[6TH ALLOTTED DAY]
CIVIL ESTIMATES, ESTIMATES FOR REVENUE DEPARTMENTS AND ESTIMATE FOR THE MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, 1949–50. (VOTE ON ACCOUNT.)
Report 1St March
"That a sum, not exceeding £832,066,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments and for the Ministry of Defence for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1950."—[For details of Votes see OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 192–5.]
Resolution read a Second time.
East African Groundnut Scheme
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out "£832,066,000," and to insert"£.831,066,000."I understand that this is the usual moment at which to move the reduction, and that is the usual form and the usual sum when it is a question of a Vote on account. I hope, after the somewhat unintelligible exchanges which have gone on during the last ten minutes, that we can get down to something which is understood by all of us. My first word must be to welcome you back in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, after your temporary absence. We are proceeding to discuss a Vote on Account on Report. No one would be more surprised than you, except possibly myself, were I to discuss the Vote on Account as such, but it is as well to remind ourselves in one sentence that we are voting vast sums of money and that when they are reflected in the final Votes to be presented to this House later in the year, they will require our very serious attention. At the moment it is the desire of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself to pin-point the discussion on to one subject and one subject only today, and that is what is going on in East Africa with regard to the groundnut scheme. This matter is involving an enormous sum of money, but the groundnuts are so far rather hypothetical. Never, I should think, in the history of any Government project was there so much advertisement and propaganda and general anticipatory declaration as there have been with regard to this scheme. Indeed, ever since it was first announced there has been hung over it a haze of rejoicing, as if everything were now finished, as if we were getting the product and as if the plan had already been carried out. There were in the beginning two objectives. There was the objective that, as the result of a tremendous national undertaking, we should be able to open up parts of darkest Africa and carry on the work already started by many illustrious pioneers. It is upon that aspect of the scheme that my right hon. and hon. Friends spoke largely when the matter was previously discussed, on the long-term value of opening up, if it were possible to open up, great tracts of hitherto uncultivated land. Of course, that was not, and I repeat "not," the major point in the minds of the Government. In their Blue Book, Command Paper 7030, of February, 1947, the Government's conclusions were very strongly that the immediate reason for launching the scheme was the urgent need for new supplies of fat for the United Kingdom. It was for that reason that the Minister of Food was given a general oversight of this affair instead of the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I should be much happier if the matter were under the supervision of the Secretary of State and was being looked at from the point of view of the well-being of Africa rather than under the care of the Minister of Food, whose obvious interest in it, apart from general governmental responsibility, is the getting of as much fat for the people of this country as soon as possible, and, if in any way feasible, before the General Election. He cannot get it before the Sowerby by-election—we have had clothes rationing off for that—but before the General Election the margarine ration must be increased. Therefore, ever since 1946, when the idea first same into the minds of right hon. Gentlemen, speed has been the essence of the contract. What has been the result? It is not easy under the general layout of the Corporation to get all the information that is required, but still the Corporation has been most courteous in supplying answers to some—not all—of the questions put to it, Ministers have themselves answered others, and there have been a certain amount of coming and going between this country and East Africa, so that there is some information available to us. The upshot of that information has certainly been a picture of muddle, mismanagement, miscalculation and waste of all sorts and, up to now, of no appreciable results. That is the indictment we bring against the right hon. Gentleman today, and it is for that reason that as a matter of formality we move the reduction of the Vote. The last time this matter was discussed was only incidentally, during a Debate in July on the 21st Allotted Day, when there was a general discussion on food supplies. At that time the right hon. Gentleman was defending what had been taking place in East Africa. He said that mistakes had been made. He had said in the beginning, way back in the November, that there were likely to be mistakes. We all admit that. Of course there were likely to be mistakes. We could not start anything of this magnitude without anticipating every kind of mistake. The point is how far the mistakes could have been avoided. One of the mistakes to which the right hon. Gentleman called attention in July was defective storekeeping accounts in the earlier stages. That is a mistake, but it is not on the scale on which I want to condemn the action of the right hon. Gentleman. The other mistake that the United African Company, which was the managing agency at the time which was being discussed, had not adequately or entirely envisaged the scope of the maintenance problem for the heavy tractors, as a result of which a great deal of the work had been put back. Those certainly are mistakes, but far more must have happened since July to make things go wrong than we have yet heard, at any rate in this House. If that was the sort of trouble which the right hon. Gentleman thought worthy of mention then, what has happened which made it possible only a month ago for his Parliamentary Private Secretary the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu), who must have some knowledge of these things, to say in a speech which was reported in "The Daily Telegraph" that
I apologise for the language. It is not mine but that of the hon. Member for Huddersfield:"this great scheme has struck all sorts of snags "—
Where did those extravagant hopes come from? Certainly not from this side of the House. Every time this matter has been discussed we have gone out of our way to warn the Government of the danger of making mistakes through going too fast. The high hopes have all been expressed either on the Government side of the House or at the by-elections and on the soap-boxes, but certainly not by my hon. Friends in this House. The report continued:"and the hopes, in some cases extravagant hopes"—
So the right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary Private Secretary is quite clear that it will tale twice as long to do what we had hoped. Something must have happened since last July, because the right hon. Gentleman would surely have warned us of some of these troubles if they had begun to reveal themselves then. I accept something else which the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech in July. Talking about these two mistakes, which I have said were not as great as all that—the question of store accounting and, the more serious, the miscalculation about maintenance—the right hon. Gentleman said that the situation in which we were then—and continue to be—was that 1947, though it had been expected to be the first year of this scheme, was in fact merely:"held out about it have not been fulfilled. It now seems certain that the scheme will cost at least twice as much as the original estimate and fruition of our hopes will not come in the five years we predicted but will take at least double that time."
when the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the harvest in 1949, that is the harvest in April and May of what has been planted in 1948—"A year of preparations. … The year 1948, therefore, with the harvest in 1949"—
Therefore, what the right hon. Gentleman envisaged in July was that we should wash out 1947 altogether and consider 1948 with the harvest which will begin to come in next month and the month afterwards as the first year of the scheme. All right. Let us accept that and let us see what it looks like in view of the facts and of the programme. The first year—which will result in what will be harvested next month and in May—according to the Blue Book, envisaged an acreage of 150,000. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to tell us that the acreage under groundnuts for the first year—what has been worked this year and will be harvested next month—is 150,000? He will tell us nothing of the sort. Is he going to tell us that it is even 50,000? We are not quite sure, because information about the exact acreage is a little difficult to get, but I fancy that it is nearer 50,000 than 150,000. It does not look as if we are achieving the first year's programme at all. According to the Blue Book, the first year's clearing programme envisaged 90 Europeans on land clearing and 70 on agricultural operations, a total of 160, and 7,500 Africans. The figures are, in fact, very much the other way, because if the acreage under cultivation has been nowhere near what was envisaged for the first year of the scheme, the staff employed has certainly been vastly in excess. Though the figures for the first year were planned to be 160, through the courtesy of the Corporation I am enabled to say that on 31st January the European staff in East Africa numbered no fewer than 870, and over and above that at the end of December there were 1,015 Europeans working for the contractors. We can therefore see that what was said in July has already been falsified. I am quite willing to let the right hon. Gentleman take 1948–49 as his first year but even if we do so, it is nowhere near up to the plans which were envisaged and which have been exaggerated and about which there were, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield said, extravagant hopes. We therefore want to know what has happened to make all this so badly falsified—mismanagement, miscalculation, misrepresentation? I do not know. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman has led the House astray on at least one occasion. What was he telling us here way back in 1947? He told us that"will be the first year of the five-year period of development."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 12th July 1948; Vol. 453, c. 875.]
It was not doing anything of the sort in November, 1947; it is not doing it now; it will not do it for a considerable amount of time. This is no uncorrected copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT, this is the bound book in which, had there been any mistake in what the right hon. Gentleman meant to convey to the House, he would have had the leave of the House to correct it. So, giving the right hon. Gentleman this year as the first year of the scheme, washing out 1947—which is a handsome thing to do, after all, as between political opponents, the right hon. Gentleman has asked for it, for he went all over the country and his friends went everywhere saying what a wonderful scheme this was. I shall tell before I have done how we might make it so, but at the present moment I want to have, for the benefit of all of us in this House, some real explanation as to what has happened to make it go so sadly astray. However, having washed out the first year, we find that the cost is fantastically higher, that the staff is immeasurably greater than had been anticipated, that the acreage is a great deal less and, as far as we can see, there is very little. product forthcoming. Let us look at the figures of the cost. Here perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us what it has cost up to today, but the programme for the first year was a cost of £2,500,000, the programme for the second year was a cost of £8 million, so the first two years should have been £10,500,000. The right hon. Gentleman has spent nearly twice that amount already. That is the measure of miscalculation. There is a further miscalculation which must not be overlooked, and which has its effect upon the long-term results of this plan. There is some division of opinion as to what is likely to be the yield per acre of groundnuts. The original mission, as we see from the Blue Book, thought that an average of 850 lb. per acre could be safely taken. The Government however, in their wisdom as it turned out, thought that was rather too high and, when they published their conclusion on this matter, made their calculations on a yield of 750 lb.; though, oddly enough, in the White Paper of November, 1947, the Government had gone back a bit and considered that 750 lb. per acre was most conservatively estimated. That is what we get from the records. Here again, by the courtesy of the Corporation, I am informed that the yields have turned out so far very differently, and that in respect of the confident anticipation, or, indeed, as they afterwards said, the conservative estimate of 750 lb. per acre, in 1948 the average has turned out to be 540 lb. If this new set of figures is the correct one, any hon. Member can see that it knocks the bottom out of all the forecasts, to which must be added this further consideration, that the Government have now come to the realisation that they were far too ambitious in thinking that everything in East Africa could go under groundnuts, that some other kind of crops would have to be provided, and that it would be a good idea to switch over as soon as possible to a lot of sunflower; indeed, that sunflower should be the first crop because it was a better cleaning one than groundnuts. If that is done, it is, of course, admitted that the yield of oil from the sunflowers is 30 per cent. less than it is from groundnuts. Surely it is a serious situation to have emerged already; first, that up to now, whatever may arise in the future, the average yield of the groundnuts sown is nothing like what was anticipated; secondly, that we have to fall back on sunflower seed to help, and that that will give far less edible oil. It reveals a serious position and one in which we are fully entitled not only to ask questions as to the situation but to criticise the Government for having rushed so fast into these difficult problems. One of the troubles has been that there was not sufficient experiment before going full speed ahead—at least, in so far as the scheme has gone full speed ahead. Taking the main groups of questions which arise, the first is administration. I do not doubt that in that far off and uncomfortable country there are many devoted and ardent people working and putting their whole hearts into the job. Everybody tells us that, but it is also true that every observer, whether "The Times" or "The Farmer and Stockbreeder" or any other competent observer, comes back with the story that the whole administration is confused, that there is lack of concentration, that arrangements for the European staff—which as I have pointed out, is already five times bigger than it was anticipated it would be in the first year—are far from good in spite of a large and no doubt necessary expenditure on amenities and education. We get complaints on all those points and, on the other hand, there is the difficulty arising—as it was bound to arise, and which will be hard for the Secretary of State—of competing scales of salaries and amenities, of leave, and the rest of it between the Colonial civil servants and the European employees of this Corporation. So, on the administration side, in spite of the devotion of the people working there, there is this picture of confusion. On the mechanical side it seems to me there are grave errors in calculations—if, indeed, they were calculations. The trouble about all these documents published by this Government is that everything is brought down to the most meticulous detail as, indeed, one knows, with regard to the European Recovery plan, where the figures for 1952 are given in such detail that one can really hardly believe it to be possible. So it is here. After all, the Government estimated the clearing cost, clearing equipment and clearing operations, to be £3 17s. 4d. per acre in most meticulous detail but, from all I hear, the cost of clearing is many times that amount, it may even be ten times that figure. On the other hand, the document estimated that the agricultural machinery employed on the scheme would have an average life of five years. There, again, we hear stories to the effect that agricultural machinery employed on this scheme is not likely to last anything like that amount of time. I agree that a great deal of it was bought secondhand, but also a great deal has been contracted for, and is presumably being paid for in hard dollars. Many English firms were not asked, as far as I understand it, to investigate the possibility of themselves producing something. All rush and speed, and the machinery will not last five years on an average. So there is another great group of questions. With regard to communications, there again the position is fantastic, and at every subject one looks one finds the promises made by Ministers, the assurances given to this House by Ministers, quite categorically are all falsified. As long ago as 30th April, 1947, my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), who knows about this part of the world, raised this very question with the Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he asked whether the facilities at Dar-es-Salaam would be able to carry the traffic which would be necessary. The Secretary of State replied:"a managing agency was already heavily engaged in bringing many hundreds of thousands of acres of African bush under cultivation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1947; Vol. 443, c. 2024.]
Within less than a year that was found not to be the case and there have had to be conferences about traffic and everything else. I must point out that, unfortunately, by some of his misguided quotations which I have given, the right hon. Gentleman has unwittingly—I do not say purposely; I do not accuse Ministers of anything of that kind in the House—misled us and the country. Therefore, we have all been led to hope for far more from this scheme quickly than we are likely to get. If that is true, and the administration is confused, with all the staff, mechanical and transport difficulties, then so, too, must the right hon. Gentleman be having difficulties of cost with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The costs are certainly very much higher than anything which had been anticipated and the fact that the contract work is being done on a cost-plus basis is not likely to improve that situation quickly. All these are serious matters for the House in its wisdom to consider today. We grant the two premises: the desirability of getting as soon as possible a larger supply of fats, whether it is for the British housewife or is to go into the whole world pool, and the desirability of doing all we can to improve the general development of the African Continent. But we must question Ministers with regard to this particular scheme, about what has been going on and why it has failed so lamentably behind the programme. The problem now is, what are we to do next? The difficulties are by no means finished. There are reports and talk, well-founded, of risks of a dust bowl in that part of Africa; of insufficient water for what already has been planted; risks which come from not having calculated sufficiently the fertilising system which is required or, indeed, the general agricultural system we want to see established in that part of the world. These are some of the difficulties which are coming along. On the other hand, we must all admit that in a programme however misguidedly and foolishly it has been emphasised by hon. Gentlemen opposite, which is for all that a great national project and in which our national prestige is involved, we must do all we can to make it, somehow or other, successful. While we can, and do criticise what has happened, we want to get it right as soon as possible. Any suggestions which I have thrown out to the right hon. Gentleman have been made only because of the passionate desire of all of us on this side to see that the scheme is got right as soon as possible and that the world may know that we want to see these colonial and trusteeship countries which are under our care fully developed and helped along. I ask the right hon. Gentleman: Would it be wise now, in view of all that has happened, to call a halt to any further clearing and planting, other than that now in hand, and limit ourselves for the time being to the area which is covered by some three of what in the technical language of the scheme are called units; that is to say, something in the region of 90,000 to 100,000 acres? If that were done, would it not be wise to use that area for really large scale experiment; to learn how—we are not sure the lesson has yet been fully learnt—to grow groundnuts in that part of the world; to learn how best the soil can be conserved and African life got going? The House will remember that one of the reasons for our going to that particular part of Africa was that no native rights would be disturbed. It is a question therefore, of building up African life as well as everything else. Perhaps, by using the presently-cleared area for experiment, we could see whether it might be wiser to cut up the units even smaller and to work them on the basis of 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 or even 5,000 acres, instead of the larger conglomeration of the 30,000-acre units. Having such a standstill, and using the time to utilise for experiment the land already developed, would it not be wise for the Government to say, "We, in fact, reverse the decision which we announced to the world in our Blue Book of 1947. We do, of course, want the margarine and the fats, but we have come to the conclusion that far more important is the future life of Africa. That is our first and primary aim, rather than the collection of more margarine for the British people in the immediate future." There could in fact, be a complete reorientation from what we can see now was a false start in 1946–47. As a consequence, and to make it clear to all the world that we have changed the emphasis, the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends should fade out of the picture and the Colonial Secretary come forward to take his place in charge of the whole affair. Then one would know that the emphasis was no longer on margarine for the General Election, but on the development and improvement of affairs in Africa and the uplift, educational and agricultural, of the African peoples. That is my suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. I go even further, and put it in the form of a direct question: Would it not be wise to do that sort of thing? Whilst the standstill on clearing and planting is in force we could, under the auspices of the Colonial Secretary, carry on with the improvements of transport—rail, road and docks—because that is part of the general rehabilitation and building-up of Africa."It is considered that all traffic during the next few years can be handled over the existing quay, although its capacity will be taxed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th April, 1947; Vol. 436, c. 1937–8.]
May I ask—
No. I am just finishing. The hon. Gentleman can make his speech about the West Indies when I have done so.
That is the sort of mad remark I should expect from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman.
If the right hon. Gentleman accepts what I have said as being a reasonable line of policy for the immediate future, would it not be wise for him, during this standstill period and the experimental use of the soil which has been cleared and planted, to send to those parts some sort of a commission of inquiry of a status no less important than a Royal Commission—a Royal Commission is not necessarily the right body, but that kind of status is required—to investigate from a completely impartial point of view, the whole thing and find out what has happened and what has gone wrong, and report back to the Government and the country?I have, unfortunately, had to criticise details of the failures and errors, but there is no doubt that the scheme is a great concept. It is a fine idea and is in line with the development which was envisaged and which was, I suppose, one of the greatest acts of faith which this country and this Parliament ever showed; that was, when we started finding the funds for Colonial development at the very worst moment of the war in 1940. And what a terrible calamity it would be that it should go down to be one more scandal connected with the Labour Government. [Laughter.] Well, there is a grave risk of that if something is not done soon on the one hand to check the huge expenditure of public money and, on the other, to stimulate some results, because there are no results yet. None of us wants that to happen. Therefore, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a standstill now and a full inquiry is the best way to restore confidence is what, after all, was a great idea.
During his speech, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman promised specifically that before he ended he would make some suggestions as to how this could be put right. In the first part of his speech he pointed out mistakes that had been made; in the second part he asked questions. Will he complete the third?
The hon. Member must have been asleep during the last 10 minutes of my oration.
I shall be bound to speak at some length this afternoon because I think the House wants a very full statement on this matter. Therefore I ask pardon if I detain the House for some little time, but I shall be as quick as I can. We are discussing Supply today and must, therefore, approach the whole matter from a financial, economic and business point of view. I shall do that, but, I hope the House will not think that that is the only point of view that concerns us. The right hon. and gallant Member for Gains- borough (Captain Crookshank) has emphasised very strongly the other aspects of the scheme, the uplighting, as he put it, of African life, which the scheme can give. I assure him that we do not yield to him for one moment in the importance we attach to that. I am sure, on the other hand, however, that if I spoke only, or principally, on that theme he and every critic would say that I was neglecting the hard business, economic and financial aspects of the scheme.On a Supply Day these are the aspects with which we are most concerned. What I am going to say really adds up to this; that the scheme may well cost anything up to twice the original estimate and that the revenues from the scheme may also well add up to anything up to twice the original estimate. That is not a new statement to this House. It is one I have made before here and, as early as last June, in a speech in Nairobi describing the scheme. So the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite wrong in thinking that my Parliamentary Private Secretary was giving me away or revealing anything he should not have revealed when he made that statement in a public speech. I am also going to put to the House that the basic figures prove that the original decision of the Government to make the principal British effort in the field of overseas agriculture in the production of oils and fats has been abundantly justified. We took that decision on the advice of the very best experts, both Government experts and private experts, that, on the whole, of all the shortages—and there were plenty of them—from which the world suffered, that of oils and fats was likely to be the most obstinate, or one of the most obstinate and most damaging to this country and, indeed, to a hungry world. Today, nearly three years later, the only criticism we can make of those estimates from our experts is that they did not go far enough. Certainly, as the figures I will put before the House will show, our estimates of the duration and intensity of the world shortage of oils and fats were under-estimates. That shortage seems to bid fair to be much longer and to be far graver than anyone could foresee when we took the decision. One could put that in financial terms, because the shortage of oils and fats reflects itself more or less accurately in the price. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred a good many times, as he was entitled to do, to the original White Paper and the original Report. He will recollect that the original Wakefield-Martin-Rosa Report estimated—and these were the estimates on which the scheme was based —that the price of groundnuts this year would be down to £20 per ton. As a matter of fact, groundnut prices today, for marginal quantities, in some parts of the world are well above £60 a ton and we are at the moment paying, for example, for our own main supplies from West Africa on a long-term contract no less than £51 a ton. When, in a short time, we fix the price for the first supplies of groundnuts from the East African scheme—which we shall be doing I am glad to say in a few months' time—a few weeks' time—there is no reason to suppose that we shall not have to pay and be justified in paying a comparable price to that which we are paying in West Africa. The House will see what an immense difference it makes to the revenues of the scheme even this year and far more to the prospects of revenues of the scheme in coming years, that the estimates of the value of the product were such enormous underestimates as those. When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and other critics bring out, as they are quite entitled to bring out, a long list of what they call miscalculations in the original Report, of course they never bring out that miscalculation, which is the most important of all. It is true that the scheme is going to cost substantially more than was estimated. It is also true that it is going to take much longer than was estimated, but equally, it is true that its revenues are going to be much higher than was estimated. It is very important to bring out that miscalculation, if one likes to call it such, and it is a most favourable miscalculation. My critics very often seem a little irritated when I bring out this fact. They somehow feel that it is just cheating on our part that we estimate that the revenues of the scheme are up just as much as the estimates of the cost of the scheme. It is natural they should not like to emphasise that point because it does destroy the main gravamen of the charge brought against this scheme.
What about the yield?
I am going to deal with the yield per acre and I think the hon. Member had better let me make my own speech. The price, therefore, reflecting as it does, the needs of the world for groundnuts, or any other form of edible oil for that matter, is, I suggest, a complete justification for the original decision of the Government to go ahead with this scheme and to put their money, if one likes the phrase, on the production of oils and fats on a great scale in that part of the world.Of course, it would be very nice indeed if the original Wakefield Report had only made that miscalculation, if they had not underestimated also the vast cost of the scheme and the time it would take to develop. But it is not very likely that they would have made one underestimate without the other, because both stem from the same cause. The authors of the Report underestimated three years ago, as did so many people at that time, the time it would take for the world to recover. They underestimated the time it would take for oil seeds to come into more plentiful supply. They underestimated the time it would take for new heavy tractors to come, I will not say into plentiful supply, but into supply at all. They underestimated the time it would take in post-war conditions to get the steel, coal, labour, equipment, the building parts, railways and the like. They underestimated all these things. Therefore their underestimate of the value of the product and the cost of the scheme stemmed from the same cause and they would not have been at all likely to make one underestimate without the other. The net result is that our scheme will be more costly and more difficult, but also it will be far more needed and far more profitable than was estimated originally. What was the object with which we launched this scheme? I am proposing this afternoon to talk about it from a hard-headed business point of view. From that point of view our object was to produce oils and fats. I think that the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake in contrasting that object with the object of improving African culture and benefiting the native population of Africa. I do not think there is any contrast between these two objects. I should have thought that for us now to make some sort of announcement—for which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seemed to press —that the scheme was no longer intended to produce oils and fats, but was to be turned into some sort of eleemosynary object of raising the level of African life, would be the worst thing to do. How can we develop great areas and lift the standard of life of the population except by business-like schemes which have a real commercial object? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman apparently wishes to abandon all that, and to say that we never meant to get oils and fats and the money for which oils and fats are valued out of this scheme, but that we meant only to improve the lot of the Africans. The two things go together, and we shall not accomplish one object without accomplishing the other. We are not undertaking this scheme to clear acres for the sake of clearing acres, or even to grow groundnuts for the sake of growing groundnuts. Our object is to produce edible oils and fats for margarine and cooking fat for the world in general and this country in particular; inedible oils and fats for soap and—which is sometimes forgotten—the very important residue of groundnuts for animal food, for very high protein content cake for cattle and other animals. The decision of what acres to cultivate with what crops must be made in the light of that objective. We approached the question of how many acres should be cleared from the point of view of what acres will give us the tonnage of oil seeds and oil which we require. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman recalled that the Wakefield Report estimated that we could produce 600,000 tons of oil seeds—in his case of groundnuts—from 3¼ million acres, and this is the first big change in the outlook and prospects of the scheme which I am putting before the House and which has been arrived at in the light of experience so far, and the review of that experience by the Corporation. The Corporation now consider that they can produce that tonnage of oil seeds from some two million acres. Why is that? Is it because there has been some enormous increase in our estimates of yield? No, that is not so. As the right hon. Gentleman stated we wrote down the original yield estimated in the Wakefield Report from 850 lb. of groundnuts to 750 lb. of groundnuts per acre. For the purposes of the calculation I have just given we have written that down a little further still in the early years. Here I would deal with the point made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the yield on the first year. It is true that if one adds up the yield on the 7,000 acres which were cleared a year ago and harvested in the 1948 harvest, one gets an average yield of only 500 lb. to the acre. That is because every kind of experiment was made in the first year. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman called on us to make further experiments. He said that we had dashed ahead without making adequate experiments. But it was because we did make every kind of experiment with the initial 7,000 acres that the average yield on them was low. We deliberately planted groundnuts of every kind and variety. Some were most unlikely to be suitable, and did not prove suitable, but they were worth planting just as an experiment. We planted at every density and with varying methods of cultivation, and the yield in a single variety of groundnut varied from 900 lb. to the acre to as low as 200 lb. to the acre. That, with an acreage of 7,000 acres, tells one little about what the average yield is likely to be for the scheme in all three areas. I consider therefore that we are still being very conservative. I repeat what I stated before—and what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman challenged me on—that we are being very conservative in our estimate of the yield of the crop. Therefore, this re-assessment of the acreage has nothing to do with any sudden writing up of the yield which we expect. In this connection I wish to give the House the actual figures—the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested that I should do so and I am very willing—of what has been planted. In the Kongwa area and the Urambo area this year—we have just had the latest telegram on it—they have put under cultivation just over 50,000 acres, of which 25,000 are groundnuts and 20,000 sunflowers, with 2,000 maize and other experimental crops. All that is at Kongwa. At Urambo there are 500 acres of groundnuts and 2,700 acres of sunflowers. Those plantings are only just finished and it is far too early to give any crop estimate. But given normal conditions, such as seem to exist in the areas this year, they will give us quite a number of thousands of tons of oil seeds this year, which will make a modest but a first contribution to our margarine ration this year, and which will be valued at any rate at several hundred thousand pounds. Surely, therefore, all this talk about the scheme having no product whatever, of there being nothing but expenditure up till now, is very wide of the mark. It is true that no revenue will come in until the first harvest is harvested, but that is true of all agricultural operations. We were told repeatedly in the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech that the figures I have given, which add up to about 50,000 acres under cultivation this year, are terribly small and a derisory achievement. They are small. They are one-third of the estimate for the first year of the scheme contained in the White Paper, but I assure hon. Members that, to anyone who has been out there, 50,000 acres of bush which has been cleared does not look a small achievement.
The right hon. Gentleman used the word "cleared." Can he define what he means by that?
Put under cultivation. This area has been sown. I think that the right hon. Gentleman means that some of the area was either of light bush or no bush at all. That is perfectly true. I am glad to say that not every acre of the scheme is of the densest bush. Some areas are easier to clear than others.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the proportion is?
It varies from the worst areas to areas where no clearance is needed. One cannot say what particular density of bush—
What proportion of the 50,000 acres was dense bush originally?
It depends how dense. I am afraid that I cannot say. It is interesting to note that 50,000 acres put on a map of this country—I worked it out—means a strip a mile wide from where we are sitting in this House right to the South Coast at Portsmouth. That is the area brought under cultivation—that is the best phrase—in East Africa already. It is equal to a strip one mile wide from here to Portsmouth. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite can work out the arithmetic for themselves.I will come back to the question why the Overseas Food Corporation have reason to think that the target tonnage of 600,000 tons can be produced from 2,000,000 acres rather than from 3,250,000 acres as was originally supposed. It is not a revised yield. It is a revised cropping programme. It is a revised system of rotation. Criticism which was made—it was alluded to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman but it has been made much more forcibly by others—of the Wakefield Report was that the Report thought that one could put down groundnuts year after year on the same ground without any system of rotation. That is, of course, completely untrue. The Wakefield Report made no such claim. No skilled agriculturist would dream of making such a claim. The Report suggested that there should be a four-course rotation under which the land was under groundnuts for two years of the four and was fallow or under grass for the other two years. The scientific experts of the Corporation have come to the conclusion that a much more suitable and much more advantageous rotation than that would be a ten-year course rotation. The same proportion as indicated in the Wakefield Report would be under groundnuts—that is 50 per cent.—but in addition to that for three years of the ten the land would be under sunflowers and for two years under grass or under cereals. The House will readily see that that change of rotation makes an immense difference to the whole scheme. Instead of one-half of the acres at any given time when the scheme is fully developed being under groundnuts, four-fifths will be under oil bearing crops of groundnuts and sunflowers taken together. That is, of course, an enormous difference to the whole economics of the scheme. This is essentially the basis of the new review of the scheme which I have put before the House this afternoon of the 2,000,000 acres rather than the 3,250,000 acres giving 600,000 tons of oil seeds. Hon. Members will see that that rests on the introduction of a second oil bearing crop, namely, sunflowers. There again I notice among critics another note of irritation. When I speak of critics I am not talking about hon. or right hon. Members of the House necessarily, but of opponents of the scheme. They somehow feel that we have been cheating because we are introducing a second oil bearing crop in sunflowers, as well as groundnuts. There has even been a certain tendency to mock the sunflower as a flower rather than a commercial crop, because people perhaps have not heard of it as an oilseed. As a matter of fact, there was just the same tendency three years ago when we first began to talk about groundnuts. People did not realise that they had been eating the product of the humble groundnut for a great many years in their margarine and cooking fats. So now they feel that sunflowers are something rather queer and preposterous. As a matter of fact, sunflower seed is one of the most important crops of the world today. The Argentine grew one million tons of sunflower seed last year, and they did not do that for fun. They did it because it was an exceedingly valuable and profitable thing to do. Therefore, the introduction, which is proved—we have experimented widely on it—of sunflowers as a second crop in the scheme is by far the most important and valuable single development which the scheme has had so far. It is true, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, that the yield per acre of oil from sunflower seed will probably be less than the yield from groundnuts. I can give the figure.
30 per cent.
It may be 30 per cent. That depends on the relative yields of seed per acre of the two crops. It is estimated that half a ton of unshelled sunflower seed is a sort of average yield for an acre in East African conditions. From that one gets about 280 lb. of oil compared with 350 lb. of oil from groundnuts, assuming a 750 lb. yield of groundnuts. Therefore, depending on relative yields, one gets a somewhat lower figure of sunflower oil than groundnut oil. What the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seems completely to have forgotten—perhaps he did not know it—is that the introduction of the sunflower oil is a complete addition. We shall get just as much groundnut oil as the original estimate and by introducing sunflower growing on the land which under the original scheme would have been fallow during those years, the entire yield of sunflower oil is a net addition. Therefore, it is not a question of a lower total amount. The yield is greater by the whole amount of sunflower oil that we get. That is the essential point.In that connection, I think I ought to deal with the statements of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman about a dust bowl. Nothing is more important than to avoid the possibility of producing a dust bowl in East Africa. I would call attention to what produced the original dust bowl. Where did this phrase come from? It came from the Middle Western States of America, from Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. What produced the dust bowl there? It was simply ultra individualistic, private enterprise farming. That was what produced the dust bowl—unregulated, thoroughly greedy farming of the land. It is surely rather astonishing that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and several critics in the Press should suggest that the way for us to avoid a dust bowl is to split up this area and put it into individual ownership or individual tenancy. I should have thought that that would create the danger of a dust bowl. What we propose to do is to keep the area very tightly under centralised control and by every possible means—as is being done—of highly scientific contour farming such as I have seen going on there, to keep the area absolutely free from the danger of a dust bowl. The introduction of the sunflower crop provided a most useful second crop, which also makes excellent cover for the ground, and that is the opinion of the scientists in regard to that crop. I do not think there is anything sacred in the figure of 30,000 acres for a unit. I should not be surprised if the Corporation find it convenient to form units of 10,000 or even of 40,000 acres, and, if so, no doubt they will do so. They will obviously experiment to find what is the most suitable unit to develop, and, in this respect, the figure of 30,000 is simply the one on which they happen to have started.
Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me? For the information of the House, the point should be made quite clear that sunflower seeds are not a new product in this country, but that they have been crushed and the oil extracted from them in the United Kingdom for the last quarter of a century.
Yes, indeed, and 1 am grateful for the hon. Gentleman for mentioning it. It was a point which I had tried to emphasise. It has been for a very long time a most important crop. Oil seeds are not necessarily the only important crops we shall get. We have grown some maize this year, and the scientific officers in East Africa have experimented, not merely with dozens, but with hundreds of other crops, some of which may prove very valuable indeed. Therefore, it would be a complete misrepresentation to say that we are wedded to these two particular crops and will not consider the introduction of others. If we do introduce other crops, we shall be trying some of those crops which, in respect of world markets and the suitability of the soil, seem to be advantageous to grow, but, in the points which I have put before the House, the calculations at present allow for revenue from any additional crops other than oil seeds, as I have mentioned.The House will see, therefore, that the review in which we have taken 2,000,000 acres as the acreage which will give us 600,000 tons of oil seeds, means that the Corporation is now thinking of farming rather less extensively and rather more intensively. That, I should say, was the chief conclusion, but only a provisional one, which they have so far reached from their experience of the scheme; but 1 do emphasise that I trust and believe—indeed, I know—that they will remain flexible in all these matters, so that it must not be thought that 2,000,000 acres is the new target of the scheme. I am merely saying that, on present calculations we think it would give us 600,000 tons of oil seeds, but, when we come to the point where a really large acreage running into millions is being cleared, that will be the time to decide at what point we should stop. It might be that we shall want to go on beyond the 2,000,000 acres, or it might be that we want to stop short of that figure, but there is, I think, and it is fair to put it to the House, a limiting factor below which it would be, at any rate, very unfortunate to stop short, and that limiting factor is the acreage which, on the calculations of probable prices and costs, will give a satisfactory revenue on the capital invested in the scheme. The Corporation has made a forecast based on their calculations, and it is no more than a forecast, that if they stopped at much below 1½ million acres, they would hardly expect to get a satisfactory return on their money, and I shall not be prepared to agree for one moment with the suggestion that we should stop the scheme at the present point, at which only 50,000 acres have been cleared. I do not know whether that was what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had in mind. If he had in mind the particular area where operations have gone on so far, that at Kongwa, the Corporation at present does not mean to go very much further in that area, but, in what would be the main area of the scheme, the clearance has not started yet at all, and, therefore, we should be stopping the scheme in the main area before it is even started. The question of what the final acreage of the scheme will be, I suggest, will be solvable in a number of years hence, in the light of the economic conditions at that time, the costs of clearance and the prices obtainable for the products. It will be primarily on the basis of hardheaded business reasoning that the Corporation will have to decide what is the acreage at which it is to stop. I cannot agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that I misled the House when I said, at the end of 1947, that the Corporation was engaged in clearing hundreds of thousands of acres. Of course it was, and hundreds of thousands of acres are going to be cleared. It was a perfectly simple statement that the job of clearing these hundreds of thousands of acres had already begun, and I cannot myself see the slightest element of misleading the House by a statement of that kind.
I do not know what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman means with his "Oh, oh." The scheme most certainly involved a clearance of hundreds of thousands of acres, and that work had actually begun. What there is in that statement that is misleading to the House I really cannot see. It is rather interesting, and I am always challenging hon. Members opposite, who always make, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has spoken today has made, these accusations of enormously over-optimistic statements from this Bench, and I always say, speaking for myself, that I should like to have one of these enormously over-optimistic statements quoted to me, but I have never got one quoted yet. I suppose that was the first time they have produced one, and that this, apparently, is an over-optimistic statement of which I am accused. If so, I am quite willing to stand up to that one before this House.
Can I help the Minister? In the House, he made the statement that these products would help the margarine ration this year. Can he tell us what product it is that is going to help the margarine ration this year.
I made that statement some time ago, and I made it again this afternoon, and it will certainly be the case. There will be a perceptible number, some thousands of tons, of oilseeds from the East African scheme this year, which will go into the margarine ration.
Only 7,000 tons, which is equivalent to 2 per cent.
I said that it would be a "modest contribution." There is nothing whatever in that.I think I should now turn from the size of the scheme to the cost. The figures on both sides of the account are going to be substantially increased. The original estimate was that the initial investment in the scheme would be of the order of £25 million, and, as the House knows, the Treasury has already advanced to the Overseas Food Corporation for all its purposes a sum of £20 million. Therefore, it is perfectly obvious that the final initial investment in the scheme, before its revenue starts, which is at risk at one moment, is going to exceed £25 million substantially. What is it going to be? That is going to depend very largely on a factor which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman envisaged, which is the speed at which the development of the scheme is undertaken. It is true that one of the most expensive things that can be bought in a scheme such as this is speed. On the other hand, it is one of the most desirable. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman affected to believe that we only wanted oils and fats in order to be able to increase the ration before the next General Election. There is nothing disgraceful in wanting to increase the oils and fats ration at any time; as a matter of fact, as the House will recollect, it has been twice increased. It is rather unworthy to suggest that we are undertaking this scheme as an election manoeuvre. After all, not only this country, but the world as a whole, is pretty short of oils and fats, and short of food generally, and something which can make a good, appreciable contribution to the supply of essential foodstuffs is something worth doing, and, if possible, worth doing quickly. It is clear, however, that the cost of putting through the scheme beyond a certain speed would become prohibitive. It is obvious, for example, that if we undertake all the large and very expensive initial capital works in all three areas simultaneously, before we are getting any appreciable revenue from any one of them, the total sum at risk at the maximum point will be much higher than if those works were pushed ahead area by area or phased one area after another. Therefore, the Overseas Food Corporation has to balance the degree to which they can buy speed and push the scheme ahead at the maximum possible speed with the resources they have at their command, and which this House thinks they ought to expend on this and other scheme. Therefore, that sets an upper limit to the resources which can be used in the scheme, and that limit is set, of course, by the borrowing powers given to the Corporation by the Overseas Resources (Development) Act which this House passed last year. As the House will recollect they had power to borrow £55 million in all—£50 million with the power of a temporary borrowing of £5 million. That sets an upper limit. Moreover, of course, the Corporation must use that money not only for this scheme, but for any other purpose it has in mind. As the House knows, it has already one other scheme in Queensland. Therefore, when looking at these questions of costs and resources available, the House will want to know something about what that Queensland scheme is costing. It is of a relatively modest size, and the initial investment, the House will recollect, was £A2 million, of which the Queensland Government put up £A500,000. I am glad to tell the House that there, at any rate, we have a scheme which, rather exceptionally in human affairs, so far appears to be running well ahead of its original estimate. The Act establishing the scheme was only passed in the Queensland legislature last Easter. It was thought that 20,000 acres could be got under the plough for sowing this Christmas, which seemed rather ambitious to us. As a matter of fact, however, they have actually sown 30,000 acres in Queensland, and the cost of doing that has been very modest indeed. The land was bought at an average cost of only 18s. an acre and the Queensland scheme—though, no doubt, it will have its troubles and difficulties in due course; all human affairs do, especially agricultural ones—is off to a fine start. The amount of capital which the Overseas Food Corporation will have to find for that scheme will, I think, be relatively small so all the rest of the Corporation's borrowing powers will, in principle, be available. That does not mean that they will use the whole of them for investment in the groundnut scheme. That depends on the speed of development and what the cost of clearing in the whole period of years turns out to be—I emphasise the period in which clearing goes on—but it does mean that the bulk of their resources are available if necessary for the groundnut scheme. I may be asked—I was not asked directly by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, though he did allude to the fact—what the cost per acre of clearing will be. Quite frankly I tell him and the House that I do not think that we can give an estimate of that at the present stage. No doubt critics and opponents of the scheme would like to take the £20 million—I do not mean the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but certainly any reading of the Press would show that there are opponents to the scheme— which has been advanced to the Corporation and divide it by 50,000 acres, and give the result as an acreage cost. But, of course, any calculation of that sort would be completely fantastic. A great deal of that money has been spent in the Southern Province in directions which have nothing to do with clearing those particular 50,000 acres, which are nearly all at Kongwa, but in laying down the initial fixed capital of the scheme, for land which we shall not begin to clear for several years to come. Again, methods of clearing are still being changed and experimented with very widely. I will give to the House an example of a new method, although it may not turn out to be successful. I would not know at this stage whether it will be successful. At the moment, they are experimenting with linking two tractors together with a heavy chain and dragging the chain through bush or forest. In the particular areas they are now clearing, that method is, at the moment, giving extremely successful results at about a quarter the cost per tractor hour of the other methods. Far be it from me to say that, for the whole scheme, that will turn out to be a successful method, but it is an example of the fact that the present costs per acre have very little reference to the costs per acre which we shall get for the scheme as a whole. Therefore, it would only be misleading the House if I were to tell hon. Members that I could give them anything like what is going to be the figure for the clearing costs.
It will be more than £3 an acre.
Of course, it will be more than £3 an acre. If not, what I said about the total cost of the scheme being anything up to double would not be the case. But the upper limit is set by the borrowing powers of the Corporation.I turn now to the three regions in which the work is going on today. I would remind the House that two of these are the Central region round Kongwa and the Western region round Urambo, and that both regions are served by the port of Dar-es-Salaam and the Central Tanganyika Railway; and—separately from these two regions where alone clearing work has begun so far and will be in all probability much the smaller areas—by far the larger area, the Southern region, is not served by the existing dock and railway at all, and before really effective clearance work can be begun there, a completely new port and railway has to be built, and is being built at the present time. Taking Kongwa first, that is an area in which practically all the clearance work has so far been done—47,000 acres out of 50,000 acres. In justice to the authors of the White Paper, I should like to mention in that connection the nature of the miscalculation which they made. I do not think that it will necessarily turn out that they gravely miscalculated the speed at which acres could be cleared. What they did gravely miscalculate was the speed at which really large-scale clearance could be begun in any area. They miscalculated the speed at which the resources, the communications and the like, and really effective tractors in running order could be brought to bear, together with all the workshops and supply services, etc., which we needed. If I am pressed by hon. Members opposite to admit mistakes, I must say that I do not think they really pick on the right ones, but here is a real mistake which, looking back, I think one can identify. That was a mistake of the Managing Agency—not that I blame them for it; it is very easy to see it with hindsight. They were quite right, in my opinion, to buy several hundred war-worn tractors because the scheme could not have been started at all without them. They were the only heavy tractors available in the world. They bought them cheap, and I do not think they were a bad buy; but, looking back on it, I think that by far the most economical and, in the end, the quickest thing would have been to bring all these tractors back to this country and have them thoroughly reconditioned here in first-rate up-to-date British workshops, instead of taking them to East Africa and reconditioning them much more slowly and with much greater difficulty in the middle of the African bush. I think that was a real error on the part of those responsible for the scheme at that time, but it was an error which is very easy to see after it has been made and not so easy to see beforehand.
Is the Minister satisfied that in 1946 there would have been the shipping available for such a scheme?
That may be a very good answer to the point which I made.
May I ask whether there was an absence of spare parts? Could spare parts have been provided?
I think the need for spare parts was bound up with the fact that the tractors were reconditioned in the middle of Africa. I think it would have been considerably easier to have equipped them with the spare parts they needed if they had been brought back to Britain, but of course it might have been impossible to do that because of the shipping position. In the same way, it is quite untrue that the authors of the Wakefield Report thought that the existing communications would be suitable for the scheme. They were fully aware that in the South wholly new communications would have to be provided, and that in the Central Province both the railway and the port would have to be improved and extended. What they did do was miscalculate the time in which the new building and extension could be made. That is why basically the effective start of the scheme was delayed between one and two years.To return to Kongwa, I believe that it will be found that, on the whole, Kongwa is the least attractive of the three areas. We had to start there because it was the one area with available communications. Another point which was not foreseen was that the acacia thorn in Kongwa was not easier, but more difficult, to clear than the forest trees in the other areas. It is more difficult essentially because it leaves its root in the soil, and it is a most expensive and difficult job to take the root out of the soil when once the bush has been flattened. Moreover, it has been found that the soil there is of a particularly abrasive character. It is perfectly true that, not in 10 minutes as I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, but in a remarkably short space of time, the rooting tool tends to get worn out unless it is made of the very hardest and best steel, because of the most abrasive action of the soil. I have just seen the report of Dr. Grantham, the geologist of the scheme, and he reports that this abrasive character is not present in the soil of either of the other two areas. That trouble, therefore, is confined to Kongwa. Last, but not least, the Kongwa rainfall—and this, of course, was known—is, on the whole, the least ample of the three. I can give the rainfall figures for this year; they are rather interesting. They apply to the period up to the end of February in this rainy season. At Kongwa the rainfall has been 12.53 inches; at Urambo 15.7 inches, and in the Southern Province 17.44 inches. I believe that to be characteristic, taking one year with another, and there is an appreciably better rainfall to some extent in the Western Province, and above all in the Southern Province. Therefore, with those disadvantages in the Kongwa area, it may well pay the Corporation to limit pretty strictly their operations in that particular area. I think that they may not bring more than about double the present acreage under cultivation, because if the yields prove appreciably superior in the other two areas it will be an enormous advantage to the Corporation to concentrate on those areas of relatively high yield. Even a 10 per cent. variation in yield makes an enormous economic difference to the scheme. The second area, Urambo, in the Western Province, was originally projected as the smallest of the three because there were considerable doubts about the fertility of the soil there. Again I have seen reports from the scientists, and they are satisfied that the fertility of the soil there will be pretty good. Of course, we shall find out more about that from the first crop which we get this year—from 4,000 to 5,000 acres; that will be enough to give us an indication of the fertility of the soil. If the fertility is good, to my mind it is a much more attractive and better watered area than Kongwa. Once the tsetse fly has been mastered as a result of clearing the bush, it will be a much superior area altogether than Kongwa. The forest trees of the area are being found not more difficult, paradoxically enough, but considerably easier and cheaper to clear per acre than the bush at Kongwa. Then I come to the Southern Province, which I am quite sure is potentially by far the most attractive and fertile of the three areas in the scheme. I think anyone who has visited that province and travelled up the Lukeledi Valley from the sea to the groundnut area, will have been immensely impressed by the change in the whole aspect of the country compared with the Central Province of Tanganyika. One goes from a relatively arid area to one which is obviously well watered, with much better grown trees, the crops on the native patches bearing much more heavily, the bananas growing beside the railway, and generally a much more smiling and attractive land. As the Wakefield Report envisaged from the beginning, it is in this area that the main effort of the scheme will be made. The House may ask me, "If this is such a promised land compared with the other areas, why did not you start there?" The answer is the remoteness of the Southern area. It is far more remote, and it had virtually no communications at all. Therefore, really large scale work cannot be done there until a port and a railway have been built. It is true that a lot of civil engineering work, apart from the work on the port and the railway, is going on today. Building and a certain amount of clearing is going on. A few thousand acres will be cleared this year for next year's crop in that area. At one time it was thought that this year we should go in for large scale clearing in the Southern area before the port and railways were built, by using an emergency port, which is now being used, in Lindi Creek, and the road of some 90 miles up to Nachingwea in the groundnut area, but it has been decided—and I think rightly—to wait until the railway has reached the edge of the groundnut area. That is a classic example of how cost and speed move in inverse ratio. If we cleared today, we should have to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on the road to make it take the weight of traffic, but the road would be needed as soon as the railway came into operation.
When is the railway likely to be completed?
I was coming to that point. The present estimate is that the railway will not be completed but will reach the edge of the groundnut area by this autumn. September is the date they say, although I would not hold myself to it. That does not mean that it will be completed in the sense that it has to go on through the area, which should be a good many miles, and also to be taken from the present starting point, the temporary hards at Lindi Creek where the L.C.Ts. are operating, to the new port of Mikindani further down the coast. The first essential stretch, from the Lindi Creek to the edge of the groundnut area, we are informed will be through by this autumn. The time necessarily spent in the southern area before that railway is through and before large-scale clearing can be undertaken is not by any means wasted. In setting up buildings, workshops and the like it can bear very great fruit, but of course the delay in getting that railway and port completed—and I shall speak of that in a moment—is one of the reasons why the scheme is taking anything up to double as long as the original estimate.Another point of interest in the Southern area is that there work will be done not by war-worn tractors, such as we are using at Uranbo and Kongwa, but by what we call Shervics, which are reconstructed Sherman tanks. They are Sherman tanks completely taken to bits, with the armour, guns and the rest taken off, and the parts rebuilt into a tractor by Messrs. Vickers, hence the name Shervics. I am not claiming, nor would Messrs. Vickers claim, that they are as good as brand-new tractors built for the job, but I think they will prove considerably better than the war-worn tractors which are used in the north. They will not need reconditioning from the outset, which should be a very considerable advantage to the Southern area where, as we are at present advised, they have been using entirely the Shervic tractor. In that connection it always gives me a great deal of pleasure that we are using this war material. The other day I saw a photograph of an L.C.T. belonging to the Corporation chugging up Lindi Creek full of these Shervic tractors which had once been Sherman tanks, and I could not help feeling that it was a very fine symbol of the way in which we are today adapting our war effort, physically in this case, to the constructive purposes of peace. Of course, I should be the first to agree that what we really need is not the half worn-out tractor which has been used in the war or even the reconstructed tank; what we really need is a new and very powerful tractor designed for the purpose, and I am very glad to say that Messrs. Vickers have now undertaken the design and production of a new first-rate British heavy tractor. This, of course, is something of much wider significance than its use to the groundnut scheme. I believe the heavy crawler tractor is today one of the fundamental instruments for food production in a very hungry world and for a Power like ourselves, owning and being responsible for very large parts of the world which are undeveloped, it would be a disgrace if we did not produce from our own industrial resources a heavy tractor of British construction and design which can do this job both in the Commonwealth and, for that matter, outside it. It is, therefore, a cause of great satisfaction that Messrs. Vickers are undertaking the job of producing what, I am quite sure will be, when it comes out, a very fine instrument. So much for the three areas. I shall be asked how long will all this take? It will all be governed by the extent to which speed is bought with cost. I think the balance which the Corporation will strike between those two factors will mean that it will be the best part of 10 years before the development period is complete and I do not say that the last acre will be clear then. It may be that a decade hence the world will still need oils and fats so much as to make it important to go on clearing still further. I do not know. One must think of the development period as covering approximately a decade, in my opinion.
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean for the 2,000,000 acres he has been talking about this afternoon or the original amount?
I am talking about the acreage which will produce the original target of 600,000 tons of oil seeds which, on present estimates, is 2,000,000 acres. I do not guarantee that that will prove to be the point at which the scheme stops or that that will prove to be the point which is reached in 10 years' time. It is much too far ahead to be able to say that. That is the figure I had in mind.The House must judge for itself whether or not this is a very long period—whether this is an unduly long period. I will only say this: we can compare it with what is the only scheme I know which is even remotely comparable—the great Gezira cotton growing scheme in the Sudan. They have just under 1,000,000 acres under cultivation and the scheme has been in operation some 25 years, but because it has taken that time to develop to its present point does anybody doubt today that it is a scheme of the utmost value to the world and to this country in particular? The fact that the groundnut scheme may well take a decade to develop does not seem to me to be any very terrible conclusion. In this connection I would ask right hon. and hon. Members opposite to remember their Virgil:"Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem," which I translate very freely as "Rome was not built in a day."
To which I would counter with"Non tali auxilio. …
I would say a word on the communications of the scheme, because in that connection I attended a very interesting conference summoned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies on not merely the groundnut scheme, but on a far wider business than that, of the communications of the whole of the East African territory for which this House is responsible—and what territories they are! If we take the contiguous areas of Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika and Nyasaland that is as large as the whole of Europe West of the Rhine, and it is an area in which no man can really put bounds to the possibilities of development. None of these possibilities can be realised without communications and the communications—some exist of course—are not very ample in these territories today.The House need hardly be reminded that there are three ports, and three only, in the coastline of that whole vast area—Mombasa, Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam, and only one of those today has deep water facilities. As a result of the decisions, which were not perhaps taken but brought together and ratified at the recent conference under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend at the end of last year, we shall in a measurable space of time have four ports down that coast, and three will have deep water facilities. From south to north there will be Mikindani, the new port which is being built and which should have its first deep water berth ready some time before the end of 1951; Dar-es-Salaam, which is being improved at the present time although it will still be a lighterage port, yet because the improvements are now agreed to be insufficient will be provided with two new deep water berths, the first of which will be ready, I think, by 1951; Tanga, which will remain a lighterage port; and Mombasa, which is already a deep water port. The immediate work which is going in Dar-es-Salaam is by no means negligible. Under the inspiring leadership of that very great man Sir Philip Mitchell the improvement in recent months—indeed, in recent weeks—in Dar-es-Salaam is noticeable indeed. A new manager, Captain Smith, has been appointed there. Even with the existing lighterage system, and with some facilities brought in, a very great improvement is already visible in that very hard worked port. However, none of the ports is very much good without railways to feed them, to carry goods from them and to bring the products down to them. There also good work has been done on building new railways and on improving the existing ones. The existing railway of Tanganyika is certain to have to bear a very heavy burden. It is not the case that it will be entirely a burden imposed on it by the groundnut scheme, which is responsible for only about a third of the traffic on that railway. I am glad to say that all the traffic on that railway is increasing, and it is of the utmost importance that the rolling stock and the traction power and so on should be brought up to date. That is being done. We were also informed that a link will in due course be made between that existing railway and the Kenya railway system, which will be of importance to Tanganyika, giving access to the two northern ports of Tanga and Mombasa. But the most significant railway development going on in these areas is, I would suggest, in the Lukeledi Valley—the railway which is at present being built from the new port of Mikindani to the groundnut area. That is of absolutely vital importance. I was very interested to find that the experts on East Africa, Sir Philip Mitchell, Sir Reginald Robins, Mr. Surridge and other men on the spot, regard that railway as of far greater significance also. It has only to be pushed another 300 miles westwards to reach Songea where, apparently, coal deposits have already been found, and where the trial borings are extremely promising, and which, if the promises are fulfilled, will provide fuel for that railway. From Songea it is only 80 miles to Lake Nyasa, and if it is taken across Lake Nyasa by train ferry, or, much more ambitiously—and this would be ambitious, indeed—round the head of the Lake through mountainous country—but across Lake Nyasa one way or another—then it would be within measurable distance of the whole Northern Rhodesian system of railways, which, in turn, links with the South African railways. In the opinion of the experts that is by far the most interesting railway possibility in the whole of British East Africa today, because, as the House well knows, the whole vitally important Rhodesian area of copper and chrome and, further south, of chrome and steel, depends almost entirely for egress upon the Portuguese port of Beira. Obviously, a new outlet through British territory to the new port of Mikindani will be of enormous value.
What will be the total distance?
It would be shorter than the distance to Beira. It would be 800 or 900 miles, I should think, but I should not like to give the figure definitely without looking it up. What I am emphasising, and what was brought home to me very forcibly in that conference, was that all this development, which is a far greater thing—let me emphasise this—than the groundnut scheme, is going on to a very considerable extent because we took the decision to go on with the groundnut scheme. Of course, these railway developments are not for this year or next. I am not suggesting that for one moment. However, the work is being done; the new port is being built; 100 miles of the Lukeledi Valley railway is in an advanced stage of construction. It is because we decided to do something that all these developments have become a practical possibility. The groundnut scheme has acted as the catalyst which has set all these other actions in motion, and I venture the statement that when the historian comes in the future to review what was, unquestionably, a very bold decision—to go ahead with the groundnut scheme immediately after the postwar period—he will not be unmindful of all the repercussions and consequences in the general development of the territory which the launching of that scheme has had.I cannot today deal with one whole aspect of the scheme, and one which is as important as all the others with which I have dealt, and that is the repercussions of the scheme on the Africans and the Africans' lives. That is of the utmost importance, and I hope we shall have an opportunity of discussing it more fully. All I can do today is to read to the House a short extract from a statement I found quite by chance in a pamphlet produced by the Universities' Mission to Central Africa on the probable repercussions, in their judgment—and they know the area backwards—of the scheme in the Southern Province. This is what the Universities' Mission says:
It is because the scheme is a thoroughly hard headed and not philanthropic proposition that it will bring real and permanent benefit to the African population. I am not suggesting that it will not mean painful readjustments for the African population. This great scheme hurried through amongst a people whose life has remained much the same for centuries must, as any great scheme would, give rise to difficult and painful problems. There is no doubt about that. Indeed, the pamphlet which I have just quoted goes on to say that. We value the enormous and good work of the Universities' Mission, and the work of other denominations, for the African population in what must be a hectic and extraordinary period of African history. Can we doubt, however, that there is no alternative? There is, as has been said before in the House—but I would say it once again briefly—no real alternative at all except stagnation and ever growing malnutrition, and of this the Universities' Mission speaks. There is one other body of men and women of which I will speak briefly to the House, and which, I think, does require some recognition from this House, and that is the body of under 1,000 directly employed by the Corporation but some 2,000 in all of British men and women who are at work today on the scheme. I think that no one who has seen them, whatever his political views may be on his views of the scheme, can doubt that they are pretty reassuring representatives of this country in the world today. Whatever we think of this scheme in this House there can be no doubt that it has struck the imagination of the British people, and the Overseas Food Corporation has had over 100,000 applications to go to work on the scheme. They have only been able to accept about one in 100 of these applicants. From the chairman himself, Mr. Plummer, who is out there today, to the man on the bulldozer invading another few acres of the bush, they strike me as people giving of their very best to the scheme. I deeply regret that one, until lately, the resident member of the Board, Major General Harrison, had given so freely of his energy to the scheme that he has had a serious breakdown in health, and the medical reports which we have had mean that he will not be able to go back to East Africa. I think that the sympathy and thanks of the House should be extended to him for the work which he has done. I do not think that the response which the nation has given to the scheme looks like that of an exhausted nation or one which has had little or no faith—in what must be an act of faith—in the launching of a great enterprise of this kind. It is in that connection, and that connection alone, that I would refer to the long series of attacks on the scheme which form so monotonous a feature of one section of the British Press today. There is no reason why this scheme should not be attacked in any way the Conservative Press like, but one would have thought that they would have some regard for the feelings and morale of the people out there on the spot. This is a rather curious country in some ways. We talk a great deal about the building up of our Empire, but when a body of men and women go out somewhere in the Commonwealth and actually start building something, it often looks as if all they can expect is not encouragement from the old country to sustain them but an unending series of attacks in which they are told that all their efforts are useless, that the scheme is a total failure and that the whole thing is a wicked ramp got up by a wicked Government for their own "margarine" purposes. I do not know what effect this has on the people on the spot. I think that it has a limited effect. I was interested to notice some remarks made recently in the "Economist," which cannot be accused of slavish devotion to the present Government. It stated:"The chief and most far-reaching developments under the groundnut scheme are to take place in the southern province of Tanganyika. This used to be called the forgotten Province of the territory because so little was done for it either by Government or commerce. Few parts of British Africa have been less influenced by the outside world, and, apart from the cessation of tribal wars and the slave trade there has been no great change in the lives and customs of the people. Their villages, scattered through the bush, are much as they always were; tribal tradition remains the basis of community and personal life; primitive agriculture provides a living seldom above a subsistence level, and disease and malnutrition sap the vitality of most of the population. For this land and people immense changes are on the way. Work and wages will be provided for the many thousands directly employed under the scheme, and also indirectly for large numbers of others. There will soon be vastly more money in the country than ever before, and a widespread rise in the standard of living will follow. Moreover, it is part of the scheme to assist the improvement of African agriculture in general. This also will help to bring prosperity, and better food supplies."
I trust that the effect on the very levelheaded men and women out there of the criticism which they read in the Press, or hear in this House, is somewhat exaggerated. There is another aspect. There is the effect of this scheme on world opinion. In the long run, the world will certainly judge us by our results, and I am perfectly confident that whatever is said about the scheme now, that this scheme and the other projects which have been or will be started under the Overseas Resources Development Corporation Act, passed by this House last year, will be seen as one of the most courageous, imaginative and well-judged acts of this Government for the sake of the world that has been taken in the life of this Parliament. But, of course, in the short run, when the world is told, as it is told by a large section of the Press today, that these schemes are one of the follies of a spendthrift Government, which must come to nought, the effect is, at any rate, obscured and when a smear is put or, at any rate, is thought to be put on the national honour, that is surely a great pity, to put it mildly. I am not so naive as to suppose that the cause of party politics must not be served, especially in the next 18 months, when we must all point out each others' shortcomings to a very considerable degree. I should be the last to complain of attacks on the part which I and my right hon. Friends have played in this scheme, because we can reply for ourselves; but is it too much to ask that these attacks and criticisms should be framed in a way which has some regard to the two considerations which I have mentioned—the feelings of the men and women on the job, and the good name of this country abroad. In this scheme, and in all these major production enterprises today, we are talking of no less a subject than whether the British Commonwealth shall live or die. Believe me, it will not live and it will not flourish unless major productive enterprises, partly in the field of agriculture, are undertaken in the underdeveloped areas of the world. If the British Empire does not flourish, the sovereignty over those areas which is at present held by this House will be lost to this House, and the right to that sovereignty will be lost to this House because the one thing that will not happen is that these areas will be left barren and undeveloped. If we do not do the job, some other Power or persons will, because the world cannot tolerate that this vast land should be left in the state in which it has too long lingered. This scheme is simply a pilot project in this very large task which lies before this House and this nation, and I have the most perfect confidence that in a very few years the groundnut scheme will be one of the acknowledged glories of the British Commonwealth."Criticism at home, unless really well-informed and free of political manoeuvering, creates a running sore for everybody in East Africa. If a man has been working hard for months under uncomfortable and trying conditions, it makes him furious if some one at home suggests in a superior tone that everything to do with the groundnut scheme is bad and a waste of time. There are very few people who are capable of doing well without encouragement and recognition of their efforts. This scheme has been started and must be carried through. Destructive, ill-informed criticism can and does do as much direct damage as a drought or an outbreak of fire in a store of next year's seed."
I have listened today with great interest to the defence of the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that everybody in the House recognises what he said towards the end of his speech about the people on the spot. I have been connected with tropical agriculture for 25 years, and I always remember the people working under those conditions, and how necessary it is to remember that they are affected by silly remarks, by unconsidered telegrams, and by unsympathetic thought from people in this country.I will not go fully into all the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. They will no doubt be dealt with later, and those hon. Members who have a knowledge of agriculture will, I am certain, deal with the details of the agricultural problems involved. There are three points made by the right hon. Gentleman to which I would like to refer. The first was in connection with the estimate of costs. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that it is not much good saying that if the estimates of cost are double what they were supposed to be, they are excused by a fortuitous rise in the price of the product. After all, the cost represents money that has been spent; that has gone for ever; but one has no idea of what will happen to the price of the product, and it is more than likely that in the future it will go down. That really was no excuse at all. I must say a little about the experiment. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that the yield per acre was less than the estimate because they were experimenting with different seeds, and so on. Well, I remember when I drove through a very large area—I forget whether it was 500 or 1,000 acres—on which there was some very bad land which the local people had been almost forced to plant, although they did not want to; it was old marshland, which happened to be clear of trees. Yet in order to have an increased acreage for planting this land was used. I have no idea what happened, but I imagine that the crop off that land brought down the average of the whole very considerably. As to the cost of clearing, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can get away with his remarks on that. No scheme goes to completion before a figure for the cost of the whole scheme has been arrived at. In this instance there are contractors, who are no doubt allocated a certain area, and who doubtless give a definite price. If that is so, it should be easy to estimate somewhere near the cost per acre. Any commercial company which had estates to be cleared in this way would be foolish if they did not have a fairly accurate idea of the cost of clearing per acre. I now wish to say a few words about the scheme as a whole, I shall not go into the details, but I must say that it was too big at the start as a pioneer venture; it was too hurried, and there was too much dictation and interference from home. Let me take those three points. The Minister referred to the Sudan plantation. It is quite true that it has been in existence for 25 years; but it took 10 years to build it up to its peak, and it was during those 10 years that all the trial and error took place. To start a scheme—really a new invention—by going in for it on this scale is quite wrong, however much the vegetable oil may be required. Also, the timetable is too hurried. I will not go into that; it has been dealt with frequently before. The interference from home has, I am afraid, been the source of nearly all the trouble; and that is the source of the trouble at the present moment. It is easy to agree to principles, and even to agree on a programme, but it is essential to leave the carrying out of the details, the choice of personnel, and so on, to the people on the spot. If that had been done I am sure, if what we hear is true, that the outfit out there would be a much happier family than it is. I turn now to what is to happen. There are three alternatives. The first is to scrap the scheme and stop altogether. Well, that is unthinkable. A company which has gone into a venture and after a time has doubts as to its success can stop, but the Government certainly cannot. As the Minister said at the end of his speech, the eyes of the world are upon us, so that in some shape or form this scheme must go on. The second alternative is to go slow, to perfect the existing organisation, and to check up on the results and the research. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) suggested that it might be of value to the Corporation if an independent committee went out to examine the whole matter. Well, we are all in on this, and anything that could be done to assist the Corporation from outside ought to be undertaken. But from what the Minister said, it does not look as though the Government or the Food Corporation propose to go slow; they have made the plans for the port at Mikindani and the railway, and it is quite obvious that they must grow crops, or grow something, in order to provide traffic for that port and the railway. All I ask is that the matter be watched as carefully as possible, and that we should not rush into this huge expense without proper consideration. The third alternative is to consider what any of us would do if we were faced with a similar proposition. In that connection I want to deal only with the cleared area at Kongwa. From what the right hon. Gentleman said it looked as though he still wished to control all this scheme from the centre, but I would make the point that the development of these areas depends entirely on the labour supply, and such a large area is probably too big to be handled from the centre. I, personally, would like to see the splitting up of this 50,000 acres into blocks of 4,000 or 5,000 acres, putting people permanently in charge. I emphasise the word "permanently," because the African has an affection for a particular man; he will come back and work for a particular man rather than at a particular place. I would make an area of, say, 4,000 acres a quite separate show, to see whether it could be run with its own profit and loss account, giving the management—and I hope hon. Members opposite will not mind the suggestion—a share of the profits or a bonus, so that they are really interested, not only to grow the crops properly but also to keep down expenses. Naturally, there would be the use of a central shop for large repairs, possibly for the supply of food, and also control of the dust bowl to which the Minister referred. But it does all depend on labour, and in these areas it is essential to establish gradually villages where the labour is close to its work, and works closely under the care of the man in charge. That is one way of doing it. An alternative would be to lease blocks of 4,000 acres to outsiders at a rent representing the interest on the costs of clearance, with something for amortisation and a clause by which the proceeds of production are sold at the market price to the central body. We have been repeatedly told that the aim and object of this scheme is to produce 600,000 tons of groundnuts, but the right hon. Gentleman has now told us that he proposes to go in for a 10-year rotation which really means this is to be a new form of farming in East Africa. It is a new form of farming that gradually may be of great value, not only to this country and the people of Europe, but also to the Africans themselves. It is often thought that Africa is a country with unlimited labour supplies and fertility, but that is not the case. The population is increasing at a pace that baffles description. I believe the population increases by approximately 2 per cent. per annum, which means that the total population will have been doubled in 30 years. At the present time food for the African population is being provided by men and women using the hoe, but obviously these old ways will have to go. Therefore, I welcome this scheme generally as an experiment we ought to make to see how modern science can produce more and provide food for the African population in the future. There may have been criticisms of this scheme, and many detailed criticisms could be made, but I was a little cheered when the right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his speech that this must be looked upon as a business proposition. I hope he will take that to heart and will forget personal and party prestige in this scheme and any other scheme. If he does that he will perhaps reduce the chance of having the word "groundnut" engraved on his heart when he dies.
I wish to make a few remarks on the speech we have just heard, because it is rather difficult to decide from the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) whether the scheme should have been started or whether it should be pursued. He started by saying that the scheme was too big and hurried, and then went on to say that there was too much dictation from this country. If the scheme is too hurried and too big, then, according to the hon. and gallant Member, the two alternatives are either to stop it, which he said was unthinkable because it has gone so far, or to go on with it slowly, to which he added another condition. In those circumstances, it is difficult to understand why he wound up by saying that this was a great scheme which ought to go forward and that he was glad it had been started.
I was saying that it was a great conception.
Then it was a great conception which presumably should never have been undertaken. I wish particularly to refer to the hon. and gallant Member's remarks about dictation from this country, which he said was the source of most of the trouble. I have heard repeatedly the complaint from Members opposite that this scheme has been placed in the hands of the Overseas Food Corporation and there is no opportunity for detailed questions to be raised in Parliament about its day-to-day administration. That would seem to be asking for the maximum amount of interference from this House. But the hon. and gallant Member then made the remarkable suggestion that we should send out a mixed committee of some kind to show the people on the spot how to do the job.
That has nothing whatever to do with it. I suggested it might be helpful to the Overseas Food Corporation to have a small independent committee to go and see them and to say the best way to carry out the scheme.
Exactly. That is precisely what I said—to send out a committee to tell the people on the spot how best to carry out the scheme. I prefer the Minister's suggestion that the scheme should be left to those who have been given the responsibility to find out from their experience how best to put the scheme into operation.The Minister made it clear that there is no limitation as to the size of the unit. The figure of 30,000 acres was originally laid down as a broad conception, but it is entirely up to the people on the job to decide whether it is too large or too small. The Minister is not proposing to interfere, but all the time we have the suggestion that he is seeking to hem in the people who are doing the work. What shocked me most was the suggestion that apparently the managers are not putting their backs into the job.
Nonsense. I said nothing of the kind.
The hon. and gallant Member suggested that it would be desirable to offer some kind of incentive to the managers by way of a share in the profits to enable them to give of their best. If that is not a suggestion that they are not now giving of their best, then I do not know what is.
In many agricultural undertakings in the tropics managers are offered a commission or bonus. The advantage is that it makes them not only keen on their work, but it makes them keep down expenses, and that is what needs particular attention in these propositions.
The hon. and gallant Member merely repeats what I said—to get the interest of, and the best result from, the people doing the job we have to offer some kind of additional inducement. I know it is done in other places, and is probably desirable in private industry, but this is a job which people are tackling with great enthusiasm, knowing that they are making a contribution not only to our own country but to the world at large.I want now to turn to the more general attack launched by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank). The most significant remark he made was at the beginning of his speech, when he suggested, for the first time, I think—and this may be part of the new Tory tactics—that the whole scheme was conceived and launched for the purpose of providing the Labour Party with something with which to fight at the next General Election. That is a most fantastic suggestion. When this scheme was first launched it was realised that it would be a tremendous risk, that it might end in disastrous failure. No attempt was made to hide that fact. No one could foresee to what extent failure or success would be achieved. If it was in the minds of the Labour Party's organisers—which I am sure it was not—that this would be a strong Election plank, then they were very bad tacticians. The important thing is that this shows that the Opposition has the General Election in mind in criticising this scheme. If they rely on this they will make as bad a blunder as they made in their attack on the National Health scheme. Perhaps in another 12 months we shall hear the Opposition, just before the Election, saying, "We should have done this in any case," just as they are saying it about the National Health scheme and everything else. It has been said that already a considerable amount of money has been spent on this scheme, much more than was at first anticipated. Complaint has been made about miscalculations. 1 would remind the House that this scheme was launched—quickly, I agree—in 1946, twelve months after the end of the war when the world was faced with the possibility of a great famine, principally of fats. No one in this country knew from day to day how things would turn out; no one knew what the future prospects of fat would be for this country or for the world. The Government decided, rightly or wrongly, that they had to take this step quickly, in a big way. If anyone suggests that the Government were too optimistic, or were given to definite and categorical assurances, they have only to turn to the original plan that was produced to find that that is far from the case. I would like to give the House one or two quotations from the Government part of the White Paper attached to the original Report of the Mission. Paragraph 4 says:
—that was, to undertake the scheme—"It does not, therefore, follow from the Government's decision"—
The whole thing was entirely provisional. The Government made it clear that they were not giving categorical statements about the acreage that would be worked at any one time, in spite of the acreage plan laid down in the Mission's Report. Paragraph 5 says this"either that the number of localities described by the Mission will be developed or that the order or the rate of development will be as is envisaged in their report."
Paragraph 9 points out that in spite of the estimates made by the Mission:"… clearly involves considerable risks. Serious difficulties and delays, many unforeseeable, may arise in the course of the undertaking."
All the figures quoted about acreage and Government promises as to crops in the first, second and third years are entirely irrelevant because the Government, in this Report, did not accept any positive figures. The paragraph goes on:"… there are still certain difficulties in the way of procuring, overhauling and shipping sufficient tractors and mechanical transport to enable operations to begin on a substantial scale …"
Paragraph 12, in its first words says:"… it will not be known for some months whether the whole area which it is planned to clear can be planted in the first year. His Majesty's Government have decided, however, that clearing should be started soon and on as large a scale as possible in order to secure the maximum possible acreage of groundnuts in 1948. …"
Paragraph 15, referring to long-term advantages, says:"If successful, a project of this kind
" How all that can be regarded as overoptimistic assurances I entirely fail to see. When Members opposite try to make a debating point of that kind the White Paper entirely disposes of their argument. If criticisms are made of the original Report and the estimates which were made in the first place, it is not criticism of the Government but of private enterprise. It was not the Government but the East Africa Company which was given the job of making these estimates. That they did not make precise estimates, that they could not foresee everything, is not a criticism of that great company, which has done a tremendous job for the country. But that is what Members opposite are doing when they are trying to make capital out of their criticisms of this scheme. It is true that only 50,000 acres have already been cleared and planted, which is a comparatively small part of the whole scheme as planned. But when the right hon. and gallant Member for Gainsborough suggested that we should now come to a standstill let me remind him that last year, at this time, the acreage cleared at Kongwa was only 7,500. Since then, the figure has, risen to 50,000, which is not bad going in the conditions that have had to be met. Why should there be a suggestion of a standstill when the greater part of the capital investment has been made? This is not the right time to call a halt when clearance and production is ever increasing. There has been an attempt to create a petty campaign against this scheme ever since it was launched. A tremendous amount of publicity has been given to it, and the right hon. and gallant Member charged the Government with inspiring this publicity. I am not aware of the fact that any of my colleagues have unduly publicised this scheme on platforms, or in the Press, or that there have been any great Government pronouncements. All the publicity has come from the Opposition, and the Press which supports them. This morning's leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" starts off by denouncing the scheme roundly, and concludes by saying that we must go on with it and make the best of it because it is a great idea. This newspaper says:"… If the scheme is successful …
I challenge the "Manchester Guardian," or any other newspaper, to point to any statement made since the scheme was launched that, shortly after its launching, our tables would be loaded with margarine. The newspaper goes on to say:"The White Paper led us to believe that our breakfast tables would soon be overflowing with ample supplies of margarine."
If that is accepted why all the criticism of the fact that risks have been taken and that in some cases we have not achieved the success we might have whereas in other cases we have achieved more. It was one of the arguments of the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) that it is no use the Minister trying to excuse the underestimating of the cost of the scheme by saying there the quite fortuitous increase in the selling price of groundnuts might partly counterbalance it. Both have been fortuitous. Both are part of the risks referred to in the White Paper, and which the "Manchester Guardian" says are risks that might be undertaken and are inevitable in any pioneering enterprise. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough complained of the yield, and said that it was only over some 500 lb. per annum whereas the White Paper said 750. Again, the original sponsors of the scheme said 850. As the Minister pointed out, that average is not the real average of the productibility of this scheme in groundnuts but the average of the experimental period over a limited area, because, in fact, what the groundnut people have done has been to take nearly every conceivable variety of groundnut and try these varieties in different kinds of soil with and without fertilisers in order to find out which was best."The idea remains sound, and it must be said, in fairness to the Minister, that many of the risks he took were well worth taking and, in fact, inevitable in any pioneer enterprise."
Instead of saying innumerable quantities have been tried, will the hon. Gentleman agree that, in fact, only three different species have been tried?
I said that they had tried nearly every conceivable type of groundnut.
That is only three.
No, many more.
I am quite sure there are many more than three, but let me say then that a large variety of types has been tried out in order to test these varieties in the different soils, knowing that some might fail whereas others would flourish. It was to find out which was the best that this was decided upon. That is precisely one of the purposes of the scheme, which is not entirely a scheme to get the maximum amount of fats in the least possible time. What has been going on in these areas in Africa has been a bold experimentation in the kind of crops that could be grown and under what conditions.I have myself seen in Kenya a small Dutch farmer with a very fine crop of grapes. When I said to the farmer, "These are remarkable, I have not seen anything like these in these areas," he said, "As a matter of fact I come from South Africa. I grew grapes down there very successfully and I brought several varieties to try them in Kenya. Some were a complete failure, but these happened to take on and they are a great success. I have no doubt that when it gets known, other people will begin to grow this particular type of grape in Kenya." That farmer was making experiments, which is unusual. When settlers go to these parts they do not go there for the sake of experimenting for the benefit of posterity. They find out what are the kind of crops that grow the quickest and best, and pay the best, and they go in for that kind of thing. It was for that reason precisely that it was highly desirable, apart from the groundnut question, that a Government attempt should be made, supported by all the resources at their disposal, in order to find out what that country could grow and under what conditions. That is being done. One sneers at the fact that the groundnuts have apparently been turned into sunflowers. As the Minister pointed out, the sunflower is not necessarily an alternative to the groundnut, but even if it were the purpose of the thing is not to carry out to the letter the report that was drawn up by a mission which went out in 1946, but to get the best possible results in terms of fat and African development. If it is found that the sunflower or some alternative crop is better for this purpose by all means let us try it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough made a number of other points with which I should like to deal briefly. He suggested that we should change the emphasis from the production of margarine to the development of Africa. That is quite unnecessary, because if he reads the White Paper or the Blue Book—the one I have happens to be brown—he will find in paragraph 50 that one of the main objectives of the scheme right from the beginning was, partly if not primarily, the development of Africa. Why is it that experimentation for the purposes of the development of Africa on such a scale should have been necessary at such an awkward time after six years of war and in such a hurry? One of the reasons why it was necessary that it should be done so quickly was because the Africans were already being faced with starvation in their own country, which is potentially one of the great fertile territories of the world. I should like to read some of the extracts from the report on development plans in Uganda in that connection, but I have not the time. The fact is that the African position was becoming desperate, and if this scheme is a great idea and a great conception, it had to be carried out hurriedly and on a big scale. Why was not that idea and conception adopted by Governments long ago? Why was it left to this particular Government at this particularly difficult time in our history? One further point made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was that those who came back from this territory—and he instanced a number of newspapers—reported muddle, inefficiency and so on. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up for the Opposition later will make the same kind of point, because he came back only last year and reported great muddle and inefficiency.
Not from Kongwa, but the right hon. Gentleman was in Rhodesia last year and when he came back he made certain statements about the groundnut scheme. They were certainly reported in the Press.
Yes. It was reported in the Press that he said that there were thousands of tractors out of commission lying at Kongwa. I checked up with the people at Kongwa on the amount of tractors and I found that the total number of tractors in all Tanganyika was 600 while in Kongwa 150 were in actual use and another 150 under repair. There are other people who come back and make statements. I do not know who they are. They may be interested parties like some of the journalists who are anxious to belittle the scheme. I should like to give one example as to the sort of things that are said. Here is one report on the scheme:
"Mr. Petitpierre at a meeting of the East African section of the London Chamber of Commerce, criticising conditions at Dar and Mombasa said:
I was hoping for some "Hear, hear's" from the other side. I have not heard them, because this could not refer to this Government as one which did not think and plan ahead. Surely, it did think and plan ahead, however badly. This statement goes on:'Everybody appeared to be doing all that was possible, but the port of Dar was seriously overloaded and the railway simply could not move goods away sufficiently quickly. That was the result of the ostrich-like policy of a Government which has refused to think and plan ahead.'"
that is at Dar-es-Salaam—"'Long before the war the commercial community had urged the need for deep water berths' "—
The reason why there is congestion at Dar is because the Government before the war did nothing by way of development though they knew there was a desirability for the development of those territories not only behind Dar-es-Salaam, but in the Southern Provinces, where there are rich coal deposits and other mineral deposits which have been lying there for generations and certainly long before the Labour Government came into office. Let me read one other comment. It is from an East African journal. I forget what it is actually called. One can see it down in the Empire Parliamentary Union. The report is headed:"'and it was known that plans had been prepared by well-known consulting engineers and nothing had been done, but now there was talk of getting one berth by 1951 and the second by 1952.'"
It goes on:"Groundnut scheme. Praise for groundnut scheme. Facts refute widespread rumours."
this is private enterprise talking—"One of the first arrivals in London from the Kongwa area of Tanganyika territory since the harvesting of groundnuts began on the area planted this Season, was Mr. E. R. Ego, Chief Engineer of the Plough Division of Massey Harris Co. of Canada"—
precisely what the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the critics charge us with—"who told 'East Africa and Rhodesia' that he has been immensely impressed with all he had seen. Criticisms he had read in the British, American and South African newspapers, reports of adverse comments in Parliament, and the rumours in circulation in the Union of South Africa, the Rhodesias and Tanganyika itself had, he said, all combined to make him fear that he would find evidence of a good deal of miscalculation and muddle"—
"… but what I saw for myself satisfied me that the facts are in the most striking contrast with the misconceptions which are so widespread."
How many more Massey Harris machines?
I would not like to have made that suggestion myself. We have to operate with private enterprise as it is. Mr. Ego went on to say:
That is the evidence of one who has come back and who has not reported muddle and inefficiency. As I say, from the beginning the scheme has been the target for Opposition attack. We find from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman that the idea has been to discredit the Government on this scheme in preparation for the General Election. I did not know that before. From the beginning we have had these pin-pricking attacks and criticisms. We have had repeatedly in the House Questions from the other side, simple, innocent questions, trying to misrepresent the position. There have been Questions asking the Minister if he was aware that one could not go on growing groundnuts on the same ground year after year and asking the Minister why no arrangements had been made for rotation of crops, a point that was dealt with in the original scheme. There was no need for these questions, except that they added up to a total of pin pricks. There was the criticism that no African farmers had been consulted in the launching of this scheme, though they were the people who knew the job. I checked up on this point too. I found that advertisements were placed in African newspapers asking for African farmers with experience. I forget how many replies there were but they were very few indeed. Those who replied were generally over 65 or 70 years of age, for an obvious reason: The successful African farmer has a successful farm and does not want to go on to the groundnut scheme. As a matter of fact, one South African farmer was called in to advise in one part of the experimentation with groundnuts, and 500 acres of black soil were planted, upon his advice. Those 500 acres failed completely. Talk of this kind is usually based on either misconception or complete lack of knowledge of the facts. I could go on discussing that type of criticism but I think that sufficient has been said about it and I will leave it at that. As the Minister has said, and as has been made clear in the original Blue Book, this is not a scheme simply for the production of oils and fats for Britain. It is not even a scheme for the production of oils and fats for East Africa. It is a scheme which will open up possibilities of producing cattle and meat on a large scale in those areas and beyond those areas. It is a scheme which will enable the establishment for the first time of secondary industries in those areas, in order to provide the workers there with incentives to production."There have been mistakes, of course, as there must be in any big enterprise, but I am astonished at the resolution and speed with which they have been corrected and the determination, running through the organisation, to learn from experience and adapt technique and machinery to the particular problems as they reveal themselves. … What I saw at Kongwa has given me a new admiration for Englishmen engaged on a vast new project in face of great difficulties. … To see the development at close range is to experience a thrill and to feel pleasure that the Government in this country should have set itself to a task of this magnitude. The reaping of the groundnuts was beginning when I left by air. The fields were a magnificent sight. The crop looks like being considerably higher in yield per acre than the estimate, and the quality appears to be excellent."
How can the production of cattle be facilitated when there is no water in those areas?
Because of the experiments for exterminating the tsetse fly and for bringing water to hitherto inaccessible areas, which are going on under the groundnut scheme. Those experiments are being watched in other areas of Africa, even in the Uganda scheme. The administration is concentrating at the present time mainly on the groundnut scheme because it is there that the big-scale experimentation is going on in dealing with African conditions.
I am afraid I cannot give way any more, as there are other hon. Members who are waiting to speak. Only as a result of that big-scale experimentation will it be possible for East Africa to provide a sufficient surplus of her own primary products to enable her to import raw materials and to enable her to develop her secondary industries in connection with the hydro-electric scheme in Uganda or other developments that are under way.The groundnut scheme, therefore, if successful—I am repeating the words "if successful" from the original Report, and I do not believe myself that the scheme can fail now: it is remarkable that it has been such a success, in view of the conditions which have had to be overcome—will be the first opportunity that Africa has had under any Government to develop her own resources to the full, to provide her people with an equitable and reasonable standard of living so as to enable them to play their part in the development of a better world.
We have listened to a speech by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) based largely upon "if." "If this scheme is successful, other things will follow." I hope to give one or two reasons for thinking that perhaps that assumption is not as well founded as the hon. Gentleman would believe. We have listened also to a very long speech from the Minister of Food, in the course of which he gave us singularly little information, information at all events which would be of advantage to the country as a whole in judging this scheme. I thought that a great deal of the speech was disingenuous and that more of it was distinctly mean.
Mean. It is singularly mean for a Minister to try to excuse his own failure by attacking the calculations of a civil servant. I shall deal with that point in a moment. The bulk of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was devoted to commenting on the miscalculations of Mr. Wakefield. He ended up by objecting to our criticisms of the scheme on two grounds. One ground was the effect on the morale of the men engaged on the scheme and upon their wives. The other ground was the effect of this criticism on world opinion. I venture to think that neither of those accusations is fair. The people engaged at Kongwa and elsewhere on this scheme are suffering from the knowledge that, under very difficult conditions of living, they have been asked to undertake tasks which they knew were impossible of fulfilment. They had a pretty shrewd idea that they were being asked to do these tasks merely for political purposes at home. That is why there was a lack of morale. I have just been out there. Having regard to the inherent difficulties of the climate and everything else, the men on the spot have done a pretty good job and we ought to pay a tribute to them. However, that does not lessen the responsibility of the Government for putting them into that position.The right hon. Gentleman talks about the effect of criticisms of the groundnut scheme on world opinion and the good name of this country, but it is not criticisms which are affecting world opinion but the pretty obvious failure of the scheme as originally announced. World opinion is not worried by what we say; world opinion will judge us by the failure or success of the scheme as announced originally in the White Paper. It is because that scheme has failed dismally that world opinion may well feel that some of our old good name for Empire building may not today be as well-founded as it used to be. The blame lies with the Government. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have borne all these considerations in mind before he launched such a half-baked and ill-considered scheme. Let us look for a moment at the original White Paper. The right hon. Gentleman repeated what was said in the White Paper, that the estimates put forward in the White Paper were on a strictly business basis. Were they? [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman says they were. What we should like to know—
The right hon. Gentleman said that I stated in my recent speech that the estimates put forward in the original White Paper were on a strictly business basis. A moment before he had been attacking me very strongly for saying that there had been some miscalculations in these estimates. He cannot have it both ways.
The White Paper originally said its estimates were made on a strictly business basis and I am endeavouring to show that they were not. What we should like to know is whether any of the calculations on which the estimates were presumably based were checked by the Government. Were they checked by the Colonial Office? One would have thought that there were plenty of experts in the Colonial Office who were in a position to check the estimates on which the White Paper was based and on which Mr. Wakefield's calculations were based. Were they checked by the Ministry of Food?The Opposition and the country as a whole have been at a grave disadvantage in the matter because of the secrecy with which the Government have covered all the details. If we are correctly informed, there were a number of appendices to Mr. Wakefield's Report giving details of his calculations. They have never been published. Why? If they had been published at the time of the report—there is no inherent reason why they should not have been—the Opposition and the country would have had a much earlier opportunity of seeing whether or not the bases of Mr. Wakefield's conclusions were likely to be right. If I am rightly informed, Appendix A contained a number of assumptions on which the Wakefield Committee based their calculations. I have never seen that appendix. It would be very interesting to know what it was. The Colonial Office experts cannot absolve themselves of responsibility for deciding whether or not the detailed figures in those appendices were or were not well founded. I do not know and can only guess, but my guess as to what happened is this. The Colonial Office were engaged in extracting a good deal of money out of the Treasury for Colonial development. The Ministry of Food came along with the scheme to extract a lot more money. The Colonial Office, not unnaturally—I am not blaming them; it is quite natural—said,"If the Ministry of Food can get away with extracting all this money from the Treasury for the development of Africa on their Vote instead of ours, more power to their elbow; we will leave the job to the Ministry of Food." Did the Ministry of Food have the calculations checked It seems unbelievable that if they did, they could not have spotted the obvious cases of over-optimism. Take the question of repairs to machinery and spare parts for machinery. If information which reaches me is to be believed, protests about the calculations on which the scheme were based reached very nearly Cabinet level. Nothing was said about that. It was obvious to those who knew the situation that the spare parts would not be available and that the arrangements made for actually repairing and reconditioning tractors were lamentably inadequate to the actual job to be done on the spot. In the course of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that perhaps it would have been wiser if the machines had been brought back to this country for reconditioning, but he was responsible for publishing a White Paper in November, 1947, which took credit for the fact that very many more machines had been landed in Africa than had been anticipated. The effect of that was merely to clog an already congested Dar-es-Salaam. If the House wishes to know what the present situation is, according to information given me by the Overseas Food Corporation, there are no fewer than 700 caterpillar tractors, Internationals and Allis Chalmers, in East Africa, of which only 300 have been reconditioned and many of which, we were told when we were at Kongwa, were going to be sent down to the Southern Provinces. That directly contradicts the information which the right hon. Gentleman gave the House that no second-hand tractors were going to be used in the southern areas. These are examples of the way in which we have legitimately criticised the Government for failure to plan in the early stages. What about the Report of Mr. Wakefield? I wonder if the House realises that the task set the three men was to select 3,000,000 acres from the whole area of East Africa in nine weeks. It is not surprising that they made some mistakes, but it is surprising, or, at all events, blameworthy, that Government officials at home did not check their calculations. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that it was unfortunate that Kongwa, chosen as the first of the areas for clearance and the various other developments, was the area with the least good rainfall. It seems odd that when the Government were going to risk sums of such magnitude an elementary precaution like finding out whether there was water available either from rainfall or from underground sources was not taken before the scheme was proceeded with. It turns out from information which we are given that there were no reliable records of rainfall for Kongwa at all, and it looks now as though the rainfall is most inadequate in quantity and erratic in incidence inside the area of Kongwa. One would have thought that inquiries would be made about underground water supplies. It was apparently assumed that there would be ample supplies of underground water. It was found too late that there was very little water and that what water there was was grossly contaminated with Epsom salts, making it unfit for animals or men to drink. At the present moment, with the exception of so-called "Millionaires' Row," drinking water is provided by carting it 12 to 14 miles in ex-Air Force bowsers. That does not look much like good planning, or good checking of information and estimates beforehand, does it? It is now stated by the Overseas Food Corporation that adequate supplies of water are available, but they do not say where the water is or what will be involved. There is no adequate drinkable water in the area of Kongwa; they have to build dams and pipe it for 14 to 20 miles, or so I was told out there. I was also told that there is no water at the new port and that there is no borehole water in the new Southern area, so again dams will have to be built and the water piped. I may be wrong, but that was the information given to us the other day in Kongwa. It is a little late in the day to discover that sort of thing. Those are elementary precautions which might have been taken before the scheme was launched on an admiring public. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Attercliffe were talking about the Press. The hon. Member had better look at some of the headlines in his own papers, not Conservative papers—"The Daily Herald" for example, or "The Daily Mirror"—who said the scheme was one which would pay great dividends, and optimistic statements like that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman doubt that?
I shall come to that in a moment. Then the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think it was grossly unfair that the soil of Kongwa should he abrasive, but elementary inquiry on the spot would have discovered the nature of the soil. All the estimates were based on the belief that implements could work during the 12 months of the year. Brief experience on the spot proved that that type of soil sets like cement in the summer, when implements cannot be used at all and, owing to its abrasive nature, in the short rainy season when implements can be used, their effective life is short. Not unnaturally, that accounts for an appreciable increase in the cost of the scheme, but that could have been ascertained fairly easily if inquiries had been made by running a small pilot plant to begin with, instead of launching the scheme on the size it was launched.One could go through all Mr. Wakefield's Report and find in nearly every paragraph some statement, estimate or hope which has either proved wrong or not been fulfilled. Naturally I looked at some of the cultural suggestions, how groundnuts were to be planted and so forth. I found that every suggestion made in the report as to the methods which would be adopted has proved wrong, and none of the methods suggested in the report is being adopted today. Again, a slight examination by some of the officials ought to have disclosed matters of that kind. Then there is the question of the varieties of the various nuts to be planted. It is a matter of extreme importance in relation to the final cost because the yield of different varieties may vary from 300 or 400 lb. an acre up to 1,000 lb. an acre. Therefore, the whole of the calculations as to the cost of the scheme naturally depend, as the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted, on the probable yield per acre. Yet nothing was done about that beforehand, and it is only comparatively recently that a research station has been put into full operation where a score or so of different varieties of nuts are being tried. There are at present several able scientists in charge of this research scheme, and, being scientists and not politicians, they like to be sure of their facts. They say quite frankly that it will take them several years before they can be sure which strain of groundnut is most appropriate to the locality, the soil and the rainfall. Those are the kind of things that ought to have been looked at first. Then we were told about the drought, a matter which the right hon. Gentleman carefully avoided. The committee of three—Mr. Wakefield, Mr. Rosa and Mr. Martin—were at pains to point out that drought was one of the perils with which agriculture in Africa was faced, but that it was highly unlikely that a drought would affect a wide area in the same year or at the same time. In order to guard against the eventuality of drought, they suggested that areas be developed in Northern Rhodesia, Kenya and Tanganyika. For reasons which I need not go into, both Kenya and Northern Rhodesia have turned the scheme down, and therefore the spread of the risk of drought which was one of the cardinal assumptions of the Wakefield scheme, has disappeared. All the eggs are now to be concentrated in the one basket not of Tanganyika but the southern portion of Tanganyika.
They are not all in the south.
In that case my arithmetic was sadly at fault because I understood from what the right hon. Gentleman said that the Food Corporation may decide to limit the cultivation of Kongwa to approximately double its present area. I do not know what the appropriate Parliamentary expression for that is, but the right hon. Gentleman must surely know that it is not a question that they may decide, but that they have decided it, and are making preparations to limit.
The Government may know better within the last few days, but that is what we were told at Kongwa approximately a month ago, that the area in Kongwa was to be limited to three units, making a total of 90,000 to 100,000 acres instead of the original 450,000 acres. If 100,000 is to be the limit at Kongwa, and 2,000,000 are to be secured, it would appear that the bulk of the 2,000,000 would have to be in the southern region.
And the west.
Yes, but the bulk. The west is only responsible for 500 acres of groundnuts at present, so it is on a purely experimental basis.
So is the south.
So the spread of risk has been omitted.The other calculations on which the White Paper went wrong were concerned with the area to be cleared and the number of men employed. Those are to be found on page 25 of the White Paper. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) gave some striking figures showing the disparity between the original estimates and the present actuality. I shall not go over those except to point out that the scheme was largely defended as being a first-class scheme for African development. The original figures showed approximately one European to 40 Africans. The present figures show one European to 10 Africans, which hardly seems to bear out the original idea that this was to be a scheme for the development and teaching of Africans. Whatever may have been the original idea, let me assure the Colonial Secretary and the House that there are no signs of any development for Africans on the spot. Let me give an example. Very large numbers of Africans are engaged in helping to clear the bush and a considerable number—I do not know the exact figure but I believe it is over 400 —have been taught to handle caterpillar tractors. Their services will come to an end in May as a result of the decision to limit Kongwa to 100,000 acres instead of the original 450,000 acres. What is to happen to the natives who are now employed? After all the trouble had been taken to train natives to drive caterpillar tractors, it could have been assumed by anybody that normally these men would be taken on by the Food Corporation to drive the tractors required for purely agricultural purposes. Imagine my surprise on being told, "Oh, no, none of them are to be taken on. They are to be sent back to their villages." I said, "Surely, when the southern area comes to be developed there will be some need for these men?" I was told however, "No. In those areas people will engage and train their own men." That is not my conception of looking after the interests of African levees. I doubt whether it is that of the Colonial Secretary either. At present this scheme, despite all the talk about it in its early stages, is doing little or nothing for African development. The total number of people engaged at Kongwa in the cultivation of the 100,000 acres will be 15 Europeans and 150 natives to each unit of 30,000 acres, or a total of 45 Europeans and 450 Africans. The remainder of the Europeans will all be engaged, so I was told, at headquarters on military security, education and so on. I am not complaining about the decision to close down at Kongwa. In many ways it was a wise decision, because all sorts of unexpected problems—cultural and others—are arising. It was a wise step to close down at present on any further expansion. But in the meantime, think of the waste involved. A great deal, at any rate, of the capital expenditure at Kongwa was based on the original estimate of 450,000 acres.
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. If he has any doubt let me quote the case of hospitals. A hospital was built at Kongwa at a cost of £120,000, quite apart from equipment. It was designed originally for 400 beds, but since the decision was made to shut down at Kongwa the number has been reduced to 300 beds. The total white population at Kongwa in the shape of employees, apart from families, I am told, will be only 300. The total native population will be of the order of 3,000. The right hon. Gentleman knows better than I do what the average accommodation in hospitals throughout East Africa is. Quite clearly, 300 beds for 300 white people, plus 3,000 natives is out of all proportion to what is to be found in other areas such as Tanganyika, Nairobi and so forth or even London. Therefore, when the Minister of Food shakes his head about the size of the capital equipment that has been planned and to a large part erected he really should go out there and check up his facts.The right hon. Gentleman was at pains to pour scorn on the suggestion put forward from these Benches by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank). But surely, the whole basis of the right hon. Gentleman's speech and of all the defences of the scheme was that there is no feasible alternative. If we ask people outside Kongwa what they think of the scheme, and whether it will ever produce nuts at prices which will meet world competition, the usual reply is, "But think how much good it is going to do to Africa." One official, who should be nameless, made this defence: "Whatever you may think about the price of groundnuts, and whether or not we can produce groundnuts at world prices, we have got to go on producing groundnuts in order to provide freight for the railway we are building at such great expense." The right hon. Gentleman put forward a similar sort of argument when he said that in order to cover the capital cost of the scheme we must grow one and a quarter or one and a half million acres of groundnuts, irrespective of their cost. That is a fantastic suggestion. The scheme is being defended on the ground that there is no alternative; but the question is, is there not an alternative? We are told of certain calculations about fertilisers. Is the Government and this House and the country perfectly certain that the best method of using fertilisers, that are scarce throughout the world, is to apply them on virgin and marginal land at Kongwa and other parts of Tanganyika? Is there any evidence for it? There is plenty of evidence to the contrary, and that alternative schemes are feasible, if only hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would read the report of the West African Oil Seeds Mission—Colonial Paper No. 224. The difference between that report and the Wakefield Report is that the latter was issued by the Ministry of Food, whereas the report of the West African Oil Seeds Mission was issued by the Colonial Secretary. It is quite clear that here is one alternative by which substantial quantities of oil seeds could be obtained. I recommend hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they have not read this report and are considering this matter, to read it. In the process of such a scheme they can really do something for the development of African natives, culture and nutrition. Let the House be under no misapprehension. What the present groundnut scheme is doing is this. In the old days —although not really so long ago—what private companies and capital did was to use monetary and other resources to grow in the Colonies and Dominions food and other raw materials for consumers in the world and in this country. By hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that process was called exploitation, but that is precisely what the groundnut scheme is doing at present. It is time that this so-called philanthropy towards the Africans, with which the scheme was launched, should be debunked. The scheme was launched very largely on its present scale as part of ballyhoo for the personal boosting of the Minister of Food. It is certainly doing nothing for the African native at present, and is unlikely to do so for some time. It is quite clear from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that any expectation by the British public of early extra supplies of margarine has "gone west." We have been told that Kongwa is to be limited to 100,000 acres at the most, and that that will produce something of the order of 15,000 to 20,000 tons. There may be some small development at Urambo—
It cannot be very much bigger than at Kongwa because of obvious limitations.
Supposing it is doubled—
That is rather different.
The main thing is that the food scheme on which the right hon. Gentleman pinned all his hopes cannot come into effective operation, as he has told us today, until the railway reaches its edge. He told us that that would not happen until 1951.
The right hon. Gentleman is two years out. The date is next September.
I beg his pardon. But he is not going to get anything approaching the one million acres by 1950 or 1951. He himself has said that under the most favourable circumstances he does not anticipate the 600,000 tons being available before the expiry of 10 years. Quite clearly, to all intents and purposes Kongwa has proved a flop. The whole thing is really in the melting pot. I renew the suggestion from these benches that the time has come, in the interval before the railway reaches an effective stage for carrying away the nuts, to have another look at the whole scheme. Is it absolutely certain that there is no satisfactory alternative and is the right hon. Gentleman right in saying that the prices of groundnuts are to go on on the present, or even increased levels?
I did not say that.
Does the right hon. Gentleman say they are not going on?
I was denying that 1 made the assertion that they would go on at the present level, or increase. They may, but I hope not. They may drop, moderately.
In that case it vitiates the whole of the defence—
—that, owing to the increased price of groundnuts it did not matter if the scheme cost twice as much. I will put it this way, if the right hon. Gentleman considers that in any appreciable period of time required to make it remunerative to the country—
—if the prices of groundnuts are to keep at that level, I suggest that plenty of alternative methods could be explored. It may well be that by applying the fertilisers, the manpower and money, we could get an appreciable quantity of these groundnuts from West Africa, Rhodesia and other places where they are being grown at present and where, as the Wakefield Report suggests, production is being limited, because growers are afraid they will not have a guaranteed market. We suggest that the time has come when the scheme should be looked at again by an impartial committee before any attempt is made to add many more millions to its original cost.
I think we should congratulate the Government on having had the vision to make this long-term investment, recognising as they did at the time that some mistakes were bound to happen and some miscalculations were bound to be made. The Command Paper I have in my hand states:
That was printed in 1947. Undoubtedly at that time the expectation of more rapid production of groundnuts was very strong. I cannot see that the fact that the expectation has not been fulfilled at the moment is a reflection on the Government, or those anxious to engage on long-term schemes for this country and, indeed, for the whole world. It has been rightly said this afternoon that in so far as this scheme may be able to bring to us a larger supply of fats and oils, it will obviously relieve the whole world shortage to a greater or less degree. The many warnings by men like Sir John Boyd-Orr and others remind us that the old Malthusian problem is becoming acute again in the world. In many parts of this sphere the population is outstripping available means of subsistence, although I believe the problem can be solved. I am quite certain we should judge the whole matter objectively and without partisan bias and realise it can only be solved by such a scheme as we are considering, multiplied many times. Otherwise, we shall find the Malthusian problem apparently insoluble. Therefore, I cannot understand the essence of the criticism advanced by the Opposition this afternoon. Do they really feel that schemes of this kind should not be attempted, but that we should content ourselves merely by relying on traditional methods? The time has come when we cannot be content to rely on old methods. Although traditional methods of developing our own country and the rest of the world are a necessity, they must be supplemented by schemes arising out of a vision of world needs and obligations. Some of the criticisms made by the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) may or may not be valid. He has pointed out that here and there the original estimates have not been fulfilled because there was not sufficient surveying of the territory. Surely that reflects not so much on the present Government as on governments which went before it. One would have thought that the Opposition, which claims to have great Imperial interests, long before this Government got into power and long before the war, would have accumulated all the information that could have been available to this Government when they undertook the scheme. If for instance, there was not precise and accurate knowledge of water supplies, who is to blame? Whatever measure of blame attaches to the Minister of Food, a far greater measure attaches to the right hon. Member for Southport and his predecessors. When in the past investment took place under private enterprise, little was said, and little is said now, about the colossal waste that frequently cost the country, for when in bygone days capital raised in this country was sent overseas, whether to Africa or elsewhere, a great deal apparently proved to be completely wasted. Although it may be said to be private money, in fact it caused a real loss to the country. I suggest that this venture is in the nature of a sound venture, although the reward is to be postponed for a longer time than we originally anticipated. I agree with the argument of the Minister today. One reason why a return for this investment was not coming forward so speedily as we had hoped is because of the terrifically difficult post-war conditions for which, in large measure, we are not to blame. Supposing the actual post-war history of the great Powers had been more amicable than it has been and there had been more co-operation among them instead of this unfortunate and in large measure tragic tension, would not that have put this country and the rest of the world in a better position to secure this and other schemes? Take, for example, the supply of tractors. Can there be any doubt that one of the reasons why we had to scrounge round for all the tractors left after the war was because we could not get going sufficiently to co-ordinate the agricultural machinery which the whole world needed because we were obsessed with post-war problems, part of which at least, had been made more acute by international difficulties? I suggest that in the anticipation that the post-war era would be one of constructive pacification it is not surprising that the hopes of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House and hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House respecting this plan had not been fulfilled. Even so, we observed from an interjection by one hon. Member opposite, that we are likely even under the present limited reward, to secure 2 per cent. of our fats from this particular source. Although that sounds small, it is a distinct addition to our fat supplies and we require all the additions we can get. If it can progressively increase year by year, not only here but elsewhere, we shall get a substantial contribution to one of the deficient elements in the diet of this country and of other lands. But may I now utter a word of criticism? I listened very carefully to the long and interesting speech of the Minister of Food. He explained why there had been miscalculations and, unfortunately, some unfulfilment of hopes and aspirations. But, save by a passing remark, unless I misunderstood him or I did not hear him aright, I found no reference to what is likely to be the accumulated beneficial effects to the actual peoples who live in that part of Africa. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport did claim that he was interested in that aspect of the matter, and did throw doubt on whether this scheme will be of benefit to the Africans. I believe, on the contrary, that as it becomes more and more implemented it will be a distinct benefit, not only to white but also to black people. I am certain that both in East and West Africa, and in other parts of Africa, only by the application of modern agricultural knowledge shall we make available a higher standard of life to our brethren in the so-called "Dark Continent." It is not good enough merely to express a criticism of this scheme on the ground that it is not immediately helping the Africans, while everything is being done in order to criticise this scheme and apparently bring it to an end. But I consider, for all that, the Minister ought to give us some indication of how this scheme will rapidly assist the African on the spot. To put it in another way, I agree that without this scheme the African would be where he was before, and that was in a pretty poor plight. On the other hand, in view of our moral obligation to our black skinned brethren of East Africa, I want to know what provision is being made to see what substantial part of the accumulated return of this long term investment, will be enjoyed by the Africans in East Africa? I observe that in the White Paper mention is made of certain preliminary arrangements which have been made:"The scale and requirements of the project represent a gigantic undertaking. Even so, the total production of groundnuts forthcoming from the area of 3,210,000 acres will meet little more than one-third of Britain's present shortage."
The rest of the paragraph deals with the actual conditions of the African himself. That may be good but it is not good enough. After all, one of the criticisms made by many Africans—not necessarily in the East which I do not know, but certainly in the West—is that we have only begun to be interested in Africa when we ourselves are in need of African produce. I do not think that that is entirely true. I think that there are two factors working together; an awakened sensitiveness to the needs of the Africans, plus also a greater realisation of our own needs here at home. It would, however, be more advisable, whenever we talk about this and similar schemes, to go out of our way if necessary to emphasise the real benefit that will accrue, and that we shall see is going to accrue, to the African himself. Otherwise, unfortunately, the mere absence of any reference to the benefit that will be accruing to the African will be taken by the African, and others, as an indication that this is primarily a white man's scheme for the white man's benefit."The full programme of health, social and educational development which is part of the scheme cannot be introduced until the agricultural stage of the work has been reached and settled village communities established."
I do not believe that. I do not believe that that is the whole intention. I cannot see how the African himself is to benefit by cash wages, by the measure of goods he can buy with the cash wages, or how he is to be trained in mechanics, or have available to him in some measure the benefits of modern medicine, unless such schemes as this are put forward by responsible Powers like our own. That seems perfectly clear. What I am pleading for is that this should be brought home to the African far more than it has been. I hope therefore very earnestly—I am sorry that I cannot reply to the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) because I cannot hear what he is saying.
In view of the fact that hon. Members on his own Front Bench were talking at the top of their voices when the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) started his speech, surely I can make an observation without his saying that he cannot hear me.
I know that hon. Members on the Front Bench were talking at the top of their voices, so much so that I had to ask them to keep quiet. But I merely said that I was sorry that I could not reply to the noble Lord.
I was not saying anything. I was merely making an observation to my hon. Friend. I complain of the hon. Gentleman's discourtesy in the first place in complaining of his own Front Bench making a noise, and now making reference to something I said sotto voce. Perhaps in future the hon. Member will leave me alone.
I have no desire to touch the noble Lord, either in this world or the next.
I am about to blow my nose. Has the hon. Member any objection to that?
I would apologise for any stimulus or provocation which I gave to the right hon. Member.I will go back again, and say that what I have been trying to stress is that I hope whoever is replying for the Government will, this time, fill up the vacant space by making it quite clear, both incidentally and purposely, that this scheme is designed not only to benefit the people in this country, but the African as well. I hope every effort will be made to preserve as far as possible the real values in native life and custom. There are some aspects of native life and custom which, no doubt, will pass away, and deserve to pass away. But the breaking up of traditional communal life can be done in a way highly dangerous to the spiritual, cultural and moral welfare of the African peoples. Reference has been made—I hope this is within the scope of the Debate—to the fact that elsewhere groundnut production is taking place. I am glad that it is. I am glad it has been taking place for some time in the Northern part of Nigeria. I would like to know from the Minister, or whoever replies, whether attention can be paid to the possibility of extending groundnut production in that part of Africa as well as in the East. 1 know full well that the old method of cultivation is very strong. Traditions are always very strong, and one has to walk very carefully in endeavouring to increase the production of groundnuts in that part of Africa. But I wonder whether, by seeking the confidence of the Emirs and others in that part of Nigeria, we could introduce more modern methods of production and thus attain greater productivity per acre than obtains at the present time. That is not to say that this other scheme must be put on one side. Let us visualise the whole world as being in urgent need of all the production of fats and oils and other foodstuffs that we can possibly secure. Otherwise we shall have famines occurring here and there in the world, whilst we in this country may escape the worst incidents of such shortage only at the cost of other parts of the world. I regret very much that the original hope has not been fulfilled. Although expectations may have had some measure of miscalculation that seems to me to be inevitable in the very nature of the case whenever we try to venture beyond traditional means and grapple with a serious situation which is largely the result of wartime conditions. I hope that we shall learn of our mistakes. I join with other hon. Members on both sides of the House in expressing appreciation of the British and African pioneers taking part in this great venture. I hope most earnestly that we shall enjoy the increasing and cumulative effect of their efforts, not only on behalf of ourselves, but of the people of East Africa, and indeed of the whole of mankind.
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this Debate because I am closely interested in all Colonial development and in the development of East Africa in particular. It is a country which I have visited six times in the past two years and I am going there again next month. In this Debate I feel that, as far as we can, we should keep to points which arise from our knowledge of the place itself. The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) spoke of what could be done for the African. I suggest that in the building up of the secondary industries of East Africa we have much of the answer to the problem he raised. In my own small capacity I have done the maximum within my power to build up secondary industries in East Africa.Reference has been made by the Minister and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to the fact that this scheme is a business proposition and, in view of that, I wish to bring the Debate back to that aspect. If it is a business proposition, there is no reason why there should not be criticism so long as it is constructive and practical. When a man is running a business, he gets plenty of criticism and he does not get any second chances. In this case we are referring to a most expensive proposition, and I suggest that it is in order to have as much criticism as possible so long as something can be learned from it. I think it was the Minister who said that the scheme would cost twice as much as had been estimated originally. I suggest even that is wishful thinking and that the bill will amount to much more than twice the original estimate if anything like the first plan is followed through. I shall endeavour to prove that statement. The argument is advanced that likewise the revenue should be twice as much, Already a discussion has taken place between right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House and right hon. Members opposite proving that that is a debatable point. As most of that idea is based on what will be the price for groundnuts or oil in the future, then if further rail facilities are provided, we shall find in the not very distant future that the price of groundnuts will fall. Therefore, the idea that revenue will be twice as much is based on wishful thinking. Again, the Minister made the point that a hundred thousand persons had desired to go to work under the scheme. Perhaps he does not know that as a result of present conditions in this country we who are developing small secondary industries in East Africa receive thousands of applications from people who wish to go out there. I have a waiting list of many thousands of people who wish to go to East Africa. It is nothing very great to talk about; it is just a fact. There was one minor point in the Minister's speech which I could not understand. Why was reference made to 5 per cent. of maize production in the 50,000 acres grown at Kongwa? Is that maize being supplied in readiness for the natives themselves? What was the point of that reference? In estimates of the cost of schemes such as this, the Government very quickly forget, especially when they make their attacks on private enterprise, that no interest is borne on the loans or capital provided. There is no allowance in taxation for the whole of the scheme. When comparing Government plans with private enterprise, it is most convenient to forget that these exorbitant costs are an important part of any private enterprise development. I have mentioned in this House before that I have seen tractors lying idle with grass growing through them outside Dar-es-Salaam when we in East Africa need tractors for important development work. It was a farcical suggestion when the Minister said that these tractors could have come back to this country for repair—and that at a time when I have been trying to impress upon the Colonial Office that we cannot even support our own export drive by providing sufficient shipping to get our goods abroad. That has been the actual situation. I am pleased to have heard what has been said about the port of Dar-es-Salaam. All who have been there realise the chaotic conditions which exist. Valuable machinery produced in this country has gone to Dar-es-Salaam and, when landed by lighter, has been badly damaged. It is a great pity that things like that should happen. I am pleased to hear that action is being taken for the development of the deep sea berths. The Government should realise that the public have their eyes on this scheme. Everyone talks about the groundnut scheme. One could not expect anything but that they should look for something really worth while from this project, and rightly so. Do not the Government fully appreciate that the people of this country are providing the whole of the cost? Should they not, therefore, be entitled to expect something which was advertised in the Blue Book of February, 1947? If one goes to the people with a prospectus in private enterprise business, one must live up to that prospectus. This Blue Book is the Government's prospectus. Is it not reasonable to assume that what was estimated in this publication shall be expected to take place? It is no use anyone sheltering from what is stated in this document by saying, "I did not do it." That is not the answer that any manager can give when taking the blame or the credit for what has been done by his executives. The responsibility is entirely on the Government and on the Minister who undertook the task. We on this side of the House are at a great disadvantage in trying to ascertain information which is easily available to Members of the Government. We asked that we should have some statement in advance which would help us in our examination of the details which the Minister has given, but the Minister refused to do that. All that we were able to do was to take notes whilst he was speaking, and we have had very little opportunity of checking the further details. My own limited information is based on these 30,000 acre units. I should like the Minister who replies to the Debate to tell me whether or not it was a fact that a financial delegation was sent out last Autumn to inquire into the cost of clearing and preparing for cultivation the 30,000 acre units. Did they suggest that the cost would be somewhere in the region of £1 million per 30,000 acre unit? I should like to be contradicted if I am wrong. I would point out that in the Blue Book some 107 units were envisaged. Now, owing to the new information as to yield given by the Minister today, we are told that they will be cut down by approximately one-third. I calculate that if we take into account the cost of the original harbours, railways and a hundred and one other utilities and facilities which are necessary, the scheme will cost at least £80 million. I should be grateful to know on what basis the Minister advances his argument that the scheme will cost only £50 million—or does he intend to come back to this House and ask for another £25 million? Why should not the people know where we are heading? They are entitled to know. The people have to pay. All the present returns are based on some 45 per cent. only of the original anticipation. The Blue Book expected some 466,000 tons of shelled nuts in course of production in 1950. From that, of course, I estimate something like a 50 per cent. oil yield, which represents about 250,000 tons of oil. I want to know from the Minister how much margarine we are going to get. I asked him a question about it a short time ago, when I inquired what was the contribution to the margarine ration this year which this scheme was to make. I hope it is to make a contribution. According to my estimate, and I may have to increase it after what the Minister said today, we shall get only 7,000 tons of margarine, not this year, but in 1950. I should like to know what are we going to get this year, and what does the Minister expect to get next year? We are entitled to these estimates. One cannot run a business without knowing where one is going, and why should we run a scheme like this without knowing where it is going? My figure of 7,000 tons is no more than 2 per cent. of the margarine ration, based on the control of margarine existing at this moment. It is based on a consumption of 336,000 tons of margarine per annum. If restrictions came off, the consumption would be very much more. However, that 7,000 tons is only 2 per cent. of that amount, and we really cannot call that a contribution, especially when it is for next year, not this year. We are told that, by 1950, we shall get three units of the original programme into production; that is to say, three units of 30,000 acres each. What about the yield? We have had many varying stories, and have been told recently that the estimates may have to be adjusted. Surely, it must be fairly obvious that the yield will not be very much more than 50 per cent. of what was originally worked out? We have heard these suggestions about production, but I suggest that we are being bluffed by this wishful thinking. We are told, "We think it is going to be so-and-so," but that is no answer, because, by now, somebody ought to know. There is no reason why, with proper control and management, we should not know by now what the return will be per acre, though I quite realise that there have been difficulties in the way. We must remember also that the public of this country have been led to expect very much from this scheme. They have been told that the scheme will produce some real contribution to the margarine ration. Is it not reasonable to say that they are now bitterly disappointed because they have not been told the true facts about what the contribution will be? In November last, a statement was made that it was impossible to estimate the cost. One of the chief executives of the scheme then stated—and the statement has been made by the Minister again today—that it was very difficult to estimate the cost accurately. Does not all this sound very peculiar, when, in the Blue Book originally issued about this scheme, we were told that the estimates had been framed on a strictly business basis and the scheme was shown to be financially sound? I suggest that there is considerable room for doubt, or at least that there is a big discrepancy with what we are told today. In these estimates in 1949, we were led to expect something like 40 units being in production in 1950. What are we to get? May be, three. In 1951, we were to expect 90 units; we shall be lucky if we get six or seven. The differences are tremendous. We are now told by the Minister, "Possibly, we were wrong in those estimates for those years, and it may possibly be that it will take 10 or 12 years." I suggest that it will be at least 15 years in present circumstances. I feel that the estimates that we have been given today do not help us very much. When we are watching a scheme of this kind develop, I suggest that the executives are a very important factor in the running of the whole scheme, and I think that is just as true here as in any business enterprise. Mr. Plummer, the Chairman of the Overseas Food Corporation, stated last November that no major executives had offered or been asked for their resignations. One feels that the executives are not happy in what they are doing and that they are trying to rush the scheme to a successful conclusion. When the Minister replies, will he say what has happened since last November to the chief medical officer, the chief accounting officer, the chief supplies officer and the chief personnel officer? There may be others, too, but I should like to know what has happened to those four chief officers. In regard to wastage, much time could be occupied by going into details, though I do not think we should gain very much. Obviously, much more care should have been taken in running this scheme to avoid much of the unnecessary wastage which has occurred, particularly in regard to air travel and the hiring of charter planes which took place. If they had a look at the travel fares for the first 12 months of the operation of the scheme, I think most hon. Members would be surprised. Concerning workshops, reference has been made to maintenance costs, and I should like to know if the suggestion has been adopted for providing workshops of about 8,000 superficial feet for every unit of 30,000 acres, and, if so, if these maintenance shops are being built, because I suggest that their cost will be absolutely prohibitive. I have always regarded this scheme as a mixture of both farming and business interests, and, therefore, the primary need is that it should be run by people who are trained in a knowledge of both. I suggest that there are many problems for those with initiative and activity in the lower grades, who are realising that there are those people at the top, standing rather rigidly above them, who are without their qualifications. I should like to hear from the Minister how many of the personnel now engaged in running this scheme are sufficiently well versed in both business and farming to see it through to a successful conclusion. We all realise that many of the junior executives are quite definitely in that position. Undoubtedly, this scheme was seen at its original conception to be a sound proposition, particularly in view of the world shortage of fats, which still continues today. Personally, I did not have the honour of being a Member of Parliament at that time, but, behind the scenes and in my own small way, I gave support to the scheme, I suggest that, in view of the lines on which it has been operated and the wastage that has taken place, it is very difficult to give it further support, unless we can be given a real assurance that it will be brought back on to a business-like footing. I support the view that the scheme was rushed in the first instance for partly political motives, because it was a good plank for the Labour Party. Now, however, I believe that it is coming back upon them very much. Certainly, machinery was rushed out there at the beginning, and we have heard how tractors have been rusting useless out there. If much more care had been taken in the planning of the whole operation of the scheme, it would have been possible to keep down the cost so that much of the expenditure that has been wasted would never have occurred at all. When one realises the tremendous work which has been done and the great hardships which have been undergone by the staff on the spot, working under the greatest difficulties, it is a very sad state of affairs indeed for them to reflect that the scheme, in spite of all that has been done, is not running according to plan. The staff costs, too, have gone sadly astray. Was it not envisaged in the Blue Book that there would be one European to every 30 or 40 Africans? Is not the suggestion now that there is one European to every 11 Africans? The Europeans should be asked to concentrate to the very maximum on the tasks for which they are best fitted—scientific, technical and supervisory tasks—and not on all the uneconomic tasks and duties. There should be a serious reduction by this means in the administrative and overhead costs. This Government will not allow private enterprise to have such high administrative and overhead costs. It is their policy to cut down those costs in relation to private enterprise by taxation. Why should not the same ideal apply to a public proposition of this kind, and to public corporations? I suggest that as the Government of Tanganyika are enjoying the benefits of this development, they should bear a certain part of the costs of the scheme. With regard to the moving of the headquarters to Nairobi, perhaps the Government can tell us whether this is going to take place or not. If it is, the overheads will be very considerable, and will go up instead of down. My right hon. and gallant Friend suggested that in future the responsibility should rest with the Colonial Office. I suggest that this scheme has lost all of its original idea in regard to food production. I have tried to outline what I feel as to the possibility of its contribution towards what the public were led to believe would be an increase in the margarine ration and the oils available to this country. I feel that the scheme should be handed back to the Colonial Office in order that they may get on with the task on a sound Colonial development basis. After all, the secondary aims of the scheme, covering political, economic and social progress, are matters solely for the Colonial Office, and will contribute much in the development of this scheme. As to the splitting up of the 30,000 acre units into more workable units of 5,000 to 8,000 acres, and the giving of private companies the opportunity to develop these units, while, at the same time, trying to assist them in the provision of those facilities which they need—they not having the money which is available to the Government—I feel that is a very sensible suggestion. My own experience is that young men from this island have turned to the scheme largely to get away from the frustration which they have experienced in this country. But when they get out there they find the same frustration. They need much better leadership and guidance and more confidence in what they are endeavouring to do. Much of that confidence could be restored if they knew that many of the complaints and troubles to which I have referred would be sensibly looked into by a commission of inquiry. There is no reason why that should not be done quickly. If done on that basis, there would be no serious delay caused to the practical and sensible development of the scheme itself. By his undue haste, and by permitting extravagances out of all proportion to the possible results, the Minister has created an abnormal loss to the British taxpayer. I do not see how that loss can be recovered, and I gained no confidence from what he said this afternoon that we should recover any of it. If we take stock of the position now and stop this ridiculous wastage which has such a small possibility of return, then, perhaps, we may do something much better. Private enterprise could be fully utilised to that end. Let us try to make something businesslike and worthwhile out of what was originally a sound idea, but which is now tragically suffering from mismanagement. In my opinion, East Africa offers great opportunities for the future, and I would certainly do all I could to hasten Colonial development on a basis which would bring credit to our country and not ridicule which, unfortunately, the present wastage has brought.
The hon. Member for North Croydon (Mr. F. Harris) spoke with some knowledge of the country in question. It was very interesting to hear that although this was at first a very sound scheme, it now suffers from mismanagement. I have listened very carefully to the whole of this Debate, and I have not heard one effective criticism of those responsible for its administration. On the contrary, compliments have been paid by hon. Members on both sides of the House to the responsible people who are devoting their lives to making this scheme a success.
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that I was talking about the mismanagement of the Government, not of the workers on the spot?
It is obvious that the main motive of the Opposition in this Debate is, by their criticism of the Government, to dangle East Africa as a bogy before the people, because there they have something about which the average elector has very little knowledge and about which he cannot speak. Therefore, they can make East Africa a bogy with which to frighten the electors. The effective administration of this scheme, as everybody who has come into close contact with it agrees, is in very efficient hands. The suggestion that it should be managed by farmers and financiers is already adequately covered in the present administration. I have heard no public criticism or suggestion that there is any mismanagement at all. I believe that the Government have confidence in the instrument which is carrying out this tremendous responsibility.As I have said, I have listened very carefully to the criticisms in this Debate, and have tried to find something that was at all constructive or valid. A good deal of time was taken up by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough (Captain Crookshank) on the tremendous publicity which this scheme has had. That theme was taken up by subsequent speakers, including the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). Why was there that publicity? In the first place, the scheme had to receive the sanction of Parliament. Everybody who studied the Blue Book which has been quoted by hon. Members on both sides, agreed that it was a very sound scheme, very carefully thought out and that it used all the available knowledge. At the time it won the approval of the House and, as I remember, the general approval of the country. It received such tremendous publicity because the whole thing was so novel. After all our years of experience as a great Colonial Power, this was the first occasion in our history when we adopted an imaginative scheme and shouldered the responsibility for bringing prosperity to the native people, and, at the same time, adding to the food supply of the world.
Has the hon. Gentleman ever heard of the Sudan plantation scheme referred to by the Minister?
The only constructive suggestion made by the hon. Member for North Croydon was that this project should be handed back to private enterprise. I am amazed at how inconsistent hon. Members opposite can be. They claim to be so keen in their patriotism and loyalty to the country that they can only conceive of a man putting his back into his work when he is working for his own private gain, whereas the facts prove, time and time again, in peace as well as in war, that the civil servant can serve the country just as efficiently because he is a genuine patriot. That is the motive which inspires those who arc carrying this responsibility.Another suggestion which has been made is that this responsibility should be handed over to the Colonial Office. There may be reasons for doing so, but the fact is that it is in the hands of the Ministry of Food because it concerns produce primarily, and my conception of the responsibility of the Colonial Office is that it is concerned primarily with the inhabitants. So far as I know, that responsibility has received more attention from the Colonial Office under this Government than under any previous Government. I come to the points made by the right hon. and gallant Member for Gains-borough. He wound up by making two or three suggestions which he considered to be constructive. A good deal of his criticism—indeed, the main theme of the criticism of himself and others—was the slowness with which the scheme has progressed. Then, after all that criticism about speed and the time factor, we had, first, the suggestion that a halt should be called—I could hardly believe my ears —and, secondly, reference to large scale experiments. There seemed to me to be a betrayal of ignorance on the part of the Opposition. It is an axiom that all life is experimental. Anybody who has troubled to inform himself about this scheme should have been fully aware, even before the Minister informed the House, that a good deal of the activity taking place was in the nature of an experiment. That is the main reason why the original estimate of groundnut cultivation was not in accordance with the estimate when the ground was fully under cultivation. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman's third point was that at this stage there should be an impartial investigation. I can only imagine that the main reason for that suggestion was to create suspicion. I am satisfied, and I believe everybody who is fair minded is satisfied, that in spite of the colossal intricacy and the novelty of this vast experiment, substantial progress is being made. If more progress is not being made the responsibility is not upon the present Government but upon those which preceded it. The hon. Member for North Croydon has suggested that the cost of docks, harbours, railways and communications should be borne by the scheme. It is utterly fantastic. Everybody who knows the geography of Africa is aware that the East coast of Africa is devoid of satisfactory ports and harbours. I have a vague memory that 15 or 20 years ago there were suggestions that substantial improvements should be made to the harbours at Dar-es-Salaam. What has happened? Directly there was any call upon them to cope with the traffic, according to the last speaker, the facilities there were so unsatisfactory that 3 good deal of the machinery which was landed was damaged in the process. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to imply that this Government is responsible for all the deficiencies of past centuries and for all the defects and neglect of past governments of which those hon. Members had the major control. We do not mind because we have a sufficient confidence in the electorate of this country to be aware of the real facts. The fact is that even today some substantial improvement has been made. There are definite signs of improvement in the harbour facilities on the East coast of Africa; a railway has been built, and by the end of the year it will be possible for that railway to convey the necessary machinery to open up these estates which are the main theme of the scheme. I appeal to hon. Members opposite to appreciate that to move a reduction in the Estimate for this scheme is a denial of all their aspirations for Colonial development. The suggestion behind it all is that all this should be left to them who, in the past, with their predecessors, have made profits out of these opportunities in the Colonies, and that we should give up this experiment by which the country itself shoulders the responsibility of opening up new resources and adding to the food supply of the world.
It is a good thing that this Debate has taken place. There is much confusion of thought in the country and I think throughout the world. I certainly found a great deal of it in East Africa which I visited the other day. I think it would be true to say that the real purpose of this Debate is to get at the truth of this rather thorny problem; at least I hope that is the purpose. As far as I understand, that is the purpose which we on this side of the House have in raising this matter. This is much too great an operation, with far too many imponderable consequences attaching to it, for hon. Members to get any party fun out of it. This ought to be regarded as a piece of very important British Empire development. As the House on the whole has taken the view that Colonial matters ought if possible to be regarded as above the clash of the party fights, so I would like to approach this problem in the same spirit.The trouble is that we are always at the mercy of extremists, and there have been some extraordinarily extreme statements made about this scheme. Let me say at once that it is not a crashing failure. I did not find that at all. Nobody on this side of the House has said that it is a crashing failure. The staff are not full of discontent, as I have read in some of the newspapers. Nobody on these benches says so. The men on the spot are not a lot of fools, although I have read statements to that effect in many journals. On the contrary, I found them capable, sensible and mostly experienced, doing an exceedingly hard job with a very considerable measure of local success. I do not know that the House realises how hard is the life which these men and their families are leading. There is now a township of about 1,500 Europeans at Kongwa. Recently the women and children have gone out. There is some doubt whether it was a good or a bad thing to have invited the women and children to go out at this stage. I am not at all sure that it was, but perhaps one could not have kept the men separated from their families very much longer. There is no doubt, however, that having brought out the families, new and much more difficult problems have arisen. For example, one of the mothers said to me, "My chief difficulty is that my children were brought up in the green fields of Kent, and here they have nowhere to play; so they hang around the doors." They cannot go into the bush to play because of snakes and wild animals. There is no doubt the families are going through a very hard time. Social conditions are still pretty primitive. There is a local shop, but there are not many luxuries to be obtained. Fresh food is not by any means abundant, although there is some of it there. Nevertheless these people, typical of all British citizens, are making the best of it, and their morale is extraordinarily high. They have their own voluntary associations. They have a very flourishing club and when I was there they were running a pantomime in a theatre built by the men in their spare time which would have been a credit to many a seaside theatre in this country. Meeting them, one got the impression that these men were really doing a very good job and that their morale was high. Therefore, do not let it be thought or said for a moment that, so far as these men are concerned, it is all a ghastly failure. It is not. In their way, according to their own lights, these men have done a very fine job for which the whole nation should be grateful. If it is not a ghastly failure, equally it is not a blazing success, as some hon. Members opposite would have liked to suggest tonight. It is nothing of the kind. As everybody now admits, there have been a great many profound mistakes. The greatest cause of the trouble undoubtedly has been the mad tempo which was imposed upon the Corporation by Whitehall. It was a mad tempo at the start. It was madness to go rushing round the world picking up dud tractors. No sensible firm would have done that. It was putting an unfair burden on the Corporation and the staff. One knows something about reconditioning tractors and the Minister has admitted today that it would have been much better if they had been brought home. Had he paused a little, as a wise business man would have done, he might have got such a plan carried through. As the scheme went on, the pressure from Whitehall continued. One kind of machine after another, all the implements of agriculture they could find, were poured into Kongwa, without proper time to consider, "Is that the right implement?" That is why costs have risen to such an enormous extent. I spoke to one of the leading officials there, a man of great knowledge, and he said to me, "One of the largest items in the cost of this scheme is undoubtedly petrol. We are not now using our tractors in the most economical way. We ought to have better implements to go behind the tractor. We could thereby save an enormous amount of money." It is that excessive pressure on the scheme which has made it so costly; men on the spot have been given tasks which it was impossible to fulfil. That is what is wrong and that is the cause of a great deal of the trouble. Where have we got to now? What is the present position? Having made a great many mistakes, the men on the spot —I am not talking about anybody but the men on the spot, whom I met—are beginning to learn the job. It is no criticism of them that they have taken a long time to learn it; this was something entirely new, applying modern mechanised methods to bush that for thousands of years has been untouched by the hand of man. It was nothing to be wondered at that these men have taken a time to learn. My plea to the Minister tonight—as he will see—is to give them still more time to learn their job. They have not yet learned it, but they have learned a good deal, a good deal in the field of administration, of agriculture, of mechanisation and so on. I shall give the House one or two examples. Take this problem of clearing, to which the right hon. Gentleman himself referred. He has shown this afternoon that a new method of clearing has been adopted which looks like being very much better, more economical and more effective than the old methods. Of course, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that this is not yet the answer, and I am sure he would not claim that it is the answer. Before we start upon this vast new territory in the Southern Provinces, which will be ten times or perhaps 20 times greater than Kongwa, surely it would be wise to think again, even about this single problem of clearing. Nobody can say that we have the right and proper answer on this point. Take cultivation. When ground was first cleared last year the great problem, as the Minister said, was getting the roots out. The roots could not be got out and subsequent cultivation and planting was rendered exceedingly tedious, costly and cumbersome on that account. This year it has been discovered, to the surprise of everybody, that ground cleared last year is this year almost free of roots. To everybody's surprise, the roots have almost completely disintegrated. That could only be learned by experience, but even now I do not believe that we know enough about that particular aspect. Take agricultural implements. The fact of having made this discovery about the disintegration of the roots has an immediate effect on the kind of implements one uses, the kind of ploughs, the kind of cultivators, the kind of planters. I saw planters this season, a week or two ago, running through ground at a great pace with almost perfect ease—ground which last year was bush. But when they tried to cultivate that same ground a year ago it broke every machine that was put upon it. That is another example to prove my contention that this is a very slow business. It will take a long time to learn the right answers. Everything which has happened so far proves that we are only learning very gradually. Take another example—the rotation of crops, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. He talked about sunflower and gave some very interesting news about it. What is the story about sunflower? This is what they found: you can sow sunflower on land which that year has been cleared because it does not require the same heavy cultivation, and sunflower therefore becomes a catch crop, a spare crop and a crop almost for nothing. That was a discovery which was made only this year. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will continue making discoveries of that kind, not only next year but for many years to come. I am sure that no one, least of all the scientists—and they are a very fine body of men—believe that the new rotation which the Minister has announced to the House is such as to justify going full speed ahead with this great new scheme in the Southern Provinces. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman spoke with so much apparent confidence about the 600,000 tons he was going to get from two million acres. With great respect—I know the Minister has been there, but I have been there too—I suggest to the Minister that it is quite wrong to convey to the House or to the country, even with all the qualifications he offered, that that is anything like a sound estimate. It is a pure guess and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman himself believes it is a pure guess. The danger is that you put upon the Corporation, by an estimate of that character, a responsibility which they simply cannot discharge. You are asking them to do something which they cannot do, or at any rate which there is no proof they can do. You are putting pressure upon them which will alter their whole attitude to this scheme and perhaps gravely affect the efficiency of all their work. I cannot stress too much the inadvisability, the unwisdom, of offering anything like hard estimates at this time and expecting the Corporation to carry them through. Take fertilisers. There is no one in Kongwa today who has reached any finality about the right kind of fertilisers, the right quantities of fertilisers, and how to apply them. None of the scientists will tell you that they have, and without that vital evidence in the process of agriculture how can you arrive at any proper estimates at all? I must stress this—although it must be obvious to those brought up among it—agriculture is necessarily a very slow process. It is not like building a factory and producing something by the million. It is very slow. It takes a whole season to grow a crop and one season may not show what is happening. Take these great new schemes in the Southern Provinces. As the Minister said, they have only cleared a relatively small area so far, but nobody yet knows what that land will do when cleared. There has been no proper test of the soil of the Southern Provinces to see how it will react to one method of cultivation or another, or to one kind of fertiliser or another. All these considerations make it certain that progress will be very slow. We have now reached a turning point in this great enterprise. Further development at Kongwa is apparently to come to a stop with its 100,000 acres. Now we are to proceed with full-scale development at Urambo and in the Southern Provinces. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that before he goes full speed ahead in this new direction he really ought to pause. Indeed circumstances will force the Corporation to pause, and, therefore, the policy for which I am asking is bound to take place. Let me illustrate. There has been a lot of talk about the turnover of African labour—that the African labourers stay too short a time. That is true, and it is very expensive. That is one of the reasons for the high costs. The African labourers do not stay long enough. The main reason why they do not is that they have not houses. Why have they not houses? Because at Kongwa it is exceedingly difficult to get the building materials to the spot. I am not blaming the right hon. Gentleman for that. I am only presenting the fact to him. It is a fact we cannot ignore. I do not think we can equip the Southern Provinces or Urambo, as they must be equipped, with the necessary native houses and European houses and all the other supplies under a very considerable period. Therefore, I say it is best to give ourselves an opportunity to reflect before launching forth upon this great new venture. Every great business enterprise would adopt that policy. I do not know of a single private business enterprise that would not at a point like this sit back to consider what it has achieved and the difficulties it has met. It might send one or two experts out to study the conditions, but no business enterprise would dash forward into a vast new undertaking without seeing what were the problems, what had to be learned, and what had been learned from past experience. To follow such a course would be no reflection on the right hon. Gentleman, and still less upon the Overseas Food Corporation. It would be no reflection on them were they to say, "We shall not do anything dramatic now for another year. We shall pause a little and think this thing over." We have heard that it will take 10 years to develop the project fully. Would it not be better to spend one year out of the 10 now making sure that when we do leap forward we leap with all the knowledge and equipment necessary? I am sure that in the end that policy will pay the right hon. Gentleman. I want this scheme to succeed. I believe that unless we develop Africa we shall not hold Africa. I am sure of that. The whole world is looking at this enterprise of ours. There is no use in pretending that the world is admiring our efforts up to now in the groundnut scheme. If it were, this scheme would not be the stock joke of the music halls. Even in South Africa they were laughing at it. I do not like them to laugh at British schemes. I should like our schemes to be successful. I am pleading with the Minister to adopt elementary business prudence, and to look ahead before leaping forward. It is because I want the scheme to succeed, and because I want the next leap to be a success, that I advise this policy. There are a great many things at stake. This is a test of British business ability. We have in the past been criticised by the world, but we have always been regarded as pretty sound businessmen. Here is a test for the whole nation—not only of one party or of the Government, but of the whole nation—and I should not like us to fail in it. It is a test of our capacity as a great country to govern and develop the territories and people for whom we are responsible. It is a great responsibility. In Tanganyika, just before I was there, they had a visit from the United Nations Committee. The House knows how unpopular the report of that committee has been in that country. It is a disgraceful report, a monstrous report. The man who drafted it, I hope, will never again be invited to take an important part in the operations of U.N.O. It is a travesty of everything that is happening in that part of the Commonwealth. We are trustees for Tanganyika under the United Nations. We have to think in terms of the reaction of the United Nations. Tanganyika is a territory for which the whole world is responsible—or for which we are responsible to the whole world—and we have many detractors in the world. We have many critics in U.N.O. as that report clearly showed. I want us to be able to withstand that criticism, and I want to be sure that, when we decide to go ahead on this vast new development we shall proceed with full knowledge, after full thought, with the best equipment available. I say this because I want to be proud of this scheme because I am proud of this Empire.
I shall make a speech tonight very different from the sort of speech I made last Friday. I have been to see the great scheme at Kongwa. I spent the whole time in the fields and in the camps and the workshops. I have nothing but praise for this scheme. This talk about stopping it or holding it up reminds me that for 25 years before the Labour Government came into power nothing was done in Tanganyika on any scale comparable to that of the development we are undertaking now. In very little time we have brought the African boys out of the bush and taught them trades—taught them how to work in the smithies, taught them many things. We have a great crowd of African boys on the job. I am sorry that this has become a political Debate in this House, because out there the last thing that the managers and the people doing the work think of is politics. They are all proud of the job they are doing and want to be left alone to get on with the job. If we hold up the scheme now and send the African boys back into the bush again—which is what we should have to do if we held up the scheme—we shall never be able to start it again.
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has got it quite right. What I suggested was that we should pause before we launch the new scheme. I was not speaking of sacking any man.
I was not referring to the hon. Gentleman at all. I was referring to what other hon. Members have said. The general tendency has been to advise the Government to hold up the advance of this scheme. I hope the Government will not hold up the scheme, but push ahead even more strongly than ever, even if it costs money, because the housewives of this country are crying out for fats. Fats are some of the scarcest commodities in Europe today.It has been said that we have taken no trouble to consult agricultural implement manufacturers about the sort of machinery required. That is absolutely untrue. The President of Massey Harris wrote to me himself, and told me that he had been in Africa at the express wish of the Government, and he would like to get advice from other people who had been out there, so that they could produce the right machinery for that great undertaking. When we started on this scheme we had to take what we could get. There was no agricultural machinery procurable in any part of the world. We took old tractors from the Philippine beaches and turned them into serviceable machines as far as possible. We worked with these and prepared the ground, and later when we get the right machinery we shall be able to make a better job of it. We may have had to wait five or six years until we could get the machinery. Even if we had the machinery, we should have had to experiment, because this is an entirely new job in the world. We had no idea of the class of soil which we had to tackle and no idea of the conditions. When one thinks of the huge boabab trees we had to tear down—six to eight feet in circumference was a small size—
They are hollow.
They are six to eight feet in circumference. That is not a big size for this tree. They may be hollow, but they had to be torn up. They were torn up by these old tree-dozers driven by native workers whom we taught to use them; and that work has been done.
A chain saw would get them down.
Whatever the hon. Gentleman would use, let him go out and use it. I know of the scheme in Virginia. There you have a highly developed part of the world, with all the machinery one requires and they have had trouble with their peanut scheme. We have to look upon this as a great pioneering job. Unless we look upon it as a pioneering job it would be a failure from the start. If we look at it as a purely business enterprise where everything has to be worked to scale we should never have started. Whether the scheme will be a success or a failure time will tell. We should have been up against trouble if we did not anticipate, and nature itself has not been too kind during the years we have been there.There were complaints. I interviewed about 40 managers and inspectors on the spot who had complaints to make. Some of them complained that when they made their contracts in London they were told things which were not true. Some of the people had been promised houses and the houses were not ready, which, of course, caused disappointment. One woman told me that she had been promised a refrigerator. She had not got it and she was disappointed. Other people were told that it was going to be a hard pioneering job and they were satisfied with it. They went out with that idea and they felt quite satisfied. I say to the Minister that when taking on new managers or whoever it may be, he should make it quite clear that this is a hard job. People are settling down under these conditions. I have seen men and their wives living in primitive sorts of tents, getting on with their jobs and feeling satisfied that they were doing a job for our country and for our own welfare. It must be remembered that it may be an expensive business, but whatever the expense, it will be money well invested, because at the present rate of population increase in the world of 20 million a year we have to get on with schemes like this or else there will be wholesale starvation in the world. We are building up a model. Other peoples including the Portuguese in Mozambique and the Dutch in the Congo are already starting groundnut schemes based on our experience. We cannot avoid miscalculation. If we thought we were going into this scheme with everything assured, like a company making sure that the directors got their pay, of course we could do it. We have to take a chance. We took a chance and we are getting on with the job. When I was there the people spoke to me about the visit of the Minister. His visit was highly appreciated. On the other hand, they complained bitterly about the speech made in this House by the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). They told me that he had never been nearer than Salisbury. I do not know whether that is true or not. I am talking about a previous speech which he made in this House and everyone deeply regretted it and regarded it as a scandalous exhibition of ignorance. We have to improve the system of communication from the port. If the port of Dar-es-Salaam is not as good as it should be—and it is not—we are not to blame. We only came into power in 1945. We took over that part of the world in 1918. Why was not the port improved during that quarter of a century? It is much in the same condition that it was when we came into power. The Labour Government cannot be blamed for things that happened before 1945. That is a severe blame which must be laid on the Governments in power before 1945. Not only have we a difficulty in Tanganyika, we have much the same difficulties in West Africa. We could not shift the coconut from Kano on account of bad communications. As soon as we were able to improve communications we were able to get rid of 200,000 tons of groundnuts stored at Kano. With regard to the shifting about of African labour, it shifts about because the African as soon as he has saved up enough money after some eight or nine months goes back to his kraal. In Que Que the experiment has been made of bringing the women to the work, and it has borne very good results; so that if in Kongwa the women were brought alongside the men we should probably find that the men would remain instead of returning so often to their kraals. That is causing much of the hold-up, and I make that suggestion to the Government. I left Kongwa greatly surprised at the enthusiasm everywhere. From the women—the typists, the telephonists, and the other women working there—the only complaint I heard was that they plough through their difficulties to such an extent that they get worn out. Arrangements are being made for them to go to Nairobi once a fortnight, or once every three weeks, where they can get a "hair do," and one or two other things, and come back refreshed. That is the way in which they are looking after these things. I hope that the Government will not retard this scheme, but will push ahead with it. Do not let the money factor impede the progress of the scheme. What the housewives of Britain want is fats, and we shall not get more fats by delaying this scheme which holds out such great promise.
All of us, I think, hope for the success of this scheme, because every taxpayer in this country is a shareholder in it. I was very glad indeed when this scheme started in Tanganyika. because until 1945, when the Germans were beaten, I never felt sure in my own heart whether or not we would hang on to Tanganyika. There were very many people who hoped that Germany would pursue the way of peace and not the way of aggression. I believe that had that been so they would probably by now have regained their lost colonies. Is it any wonder that the British Government itself, that the British capitalists, and indeed capitalists all over the world, fought shy of Tanganyika, and invested thousands of millions of pounds in Malaya, Northern Rhodesia, India, and Burma? Everybody fought shy of Tanganyika because they thought it might be handed back to Germany. I think that there we see the answer to the question as to why the harbours of Tanganyika were not developed.I can speak as a planter. Having seen the opening out of some thousands of acres from virgin jungle, I know something about the cost of clearing the jungle. Had this Blue Book which was originally issued been the first printed prospectus of a plantation, saying that they were going to open it for £25,000, and had they in two or three years said that it would cost £50,000, then, judging by the Cohen Report, they would more likely than not have been put into gaol.
What about the film industry?
Is this scheme to be run to produce fats, as the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Follick) said, or is it to be for welfare only? If it were fats alone of which we were thinking, we might produce them much more cheaply and efficiently in other parts of the world—perhaps in West Africa, or even in our own country. If it were welfare only we might have gone about it in a different way, and we might have had the assistance of other organisations, such as the Salvation Army, who have done such great work in welfare all over the world.I had hoped that when opening any plantation the Government would learn from the experience and failures of others and not depend upon themselves alone. I have seen these schemes go down. I have seen indigo plantations opened out, and the money lost through the discoveries of German chemists and I.C.I. I have seen sisal opened out in India, but Africa and Mexico beat India because they could produce it cheaply; I have seen tung plantations whose cost of production compared very unfavourably with those of America or China; Malaya, of course, produces rubber cheaper than anybody. But how do we know that the price of these fats will be maintained in the next three or four years? There lies the danger. Whatever is opened out in the way of a plantation, the first principles are the same: suitable soil, suitable climate and temperature, and a properly distributed rainfall. From what I have heard in this Debate today, including the speech of the Minister, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman considered those first principles properly. We all know that if we spend £25 million we can grow Arctic plants in the middle of the Sahara. The hon. Member for Loughborough spoke about the movement of African labour. I have seen this turnover of labour, and what we have to do is exactly the same as in the case of the Army, Navy and Air Force. It means seeing that the labour is properly paid and that the amenities of life are provided. It may be necessary to provide houses and space for their cattle. The fact is that we have to make the places popular. With this continuous turnover of labour it is no wonder that the scheme will cost £50 million instead of £25 million. I have heard several Members running down private enterprise in the plantations. I have seen about 100 square miles of territory opened up in India by private enterprise. And look at the rubber plantations in Malaya. It has taken private enterprise only since 1926 to build up the great rubber industry in Malaya. Private enterprise has provided hundreds of millions of pounds, not only to the Exchequer but also to the Governments of other countries like Malaya. I still think there is a chance of saving the British taxpayer's money by allowing private enterprise to play some part in this African development. About 20 men used to get together in a syndicate, each putting up about £200 for 10 years, to undertake this sort of development. The Minister has complained of the hard things that have been said about this scheme, but if he had attended one of the meetings of these syndicates when too much money had been spent, he would have thought today's Debate a mere Sunday school treat. We find people are so careful of their own money that they hardly dare to take a taxi or even spend Christmas Day, but when it comes to public money it is another matter; then they are generous and broad-minded. Look at the maligned British Raj in India. The Government ran the police, the forestry services and saw that the country was not denuded of trees. The civil surgeons looked after the welfare and health of the people, and we had the judges and the deputy-commissioners of the Civil Service. But when it came to the running of the gardens private enterprise had to do it. A Government servant cannot be expected to walk through the gardens and say, "This section wants more nitrogen." Not everyone in the Colonial Office knows how to inspect a groundnut plantation. They might, even, pass sections only cultivated 10 yards from the roadside. The Government might well confine their attention to governing. As an experiment they might hand over some portion of this work to private companies. Mr. John J. McCloy, the President of the International Bank, in a speech in Minnesota in January, said that the bank was there to develop the backward parts of the world and that where any special propositions were made to them they would put up the money for a specific productive project. It would be an excellent thing if British and American capital could be put into these places. The conditions are much easier than they used to be. I have met men who went out into plantations and did not see another European for at least six months. After the discoveries by Sir Ronald Ross that have been made in combating malaria, and with D.D.T., things are much easier than they were 50 years ago. A European on a plantation can look after a thousand Indians, although I admit that they are too many and that 500 would be a much easier number to look after. With 500 men, women and children it is possible to know their names and look upon them as human beings, and not as mere units coming and going from their kraals. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] What is to be the end of it all? I hope that in a few years it will be possible, when travelling over this area by plane, to realise that the scheme is paying dividends to the taxpayers who put their money into it. I hope we shall see modern bungalows, which will have good sanitation. Let us not forget that the modern sanitary engineer has done more to aid the health of the civilised community than even doctors. I hope the area will be developed like the copper mines area in Northern Rhodesia; I hope there will be football grounds, bands, clubs and other such amenities. If that is done will the Minister be called a hero? I do not think so, because "hero" is usually associated with death and destruction. No, like so many others in our Empire who have helped to develop savage people who are half devils, half children, he will be called an exploiter. At any rate, I hope the scheme will be a success, although I fear it has had a very wasteful and extravagant start.
I am sure the House will agree that we have just listened to a very important speech from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles), who has spent many years of his life, in tropical conditions, developing the outlying parts of the Empire. Despite many of the interjections in tones of surprise from the benches opposite we must all agree that we have listened to one who has spoken with considerable experience. [HON. MEMBERS: "There were no interjections."] Yes, there were interjections of surprise when my hon. and gallant Friend said that it was possible for the person in charge of a plantation of 500 natives to pay personal attention to their welfare, and take the trouble to know their names.This Debate has been unsatisfactory in a great many ways. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Captain Crookshank) opened it very fairly, I think; he stated his case without exaggeration. He asked the Minister a number of leading questions and might have expected the right hon. Gentleman, during his one and a half hour's speech, to have answered some of those questions. My right hon. and gallant Friend also detailed what should now be done in connection with the scheme but, again, the Minister skated around the whole subject and paid little attention to the job of providing an answer. Indeed, what the Minister put up was nothing more than an elaborate smoke-screen. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that I once had the privilege of meeting him in North Africa, when he was engaged as a public relations officer, during the war. I thought his performance today was typical of a public relations officer. He attempted to make the best of a very bad job. The right hon. Gentleman may also remember that I had the pleasure of giving him a very good Christmas dinner at Medjez el Bab, in a caravan which was disguised as a haystack. He may remember that sucking pig was on the menu, and that he did not inquire where the sucking pig came from. The right hon. Gentleman had to find out in December, 1942, why it was that the Army with air support had failed to capture Tunis. The right hon. Gentleman went back to England and told a tale which uplifted the morale of the British people, but, in fact, it was a slight disguise of the situation as he found it in North Africa. In the same way we have this public relations officer technique displayed before us in this House in an effort by the Minister to try to make into a success what he himself recognises has been a shocking failure. Out of his speech of an hour and a half the only points of major importance were that apparently 2 million acres are going to grow the same amount of oil as 3¼ million acres were going to grow; that the proposal to develop 450,000 acres at Kongwa has now to be abandoned and we are to develop 90,000 acres instead; that the scheme is going to cost double but the profits will be double; and it will take twice as long, but maybe that does not matter, because at the end of that time he hopes the original target, as forecast in Command Paper 7030, will be achieved. In the latter part of his speech he took an awfully long time to tell us what he told us in July last year. The House would have gained some detailed appreciation of the difficulties facing this groundnut scheme if the Minister had got down to the job and told us what the real problems were. In fact, we were never told in his speech what these problems are. The Minister accused the Press and the Opposition of raising wild hopes about margarine and so on. That is a little ingenuous of him. He said, "I have never raised any wild hopes nor have my colleagues," and he was rather surprised when his Parliamentary Secretary said that extravagant hopes had been raised but she did not say that they had been raised by the Opposition. Why has the right hon. Gentleman been responsible for arousing wild hopes? It is because the Government published Command Paper 7030 and the public read that by 1951–52 there were going to be 1,605,000 acres of groundnuts planted, and that even before that substantial crops would be grown. The public from the moment that the Command Paper was published had great hopes from this scheme. I shall not bother to read parts of the Command Paper, because the right hon. Gentleman knows it perfectly well, but I would refer him to paragraph 3 of page 4. There the Government announced their intention to proceed with the scheme because they were convinced that the Mission's recommendations were correct when it said that it was an agriculturally sound scheme of reasonable proportions, not involving unjustifiable financial risks, and that labour difficulties would not present themselves. The fact is that in that paragraph the Government were attempting to sell this scheme to the people of this country. No wonder that the hopes of the housewife were, in fact, raised by this rosy prospect of increased fats available at such a short date ahead. Most of the hon. Members on the back benches opposite have been doing their best to back up their Minister of Food. Some of them did it less convincingly than others. The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) appeared to take the argument of the right hon. Gentleman lock, stock and barrel and to think it perfect. The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) was not quite so happy. He felt that there was little sign at the moment that the Africans were getting much out of the scheme and that the improvement of the condition of the African population was being neglected. He also went so far as to suggest that it might be a good thing if the right hon. Gentleman would do something more to encourage the development of groundnuts in West Africa. That was about the only dissentient voice from the other side. On this side we have had a number of very carefully considered and moderate speeches. They have not stressed our case too highly. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) put a number of most telling questions which did not tally with some of the statements made by the Minister in his opening speech. I believe that the Minister will answer the Debate and I hope that he has taken very careful note of those points, otherwise we shall not know where we are. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southport has just come back from Tanganyika, and he appears to speak with a very different voice from that of the right hon. Gentleman, who has been in Whitehall since last July. The chief argument from the Opposition is that our attitude is exactly as it has always been. We supported the scheme in its conception and we wished it Godspeed. We were extremely anxious and nervous at the rapidity with which the decisions were taken and we asked for detailed accounts of how it was going on. Although those accounts were originally promised to us, unfortunately they have not been forthcoming as regularly as they ought to have been. As soon as the pattern of events began to develop the Opposition became gravely concerned. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that we are trying to smear the scheme or that we are trying to smear the efforts of the men who are trying to work it. It is our duty to find out what is going on and it is also our duty to find out what is going wrong. Most certainly we have not heard that today from the Minister of Food. I want briefly to catalogue the series of incredible mistakes which have been made since the scheme started. They have been mentioned by my two right hon. Friends and by many of my hon. Friends. First of all, this was to be a mechanised scheme, a military operation, and it was to be based on the modern tractor and the full use of mechanised operations in agriculture. The reason why the scheme was accepted and why it appealed to the Minister of Food was that it would give such quick results, but not until after it had been started was it found that no suitable machinery existed. When that discovery was made, through his agency the right hon. Gentleman had to scour the second-hand markets of the world. He had to go to the Philippines and elsewhere to find these second-hand war stores of American origin. They arrived in the most appalling condition. I was at Kongwa a year ago—I left about 7th March—and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that when I was there the total number of tractors available was something like 325 and not one was engaged on jungle clearance. Four had been reconditioned, and they were doing work on the roads and the railway. At last some workshop organisation was set up and it was possible to start repairing them. The decision of the management on the spot was to bring the whole lot in rather than to have them all breaking down regularly as they had been doing during the first few months that they were there. It was not surprising that, having discovered that second-hand machinery and having got it there, it would be necessary to build up an efficient maintenance organisation. That was not done. It was also, presumably, not beyond the power of imagination to realise that if one brings in vast amounts of machinery and stores one needs a port and adequate railway facilities to lift the stock from the port to the scene of operations. The right hon. Gentleman says that owing to the energy and skill of Sir Philip Mitchell that matter is being put right. I agree with his complimentary references to Sir Philip Mitchell. He is indeed a knowledgeable and efficient man. There could be no better adviser to help the Minister. All I would ask is why was not Sir Philip brought in sooner to advise the Minister? Why was this bottleneck allowed to develop in Dar-es-Salaam, and why was it that only when the fait accompli faced the Minister, did he seek the advice of Sir Philip to bring the whole Tanganyika railway set-up and ports under a different organisation? We all know that the bush proved far more intractable than at first anticipated. We know that that was not surprising because no proper survey had been taken by the time the signal had been given to go ahead. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southport made a good point. He said that in nine weeks men succeeded in surveying 3,250,000 acres and chose these as the area on which this scheme was to be based. In his speech the Minister did not mention a subject which had not been foreseen and which, as far as I know, has not yet been dealt with. I refer to the subject of root clearance. In our last Debate there was a great deal of talk about root clearance. We were told that a prototype machine was being assembled and it was hoped that some satisfactory solution would be found. But I understand, and my information is a letter from the Corporation, that even now, eight months after the Debate which took place in July, the Corporation cannot honestly say that they have in fact found the satisfactory solution to this most formidable problem. The next great mistake was that, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, adequate note was not taken of advice from men who knew Africa. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down brought out that point as did the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). This scheme is doubted by all who have spent their life in Africa and who know about the conditions of farming there. I would say that almost without exception that is a fair statement of fact. It is not because they are so backward in farming in Africa, but because they understand and respect their Continent far more than the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food. Sir Godfrey Huggins, one of the great men of the Empire, is now embarking on a great scheme of land reclamation in the Sabi river valley where he hopes to bring into cultivation almost one-third of additional land compared with what is already cultivated in Rhodesia. The Sabi river valley scheme is almost as big as the groundnut scheme in its conception. Sir Godfrey's approach to the problem is to start a pilot scheme, to provide the communications then to bring up the stores, the mechanisation, the instruments and so on, which he will need to make the scheme operate. He is not going to run before he can walk. but that is the great mistake which I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman has made repeatedly in his handling of the groundnut scheme. The Minister blandly informed us today that two million acres was going to do the job of 3,250,000 acres because they had suddenly discovered a new method of rotation. They are now going to have a 10-year rotation, instead of the original four-year rotation, and they are going to grow sunflowers for three years and groundnuts for five years. How can the Minister possibly say that it will work? What possible justification has he for saying that until 10 years have gone? How can he say that this is the target which he is going to achieve? This was certainly the impression that he gave us. I am not suggesting that he should wait for 10 years. One has to remember that it is not only hon. Members of this House but the great public outside, and indeed the world, which listens to him, and if they are thinking that he has the solution for largely increasing production from the acreage with which he is dealing in Tanganyika, he is certainly merely guessing and speculating rather hopefully. Emphasis has been laid on the fact that insufficient attention has been paid in the carrying out of the scheme to the provision of decent living conditions for both the white people and the Africans. Again, it was a grave error of the Minister in trying to speed things up more quickly than he could successfully manage, because these difficult living conditions have not made for efficiency. They have compelled people to live in conditions which I do not think this Government should have asked them to withstand for so long. Finally, the other great mistake made by the Minister was to hurry on with the cry for groundnuts at any cost. I feel that the men on the spot must have felt continuously harassed by demands from Whitehall that they must produce results, whatever the real problems may be. My summary of the situation is that the Minister plunged wildly into darkest Africa, thinking that he would be able to bulldoze his way to success. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher), who is very knowledgeable about Africa, but who is not in his place at the moment, is particularly interested in the bulldozer, which he thinks is applicable to the right hon. Gentleman and to hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite. They like the bulldozer, and that is not surprising, because the definition of a bulldozer by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury is that it is "a large, noisy, expensive machine used in levelling." It is quite clear that the Minister wished this venture to be a sensational triumph for Socialist planning. This is the first time that the Socialist Party have discovered the British Empire. They have ignored the tea they got from Ceylon, the rubber that comes from Malaya, the great agricultural experiments in the Sudan, and all the things which, in fact, have been done in the Empire in the past, and here was their great chance to prove that they had discovered the Empire. As the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said during the Second Reading Debate on the Overseas Development Bill, they would wipe the slate clean and start afresh. That was the mentality which imbued the right hon. Gentleman when he approached this scheme. I feel that the Minister's overoptimism, his lack of judgment and his bad generalship has so far deluded the housewife. There is going to be no extra margarine for her, unless the right hon. Gentleman can give us some indication that, in fact, this small amount which he hopes to get will actually have some effect on the ration. In addition to that, by insisting on speed at all costs, he has given the men on the spot an impossible directive. My point is—and, having been there, I entirely agree with much that was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport—that these men have had a bad directive. It is not their fault that they have not been able to achieve what was expected of them. They have done their best to achieve an impossible target, working under conditions of great hardship, personal discomfort and innumerable difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman has done his best to break their hearts. I feel that this House owes them a great debt of gratitude, and a great respect for what they have so far succeeded in doing. I also feel that, as far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, he has never given them a fair deal. We on this side of the House are certain that the time has come for us to think again. [Laughter.] I am delighted that at last I have moved the Government back benchers from the support of their Front Bench. We feel that by the events of the last two years the original bases of this scheme have been swept away, and that the conception of land development, of Imperial development, and of the extension of new land and increased production within the Empire is an ideal which this House should do its best to support. We must get away from this groundnuts nomenclature; it has done more to kill this scheme than anything else. We know that we are not going to devote ourselves entirely to the growing of groundnuts, and that, indeed, a far greater acreage is already planted with sunflower. Let us view it as a great land development scheme, and let us bury the word "groundnuts." Do not let us stick to a name which has already proved a failure. I feel that the Committee of Enquiry has a big job to do. It has to examine the lessons learned so far, and it has to see that the land which has been celared, or which will have been cleared by the end of this year, is, in fact, properly farmed. It has to investigate the possibilities of working out means as to how this land shall be farmed by private enterprise as well as by the State. The argument that the dust bowl would be prevented only by State farming is nonsense. It cannot be said that the right hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary would not impose farming conditions on people to whom they let the land in order to see that they kept up the ordinary standards of good husbandry. We suggest that large-scale clearing operations should cease, and that every effort should be made to go ahead with the construction of the port at Mikindani and with the railway at Lindi. We feel that, for the first time, an effort should be made to put the horse before the cart instead of, as has happened up to now, putting the cart before the horse. By building up a proper communication system, one is able to develop a country and give any development scheme a proper chance. I have attempted to give the reasons why we on this side of the House intend this evening to go into the Lobby and vote against the right hon. Gentleman for his disastrous and clumsy handling of a scheme which, in its aims, has had and always will have our undivided approval.—[Laughter.] The conceit of hon. Members opposite at having suddenly discovered the Empire is astounding. They must have some charity in their hearts; they must realise that something happened before their advent, about the creation of the greatest Empire in the world, and that, perhaps, the Tory Party had rather more to do with it than they had. As I was saying, we intend to vote against the Estimate because we feel that our resources are being squandered by the Minister of Food. We feel that in a financial situation such as we are facing at the moment, Imperial development, or Commonwealth development as some hon. Members opposite may like to call it, cannot be achieved unless we get the maximum and the most efficient use of those capital goods and materials which are available. That is the really important point. We cannot afford waste at a moment such as this. We are losing not only money, but skill, raw materials and capital goods. We have no hesitation in saying that the Minister of Food deserves censure, and we intend to show it by our vote.
I shall use the time which remains to go through point by point, if I can, the various questions and criticisms which have been raised in this Debate. I shall come straight away to the speech of the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). He began by saying something which I confess I somewhat resent. He said that it was mean of me to attack Mr. Wakefield or the Wakefield Report. Well, my speech is in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and the House will be able to judge for itself, but I am quite sure that anybody who reads what I said this afternoon cannot possibly read into it any such thing as an attack on Mr. Wakefield or the Wakefield Report.What I did say was what I am sure Mr. Wakefield would himself say—that in that Report there were forecasts of speed of development, availability of materials and the like which have not been realised. What bitter complaints I should have had from right hon. Gentlemen opposite if I had denied that fact or pretended that every one of the estimates and forecasts given in that report was being fulfilled to the letter. If it is to attack that report to say that there were miscalculations in it, I certainly do not understand the meaning of the word "attack."
May I make the point clear? The Minister himself accepted that scheme; he took it up on his own responsibility and made certain alterations which appear on page 9 of the White Paper.
I am coming to that. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the Wakefield Report was ever checked in the Colonial Office and in the Ministry of Food. The answer to that, of course, is: Yes, in both places. The report of the special section of the Ministry of Food which was set up for the purpose was published at the same time as the Wakefield Report was published, and the special section report made quite important alterations and modifications in the original Wakefield Report.
On a point of Order. Might I ask why the Minister of Food is addressing the House twice in one day without asking permission, Mr. Speaker? The Colonial Secretary and his Under-Secretary are here. The Minister of Food has not even done us the courtesy to ask our permission. Might I ask why he is speaking twice in one Debate?
I apologise. I should have asked the permission of the House to speak again.The next point made by the right hon. Member for Southport was that some part of the Wakefield Report had been suppressed; that was appendix A of the Report.
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Food has not yet asked the permission of yourself or of the House to speak a second time. If he will have the courtesy to do that, we shall try to listen to him.
I thought that just now when he was reminded, the Minister did ask permission. Of course, it is always up to the House if they do not want to hear him, to refuse permission.
I hope the House will permit me to reply because many hon. Members have made points in which they have asked me very direct questions and I think it would be unfair to them if they did not get a reply from me on the subject.A very direct challenge was made to me by the right hon. Member for Southport when he asked me, and suggested dark and devious reasons, why appendix A of the Wakefield Report had been suppressed. I confess that I wondered myself and I looked for a copy of the full, original report. When I got it, and I have it before me, I found that appendix A, which is here, is the itinerary of the party; their journeys from London to Dar-es-Salaam; from Dar-es-Salaam to Tabora and from Tabora to other places which I cannot pronounce—Moshi and the like—and there is a long list of places to which the party went. I assure him there is nothing very mysterious or difficult in that and if he would like to read that appendix, I shall be delighted to show it to him.
And the others?
Appendix B? It is on the assumptions in the report, and that may have been the one to which he is referring. I have read it and that, too, contains nothing which is not in the general text of the report. I should be delighted to show him that as well. Those are the only appendices. The next thing which the right hon. Gentleman suggested was that somebody—it cannot have been me, as I was not in my present office at the time—had set a limit of nine weeks to the Wakefield Mission in which they had to report. I understand that is completely untrue; no time limit was set for them to complete their labours.The right hon. Gentleman referred to the subject of water supplies, mainly, I believe, of drinking water or water for personal use. He made some great point about that, suggesting that we should have known whether the boreholes which had been put down in the various areas would bear water or not. About 50 per cent. of those boreholes have proved fruitful of water and about 50 per cent. have not and in each of the areas I think there will be a piped water supply as well as a supply of water from the bore-holes. It does not seem to me that that is a very terrible thing or that there is a great point in it one way or the other. It is perfectly true that there will be a certain expenditure on pipes bringing the water supply from the well, the dam or the river or other permanent source, but there is nothing more to it than that. As a matter of fact the pipes are there already. The next point made both by the right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members was that no experimental work was done. Nothing could be more untrue than that. When the advance party arrived under the Managing Agency one of their first jobs was to establish in each of the three areas experimental plots, each of them divided up into hundreds of different subsections where the different crops are grown. Nothing could he more untrue than to say that all this development is being undertaken without the most elaborate scientific experimental work. The right hon. Gentleman next told us that Kenya and Northern Rhodesia turned the scheme down. That also is a most curious misrepresentation. I discussed the matter with Sir Philip Mitchell and he expressed extreme willingness for us to go to Kenya. Far from turning it down, he was bitterly disappointed when our experts came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that there were no suitable sites available in Kenya and that the thing could not be done. Far from the Kenya Government turning the thing down I had what were almost complaints from the Kenya Government at our not being able to go ahead there. In the same way a good deal of pressure—and I welcomed the pressure—came from the Northern Rhodesian Government that we should go ahead there. Frankly, I think we have as much on our plate in Tanganyika as we can manage now, and I do not think it would have been a good idea to have extended the scheme into those other two very distant areas with only the present managerial and supervisory staff. I do not think it would have been a good idea partly because the soil is not very suitable, it was discovered, and partly because of the staff difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he found nothing being done in the way of training of the Africans at Kongwa. It is true that at the moment the training is not being mainly done at Kongwa.
I said nothing of the kind.
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say so. It is within the memory of the House. I thought he used the word "nothing." At any rate, he said that insufficient work was being done for the Africans. What are they getting out of it? he asked. "Nothing," I thought he said. He may have been unaware that the technical training is not at the moment being given at Kongwa.
The right hon. Gentleman ought not to misrepresent me to that extent. I said, on the contrary, that the men—and I gave examples—were being trained, and that the training was being wasted.
The right hon. Gentleman came to that, but he did also state, as I understood him, that nothing was being effectively done for the uplifting of the level of the technical education and training of the Africans. However, it is not being done at Kongwa but at another place, Ifunda. The training will be done in due course at Kongwa and in the areas.He then went on to say that 400 men, tractor drivers, at Kongwa were no longer employed by Pauling's. He said that they had become redundant. I am not sure that it is the case that none can be found other employment at Kongwa, though some may have been asked to move to Urambo and the southern province, but the fact that 400 tractor drivers had become unnecessary at a particular place would not prove a difficult thing. The right hon. Gentleman spoke repeatedly—I made a careful note of this —of the "closing down" of Kongwa, saying that Kongwa was being closed down. After all, 50,000 acres have been brought under cultivation this year. At the very least it is proposed to go ahead at Kongwa up to 100,000 acres. The proposal to double the area at present under cultivation before there is any suggestion of even stopping at Kongwa does not suggest that there is anything very immediate or drastic about the closing down of Kongwa. What is possible—probable, I think—is that the development of the scheme at Kongwa will be limited to about 100,000 to 150,000 acres. Is it closing down a place where we have cultivated 50,000 acres to say we shall probably need to go to 100,000 or 150,000 acres? We are merely chopping words there. A similar argument was the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that I had said that it would be necessary to cultivate a million acres or 1,500,000 acres to provide freight for the new railway and port facilities. Again it will be within the recollection of the House that I said nothing of the sort. What I did say was that the present estimate of the Overseas Food Corporation is that we should need an acreage of that order of magnitude to make production under the whole scheme economic, and to pay a good return on the fixed capital which is being invested in all the three areas. That is the Corporation's calculation. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of West Africa, and told us that we ought to have developed the production of groundnuts there as an alternative. The development of groundnut production in West Africa is of the utmost importance and it is going on. The crop there is a record crop this year. The area under cultivation is steadily extending. But none of this production is alternative production to East African production. We need every ton of those oils and fats from both East and West Africa. It is a most curious error to present the West African production as an alternative to East African production. Finally, he said that the way to really get the best out of groundnut protection in West Africa and elsewhere was to give the producers a guaranteed market. I think that there is a great deal in that. I am delighted by the repeated signs of the wholesale conversion on the other side of the House to bulk purchase, longterm contracts and all the things which we have been preaching on this side for so long. Our propaganda work is going very fast indeed. There has been nothing like it since the wholesale conversion to Christianity of the Saxons in the dark ages. The speed of that conversion has been tremendous, and I think that it is a very good thing indeed that the right hon. Gentleman takes that view. I can assure him that we are giving these guaranteed markets to the West African producers of groundnuts. Now I come to the speech of the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who made several important points as to what the scheme is doing for the Africans. Let me assure him that I am quite sure that in very simple but very important ways the scheme is here and now, and not as some promise in the future, doing a great deal for the Africans of the areas concerned. It is doing this very simple thing: It is giving them, for the first time in their lives, really sufficient food. They all put on weight when they join the scheme. One sees them eating far more freely than they have ever eaten before in their lives. The same progress is true of the health and education facilities. I believe that because this is not a philanthropic scheme, started purely and solely for the African's benefit, but is a scheme started for the economic development of a great area of the world in the long run, that it will bring the solidest and best assistance to the African population. The hon. Member for North Croydon (Mr. Frederic Harris) asked why we were growing maize there. I said that under the method of rotation of crops, it was proposed to have about one-fifth of the area in non-oilseed crops at any given time, and maize, I think, may prove one of the most suitable of those crops. There were about 2,000 acres suitable for production in the area of Kongwa this year, and maize was planted on it. He also asked if a financial delegation was sent out last autumn and reported that the cost of clearing 30,000 acres was £1 million. There was no such delegation. He also asked on what basis I made my statement that the scheme would cost £50 million and would it not cost much more. I made no statement that the scheme would cost £50 million. It depends on the speed with which development is undertaken. I said that the cost would be kept, and must be kept, in the nature of things, within the borrowing powers of the Overseas Food Corporation, which are £50 million for all purposes, including the Queensland scheme as well as the groundnut scheme. He was very sceptical about my statement that there would be a contribution towards our supplies of margarine this year from the scheme. He asked how much it would be. The crop has just been planted. It is coming up now, and it will not be harvested for many months. To expect me to tell him the exact tonnage which will be reached at this stage is a completely unfair request.
The Minister said in the House three or four weeks ago that the scheme had made a contribution to the margarine ration. Is it so difficult to ask what that contribution is?
It is not difficult to ask, but it is quite unreasonable to ask what the actual tonnage of the harvest is, just after the crop has been sown. Hon. Gentlemen opposite pride themselves on being great agriculturists, and, if they think that they can estimate the tonnage to be produced by a crop which has just been planted, then they are not agriculturists but crystal gazers.
The Minister's right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is doing this, as far as O.E.E.C. is concerned, four years ahead.
I really do not see any point in that intervention. Is it suggested that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or anyone else, is estimating the yield of crops in some part of the world?
Yes, four years ahead.
He has set a programme of expansion for British agriculture, of course, which is a totally different thing, and has nothing to do with the subject under discussion.The next questions from the hon. Member for North Croydon were about senior executive officers who had either been dismissed or had resigned. He instanced several. I can tell him about these gentlemen. He instanced the chief medical officer: he has just returned to the Army, because he was only seconded to us for two years; he had to return to the Army, and very sorry we were that he should go. The hon. Member then asked about the chief accountant: as far as I know, there has been only one chief accountant in the scheme the whole time, and he is still on the job. Then there was the chief supply officer: yes, it is true that he had a breakdown in health; I met him myself when I was out there; unfortunately he had to leave the scheme. Then there was the chief personnel officer: he is still on the job in the scheme. Those are the four officers to whom the hon. Member referred.
Apart from that, his information was perfectly accurate.
Now I come to the speech of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart). He said many things with which I am in agreement, but because my time is short I must emphasise those on which I was not in agreement. He suggested—and these were the words he used—that some mad tempo had been imposed by me or other wicked people in the Government or in Whitehall upon the scheme. That suggestion was also made by the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) and others. I most earnestly and categorically deny that either I or any of my colleagues, or anyone else in Whitehall, has imposed some sort of unreasonable tempo or speed of development on this scheme. That is simply not the case. Of course, we all wish and hope that the scheme can develop as fast as possible. Who does not? But to suggest that we have ever attempted to drive the Corporation or the managing agency at an unreasonable speed is simply not the case, and I do somewhat resent the reiterated accusation that that is so.From that accusation the hon. Member passed to urging me, as did other hon. Members, that we should now pause, that we should call a halt, especially before beginning clearing operations in the south. Well, as I think he himself said, it is necessary that the railway and the port in the south should reach, not completion but a stage where they can be operated before we can do large-scale clearing of the south, and that will involve waiting till this time next year before large-scale operations go on in the south. That is perfectly true. But to pause more than we need would surely be the height of folly. He also suggested that somehow we should think again about methods of clearing. But one does not learn methods of clearing except by doing the job. These things cannot be learned by thinking about them. They can be learned only in practice as the job goes on—and at Kongwa, in the Western Province, and on a small scale in the south, that job will go on. There has been established an operational research unit which, in the same way as was done in the Services in the war, studies the methods of clearing and the use of the tractors so that the very best use is got out of them. The periodicity with which they ought to be overhauled, and all the rest of it, can only be learned while the job is going on. One does not learn anything until having plunged into the bush and really begun doing the job; that is when new methods begin to emerge. It is perfectly true, as the hon. Member said, that the 10 years' rotation of crops, which I put before the House today, may well not be the last word; it may be changed; as we go forward many changes in production or new crops may be brought in. I have never suggested for one moment anything else. But I do suggest that this idea of the Corporation pausing for a year, and that private organisations would do it, is very far from the possibilities of the case. A private business would be ruined if it paused for a year—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly, and that is why we do not intend to do so for one moment. All the overheads would go on and no revenue would come in. A very great loss would be sustained, and we do not intend that anything of the sort should happen any more than would a private business. Managing directors might well be in prison if they accepted the advice given to them by hon. Members opposite; more ruinous advice I can hardly imagine. I come now to the hon. and gallant Member for Down (Sir W. Smiles). He contrasted very unfavourably this development under public ownership with the development we have had in parts of the Commonwealth under private ownership. He instanced the Malaya rubber industry, and I was grateful to him for giving the figures. Look at Malaya, he said. It has only taken from 1906 to the present day to develop the rubber industry in Malaya. That is 43 years, and I do not think it is a long time in developing a great industry of that sort. But why is he complaining so bitterly because we are faced with the fact that this scheme may take 10 years? That did not seem to be a very good argument. He did, of course, reveal in the end the pressure we are under, and that is to hand the scheme over to private enterprise. Quite frankly, so long as we are responsible for this scheme that will never be done.
Division No. 82.]
|Acland, Sir Richard||Butler, H. W.(Hackney, S.)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Byers, Frank||Ewart, R.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Callaghan, James,||Farthing, W. J.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Castle, Mrs B. A.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Champion, A. J.||Field, Capt W. J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Chetwynd, G. R||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Cobb, F A.||Follick, M|
|Awbery, S. S.||Coldrick, W||Foot M. M.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Collick, P||Freeman, J. (Watford)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Collindridge, F.||Ganley, Mrs. C S|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Collins, V J.||Gibbins, J.|
|Baird, J.||Colman, Miss G. M||Gibson, C. W.|
|Balfour, A.||Comyns, Dr. L.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Cooper, G||Goodrich, H. E.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)|
|Barton, C.||Crawley, A||Grey C. F.|
|Battley, J. R.||Daines, P||Grierson, E.|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Dalton, Rt. Hon H.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Benson, G||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon J. (Llanelly)|
|Berry, H.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden|
|Bing, G. H. C||Deer, G.||Gunler, R J.|
|Binns, J||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hale, Leslie|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Delargy, H. J.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Diamond, J.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Boardman, H.||Dodds, N. N||Hardy, E A|
|Bottomley, A. G||Donovan, T.||Hastings, Dr Somerville|
|Bowden, Flg Offr H W.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Herbison, Miss M|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Dumpleton, C W.||Hewitson, Capt M|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Holman, P|
|Broughton. Dr. A. D. D.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Hudson, J H (Ealing, W.)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Hughes, Emrys (S Ayr)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
Finally, I come to the speech of the hon. Member for Woodbridge in winding up for the Opposition. It is true that I met him once in what appeared to be a haystack in North Africa. He said that my reports on that campaign to the public when I came back were over-optimistic. But I think he does himself and his comrades-in-arms less than justice. After all, shortly after I gave these reports the Army in which he was a gallant officer did go forward and take Tunis. And so the reports I gave when I returned were not so overoptimistic. In that case, just as with this scheme, Tunis was taken all right after many checks and difficulties; in the same way the groundnut scheme and the men working on the scheme will also accomplish their objective. [ Interruption.] These are really such cheap sneers. The depths to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough sinks are abysmal. The last thing we were told was that we owed a debt of gratitude to the men working on the spot. All I can say is that the hon. Member and his friends are not paying that debt by telling them that their efforts may be useless.
Question put, "That '£832,066,000' stand part of the Resolution."
The House divided: Ayes, 231; Noes, 113.
|Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Stamford, W|
|Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Steele, T|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P. J. (Derby)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Janner, B.||Oliver, G. H.||Strachey, Rt Hon J|
|Jay, D P T.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Stress, Dr. B|
|Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon Edith|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Pargiter, G. A.||Sylvester, G O|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C (Shipley)||Parkin, B. T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnel)|
|Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Peart, T. F.||Thomas, D E. (Aberdare)|
|Jones, P Asterley (Hitchin)||Poole, Cecil (Lichfield)||Thomas, I O. (Wrekin)|
|Keenan, W||Popplewell, E.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Kendall, W D||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Titterington, M F|
|King, E M||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tolley, L.|
|Lee, F (Hulme)||Price, M. Philips||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Leslie, J R||Proctor, W. T.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pursey, Comdr, H.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Longden, F.||Randall, H E.||Viant, S. P.|
|Lyne, A W.||Ranger, J.||Walker, G. H.|
|McAdam, W.||Rees-Willams, D R||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamslow, E.)|
|McEntee, V La T||Reeves, J||Watkins, T. E.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Reid, T (Swindon)||Wells, P L. (Faversham)|
|Mack, J. D||Rhodes, H.||Wells, W T (Walsall)|
|McKay J. (Wallsend)||Ridealgh, Mrs M.||West, D. G|
|McLeavy, F.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Wheatley. Rt Hn John (Edinb'gh. E.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Macpherson, T (Romford)||Roberts, W (Cumberland, N.)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W|
|Mallalieu, J P W (Huddersfield)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wigg, George|
|Manning, C (Camberwell, N.)||Sargood, R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Scott-Elliot, W.||Willey, F T (Sunderland)|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Segal, Dr. S||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Mellish, R. J||Shackleton, E. A A.||Williams, Rt Hon. T (Don Valley)|
|Messer, F||Shawcross, C N (Widnes)||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Middleton, Mrs. L||Shawcross, Rt. Hn Sir H. (St. Helens)||Willis, E|
|Mikardo, Ian||Shurmer, P||Wills, Mrs E A|
|Millington, Wing-Comdr E. R||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon A|
|Mitchison, G. R||Simmons, C J||Woods, G S|
|Monslow, W.||Skeffington, A. M||Wyatt, W|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Skinnard, F W||Yates, V F|
|Morris, Lt.-Col H. (Sheffield, C.)||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Young, Sir R (Newton)|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Moyle, A.||Smith, S H (Hull, S. W.)|
|Murray, J. D||Sorensen, R W|
TELLERS FOR THE AYES
|Naylor, T. E.||Sparks, J. A||Mr. Snow and Mr. G. Wallace.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Amory, D Heathcoat||Glyn, Sir R.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Assheton, Rt Hon R||Gridley, Sir A.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Astor, Hon M||Grimston, R. V.||Renton, D.|
|Baldwin, A E||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)|
|Baxter, A B||Hare, Hon J. H. (Woodbridge)||Robinson, Roland|
|Beamish, Maj. T V H||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Birch, Nigel||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col D. C. (Wells)||Haughton, S. G.||Sanderson, Sir F|
|Bossom, A C||Hogg, Hon, Q.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Bower, N||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J A||Hudson, Rt Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Smithers, Sir W|
|Braithwaite, Lt "Comdr J.G.||Hurd, A.||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt "Col. W||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Stanley, Rt. Hon O.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G T||Keeling, E. H.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)|
|Butcher, H. W||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Stuart, Rt. Hon J. (Moray)|
|Carson, E.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Challen, C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T||Taylor, Vice-Adm. 'E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Channon, H||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Corbett, Lieut "Col. U. (Ludlow)||Low, A. R. W.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P (Monmouth)|
|Crookshank, Capt Rt. Hon. F. C.||Lucas, Major Sir J||Thornten-Kemsley, C. N|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C||Touche, G. C.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Dodds-Parker, A D.||MacLeod, J.||Wakefield, Sir W. W|
|Dower, Col A. V. G. (Penrith)||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Duthie, W. S.||Marlowe, A A H||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset, E)|
|Eccles, D M.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Foster, J. G (Northwich)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fraser, H C. P (Stone)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Young, Sir A. S. L, (Partick)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale.)||Neven-Spence, Sir B|
|Gage, C||Nield, B. (Chester)|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D (Potlok)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Mr. Studholme and Major Conant.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
Resolution agreed to.