party to them. All I am saying is that they had certain consequences, of which I will mention just two. For example, theoretically, in the days of the old Colonial Office the Secretary of State or the Permanent Under-Secretary could devote 100 per cent. of his time to colonial affairs. In the Commonwealth Relations Office, theoretically (obviously this is theory) one could devote, say, 10 per cent. of one's time to colonial affairs. In the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on the same analogy, theoretically one could not expect the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary to devote more than 1 per cent. of their time. Of course, that is a theoretical figure, and I am sure that the officials and Ministers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will tell me that the percentage is much higher: no doubt it was higher in the days when Anguilla was rather a problem. But that sort of perspective shows the kind of change that has come about.
Secondly, there is the working level—and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, touched on this point, too. The Diplomatic Service officer, with his wide general experience, may be absolutely first-class, but he is a very different sort of animal from the man who has spent his whole life in the Colonial Service, who knows his territory intimately and has worked down the years with the man on the spot. That is a very different situation. I warmly welcome what the noble Marquess has told us this afternoon about the idea of establishing a new department in the integrated Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be a sort of general focus for the problems of the dependent territories as a whole. Just as I regarded some focus on the independent Commonwealth as an essential element in the merged Foreign and Commonwealth Office when that came about (and in my experience this branch has done absolutely invaluable work), so I should have thought that some similar focus for the Colonial Office was highly desirable in the integrated Department, so that one has a single point where all the knowledge and expertise from the colonial past can be brought together. This is no detraction from the complete concept of the integration of the single department. On the contrary, it streng- 42 thens the merged Department by enabling it to draw on all the traditions which it has inherited.
There are two points that I should like to urge on the Government. One is that, in sprite of the exigencies of the Diplomatic Service, of which I used to be fully aware, staff should be given a reasonable spell at a time in dealing with the problems of the dependent territories, both at home and overseas, without more changes than are absolutely necessary and desirable. Secondly, I feel that staff in London, and particularly the junior staff which carry the day-to-day responsibility, should be encouraged to visit the territory for which they are responsible and really get to know its problems.
There are many ways in which we can help the dependent territories, and a number of thoughtful ones have been suggested by the mover of the Motion. The noble Marquess has told us about the plans for budgetary aid. That I would welcome warmly, because it should have the effect of enabling the territories to be more self-reliant and perhaps more go-ahead in the future. Another way in which I personally hope that the Government will show their understanding of dependent territories is while recognising that these people fall to be dealt with within the regulations under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, the Government nevertheless accept that, as citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies, they are in rather a special category and should be treated with all the generosity that we can show. But I think that the most important thing we can do for the dependent territories is to show them that we are aware of their problems; that we are interested in their future; that we accept our responsibilities and will do all we can to help. My Lords, I believe that this debate will have served its purpose this afternoon if it can send out a message to the people in all those territories that your Lordships' House cares.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords who have spoken in thanking my noble friend Lord Shepherd for initiating this important and interesting debate. I share the view of the noble Lord who has just spoken (although he will find that I do not reflect his attitude to Hong Kong) that it should go out to the colonies that 43 this House cares. The purpose of my speech to-day is to try to tell people in Hong Kong that this House cares, but perhaps not in exactly the same way as the noble Lord who has just spoken.
Those of us who have travelled widely are fortunate people. When we visit the colonies of what was the great British Empire, we must experience a sense of guilt when we find conditions of life that are reminiscent not of this century but perhaps the last century. I quite understand that these conditions—the lack of social services and so on—often stem from the fact that there is abject poverty; that Britain cannot make an adequate contribution because of the other calls on our national purse. But that is not always the case, and I want to focus attention to-day on the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, which I believe is failing to raise the standard of living of its people in step with its increasing prosperity.
I listened to my noble friend Lord Shepherd very carefully. He described the economy of Hong Kong as "dynamic", and he is quite right. He also said, I think, that because of this they can well look after their own social services. May I, in the first place, remind the House of a certain aspect of this dynamic economy? Hong Kong is now industrialised with an economy based on exports rather than on domestic markets. It produces, in the main, light manufactures of all kinds, garments of all kinds, footwear, furniture, foodstuffs and cigarettes. I have a little magazine sent to me quite regularly in which I see advertisements for wigs and electronic equipment, including television sets, watches and clocks. Furthermore, manufacturing processes have also been introduced to local industry which enables it to compete in quality with the highly industrialised countries of the world. No longer need we say: "This only comes from the East—it is rather cheap and nasty". The quality of the manufactures from Hong Kong to-day are very high. Therefore, it is not surprising that in 1968 Hong Kong's principal customers, in order of value of trade, were: the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Hong Kong has grown to be one of the world's largest ports. Its airport is regularly 44 used by 23 airlines, and many charter planes, which provide frequent services to Europe and America. As a sign of the quality of the airport, there are night-flying facilities and a precision approach radar. The adverse balance on visible trade is offset by a favourable balance on invisible account from remittances from overseas Chinese, investment, shipping, insurance and tourism. The public revenue—and this is the important point—well exceeds public expenditure. The prosperity of Hong Kong is undoubted, yet in many respects the social conditions of the country fail to reflect its commercial success.
The noble Marquess knows that I told his Department that I was going to ask certain questions. If he has not managed to get the answers for to-day, perhaps he will let me know them in due course. I should like to have answers to most of my questions. I should like to know how far the profits stemming from these light manufactures are based on the exploitation of cheap labour—particularly that of women and girls. They, as we know, have nimble fingers, and in the field of light manufactures they can earn fortunes for their employers. It was many years ago that the industrialisation of the Far East focused attention on the exploitation of the labour of women and children. Regulations were introduced governing the conduct of industry, and the employment of woman and child labour. I should like to know how these regulations have been improved with the years; how they are enforced, and what is the size of the factory inspectorate. Can the noble Marquess also tell me what is the rate of pay in these factories, and what is the minimum age at which a young person may be employed?
I asked some questions on education of my noble friend Lord Shepherd, and I think he referred to them when he spoke just now. If I may say so, I do not think 116 found the answers very satisfactory when he gave them, and I was very pleased with what he said to-day. I certainly did not find the answers satisfactory. It seems that in this prosperous Crown Colony of ours only 51 per cent. of children are financed wholly or in part by the Government for education, and even primary education is not compulsory. As poverty, combined with 45 ignorance, provides the background which brings grist to the mill of the ruthless employer of cheap labour, would the noble Marquess tell me why the Government are not ensuring that illiteracy is eradicated through compulsory education, which Hong Kong can well afford? No longer can they plead poverty. It was over 100 years ago that members of all Parties in this country denounced child labour, and denounced it strongly. We sit back to-day and talk about the prosperity of the Crown Colony, Hong Kong. I have described the conditions, and yet we permit the exploitation of little children and deny them even a primary education.
When we come to building, the noble Lord, Lord Garner, congratulated the Government on the building work in Hong Kong. I do not know how many blocks of flats the noble Lord went into. I understand that in building a block of flats the builder may incorporate factory accommodation on one floor. This enables workers to be easily available—in fact they are practically living on the premises—and leads to appalling overcrowding, with resultant health hazards. The factory is often badly lit, and women and girls are compelled to work in conditions which would not be tolerated in any Western industrialised country. It seems that owing to the nature of the work—these light manufactures—fires are very frequent, and regulations to protect the workers are either disregarded or are unenforceable.
On the question of housing, I should like to know what is being done to house the floating population. By "floating population" I mean those who live in boats. The living conditions of those people who live in boats in Hong Kong make the homes of those who reside in the Gorbals area of Glasgow luxurious by comparison. They are the worst degrading kinds of slum you can possibly imagine, in which a woman has to have a baby, bring up a family and conduct her life. What is being done about this in our prosperous Crown Colony? Are we facing up to the problem? Are we recognising that it should have priority?
I understand that the health services are handicapped by a shortage of doctors. The noble Lord mentioned that Britain 46 had to help in bringing people with expertise into our dependent territories. I do not know whether this applies to Hong Kong, where there is a great shortage of doctors. I want to know what grants are provided for the poor but able student to study medicine in Hong Kong. I find it difficult to understand why the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which was inaugurated in 1963, does not have a medical faculty. Is not this a serious omission, considering that 98 per cent. of the population are Chinese? Why is English still the only official language? Surely Chinese should also be regarded as an official language in order that the graduate from the Chinese University should not be handicapped vis-à-vis the graduate from the English Hong Kong University.
My Lords, I have limited myself to just a few questions to which I should like to have an answer. I have plenty more, but time is limited. I recognise that probably the noble Lord, Lord Garner, has not made the same investigations as I have; but he is very pleased with the administration of Hong Kong, and thinks that we should be contented with its condition to-day. I should not like that attitude to go out from this House unchallenged. On the subject of the administration, I agree with my noble friend Lord Shepherd. Why, oh why, cannot we have people with knowledge, although not necessarily very wealthy, working in Hong Kong for the betterment of conditions there? Today, my Lords, I have simply directed my attention to Hong Kong, but I have no doubt that the social conditions in other colonies call for an equally careful examination, and I hope that this will proceed without further delay.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, the dispersal of the British Empire has left, as other noble Lords have said to-day, a number of disparate colonies around the world which have very little in common with each other. But they do have certain things in common which we can consider. There are ties of tradition, ties of honour, ties of friendship between this country and them. They also have in common, quite often, because they are small and, to a certain extent, unviable countries, that they are politically embarrassing in terms of international politics and real power. For instance, 47 Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and Hong Kong have all been mentioned. All these colonies have their own particular problems. They are all extremely different. I suppose one could not find two places much more different than Hong Kong, about which we have already heard much this afternoon, and Bermuda, about which we heard so ably from the noble Earl, Lord Cowley, in his informative maiden speech.
However, when we are talking about these colonies, particularly those which set real problems in the international field, we must be prepared to weigh these two things together in the same balance. We must be prepared to talk about our care for these places and what we owe to them and to their citizens; and, at the same time, we must be realistic about what is their real situation in the future of the power politics of a divided and all-too-human world. We must be prepared to realise that, sometimes, not only are we not the strongest Power which has something to do with what happens to them, but we are even the weakest. In Hong Kong, for example—obviously, on the doorstep of China, near Japan and Taiwan, with the great presence of the American fleet nearby—Britain, except in so far as it is the Government of the colony, is probably one of the weakest Powers which has to deal with the whole future of the colony. That is something which must be borne in mind when we are thinking about its future.
When we are thinking about these colonies there are three points which we can say definitely apply to each one of them and which should be the basis of any policy. The first is that we must always regard it as our duty to forward the interests and liberties of the population of dependent territories. The second is that we must have due care not to exacerbate difficult international situations. The third is that where there is a difficult international situation we must be prepared for the worst. We must be prepared for things to go wrong and, therefore, to discharge our obligations to the peoples of these territories if things do in fact go wrong.
This afternoon I want to speak for a very short time about Hong Kong. We have already heard a lot about it in this debate; we shall probably hear more. 48 But it contains over two-thirds of the population of the dependent territories at the moment and has a very important role to play; therefore it is important that we should consider it. It is clearly the opinion of the Government of Hong Kong and of the powers-that-be in Hong Kong, mainly the big businesses, that it is to China's interest that Hong Kong shall continue as independent for as long as possible, because it is through Hong Kong that China obtains a very great amount of her foreign currency. Hong Kong is a great channel for the prosperity and the wellbeing of China. But also it must be acknowledged—and it has not yet been said—that very few people consider that Hong Kong will stay outside the hegemony of mainland China for ever. In fact, we are looking at a colony, at a dependent territory, which one day will come under mainland China. What we must try to do, in everybody's interest, is to see that we keep Hong Kong prosperous and dependent as long as possible, because I believe that time is on our side. I do not believe that China is going to remain a complete, hard-line pariah in the community of nations for ever. The more China can be brought into the community of nations, the more China can be humanised, the better will be the fate of the people of Hong Kong if eventually they come under her.
There are various dangers that China might wish to draw Hong Kong into her fold earlier than that. The first (and possibly the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, did not take this fully into account) is that Hong Kong will not be much use to China as independent of China unless Hong Kong continues prosperous. It is Hong Kong's prosperity which is important to China. Secondly, Hong Kong will not be tolerated by China for one moment if there is any danger of her becoming a third China. A second China on Taiwan, Formosa, is embarrassing enough for the Chinese Government. Any possibility that Hong Kong would either turn into a dependant of Formosa—and there are a great many supporters of Taiwan in Hong Kong—or achieve independent status as a kind of third China, would be intolerable to the Republic of China.
And there is a third danger, in that there is a real problem when the lease 49 of the new territories falls in. It is not so much that Hong Kong would be unviable without the new territories as that an opportunity like this, which would be presented in the eyes of the world to China to take back a part of what she regards as her territory into herself, would be very difficult to resist without losing a great deal of face before the world.
From these facts—and I think they are facts—we can draw certain deductions as to what the policy of Her Majesty's Government and the Hong Kong Government should be. First of all, we must continue to draw China into the counsels of the world. We must continue to try to encourage diplomatic negotiations. We must try to obtain for China a seat in the United Nations. This is in spite of the fact that there is a slight danger that if China gets a seat in the United Nations, she may again be exposed to the kind of taunts and pinpricks by, say, the Committee on Decolonialisation, which will prompt her to feel that she can no longer afford to let Hong Kong sit as a colony on her doorstep. But, in spite of this, I am sure we must encourage China's emergence into the worldwide family of nations.
Secondly, we must ensure the economic strength of Hong Kong. Here an important point must be made. Hong Kong must either get special treatment when, as I hope, (or if, if your Lordships prefer) we go into Europe; or at the very least there must be some guarantee that Hong Kong will be represented as an underdeveloped nation, that she will come under UNCTAD. If Hong Kong were to slip those two chances—if, on the one hand, she got no special treatment at all when we go into Europe and, on the other hand, she did not have the benefit of UNCTAD, she would be in a very bad way indeed. It is up to us to see that these things do not happen.
The next point, which was touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Summer-skill, is that we must have more welfare. I take the point very strongly that the boom in Hong Kong is not all that secure, and that there is no sin, as such, in surplus budgeting; but I do think that the Government in Hong Kong are a little too cowardly about this. In my view more money needs to go into welfare, and I particularly support the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Baroness, Lady 50 Summerskill, when they speak about compulsory primary education. It seems to me that the reasons which have been given for not having compulsory primary education do not stand up. We are told that it could not be enforced and that there is no point in putting it forward if it cannot be enforced. My Lords, it will not be enforced unless it is put forward, and the only way of seeing that we get universal primary education is by making it compulsory; and this will be a very good weapon indeed against the child labour about which the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was speaking.
The other matter which I think should be mentioned is that we must support stronger unionisation in Hong Kong. A great deal of the trouble in Hong Kong, and the weakness of the position of the working class there, is due to there not being strong unions. I do not think that the Hong Kong Government have been particularly helpful about this matter over the last year or so.
On democracy, I believe there should be one or two changes. A little expansion of democracy would not do any harm, although, as I have already said, I take the point that we must not establish a third China, and I am sure that there is a strong case for setting up an Ombudsman in every colony, particularly in Hong Kong.
Lastly, the one essential is to have contingency plans in case all this goes wrong. There are many people in Hong Kong to whom we owe a great deal; there are many people in Hong Kong whose welfare we must look after. If I speak particularly about the Eurasian community it is not because I do not know that there are others in the same boat but because it is the Eurasian community above all which has given to Hong Kong such valuable, important and worthwhile service. These are people of whom one can say, "This is their only home and something must be done for them". I do not expect Her Majesty's Government to make public their plans for contingencies, but I very much urge Her Majesty's Government that they should have plans for helping, particularly all those with British passports, so that, should the worst happen, we do not have to go through the disgrace and the farce that we have seen in past months over the question of East African Asians. 51 I do not believe that the worst will happen, but I urge Her Majesty's Government to bear in mind that we owe a lot to a great many people in these dependent territories, and, if necessary, we must be prepared to pay out and help them. This applies particularly to Hong Kong. Hong Kong asks little from us and gets less, but the time may come when Hong Kong will need our help. When we go into Europe and into international negotiations, when finally Hong Kong may have to go back to China, whenever she needs help we must be prepared to give it. I am sure that this is true of all the dependent territories, but of none more than Hong Kong.