House Of Commons
Friday, 6th May, 1949
The House met at Eleven o'Clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Consolidation Of Enactments (Procedure) Bill Lords
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."It is evidently not given either to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) or myself this morning,
but I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend and I together—because I apprehend that we shall agree about this Bill—will persuade you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, that this really is a, commendable little Bill. It is a procedural Bill, a technical Bill, which is intended to provide machinery, if not to reform the statute law, at any rate to facilitate tidying it up. We have, from time to time, commented on the deplorable and chaotic state of the Statute Book and the uncertainty of our law generally, circumstances which are exemplified by the fact that the Court of Appeal now sits in four divisions and is at present heavily over-burdened with work. Two of the main criticisms which I think may be directed against our laws are these. First, in many fields—I am going to refer to one or two in particular—the law itself is extremely unclear. Secondly, I think it can be said of certain branches of it that, even when the law has been clarified, whether by the process of codification or that of going up to the Supreme Appellant Tribunal, the substance of it not infrequently requires reform. This Bill, of course, deals only with the question of clarification. In many cases, in order to ascertain what the law may be on a particular point, it is necessary to examine a dozen or more different statutes, all dealing with the same matter. In connection, for instance, with the solemnization of marriage—and I take that subject because that is one of the branches of our law which will be affected by this Bill if the House passes it—there are no fewer than 32 different Acts of Parliament or Measures of the Church Assembly affecting different aspects, and most of them, indeed, the same aspect, of this field of law. Many of the statutes, not only in regard to that matter, but in regard, I am afraid, to many others which are still on the Statute Book, ought really to go altogether, either because they are completely obsolete or archaic, or because the ground has been substantially covered by later Measures. I am not saying, of course, that even if all the statutes dealing, for instance, with the law of marriage, or any other particular field of law, were brought together in a single statute—and that is the purpose of the consolidation of the statute—the law would be clear. There might, of course, still be innumerable judicial decisions and interpretations to be taken into account, and even when that had been done the law as finally ascertained might be quite inappropriate to modern circumstances. In the process of improving and clarifying the state of the law generally—and it is very important that it should be improved because, in certain fields, in which charities is one, and I think the law relating to Revenue matters is another, it really is in a shocking state—there are two necessary stages, the first one, the consolidation of the existing statute law, and, the second, the reform and codification of the law as it ought to be. This Bill is concerned with the first of these two processes—the consolidation process. In 1947 His Majesty's Government initiated steps which were intended in time—because this is a lengthy process —to reduce the state of the Statute Book at least to some form of order, although without reforming its content in any way. A separate branch of the Parliamentary Counsel's Office was established to deal with consolidation matters, and the Statute Law Committee was reconstituted; in the result last year we had, I think, four consolidation Bills passed through Parliament dealing with matters of some importance. There was the Companies' Act which consolidated no fewer than 12 statutes, all of them passed during or since 1929. There was the Agricultural Wages Act. Then there was the Agricultural Holdings Act; that consolidated 11 statutes, all of them comparatively modern, passed since 1923. There was also the Military Service Act. Many other important consolidation Measures are already in an advanced stage of preparation and we hope to be able to introduce them from time to time to the House. In this first stage of the process of law reform, one serious procedural difficulty has been encountered, and it is this. As the House will know, the existing procedure for passing these consolidation Bills practically without any debate at all on the Floor of the House after they have been examined in a Joint Committee, is a procedure which is very well established; it is useful, and it is one with which we do not intend to interfere in the slightest degree in those cases where the enactments which are to be consolidated together can be consolidated without any kind of amendment at all. That is, in fact, the position in the case of most modern statutes, and that is why we were able to consolidate the statute law in regard to the four matters to which I have referred in those four Acts passed last year, because they dealt with comparatively modern legislation, and no amendment was necessary. But in the present procedure which we follow it is essential that the draftsman who gives evidence before the Joint Committee considering whether or not the Bill before them is, in fact, no more than a consolidation which represents the existing law, should be able to cross his heart and say to the committee, "This Bill does no more—not a bit more—than reproduce precisely the statute law as it exists today." If it differs from the statute law as it exists today in the numerous statutes that it is seeking to consolidate, if it differs from it by one jot or tittle, the consolidation Measure cannot go through under our existing procedure. When, therefore, consolidation has been attempted by the draftsmen in regard to some of the matters which are affected by older statutes, it has been found that there are anomalies in the various statutes or that there are certain drafting amendments which it is really essential to make before sensible consolidation can be effected. I take just two from the legislation in regard to the solemnisation of marriage as an example, and I take that subject because, as I have said, we have a Bill in an advanced stage of preparation dealing with the consolidation of this particular branch of the law. Section 18 of the Marriage Act, 1836, requires that a certificate of registration of a building shall be on parchment or vellum. It is impossible at at present time to comply with this requirement, and accordingly we desire in consolidating these statutes to substitute for that provision the words "on durable materials." That is an insignificant amendment of the law, but it just cannot be done under the existing consolidation machinery. Section 40 of the same Act makes it an offence for a superintendent registrar knowingly and wilfully to register a marriage declared to be null and void. The fact is that marriages are not registered by superintendent registrars at all but by ordinary registrars, and consequently in consolidating the law we want to substitute registrars as the persons who become guilty of this offence, in order that the law may be made operative in regard to these matters. That cannot be done under the existing procedure, and the result is that if one wanted to produce consolidation of the statute law in regard to this branch of our law or in regard to any other branch affected, as many are, by the same considerations, we first of all must have a consolidation Bill which reproduces the law exactly as it is today with the requirement relating to vellum and with the provision that the superintendent registrar may be guilty of an offence in regard to matters with which he does not deal at all. Then we have to pass through Parliament amending legislation rectifying the law in regard to those two matters, and then we have to have a third consolidation Measure consolidating the law as it exists after that amendment. This little Bill proposes to short-circuit that wholly unnecessary and circuitous process, and under the procedure which this Bill would lay down the matter will be dealt with in the following way. First, the law will be examined in the ordinary course by a Parliamentary draftsman, and where in the course of preparing his consolidation Measure he comes across ambiguities, anachronisms and minor anomalies of the kind that I have indicated, which would prevent the re-statement of the law in a clear and modern form, he will draft Amendments of the existing enactments so as to remove those anomalies and anachronisms, and he will then proceed to draft has consolidation Bill as if those Amendments had already been passed into law. But, of course, they will not have been passed into law, and it is necessary that Parliament should be informed of the fact that those Amendments are contemplated. Accordingly, the Amendments—and they are to be confined to corrections and minor improvements of the nature defined in Clause 2 of the Bill—will be embodied in a memorandum which will be issued under the authority of the Lord Chancellor, or the Secretary of State in the case of Scottish Bills, together with an explanatory note. That memorandum and the explanatory note will go forward, together with the consolidation Bill embodying the Amendments contemplated, to the Joint Committee. At that stage the Joint Committee will then go through the memorandum. They will have the draftsman before them as a witness. They will consider the proposals for these minor corrections and they will receive representations, the matter having been advertised in advance, whether from Members of Parliament or from anybody else in regard to the Amendments which are proposed. In a proper case, no doubt in the case where a Member of this House or of another place desired to make a representation, the Joint Committee would indeed hear witnesses, and eventually, having considered the proposed Amendments contained in the memorandum, they would inform the Lord Chancellor and you, Mr. Speaker, which of the Amendments in the memorandum they were prepared to approve."the applause of listening senates to command,"
My right hon. and learned Friend says that the Bill and the memorandum would go forward to the Joint Committee. Will he be good enough to explain by what procedure the Bill and the memorandum would go to the Joint Committee? Would it go as a result of a Resolution of this House and the other House? At the time when that Resolution was being passed would there be an opportunity of discussion?
No. It would be committed in the ordinary course of consolidation Bills to the Joint Committee, but at that stage the memorandum would not be before this House. The memorandum will go first to the Joint Committee. It will eventually come to this House, but in the first instance it will go to the Joint Committee for discussion. We do not propose to alter the procedure on the Floor of the House in regard to these matters. The place where procedure is altered is the Joint Committee, and it is altered in the respect which I have indicated to the House.The Joint Committee, having indicated that it itself was prepared to approve the Amendments, or perhaps not all of them but certain of them, the Lord Chancellor and you, Mr. Speaker, would be asked to concur in the approval of the Joint Committee, your concurrence and your approval being directed to the point that the Amendments contemplated did not in any way go to the merits, were minor Amendments and corrections within the definition of Clause 2 of this Bill, and were not of such importance that they ought to be separately enacted by Parliament. If that approval were given, the Joint Committee would then proceed to consider the Amendments themselves and the consolidation Bill together, and if they then were satisfied that the consolidation Bill did no more than to re-enact the existing law, together with these minor corrections and improvements which had previously been approved by it and which had been approved by the Lord Chancellor and by you, Mr. Speaker, they would report to the House accordingly and, thereafter, the Amendments and the minor corrections, as thus approved by the Joint Committee, by the Lord Chancellor and by Mr. Speaker, would, for the purpose of any further proceedings in Parliament, be deemed to have become law. I say, for the purpose of any further proceedings in Parliament; they would not be law and would be quite unenforceable in the courts at that stage. But as a matter of procedure in Parliament they would be deemed to have become law, so that from that stage onwards, Parliament would be able to treat the Bill as not doing more than any other consolidation Bill did, which was to con- solidate the existing law. There would be no question of any further Amendment or alteration on the Floor of the House although, if Parliament in its wisdom disapproved of the Amendments which had been embodied in the Bill by this procedure by the Joint Committee, it could oppose the Bill itself in its remaining stages. In this matter, as in every matter, Parliament would have complete control and would have the final word in regard to it. This proposal has been very fully discussed with representatives of all sides of the House and I venture to commend it to the House as a really useful little Bill which will help us to get ahead with the difficult but useful work on which we have already made a start. If this Bill does so commend itself and is passed in this Session, we hope even in this Session to be able to introduce some further consolidation legislation. As I have said, we have one on the question of the solemnisation of marriage already in an advanced stage of preparation—I have the draft here—and there are other Measures in hand. The passage of this Bill will certainly assist us not only in regard to these Measures but also in the more formidable tasks of clarification and codification of such branches of the law as those which relate to Revenue—a matter on which we have already made a start—and other branches.
Although this Bill is concerned with machinery, we on this side of the House consider that it is an important test of one facet of the work of the House, namely, making our laws clear and understood by the people of this country. I wish to deal very shortly with three points. The first is the reason for the Bill; the second is the safeguards which are in the Bill on the important point that changes in the law are being made without an amending Bill; and the third is the question of whether this is, as I believe it is, a legitimate use of the system of subsidiary legislation, which is one which this House must watch if it is to perform its own functions and perform the task of maintaining Parliamentary control of the Executive, of whatever party that Executive may consist.On the first point, I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman as to the need for consolidation generally. It is most unfortunate that in so many spheres of our law anyone who wishes to find out the legal position has to consult a congeries of statutory odds and ends before he can get to the final point. I do not think that anyone objects to the procedure for passing Consolidation Bills almost without Debate after they have been examined by a Joint Committee of both Houses. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman made clear, there is no intention to disturb the working of that system, which has worked admirably in the past. I think that on a non-controversial Bill like this, I might be permitted to take the somewhat unusual course of saying, as one who has worked with him in the past when he was Chief Parliamentary Counsel, how much I welcome the fact that Sir Granville Ram is devoting what we all hope will be the long evening of his years to this most important task. We are grateful to him and we wish him well in it. We wish to see consolidated not only the modern enactments, such as those which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has told us have been the subject of this procedure, but to deal with subjects which have their roots among comparatively ancient Statutes where the worst tangles exist. We agree that consolidation is practically impossible until corrections have been made in the Acts to be consolidated. On the other hand, we agree that in the vast majority of cases—and very many cases they are—these corrections are of so trifling a nature—and affect matters on which there can be no possible controversy—that an amending Bill would not be worth the Parliamentary time involved. The problem with which we have to deal is that in that field consolidation has been deferred for years because of the failure to solve the problem at present in front of us. Of course, while recognising that, it is the duty of the Opposition on this, as on every Bill that comes before the House, to consider whether the safeguards are sufficient, because it is a devolution, if not an abdication of our duties in the House when we permit amendments in the law to be made without discussion in the House. As I see the safeguards, they are these. First, there is the definition in the Bill which confines this operation to ambiguities, doubts, obsolete provisions and small anomalies. The second safeguard is that the Lord Chancellor has to be satisfied that the corrections and minor improvements fall within that category. It is only after he is so satisfied that he makes the memorandum of corrections and minor improvements, of which notice has to be published in the "Gazette"; and it is laid before Parliament, and that gives to persons who may be affected, or have views, both inside and outside the House, the opportunity of making representations upon it. The next safeguard is that the Bill will be referred to a Joint Committee, but there will be, as I understand it, a month before the Joint Committee considers the Bill for these representations to mature, if it be desired. Then we shall have the examination by the Joint Committee itself. As I understand it, Mr. Speaker, you have been good enough, and the Lord Chancellor with you, to enter upon this scheme, and the next step will be that the results of the deliberations of the Joint Committee will come to you and the Lord Chancellor, and eventually it will be reported to the House that the Bill, with its contents, which have been in the memorandum, has been approved, not only by the Joint Committee, but by you, Mr. Speaker, and by the Lord Chancellor; and the three approving bodies or persons will say that they consider that the corrections and minor improvements do not require an amending Bill. It is only after that has been done that, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has stated, it will be considered, for the purposes of further proceedings in Parliament relating to the Bill only, but not for any other purpose, to be in the same position as if there had been an amending Bill. The final safeguard is that if Parliament does not like it, Parliament can throw out the Bill. When one considers the problem, which I have endeavoured to put very shortly before the House, and the improvement that it will make in the Statute Book, and having considered the matter with such care as I can give, I believe that these safeguards are sufficient. Let me give just one illustration of this problem. In the State of Victoria in Australia they have consolidated all their enactments up to 1928. Even so, for Victoria alone, one only of the States of the Federation, there are over 5,000 Acts on the Victoria Statute Book. That shows the extent of the problem in what one may call, with the greatest affection and no disrespect, a young country, which has not had a sixth of the period that we have had to get our Statute Book in a tangle. Its legislation has been consolidated, and it still leaves that great field for people to consider when they are trying to understand the law. When one considers that, one sees the extent of the problem with which we are faced here. The third point which I conceive it to be always the function of the Opposition to consider, when subsidiary legislation is used to any extent, is whether it is proper for the House to take that course. In this case, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman has explained so clearly, the change in the law is deemed to have been enacted only for the limited purpose of the remaining stages of the Bill. Before that is done, as I have endeavoured to underline, there is the notice of the amendments in the "Gazette," and the laying before Parliament, with the opportunity for recommendation; there is the Joint Select Committee; and then there is the opportunity for the final decision on the Bill. I do not think that even the severest critic of the use of subsidiary legislation—and I have endeavoured to be a reasonably austere critic of it myself in my time—could object to this use of it, I consider that it is valuable to adopt a procedure which gives, first of all, opportunity for consideration, and, secondly, consideration by a Committee of this House. Therefore, I feel—and many of my right hon. and hon. Friends feel as I do—that it is a most important matter. The House should never devolve its functions without serious consideration, but, having approached it from that angle, we believe that this is a legitimate and proper method, For these reasons we welcome the Bill, and are prepared to give it a Second Reading.
As one who had the privilege of serving on the Consolidation Committee—and it was a privilege to serve under the chairmanship of Lord Reading—I welcome this Bill, as I think most other hon. Members will. I do not think any of us will dissent from what the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has just said.There are two questions to which I would ask my right hon. and learned Friend to address himself when he replies to the Debate. The first is this. So far as I can gather, the terms of reference of the Consolidation Committee have always been a little vague in the past. So far as my researches go, they lead me to believe, that that Joint Committee of the two Houses has been sitting since 1892. The point which is puzzling me today, and which I am afraid my right hon. and learned Friend's speech did not answer, is why it is necessary to embody these changes in the procedure in an Act of Parliament. It seems to me that it is substantially a matter of internal procedure in another place and in this House, and I should like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend to tell us why it is necessary at this stage in the history of consolidation to embody these particular proposals in a Bill placed before the House. The second point is this. I gathered from the speech which the Lord Chancellor made when introducing this Measure in another place, and from my right hon. and learned Friend today, that the concurrence of all three bodies—yourself, Mr. Speaker, the Lord Chancellor, and the Committee itself—will be necessary before any of these minor changes can be made. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will look at Clause 1 (5). I am not a lawyer, but I am a little worried about the word "or" which appears in line 28. If my right hon. and learned Friend will look at that subsection, and assure us that the concurrence of all three parties named is necessary, I shall be much obliged.
This Bill was promoted by the Statute Law Committee, and I should like to invite a tribute to the work of that Committee. I hope that one of the results of this Debate and this Bill will be to make its work better known. If the Statute Law Committee blushes at all, it blushes unseen. The Committee is presided over by the Lord Chancellor who, unlike so many presidents, actually does preside at most of its meetings; and the chairman, who presides in the Lord Chancellor's absence, is Sir Granville Ram, until recently Parliamentary draftsman. It was Sir Granville Ram who inspired and drafted this Bill, and I was very glad that my right hon. and learned Friend paid a tribute to him. The Statute Law Committee also includes the Attorney-General, the permanent heads of many Government Departments including the present Parliamentary draftsman, your own counsel, Mr. Speaker, Lord Simonds—one of the Lords of Appeal—and three Members of this House, namely the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Donovan)—both of whom I am sure would have been present today had their other duties permitted—and myself.The Statute Law Committee meets two or three times a year and, as the Attorney-General said, concerns itself with the form and with the publication of Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments, with the indexing of them, and, far and away its most important task, the consolidation and codification of the law. As has already been remarked, the statute law is in a shockingly tangled state, and attention has been drawn to that fact ever since the Middle Ages, particularly by the courts which have to interpret it. But no task is too great for the Statute Law Committee. The proof of that is that it has recently taken in hand the consolidation of the Income Tax law, which for complication and confusion, and even contradiction, is second to no other branch of the law. As was mentioned by the Attorney-General, the Statute Law Committee has in hand the consolidation of many other parts of the law. The question is whether consolidation can ever overtake and keep pace with legislation. Anyhow, this Bill will certainly help very much to that end. I could not understand the suggestion of the hon. Member for Heywood and Radcliffe (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) that this Bill was unnecessary. After all, in this country, we are still, thank God, governed by the rule of law, and it would be quite impossible to carry out the changes contemplated by this Bill without an Act of Parliament to do it. I commend this Bill to the House.
I should like to add a few words from the back benches in support of this Bill, and to say that for myself—and I think I am speaking for at any rate all Members of the legal profession—it will be very generally welcomed. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on having introduced it into this House. It has for a long time past been a sad reflection on the state of our law and the Statute Book that on a number of subjects it has been necessary, in order to ascertain the law, to search through a multitude of statutes. I think this Bill is very desirable, and indeed necessary, if a serious attempt is to be made, as I hope it will be, to straighten out and improve branches of the law which for a long time past have remained in a state of chaos.After this Bill has been passed, I hope the Government will be able, as the learned Attorney-General suggested, to take in hand the overdue measures of consolidation required in several branches of the law. I hope, too, not only that the Government will be able to deal with such matters as the laws relating to marriage and the Revenue laws, but that it will be possible to take an early opportunity of dealing with the laws relating to rent restrictions. At the moment, the law on this subject, which must affect almost millions of people in the country, is so unsatisfactory that it produces great hardship. I hope that will be one of the early fields in which consolidation of the numerous existing statutes can be undertaken as a preliminary to the reform and changes that are called for. Having said that, I want to ask my right hon. and learned Friend three questions. The first is a minor one. He indicated that in connection with the laws relating to marriage there are at present, I think he said, 32 statutes and Measures of the Church Assembly. Can we be assured that, in so far as any revisions are necessary in Measures of the Church Assembly they can be dealt with under the procedure under this Bill, without reference to the procedure of the Church Assembly? May we be assured that, if there is to be a consolidation statute dealing with the laws relating to marriage which affects not merely Acts of Parlia- ment but also Measures that have been passed by the Church Assembly they can be dealt with under the procedure proposed by this Bill? Secondly, will the Attorney-General make quite clear what are the functions still left to this House and another place under the provisions of this Bill? Are we right in thinking that where this procedure is used, both the memorandum from the Lord Chancellor and the Bill itself will be automatically referred to the Joint Committee of both Houses without any opportunity of discussion about it before it is so referred? I gathered from what my right hon. and learned Friend said in answer to my interjection that the answer to that question will be affirmative. Then what is the position when the Bill containing the corrections and minor improvements which have been approved by you, Mr. Speaker, by the Lord Chancellor, and by the Joint Committee, comes back to this House? Is the position that this House will merely have an opportunity of either accepting or rejecting the Bill, or will there be an opportunity for discussion? I am not very clear, either from the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend or from the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), what the procedure will be; but it is important that it should be clear and that we should know whether, when a Measure which is to be enacted under this consolidation procedure is passed, this House will have any opportunity of discussing it, or whether it will merely have the right of accepting or rejecting the Measure. If, as I rather understand, the only right this House will have is the final right of either acceptance or rejection of the consolidation Measure, then it seems to me—I am not quarrelling with it, but I think it ought to be clearly understood—to mean that the final judgment whether any minor improvement in the law should be made will be taken away from this House and delegated to the Joint Committee. It also means that, in respect of a particular Measure embodying certain minor improvements the majority of which the House will desire to incorporate but one of which the House will think is not a minor but a major improvement or might not think is an improvement at all, this House will have no opportunity, under the procedure contemplated in the Bill, of eliminating the one suggested improvement of which the House disapproves. We shall have no alternative but that of rejecting or approving the whole consolidation Measure. If that is to be the result, I cannot feel entirely happy about it. I should have thought that, either under our own procedure which I suppose can be changed at any time without any necessity of making amendments to the Bill, or at some other stage, this House and the other place ought to have the opportunity of discussing the memorandum, when it comes from the Joint Committee, containing the suggested improvements. The House ought to be able to say: "We readily approve the majority of these changes but we would like the opportunity of eliminating one particular change." Might I ask a final question? Are we to understand that the memorandum, which to all intents and purposes will have the force and the effect of a Statutory Instrument and will, in substance though not in form, be a very important Measure of delegated legislation, will, or will not be one of the matters which are referred, under the procedure of this House to the Committee of this House which deals with Statutory Instruments and is colloquially known as the Scrutiny Committee and which performs a useful function?
Perhaps I may deal with the last point of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) first. I would correct at once what appears to be a complete misapprehension in the mind of my hon. Friend. This is not delegated legislation. This is not subordinate legislation. This memorandum does not make law. No question whatever arises of submitting it to the committee of this House which examines Statutory Instruments of that nature. All that the memorandum is intended to do is to provide that, for procedural purposes only in this House and another place, those amendments set out in the memorandum shall be treated as if they were the law when the law comes to be consolidated in a single Bill. I would not like it to be thought for a moment that this proposal extends in any way the practice of delegated legislation. The courts will know nothing of this matter. Outside the House this memorandum will be of no effect whatever and its consideration subsequently by the select committee would be wholly inappropriate.My hon. Friend asked what function will be left to the House if the Bill is passed into law incorporating a consolidation Measure. Its first function will be to decide on Second Reading whether or not consolidation of this particular field of statute law is desirable, and if it is, the Bill will be referred to a committee for that purpose. The second function, and this will be discharged through the Joint Committee, will be to decide whether amendments of the kind contemplated by the memorandum are within the definition, that is to say are minor corrections and improvements, and to ascertain whether you, Mr. Speaker, and the Lord Chancellor concur in the view which the committee themselves will take that the amendments are of a kind so insignificant that it is not desirable or necessary that they should be enacted by way of a separate Bill and through the ordinary processes of legislation. Finally, the House itself will decide whether the Bill, with such amendments as have, after that process, been embodied in it by the Joint Committee, should be passed into law. At that stage, the report and Third Reading stage, it will not be open to the House to embody in the Bill further amendments of the Measure as it has come down from the Joint Committee. That is the position in regard to any consolidation Bill. The reason for it is that a consolidation Bill is, as its title provides, a Bill to consolidate the existing law. We may have an amendment in regard to the day on which it is to come into operation or matters of that kind, but we cannot move an amendment to do something which does not affect the consolidation of the existing law. We cannot take out of the Bill part of the existing law because that would be outside its title and its scope. It would no longer be a Bill to consolidate the existing law. Nor can we add something to it which is not already part of the existing law. So, under the new form of procedure as under the old, when the matter comes down to the House on Report, the House will not be able to amend the Bill because the amendments that have been embodied in it in the Joint Committee will, under this procedure, be deemed to have become part of the actual and existing statute law. That being so, this House will then decide whether or not the Bill embodying those provisions should be passed into law or not. If the House does not approve of the amendments in any particular it can say so and refuse to pass the Bill through its remaining stages. If it does that, it will mean that consolidation in that branch of the law will be impossible. The whole purpose of the consolidation procedure, both as it exists at the present and as it will exist under the Bill, is to avoid the possibility of amendments being introduced into the substance of the law, which is the process of codification or reform of the law. That is not the purpose of consolidation. I would add only that if there is a feeling on the part of any hon. Member that a particular amendment is inappropriate, that it goes beyond what is contemplated, or that it is mistaken for one reason or another, that hon. Member will-have an opportunity, because the memorandum embodying the amendments will be laid for at least a month before the matter comes to be discussed by the Joint Committee, of making his representations to the Committee. I have no doubt that if he so desires he may be heard by the Joint Committee. So, indeed, will any member of the public who desires to make any point in regard to the matter. I think my hon. Friend will be satisfied that the interests of the House and of the public are fully protected by the procedure which is laid down. I come at last to the first point which my hon. Friend raised, dealing with the Measures of the Church Assembly. It will be possible in such matters to consolidate with the statute law Measures which may affect the same field of law. The matter has been discussed with the authorities of the Church Assembly. They considered that the proposals which we are placing before the House in this regard are not inappropriate. I hope that the House will be prepared to give a Second Reading to the Bill, which will move us one stage forward in the process of making the law a little clearer.
Would my right hon. and learned Friend address himself to the two questions which I put to him?
I am so sorry. I hope my hon. Friend will acquit me of any discourtesy. I cannot attempt to deal further with the point which the hon. Member made as to the necessity for the Bill. That has already been dealt with by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling). I am afraid I must have been at fault in my first speech about this matter to the House in not making the necessity for the Bill clear. I did my best in my second speech. I hope my hon. Friend appreciates that unless it is possible to make these minor drafting Amendments in the law, consolidation itself is impossible. That is the necessity for the Bill.As to the word "or" in Clause 1 (5), subsection (5) has to be read with subsection (4), and in the ordinary course one would read subsection (4) first and one would find there that the approval of the Lord Chancellor and of the Speaker is required. Subsection (5) deals with the possibility that while the Lord Chancellor might take one view the Speaker might take another, but subsection (4) makes it perfectly clear that the Lord Chancellor, the Speaker and indeed the Joint Committee have all to concur in taking the view that the Bill deals with minor amendments only such as need not go through the ordinary Parliamentary procedure.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[ Mr. Pearson.]
British Film Institute Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."The object of the Bill is to allow the Treasury to make grants from time to time to the British Film Institute in addition to the grants now being paid by the Privy Council from the Cinematograph Fund established under the Sunday Entertainments Act, 1932. In inviting the House to agree to this, I have to say that the Government endorse the recommendations of the Radcliffe Committee which was set up by my right hon. Friend the Lord President some time ago. Before I say any more about the Bill, I should remind the House that the Sunday Entertainments Act enables local authorities to impose a levy on those opening cinemas on Sunday. Most of the proceeds of the levy go to charity but a proportion, which must not exceed five per cent. and which is at present five per cent., goes to the Privy Council and may be used as the Council directs for encouraging the use and development of the cinematograph as a means of entertainment and instruction. As to the British Film Institute, that body came into existence in 1933, following a conference initiated by the British Film Institute of Adult Education, which resulted in the formation of the Commission on Education and Cultural Films. This Commission recommended that such a body enjoying sufficient funds and independence of action to enable it to promote the various uses of the film as a contribution to national well-being, should be set up, and accordingly, following that recommendation, the British Film Institute came into existence. Those who have read the report of the Radcliffe Committee, Cmd. Paper 7361, will find that the objects of the British Film Institute are concisely set out there. Among others, they are:
In December, 1947, the Lord President of the Council set up a Committee of Inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Cyril Radcliffe, from whose report I have just quoted. The Committee had a fair number of meetings and went exhaustively into the whole matter. They found that while the Institute had not done all that had originally been hoped for it, it had done a great deal to promote the study of films in this country and to guide those interested in them into the right channels. It found that the Institute bad established a National Film Library in which are preserved films selected to show how the art of the film has developed and to serve as a record of contemporary life and manners. The library now has a collection of more than 3,000 films which, as I expect most hon. Members present know, is housed in vaults specially built at Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire. The Institute has also started an information section to deal with inquiries over a wide field and with correspondence and work in connection with similar activities overseas. It has also done its best to promote appreciation of the film as a form of art and the specialised use of the film largely in the field of education through its publications and by lectures, summer schools and courses, and by the encouragement of allied societies. At the same time the Committee came to the conclusion that on the funds available to the Institute it would be impossible for it to extend its activities as, in the view of the Committee, it was essential that it should. It therefore proposed that money should be found to provide the Institute with additional funds sufficient to enable it to engage in an annual expenditure up to about £100,000, with a further £30,000 for capital outgoings. The Government considered this Report and accepted most of the recommendations, subject to two reservations. The first was that the Government did not feel that in present circumstances the commitment involved in setting up regional offices for the Institute was justified. The second was that it could not commit itself to the figure of annual expenditure of £100,000 plus, to begin with, £30,000 for capital expenditure. Subject to those reservations, the new constitution recommended by the Committee has been adopted and the new governing body, under its chairman Mr. Cecil King, has been appointed. A detailed budget has been drawn up and has been discussed with us at the Treasury. We think that it would not be right for the full financial recommendation of the Committee to be accepted, but that something rather less should be provided for. We suggest that the estimated expenditure for the year 1949–50 should be £96,000, including £7,000 for capital expenditure. This £96,000 will be met in the following way: from subscriptions to the Institute, from sales and rentals of films, and from other sources, we estimate that about £28,000 should accrue; that from the Cinematograph Fund £22,000 should be received; that the grant-in-aid under the Civil Estimates, Class IV, Vote 10, for the current year should be £46,000. The British Film Institute is not referred to by name in the 1932 Act but the Public Accounts Committee was told in 1936 that it came into existence practically because of the setting up of that Measure, and it was in the mind of Parliament at the time the Bill was going through that the relevant Section of the Act was passed so that the Institute could come into being. As this is the position, and as the acceptance of the recommendation of the Radcliffe Committee involves supplementing a grant from what is really a statutory fund, the Government have felt it right that, as this would seem to be an extension of the powers granted by that Act, we should promote this Bill and come to the House for the legislative sanction for what is now proposed."To influence public opinion to appreciate the value of films as entertainment and instruction … to advise educational institutions and other organisations and persons as to sources and conditions of supply, types of films and apparatus … to promote and undertake research into the various uses of the film and of allied visual and auditory apparatus … to establish and maintain a national repository of films of permanent value … to act, if required, as an advisory body to the Government Departments concerned with the use and control of films."
The right hon. Gentleman has given an outline of the activities of this Institute. Could he tell us on what class of activity the £96,000 is to be spent?
I have not the detailed budget by me, but if it is possible before the Debate ends to break down the figure, I shall be happy to do so. All we are asking Parliament to do is to give legislative sanction to the suggestion that a grant-in-aid should be made year by year, not to pass the budget of the Institute. The proper time to devote detailed attention to the proposed grant of £46,000 for this year will be when the Estimates are being considered in Committee of Supply.The amount involved is relatively small, and, in the light of the importance of the work of the Institute, this money can be said to be well spent. Indeed, if it were spent only on the compilation of the National Film Library at Aston Clinton, it would be well worth while. Thanks to the wonderful collection and the research work into film preservation over long periods, it will be possible for future generations actually to see present-day history and those making it, as well as to read about it. How interesting it would have been if we today could have witnessed King Alfred burning the cakes and could have heard the browbeating he received afterwards, or have seen and judged for ourselves the relative merits of the wives of King Henry VIII. There is no need for me to stress here the importance of films in our national life. "Going to the pictures" appears to be the main recreation of millions of people. The influence of films on the thoughts, actions and beliefs of vast masses all over the world is profound. A body like the Institute is essential as a guide and in order to co-ordinate as well as to record the progress of this great moulder of public opinion. The Institute has already done great work and on behalf of the Government and, I hope, of all hon. Members present, I wish to pay a tribute to the work of Mr. Oliver Bell, the late Director of the Institute, and of Mr. E. H. Lindgren, who has done so much for the Film Library. Mr. Bell's devoted service during formative years of the Institute has been of great help, and we are indebted to him for the drive, the initiative and the enthusiasm he has given to this work. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will receive the cordial support of hon. Members in all quarters of the House.
It is unusual, and it fills me with a certain vague dread to have to get up at this Box twice in a morning and express approval of the legislation of His Majesty's present advisers. None the less, when that unfortunate occasion arises, I do it with such good grace as I can command in answer to the most thoughtful and lucid exposition which the right hon. Gentleman has given the House.We have to consider three questions in approaching this matter. First, our general view of the work of the Institute which we form from our own mental processes. In view of what we know with regard to the library, which we are glad to think is probably the best film library in the world, and the general work of the Institute, we are predisposed to approve. I have a vivid recollection, Mr. Erich Pommer, who was a well-known producer engaged by U.F.A. films in Berlin after the last war, at what I considered their highest and best period, telling me of the striking effect on German and French relations in the days between 1925 and 1930—those hopeful days before the Nazis had come into greater influence—of these U.F.A. films being shown in Paris. They lit a faint and short-lived but none the less real candle of hope by showing a different psychological aspect of the national character which might in other events have led to much more happy things. Fifteen years afterwards I read, as no doubt have other hon. Members, a fascinating study of German films explaining the development of German psychology from the period I have just mentioned up to 1939, and the intensely interesting inter-relation of the development of national psychology and the films seen by the people who composed that national psychology. The relevance of that is that it was entirely due to the possibility of there being access to films and largely that they used the opposite number of the Film Institute's library and facilities in New York. I approached this matter from the point of view of its being of great value and encouraging the promotion of institutions of similar value in other countries. In this case the Government have had the matter reviewed by a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Cyril Radcliffe and again I feel it is personally hard as I might have had the opportunity of attacking the work of an old friend and valued colleague, but cannot do so because I have to agree with the result. From that point of view, also, the matter having been examined, we understand the Government are broadly adopting the conclusions at which the committee arrived, subject to reservations which the right hon. Gentleman is making in his capacity as Treasury watchdog. The third point is the question of amounts. Obviously it would be a prima facie duty of the Opposition to ask for a maximum, but we have heard the right hon. Gentleman on this point. He has explained that £50,000 out of the £96,000 total expenditure and £89,000 annual expenditure will be met either by subscriptions and sales or by the result of the Fund and that the grant in aid for the current year is running at £46,000, More important than that, we realise the approach which the right hon. Gentleman has put to us and, so long as that approach is maintained, we are not disposed to quarrel with the absence of a maximum, because we realise that a certain flexibility on an important subject like this is a valuable characteristic. For these reasons, my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself agree to the Second Reading.
I intervened when the right hon. Gentleman was moving the Second Reading because I thought it would be appropriate for the House to have an opportunity of seeing where this expenditure was to be made. As everyone knows, the Film Institute has a fairly wide variety of activities and some of us feel that some of those activities are more justifiable and have more fruitful results than others. It would have been interesting for the House to know where this expenditure was to lie.I noticed from the Financial Memorandum that the Government were reluctant to agree to an expenditure of the order of £100,000, but it appears that they now accept a figure which is not very far below that level. It is very easy on paper to justify all kinds of organisations, and, like the army officer, one can always put down that the activities of so-and-so amount to this that and the other, and make a pretty good case so far as the written word is concerned. I am afraid that in the country today we are getting too many organisations and business people are spending too much time attending to organisations of a quasi-governmental character, instead of looking after their own businesses. We are running into the danger of having far too many of these bodies floating around. While not disapproving of the Bill, I query the value of the Institute's work for the improvement and appreciation of films. For instance, I think everyone will admit that it would be very desirable to have good-class documentary films in place of the rubbishy supporting feature films we have today. What progress has been made by the Institute towards getting public opinion along those lines? I should say that there has been a better appreciation of artistic merit in spheres in which there has been no comparable body trying to do this work. Who would deny that in the appreciation of good music and the ballet there has been an enormous uplift in the past eight or nine years? That is not the result of any particular body, so far as I am aware. Has there been in the film industry a rise in artistic appreciation comparable with the rise in the field of music and the ballet? I should say not. Therefore, I query that side of the work of the Film Institute which has purported to direct itself towards improving the standards of appreciation. No one denies the value of the Library, and we agree that this Institute ought to be supported. We should like to see a little more the breakdown of the total sum of expenditure and we hope that in the future the Institute will be able to improve the standard of appreciation and, particularly, to get people to realise that the documentary film has a place in our film life. At the moment, exhibitors, and, to a large extent, many of the filmgoers, will not have a documentary at any price. It may be that is the fault of those who produce documentaries, but I feel that some attempt to get the documentary to take the place of the trashy second feature film would be a welcome improvement. I hope that the Institute in obtaining this substantial sum from the taxpayer, will see to it that activities devoted to raising the standard of appreciation are more fruitful than they have been in the past.
For two years during this Parliament I was an associate governor of the British Film Institute on behalf of the Colonial Office, and before the war I was interested myself in making some educational films, Therefore, I came into contact a good deal with the work of the British Film Institute. In answer to one or two points made by the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd), I think the Film Institute has done a great deal to encourage the appreciation of documentary films in this country in a way which is, perhaps, not generally known.The hon. Member may know that they arrange for literally thousands of showings of documentary films, mainly with 16 mm. apparatus, in halls all over the country rather than in public cinemas. Another thing of great value which they do is to review and appraise all films made for school publication. They publish a catalogue of films made for educational purposes in which they grade the films and thereby help various schools who want to use films to a great extent. Another way in which they have tried to encourage appreciation of films is by arranging film festivals, such as the Czechoslovakian Film Festival a short time ago. They have arranged others and have others in prospect, and everyone concerned feels that they do a good deal towards raising the level of appreciation. I am not suggesting that there are not many other ways in which the Institute could expand its activities, but, considering the wide range of work which they do, I do not think the suggested sum is exorbitant. When one remembers that there has recently been a complete overhaul of the Institute's organisation generally, and that it is embarking on quite a new programme, I think that we can vote this money with a feeling that there will be a considerable improvement on what has been done and that in any case enough has been done to justify this sum.
I feel sure that all who are interested in the film as a medium of education and culture will appreciate this Bill in view of the fact that it more or less puts into operation the proposals of the Radcliffe Committee. I read the report of that Committee with great interest. I feel that they approached sympathetically the whole problem of the use of films for education and cultural purposes. The British Film Institute, of which I was a founder member, has worked under great difficulties during the whole of its life. Its budget has been very restricted, and although it has received the sympathy and support of all organisations interested in the film as a medium of education and culture, it has always been felt that the Institute could never fulfil itself because the grant which supported it was so entirely inadequate.One has only to look at the work of the National Film Library, which is run under its auspices, to realise how restricted that work has been on account of the lack of finance. The Library already has 3,000 films in its vaults, but it has been possible to make only 100 films available to the public. That is a great shame. If the Institute had had more money a great many more films would have been available for public exhibition. Today there are many films in the vaults of the British Film Institute which are not available on account of the lack of finance, and which people would like to show because of their cultural value and because they have historical significance. The work of the British Film Institute has covered a wide field. It has encouraged the appreciation of the film, it has a working association with educational bodies, it has undertaken the instruction of teachers both in the appreciation of the film and the intricacies of projection, and from time to time it has held summer schools at which teachers and those interested in the promotion of film societies have been invited to attend. All this work, covering, as I have said, a very wide field, has been done on a very restricted budget. I was sorry to hear the remark of the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd) to the effect that there are too many bodies being financed by the Government these days. The Government have not been very generous to the British Film Institute. When one looks at the work of the Arts Council and the encouragement which that body has had from the Government, one can see the difference, a difference which perhaps accounts for the success which there has been in developing musical appreciation and appreciation of the ballet as compared with the appreciation of the film. The education authorities should introduce appreciation of the film into the curriculum in the same way as they include appreciation of music, art, etc. The film can become a much more powerful medium of education and culture in this country if only there is someone to look after that aspect of the matter. We cannot expect the commercial side of the film industry to appraise the artistic value of a film; they are bound to be interested in the box office effect. It is essential that we should have a recognised responsible body appraising the artistic value of films as they are shown. I agree with the hon. Member for Bucklow on the desirability of our having a better type of film to take the place of the second-feature film—not all second-feature films because some have been first-class. Unfortunately, because people have always had two feature films in the programme there appears to be some resentment when documentaries and films of that kind are introduced. The result is that the documentary side is being starved, and in these days people cannot afford to take the risk of making documentary films unless they are sponsored because there is little possibility of their appearing in the cinema. That is the position, whether we like it or not. The work of the British Film Institute can encourage the development of a much higher standard of film appreciation. I hope that the Government will watch the development of the work of the Film Institute, and that, if they feel that the results justify the expenditure, the Institute will not be restricted to £100,000. It costs a lot of money to reduce standard films to non-standard size and for showing in schools and by film societies it is necessary to have non-inflammable films, which means that films have to be reduced to the sub-standard size. That is an expensive process, and unless that is done it means that the films will not be available to the kind of organisation which is in a position to show them. I imagine that the reason there are only 100 films available for public exhibition out of a library of 3,000 films is that the British Film Institute has not had the means whereby it could reduce those films to non-standard size. With more money at its disposal it would be able to do so to a much greater extent. If public appreciation of the film is fostered, the commercial side of the film industry need have no fear; it will be an asset to the commercial side, and people will go to the cinema with a much greater measure of discrimination than is the case today. Therefore, I most heartily welcome this Bill. I hope that the Government will sympathetically consider any future suggestions which are made by the Institute for the development of the organisation, particularly for the development of organisations in the regions. This kind of work must not be centralised if it is to be done effectively. The films must be in the regions; the Central Office of Information has found that type of organisation to be necessary. If the Institute is to develop the idea of showing sample programmes of selected films to the public and to interested people, it means that it must have the machinery for doing that kind of thing. It certainly needs to start with a small cinema or small studio in London where the films can be shown.
I must, as I have done on previous occasions, declare a very considerable interest in the film industry. I must also make it clear that I am speaking for myself, and not necessarily for my hon. and right hon. Friends, though in fact I agree with everything said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). Incidentally, he asked me to express his apologies to the House as he had to leave for an important engagement in the country.It is not unnatural after an extremely strenuous Parliamentary week, and it being a very lovely day, that there is a thin attendance in this House; but as a matter of fact some of the issues raised in this Bill, some of the points which have been put in the little Debate which we have had, are really of great importance. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman who—speaking of him in his personal and not his political capacity is a very acute observer of events in this House—agrees with me. I wish to pay a tribute to the work which has been done by the British Film Institute and I am pleased to see present two hon. Gentlemen opposite who either have been or are connected with it. Especially valuable has been the work of the Film Library. I think I am right in saying—I am not an expert in these matters—that there is nothing like it in any other country. I cannot resist a little friendly chaff of the Financial Secretary. He said that it would be interesting, if films had been in existence in those days, to have had a film of Alfred spoiling the cakes and of the wives of Henry VIII. I suggest that it would be equally interesting, even today, to show a picture of the average working man in employment having his Sunday dinner in the "bad old days of Tory misrule." Perhaps the Film Institute would think about putting that on the screen. I am sure that the organisation with which I am connected would be very willing to give it screen time—with the beef and the beer and all the rest of it. The film can be made into a valuable historical repository of knowledge. The organisation with which I am connected, the J. Arthur Rank Organisation, were associated with the Institute in producing a highly successful festival of Czechoslovakian films. It was held in London last year, and I have no doubt that the Institute has in mind the possibility of the extension of that principle, and of having other exhibitions of foreign films in this country. I consider it an advantage that the Institute has on its council representatives of the industry, and that there has been the closest and most friendly co-operation between representatives of the industry and of the Institute. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman—if he thinks it necessary to reply to this short Debate—will accept the point which I am about to make, that it is most advisable for the Institute to endeavour to carry the trade with them and to secure the continuance of that form of co-operation. Now I come to a point where I am in some disagreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd). It is a point which I consider very important, although there may be hon. Members opposite who may equally be in disagreement with me. There is always the danger that a body of this kind, receiving a direct subsidy from the Government, may make, in embryo at any rate, an effort to create means whereby this or any other Government could use the very powerful instrument of the cinema, and we have to be careful here to see that that influence is not allegedly exercised in favour of a better type of film, but really exercised in favour of propaganda. I do not think that danger does arise, but I call attention to it. No one attempts, so far as I know, to lay down, through a Government sponsored organisation, for the newspaper industry or for the theatre what articles should be written or what plays should be produced. That issue may arise when we receive the report of the Commission on the Press. But, at any rate, there is no such thing at the present time. I was therefore slightly concerned at the friendly criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Bucklow who suggested that the Institute might do more to bring about the production of better films. I must repeat what hon. Gentlemen opposite, also connected with the film industry but not present in the House today, have said before on more than one occasion and with which I associated myself. The cinema industry, like other industries, has to a considerable extent to have regard to public taste. It can of course endeavour to improve the public taste, just as can the theatre and newspapers. But there is an only too prevalent idea in certain quarters, ignorant of the entertainment industry, that if only the cinema industry would produce the type of film which certain aesthetic people would like to see produced, then the industry would be in a very much safer position than it is today. In fact, the opposite is the case. Again and again when a certain film has been produced, which is supposed to be of great aesthetic and artistic value, and some cinemas have shown it, it has proved to be a complete and absolute failure. We cannot ask the public to pay to see something which they do not want to see. In this connection I would say with regard to at least one film critic—I will not give her name—that what would satisfy that particular film critic would not satisfy the public and anything which satisfies the public would not satisfy that particular critic.
Is the noble Lord advocating that the cinema should pander to low ideals, if it happens that the public taste for the time being stands for low ideals?
I said nothing of the sort, and I am rather surprised that the hon. Member, who I believe to be a fair-minded man, should attribute such an astonishing idea to me. I have already said that while the cinema industry, like the newspaper industry, or the theatre, or as a matter of fact this House, can do its best to improve the standard of debate and news and plays presented, the cinema industry is conditioned, just as the Press and Parliament are conditioned, by the wishes of the public.
I put the point only because of a controversy which arose between the noble Lord and me on a past occasion when children's cinema clubs were discussed, and on that occasion he seemed to me to stand for the showing of films which were highly unsuitable for children to see.
I do not know why the hon. Member should attribute any such intention to me. I have forgotten the circumstances, but I think that what I did say on that occasion—and it is indeed the fact, but I must not enter into a discussion on that otherwise I shall be out of Order—is that it was discovered that children like certain types of adventure films. If given purely education films they do not take much interest in them, probably, I have no doubt, because they have seen at least some of them in school.The cinema industry relies upon public support. If hon. Members of this House were only to make speeches which they thought were good but which the public did not like; if newspaper articles were written which nobody would read, but which were considered to have a great moral value; if plays put on at the theatre emptied the theatre, but were considered to promote international morality, it would be contrary to the whole democratic principles of the country—
I do not propose to give way again I have already given way twice to the hon. Member. This is a democratic community and its institutions in their policy must have regard to the wishes of the public to a very considerable extent. It is true that by wise guidance the Press, the theatre and cinema industry like Members of this House can endeavour to give a lead to the public along the channels which they think right. It is high falutin nonsense to say that it is the duty of the cinema to give the people what they do not want and never to give them what they do want. I think the Institute has materially helped to a considerable extent in assisting the industry in producing an informed opinion on the whole subject.In regard to the amount of money, the figure is not excessive, but I imagine that the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that, for the time being at any rate, the Institute should be satisfied with the amount given. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman said so in his speech. The report of the committee asked for a larger sum of money, but I think they should be satisfied with this sum. I hope the Institute will continue its good work and that it will confine itself to that work. I hope there will be nothing tendentious about the guidance which it gives. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit that it is very necessary that the Institute should be kept free from any sort of political bias, and, subject to those reservations, I commend the Bill.
I can speak again only with the leave of the House, but I should like to answer briefly some of the points made. I am grateful, on behalf of the Government, that the House has received this small Bill with such goodwill and approval. I should also like to say to the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) that it is my view, and I am positive it is also that of the overwhelming majority of the House, that any money that is given for these purposes should not, either directly or indirectly, be used to subsidise or assist any set of views. The grant is at large, but I think the House appreciates why it is not necessary to put in a specific figure. Although a figure is not there, it should not be felt that any amount can be given by way of grant-in-aid, because there are always the Committee of Supply and the Estimates Committee to keep in check any Government which hon. Members might feel was running away with the matter.The hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd) said we were not, in the amount which we were willing to give, very much below the estimate set forth in the Report of the Radcliffe Committee; but, considering the amount involved, I think we are going considerably below it. The suggestion made was not a hard-and-fast one, but was that something in the neighbourhood of £100,000 should be given annually, plus £30,000 for capital expenditure, which makes £130,000.
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me? In the Financial Memorandum it is estimated that, apart from capital expenditure of £30,000, which is not annual, the future annual expenses of the Institute may be of the order of £100,000.
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I realise that he is striking a balance between the £96,000 and the £130,000. Even then, it is a difference of £34,000, but it is a small point and I do not wish to labour it. The hon. Gentleman also said that he hoped that this does not mean that the Government enjoy increasing the number of these organisations for which they are willing to find subsidies. This Institute has been in existence for some time, and what we are doing here is done at the request of a Committee upon whose judgment I feel sure we can rely in asking the House to give legislative approval to its recommendations.
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? More has, of course, been achieved since the Institute was founded, but, on behalf of myself and the organisation with which I am connected, I should like to say that other organisations as well have produced such features as those which were known as "The March of Time," which were of an instructional nature, and that much of that nature has been done by private enterprise. The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, able to claim that that was partly due to the influence of the Institute.
I do not desire to make undue claims for the work of the Institute, and it is quite true that private enterprise organisations outside did a great deal of work, side by side with the Institute, and one reason why more has not been done has been the fact that they have not had the money with which to do it. That is another reason why we are now asking the House to make provision so that additional grants may be given to enable them to do more than it has been possible to do in the past.I promised the hon. Member for Bucklow that I would break down the figure of £96,000, and it may interest him and the House to know that it breaks down in the following manner. For the Institute itself, administration, the publication of "Sight and Sound" and the monthly bulletin, central booking and other services, £37,000; the National Film Library is expected to cost about £11,000; accommodation and administration in London and Aston Clinton are expected to cost about £31,000; the Festival of Britain and allowances there, about £2,000; grants-in-aid, £8,000, the largest of which is £5,000, to the Scottish Films Council; and, finally, £7,000 for capital expenditure, bringing the whole total up to £96.000. We shall be able to discuss these matters in greater detail when we reach the Estimates. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) said that the work had been restricted because of the inadequate grants which had previously been allocated, and other hon. Members have mentioned that point. Perhaps I may refer to the passage in the Report which deals with this matter. The grant from the Cinematograph Fund averaged under £9,000 until 1944. Therefore, in the early days little was done because of lack of money. It is only since then that larger sums have been available, and therefore, if the Institute was to continue with this work, and if, as I think most of us desire, it was to increase it, it was essential that funds should be found from other sources. In reply to the speech of the noble Lord, I might say that he spoke as he always does. He never speaks in this House unless he is interested and has knowledge of the subject, and on this subject he is extremely knowledgeable. I agree with him that we have got to give the public what it wants, although a great deal can be done to educate public opinion. Some of the advertisements which one sees in the Press are not the sort of advertisements that one would like to see. I was looking at one last night in one of the evening papers. A prominent feature of it was that the film dealt with the illicit loves of certain individuals. It may be that the public desire that—I do not know; but we have to remember that we have to cater for all tastes. Our job, and the job of others interested in this matter, is to try to improve the appreciation of the public, and to make it demand good films. As and when people do demand better films, I am positive that such films will be forthcoming.
The point is very fairly put by the right hon. Gentleman.
A great deal has been done. The works of Shakespeare and of Dickens are now being filmed, and those of us who watch these matters know that when films of that calibre are produced and shown, people flock in crowds to see them.Before I sit down, I should like to remind the noble Lord that the working man having his dinner under the old days of Tory rule will be seen in films by future generations. As the noble Lord well knows, not only documentary and historical films, but also modern and feature films are kept at Aston Clinton. Therefore, it will be possible for future generations, when they are shown the feature films of today, to see how we lived in all classes of society. They will be able to judge between one Government and another from the films they see in days to come. I close by thanking the House for the reception it has given to this Bill. Although it is a small Bill and the House today is thinly populated, nevertheless, I think that if we do give it a Second Reading, as I am sure we shall, we shall have done a good day's work.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[ Mr. Popplewell.]
British Film Institute Money
Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84.—[ King's Recommendation signified.]
[Mr. BOWLES in the Chair]
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to provide for the payment of grants to the British Film Institute, it is expedient to authorise the payment of such grants out of moneys provided by Parliament."—[Mr. Glenvil Hall.]
Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Popplewell.]
Commonwealth (Racial Relations)
The discussion I am fortunate enough to be able to initiate today concerns what has, in my view rightly, been described as the problem of the century: the deep and difficult problem of the relationship between the races of mankind. In many parts of the world, in Asia and in Africa, there is a ferment of often rather raw nationalism. Millions of people are suddenly awakening to race-consciousness and political self-consciousness, and the attitude towards these developments of the Western Powers which claim to have reached some political maturity may be, in the true sense of the word, epoch-making. It may make an epoch of harmony and true progress and partnership, with a rich diversity within a fundamental unity, or it may perpetuate and aggregate existing divisions and difficulties.Quite clearly, various Departments and Ministers are concerned with the different aspects which I shall touch upon. I understand that the Secretary of State for the Colonies is actually on his way back from South Africa today, so that he, clearly, could not have been here. I must add that I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of state for Commonwealth Relations for taking the trouble, at some personal inconvenience I know, to be here to answer the Debate. The recent success of the Commonwealth Conference, so largely due to the statesmanship shown by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and by the other Dominion statesmen who were present, proves that there is a real potency in the idea and the practice of treating men or peoples as equals and as partners. It is not a sentimental outworn myth. The real myth is the attitude expressed in some parts of the world as the doctrine of "white supremacy," and in other parts as the doctrine of Apartheid—the idea that the races of men are intrinsically different from each other and that some are inherently superior to others. This idea must surely be clean contrary, not only to Christianity but to everything that anybody can possibly mean by that much over-used word "democracy." This myth should have died in the holocaust of the Chancellery in Berlin. Unfortunately, it still persists here and there. We must not, of course, under-estimate the difficulties of dealing with it, or fail to understand the historic reasons that have led to these prejudices becoming enshrined in dogmas of society; but, none the less, we must deal with it. Its persistence in some parts of the Western world provides the Communists with their best and their truest propaganda, but that is not, of course, the chief reason for tackling it. It has to be dealt with for its own sake, because it is in itself objectionable. Of the two attitudes which I have described—the attitude of partnership and inter-racial co-operation, on the one hand, and the attitude of segregation and separation, on the other—the British Government are committed strongly and irrevocably to the former. I believe that we in this country have the opportunity and the experience to contribute to the world-wide solution of this problem by our example and leadership in the world, by our actions in the Colonial Empire and in the United Nations, and also, to a much lesser degree, of course—because it does not arise in such a widespread or acute way—by our administration in this country. If I may deal with that last and smallest of the three aspects first, I would refer to the troubles that there have recently been in Cardiff and elsewhere about employment for British subjects from overseas who are barred by some employers because of their colour. I rather wish that the Minister of Labour would be as tough with such employers as the Minister of Food is with catering establishments which try to impose a racial ban. The House will remember that some little time ago, as the result of an incident at Rules Restaurant in London, the Minister of Food announced that he would withdraw catering licences from all establishments pursuing a policy of racial discrimination. I wish the Minister of Labour likewise would decide to boycott, as it were, such employers and refuse to provide them with substitute labour if they refuse to take suitable coloured men. I am bound to add that, unfortunately, such incidents are not always the fault of the employer. There was one recent incident in Cardiff, about which I have exchanged correspondence with the Minister of Labour, who confirms that
That seems to me, on the face of it, to be a most scandalous incident in which, so far as one can judge, the misguided workers were entirely to blame. One can, of course, understand the natural fear, on the part of workers in this country, of the importation of cheap labour from overseas to undercut their wages; but that cannot have been the motive in this case, since there is reference to separate canteen facilities being the point at issue."a small woodworking firm in Cardiff, employing 37 men and 17 women, notified vacancies to my Local Office recently, for which two men of colour were submitted and engaged. The firm were quite pleased with these two workers and asked for two more, but, unfortunately, when they were engaged the other employees objected to their commencing work unless separate canteen and other facilities were provided for them. As the employer was unable to do this, he cancelled the engagement of the two coloured men in order to avoid a dispute at the works which might have led to a stoppage of work."
Does my hon. Friend know whether the trade union was approached, whether these men belonged to the trade union, and, if so, whether the trade union took any action in the matter?
I do not know offhand, but I will discuss the matter afterwards with my hon. Friend. I am still in correspondence about it with the Minister of Labour.I mention this domestic incident because all these incidents, such as the cases in which landladies refuse to let rooms to coloured men, all have their repercussions throughout the Colonial Empire. In the Colonial Empire, too, the enlightened policy of the home Government in Whitehall is often in conflict with the retrograde prejudices of people on the spot. I do not necessarily mean Colonial Office employees. I mean business men, settlers and others. I see that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been in trouble this week in Northern Rhodesia. He appears to have made a speech at Salisbury in which he referred to the rights of Africans. He said:
Then he said:"It is clear that for the economic well-being and social development of the territory the European must have a permanent place."
But because he also said in the same speech that there must be some control over permanent white settlement in Northern Rhodesia and that African rights must be guaranteed, there was a storm among the local white inhabitants. One of their spokesmen at once announced that this very moderate statement was "unacceptable." He was formerly a professional boxer, and is now, I gather, a Councillor; he certainly did not pull his punches. He said:"It has been British policy, while safeguarding the interests of the African, to encourage a degree of European development."
I can only say that I hope my right hon. Friend did not allow himself to be bullied by these white savages, and that he will make a statement on this position in Northern Rhodesia as soon as he possibly can after his return today. Both in the Colonial Empire and at home it is largely a question of education. There is one general reflection about this that I should like to make. It is not original: my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) has said something very similar. It is this: We in this House, perhaps when we are appealing to the country next year, and especially those of us who are in the Labour movement, have to try to educate the people of this country in the possibly unpopular lesson that we have no right to expect a very much higher material standard of living in this country until there has been a drastic improvement in the standard of living of millions of people overseas in the Colonial Empire—people to whose exploitation, often ruthless exploitation, in the past the people of this country owe their relatively high standard. That is not always fully realised, and I think it is our duty to teach that lesson. One useful medium of education may well be the Colonial Exhibition which is to be held next month in London. I have been sent a good deal of preliminary publicity about it. It is a series of exhibitions rather than a single exhibition. There are to be demonstrations of scouting in the Colonies. In one of the exhibition halls"If the British Government wants to carry out the Creech Jones policy it will have to send troops to do it. The European community will not recognise the supremacy of African interests."
Colonial stamps will form a special feature of the Exhibition, and"temperature and humidity are being arranged to give the public a momentary sensation of the atmosphere in which many servants of the Colonial Empire carry on their work."
It is not indicated whether they will be well-fed or whether they will be suffering from malnutrition. My only fear about this admirable exhibition, as it will no doubt prove to be, is that it may be somewhat too falsely optimistic in the general suggestion that it will convey. Can it possibly dramatise the vast extent of the problems of health, nutrition, education and so forth which confronts us? Certainly it is legitimate that it should indicate the progress that is being made, but I think it ought also to indicate what we are progressing from as well as what we are progressing to. In fact, there ought to be a few "black spots" in the Exhibition. That brings me to one aspect of the problem of the development of Africa which has not yet been fully understood. I referred just now to malnutrition. Those who have read and studied the Northcott Report, the African Labour Efficiency Survey, will no doubt have been startled and shocked as I was by the disclosures therein of the prevalence not merely of malnutrition but of what is called in this Survey "malignant" malnutrition. To laymen, such as myself, I suppose malnutrition has always seemed to be a condition which could probably be put right, as it was, for instance, when the German concentration-camps were liberated, by a few weeks or months of good feeding. This does not seem to be the case with malignant malnutrition. For instance, the Northcott Survey reports that"visitors will see full-size models of many Colonial peoples."
The disquieting result of those examinations was that after a whole year of good Army food the unusual clinical signs of malignant malnutrition were still present. That was"several hundred East African soldiers were examined intensively, not only for the recognised signs of malnutrition, but, in addition, special attention was directed to those organs and functions which were known to be affected by acute malignant malnutrition."
This kind of malnutrition is, therefore, apparently, not curable on any short-term basis. In passing, I may say that this is, of course, one answer to those few remaining apologists for colour discrimination and the colour bar who talk about the inherent "laziness," "shiftlessness," and "irresponsibility" of the Negro. In almost every case in which there are such attributes, they are found, on examination, to be attributable either to social disabilities or to malnutrition or to both. But how quickly can this curse of malnutrition throughout Africa be dealt with, and through what agencies. Time is not on our side. The crux of this problem—and this is where I come to the direct responsibility of my right hon. Friend—is perhaps the attitude adopted by the Government's representatives in the United Nations Organisation when aspects of the problem arise there in relation to parts of the Commonwealth. Of course, the problem does not manifest itself uniformly or with the same intensity in all parts of the world. I have often heard hon. Members speaking about the colour bar in the Southern' States of the U.S.A., but it must be pointed out that, deplorable as that may seem to us to be, there is a considerable body of liberal opinion in the United States, headed by President Truman himself, which is fighting that discrimination; whereas in the Union of South Africa, for instance, segregation is official policy. In view of the larger considerations which I have outlined, I want to suggest to my right hon. Friend that the United Kingdom representatives in U.N.O., whether in the General Assembly or in the special Commissions, should boldly side with those nations which condemn the practices of segregation and which oppose any extension of such practices to people who are at present not fully subject to them. It is, of course, the clear principle of trusteeship—a principle very dear to us, which we observe in our Protectorates, for instance—that the primary considerations is the welfare of the indigenous population, of the ordinary people of the territory; but the doctrine of Apartheid has been defined by no less a person than the South African Minister of Labour in these words:"after 12 months' feeding on an Army diet which was thought to he adequate in every known constituent, with the possible exception of a slight deficiency of Vitamin C."
That doctrine is surely contrary to the principle of trusteeship and I therefore suggest that our representatives at U.N.O. should always oppose the incorporation in territories administered according to such a doctrine of any peoples who are not yet so incorporated. The case of South-West Africa is the principal case in point. As the House will be aware, South-West Africa was mandated to South Africa by the League of nations. In recent years the position has been that the General Assembly of the United Nations has three times passed resolutions—in three successive years—inviting and recommending the Union of South Africa to hand over this territory to trusteeship. On each of those three occasions, I am sorry to, say—and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to enlarge today on the reasons for this—the United Kingdom representative has voted against that proposal."It means that there will never be social equality; that non-Europeans will never have the same political rights as the Europeans; and that the Europeans will always be baas (boss) in South Africa."
I think I am right in saying that they abstained.
I am sorry if I made a mistake, but this is my information as to what occurred on the last occasion. I have the exact details here and I will read them to the House. The last resolution was at the United Nations General Assembly in Paris in 1948. The clause in question was:
The result of the roll-call was: Against the above paragraph: Turkey, Union of South Africa, Australia, United Kingdom, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, France, Greece, Iceland, Lebanon, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Peru. Abstentions: Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Honduras, New Zealand, Panama. For the resolution: 32 countries—all the remaining countries in the United Nations. I am sorry if I have got it wrong somewhere, but perhaps my right hon. Friend will explain, because it seems quite clear that the United Kingdom voted against that resolution."The General Assembly therefore … maintains its recommendations of December, 14th, 1946, and November 1st, 1947, that South-West Africa be placed under the Trusteeship system and notes with regret that these recommendations have not been carried out."
I do not want to interrupt, my hon. Friend's speech, but on the occasion of which he speaks an Amendment was proposed to a resolution which, I think, was before the Committee. I thought he had been referring to the main resolution which was finally adopted by the Assembly, on which occasion our delegation abstained.
It is agreed, then, that on this particular resolution we voted against the proposal that:
"The General Assembly therefore … maintains its recommendations … that South-West Africa be placed under the Trusteeship system and notes with regret that these recommendations have not been carried out "?
I gather that one of the arguments which have been held to justify our representatives in taking that attitude is that there is no legal obligation on the Union of South Africa to hand over this mandated, or formerly mandated, territory to trusteeship. I have here a letter from our representative on the Trusteeship Council. When he was asked by a correspondent to raise this matter in the Trusteeship Council, he replied:
I am quite sure that our representative is correct in that statement, and, therefore, I should like to ask my right hon. Friend if it would not be possible, as in the other two cases, for the General Assembly to give such instructions to the Trusteeship Council, and, if so, whether our representative would support such a step in the General Assembly, or even, as I would wish, initiate it. This argument from the fact that there is no legal obligation on the Union Government to hand over the territory to Trusteeship, and no obligation on the Trusteeship Council to consider it, does seem rather to overlook the fact that the question of legality is itself a matter of dispute. My right hon. Friend will undoubtedly be aware of the weighty revision of Professor Oppenheim's "International Law" conducted by Professor Lauterpacht, of Cambridge, in the course of which, in the seventh edition, volume I, page 204, he says:"By the terms of the Charter, the Trusteeship Council is empowered to concern itself solely with the affairs of territories which have been placed under Trusteeship. There have, in fact, been two occasions when the Council concerned itself with other matters; the first, the drafting of the Statute of Jerusalem and the second the examination of the Report for 1946 on South-West Africa which the Union Government had sent to the United Nations for their information. But I should emphasise that the Trusteeship Council concerned itself with these matters only on the direct instructions of the General Assembly."
Again:"Although according to its wording the Charter imposes no clear obligation upon States which were Mandatories under Article 22 of the Covenant to place the territories in question under Trusteeship, it is clear that an obligation to this effect closely approaching a legal duty follows upon the principles of the Charter."
I quote this especially, in case my right hon. Friend should feel disposed to ride off on that familiar argument about integration—which is, as is well known, what South Africa is proposing to do formally—because Lauterpacht says:"The majority of the Trusteeship agreements provided that the territories be administered as integral parts of the administering Powers."
I do not want to waste any more time on the purely legalistic aspects of this matter, but I would just point out that with the passing of the South-West Africa Act by the Union Government we are faced, in effect, with a fait accompli. I would also point out that all the five African tribal chiefs in Bechuanaland have addressed the most earnest petition to the British Government imploring them to oppose the incorporation, not only of the High Commissioner Territories, but of South-West Africa itself, because they feel themselves increasingly being encircled and surrounded by what they regard as almost hostile territory. I do suggest today that we should take the initiative in, or, at any rate, support any proposals that there may be, for referring the whole of this problem to the International Court of Justice, and in implementing the General Assembly resolutions. My right hon. Friend will be well aware that these proposals do not come only from a few cranks or Left-Wingers. The deputation he saw a couple of months ago was an influential and representative deputation with Liberal as well as Labour Members of Parliament in it, and an Independent Member of Parliament, and representatives of many humanitarian and religious as well as political bodies. I do most earnestly ask him to reconsider his opinion on this matter, if he will. Closely related, of course, to the problem of South-West Africa is the problem of the High Commissioner Territories, which is once more topical because the South African Minister of Defence has stated publicly that the incorporation in the Union of those territories is essential to the strategic defence of Africa. We have had repeated assurances in this House from my right hon. Friend that the Government would not assent to any such incorporation without consultation with the peoples of the Territories. I just wonder what exactly is implied by that, what form of consultation there will be, and whether it will be more thorough than the consultation which took place in South-West Africa some little time ago? The current issue of the United Nations Association organ, "United Nations News," contains some graphic descriptions of the "absolute farce" that that referendum Was—to use the words of a missionary with nine years' experience in South-West Africa and the Bishop of Damaraland has written:"It was made clear at the time that the phrase ('administered as integral parts') does not imply any claim to sovereignty over trust territories."
My right hon. Friend may also be aware that this proposal which I am putting up has now been officially embraced by the Executive Committee of the United Nations Association, which is, as he knows, an influential, all-party organisation. With reference to the High Commissioner Territories, what many of us would like to see would be their transfer to the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office because they would then have the beenfit, not only of probably considerably greater welfare arrangements, but also of Colonial Office personnel, trained in the idea of partnership with Africans, rather than the present personnel who, though I make no criticism of them personally, come for the most part from the Union of South Africa, and, inevitably, bring their outlook with them. One of the gravest and most difficult of all these cognate problems is the problem of detribalisation, which is probably inevitable to some extent in the evil vortex of Johannesburg, or in the better conditions of the Groundnuts Scheme. But, in reference to the High Commissioner Territories, I would point out that Chief Tchekedi's enterprising leadership in Bechuanaland does show that the tribal system can still work. My right hon. Friend may be aware that—I think this month—Sir Evelyn Baring is going to open a fine new secondary school, which has been built largely through the initiative of Chief Tchekedi and his people. Would it not be possible even now to make a gesture to this fine and intelligent African, and to invite him to come to this country to discuss his people's problems and prospects, as he himself has so often asked to be allowed to do? I hope that my right hon. Friend will even now consider asking Chief Tchekedi to come here. All the missionaries I know, and all the official spokesmen of missionary organisations in England and elsewhere, oppose the incorporation of the High Commissioner Territories in the Union. This is a special interest of the Church throughout the world. The Churches in South Africa have taken the most forthright and courageous stand about it, and my right hon. Friend has, I know, personally met one clergyman, the Rev. Michael Scott, who has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the African people, and in particular the Hereros; he is now awaiting a visa, which has been refused to him, to go to America for the opening next Monday of the Human Rights Commission, to which he has been invited as an observer by an officially recognised consultative body of the United Nations. I do not know if my hon. Friend could possibly put in a word in the right quarter to expedite that visa. I apologise for detaining the House so long, but there is, after all, plenty of time today. There are two aspects of this problem, the practical and the moral. The practical aspect is this, that there are inevitably repercussions throughout Africa of policies such as the policy of Apartheid, and of action such as the "integration" of South-West Africa in the Union. Inevitably, there is a conflict between what goes on in that part of the Continent and our own Colonial Office policy elsewhere. Inevitably, the great schemes for the development of Africa, which depend so essentially on the co-operation and the goodwill of Africans, are hampered when the news of what is going on further south comes through. I would only instance, as one example of such a conflict, the terrible conditions of the thousands of workers from Nyasaland, people within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, who had to appoint a special representative in Johannesburg to look after their interests and welfare because of the appalling poverty, squalor, and general chaos in which they were forced to live. Now, it is not enough to say that our Colonial policy, of which we are, rightly, increasingly proud, will seem all the better by contrast, and that therefore we at any rate will keep the goodwill of the Africans. If we appear to acquiesce publicly in policies which seem to them intolerable, we shall forfeit a large part of that goodwill. There is another aspect of the practical side. The more liberal-minded businessmen in South Africa are themselves beginning to realise that it is impossible in the 20th century to build up a stable and prosperous society on the basis of domination of one race over another; they are beginning to realise that at the present time South Africa is a bad investment. Has my right hon. Friend had any discussions or negotiations yet about a loan to South Africa? He will no doubt be aware that the recent discussions in Washington of a loan from the United States to South Africa were a failure and broke down, and that the attempt by the Union Government to raise a loan domestically was also largely a failure. It may be that an approach will shortly be made to His Majesty's Government in this country. We have no right whatever to interfere in the domestic arrangements of the Union of South Africa. Indeed, if I had made any suggestion of so doing, you Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would have pulled me up at once. But we have the right at all times in the United Nations—and especially, I think, if South Africa asks for a loan—to make our views clear; we can indicate our sympathy with the liberal minority opinion in South Africa; and the time may come when we shall have to consider whether continued defiance, by a member of the Commonwealth "club," of the club's basic principles might not necessitate expulsion. That brings me, finally, to what I regard as the supreme consideration. Our democratic professions will be largely futile, and will seem hypocritical, and we shall never have a truly peaceful world, until our human society, including this great association of free nations—more or less free, as they are at present—is patterned after that Divine Commonwealth in which there is neither Greek nor Jew, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither bond nor free. To that end I have that we are today making some modest contribution."To those who know South-West Africa the significance of the figures is quite different from what appears on the face of them. The 30,000 who were against annexation by the Union are the only natives who have any idea of the meaning of the matter at issue. These 30,000 are the Hercro, and others within the Police Zone who have been in contact with Europeans and live under European law and administration. They practically unanimously expressed themselves as against annexation."
I am quite sure that all those on this side of the House, and I believe those on the other side as well, will appreciate the excellent speech that has been made by my hon. Friend. In rising to support all that he has said and urged, I am quite certain that he will receive the most sympathetic attention of the Minister. In the early part of his speech he referred to the very significant conference held recently by the Dominion representatives, out of which there has emerged, we hope, a new and richer conception of Commonwealth. We all know that there are those who are perhaps a little cynical about the nature of that Commonwealth; there are equally those who want it to fail; and there are others perhaps who are rather alarmed at this new garment, but who dare not say so. I was very glad indeed to notice quite recently that the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister of India had dinner together. Certainly when we thought of that we were a little heartened, both by the actual fact itself and by the remarkable development that has taken place in the minds of statesmen, and in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition in particular.One hopes that this new conception of Commonwealth—whether or not it incorporates the term "British" being quite incidental and secondary—will expand, will become implemented and integrated and a living example to the whole world. If that conception of Commonwealth is truly to be a living example to the whole world, I am sure that it must not be merely left as a declaration which in the end will be only a piece of camouflaged mockery of all that Commonwealth was intended to be. I would submit that if "Commonwealth" is to be a reality, if with the Dominions and Colonies within that Commonwealth we are to show substance to the world and not merely artificiality, if we are to indicate our consistency and sincerity, then "Commonwealth" must be interpreted in terms of common rights among all the peoples within that Commonwealth, otherwise the term has no meaning whatever, except as a hollow mockery of its nominal content. That being so, I earnestly hope that we in this country, with every desire to make this Commonwealth a reality, will not only welcome every attempt being made within the Commonwealth to raise the status of its people and to secure the greater assimilation of its moral principles, but will indicate quite clearly to any member of that Commonwealth where we feel they are doing a disservice to ourselves and the Commonwealth as a whole. That is why I endorse the concluding words of my hon. Friend who opened this very interesting and important Debate. Of course, we recognise that there are those inside the Commonwealth whose conception of the nature of that Commonwealth is very different from that, shall we say, accepted by those of us on these benches, and perhaps on the benches opposite as well. We believe in an essential equality; we believe in a democracy that is constructive and positive. This does not mean we believe everyone is identical, or that there must be a mere mechanical flattening of all variations, Quite the contrary, We do, however, believe in an essential spiritual equality, and because of that we strive in this country steadily to implement it, and we look forward with hope and encouragement to the same development in other parts of the Commonwealth. However, there are those within the Commonwealth who, quite conscientiously, have no such conception of what human life should be, They have the ancient and powerful hierarchical conception of life—a conception which has a certain amount of support in the world of philosophy and anthropology, although I certainly do not accept it myself. Those who hold that conception will naturally find every possible opportunity to press for its strengthening and retention, and try to prevent the development of what to us is the truer and sounder democratic conception which belongs so much not perhaps to man's beginning but rather to his fulfilment. This idea of a pyramid of human beings is familiar to us in the writings of Nazis and Fascists. We have repudiated that. A dreadful war took place for six years, at least partly to try to repudiate the idea that there must be, for all time, this pyramid of nations and peoples, inferiors and superiors, divided into various grades and sections. That is not to say that we do not recognise the existence of these difficulties and these existing ranges of inferiority and superiority. The democrat does not deny their existence but he works for the development of a newer and, we think, finer society out of existing circumstances. I suggest that we have a moral obligation towards the Commonwealth to make it clear to all the members of it that, so far as Britain is concerned, we shall help firmly its progress towards the ultimate realisation of the full democratic conception of the Commonwealth. We must, without malice but with firmness, be ready to indicate to our fellow members whenever we feel that, consciously or unconsciously, they have outraged the purpose of the Commonwealth, and the means whereby that Commonwealth can exist as a reality. Let me give the House an illustration of a rather human character. The other day a newspaper was sent to me from South Africa, and in it there was a letter from an indignant correspondent declaring that a picture which he had seen, and which had been taken in this country, showed Mr. Nehru and Dr. Malan sitting side by side. He declared that the picture could not possibly be true. It must be a lie because he was sure that Dr. Malan would never tolerate association with an Indian. Fortunately, in the editorial column of the paper it was pointed out that the picture was a photograph and that in this case it certainly did not lie. That story gives us a glimpse of a mentality which is by no means confined to South Africa. It exists in other parts of the world. Think of the shocking effect that letter could have upon the mentality of millions of human beings whom we want to retain inside the Commonwealth. Think of the effect it might have upon millions of our Indian brothers and sisters or that it is likely to have in our African Colonies. If ever there grows up an assumption that we are endorsing that attitude, and that, although we might be reticent and diplomatic about it, we are nevertheless conniving with, if not encouraging, those who are anxious to keep permanent this hierarchical segregation of the races, I am sure that the Commonwealth will steadily disintegrate. The genuine high hopes that all Members of this House now have of that Commonwealth being a glowing example to the world would then evaporate. I do not pretend that the solution to the problem is easy. The breaking up of the human race into various communities has indeed been endorsed in their blindness by most peoples to a greater or less degree at one time or another in the history of mankind. When I was in Nigeria recently, I was interested to find that there were divisions even there, and that one community was apt to look down upon another. I saw naked pagans there, and I found that a few Africans were inclined to look down upon them as being intrinsically inferior. This does not apply, of course, to the majority of Nigerians, but it exists in certain quarters. I mention this only to illustrate the fact that a racial problem exists even there, and to expose the danger which results from it, not only to our minds but to the minds of all the people within the Commonwealth. The problem is indeed a common human one. I am very glad, as we all are, that the new Indian Government has laid it down that un-touchability shall not be legally recognised. The ancient segregation of Indians into various casts is becoming weaker as the years pass, That decline has received a strong impetus, as I knew it would, from the decision of the Indian Government and the statesmen of the new India. We are therefore seeing this healthy development take place in that part of the Commonwealth. One hopes that the day will arrive very speedily when all the ancient segregations that have been so shameful in India and elsewhere will disappear altogether. If we are to speed the coming of that day while, at the same time, we are tacitly endorsing in some other part of the Commonwealth, not the decline of ancient or new segregations but their intensification and crystallisation, then though we may rejoice in human development in one part of the Commonwealth we shall have to deplore the counter-balancing effect of exactly the opposite tendency in another part of it. For these reasons, which are very genuine in my heart and mind, I hope that we shall encourage our British representatives at the Assembly of the United Nations to give a lead and take the initiative. I appreciate some of the reasons which may operate in their minds regarding difficult and delicate questions such as South Africa. There is the fact that expediency has often to be exercised. Sometimes one is in a position of having to choose not between right and wrong but between two evils. I quite understand that our representatives may have had to say "Though we should like to do this, we dare not do it because of repercussions elsewhere which may injure the Commonwealth." Though I appreciate those reasons of expediency I earnestly urge that the time for such reasons has gene by. We must look beyond immediate necessities of internal diplomatic adjustments, although there is a case for it, I know. We have to think of the whole world, not merely with a short-term but with a long-term policy. What will be the effect of reticence or diplomatic paralysis, or of our apparent connivance at racial segregation at the United Nations and elsewhere, on the millions of our coloured brethren in various parts of the world? None of us want to see, as the era of international war fades, the beginning of inter-racial war. That indeed would be dreadful to contemplate. At the same time, we must recognise that, rightly or wrongly, there are emotions gathering now in the breasts of coloured peoples which are linked with bitterness against the white people, and unfortunately sometimes against British people. I do not justify that emotion, which is often irrational and unfair, but we know enough about human nature to understand that though man should be rational he rarely is. The task of politicians, I presume, is "to guide the irrational towards the rational. We have to face the fact that there are instincts, emotions and, if you like, understandable neurotic reactions, which are fermenting in the minds of many of our coloured brethren, and that are dangerous to us as to other races on the earth. It is no good merely criticising that and psychologically analysing it. Something much more than that has to be done. We have to try to encourage our coloured brethren and to help them to break through the aura of suspicion, resentment and fear. One way to do this is to make it clear to the world as a whole when we meet in the councils of the United Nations that we shall do our utmost to see that those coloured races are treated as human beings and are recognised as equals along with the white races. That again, is not enough. We must not employ fair words that are only too often accompanied by poor or foul deeds, or express sympathetic adulation of high principles that are left in the sky and never come down to earth. The one means by which we can impress upon those millions of our dark-skinned brethren that we really mean what we say when we talk to them as brethren, and that our own Christian faith is not merely a cult or a habit but a living reality, is to prove it by our deeds. We must stand quite firm at the United Nations, and on other occasions when we have a similar opportunity, as believers in the equal rights of coloured men with the white peoples, whatever be their race. This is bound to mean disturbance somewhere. It is certain to mean in some parts of our Commonwealth a good deal of head shaking and angry resentment. We must not be undiplomatic or tactless about it, but equally we must not be mealy-mouthed. We must make it clear that this is the stand we take and that we do so in the best interests of the Commonwealth as a whole and the ideals it should embody. I therefore plead with my right hon. Friend to let us know where that is in being within the councils of the Commonwealth. He should urge the acceptance of the principle of common rights for all the subjects and citizens of the Commonwealth. I know that the Declaration of Human Rights has been discussed and more or less nominally adopted over a wider sphere; we also know that it is not always thoroughly understood or properly applied. We must go on with our work in trying to get it integrated and implemented, but meanwhile we have this splendid opportunity of setting an example to the wider world than our own Commonwealth. If that is so, surely we can at least consider whether it is possible, in order to make the Commonwealth a reality, for us to press upon the Commonwealth the acceptance of common rights for all the subjects and citizens within the Commonwealth. More than all the fair words which might be expressed, that would make it a reality. That would show the world that although the Commonwealth has changed its form somewhat, it is nevertheless a reality as never before. If we can do that, we can then go forward and say proudly and gladly at the United Nations Assembly, "Here is the example we are making. Here is our stand. No longer can you accuse us of insincerity or inconsistency because within this mighty Commonwealth we have now made this stand. We want you to recognise that any attempt made by the United Nations more firmly to establish this principle in the world will meet with our constant and undeviating support." A few days ago I met a South African subject bearing a distinguished name which would be known to all of us. He had come here for the first time in his life. He had also been to India for he is an Indian although a South African subject. One thing which impressed him more than anything else was the amazing kindliness of the English people. Having been a resident in South Africa, he did not dream that there could be such not melodramatic or extravagant but simple normal kindness. He was accepted here as a human being. He sat in my garden last Sunday and talked, and I could tell that he was moved by the fact that his treatment here was so drastically different from the treatment he had received in South Africa. There he was looked upon as an inferior person because he had a coloured skin. There he had to consider all the while the flaunting superiority of the white man. There he had to accept the assumption that because he had a coloured skin he was intrinsically a different being not entitled to the same rights. To his surprise he found that it was entirely different here and that if he walked along the streets, went into restaurants or came to the house of a modest Member of Parliament, there was no such psychological segregation or repudiation. He found that he was accepted as a man no matter what the colour of his skin was and no matter what was his race or creed. He and his friend said that they had discovered that the Englishman was not as they had so often found the white man in South Africa to be. That human illustration moves me considerably because I hate to feel that anywhere in the Commonwealth there are men and women who feel that they are doomed to permanent inferiority as a kind of lower order, such as Hitler tried to make a large section of our fellow human beings. I want to see the Commonwealth, now shedding the elements of domination, rising to great heights and presenting an inspiring example to the world. I plead with my right hon. Friend to say that he is willing to support the principle of human rights for members of the Comonwealth and that he will do what he can to see that our representatives at the United Nations show the world that they mean what they say when they talk of democracy, and that they mean to apply it as far as they can, not only to those who are white but to all of God's creatures on this mortal earth.
As I listened to the eloquent speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), I had it within my heart to wish that the Debate had not taken place at the tail end of a very busy week and in a comparatively thin House and that we could disregard precedent and tradition and send it out over the radio. Then the millions of citizens who are responsible in a very great measure for the state of affairs which has been so well set forth, would realise just how pressing is the problem of racial relations, not only within the Commonwealth, but over the face of the globe, and how important is a solution in view of the urgent necessity to maintain peace and assist the folk of the world along the paths of progress and brotherliness.It is not sufficiently appreciated in this country that we are tarred with an unpleasant brush by many critics. We in Great Britain do not deserve that tarring. The average person in the ordinary little house in the ordinary little street in village or town just does not know what the colour bar means. I will give a personal illustration which has guided me in my thoughts about this ever since my boyhood. I was brought up in a street of some 60 families, and I can asseverate that it was not until I returned home as a student on vacation from college that I realised that one of my neighbours was of a colour different from my own. He and his family were so much integrated into our community and accepted by it that it never struck those people that he was anything but their very good friend and neighbour. When I go to the home of my parents, it is obligatory on me, in order to maintain my place in the little community in which I was born, to make a state visit to that neighbour. While it was true that the street was extremely pleased when I became a Member of Parliament, an even greater triumph was when that Negro neighbour of ours rose from being a journeyman to be master of his own business, therefore acquiring a position in the aristocracy of the street. That is the approach of the ordinary person to this problem if there are no economic bedevilments and no political preachments to change his points of view. In that same city, of which I am proud to be a native—the ancient city of Plymouth, which has the one blot on its escutcheon that it was very largely responsible for making England the principal factor in the slave trade—a very wonderful thing has happened. The chairman of the housing committee of that city, the son of a Sierra Leonean, is a coloured man, and he has refused the honour of sitting in the lord mayoral chair, which was once occupied when it was a mayoral chair by Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins, in order that he may continue his great work for the people of Plymouth in rebuilding the city for them after the terrible damage of the blitz. Nobody in Plymouth has anything but normal respect for the gifts of such a great public servant. They do not think of him in any way as something curious. I had to show them that it was a point of pride for the people of this city that there should be this distinguished example of the brotherliness of peoples there. One of the greatest professors of our Northern universities is a distinguished Colonial who is giving a great deal of educational service to this country. All of us know of people going normally to black, brown and yellow doctors who do not regard their colour as anything strange. Chinese from Hong Kong and Negro doctors abound. We do not close either the professions or professional practice against them in this country, and we carry out the precepts which have been adumbrated here today. It is true that occasionally there is a throw-back, as in the Cardiff case, but the House will agree that it is due to an economic ill and not to a change in. the habits of our people in avoiding any semblance of the colour bar. So much we may claim for ourselves when we regard it as so normal that we do not see that we have to make much of this as a law. If, as is true, all the other nations of the Commonwealth look towards us, they should not only be able to see, if they look hard enough, how we in Britain regard this problem, but we owe it to them that we should underline our attitude and invite them to see how our practice differs from their own, where it does so. So my first suggestion is that it is the duty of the people of this country to realise how important is their personal attitude. I am happy to see when I go home in the evening, the night shift going on duty at one of our great factories, the A.E.C. Amongst the busy throngs hurrying to work are people of colour from our Colonies, equally and happily seeking their nightly task with their white colleagues. There is not the slightest discrimination nor, indeed, the slightest imagination that there should be discrimination, which is an even finer thing. I want to underline something which was said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton. We have to remember that racial discrimination can work in many ways. It may be brown against black as in the West Indies. It can even be mainland territory against island, a superiority complex, as of British Honduras against Jamaica, which is bedevilling at the moment any speedy beginning to the implementation of the Evans Report. I would also point out that, where autonomy has been granted to some coloured countries, racial discrimination against the whites can and does obtain. Haiti is a case in point, and it is difficult now in Jamaica. All other things being equal, it is hard for the white man to secure a job as against the brown man—
In the Government service.
Yes. That is a state of affairs which I am sure we deplore equally.Where do our powers lie with regard to the most obvious and distressing case of racial discrimination within the Commonwealth at the moment? I have looked into the question of the law with as much care as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon, and he knows that I differ from him slightly on this point. Primarily it is not a matter of a legalistic remedy because a big mistake was made when the United Nations Charter was drawn up. The trusteeship provisions of the Charter were splendid in conception and, as far as they went, magnificent in phraseology. Where countries have been put under trusteeship a great step forward has been made. I am sure the House will agree that it was a fine thing to do and that it will lead to excellent results. The one thing the United Nations failed to do was to erect any bridge between the old League of Nations and the new United Nations. Owing to that omission alone, South Africa has such a strong legal case that it cannot be challenged. The opinion of Professor Lauterpach is interesting, but when I was trying to make up my mind as to how it would be likely to influence the judges at the International Court, who would be guided entirely by the present state of international law, I came to the conclusion that the suggestions of the professor would carry as little weight as my own on legal points with those rather dry jurists, who would simply administer the law as it is and as they know it. If they were to act as I am sure they would, they would have to say that the United Nations legally had no power whatever to compel any former mandatory Power to place its mandate under trusteeship. I regret that. I am sorry that no bridge was erected, but I am impelled reluctantly to the conclusion that there is no legal way of forcing South Africa to follow the example of this country and of her sister Dominions of Australia and New Zealand, who placed their former mandated territories under trusteeship.
If this bridge does not exist, how has South Africa acquired any status at all in South-West Africa? What is their deed of title?
The deed of title is the same title that I might have to a house, the original owner of which has died and with whom I had originally entered into an agreement to acquire the property. What South Africa holds is a mandate which came to it under the League of Nations, it is true, but which originally came to it as a result of the cession by a group of Powers which no longer exists as a corporate entity. One of the great Powers, Japan, which originally placed this territory under South Africa is no longer a great Power and there is no connecting link at all. The United Nations did not think back far enough, did not think ahead far enough, as to possible trouble when it wrote in the trusteeship clauses. So an entirely voluntary act is required of a Power holding a former mandate to place that territory under the Trusteeship Council.
The resolution which I read out merely "recommends," and my point was that it seems a pity that we should not join in recommending something which morally is so clearly desirable.
I was coming to that—
But under the League of Nations, did not Japan totally disregard the terms of the mandate in regard to mandated islands?
Indeed she did, but that is quite another matter. What I am trying to answer is the suggestion that there still may be some legal force to compel South Africa to place South-West Africa under trusteeship. I suggest that there was a gap, a hiatus, between the suicide of the League of Nations and the coming into being of the United Nations which makes it impossible legally to enforce upon South Africa what we may regard as her moral duty, to follow the example of other holding nations and place South-West Africa under mandate.I was coming to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon. We are, outside the United Nations, in another family and a more closely knit family, the British Commonwealth. While it is true that each Dominion is a sovereign State, on certain questions those sovereign States get together and seek each other's advice and assistance. I think it would be possible, and it probably has been done, that the other sovereign members of the British Commonwealth could indicate their wishes to the Government of the Union of South Africa in this matter—
Privately, as my hon. Friend says, because most of the good work is done by just that private family association. A great many of the rather wonderful decisions which have recently been arrived at were the result of private conversations as between brethren, over a considerable space of time. I am trying to stress the family attitude of the nations within the Commonwealth. We do not expect the mother in a family to send in a requisition to father in writing or typescript every time she wants a new hat. She indicates her desire, very often obliquely, and gradually wears down any resistance there may be and presently emerges resplendent in one of the new creations. Similarly, a small boy does not indent to his mother for 1s, to buy sweets now that they are unrationed. So, in the British Commonwealth of Nations, a great deal more is done by that private, unconventional, intimate approach as between Minister and Minister and Government than is done formally at Imperial Conferences.I suggest that the time is ripe for His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to face this very important issue. The Government cannot continue to work in one direction and to speak in another by two different voices. We must appear to the world, and more particularly to all the peoples of the Commonwealth, to have a single policy on which we are united and which shall be unconditionally declared. It is, therefore, a pity to talk about the possibility of expulsion of one member of the Commonwealth. First, I wonder under what legal machinery it could be done. I do not think it is possible to do it. Each of the self-governing members of the Commonwealth is an independent nation, the association is a voluntary one, and it is a voluntary one under a symbol as regards most members of the Commonwealth, which is outside and above the Government of the United Kingdom or the Government of any single individual unit of the Commonwealth. I think we ought to dismiss from our minds at once any idea of a sanction being possible and legal in the way of expulsion of a member of the Commonwealth which does not follow in its racial policy the policy of this country and of most of the other Dominions. I am a great believer in moral force and in the compulsion of environment. It must be agreed that we have put our own house in order on this matter. Wherever an individual odd incident occurs, the forces of good in this country converge and, as my hon. Friend pointed out, Ministers intervene, there are protests, trade unions can be called upon to defend a right course and the trouble is ironed out speedily. But let us not, for the sake of the continuation of this excellent spirit, underline too heavily these occasional aberrations. Let us point to what is normal and good rather than what is abnormal and bad. I am afraid it is the fault of some of us concerned in this matter. We find a parallel in the arguments on the institution of marriage and tend to forget the many thousands and millions of happy marriages and concentrate attention on the many fewer unhappy marriages, until we have writers in the popular Press using great staring headlines, "Is Marriage a Failure?" and answering in the affirmative, while we know, from our own experience, that that is untrue. In the same way, I suggest that our best course is to make sure that we do not speak with two voices and that on every occasion we criticise by implication and by saying, "This is our policy, this is what we do," and, therefore, "This is what we think is right." Eventually, if enough of us do that—the Commonwealth is practically unanimous now, there is the one major offender—I think that the force of numbers and the consciousness of the moral condemnation of the rest of the world will help to remedy what I must agree is at the moment a very sad picture of racial relations in one part of the Commonwealth.
I am very glad indeed that this Adjournment Debate has had the good fortune to begin at a comparatively early hour so that there was time for my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) to develop their excellent speeches and, in the case of the hon. Member for Maldon, an extremely detailed and well documented case. The exact hour puts me in a personal difficulty because there are things I should like to say and I hope the Minister will forgive me for having to leave without hearing all his answer.I think my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow may have been mistaken in his legal interpretation of the situation in South-West Africa. Although I am not well qualified to debate points of international law, I do not think the League of Nations comes into the question of sovereignty at all. As I understand it, the Mandate was not entrusted to South Africa from the League of Nations, but was entrusted to them from the five major allied Powers of the 1914–1918 war and it was with those Powers that sovereignty remained. The trusteeship or the mandateship was in the hands of South Africa subject to many important obligations such as that of making reports, etc., to the League of Nations. I cannot see how there is a legal right for South Africa to appropriate to itself by unilateral action a sovereignty which was never in the hands of the League of Nations and certainly was never in the hands of South Africa. I must pass from that point, however, because I should not be able to sustain a lawyer's argument upon it against an international lawyer. I only offer, in a layman's language, what I believe to be the correct view.
Is it not the case that the League of Nations died without arranging for a successor, and that therefore there is a complete blank, so that there is no way in which any court could decide that South Africa is now responsible to a successor which was not in fact appointed?
My layman's answer is that that reply might be decisive if it could be said that the sovereignty had rested in the League of Nations because had that been so then the legal death of the League of Nations might have created a vacuum in which a South African assumption of sovereignty might be the only solution. I suggest that sovereignty never rested in the hands of the League of Nations as such, and therefore any interregnum between the League of Nations and the United Nations could not affect the position and could not confer upon South Africa the right to commit a unilateral act.I pass from that to offer one major consideration to my right hon. Friend about the whole atmosphere in which this policy has to be considered. I am sure that he and his advisers will be fully aware of all the immediate risks which attach themselves to the policy and the whole outlook which is now commended to him and to the House by my three hon. Friends who have already spoken. I need not mention what those risks are; they are all too obvious. Difficulties with our friends in South Africa, difficulties of all kinds, risks of all kinds stare one in the face as soon as one thinks of moving or continuing to move faster, more courageously or resolutely in the direction indicated by this Debate. I would remind the Minister of the political atmosphere of the world at the time he entered this House as a result of a by-election in 1936. The great subject which dominated all others was the struggle for collective security. The Minister will remember that when he and I sat on the other side of another Chamber we were constantly urging the Government of that day to do something in opposition to the evil forces in the world and to sustain what we regarded as the good forces in the world. He will also remember that as the scene changed, as the crisis shifted from one point to another, the Government which he and I were opposing invariably answered by saying, "It is a little dangerous to do the things which you are asking us to do." I am sure that my right hon. Friend will remember the atmosphere. Our answer, which unfortunately proved to be all too true in the end, but which never prevailed in time to prevent the disaster, was, "Unless you will courageously do these things which may be a little dangerous now, you will inevitably run yourselves, the country and the world into far greater dangers." We did not forecast the exact time in which that would happen but we knew what great dangers were piling up ahead of the world, because this country was, may I say, cursed with a Government which could not face the little dangers of doing the right thing at each particular crisis throughout those dreadful years of retreat. I suggest that we are facing on a much bigger scale, a similar kind of situation today. If we turn aside from doing those things which may be a little dangerous now we shall certainly run into far greater dangers, and although again I do not prophesy the date or the hour at which those dangers will reach their climax that climax will come during the natural lifetime of many of us now living in this country. To show the truth of this assertion I would suggest that we too often find it difficult to remember that the whole 19th century world set-up has come to an end. In that century the white nations of Western Europe were the effective bosses of the world. The white Western standards of living were sustained on the sweated toil of tens of thousands of coloured people, who at that time, and indeed into the 20th century, for historical reasons acquiesced in the position of their toiling for us for the reward of a handful of rice a day. In the 19th century and into the 20th century it was assumed by our ancestors that personal freedom and political democracy were normal and easy institutions to sustain, and that the social gravity of the world, so to speak, was moving towards political democracy all the time. In the 19th century there was no substantial rival ideology to our own competing for the allegiance of men all over the world. The whole of that has changed. The white peoples of Western Europe are no longer the bosses of the world. Steadily and relentlessly, coloured peoples everywhere are waking up to the fact that they need not for ever be the hewers of wood and drawers of water for people living in other countries or for people of a differently coloured skin in their own country. We are waking up to the fact that personal freedom and political democracy are not easy institutions to sustain and that the social gravity of every situation is not automatically towards democracy but that, on the contrary, the natural gravity of every situation is towards chaos or dictatorship, or both. Finally, there is in the world today a rival ideology competing for the loyalty of men and women against the ideas, values and traditions which seem good to us. How attractive that ideology can make itself is shown in a single sentence from the Report of the Amsterdam conference of the Council of World Churches, in which it is stated—I quote from memory, but I think correctly:
and in that world context the whole British people are the beneficiaries of capitalism—"Those who are the beneficiaries of capitalism"—
I quote that to show how attractive the rival ideology can appear to people living in the conditions which are fairly common in Asia, Africa and in other parts. If we are to sustain our values, and those traditions for personal freedom, toleration and political democracy which are really good in our society, against the world challenge of our times, we can do it only if we deliberately do it in creative partnership with millions and millions of coloured people all over the world. If our ideas are inspired from enthusiasm and high creative reality, then we must show that that partnership is a genuine partnership. We must show that we are willing to take risks to sustain the conception of this genuine partnership against those who do not understand the need for it. Otherwise our traditions and our values will not survive throughout the twentieth century. That, I think, is the great danger which will stare us in the face sooner or later if we are not prepared to face the small risks involved in pursuing the kind of policy which was indicated in the first two speeches which we heard today. There is a danger in discussing the matter, that we white people of Britain may take an attitude of moral superiority to the white people of South Africa in relation to some of the things said by the hon. Member for East Harrow about the way in which we in this country treat coloured people as our brother men. I would remind the hon. Member for East Harrow that it is probably easier to do that when coloured people represent only a very small percentage of the total population than when they represent a very large proportion of the population. In speaking of this matter, we ought to show to the white peoples of South Africa that we do understand that they are facing difficulties which are greater than those we face ourselves. If we lectured them from too high a moral altitude, they would be entitled to reply that the position is pretty easy for us, because the exploited coloured people upon whom our standard of living depends are living several thousands of miles from our shores; whereas in South Africa they are all mixed within the same territory. I think it is important to be aware of the fact that the people of Britain have to make material sacrifices, or at least have to hold their hands from grasping material rewards in the next 5, 10 or 20 years, if this conception of the partnership of peoples is to be realised. If, three or four years from now, we have freed ourselves from the unusual American assistance, and if, five or six years after that, there accrues into our hands a great or noticeable surplus of material goods, available for whatever purpose we may choose to use it, and we use it for increasing our own standards of living, and do not devote it to the task of promoting the social well-being of the coloured people with whom we claim to be in partnership, that will in effect be a betrayal of the conception of partnership; and it will have as its consequence the world defeat of the ideas and values and traditions for which we stand. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will have the courage now to realise that greater dangers will confront us if we flinch from the difficulties which are immediate."should try to see the world as it appears to those who know themselves to be excluded from those privileges, and who see in Communism the one hope of security and justice."
I am afraid that I shall not be able adequately to answer all the points made in the eloquent speeches to which we have listened, but I must do my best. I am in full agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) in his account of pre-war his- tory, I do not believe that the present Government will be accused by any historian of having avoided immediate dangers at the risk of facing greater dangers later on.My hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) who opened the Debate, spoke of race relations in the Commonwealth and opened up the subject in the broadest way. I think he was right, and I agree with him that race relations are one of the vital problems that face humanity today. I consider that my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend is right in saying that the world conditions of this problem have now completely changed. Certain it is that we have difficulties to face which will not be quickly overcome. Certain it is that they will not be solved by the action of Governments alone. It depends on the conduct and thinking of individual citizens in our own and other countries where the problem arises. It is on the thinking of the ordinary citizen that everything depends; and, indeed, even the action of Governments—whether we think well or ill of it—reflects only the opinions of those for whom they speak. It is a problem on which national and international discussion is now going on. It is, as it must be, and as my hon. Friend so rightly said at the beginning of his speech, of supreme importance to the Commonwealth and to all the peoples of which the Commonwealth is composed. The Commonwealth, as we think of it, is an association whose members co-operate to promote peace, liberty and progress. That does not mean that among the Governments of the Commonwealth there is - always complete agreement at all times and on every question. Of course that is not so; and where there is disagreement among friends it is often wise to observe restraint in public utterances. No one will misunderstand me if I say that denunciation is not the only instrument by which progress is secured. Speaking, therefore, with all suitable restraint, and remembering the constitutional position, to which I shall refer again, I shall try to deal with most of the substantive points which have been raised. My hon. Friend, early in his speech, spoke about coloured discrimination in the United Kingdom, and the repercussions which that may have elsewhere. It is a matter of great importance. am sorry to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and I from time to time both received information about incidents of this kind. I shall not discuss the question of employment at Cardiff, on which he is in correspondence with my right hon. Friend. For the most part, the information which the Colonial Secretary and I receive is about cases in which accommodation in hotels or boarding houses is refused, or where the owners of restaurants and inns will not serve customers who come to them. It sometimes happens that accommodation is refused because the lease or covenant contains a Clause imposing a restriction of this kind. I wish to emphasise how much the Government regret that this kind of thing should happen at all, even if it happens seldom, and even if its actual extent be small. I am sure such action is disapproved by all responsible opinion in this country and by people of all parties and in every walk of life. Such incidents cannot fail to cast a shadow on relations with other countries of the Commonwealth, and I do not think that people in this country who practise discrimination are conscious of the deep injury which it may cause or of the enduring and evil results to which it may lead. I am glad to say that such incidents nowadays are rare and that my experience is very much the same as that of the hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard). A little while ago, I was discussing the question of hostels for university students with people from one of the Asiatic countries of the Commonwealth, and they told me that, while their men and women like a hostel as a transit camp, they preferred to spend their university life lodging with British families, because they got to know British family life and made friendships which lasted for many years. In any case, I hope that what I have said will promote on this point the purpose which my hon. Friend has had at heart. I come now to Africa, to which most attention was paid both by the hon. Member for Maldon and by others, and I start with Northern Rhodesia. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary is on his way home and he will speak for himself. I had better not attempt to anticipate what he will say, but I think I can predict that he will not announce any change in the policy of His Majesty's Government, which has been repeatedly declared and which Parliament has approved. I turn to South-West Africa and first, to the small point concerning the visa for Mr. Michael Scott. I have made inquiries since my hon. Friend raised the matter. Neither the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Foreign Office nor the South African Office have any knowledge either of the invitation to Mr. Scott to go to Lake Success or of a refusal of the visa. That is the information which I have, and I am afraid that as, in any case, he is not a United Kingdom citizen, I would not be able to help him in this regard.
May I interrupt my right hon. Friend? He is of United Kingdom birth.
But not a United Kingdom citizen.I come now to the question of South-West Africa. I know that my hon. Friends will understand that in the Commonwealth the Governments of all the members are fully self-governing in every aspect of their internal and external affairs. What the Government of South Africa may do is a matter for their consideration and decision. They advise His Majesty the King, and that is the vital constitutional fact which I have to consider. I have to explain what His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have done in the Assembly of the United Nations, and, in order that action in the matter may be properly judged, I think it may be useful if I make two quotations from basic documents about South-West Africa. The first is from Article 2 of the Mandate under which the Union of South Africa has governed South-West Africa for so long. It states:
That is very different from the "B" Mandate; this is a "C" Mandate, and it differs from the "B" Mandate, with which we were entrusted, in many ways. The second quotation is from the Resolution adopted in Paris by the Assembly in November last. It reads:"The Mandatory shall have full power of administration and legislation for the territory subject to the present Mandate as an integral portion of the Union of South Africa, and may apply the laws of the Union of South Africa to the territory, subject to such local modifications as circumstances may require."
With that background, I turn to my hon. Friend's proposal that we should refer the question of the validity of the South-West Africa Act passed by the Legislature of the Union, to the International Court of Justice. I can only say what I said to my hon. Friend, when he came to see me with the deputation of which he has spoken, that I am in full agreement with the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Harrow. At the Assembly of the United Nations, our delegation has consistently upheld the view that, under the Charter, there is no obligation on the Union as a member of the United Nations to place the Man-dated territory under a trusteeship agreement. I have the greatest respect for Professor Lauterpacht, I have worked with him, and I rejoiced in his appointment to his present Chair in my own university. But I cannot for my part think that this question is really open to any legal doubt. I was once for a short time the acting director of the Mandates Section of the League of Nations, and I took some part in the drafting of the clauses in the Covenant about the Mandates and in the drafting of all the Mandates themselves. I was the leader of the delegation from this country to the last Assembly at which the League of Nations was wound up. I have examined the Charter with the aid and advice of legal and other experts who helped to draft it, and I am certain that the terms of Article 77 are absolutely plain. I cannot think that there is any legal obligation on the Union to do what my hon. Friend desires. That being so, would it be right to lay the matter before the International Court of Justice for decision? I cannot think so. I do not think we ought to ask for a judgment when we do not think there is any legal point in doubt. It would be bad practice, it might lead to a general discussion of the profound difference between what, in the old days, we called the "B" and "C" Mandates. I am not going into the merits of that case today. I only say that my hon. Friend's suggestion could not do any good, though I am sure that it might easily do harm. What I have said explains the action taken by our delegation in the Assembly throughout the discussion of this matter. I pass on to what my hon. Friend called the closely-related problem of the future of the High Commission Territories. I say again that, to my regret, I am not in agreement with what my hon. Friend proposes. I do not think it would he a good plan to transfer the territories to the authority of the Colonial Office. If he will come and talk it over with me one day, I think I can convince him that that is true. As I have explained more than once at Question Time, I do not think that the present system of government in the Territories is open to the objections which my hon. Friend finds. If it were, I do not think that those objections would be removed by the transfer of authority which he suggests. In point of fact, all the officers in the administrative grades of the Governments of those territories are now chosen by the Colonial Office, as other officers are chosen, on the same conditions and from among the same people. They are just exactly like other Colonial Office recruits. I assure my hon. Friend that in the administration of these territories, my office and the Colonial Office work together in the closest harmony and cooperation, and that we have the full benefit of their knowledge, their experience and advice. If I had the time I could give him a wealth of detail."The Assembly takes note of the statement of the representative of the Union of South Africa that it is the intention of his Government to continue to administer South-West Africa in the spirit of the Mandate. The Assembly takes note of the assurance given by the representative of the Union of South Africa that the proposed new arrangement for closer association of South-West Africa with the Union does not mean incorporation and will not mean absorption of the territory by the Administering Authority."
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the majority of them, as I said, do in fact come from the Union, and, therefore, inevitably have that outlook and background?
Of course, in the case of the lower technical staff, such as typists, and so on, it is not possible to take them from this country; we must recruit them, as the subordinate staff in many other Colonial areas is recruited, from the local area. That is the general practice.
Is it not true, also, that a good number of the police, including officers, are recruited from the Union?
As to that, I shall make inquiry if my hon. Friend will write to me or put down a Question. But, naturally, the police are subject to the control and instructions of the civil power. On the broad issue of policy in the High Commission territories, I would say to my hon. Friend that there has been no change in our policy in the matter, and if there were to be a consultation with the people, it would be a genuine consultation; of that he may be very sure.I now come to the question of malignant malnutrition and first, to that of the Colonial Exhibition to which he referred. I do not know how far the Exhibition will go in showing black spots. I am assured that it is an honest attempt to give a true picture of the effort we are now making to catch up a backlog of disastrous conditions, and that it will show the extent of the resources and the kind of help we are giving to the solution of this problem. I agree with my hon. Friend in thinking that malnutrition, and other things about which I am going to speak, is the cause of what is sometimes called the laziness or the shiftlessness of the African Negro. Some people talk—my hon. Friend did not—as though malnutrition were an evil imposed by Europeans by their exploitation of the peoples of Africa whom they rule. I make no defence of exploitation; but we must ask the question, why are the people of Africa more backward than those of other continents? Why, with the great resources of their continent, with their great natural gifts, and their potentially marvellous physique, are they so often shiftless and unable to produce as much as others? Why is their power to work not enough to give them sufficient food to keep their people alive? Why have they been what we once called backward, and what we now call undeveloped? Why have they a Sahara and a Kalagari desert? Before the Europeans went to Africa, the native inhabitants may in some ways have thought themselves to have been, or may actually have been, happier than they have been since; but they suffered from famines, from terrible diseases—smallpox was one of their chief scourges—and from wild animals against whom they had no means of protecting them-selves. It was a backwardness which had endured from the beginning of history, and for which I think there were three main causes. The first was worm diseases. Was any hon. Member ever in these areas before hookworm was dealt with? Some Africans could be found—perhaps can still be found today—with 11 worm diseases in their body. Of course, they reduced the vitality, the brain power the initiative and the power to work of the victim. We now know how to cure worm diseases. We have medical treatments which get rid of the worms, and we know that if Africans have floors to their houses, and are taught to wear shoes and give them to their children, they can be cured and immunised against this frightful scourge.
My right hon. Friend is of course, making a valid point, but I think he would also agree with me that the influence of white traders and others has led to detribalisation and the break-down of tribal sanctions and tabus which, to some extent, in primitive times offset the evils of which he has spoken.
I think that is true but I think it is also true that over the centuries famine was a great scourge of the African peoples, and it is not only since the Europeans went there that the Africans have known malnutrition.The second cause of the backwardness of the people was fly diseases—malaria, blackwater fever and yellow fever caused by the mosquito, and sleeping sickness caused by the tsetse fly. Again we know the cures. We know how to deal with those diseases. Indeed, we are discovering how to destroy the flies themselves. The third cause is the crude agricultural methods of the Africans. They used to burn a piece of forest, till it for a few years, pass on and burn another. Consistently over the centuries and still today they so overgrazed their land that they caused soil erosion. I think those three things have been the major causes of African ignorance, misery and hunger. As I have said, we know how to deal with all of them. The Africans cannot do it themselves. It is only European science, experts, guidance and technical equipment which can bring a real result. I am glad to say that the European Governments and devoted European individuals have begun to act and have put increased resources into the fulfilment of this task. They have made some real progress. Yellow fever has almost disappeared, particularly from what was once known as the white man's grave—the West Coast of Africa. Malaria has been abolished in the Balkans. It is under control in Africa, and I hope it will soon be abolished as well in that great continent. The Union Government have made a very large scale experiment in the use of D.D.T. against the tsetse fly, and so far it has given most encouraging results. Soil erosion programmes are being applied. The natives are being taught improved methods of cultivating the soil. Sir Evelyn Baring, our High Commissioner in the Union, told me the other day that in Basutoland soil erosion work is going extremely well, and that up to the end of 1947, 400,000 acres had been completely protected. That progress depends on scientific research and perhaps, above all, on international co-operation in research and in its application. It is important, therefore, that the Union Government will be the hosts at a conference in the Union on scientific research in a few months' time. Another African conference will be held in the French Cameroons this Autumn in which all the Governments south of the Sahara will take part, and special work on malignant malnutrition is being given priority in Uganda and elsewhere. I hope the House will recognise that this endeavour to which European Governments, and our own not least, are devoting great resources is a service rendered by Europeans to the Africans, and that in it lies the first essential step to higher standards for the Africans and to the emancipation which my hon. Friends desire. Of course, with it there must go the education and the development of the Africans themselves, and to that this Government is devoting great resources. I shall only add one more point in this regard. My hon. Friends the Members for Maldon and Gravesend said that the people of this country must be prepared to make sacrifices, not raise their own standard of living, in order that the Africans may get a proper chance. With great respect, I think that is not a very important sacrifice. All capital investment means some denial of present consumption in the interests of future production. I think the vitally important lesson which everybody in Africa and, indeed, in the world, should learn, is that the development of the Africans, higher economic standards and better living for the Africans, means greater production of wealth and greater prosperity for the world as well. I believe that if that proposition were fully understood, some of the difficulties which are encountered not only in South Africa but elsewhere would disappear. I turn, if I may, from South Africa to deal with the policy of our Government in its broadest aspects. I agree with my hon. Friend that in the next 50 years we shall determine whether humanity is to be harried and perhaps destroyed by further international conflicts or whether we shall have enduring peace. I agree with him in thinking that the most probable and most dangerous conflict is between the peoples of Asia and of Africa, on the one hand, and the peoples of European origin and culture, on the other hand. I agree that there is a new nationalism in Asia which it is vital that we should respect and understand and that there is a new demand in Asia for economic, social and political progress. It is that great question which my hon. Friend has raised and it is with that great question that in my present office I must be primarily concerned. I think the House should judge the policy of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, as I believe the world does judge it, by the following things. First, by what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies is doing for the moral and material progress of the territories for which he answers to this House. I do not believe that among the African or other undeveloped peoples of the world there is resentment against the British people; I do not think it is at all true to suggest that there is. I remember the African Conference held last year by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in which I had the pleasure and privilege to take part, when great numbers of African members of Legislative Councils came to London. I think the Secretary of State is doing a great and noble work and I hope that hon. Members will do nothing here or elsewhere to obscure the vast importance of what he does. Secondly, I think our policy should be judged by the Declaration of Human Rights adopted at the Assembly of the United Nations in Paris a few months ago, in the preparation of which the Dele-gates of the United Kingdom played a leading part. Article 2 of that Declaration lays down in the plainest terms that:
We have accepted—indeed we took a part in framing—the Convention of the International Labour Organisation on Social Policy in Non-Metropolitan Territories adopted in 1947, which lays it down that it shall be an aim of policy to abolish all discrimination among workers on grounds of race, colour or tribal association. It goes on with many details. These principles are not only words; they are being practically applied. But incomparably the most important thing in this regard is, in my view, the broad influence of the Commonwealth in the world, and before I sit down I would ask the House to consider the nature, meaning and the practical results of the meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers which ended here in London a week ago. If the great problem of the next half-century is the risk of conflict between Asia and the West, is it not of supreme importance that in this meeting three Prime Ministers from Asia, the leaders of great nations with long centuries of Asiatic civilisation, and culture behind them, should sit down in Downing Street with five Prime Ministers of European origin to speak for countries to whose populations many of the nations of Europe have given their share. The Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Mr. Pearson, who himself made an outstanding contribution to the work that was done, said when he got home, that the most impressive things about the meeting was the great and practical way in which the problem posed by India was dealt with and the friendliness and good-will which was shown around the Conference Table. I endorse every word he said. Here East and West met together to discuss a problem which, by common agreement, involved many difficulties. It was solved by unanimous agreement. This was not a matter of words and aspirations, as some people may think that the Declaration of Human Rights still is. This was hard, practical work. I believe that its historical significance is this, that in the Commonwealth today there is our best and strongest hope that the peoples of the different races will be able to work together, and that the danger of racial conflict can be avoided. There are still many problems to be solved. It will take a long time to solve them. There are many difficulties to be overcome. But I say again that this co-operation of the Asiatic and the older Governments within the Commonwealth is our strongest hope. That co-operation has just begun, and I hope we shall do nothing to imperil its success."Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, with- out distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex …"
Before my right hon. Friends sits down, may I ask him two questions? Would he be good enough to answer my question about Chief Tchekedi? Would he consider allowing him to come here? The second question is this: May I take it from the moving and important concluding paragraphs of my right hon. Friend's speech that the Government are unequivocally opposed, on principle, to the idea of European supremacy in Africa?
What I have said, I have said, and that deals with the second of my hon. Friend's questions. With regard to Chief Tchekedi, I would say that when he wanted to come before, it was to discuss something which was not the affair of Bechuanaland. He has been here before. He came when the late Lord Passfield was Secretary of State. If he should want to come in connection with Bechuanaland, at any time. I am sure we should be glad to see him, but I do not think that at present there is any question of inviting him, because I do not know what we should discuss.
Civil Service (Conditions)
The humane sympathies of the House during the Debate on the Adjournment so far as it has proceeded have been directed to the welfare of the peoples of our Colonial territories, and, to some extent, elsewhere. Now I would bring the attention of the House to problems rather nearer home, which also involve human understanding. I refer particularly to the conditions of work in the Civil Service. I have for a considerable period of time taken trouble to investigate this subject, because it is manifestly something which ought to be brought to the notice of the Government on occasion, and particularly to the notice of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is primarily responsible, I believe, for the welfare of the Civil Service.As I see it, a Labour Government, representing the interests of the workers, should aim to be the best employer possible in all the circumstances. As seen through the eyes of the workers in the Civil Service, the Government appear sometimes as one of the worst employers. I realise that the Government have inherited all sorts of difficulties. The Civil Service has grown up under a succession of Governments, perhaps not renowned for sympathy with the workers' point of view. I realise that the Government inherit a Service which has withstood the trials and tribulations of war-time activities; that these, in some cases, involved the workers in the Departments in removals at short notice, and involved their being accommodated for their work in buildings which suffered war damage, and which are not to be judged as representing the standards of working accommodation that the Government approve. However, I also think that the Government have not given to these matters all the attention which they deserve, and which should be of special interest to Ministers in a Labour Government. I am sure the Financial Secretary will know of my interest in organisational matters generally, and as they affect staff working conditions in large organisations. He will recall the occasions which I have spoken to him and written him letters over the last few years, and raised Adjournment Debates on this or kindred subjects. In the early days of this Government I made representations to the Prime Minister, and suggested that the working conditions of the Civil Service, its methods and its organisation, was a subject which should receive the attention of Labour Members, 'and a group of Members was set up to study this whole matter. When that group was first brought into being, some 40 or 50 Members showed an active interest in the question, but as the months and years have gone by, less and less interest has been shown. I think that has been due to the fact that almost consistently the efforts made by individual Members or groups of Members to bring this matter to the attention of the Government and of the Departments have been frustrated. That has been unfortunate, but understandable to some extent because, owing to the fact that we were bringing in many entirely fresh Measures, it was expected that under a Socialist Government Government Departments would be expected to function in a completely different way, and this seems to me to be one matter which ought therefore to have received a high priority in Government investigation. I know that from time to time, some of my colleagues have thought my criticism unfair. But after all, it is the function of Members of Parliament to consider complaints that are brought to them. Very often Members get complaints brought to their notice, but it is very seldom that they get credit for the efforts they put in, individually or collectively. Therefore, if, from time to time, I have brought the more negative picture under review, I am sure my right hon. Friend will appreciate that it has been in no way an attempt to be unfair in my criticism, but has been with the earnest desire that matters requiring attention should be rectified. I should like to assure my right hon. Friend that I have many very good friends in the Civil Service; and in the course of my investigations and contacts with the Departments I have made many more good friends. I think it is a fair comment to say that I find those who are the more vigorous in the Civil Service, those who look with interest towards the future, who have a pride in their service, are always thinking out means whereby the Service can be improved. They are likely to bring suggestions forward, and it is sometimes appropriate that those suggestions should be made by a Member of Parliament by letter to my right hon. Friend's Department. I still believe, as I think the House would agree, that, observing conditions in the world generally we can lay claim to the fact that the British Civil Service is still undoubtedly the best in the world. But that should not lead us into a sense of apathy and complacency. We should be prompted to see in what ways we can improve it still further. I think it will be admitted that during recent years, particularly during the war when there had to be a very rapid increase in the size of the Civil Service, the standard has fallen to some extent. It is perhaps more from that cause than any other that I am prompted to bring certain matters before my right hon. Friend's notice today. I say quite frankly that I am actuated more by pity than by anger, and in asking my right hon. Friend to give attention to these various matters I would suggest that a little help is worth a load of pity. I am sure I can count on his giving these points his attention, and that he will give help wherever possible. I appreciate the help which I have personally received from various departments of the Civil Service. I have found great courtesy, and I admire the majority of those who are in the Service, at all levels, for the great sense of public service of which they give evidence continuously in their day-to-day work. I would, however, ask my right hon. Friend to face certain facts. From my observations I think that other hon. Members who have been to the Departments as I have been from time to time, whether in their constituencies or in the offices around Whitehall, will be aware that if they really critically look at the conditions in which many of the civil servants are working they will agree with me that some half, and perhaps even a greater proportion, are working at far lower standards than we, or they, should be willing to accept. Some of the conditions that I have seen are only describable as really bad. It is in regard to those conditions that I would like the help of my right hon. Friend in putting matters right. On this fact, that there is need for a great, or at any rate for a considerable improvement in the Civil Service, I would refer to the published policy of the Labour Party itself. In the Labour Party programme that was put before the electorate at the last General Election it was one of the seven main points of our industrial programme to which we said we would give our attention. The point was dealt with on page 7 of "Let Us Face the Future," and in it we advocated
The concluding words were a reference to the six points of our industrial programme. The policy was described a little further in these words:"the better organisation of Government Departments and the Civil Service for work in relation to these ends."
In the last few years, when we have realised that it would be a help to industry, we have set up certain working parties. The most important industries have thus come under review. At first there was a certain amount of cynicism on the part of industry and a certain amount of ridicule in the Press. I think it has now become generally recognised that the activities of those working parties have been of very great use to industry. In addition, more recently we set up a Local Government Manpower Committee to investigate the apparent wastage, or unnecessary use, of manpower in the relationship between national and local government. The various reports that we have had so far have drawn our attention to almost every industrial activity of the nation, but we seem to have failed to give our attention to the work of the civil servants and to analysing the methods of the service generally, as well as the methods in particular Departments. My right hon. Friend may well reply that that Manpower Committee will, to some extent at any rate, review the central government organisation as well, but I believe that its activities will be restricted to Departments which have a direct contact with local government, and therefore there is a considerable number of Departments which it will not touch. I am suggesting to my right hon. Friend that an investigation should be made into the Civil Service as a whole. That investigation is called for by the evidence which I hope to give to the House in a few moments. I suggest that it should deal with matters under three main heads: the conditions of offices and buildings; the work and pay of civil servants, including methods of staff management; thirdly, the relations of the Civil Service with the public. Under the last heading I note that a memorandum has recently been sent out to Civil Service Departments from the Civil Service National Whitley Council, dealing with the training of those who have contact with the public. The memorandum has some excellent advice to offer. It suggests for example that every Civil Servant, whatever his grade, shall understand his position as a servant of the public and take a pride in his job. In some measure we are tending to prevent certain sections of the Civil Service from taking the essential pride in their work which is required for a high standard of performance from this public service. I will give one or two examples. I shall first refer to the conditions in offices. I feel some concern when I see some of the rather dirty and slovenly conditions. My right hon. Friend would feel, I am sure, similar concern if he looked critically at the conditions in some offices. I want to ask him to what extent he feels a personal sense of responsibility to go around from time to time and look at the different Departments so that he can do the sort of thing that a commanding officer in charge of fighting units does. In peace time, in the fighting Services, it was usual for a senior officer to visit units at home and overseas. We know that there was a tremendous amount of window-dressing on those occasions, but the fact that a senior officer was about to visit a station, was a spur and it meant that stations would be spruced up for the immediate visit, and to some extent those efforts had a permanent value because the opportunity would be taken not only to make the station look attractive at the time but to do certain jobs, even though they were small ones, which had called for attention for some time. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to show that I am wrong in suggesting this, but I believe that he is inclined to assume without full justification that the Organisation and Methods Division of the Treasury, with its corresponding sections in the various Departments, is adequate to ensure that the standards of maintenance of the offices and other matters are kept at a level which we expect from the Government. I believe that is not the case. I believe that although the Organisation and Methods Division is doing some excellent work, it is not able to get at the over-all problem which I suggest should he looked into. It would require the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council or the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the lead could not come, from other than those three—to give authority to say that, particularly at this time when so many big changes have taken place in the Departments, the Organisation and Methods Division, perhaps strengthened by certain people from outside, shall constitute a committee of investigation into the working conditions and other matters affecting all Departments. If any big reorganisation was required in a Department now, it could only take place if the Minister in charge of the Department felt the sense of urgency in connection with the affairs of his Department and invited the Organisation and Methods Division to come in, like a firm of industrial consultants, to work right through the operations and methods of the Department from top to bottom. So far as I know, that has not yet happened. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong. On the other hand, my right hon. Friend may assume that the Whitley Councils are adequate for putting forward suggestions, through that system, to show when things are wrong and to make suggestions as to how they might be put right. A great deal of good work is done by the Whitley Council system, but certain officials in the lower grades say that they have not come across any of the activities of the Whitley Council system, and some of those men have as much as from 18 to 20 years' experience in the various Departments. No doubt if they pursued the matter vigorously, they could become members of the Whitley Council organisation in their Departments, but they say they have no contact. In the higher levels, I have been told by senior civil servants that the Whitley Council system does not do all it might do, for the reason that nobody at the top, as they described it, was boss in such a way that when the recommendations came forward they could be implemented, with full power and responsibility being taken by one individual to see that suggestions were carried though. My right hon. Friend may suggest that this matter is one for the unions themselves. That may be so, but from the standpoint of the amount of manpower absorbed in the Civil Service, even the trade union officials would agree that there is a certain vested interest which the trade unions representing civil servants have in maintaining their numbers. I know that problems of redundancy are placed before the trade unions; rightly so, but if there were to be a real scaling down throughout the whole Civil Service as a result of recommendations from a major investigation, there might be a certain amount of resistance by the trade unions which would have to be overcome. I ask the Financial Secretary whether he or the President of the Board of Trade, who is more directly responsible, has visited any of the 46 different Board of Trade offices throughout the London region. I remember I.C.I. House before the war. I go to it from time to time now and, recalling what it was like when the directors of the I.C.I. were on the same landing as the President and his immediate officials are now, the contrast is amazing. Of course, one has to allow for the war years, when it was difficult to maintain the same conditions in any offices, used either by industry or by the Civil Service. Nevertheless, the deterioration in general standards of cleanliness and repair, and the general appearance of the place, do not bear comparison with the standards which still persist in the equivalent offices of large-scale industries. Now the building might be described as a dowdy and dirty edition of its former self, and there is an air around the place that nobody really cares. When that atmosphere is permeating a Department, it is bound to some extent to seep into the minds of the people working there, and adversely affect their work also. If one goes to Shell Mex House where on one side of the building are the Shell Mex oil interests and, on the other side, are the offices of the Ministry of Supply, again the contrast between one side of the building and the other is only too noticeable. One has only to compare in that building the Government messengers, with their dreary appearance and downtrodden attitude to life, with the attitude of the men in the Corps of Commissionaires. It may be that the rates of pay are vastly different, but at least in the Corps of Commissionaires there is real pride in that service which seems so sadly lacking in the case of those who work as messengers in Government Departments. Take, for example, Regent Street, where there are some of the best and most expensive offices in London. I visited the offices of the Board of Trade recently; probably I was not supposed to be there, but it is the responsibility of a Member of Parliament to know the conditions under which public servants work. I had an opportunity of going round and I took it. I was very depressed in making even a short visit and the effect must be similar on the attitude of those who have to work there. It was quite appalling to me and I think the attitude of those who are there becomes depressed through the depressing conditions in which they have to work. The Carlton Hotel was the height of luxury before the war. It is now in the occupation of the Ministry of Food and one can only describe it as having been converted from a luxury to a slum. In the Ministry of Health, where there should be a specially high standard of cleanliness, the walls do not seem to have been cleaned since before the war and there are still broad blue arrows indicating the direction to take to shelters underground in the event of air raids. They are still there with dirt and dust around them, which seems to indicate that the walls have not been cleaned for a long time. It seems a relic of wartime conditions and it appears that no great change has taken place since the war—four years is too long. I do not know whether the broad blue arrows are intended as a warning since the Lynskey Tribunal, but that may be one of the reasons why they have been left there. The earlier Adjournment Debate this afternoon was on the subject of the Colonies, and I wish to refer to conditions in the Colonial Office. I visited certain offices in Victoria Street to which Colonial students go when they arrive in this country, or if they have particular problems to be dealt with by the welfare officer. They go to the most dreary and unsuitable offices in Victoria Street. A few months ago they went to a rather better building Kinnaird House near Trafalgar Square, which was more adequate for the purpose; but now their first impression is of a building which is dreary and quite inadequate for its purpose. I am told that within a short time of their arrival these students are contacted as a matter of course by members of the Communist Party. If the reception they have when they come to this country is so indifferent, one cannot wonder that the seeds of Communism can be easily sown in their minds. When I visited some of these other offices I found the usual things; lights slung about on strings, appallingly bad ventilation and the smell of stale bodies. The windows had not been opened perhaps because some woman objects to a cold draught down her neck. That may be a good reason for closing the windows, but someone should be responsible for seeing that they are opened at the beginning and the end of the day and possibly at midday. There were old dirty milk bottles about and the conditions under which tea was made were far from clean. I was talking to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), who takes a personal interest in these matters affecting the Civil Service. I understand he could not remain for this Debate. He made the point that the regulations concerning offices do not apply to the Crown. If they did it would be an obligation on those responsible for the Departments to see that those regulations were observed. When we impose regulations upon industry to see that there is a minimum standard of office conditions, the Government should set a standard and see that its own office conditions are in no way inferior. I had a case brought to me in the last few days by a member of the Inland Revenue Department at Somerset House. The offices admittedly have now been painted and cleaned up quite a bit, but that did not happen until a case of tuberculosis probably brought about by the conditions was taken out of Somerset House. If we are to wait to be prompted by conditions having that sort of effect in the Departments, it is a sorry story. I was shown the filing conditions in one office and the racks on which files are dispersed. When one sees them one understands why there is delay in answering Members' letters and why the public experience such delay in getting replies to their letters. I spoke to the man who has to handle these matters and he described precisely how he had to find letters in these files. He referred to one letter which was lost for six months and was eventually found on the table of the senior officer in charge of the Department, who was ill. It was a letter from a firm about a matter affecting its export programme and the firm had not been able to get a reply by following up the lost letter. The civil servant said that he had to make some lame excuse to the firm concerned and say that this was an important matter which took a lot of investigation. That sort of excuse is not good enough, particularly when matters affecting our export trade are concerned. I suggest that poor conditions in the offices inevitably result in poor work and also in the falling off of morale in the lowest ranks. I wish to mention the subject of personal problems of the work and pay of the staff. Some attempts have been made to improve the position in regard to human problems in the Departments by appointing certain officials to go round and speak to the people employed in the Departments. I am told that the methods of investigation do not inspire a great deal of confidence, and that visits by these officials are therefore treated rather as a farce, with the result that the real problems are not ventilated and little is said by those who still feel a keen sense of frustration. They are deterred by a sense that if they are critical, or perhaps what may be considered to be unduly critical, they will be labelled as "difficult," and there is nothing more damning to a civil servant's own progress than to have that label of "difficult" put on his secret dossier. It means that from then onwards his chances of promotion are practically nil. This is a real fear. I do not wish to exaggerate it, but there is a real inherent fear in the minds of civil servants, particularly at the lower levels, that things can get on to their dossiers which may be far from complimentary but which may not be sufficiently adverse for them to see and comment upon—that they are damned by faint praise from making progress. One temporary civil servant told me he felt that his class were without a hope in the world. He said that they are continuously made to feel inferior to the established civil servant, that they have a feeling that there is little or no chance of promotion and that the established civil servant seems to have all the chances of making progress. There is a strong sense of class distinction between the established and the unestablished civil servant. This man, with a family consisting of a wife and two boys, was trying to exist on a mere six guineas a week. When temporary civil servants are living under these very adverse conditions of work and poor pay, the first thing they see is an increase in the salaries of the senior civil servants, some of £1,000 a year, whereas these poor fellows are having to count every penny and halfpenny."The economic purpose of government must be to spur industry forward and not to choke it with red tape."
As it will be impossible for me, when I reply, to deal with every point Which has been made by my hon. Friend, and as I do not wish to miss this one, will he give an instance where this has happened—where the salaries of senior officers have recently been increased, in some cases by at least £1,000? I do not know of one instance.
I am referring to Cmd. 7635, which is the report recommending that increase. I have questioned the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter and I understand that this report is to be implemented at an early date. If I am wrong in that assumption, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will correct me.
The situation is that the senior civil servants are very badly paid compared with their opposite numbers outside. A committee was set up and recommended that, at some time, their salaries should be brought up. The Chancellor has agreed that what was said was right and proper, but no date has been fixed.
I stand corrected. The precise wording which I used was incorrect, but I think that the point I was trying to make still stands. The impression amongst the lower ranks is to the effect that those who receive attention first—no doubt they are not undeserving of it—are those in the higher salary scales. The increase is very considerable, though admittedly applying to comparatively few members of the Civil Service; but those in the lower scales feel that, at the same time, their own case merits some reasonable consideration.The particular civil servant who showed me round, resigned recently after a period of 17½ years and, I think, rather tragically, he says that he leaves with a sense of hate in his heart. He is not the sort of man who would not respond to reasonable treatment if he felt there were a chance of getting reasonable and better treatment; but he has been pushed around from one job to another and he feels that it is not worth while carrying on any longer.
Would it be too much to ask my hon. Friend to give a few more details about this very pathetic case, having regard to the thousands of people who remain in the Civil Service? I should like to know a little bit more about the circumstances that drove this poor desperate man to leave the Service in complete distress.
I appreciate my hon. Friend's question and I think I can put the case to him fully. It would be unfair to mention the name of the man or any details to enable him to be traced. The case is not an isolated one. He introduced me to others in his Department. One man, for instance, had been a major in the Army in the First World War and he described the type of work he was doing, which was the sort of work that could have been done better by an office boy of 16. That was the sort of work he had been doing continuously over a period of time and he felt equally distressed at the type of work and the hours of boredom that he had to put in in doing routine jobs which gave him no scope or any sense of keenness and initiative. I have quoted two cases now, and if my hon. Friend wishes to hear further examples quoted I can give them.
It is not important whether I know it as an individual, but rather serious charges have been made in this House, and I think that it is only right and proper that hon. Members should have some idea of what are the difficulties. These generalities are hardly conducive to a complete investigation by this House of the point raised by the hon. Member.
I shall be specific in one instance, which will give an illustration. This particular individual showed copies of the letters he had written dealing with problems affecting our trade in the Far East. He received continuous reports which had to be analysed, the information extracted from what were very wide reports, and then condensed into terms which could be absorbed and digested by other Departments. The work required quite as high a standard of intelligence and sense of proportion and initiative as that shown by those who were being paid far more than he was. He tried to make this case to those outside the Department but he could make no progress against what seems to be the real stumbling block in the case of temporary civil servants which is that until they become established, they cannot obtain any chance of making progress. I could enumerate many other cases and I should be only too happy to do so to my hon. Friend. This man felt he was doing important work and was being paid a very great deal less than the work justified.I suggest that the aim should be an ever-increasing standard of efficiency, ever-increasing opportunities for good pay in good jobs and ever-decreasing numbers in the Civil Service itself. It seems to me that at present, in the case of some Departments, the reverse is taking place. Sir Percival Waterfield, who is the head of the Civil Service Commission, in reply to a question put to him and as reported by the Select Committee on Estimates said that there was a considerable increase in the size of the Department over which he had direct control, and that it was due to the fact that there was a lowered standard of performance. It does seem, in fact, as if more and more people were doing less and less effective work, and I suggest that a 10 per cent. reduction, which the Prime Minister was willing to consider about two years ago, is quite inadequate to deal with this highly important situation. I could quote a considerable number of examples on this question, but I will pick out only two. One concerns the Ministry of Works. During the war, a woman architect was put on to a job under a man who had been a senior official of the Ministry of Works before the war. It was realised that he was not quite suitable to cope with the war situation, and so he was superseded and was put in a department of his own to work on post-war plans. In due time, when the post-war plans needed consideration, a completely fresh department was set up to look into that question, and then somebody remembered that there had been a certain amount of work done during the war years on this very subject. These plans were therefore called for, put up, displayed and considered, and it was found that they were entirely useless, as they had been considered in a vacuum without any adequate realisation of the conditions which would apply after the war. During the period of this qualified woman architect, the Department had been increasing in size, yet the work which had been done was later found to be of no use. The woman architect said that she had been brought into the Civil Service from the profession outside, and she said that it was not overstating the case to say that, once one went into a Civil Service Department, things became almost completely "Alice in Wonderland," completely divorced from reality, and that people seemed to act in a way quite different from the way in which they would act if they had been engaged in industry and had come up against the hard realities of industrial and commercial life. She also said that nothing was too fantastic or "Alice in Wonderland" for it to happen in a Department. The other case which I shall quote concerns a man who had been in the Civil Service for 19 years who has moved about among various Departments, and who has given it as his opinion that it is not overstating the case to say that, in the Departments in which he worked, a reduction of 50 per cent. could actually take place with the only effect of showing a considerable improvement in the service given. This man had even written to the papers about it, and it is such an unusual thing for a civil servant to express himself in public, that I think what he said is worth noting. He had done an extremely fine job during the war as a civilian in one of the Fighting Forces. He had done this overseas, and had been commended for having done fine work in a situation which many another man of the Fighting Forces would agree, only a brave man could have faced. This man said he realised now that, before the war, he had not done an honest day's work in the Department in which he had been employed. He had now been moved into a new Department which had been set up by the Labour Government, and which had recruited its staff very largely from the friendly societies and other insurance bodies.
It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Snow.]
He said he fully realised that he was now doing an average day's work, and he felt that was, by comparison, an adverse reflection on the conditions which, in the main, prevail in other Government Departments.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman a question? His is an extraordinary speech, and rather an unfair one. Will he say whether, when he was making these inquiries, he consulted any of the trade unions associated with those employed in the Civil Service in order to justify or corroborate the statements he is now making?
As my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will recall, I had conversations with people in his Department. In addition, I consulted with trade union officials who are associated with the Civil Service.
I have not approached the actual executives, because I believe that to be outside my sphere. My approach must be either to the Financial Secretary or to colleagues in this House who have associations with the Civil Service trade unions; they are the channels I have used.I wish to make one final point in regard to relations with the public. I say first, however, that my experience with the Ministry of Labour is that there has been a great improvement in the way contact is made with the public and those who go to the employment exchanges. I find that my relations with officials in my local employment exchange are excellent. On all occasions I have been given the greatest help by those officials. I think that, in a large measure, the same applies to the Ministry of Pensions, where a great deal more human understanding is expressed by the officials than there was under previous Governments. But, when interviewing constituents last weekend, a case was brought to my notice of an approach made to one of the other Departments where the official volunteered the suggestion—the man concerned was simply trying to get quite normal information relative to the problem he was discussing with the official—that the question he was asking was an insolent and an impertinent one. That sort of thing is not good. The man in question gave me this information in front of other people, and stated it in such a way that I have no reason to doubt its accuracy. Again, quite recently, I had brought to my notice the case where an industrialist had been discussing a problem affecting his export trade—the possibility of starting a completely fresh production with a new model, and one which is earning foreign exchange—but when he tried to fix an appointment with the official he was told on a long-distance call, that the official was too busy to speak to him. Eventually the official did speak to him, when he was told that he was too busy to fix an appointment for 10 days or a fortnight, even though it was known that it was a question that should be settled right away because important matters were affected. If in moments of urgency, industry cannot get rapid decisions on reasonable matters, or if the individual who is trying to get the matter cleared up is unable to state his case at an interview to the official concerned, it tends to undermine the confidence of the public in the way Departments work. I asked him why he did not complain straightaway. I understand that there is a fear in the minds of some industrialists that if they do make requests in strong terms to officials, reprisals might be used by those in the Department. I know that I am using strong words, but I have heard these complaints on so many occasions that I think it right and proper to say this here and now. I want to give a final example which again is of a serious nature. I fully realise—
My hon. Friend has made some very serious allegations, and I think the House is entitled to ask him to give a specific instance in order that it can be traced, because if it is true, obviously there is responsibility upon the Financial Secretary to go after the individual or the department concerned.
I hope no other hon. Member will interrupt the hon. Gentleman's speech, which has now been going on for a long time. I understand other hon. Members want to take part in the Debate.
I am about to bring my remarks to a conclusion. I fully realise that some of the remarks I have made are of a serious nature. I have made them advisedly and with all the evidence, written and otherwise, available, if need be, to substantiate every point I have made. I am not mincing my words because I realise the situation is serious. That is the reason why I have taken up so much of the time of the House in making these points. I know it is unpopular with some hon. Members when highly critical matters are brought forward, particularly if there is some reflection upon them because they may be associated with some of the trade unions concerned.
I am sorry to interrupt again, but I must object. I was one of the interrupters. I object to the suggestion that it is because one is associated from a professional point of view with a trade union which is connected with a Government Department, and because one hears a carelessly made speech alleging a possible reprisal by a Government Department on an industrialist who makes a long-distance telephone call, such remarks are unpopular. The suggestion is that because the civil servant does not put everything aside and take up the industrialist's case, that is a reflection on the way in which the Government Department works. I would say that it is a good example of the way in which a Government Department should do its work. Civil servants cannot be expected to give a decision at a moment's notice when someone telephones them. We must object to the tone of my hon. Friend's speech.
Let me explain one further point. Evidently I did not make myself clear. I said that the man made a long-distance call asking for an appointment. At least the man at the other end could have given a clear indication as to when he could be contacted, instead of a vague reply which simply added to the difficulties of the situation.I make this last point with due regard to its implications. I know it will cause objections in certain quarters, but I make the point advisedly. I have the evidence and if need be it can be given in the proper quarter when required. I believe that the right place for any of this evidence to be considered is only in front of a properly constituted investigation into the whole of the working of the Civil Service. Various committees which have been set up—for example, those dealing with Communist activities in the Civil Service or the activities of contact men—are dealing with the matter piecemeal. These are all parts of a total problem. The total problem is the way in which the Departments are functioning. My concern, and I think the concern of others on this side of the House as well as in other quarters of the House, and in the country generally where these views may also be held, is that there has grown up voluntarily—I do not think it is at all part of the Socialist policy but that it has happened in spite of it, and to some extent it is a hangover from the war—an ever-increasing power and influence on the part of bureaucracy. We must see that under Socialism it does not happen. In some places it happens because Socialist Ministers are preoccupied with big problems involving Labour policy, and introducing Bills which we promised the electorate we would do. It has been very difficult for Ministers to apply the time they should have devoted to matters concerning the organisation of their Departments. An insurance company was very concerned because its income which was derived from property was seriously affected, and it could not get the property put in order because of the enormous delays, difficulties, obstructions and refusals which it met with when applying for licences and sanctions. The board of this insurance company met together to ask themselves, "Where does our loyalty lie—to our policy-holders or elsewhere?" They decided that it lay to their policy holders and the decision of the board was to contact what was euphemistically described as a syndicate—not just one man named Stanley, but a syndicate. After that they had no trouble with their licences or sanctions. The obvious is implied—and I realise that this is a serious charge. When the Lynskey Tribunal was held, the board asked the syndicate "What is your position now?" They made this point: "It does not matter because we realise that Stanley was a clumsy fellow; he was contacting Ministers and in that way was found out. We contact those in the Departments." This is a serious matter, and I believe a matter of that sort cannot be investigated as an individual item; it must be investigated as a matter affecting the whole of the Civil Service.
I wonder whether now, openly in this House, my hon. Friend will undertake afterwards to give me privately the name of the board of the insurance company so that I may follow this up?
Yes, I am prepared to give the evidence to my right hon. Friend, but obviously I should have to ask for an undertaking from him. From time to time I have given evidence to individual Ministers who have passed the evidence to their Departments and in due time, after some delay—obviously required to investigate the matter fully—I have received an evasive reply. I have not had satisfaction. What I suggest is this, and it is the point I have been trying to make in my speech this afternoon; the only way to deal with the matter is to investigate the Civil Service as a whole and not to investigate individual items. It is in investigating individual items that we have failed to obtain results and to make the deductions which otherwise we should have made.
I understand that my hon. Friend will let me have the name of the company?
I am prepared to give that to my hon. Friend provided I can have an undertaking from him—and I think this is a reasonable request for me to make—that he will not only safeguard the individuals concerned, but that he will make it part of his promise that there shall be an investigation of the whole Civil Service rather than on this one item.
He cannot do that.
At least he can consult the Prime Minister over this matter and see whether it cannot be done. Finally I ask, will he at least give consideration to the points I have tried to make, probably very badly, probably inadequately and probably sketchily? In every instance I can give him the fullest infor- mation required to substantiate every single point I have made
If I may say so, I think my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) has spoiled his case by recounting to the House a lot of irresponsible and unsubstantiated tittle-tattle. I cannot really believe that much of what he has brought before us represents the evidence of responsible people of the Civil Service. If it does, then the proper place for these allegations is where they can be thoroughly investigated, with all the evidence and the identity of those who are making these statements and in a full investigation of all associated with them. When my hon. Friend rose to speak I thought that he was about to make a constructive and helpful speech about working conditions in our vast and important public service, but he gradually descended from the high note upon which he started to the sort of speech which I have just criticised.My hon. Friend divided his speech into three parts—first, the chores of the Government Departments; second, work and pay; and third, relations with the public. Let me remind him that there is elaborate machinery already in the Civil Service in the National Whitley Council, in the Departmental Whitley Councils, and in an array of lesser Whitley Councils throughout the public service, to which matters of the kind he has mentioned can be referred for full consideration and constructive investigation and constructive action. I trust that he will advise those who bring these complaints to him that there is that machinery for dealing with them. The trade union organisation of the Civil Service is very proficient, and fully competent to make representations to proper authority when members bring their grievances to it. I do not want to take up more of the time, which should be at the disposal of the financial Secretary, whose indignation at some of the statements made by my hon. Friend I am sure we can understand. I only voice the protest of one who has been connected with the Civil Service for a lifetime; who has served on important Whitley Councils in the Civil Service. I voice my protest at the irresponsibility of the allegations which my hon. Friend has brought before the House.
Before my hon. Friend sits down, may I make a comment? These were not irresponsible statements—
Order. The hon. Gentleman has already exhausted his right to speak or make any comment.
I want to intervene for only one moment to say that I feel that my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) has made a most unfortunate speech. I came here prepared to listen very sympathetically to what he had to say. I had hoped to have an opportunity to try to elaborate one or two points which I believe would have been regarded as fair, reasonable, and proper criticisms of the Civil Service, and to make one or two constructive suggestions. I think my hon. Friend has fallen into error in trying to draw false conclusions from a few individual cases, and as a result has painted a totally false picture of the situation. I think this country is justly proud of the integrity and the efficiency of its Civil Service.However, having said that, I would say that I think there is room for considerable improvement in organisation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech recognised that economies could be made in the administration of our affairs. He said that those economies might only be measured in fractions of millions, but I believe that there is room, by a properly undertaken effort to make very considerable economies. I was going to try to elaborate—I shall not as there is not time—the wide scope for economy with the preservation of efficiency which would result from a complete overhaul of the relationship between the central administration, by central Government Departments, and local authorities throughout the country. My right hon. Friend has very wisely taken that matter in hand by the appointment of a committee. There is a great deal of overlapping at the moment, both on the administrative level and on the technical level, in all the social services that are administered by local authorities and are subject to control by central Departments in Whitehall. The local authorities themselves have published a memorandum, from which I was going to quote, although I shall not now, in which they put forward many constructive suggestions for the elimination of the duplication that exists at the moment, and thereby for the introduction of very considerable economies in the administration of social services. I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will give attention—his own personal attention—to the working of that committee, because I think that in that way very considerable economies in the administration of our central and local affairs could be achieved.
All I want to say at this stage is that I very much regret that my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper), in his wisdom, has not allowed others of us the opportunity to discuss some of the very important statements he made today. He took an inordinately long time to make these allegations, some of which I should have liked to challenge in detail had I been given the opportunity. There were points in his speech which, could they have been enlarged upon, would have been helpful to this House and to civil servants themselves. I therefore very much regret that he did not give others the opportunity to make those things known to the House.
First let me say in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) that I have taken the point he made, although unfortunately he had to make it in a rather truncated manner. I agree with him that there is a good deal of overlapping between the central and the local authorities at the official level. As he knows, we have a committee sitting on this, and I hope that as a result of its deliberations something may be done both to make the machinery more efficient and to release staff. I am also grateful for the very few words which my hon. Friend the Member for Heston and Isleworth (Mr. W. R. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) were able to say, in spite of the shortness of time. I think it would have been an excellent thing if, on an occasion like this, when we had more than the usual half-hour for an Adjournment Debate, more hon. Members could have taken part, for in my view that would have made this a much more satisfactory occasion.My hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) spoke for nearly an hour, and it is obvious that in the space of eight or nine minutes it would be impossible for me to deal with a tithe of the points he made. He himself admitted that he made some very serious allegations, and when I asked him to promise that he would give me chapter and verse so that inquiry could be made he attempted in return to make a bargain. Well, I was not making the allegations; he was making them. I wish to say, here and now, that I hope he will be good enough to let me have all the details he possibly can about this insurance company which apparently, because it could not do business with a Government Department in a proper way, had to go to somebody in the black market, to what is commonly known as a contact man. That is a serious allegation, particularly as I drew from the rest of his remarks on that particular point the inference that what the company could not get directly from the Government Department they got quite quickly through this contact man, which definitely implies that the contact man was able to gain from civil servants certain advantages which other people could not get. As one who is jealous for the good name of the Civil Service, which is unable to answer for itself, I must say that music hall jokes are one thing and are taken in good part, but serious allegations by a Member of Parliament, who is supposed to realise the responsibility both of his position and the place in which he speaks, are an entirely different matter, and I hope—as I am sure he will—that my hon. Friend will give me details of these cases, if there is more than one, so that we can go into them, and if necessary make the whole thing public, as I think most of us would desire should be done. My hon. Friend has said that this matter has been raised by him on more than one occasion. When he said that he was understating the position. Not only has he on previous Adjournment Debates raised the type of question of which he spoke again this afternoon, but he has also done so frequently in both letters to me and talks with me within the precincts of the House. Up to now nothing that I, or others for that matter, have been able to say to my hon. Friend has eradicated from his mind the opinion that the Civil Service as an organisation is grossly inefficient and completely out of date. I can hardly expect within seven or eight minutes—perhaps not even within a century—to get him to believe that the Civil Service is not as black as he paints it, and that it is not true to say that it has not changed its methods for many years. Much of what he said about working conditions, buildings and equipment found an answering echo in my heart. We are very well aware, without his telling us, how poor and how out of date, many of the buildings are and how necessary it is to bring the equipment up to modern standards. We want all kinds of labour-saving devices in the Civil Service, both to increase efficiency and to lessen the numbers that we otherwise would have to employ. I can assure my hon. Friend that, although we are very grateful for his reminder, we had not overlooked the fact that these are some of the things we ought to do as soon as they become possible. I would ask him to remember that, at the moment, this country has had to concentrate on production for overseas, and that people in the Civil Service would prefer that houses should be built rather than that they should have new and up-to-date offices. My hon. Friend looks young and healthy. I hope he will live to see those offices go up and the day come when they can be a credit to the country and certainly a credit to and an amenity and comfort for those who work there. Therefore, on that point, we are all with him. So far as the physical working conditions are concerned, I should have thought that one who follows these matters so closely would have read the report which was published in 1948 and which dealt with this matter. The committee was set up in April, 1943, under the then National Coalition, to consider the physical working conditions in the Civil Service. It has made a report, and we are doing our best to implement the findings of that committee. But these things take time. We shall have to wait for some of them, at any rate until we can leave other things which at the moment are more important; then we can concentrate upon doing something in the directions mentioned. I cannot of course deal here with the cases that my hon. Friend gave us. That is the difficulty about cases mentioned in the course of a Debate. Few details are given and it is impossible to know straight away what the answer is. I have found during a fairly long experience that there are two sides to most cases. It might well be, even if what my hon. Friend said is true about the long distance call to a department he mentioned, that they knew the gentleman who was ringing, and that the last thing they wanted to do was to fix an appointment with him. Such things happen, and that may be the answer.
In regard to the allegation that has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) about contact men, is it not a fact that there is a committee now sitting, appointed by the Prime Minister? Surely it is my hon. Friend's duty to send the evidence to them?
I should be quite happy if the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough would do that. I dealt with the matter in the way I did because the allegation has been made here, but if my hon. Friend cares to write directly to the Prime Minister I should be delighted. I have no desire to handle it at all. If it came to me I should in any case pass it on to the proper quarter. So serious and definite is it, that it would eventually, I imagine, reach the Prime Minister himself.Let me say finally that the Civil Service always lives under a very fierce light. Publicity is bent upon it, and the slightest slip can and does give rise to paragraphs in the newspapers and sometimes streamer headlines; whereas a business may be as inefficient as you like and nothing is ever said about it in the Press. At the same time, the Civil Service is by no means perfect. It is an enormous organisation. It has a very extensive job to do. It would be a curious thing indeed if it never slipped up and was completely efficient throughout. On the whole it does a good job. I think it is going to do a better one when we can give it the equipment that is its due. I do not think we help our country or assist the Civil Service to give its best if we make charges such as we have heard this afternoon and which, if I may say so, have done my hon. Friend no good. His allegations have been far too sweeping. If he had been a little more generous in his references to the Civil Service than he has been, and had realised what a fine job it is doing, we should have been more inclined to listen to what he had to say.
The Question having been proposed at Four o'Clock and the Debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.