Colonial Loans Money
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to authorise the Treasury to guarantee certain loans by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to the Governments of colonial territories, it is expedient to authorise—
(a) the guarantee by the Treasury of the principal of and the interest on any such loan, so, however, that the amount of the principal of the loans so guaranteed shall not in the aggregate exceed the equivalent of fifty million pounds; (b) the charge on and issue out of the Consolidated Fund of any sums required by the Treasury for fulfilling any such guarantee; (c) the payment into the Exchequer of any sums received by way of the repayment of any sums so issued."—[Mr. Rees-Williams.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
Will the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary explain why we have two Money Resolutions on the Colonial Loans Bill? We had one in November and another this week and some explanation would be of assistance.
The reason for putting down the second Financial Resolution was to cover the same point as it is proposed to cover in Committee. That is to say, certain charges not covered in the original Financial Resolution are found to be necessary if loans are to be guaranteed from the Bank. That is exactly the same point as we shall be considering on the Committee stage.
Can the Under-Secretary give an idea of the total sum which may be wanted? Can he give some estimate? That would be more satisfactory.
I am sorry I am unable to satisfy the hon. Member on that point. As I explained on Second Reading, this Bill is intended to enable Colonial Governments to borrow moneys from the Bank, if they so desire. I am quite unable to say at this moment to what extent they will take advantage of the facilities offered.
There is no limit?
There is no limit.
Question put, and agreed to.
Colonial Loans Money No 2
"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to authorise the Treasury to guarantee certain loans by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to the Governments of colonial territories, it is expedient to authorise—
(a) the charge on and issue out of the Consolidated Fund of any sums required by the Treasury for fulfilling a guarantee of any charges in respect of any such loan as well as of the principal thereof and interest thereon; (b) the payment into the Exchequer of any sums received by way of the repayment of any sums so issued."
Resolution agreed to.
Colonial Loans Bill
Considered in Committee.
[Mr. BOWLES in the Chair]
Clause 1—(Guarantee Of Loans Made To Colonial Territories By The International Bank For Reconstruction And Development)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, to leave out from the first "the," to "any," and to insert:
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we consider this Amendment with the following Amendment, in page 2, line 18, after "of," insert:"repayment of the principal of and the payment of the interest on and other charges in respect of."
One is consequential on the other. The reason for this Amendment is that Clause 1 (1) of the Bill as drafted, while enabling His Majesty's Government to guarantee repayment of principal and payment of interest on a loan from the Bank, does not enable His Majesty's Government to guarantee the other charges of the Bank. These charges are two. There is the statutory commission, which is a commission of not less than 1 per cent. and not more than 1½ per cent. charged by the Bank when it makes or participates in direct loans out of funds borrowed by the Bank during the first 10 years of its operations. That is imposed by Article IV, Section 4 (a) of the Bank's charter. The Bank is obliged to charge commission on loans from funds it has borrowed, but not from funds it has obtained out of members' subscriptions. The commission is not a banker's profit, but is set aside for the Bank's creditors and, of course, eventually of members. The commitment charge is in effect a reduced rate of interest. This reduced rate of interest is charged by the Bank on the undisbursed part of a loan, full rate of interest and commission being charged only from the date of disbursement. It may be held to be implicit in the original Clause 1, but we feel that the matter should be put beyond doubt. This is not a statutory obligation on the Bank as is the other. It is a matter of practice and, of course, it is to the advantage of the borrower. There have been some delays between Second Reading and Committee stage, but we had to have discussion with the Bank on these charges and on various other matters relating to the guarantee. All these matters have now been satisfactorily cleared up and I ask the Committee to approve the Amendments."and other charges in respect of."
We of the Opposition have no quarrel with these Amendments, the purpose of which has been explained quite clearly by the Under-Secretary. We are glad to see this Bill again. We last saw it in November, and we thought that this Government of planners had actually lost it. Now it has turned up and we shall do our best to facilitate its quick passage.
I quite agree with my hon. Friend. In his explanation of the Amendments the Under-Secretary referred to the advantage to the borrowers. That is a good thing from the borrowers' point of view, but we are building up considerable loans from banks, etc., which we assume will be of great help in the development of the Empire. There should be close scrutiny of how these loans are used, because ultimately if there is a big loss it must in some way——
I think that the remarks which the hon. Member is making would be more appropriately made on the Motion "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
Will the Under-Secretary amplify his explanation by saying what will be the total of the Bank's charges by way of interest and other charges?
I have already said what will be the total amount of the Bank's charges, and I cannot say anything more.
Is it 4½ per cent. or thereabouts?
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 18, after "of," insert:
"and other charges in respect of."—[Mr. Rees-Williams.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
Perhaps I might finish the remarks which I was making. I do not in any way oppose this Clause, but I realise that, as the hon. Gentleman said just now, the borrower is getting a great advantage which should ultimately be of enormous advantage to the development of the various Colonies. We all agree on that. We want to see the Colonies developed fully. But if by any misfortune there should be a loss, and these loans should fail, I imagine that loss would fall on the Bank, and as we have guaranteed the loans it is quite conceivable that that loss might fall on the taxpayers of this country. That should be pointed out because it might be a very heavy charge.It is necessary that it should be pointed out because it should be clearly made known that this country is at present doing an enormous amount by way of finance in helping to develop our Colonies. That should be appreciated, as I am sure it is, both here and in the Colonies. It should also be appreciated in a wide circle outside the Empire. It shows that we in this country are again, as so often in the past, making terrific efforts to help to advance the people in our Colonies. It is a work that has gone on for many years in many ways. An occasion of this sort should not pass without its being clearly pointed out that this work is being done by the Government with the support of the Opposition, and, I believe, of every party in this House. I cannot speak for the Communist Party or the minor Liberal Party, neither of which are represented at the moment, but the great Tory Party and the Socialist Party are supporting this principle.
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I mention one or two points arising out of some misunderstanding in our minds on the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill. First may I say, in regard to the query raised by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) that the statutory ceiling in the Bill is, as he will see from Clause 1 (1), £50 million. What our actual commitments will be within that total it is impossible for me to say because we do not know to what extent Colonial Governments will take up these loans. No one can say that at the moment. In reply to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) the Bank's interest and charges will be about 4½ per cent.On Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) quite rightly raised a point on the question of tied loans and the financing of local currency requirements. I heard from Washington that the Bank was very pleased with that discussion and Debate, and congratulated hon. Members on the standard of the Debate. We often get comments of a reverse kind and it is just as well that when we get some bouquets, we should record the fact. The Bank have discussed with us at considerable length the actual requirements of the Bank under these tied loans. On Second Reading, the senior Burgess for Oxford University drew attention to Article III, Section 5, which provides that the Bank:
I am assured by the Bank that their policy and operations are and always have been in complete conformity with that provision. By 30th June, 1948, a total of 470.1 million dollars had been disbursed as follows: United States 356.4 million dollars, Canada 12.5 million, Latin America 50 million, Europe 47.7 million, Near East 2.2 million, Africa 1.2 million and the Far East 1 million. Thus 20 per cent. of the total of the Bank's disbursements have been outside the United States, and goods bought from this 20 per cent. have been financed by purchases of the required currency or by making U.S. dollars available to borrowers. Article IV, Section 3 (a) provides that the Bank:"shall impose no conditions that the proceeds of a loan shall be spent in territories of any particular member or members."
"Furnishing" here covers providing the borrower with a certain currency in exchange for the currency originally borrowed. In the eyes of the Bank, Colonial Governments derive status through His Majesty's Government's membership of the Bank; therefore "currency of a member" is held to include both sterling and Colonial currencies. The Bank would only provide Colonial Governments with sterling in exceptional circumstances as provided by Article IV, Section 3 (b). Except in one or two cases, the Bank has, up to now, only lent in U.S. dollars, but it may provide other currencies in exchange if the borrower desires, but not, of course, the currency of the borower save in exceptional circumstances, as I have mentioned. Hitherto other members have not, as a general rule, permitted their paid up subscriptions to be used. It is important to make quite clear both to the Colonial Governments and the Members of this House exactly what their position is under the regulations of the charter of the Bank."shall furnish the borrower with such currencies of members, other than the members in whose territories the project is located, as are needed by the borrower for expenditures to be made in the territories of such of the members to carry out the purposes of the loan."
I am glad that the Minister has been able to make this supplementary statement, because there was a good deal of anxiety and misconception both in this House and outside on the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill. During that Debate I pointed out that I thought it was a very great advantage that money lent through the Bank which is almost entirely American in origin was lent without being tied, being different in this respect from, for example, loans made by the Export-Import Bank. When I made that remark the Minister said:
On this "The Economist" commented, and I thought quite reasonably, that the statutes of the Bank—as the Minister has just read them out—are clear and definite that no conditions shall be imposed requiring the loan to be spent in the territories of any particular member or members. "The Economist" went on to say that if that statute was being circumvented by administrative action, the matter should be made the subject of a clear statement of policy. It added that I intervened in the Debate and that though I was—as indeed I still am—chairman of the Banks' Advisory Council and had just come back from Washington, I was apparently quite ignorant of the statute being circumvented. That was true and I was the more surprised because I had been discussing the question of Colonial loans and no suggestion of tying these loans had been made. I, therefore, wrote to the President of the Bank and was informed by him that the statement made by the Minister was apparently due to a mistaken inference from certain informal and preliminary discussions, which were neither completed nor meant to be published, and that, as the Minister has said today, the Bank was not in any way attempting to circumvent the statute in question. I am, therefore, very glad indeed that he has been able to make this statement now."Unfortunately, it is the policy of the Bank at the moment that dollar loans shall only be used for dollar purposes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 785.]
I should be obliged if the Under-Secretary could enlighten me on one small point regarding the precise significance of subsection (3, b). So far as I understand it, loans may be made under subsection (3, a), and the money is to be:
That is easily intelligible. At the same time there may be money loans for some project which in fact cost less than it was expected it would cost. That does not very often happen in these days, and I should have thought that in those circumstances, when a particular transaction cost less than anybody thought it would, and when a transaction under subsection (3, b) come to be considered, it would be considered de novo whether a new grant should be approved or not. As I read the Bill, what happens is that if we make a loan of so much money we have to find a way of spending that money whether it is necessary or not. If it is not spent on the original project, some other project must be found on which to spend it."for appropriating and duly applying the loan for the purpose approved as aforesaid."
Those of us who sit in this part of the Committee cordially welcome the arrangements proposed, which appear to be wholly admirable and well designed to achieve the object in view.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter), I am very grateful for the explanation given by the Under-Secretary. I should be grateful further if he could indicate the part to be played by the Colonial Development Corporation in regard to these loans. There has been a long interval since this Bill received a Second Reading. Talks between Lord Trefgarne, the Chairman of the Corporation, and the President of the Bank, Mr. McCloy, have taken place and I should be glad if we could know what was the outcome of those talks. Mr. McCloy took a great personal interest in this question of Colonial development and I hope that since he has ceased to be President of the Bank there will be no change of policy in regard to this matter. Is it intended that all loans to Colonies and similar territories shall be channelled through the Colonial Development Corporation or are these loans through the Colonial Development Corporation only one part of the total sum which may be available to the Colonies?
In answer to the last question put by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), the Colonial Development Corporation does not come within the purview and scope of this Bill. It may be necessary, in order to deal with certain matters that we have to deal with here, to have an Amendment to the Overseas Resources Act, but this Bill does not affect the activities of the Colonial Development Corporation at all.With regard to the question put by the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis), this is really a safeguarding provision to ensure that a Government which receives a loan and does not, for some reason or other—possibly for the reason he suggested, or there may be other physical reasons—apply it to the original purpose, shall not use the balance of the money so available on schemes which have not the consent of my right hon. Friend. It is, in fact, a provision safeguarding the Treasury, and consequently the taxpayers of this country. For that reason, I ask the Committee to agree that this is a very reasonable and proper safeguard to have in the Bill. I am grateful for the way in which the Committee have received this Clause, and I ask that it now stand part of the Bill.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended to be considered upon Monday next, and to be printed. [Bill 146.]
Colonial Development And Welfare Bill
Order for Second Reading Read.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."In 1940 Parliament passed an Act to promote the development of the resources of our Colonial territories and to promote also the welfare of Colonial peoples. The Bill was passed at the hour of our greatest danger as a nation. It was an act of faith. It was a declaration of responsibility and it was a milestone in our Colonial policy. It was not passed because of our economic difficulties or shortage in raw materials. It was significant because it brought the United Kingdom Government into closer co-operation with the Colonial Governments than it had been at any previous time. It made provision for central services on which the Colonial Governments could draw. It made provision for local services which hitherto the Colonial Governments could not afford, and it made provision for research and technical and financial resources which hitherto were not available to the Colonies. The White Paper which announced the introduction of this development in policy used the following words, and I quote them because of their significance:
In 1945, Parliament increased the original sum available to £120 million in the 10 years ending 31st March, 1956. The maximum which could be expended in any financial year was not to exceed £17,500,000, and, in respect of research and inquiry schemes, the ceiling was placed in any one year at £1 million. The House is aware that the Colonial Governments were invited at that time to draw up programmes of development for the 10-year period, and, in respect of the Colonies whose schemes have been reported to the House, £85,500,000 was allocated in the territories and groups of territories for welfare and economic development schemes. It was made clear that the money available should be supplemented from Colonial sources, and it was hoped that as a result of the greater use of natural resources by creating better social conditions, by furthering production and enterprise, the territories would obtain higher social and economic standards, and, generally, would be able to move forward at a greater pace than hitherto had proved possible. Apart from the £85,500,000 allocated to the individual territories and groups of territories, it was suggested that there should be a number of central schemes, in London in the main, which probably would cost something like £23,500,000, and, of that sum probably £10 million would be made available for research and inquiry. The reports of the working of the Act have been published each year, and the House is familiar with the progress made. I shall only therefore say that, in the 21 territories from which schemes for economic and social development have come—schemes approved to date—the total expenditure planned is in the neighbourhood of £200 million. Of this sum, the local Governments themselves are contributing by way of local loans £64 million, and from their own local revenues £71 million; that is to say, the Colonies are contributing no less than £135 million, and only £64 million is made available under the 1945 Act. I would not at this stage analyse the proposed schemes but would point out that they are of a very varied character. In regard to the development of agriculture and veterinary services, something like £10 million expenditure is planned; on irrigation works £3,250,000; on soil conservation £1,500,000; on forestry £1,400,000, and if, to the money allocated to the schemes for economic expenditure, is added the money which is likely to be spent on roads, railways and communications, we reach a figure under the existing schemes that have been adopted of something in the neighbourhood of £28 million. Grants will come under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act for social services, and something like £10 million will be contributed towards educational schemes in the field of primary, secondary and technical education, £9 million in respect of health schemes, nearly £2 million in respect of housing schemes, and £7 million on water supplies and sanitation, making a total for social services in the neighbourhood of £29 million. The way in which these schemes apply has been set out in the annual reports submitted to the House dealing with the territorial distribution of this money, and I shall only remind the House, in respect of this allocation of money, that no single criterion was adopted for judging the requirements of one single territory as against another. All the factors known to be relevant were taken into account, including the size and population of the territory, its known economic resources and possibilities, the present state of development, schemes known to exist or in contemplation, and the financial resources likely to be available locally. In short, the total sum provided for expenditure under the Act up to 31st March, 1949, in grants and loans is £64 million. The Colonies themselves are contributing something in the neighbourhood of £135 million, but it is noteworthy that up to the same date actual issues from the Vote totalled only £25 million, of which £1,550,000 was for research. Much has been done, but it is true that insufficient progress has been made with the territorial schemes, and, as the House will appreciate, this is due to the scarcity of raw materials, of capital goods and of technical staffs, which has made the going not as rapid as we had originally hoped. I think it can also be said that the insufficient progress does not arise from any lack of zeal, drive or conception, or failure to make programmes. I think the House fully appreciates that, in many territories, in the field of development, we start, particularly in social services, very nearly from scratch. We have to build up the basic public works and utilities, conduct investigations before schemes can start, and we have to overcome considerable natural obstacles. But the difficulties also arise, of course, from the lack of skill, the scarcity of labour, the lack of scientists, doctors, teachers, agriculturists, veterinary officers, geologists, and through insufficient steel, cement, fertilisers, building materials and transport. All these obstacles are in the way, and have been holding up the progress we should have liked to see. However, they are being steadily overcome in a variety of ways, by training, better health, and wider sources of supply becoming available through the improvement of transport, and there is also a greater availability of capital and consumer goods. Consequently, the progress of the projects of the 10-year programmes is now increasing, although we are undoubtedly faced with higher costs for materials than those which existed at the time when the schemes were planned. The slow progress, the delays, and the non-expenditure in the earlier years will involve us in the second part of the period of the 10 years in a rising expenditure—a greater degree of annual expenditure—than was originally foreseen, and there will undoubtedly have to be, as a result of these delays, a recasting of some of the projects already adopted. It is because of those circumstances that we are asking that the annual ceiling should be raised by this Bill from £17,500,000 to £20 million. I wish to make several observations regarding expenditure on development. It has sometimes been complained that there is a tendency to over-emphasise social as against economic schemes, but I think I can truthfully say that the Economic and Development Council, together with my officers and myself, have always tried to correct territorial programmes where the social services were calculated to outrun the likely economic means of supporting them. I should add, however, that we regard social expenditure on education, health, housing and welfare services as economic expenditure for promoting the greater efficiency of the worker and preventing a great deal of waste. I think that these are essential factors in any balanced progress. Social improvements need to be sustained by increased productivity, but they are themselves essential to expanding economy. We have gone very carefully into the distribution of expenditure among these various factors of progress with the best experts available here, and we are satisfied that we have achieved a fair balance according to the needs and possibilities of each territory as between economic and social expenditure. We have estimated that of all new moneys being put into Colonial development and welfare, at least half is going into directly productive economic activities, a further one-third into the maintenance and expansion of public utilities essential to development, and less than one-sixth into social services. No one pretends that these are the only aspects of Colonial development, and I make the point because the report of the Select Committee of the House passed certain criticisms in regard to development policy. While the Colonial schemes cover plans for improved agriculture, the checking of disease, and physical improvements, the Government have indicated the importance of encouraging co-operation, community education, voluntary social effort, and the development of initiative among the Colonial peoples themselves. I think it can be quite safely said that most Colonial Governments are now working along those lines. Of course, there are other schemes of development which include the foundation of the Colonial Development Corporation, the bulk purchasing schemes and marketing arrangements, assistance on the economic and research sides and the conservation in each territory of the surpluses from marketing its products, which are mainly carried on without the assistance of the Colonial Development and Welfare Funds. I now come to the second part of expenditure under the Colonial Development and Welfare Funds. Under the allocations referred to, I mentioned that something more than £23,500,000 had been set on one side for central services, including research, about which I shall have some words to say later. Those central services mark, of course, a very important development in the relation of the Colonial Office to the Colonial territories because those services have been created mainly to assist the territories in their development, and to provide them with resources which otherwise would not be made available to them, and sometimes resources which, in any case they could not provide for themselves. Some of those central services include, of course, the general and technical training schemes for the Colonial Service including money for the provision of scholarships to persons in the Colony itself so that they may come here to study and equip themselves for higher levels of responsibility in the higher branches of the services in the Colony to which they belong. There is, for instance, the very large expenditure on the development of higher education which had led to the establishment of the university colleges and the improvement in existing higher education arrangements. There are the topographical and geodetic surveys, some geodetic surveying in the field, but mainly topographical surveying by air survey methods. The aim of completing a topographical survey of 250,000 square miles of the Empire as a whole has meant the building up of a large staff in the Colonial Office itself. There are also the geological surveys, the meteorological surveys, and a nutrition unit which is working at the moment in the Gambia. We are hoping to group in London an applied nutrition section in conjunction with the field research station. There are other essential services concerned with economic policy, information services, broadcasting services, and so on. Therefore, under the Act we have built up this great range of central services which are now performing most useful work as we devolve increasing responsibility to the territories and as they themselves are coming to grips with their own development problems. Now I come to the research proposals. I think the House recognises that research and investigation work in our territories is of fundamental importance. The task in Colonial administration is how to control environment for good living. That is the essential problem of all our Colonial technical and administrative people because, on all sides, there are malignant factors ready to defeat all our efforts for improving the quality of living. Our knowledge is still somewhat scanty and progress obviously can only be made in so far as we are able to check disease, whether it is the disease of plant, animal or man. We must, if our development schemes are to be applied, understand the structure and the customs of the societies in which the work is to be done. We must learn agriculture, the properties of the soil, how fertility can be encouraged, how insects can be controlled, what natural resources exist, to what uses products can be turned and how society and economy generally can be improved. The House is fully aware that to cope with this very wide range of problems and to obtain new knowledge in order to help our people in the field, there exists a Colonial Research Council which attempts to co-ordinate all the research work which is going on in our territories and all the necessary work which is done in connection with some of the practical problems of the Colonies themselves. This Council is very active in co-ordinating every phase of the work and in trying to fill in the gaps which exist in our knowledge by getting research work under way. There has been built up in the Colonial Office over the years a number of Committees which give particular attention to various sides of this work. There is the Committee for Colonial Agricultural, Animal, Health and Forestry Research, the Colonial Insecticide Committee, the Colonial Economic Research Committee, the Colonial Medical Research Committee, the Colonial Social Service Research Council, and the Colonial Products Research Council and others. I should like on behalf of the House, to pay a very warm tribute to the considerable and very generous service which these distinguished scientists and others render to the Colonies and to ourselves in the voluntary work they do. It is an enormous contribution, of immense value in keeping under constant review the frantically difficult problems which have to be solved in almost every phase of activity in our Colonies. With the aid of these bodies we are building up a scientific service. We are filling gaps in our knowledge by financing the work of the universities and research stations here. We are creating research stations in a number of our Colonial regions, and we are encouraging new experimental and demonstration work in the various territories. In East Africa, for example, an Agricultural and Forestry Research Organisation and a Veterinary Research Organisation are now in operation. A scheme has been introduced for the establishment of an East African Bureau of Health and Medical Survey. There is a great deal of work being done by the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad on cocoa, bananas, soil problems, and sugar technology. There is the recent establishment of the Colonial Microbiological Institute in Trinidad. A Fishery Research Institute has been built up in Malaya. Indeed, in very many ways a great deal of fundamental work is going forward as a result of these institutes in the various regions of our Colonial Empire. We are establishing experimental stations such as the Virus Research Institutes in Nigeria and Uganda, an oil palm research station in Nigeria, a timber utilisation research station in Malaya and rice experimental station in West Africa. In connection with the new universities, we are attaching to them research institutes with regard to social, economic and other local problems. We are also sending out special missions to undertake investigations in every field, and skilled scientists have, in recent years, visited practically every Colonial territory. In these ways we are getting the basic knowledge necessary to attack the difficult problems confronting us in our development work. Under the Act no fewer than 319 schemes of research and inquiry have been adopted. The estimates in regard to expenditure show that 40 per cent. is for agriculture, veterinary and forestry inquiry, 13 per cent. in connection with fisheries, 10 per cent. medical, 9 per cent. with regard to tsetse, 5 per cent. insecticides, 5 per cent. on products research, and so on. Thirty per cent. of this work is likely to be done in East Africa, 20 per cent. in West Africa and 15 per cent. in the West Indies. Of this money which has so far been allocated—sufficient for schemes to the value of £6 million already—the Colonies themselves are contributing no less than £1,500,000 from their own resources. Cash already expended up to 31st March, 1949, is £1,541,000. The expenditure is increasing each year as shortages of material and staff are overcome, as new development schemes are started and new problems emerge calling for urgent attention. The expenditure last year was in the neighbourhood of £750,000, and if the House will agree to this Bill, we have plans which will involve an expenditure in the coming year of something in the neighbourhood of £1,600,000. I think the House will agree that this work is of vital and fundamental importance. By the very nature of our work we must cover a wide range of economic and social problems, and it seems clear that if we can get satisfactory answers to many of the problems which we have to solve, then more money must be forthcoming than the £1,000,000 provided in the existing Act. Consequently, we ask the House whether we may now raise the ceiling from £1,000,000 for research and inquiry work to £2,500,000. I should add that the raising of this ceiling does not involve any increase in the total sum which the House has made available over the period of 10 years of £120 million. I would not wish to delay the House with examples of the very remarkable work which is being done already in this field. The House is aware of the control that we have brought to bear on the locust, of the wonderful extension of antimalarial work in Cyprus, British Guiana and Mauritius. The House is aware of the work in connection with cocoa, the banana, the clove and so on. In all these directions, very important fundamental work has been done with excellent results for our territories overseas. There is the last discovery, of which the House knows a great deal, of the drug antrycide which we hope can be applied increasingly for the protection of cattle and bringing under control the ravages of the tsetse insect. There is also, of course, the important work being done in Trinidad at the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture. As I have said, the House is fairly familiar with that work. We ask, therefore, that the House should give the Bill a Second Reading. We have passed through a period of great difficulty. The resources are now becoming increasingly available; we can obtain capital goods which previously we could not obtain. We are hoping to increase the supply of technical and professional workers on whom many of these projects depend and, if we can have a greater freedom in regard to expenditure, it is likely that much more progress can be recorded in the immediate years ahead. In the light of the very considerable progress already made and the fact that this Act is of supreme importance in building up the life of these territories, it is with confidence that I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading."The primary aim of Colonial policy is to protect and advance the interests of the inhabitants of the Colonies … if full and balanced development is to be obtained, and if the Colonial Governments are to be placed in a position to maintain administrative, technical and social services on proper standards, some assistance from outside is necessary at this stage. First emphasis … will be on the economic position of the Colonies. That is the primary requirement upon which advance in other directions is largely consequential. From London there will be assistance and guidance, but no spirit of dictation. The new policy of development will involve no derogation from the rights and privileges of the local Legislatures, upon whom rests a large measure of responsibility for the improvement of conditions in their several territories … The whole effort will be one of collaboration between the authorities in the Colonies and those at home."
I am glad that at the start of his speech the right hon. Gentleman dispelled the illusion that development and welfare work in the Colonies began with the Socialist victory some four years ago. If we did not know the right hon. Gentleman so well, we might think that this welcome generosity was due to the need for new allies at a time when the Fabian Society is launching broadsides against His Majesty's Government. We welcome the Bill; we have no quarrel with it at all, and we shall do our best to facilitate its quick passage through the House. Many of us disliked the annual limitation of the amount of money that could be spent on research and development, and we are very glad to see those sums increased. Personally, I am a little in doubt as to why it is still necessary to have an annual ceiling. It is extremely difficult to budget these things over a calendar year with any accuracy and, when the Government are taking a step to amend the previous limitation, I am sorry they have not gone the whole way and abolished the annual ceiling altogether.There is one point I must make on the proportionate increase which the House is being asked to authorise. In the original proposals a balance was drawn between the amount to be spent on research and the amount to be spent on development. I think the proportion was roughly one-fifteenth on research and the remainder on development. The increase in the amount to be allowed for research is so considerably more, proportionately, than the amount to be allowed for development that we wonder whether this argues a fundamental change of policy in the future. If so, I hope the Under-Secretary will make some comments about it in his reply today. We on this side of the House did not propose, ourselves, to initiate a large-scale Debate on the whole problem of Colonial development and welfare, although naturally every hon. Member is free to talk about the subjects which interest him. There will be welcome opportunities soon to have that Debate. Yesterday we heard that the Annual Report of the Colonial Office is already in the printers' hands and will, I think, be issued in some two weeks' time; and that some time early next month the first of the 42 Colonial Reports will be issued. When we have these Reports before us, the House can turn to a subject which is dear to the hearts of hon. Members on both sides, and that is the progress of development schemes in detail. Every hon. Member will then have an opportunity of pushing those schemes which appeal to him most. There are one or two general observations which, I think, should be made today—certain inescapable conclusions to which attention should be drawn. That must be my excuse for detaining the House for these very few minutes. After all, we are considering a ten-year plan and we are very nearly half-way through that period of ten years; over one-third of the ten years has passed, and a very small proportion indeed of the money which Parliament so willingly granted, has been spent in the British Colonies. It may appear strange that at a time when we are reluctant to trust the Government with money for many of their domestic schemes we should be chiding them for their failure to spend to the limit in British Colonial territories, but I am certain that I shall have the whole House with me when I say that sums spent on carefully prepared schemes of welfare and development are not only part of our obligations to our Colonial fellow citizens, but will yield for them and for us in the future the richest possible returns. We know how much of the money which we voted has been spent, but of course we do not know, until we have the Annual Report, how much of the finance provided by the Colonies themselves, for their part of the ten-year plan, has been spent. We heard from the Secretary of State this morning that we are providing only about £64 million out of some £200 million which is to be spent on Colonial Development work. We do not know how much of that £130-odd million which the Colonies themselves are providing has, in fact, been spent. Of course, we know how much has been spent of the money which this House has granted. I should like to draw some conclusions from this situation. We appreciate the difficulties which face the Government—rising prices, shortages of capital goods, shortages of raw materials and a shortage of trained scientists and technicians; but, even allowing for all these difficulties, I think the House will view with grave disquiet the actual results over the last three years. In the first year of the operation of the plan under the 1945 Act—that is, the year ending 31st March, 1947—£9⅓ million was provided in the development and welfare programme. Schemes of £7¾ million were put forward by the Colonial territories, but the actual sum spent was only £3½ million, which was actually £1 million less than had been spent in the year before the Act was passed. In the next year, the results were better, but not much better. In the year ending 31st March, 1948, the Vote was cut down to £7½ million: schemes submitted totalled £14 million but the actual expenditure was £5⁓ million. In the present year, the results of which we do not yet know, the Vote itself has been cut down to something over a half of last year's Vote; the Vote is itself now £4⅓ million. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made some reference to the Select Committee on Estimates, because they have drawn certain conclusions from this under-spending. They said it was symptomatic of a wrong approach to development. While we gladly and willingly pass this Bill, and while we shall give all the facilities we can, we cannot help wondering whether the Bill will not raise undue hopes in the Colonial territories, and whether it will not give the impression that merely by voting the money we have actually provided the schemes in the territories. We talk, for example, of raising research expenditure annually to £2½ million. Actually we have not spent more than £500,000 on research for the last two years, and to suggest that in this coming year we can spend £2½ million on research when last year we spent only one-sixth of that sum must argue a very definite improvement in the situation of which, unfortunately there seems to be no indication or no proof. That is a thing of which we are very afraid—that the Government are regarding paper schemes as the most important part of the work of construction and development. So much for the first observation, to which I feel I must draw the attention of the House. My second observation also refers to the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. We see in the last year, since we have had that Report, no sign of any improvement in the various fields to which they drew attention. Is there now, as there was not then, in their words:
Is there now anything—again their exact words—remotely"A coherent strategy of economic planning"?
Have we at last a proper allocation of capital goods to the Colonies? In the 1948 Economic Survey, there was no attempt to divide up exports as between the Colonies and foreign countries. This year there is a small attempt, but a very inadequate one, and we still have no picture of how far the Colonies are being given the priorities which they need in the allocation of raw materials. For example, has there been any change in the situation under which the Colonial Office had, up to last year, no power at all, I believe, itself to settle the priorities for orders for materials and machinery that are placed with the Crown Agents? We should welcome assurances on that point. Though the whole picture raised by the Select Committee's Report will fall more properly into shape when we have the details of the year's working before us, and we can, on our return after Whitsuntide, have a proper Debate on the whole subject, there is one final conclusion I should like to make. The money available for all these desirable objects is bound to be limited. If it is spent elsewhere, or wasted elsewhere, there will be less available for essential purposes in the Colonies. If it is wasted in the United Kingdom—and much has been wasted in the last year—there is so much the less money for the British Colonial Empire. If it is wasted by poor preparation on elaborate groundnut schemes in Tanganyika, there is so much the less for the Nigerian 10-year plan. We have, unfortunately, very little confidence that the Government have arrived at an overall picture of where the money is most needed, and have set up the machinery to see that it is spent accordingly. If the Bill which we are now considering could give us any assurance on that point we should be happy; but in that the Bill only raises the low ceiling of the previous Act we are very glad to welcome it, and hope it will be the precursor of even more vigorous development in our Colonial territories."resembling adequate administrative provision for mutual long-term planning"?
This Bill is a small Bill, but it is very important for two reasons, both of which have already been mentioned. First, because the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts are the real basis of any true Colonial development, much more so, in my opinion, either than the last Bill we were considering, or the Measures to set up Corporations of various kinds for subsidising development purposes. Secondly because the fact that the Colonial Secretary has had to come to the House with this Bill does show the immense difficulties which are being met even in this basic development which was begun in 1929 and 1940. Only about half the plans which the Colonies are preparing have already been approved, and only a little over a half of the money that this country is prepared to subscribe has been approved and, as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) said, an infinitely smaller sum has, in fact, been spent.There will have to be a tremendous acceleration of expenditure in the next six years, if the purpose of the Act is to be fulfilled. I must confess that I very much doubt whether it is possible for that to be done. Some further Amendment will have to be made before the 10 years are out. The reasons for that are very obvious. The first is the absence or shortage of technicians who can teach the peoples of the Colonies the methods by which they can improve their standards of living. The second is the shortage of all capital goods. The third and far deeper reason—the real reason why we are having delay even with the implementing of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts—is that the people of the Colonies themselves are primitive and suffer from inertia—inertia due to low diet, due in turn to ignorance of proper methods of agricultural production, and due also to the climate, which lays them open to all sorts of disease, so that in large areas of the Colonies 80 to 90 per cent. of the population are suffering from one kind of disease or another which makes them very inefficient. In other words, all Colonial development anywhere must be slow—far slower, in my opinion, than any of the forecasts which have been so widely made, not only in this country but in Europe and in the United States of America since the war, have made out. I believe the most important thing that this Bill can do is to contradict the vastly overoptimistic forecasts which have been made by all sorts of people, quite irrespective of party and even of country, about the part that the Colonies can play in the recovery of the post-war world. The idea has been very widely canvassed that in some way the Continent of Africa, linked to the mother countries in Western Europe which control so many of the Colonies there, can, in fact, be some sort of substitute in the production of raw materials and minerals for other parts of the world such as the North American Continent and the Far East, which have been the sources of those riches in the past. Those who advocate what is politically known as the "Third Force"—and I have heard that advocated on both sides of the House—have always been pressing that point of view. I have always believed it to be quite fantastically wrong, and I believe that this Bill emphasises that. It is perfectly true that the Continent of Africa, if it can be slowly and gradually developed, will add to our resources. It can add fibres, it can add fats, it can add minerals; and other parts of the Colonies can add bauxite, sugar, and other products. But these additions can never be a substitute for the raw materials which come from other sources in the world. The idea that Western Europe, including this country, can be made independent of those other sources, is, in my view a fantastic dream which has no prospect whatever of ever coming true. The truth is that Africa has got to be developed by the Africans. We are always, I think, apt to compare any virgin continent with the continents we have known in the past. One thinks of the development of the North American Continent—of the way Canada, for instance, has been developed in the last 50 years, and with what quite astonishing speed the priaries were brought to life and the rate at which towns have sprung up. One forgets that that development was done by imported white population. It is not possible to import white population into Africa on any scale that will allow development of that kind or at that speed. There are already over 150 million Africans of various races living in the Continent of Africa. Development has got to be done through them, and can only come at the speed at which they are capable of going. Had the North American Continent, when the white people went there, contained 150 million to 200 million Indians, and had we been forced to develop the American Continent through the Red Indians, then some analogy between the two Continents might have been possible, although the North American is by far the richer. Until we can realise that Africa can be developed only at the speed at which the Africans are capable of going, all our forecasts and estimates about Colonial development will be very wide of the mark. I am not accusing the Colonial Office itself of making wrong forecasts. It has done its best on most occasions to combat then. But such forecasts have been widely spread. The danger that I see in Africa is, that if we go too fast, or try to go too fast, in development, there is the possibility, not of advance, but of a really serious retrogression. The reasons for that, I think, are two. The first is the very great danger of soil erosion. An immense amount of soil erosion has already begun. Studies of Africa show that that is still going on, and there have been studies—comparative studies—made of methods of tropical agriculture throughout the world which show one very disquieting thing. It is that so far as is known up to date, there has not yet been found a rotation of tropical crops that is applicable to most tropical territories on any large scale. Rotational development by peasants in a small way there has been, but unless we have an area which can be irrigated on a wide scale, the vast majority of tropical territory is not susceptible within our present knowledge to constant rotation of crops. In general, the land has to be thrown back to forest for six years out of seven. The danger therefore, of a too rapid attempt to mechanise agriculture on a great scale, before even the rotations we are now trying in Tanganyika have been proved, is very great indeed. When one remembers the erosion that has already taken place and the difficulties that Kenya has had in feeding even its present population, we see that there is a very real danger of going too fast in Africa; there is indeed the possibility of the problem of India being repeated, because the second danger in Africa arises from the increase in population. The demographic study which Professor Kusczinski completed not long before his death suggests that for the first 30 years of this century there was no increase in population in Africa, but that for the last 10 or 15 years there has been a fairly steady increase of about 10 per cent. Now, if the research to which my right hon. Friend referred this morning, which has been in many respects so successful, can be applied on any wide scale, if the isolated experiments, which have shown that the malarial mosquito and the tsetse fly can be destroyed or that other drugs can counteract the effects of the diseases they carry, can be applied on a wide scale, then there is the probability that within the next 25 years the populations of Africa may increase very much more rapidly than at a rate of 10 per cent. In that case we shall be faced with a really pressing food problem in Africa—a problem of a rising population pressing on very inadequate food supplies which are got by very, very primitive agricultural methods—and we shall need all our ingenuity to meet that danger, quite part from any hopes we may have of extracting more food for ourselves. That is why this Bill is important. It is the teaching of the basic laws of husbandry that is by far the most important part of development in the Colonies, and that teaching is done under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend three brief questions on points of detail, and I do not press for an answer today. The first concerns hookworm, about which I have already written to him. Hookworm is one of the diseases most prevalent over parts of the Continent of Africa, with very debilitating effects. I am told—and many hon. Members will know more about this than I—that it can be cured simply by the wearing of shoes, and that in isolated instances experiments have been made which show that by persuading the African to wear shoes hookworm does in fact disappear. I wonder how seriously this problem has been tackled? Of course, there are difficulties in persuading people who are not used to wearing shoes to wear them; but it has been done. In certain circumstances the wearing of shoes can be made socially desirable, and some Africans who have taken to wearing them do not like to give them up. I cannot help feeling that because the method is so simple, and because the difficulties are mainly psychological, it is something which ought to be seriously tackled, because the results would pay over and over again. One has only to look a litle further north, to the Arabs, who wear sandals, and are some of the finest walkers in the world. If the African objects to shoes because they impede his movement it can only be a question of finding the right kind of shoe. The second question relates to an experiment I saw myself at the College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad, by which the college has persuaded some of the peasants in the West Indies to live in the grounds of the college and to try out schemes of subsistence agriculture on small plots of the normal size. They were working on a four-years' rotation, and I think the four years must just about be up. That seemed to me to be a very important experiment, although small in itself, which might have good results, and which could be applied over very wide areas. I should very much like to know what the results of that experiment have been. It was being tried on an economic basis; the man was just living there, doing what he was told, selling his produce in the market, and seeing if he could make a living, with the advice of the college. I should also like to ask a question about swollen shoot, because nothing that we have heard has been reassuring on that subject. The disease is obviously threatening the whole basis of the wealth of the Gold Coast. Has my right hon. Friend been able to devise any means of getting the co-operation of the growers in the cutting out policy? If not, as it is surely vital and urgent, what does he propose to do? I should like to make one further point, which arises partly out of the Debate last night. It is no use our going in for elaborate all-round Colonial development if in other respects we adopt policies which will counteract any good effects we have in the Colonies themselves. The question of sugar in the West Indies is becoming a test case of our policy towards the Colony. The fact, which my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) emphasised last night, is that the policy of the Ministry of Food and the Board of Trade on sugar and its byproducts in the West Indies goes quite contrary to all the principles on which we are basing our policy in this country. We are in fact driving down the prices for these products which we pay to the West Indies to a lower level than that at which the West Indies producer can function, to meet an entirely mythical world price. As my hon. Friend pointed out, there is no such thing as a world price in either sugar or its by-products, yet this year the Board of Trade made a high profit out of its sales of molasses, although when I asked a Question about it they said that it was not a trading profit but merely the excess of receipts over expenditure in one year—a euphemism I find it hard to understand. If we continue to do that, then no development of which the West Indies is capable will increase the prosperity of those islands. They are dependent mainly upon sugar, and as there is no world price for sugar, and as all the main consumers of sugar offer considerable protection to the areas from which they buy it, we must surely either adopt a similar policy, or adopt a policy, which has been suggested, of taking up the whole question of Imperial Preference and American tariffs in regard to sugar to see whether we cannot get a Caribbean tariff area. That, I know, has other difficulties, but one policy or the other must be adopted. At the moment, not my right hon. Friend but his right hon. Friends are adopting the one policy which will bring ruin to the West Indies. Of course, he is up against a very formidable trio. The Minister of Agriculture is artificially keeping the price of sugar high in Britain by encouraging the product of sugarbeet here, and we are doing the same thing in indirect ways in Europe. I believe that the whole of that policy must be seriously considered and revised. To counteract this the Minister of Food—perhaps a little intoxicated by the success of his bulk purchase policy—is trying to buy food on a large scale all over the world, including the West Indies, as cheaply as he can. The President of the Board of Trade naturally likes to show a trading profit. My right hon. Friend, in the interests of the Colonies, has got to fight all three, and I seriously urge him to carry this fight further than he has carried it so far, and to carry it to the Cabinet. I believe that it is a crucial test of the sincerity of our policy towards the Colonies. We are subsidising our own agriculture more heavily than any other country in the world; and yet we are driving down the basic agriculture of the West Indies below a subsistence level in a way that no other country in the world is doing. My last point refers to the fact, mentioned by my right hon. Friend at the end of his speech, when he said—and almost boasted of the fact—that we are spending only about one-sixth of the money that is being allocated in these plans on social and educational development. Although I understand that the Colonies themselves must develop economically in order to pay for education, health and social security, I believe that that proportion is a little too low. I do not agree with the view that the only real problem in the Colonies is economic. I should have thought that South Africa and the development there have shown us how shallow that view is. The truth is that in the Colonies, even the transition from tribal life to the wage system is a vast social revolution. We are so accustomed and acclimatised in this country to the wage system that it is difficult for us to understand what that change means, although our own history and transition from the open village system can show us quite clearly. The same thing is being done in Africa in a single generation. People who go into new communities based purely on a wage system have no traditional social background and no traditional code of ethics, which are the basis on which such a wage system can operate. All sorts of problems arise which can only be dealt with by education and by provisions for health, social services and other amenities. The whole object of the money that we are spending on development and welfare will be negatived unless we keep pace in the educational and social fields. If, in fact, all we do is to put more money gradually into the pockets of the Africans without developing the cultural and social sides of his nature, the basic policy of our whole rule in the Colonial Empire will be undermined. Surely the only reason——
My hon. Friend is making a very important point. I should like to point out to him that one of the great expenses with regard to agricultural development and to some extent of fisheries, is the purchase of land and equipment. That is why the amount is so much greater. On social services, it usually means that one has to get doctors and teachers, but while the difficulties are very great, the actual expenditure is not so much. That is one of the reasons for the apparent disparity between the two.
I am glad to realise that my hon. Friend agrees with me, at any rate in some respects. Nevertheless, I think that emphasis has recently been too much on the economic side.I would end by saying that the real reasons why we are in the Colonies, why we all believe that it is vital gradually to bring the Colonies to a state where they can govern themselves, is that we should preserve those great areas of the world as areas in which Western civilisation and the ideas underlying it will be expanded, and that we should, within the next 50 or 100 years, be able to give to the world whole races and communities which can carry on and develop in their own ways what up till now has been known as Western civilisation. The educational, ethical and intellectual content of that civilisation is every bit as important as the economic.
Before I begin what I wish to say, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) on his admirable appreciation of what is called the "tempo of Africa." Nobody could have expressed it better, and I hope his speech will be studied by all Members of the House. The motto in Africa is gradual development. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is the only way in which the many problems there can be dealt with.I believe that in 1940 I followed the right hon. Gentleman in the Debate on the Second Reading of the principal Measure. I remember that at the end of my speech Colonel Wedgwood got up and asked whether I was aware that all our discussions were entirely unreal because the Germans were at Abbeville and Amiens. He intimated that the £5 million which it was then proposed to set aside would never actually be asked for or spent. As the right hon. Gentleman said, that was an act of faith which has come out right. Before that Measure was passed, there were other acts of faith which have led to the development of East Africa. For instance, the Government in 1895 never thought, when they were building the railway from Mombasa to Kisumu that they would develop Uganda and Kenya as great potential countries nor did the Germans think, when they built the strategic railway from Dar-es-Salaam to Tanganyika, that they were opening a country. Since we passed that Act, a great deal has been done. I want to deal for a few moments with Eastern and Central Africa, these being the parts which I know. In this connection, it might interest the House to know what has happened to those countries in respect of the Colonial Development Act. The Colonial Office has kindly given me the figures. For a 10-year period, the development plans amount to about £73 million, of which about £20 million would be contributed under the Act. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the rest would come from local and loan resources. The actual grants approved up to date in respect of East and Central Africa come to a total of £13,400,000, of which £11,600,000 is for development. The remainder is for research. I should like to pay a compliment to all people in those countries who, from 1940 and 1941 onwards, have spent enormous amounts of time in working out the plans of development. One advantage which has accrued, and is perhaps worth almost more than anything, is that there has been continuity of plans in the different countries. Before, it was possible for a governor to produce an excellent plan which might be set aside by a subsequent governor. Now that the plans are under the Colonial Development Act, there is continuity, which is essential for development. Complaints are heard that we did not develop enough before the war. It is true that the various enterprises in this country were pressing the Governments of the day for more communications and improvements but, as hon. Members will be aware, in those days much depended upon whether the country in question was balancing its budget. They were most loath in those days to make large grants for projects which seemed unlikely to come to fruition. If Governments of the day had embarked upon huge schemes of mechanised farming, they would have been very severely criticised, while private enterprise would have been ridiculed. The reason was that in those days a country developed its agriculture according to the needs of the population. In those days the population was not great and the needs were comparatively small. In those days, world supplies from Africa were completely unnecessary. If a large number of groundnuts had been grown for world consumption they would merely have piled up in the country of origin, because there was no demand for them. Time has passed, the war has taken place, and everything has changed. Apart from everything else, we have to face an enormous increase in the population and also a great deterioration of the land. As was so well put by Mrs. Huxley, "People multiply and land decays." That is the problem we have to face at present. In addition the structure of society has altered considerably in those parts, partly as a result of migrant labour and partly as the result of responsibility being removed to some extent from the tribal authorities. We now have to face a new situation. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in all these development schemes account should be taken of these changes which are taking place, and I have no doubt that that will be done. In view of all this, I wonder whether our blueprint of development in the past was right. It has all been somewhat casual. It began with education by the missionaries and by the casual arrival of planters and settlers, and the present situation was built up quite gradually. I wonder what would have happened if hon. Members had been in the position of an influential committee composed of three big men in 1890, such as Cecil Rhodes, a great administrator and a great anthropologist, faced with the problem of dealing with the future of what at that time may have been six or seven million or maybe fewer, primitive Africans, mostly warlike tribes all moving about from place to place. What plan of progress and development would they have provided if they had had to look into the future? I am not sure that the Belgian Congo has not lately proceeded on the right lines. Its policy is, first, the health of the people, secondly, education, and thirdly, housing. The cultural side cannot be omitted but it must be realised that not only is education expensive but also there are not enough teachers. I have not been able to check this figure, but I have been told that there are in Kenya 440,000 children and others who want education. If that is put at even £10 a head it means art expenditure of £4 million, which is obviously too great for Kenya to bear, and it is also obvious that, in view of our expenditure here, we cannot pay out such a huge annual amount in this Colony alone, however important it is. What are our aims of development? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman saw the Report of the Kenya Branch of the British Medical Association, a most interesting document. It quoted the terms of reference of the Kenya Development Committee in 1945. The general objective of the five or 10-year plan was stated to be:
I suggest that now we should have to vary that—the British Medical Association Committee also said so—and look at the whole future of these countries. In place of "standard of living" I would rather say "from the point of view of averting starvation," because the situation there is very serious. As has already been said, people are inclined to think that Africa is a great granary which can easily be developed into a food reserve for the world, but that is not the case. We must look at all these problems from the point of view of providing enough food for the people of the country. I would put into the programme improvement in health, improvement in land and improvement in communications. When we have said that, we must not let things happen but must make them happen. That means that we must alter plans and deal with local customs and habits, and be firm. I shall give an illustration. I expect that some hon. Members here have been to Kenya. They will remember two great dairy farms near Machakos one belonging to Major Joyce and the other to Sir Frank Wilson. If they stood on a hill near those farms they would look across a valley where the people who work on those farms live. Those people are under control: their agriculture is looked after and the number of their cattle is limited. There one sees a fertile valley, green, with plenty of scrub and grass, but just beyond that is the boundary of the Wakamba Reserve and there for miles is a desert with hardly any vegetation at all, all ruined by the tribe because it refuses to reduce the number of its cattle and sheep. Something must obviously be done. It is impossible to leave this tribe of 250,000 people living in that barren place and it is also impossible, and quite unfair to the rest of the country, to supply food in order to support them. That means that in some way or another those tribesmen must be moved to other places, perhaps taken in sections, so that the land has a chance over the next five, 10 or 15 years to recover. That is what I meant by altering the customs of the people, and that may happen in many places. It is that or starvation in the future. Of course, we could deal with it in another way. We have the great scheme at Kongwa where we have taken over empty land and put people upon it, and the idea is to develop it into a great farm of some sort or other. Alternatively, we can do what has been done in this country. We can take our improvements into the reserves where the people are already and work out a scheme in conjunction with the tribal chiefs, perhaps on the lines of the Sudan plantations. That might be worth trying. There again we are interfering with customs, with tribes, and to some extent with the idea that the European, except the administrator, does not engage in trade or business in a native reserve. Whichever way we look at it and tackle it, it is essential to rally the forces of Africa against future starvation. I hope that when development plans are being considered this aspect will be borne in mind continually. With those few remarks, I have pleasure in welcoming for a second time this Colonial Development and Welfare Bill."To use the natural resources of the country, including manpower, in a manner calculated to increase the national income of Kenya in the shortest space of time so as to raise, as soon as possible, the standard of living of the inhabitants."
This has been called a modest Bill. However limited its scope, it has performed this morning a useful service, for it has induced in the House a mood of sober reflection and has helped us to get a sense of proportion on the wider matters which we have naturally been discussing on the consideration of the Bill.The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) quite rightly stressed the point that it is for the indigenous peoples of the territories for whom we are legislating today to work out their own salvation, and that no one can do it for them, although we may help them to do it. The hon. Member, therefore, laid emphasis on provision for education. I agree with him, but it depends on the definition of education. Unfortunately, as the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) reminded us, our problems became more acute after, and as a result of, the late war. Not only has there been a vast increase in population since 1939 in most of those territories, but there has been also a greater impetus from the people themselves to demand from us services which they have not hitherto enjoyed, partly as a natural result of the deprivations due to war and partly as a desire for a reward for their loyalty and great assistance. We would not wish to withhold it from them and, as a result, various Acts concerning the Colonial field were passed. The main trouble which faces the Secretary of State today is that it is impossible to be logical and to deal with each need in its proper order. That is one reason why so many of the 10-year development plans seem a curiously chaotic mixture of schemes. It would be best if first we could deal with the health of the people; then, when they were healthy and able to work, train them in the new and better way of using their land, and then educate their children so that they could continue the process. Unfortunately, all these things have to be done simultaneously today. The people are naturally impatient, they want everything done at once, and the unfortunate Secretary of State has to resolve this into some cohesive and central pattern while, at the same time, he avoids as far as possible offending large sections of the people—planters, labourers, educationists, doctors—and bring order out of a chaotic welter of suggestions and demands. For that reason I believe that some of the disappointment that we have felt at so little of the money we were anxious to spend having been spent, is a disappointment which, on reflection, will appear unjustified. It has been a difficult task for my right hon. Friend and his advisers to examine with care each of the schemes presented; in many cases to relate the development plans of one Colony to those of contiguous Colonies, and so to modify them that they would be more helpful to the needs of those territories. My right hon. Friend has had to suggest the cutting out in one Colony of something not absolutely essential in order that greater emphasis might be given to economic development, and in another Colony he has cut down an economic development which was not as necessary as an educational advance. If one thing has emerged from my own study of these plans and the way in which they have been treated by the Colonial Office, it is the empiric way in which the home Government have dealt with the problem, not trying to establish a common, overall pattern into which the Colonies have had to be fitted willy-filly, but providing a variety of approach and yet, at the same time, doing something to enable that simultaneous advance in many fields to begin. If, therefore, we have had a delay of a couple of years in schemes in which some of us are most interested, it may be for the best because it has enabled us to reflect on naturally enthusiastic proposals from every Government Department in every one of the Colonies. I have said in this House before that one of the biggest difficulties for any governor in getting a cohesive scheme to Whitehall, was that each one of his heads of departments was fighting for the lion's share of whatever funds were to be made available. It is the function of the Secretary of State to reduce these demands to order and practicability, and I think my right hon. Friend has done well. I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd). I have never liked an annual ceiling on research expenditure, either in this country or in the Empire, but I do not think we need worry at this juncture at a ceiling still being fixed, provided that it is a raised ceiling. As my right hon. Friend said, he has now firm schemes of research work which will entail the expenditure of £1,600,000 in the coming year, and the ceiling is £2,500,000 if we pass this Bill. So that the schemes at present envisaged, and for which there are now available technical people to carry them out, will not cost anywhere near the ceiling, but at the same time there will be a sufficient balance of money should a new type of technical development suddenly be considered expedient. However, we might easily look at it again on some future occasion to see if we cannot abolish the curious idea that of the total amount, there must be a fixed proportion of money allocated for research and a certain fixed ratio of the money spent on development. It is difficult at the moment to know where research ends and development begins. As the House knows, some of the so-called pilot schemes in some territories have assumed the dimensions of what we should have called before the war big technical developments. I need hardly remind hon. Members of the important work being done in the Gambia. I had the pleasure of seeing the nutritional experiment at Jenoi, and in a Colony the size of the Gambia that, before the war, might have been considered a major development plan. It is important, of course, that large-scale research should be undertaken in order to weld together educational advance, medical advance, and advance in husbandry methods. Where they are all being undertaken together, the research scheme assumes much bigger proportions than what we normally understand by that term. The Secretary of State, in moving the Second Reading, rather alarmed me by one phrase. He seemed to lay too much stress on the difficulties he had experienced owing to the shortage of capital goods. Undoubtedly that shortage has held up a great number of schemes, particularly on the continent of Africa, but it need not necessarily hold up schemes already propounded in territories like British Guiana and Honduras, where the capital goods needed can be obtained very largely from the resources of the Colony, resources which hitherto have been undeveloped and, indeed, uncharted. In such a document as the Evans Report, it was clearly indicated that a great deal of the preliminary work of development could be done with labour and material resources available in the Colonies. One of our troubles—I think this is true of all of us in this House—is that we are apt to regard these development schemes through Western European eyes. If Africans are to work out their own salvation, they will have to do so very largely with African materials. Have we made enough use of surveys of the material resources natural to the Colonies with which we are dealing? I submit we have not. How much could even the most famous timber expert in this country tell us about the hidden resources of the great forests of British Guiana and British Honduras, for instance? We have not attended to the great problem of relating the needs of the people to what is at hand to satisfy those needs. We need a simpler approach, a more direct approach, and we have to realise that Europe and America, let alone this country, cannot go on indefinitely providing the material of development, nor even the money for development, and that education in the use of their own resources in an economical way to bring out the utmost value of those resources is the principal way of working out these schemes to a successful conclusion. I am very glad that this small Bill has had so unanimous a welcome. I do not think the Bill itself will mean anything like as much as the close attention which this House, I hope, will pay to the way in which the moneys granted under it are expended. If in the same sober spirit as that in which we have discussed it we examine what comes out of it, and if in the coming weeks, with this in our minds, we examine with care the detailed proposals from the 42 territories which. I believe, are to be put before us in order and see how we can assist in making——
I do not want my hon. Friend to be under a misapprehension: The 42 reports which are to be published in the coming few months are the annual reports of the various territories; they are not proposals to the House.
But, from those reports we can gauge, and, indeed, have gauged in the past, what sort of ideas should be expressed in the development schemes themselves, for those reports are of the greatest value in showing what is not there which ought to be there. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that he and his right hon. Friend have paid the greatest attention to each of these annual reports in the past when they were vetting development plans submitted. It is a piece of research which it is essential for all of us to undertake if we are to make an effective contribution to ensuring the right use of the money we are granting by this Bill. I am very glad that it has received the unanimous approval of the House, and I hope that it may be increasingly possible to spend the money up to the hilt.
One of the most interesting speeches this afternoon was that of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) and in it there were two points to which I will refer because, indirectly, they are apposite to this Bill. In regard to West Indies sugar, he advocated a policy which, if applied to all primary producers throughout the Empire, would lead to very considerable difficulties. We are all anxious to help the West Indies, and particularly West Indies sugar producers, but to put into the price a kind of grant-in-aid because of local circumstances would lead to very considerable difficulties when all the other sugar producers and primary producers of the Empire asked for similar conditions. I would remind the hon. Member that twice since the turn of the century, the Conservative Party have been defeated by the electorate on the issue of protection for home and Empire producers. It was only in 1932 that we started to put that right at the Ottawa Conference—an action which has since been partly vitiated by the present Administration in the undertakings signed at Geneva and Havana—which enabled us to do quite a lot to make better conditions for Colonial producers.
Will the hon. Member kindly assist the House by telling us what particular preferences have been actually affected by those treaties?
As far as I can understand, the Government have undertaken to reduce preferences, or not to increase them, and to eliminate what is called discrimination within 10 years from 1947. I think this struck a blow at the whole future, which I believe must depend on an increase of preference to our Colonial producers. I know that American pressure has been used to eliminate this so-called discrimination and, while not wishing to embark on this subject in detail, I ask the Under-Secretary to look up what the United States did about obtaining sugar supplies from what they call their off-shore territories, and consider similar action to affect our Colonial territories.
The hon. Member has made a charge that we have jettisoned certain preferences. Will be define what preferences? Will he substantiate his statement and say what preferences have been jettisoned?
I say that the Government have undermined the whole system of Imperial Preference——
—by not allowing any increase to be made. In the Geneva Convention of 1947, the Under-Secretary will see that we have undertaken not to increase preferences and to eliminate what is called discrimination, which amounts to preference, in the next 10 years.The next point dealt with by the hon. Member for Buckingham to which I want to refer is the tempo at which Africa can be developed. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Seven-oaks (Colonel Ponsonby) that this has often been exaggerated. It has often been said that by just making so many paper pounds available in England we can see in a very short time a great increase in production overseas. But I would point out that, whether we like it or not, we are committed to a development of Africa by all races, many of whom have made their homes from this country in areas south of the Equator, and I believe it is possible to find a way of co-operation between these people which will be to the benefit of all concerned. That is what we must work out in the years. ahead I do not wish to take up the time of the House and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd), I will confine my further remarks to rather narrow aspects of this Bill and ask the Under-Secretary to give us information on certain specific points. I do not wish to raise the whole issue of Colonial development, which we shall be discussing later this year, but to raise points which are questions of principle and fact in regard to development. What progress has been made in the interchange of information about the great developments which have been undertaken in the last 10 or 12 years by the Tennessee Valley Authority? This is a question which I have previously raised on the Floor of the House. What has been done to make that information available not only to Members of this House but, what is more important, to those in our Colonial territories who are involved in the consideration of problems of development, of water basins, soil erosion, soil fertility, etc. Has someone gone out from the Colonial Office or from some other Department to find out what has happened in the Tennessee Valley and to make that information available elsewhere? I understand that Dr. Lowdermilk—whose services have been retained by the Colonial Office, on which they are to be congratulated—has recently passed through this country, and I hope he will return from East Africa and tell us about soil conditions there. He can make a considerable contribution to our knowledge of East African problems. Again, what steps have been taken to make available more information on the Sudan Plantations Syndicate, which has been a great achievement and can give us a lot of valuable information about the future, particularly in relation to large-scale developments, such as the groundnuts scheme, and in particular schemes of irrigation in other parts of Africa? Equally, the Nile Projects Commission has been working for many years on these problems. How far has that information been made available throughout the Colonial territories? What action has been taken on the development of Mr. Truman's fourth point in the doctrine which he enunciated some five months ago? Can any indication be given as to how far it has been possible in this country to accept the offer of Mr. Truman, which was what it amounted to, to help in the development of undeveloped territories elsewhere? To what extent is it possible to obtain from the United States certain research information which would be applicable to our territories? In particular, I wish to refer to the subject of chemurgy which I raised in the Debate on Marshall Aid towards the end of January. That means, briefly, the commercial use of the by-products of plant life. A vast amount of useful information is available in the United States of which advantage has been taken by enterprising officials in the service of His Majesty's Government. Some have actually visited the four big laboratories in the United States but no general application has been made by His Majesty's Government that that information should be made available to us in this country for us to spread throughout our Colonial territories. As I say, I raised this matter towards the end of January, and the issue of the "Washington Post" of 2nd March reported something of what I said and the questions which I put to the President of the Board of Trade about this matter. The reference ended by saying that to my questions there was no answer, and added:
I believe that there is considerable interest and good will in the United States in regard to making available to us this particular information. I urge the Government to make application for this information to be made available to all concerned in this country, and for transmission overseas. Equally, I believe that there is a lot of agricultural and medical research information which might be made available, but I believe that in those respects there has been better co-operation between our two countries. There are other organisations based on private enterprise, but I hope this fact will not deter the Under-Secretary from investigating whether they can help. There is, for example, the International Basic Economy Corporation, which has, I understand, done considerable development work in Latin America connected with the name of Rockefeller, whose Foundation has done such a tremendous amount for the health and well-being of so many outside the United States. If the Under-Secretary could make available to us in this House and to members of his Service overseas, this sort of information, he would receive the congratulations of all concerned. Like all my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House, I am delighted to see this Bill going forward in this way. As my hon. Friend said, we only wish that the limitation on the timing and spending of this money were removed, but if the Treasury have such control over this Government it will possibly not be so bad for the country as a whole in the long run. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give us some information on the points which I have raised, or possibly follow them up later and let us know the results of his investigations."Doubtless now that the President has spoken and has promised organised action there will be answers not only from Britain but from other countries as well."
Opportunities to debate Colonial policy in this House are not frequent, and I am sorry that the Opposition have taken up the position that this is not the occasion for a general Debate on Colonial development, because there has not been such a Debate for a considerable number of months. In spite of that, we are having an interesting general Debate and a number of points have been raised from the other side of the House with which I wish to deal.The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) was concerned to defend the fact that there had been no real policy of Colonial development and welfare on the part of this country prior to 1940. He used some extraordinary arguments as to the reasons for that. He said that prior to 1940 there was no real need for Colonial development because in large parts of Africa the population was not great and the needs of that population were comparatively small. The needs which we are today trying to tackle by Colonial development and welfare have not all arisen from the war; they go back not for five years but to the beginning of the whole history of the British Empire. The needs which we are trying to tackle through Colonial development and welfare are the basic needs of raising the standards and nutrition of people in the Colonies to a decent level. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, the primary need in the whole policy of Colonial development is not simply to increase the exports of the Colonies, although that is extremely important, but to raise the peoples there to a decent social and economic standard. Much as I can understand the anxiety of the hon. and gallant Member to excuse the fact that no such policy was carried out in the years before the war, I cannot accept his argument that the need was not there.
My main point was that if any one had proposed enormous schemes for the development of a particular industry in 1940, he would have been called a lunatic because the products of such a scheme were not necessary at that time.
It is true that in 1940 large projects of Colonial development would have been regarded as lunacy, but large schemes of social and economic development for the Colonies, not in 1940, but shall I say in 1924, or in any period between the wars, were just as desperately urgent as they are at the present time from the basic point of view of raising the social and economic standards of the people in the Colonies. The difficulties which we are facing today would not have been apparent had that basic need been tackled then.Colonial development today is being held back by a shortage of capital goods and shortages of skilled personnel. These difficulties do in fact arise mainly from the effects of the war, and could have been far more easily met in the period between the wars, when there were large numbers of unemployed and large supplies of raw materials standing idle which could have been used for development. I do not propose again to raise the questions which were discussed yesterday. I understand that hon. Members opposite are going through a change of heart on the question of bulk purchase, at any rate so far as the Colonial Empire is concerned. I believe that the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) is a fervent advocate of bulk purchase so far as the West Indies is concerned——
Would the hon. Member give more details of this "conversion,' as I supose he would call it, because I am not aware of it myself? It is rather interesting to hear about one's own affairs from others.
I shall gladly give details. It is not many weeks ago since the hon. Gentleman at Question Time in this House was pressing for long-term contracts——
That is not bulk purchase.
and the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has also in this House in recent weeks gone out of his way to claim credit for schemes of bulk purchase which he initiated when he held the position now held by my right hon. Friend.
Bulk purchase and State trading are not necessarily the same things at all.
Not necessarily; but if the hon. Member denies that the schemes now being carried through—for which the right hon. Member for West Bristol claims some paternity—for buying up large quantities of Colonial produce on contracts spreading over a large number of years are not bulk purchase, I think the country will be very glad if he will explain what they are, and why the Conservative Party are apparently in favour of one and not of the other.I would endorse much of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) about the prices that we are offering in some of these long-term contracts. The Colonial Office had precisely the same battle on the prices offered for oil palm products in West Africa that they are now likely to be faced with on the price offered for sugar in the West Indies. It was only after some years of negotiation that the price we are offering the primary producers in West Africa for oil palm products was raised to what is considered reasonable by the producers. The Colonial Office, fortunately, won that battle. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have the same success in seeing that these long-term contracts and guaranteed markets, essential to the proper development of the colonies, will be arranged at prices which are fair to the producer and which can lead to the proper economic development of the colonies. The need for this Bill is an indication that some of the difficulties which have been hampering colonial development in the past are being overcome. Since 1945, at any rate, the difficulties of colonial development have not been financial, but have been difficulties of trained personnel and capital goods. I thought that the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) who opened the Debate for the Opposition was a little ungracious when he said that there was no sign of any improvement since the report of the Select Committee on Estimates dealt with the question of the allocation of capital goods. I think that the hon. Member has completely overlooked, for example, figures given to this House by the Under-Secretary of State on 24th February, 1949, when he pointed out that there had been very substantial increases indeed in the allocation and supply of steel, cement and other basic materials to the Colonies since the report of the Select Committee on Estimates was published. If there is any need for this Bill at all it is an indication that the position is improving very considerably indeed. I hope that there is a need for this Bill and that in fact it is not just raising the paper ceiling, but that it will lead to the raising of the actual ceiling of finance required because the plans are being carried out and are not simply remaining on paper. One of the other difficulties is that the cost of these schemes for Colonial development have risen very considerably since the plans were originally laid down. I should like my right hon. Friend in his reply to give the original costs of the development schemes approved and the revised figure today in relation to costs at the present time. There is one other point on which I should like some information. There is a considerable time lag between the approval of a development plan and its translation into the provision of concrete schemes within the development plan. At the time of the publication of the last annual report of the Colonial Office I believe that 17 plans had been approved, totalling about £180 million, but the number of schemes within those plans, passed and in the process of being carried out, was only £47 million. I am still wondering if there is not a little too much detailed control at this end—either by the Colonial Office or more probably by the Treasury—which is holding up the translation of the broad plans into concrete schemes for which finance is available. These Colonial Development and Welfare plans, even if carried out fully, within the 10-year period, are only a drop in the ocean of what is required in terms of colonial development. I think we all realise the large number of agencies and instruments which have to be used if results are to be achieved. The Colonial Development and Welfare Bill can prime the pump a little, as it is doing. Unfortunately, this House knows very little of what the Colonial Development Corporation is actually planning to carry out. The only schemes announced so far to the House are the development of the gold and timber industries in British Guiana and food production in the Gambia. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can give us any further information on development schemes under the Development Corporation which have now actually started. In regard to the proper planning of colonial development, I think we all recognise that private enterprise and private development are playing an important role which has to be related to the needs of the colonies, and to what is being done under this Bill and by the Development Corporation. I should have thought that the time had come for my right hon. Friend and the Government to set up a special committee of inquiry which would discuss and analyse the correct role of the different forms of economic development in the colonies from different public sources and from private enterprise as well. Private enterprise is there, carrying on, and it has its proper role to fulfil. But, of course, it is causing considerable political repercussions in different parts of the Colonial Empire at the present time. There is bitter resentment caused by what is regarded as an undue drain on colonial resources through high profits and royalties. I need only mention the position of the United Africa Company in West Africa and the private copper companies in Rhodesia. This is causing considerable feeling among people in the Colonies. Another point which is causing even greater feeling, and which may cause still more feeling unless the Development Corporation's schemes and the Colonial welfare and development schemes themselves are properly worked out, is the comparative failure in the development of Africa so far, to train and promote Africans to carry out responsible posts, to train them as artisans and give them the technical training which will be necessary if these schemes are to go forward. We have heard a lot about the tempo of the work and the necessity for Africa to be developed by Africans themselves. That is so, of course, but it means that in all forms of Colonial development steps must be taken to see that the native people should play their full and proper role and that they are given every opportunity to do so. In Latin America, which is an undeveloped part of the world, for example, the local governments have laid it down that in each grade of foreign enterprise there should be a certain percentage of jobs reserved for the local inhabitants. In Nigeria, the Government have laid it down that, in recruiting for administrative personnel, where trained and qualified Africans are available they should be given posts in the administration. What can be done in Latin America and by the Government of Nigeria in relation to administrative posts, can also be done over the whole range of economic development. There is a good deal of frustration at the present time because Africans in many parts of Africa have felt that vested interests of one kind and another—and I am not excluding the trade union movement—are deliberately holding back the training of Africans and keeping them out of their proper rôle in Colonial development.
Will the hon. Gentleman permit me? This is a very interesting point which I should like him to develop. I am not contesting the desirability of Africans taking an increasing part in business affairs, but how does the hon. Gentleman think it ought to be done? Is he suggesting that companies should employ Africans, whether competent or not? I think he is placing himself in the position of making an unfair indictment against people who would probably agree in principle with what he says.
My suggestion is that it should be a cardinal principle of policy that, where qualified Africans are available for particular posts at any grade in industry and up to a certain percentage, they should be given preference for the jobs. That is the principle now accepted in recruiting for the Nigerian Government service.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that any local company would prefer to employ an African to do a job for which he is equally competent, if for no other reason than that it is immeasurably cheaper, and that there is no reluctance on the part of these companies to do it?
The corollary to that is that there has got to be a much greater drive than in the past to train Africans, both as artisans and technicians of every kind.That brings me to the next point to which I want to refer, which concerns Colonial research. Enormous schemes of research are being carried out with great results. If we look at the report presented to this House rather less than a year ago, we find that, quite rightly, of course, the first stage in Colonial research has been very largely on the medical and technological side. The social and economic sciences are lagging far behind. In the Report on Colonial Research presented in June, 1948, which was the first Report including social sciences and economics, it was shown that that side had got far behind. It seems to me that one of the primary needs of research into Colonial development is research into the provision of technical education, the demand for the utilisation of labour in technical occupations in the Colonies and from where the supply can be met. There has been published a very interesting little pilot scheme on African labour efficiency and productivity which itself declared that the need for further research is manifest. In his report, Mr. C. H. Northcott states:
He goes on to analyse the various reasons why African efficiency is not higher than it is at present, and the most serious reasons which he gives are these. Firstly, the absence of adequate provision for primary and technical education, which is one of the many points on which I was a little alarmed, as was my friend the hon. Member for Buckingham, when the Secretary of State seemed to justify the fact that expenditure under these Acts had fallen to the proportion of one-sixth for social expenditure, which included education, health, water supplies and sanitation. My view is that this dichotomy between social expenditure on the one side and economic expenditure on the other is completely misleading and out of date. If we are to classify education as social expenditure, we are completely ignoring the fact that one of the really limiting factors in economic development is the absence of technically trained personnel, and expenditure on technical education at all levels is going to do as much as, or more than, anything else to improve the economic development of the colonies. The second point which Mr. Northcott makes as a reason for the low efficiency of the Africans is malnutrition, of which we are all aware. The third is the ignorance of the Africans' attitudes and motives in relation to their work and so on. African efficiency and productivity are low at present because of the low standard of training. When we take a peasant out of the bush and bring him in to some kind of workshop, say on the railways, his whole background is completely unrelated to the new sphere in which he is expected to perform. He learns the technical processes which he will be expected to carry on from another African worker who had learned them from somebody else. That is not the way in which progress can be made. There is a tremendous shortage of research and training personnel at present, and I should like to ask the Colonial Secretary how many vacancies there are in the Colonial Service for trained research personnel, and indeed for technical people of every kind. Of almost equal importance to this research and investigation into the technical requirements of training is the problem of getting to the people of the Colonies themselves the results of all the valuable agricultural and other research that has been done at present. If I may quote Professor Lewis, of Manchester University, on Colonial technical education, he says:"An increasing standard of technical efficiency can be expected of East Africans if the handicaps from which they suffer are removed on European initiative and under European guidance."
It is quite true that a great deal is now known about the problems of Colonial agriculture in Colonial agricultural research stations, but it is not known to the people out in the field, and it certainly is not known to the African peasant. I believe that what we have to do is to spend a great deal more than we have done in the past on getting the improved methods of agricultural technique right down to the peasant producer in the fields by means of demonstration plots, by supplying him with equipment and by supervisers of every kind. Because of the importance of this factor, I welcome the emphasis now being given by the Colonial Office to what is called mass education or community development. If we are to get progress in the Colonies, we must awake the latent desire of the Africans themselves to help in lifting themselves up. Finally, I too am interested in the point raised by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker). He asked what had happened to President Truman's fourth point. I think that a lot of us wonder what has happened to that fourth point. When it was announced, it sounded like a great message of hope to the world—that technical assistance and capital assistance would be available to undeveloped areas on a much greater scale than ever before, but not much has so far been forthcoming. Discussions have been going on in the United Nations and elsewhere, and perhaps, when the Secretary of State replies, he will be able to tell us whether the plans of the United States of America or of the United Nations have developed to a scale which means that some capital assistance and some technical assistance may be forthcoming to assist us in this problem of Colonial development. A great deal is being done in the Colonies, but the difficulties are enormous. One of the greatest problems, however, is to get the co-operation of the Colonial peoples in this great task. I shall quote an extract from one of the African newspapers to indicate that great as are the difficulties, their co-operation does lie behind the schemes, which have been put forward by this Government. It reads:"Technical departments have been interested first and foremost in research, and only to a very small degree in spreading the gospel."
said this paper within the last year—"The new Governor"—
That was in the "Nigerian Eastern Mail" of 3rd July, 1948. In that colourful language of the African there is an indication that if he can feel that the British Government are sincere in Colonial development and in wishing to raise his standards, he is prepared to co-operate and assist in helping forward schemes to remove the illiteracy and malnutrition from which millions of people in this world are still suffering."has come to us, not from the Colonial Office of eternal subjection of backward peoples and weaker races. He has come to us from a new Colonial Office—the Colonial Office of rebirth, the Colonial Office that has revolted against the old ways of leopards and wolves, of strong devouring the weak. He has come from the Colonial Office that has rigorously set its face to liquidate those 'old ways' and set up the new and better ways of providing education for all, employment for the unemployed, health for the sick, freedom for the oppressed in India, in Burma, in Ceylon, in lands inhabited not only by white persons, but also by coloured races. That Colonial Office is new. It has come because Britain herself is re-born. In the first time in history Britain is being ruled, not by kings and princes and 'natural rulers' and not for the glory of 'sceptre and crown' but by the 'labouring man' for the good of all the people."
I think that today the Colonial Secretary has had a comparatively easy task because of the undoubted agreement on all sides to further the interests of Colonial welfare and development. Therefore, we have listened this afternoon to many interesting and constructive speeches, and a fair measure of agreement has been reached; but, as almost invariably happens on an occasion like this, one finds some hon. Member opposite who has to rake up his prejudices and try to find an opportunity to make an attack on private enterprise for some imaginary grievance. So this afternoon the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) devoted some portion of his attack to belittling the work done by private enterprise in developing the resources of the Colonial Empire.I gathered that his criticisms were that private enterprise was forever taking big royalties, making high profits, and stealing the best jobs from the native people. but that a great change had come about because the kings and princes—no doubt he meant the Tory Party—had been swept aside to give the working man the opportunity to run this great British Empire. I felt that his attack on the work of private enterprise in the Colonial Empire showed a great ignorance of the facts. I wonder whether the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton knows that now—and, indeed, for some considerable time—in many parts of the Colonial Empire the mineral royalties are vested in the Colonial Governments themselves, so that the biggest collectors of royalties are the Governments who are using the money as a contribution to the Colonial Exchequer.
Where that is so, I agree that the situation has been satisfactory, but I am sure the hon. Member will agree—and I hope he will use his influence with the United Africa Company—that it would be very helpful if that could be applied to the mineral royalties of Northern Nigeria.
I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman into the dealings of the United Africa Company; I was making the point that what he said about the royalty situation did not apply to the whole of the Colonial Empire, and that the biggest collectors of royalties throughout the Colonial Empire were invariably the Governments themselves who used the money, quite properly, for the purposes of the Colonial Exchequer to help in the development and welfare of the countries themselves. I felt, too, that his remarks about high profits were entirely uncalled for, because there are a great many companies which have developed the Colonial Empire and which have struggled for a very long time making extremely small profits.At this point, I would declare that I am an interested party; I am the chairman of a company which is doing such work in British Guiana, and I can say that for some 13 years our shareholders, without complaint, have been satisfied with no more than two per cent. on their money and have put far more than that back into the development of the Colony itself. We do not claim any particular credit for doing that, but I give it as an example to show that private enterprise does not always make high profits. High profits are only made in isolated cases, and therefore make news, whereas the humdrum level of profits does not make news, and consequently is not called to the attention of the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton as often as he may suppose. The hon. Member made one other point to the effect that in the past, and indeed at the present time, where private enterprise is concerned all the best jobs are kept for the people in this country, and that the local people do not get the chance of filling those positions. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong about that. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) interrupted the hon. Gentleman during his speech, and I would emphasise what he said in his interruption. It was that, if one has a company in this country developing the Colonial Empire, it pays one again and again to use the local people if possible. There are many reasons for doing that. In the first place, one is naturally much more popular with the native people; they feel that it is their country and they like to get the jobs. On the other hand, as an employer one would naturally want to help them. Again, it is far more expensive to send people hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of miles from this country at the company's expense in order to do a job which could just as well be done by a citizen of the Colony itself. I think that in that case the hon. Gentleman was undoubtedly wrong. That is the policy we ourselves have pursued, and it has paid us. We have advanced many of the local people, and as employers we have been very proud of the work they have done. We now see some of them occupying senior posts on the staff. I will now leave the hon. Gentleman to his prejudices and go back to the beginning of the Debate. I think that one of the most important points made was that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) when he pointed out that to vote this money was not enough, and that we must see that there was the ability to use it and to use it well. I feel that that point cannot be emphasised too much, and I am wondering whether, when the Under-Secretary of State replies, he can give us some idea of the way in which this money is being allocated. We know that in the past it has not always been spent. Is an allocation made in the Colonial Office where they divide up this money and say that so much is for welfare, so much for development and so much for research, and place it in watertight compartments in that way? Is it, perhaps, further allocated, and is it said that there shall be so much for Nigeria, so much for British Guiana and so much for Jamaica? If that is the method of allocation I feel it is all wrong, and I suggest that it would be far better if the Colonial Office were to make investigations now, find where it is possible to use this money at present, and spend it wisely. It may well be that in one Colony, although there is an allocation to that area, they have not the ability to spend it now, and plans may take three or four years to develop. In another area they could use more money at this moment than they are getting. I have heard in the Colonies from time to time that when the Colonial Government have been approached on this matter they have said "Our allocation is used up. We would like to do this work now, but our money is all earmarked for three years ahead." Therefore, the necessary work falls on one side. I ask that steps be taken to see that the money is used wisely and speedily in the areas where it can immediately be used to advantage. A certain amount of this money has been spent on opening communications and developing roads. Do the Colonial Office, having opened a road, make sure that adequate funds will also be available for the maintenance of the same road? I remember one case in British Guiana. The interior was to be opened and facilities were to be provided in a big way. The Government spent a large sum of money on developing what is known as the Bartica-Potaro road. Once the road was opened, there was always an inadequate amount of money and labour available for its maintenance, so that under bush conditions what was a good road deteriorated quickly. It is now utterly unusable by traffic which is necessary to carry the heavy machinery for the development of the interior. Can the Under-Secretary say whether in future money will be available, not only for the initial capital charge but for the maintenance of the roads? I hold the view that in certain areas of the Colonial Empire development must come before welfare. I am thinking of the undeveloped areas. Let me refer again to British Guiana, because it is a place I know. There is a vast undeveloped area in the interior. We cannot put our welfare there before there is anybody there, so that the development work must come first. I want to know how soon after development, welfare can follow it up. I have seen cases when people have gone into the interior. In one case involving a settlement of 700 or 800 people they say "We need to have a midwife who will help us when our children come into the world." They cry out to the Government for this assistance. The funds are not available to enable such a person to be sent in. In this particular place there is a school. There is one teacher looking after 40 or 50 children who are divided into four different classes. He has to look after them all at the same time. The funds provided by the Government are inadequate to find a second teacher or even a temporary or part-time teacher, who could perhaps be the wife of one of the men out there, to look after the younger children. If there were more money they could have better educational facilities than they have now. I think that four classes of children of varying ages in one room with one teacher is far too much. My company has helped the school and we have made a grant to help to improve the facilities. When we ask people to go into these areas to develop them, we should back up our welfare as quickly as possible with better educational facilities. Indeed, in this place of which I have been speaking there are even insufficient books for the school children. The Colonial Secretary referred to the great work that is being done in anti-malarial measures in British Guiana. I agree with him wholeheartedly, but I want to point out that the successful results have been achieved through a combination of Government and private enterprise endeavour. Where the two have worked hand in hand, a great deal has been done. The area in which my company is working was known some six or seven years ago as one of the worst malaria areas in the Colony, but because we and the Government have co-operated I am proud to say that for two years we have not had a single new case of malaria in the whole of the area. I should like to ask a question relating to development. In Colonial development what is the dividing line between the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund and the work of the Colonial Development Corporation itself? Is it fair to say that the Colonial Development Corporation, having been instructed that it must at least break even or make a profit, is going to undertake schemes where there is a chance of a profit, and that purely development work, such as opening roads and so on, which can yield no immediate return will be turned over to the resources of the Colonial Development Fund? Where is the dividing line?
Broadly speaking, the dividing line is that under the Welfare Act the projects dealt with are of a non-commercial nature, and under the Colonial Development Corporation the projects which will be considered and developed are of a commercial nature. That is the broad distinction.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. His explanation certainly helps to clarify the position. I should like to call the hon. Gentleman's attention to one case in point. As the Secretary of State said earlier, before any of these propositions are developed, there must be a good deal of research and investigation. We have recently had research and investigation in British Guiana and British Honduras, and a most excellent document known as the Evans Report has been introduced. It recommends the expenditure of a good deal of money. So far as British Guiana is concerned, it recommends the opening of roads, development of cattle, timber, cocoa and bananas, and it visualises the moving of something like 100,000 people from the overcrowded areas of the West Indies into the sparsely-populated areas of British Guiana. It further visualises moving some 20,000 displaced persons to the cooler and higher land in the interior of that Colony.Various Members have from time to time questioned the Colonial Secretary on this matter. So far as I can ascertain, he has not yet said definitely that the recommendations of this Report are to be adopted. He says we are going to do it piecemeal, bit by bit, but so far nothing has been said as to whether the whole scheme is to be accepted, or whether 80 per cent. of it is to be accepted or whether a few isolated points which have been raised at Question time are the only ones which will be dealt with. Here is a great opportunity. If we can move some of the population of the West Indies, it will ease the position in Jamaica and the other islands. Some of the people have gone. I have seen a good many people from St. Lucia who have moved to British Guiana, and they have settled down there. They are doing uncommonly good work. They are offered low-rental houses, but they live in them only so long, because they build new houses for themselves with their own hands when their day's work is done. On top of that, there is uncommonly good husbandry. They have nice gardens and they are producing some of the food they need. I should like to know whether the Government are going to adopt this scheme and set it in motion. If so, I should like to know whether the plan is like that visualised in the Evans Report and sponsored by the Colonial Development Corporation, or whether it will come under the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund, for it is worthy of support.
I think that the keynote of this whole Debate was well struck by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). When my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) made a plea for finding more jobs for Africans and asked whether the private trading companies could be a little more broad-minded in this respect and extend their present facilities, the hon. Member for Hornsey interjected and said that of course the private companies will find more jobs for Africans because it is cheaper for them to employ Africans. That, I think, is the real dividing line between the approach to Colonial development from this side of the House and the approach from the opposite side of the House. It is extraordinary that even at this stage, with the prestige which this country has attained as a Colonial Power, there are still Members of the party opposite who regard Africans as a reservoir of cheap labour. That is the remark which the hon. Member for Hornsey actually made during his intervention in this Debate, and I shall willingly give way if he wishes to interrupt now.
If the hon. Member interpreted my remarks in that spirit, then either he is absolutely and completely ignorant of Colonial conditions or he is doing it deliberately. The point simply is this: that any company operating in the tropics would, on the grounds of economy, employ an African rather than a European because, in the case of the European, they have not merely to pay what is a basic and reasonable salary for the job but they have to bring him, his wife and his children from this country and, in due course, send them back; and they have to pay the man an extra allowance in order to help him to keep up two homes. If the hon. Member will study the salary scale of civil servants which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has approved, he will see that that principle is accepted—the principle of a basic salary, with additional allowances such as an expatriation allowance because the man comes from this country. That is what I meant, and nothing else.
Surely, I would submit, that is a fundamentally wrong approach to this problem. The last thing that matters in the question of employing Africans is that they should be regarded as cheap labour. The fact that the Africans may draw lower salaries is a reflection upon our attitude towards them. Surely there are other, far wider and more fundamental aspects of the problem of employment of African labour which should be ever present in our minds. This aspect of cheap labour should be relegated well down, as the least consideration that we should apply to this problem.
Is the hon. Member still continuing with this nonsense that I am advocating the use of Africans as cheap labour? Or will he accept the point that I am trying to make to him, which is that there is all the difference in the world between resident labour that requires no expatriation allowance and labour which one has to import from half-way across the world? If he still holds to the former view, let him approach the Colonial Office, who are following that principle every day in their lives.
I do not want to be unfair to the hon. Member for Hornsey but, even allowing for the explanation he has subsequently given, I submit that his interjection in this Debate was a most unfortunate and deplorable interjection. That is the least consideration that ought to weigh with us in dealing with the terrible problem of finding employment for native Africans.The main point I wanted to make was to stress the desperate need for parallelism in our research work in Colonial development. I think it has generally been realised on all sides of the House that any advance in one direction of research, if successful, may create vast new problems. We have had numerous instances of this, particularly in the question of medical research. Wherever a fundamental discovery has been made in the treatment of disease, as for instance the discovery of the new drug paludrine for the treatment of malaria, it has brought in its trail vast new problems which we ought to have foreseen. The introduction of paludrine on a wide scale means not only a decrease in the incidence of malaria in Africa and a decrease in the actual death rate of the population. It automatically results in a vast new problem of over-population which brings in its trail the new problems of under-feeding, of gross malnutrition, of under-employment, of inadequate facilities for education, of the vast mass movements of population; problems of soil erosion and agriculture development and, again, perhaps even more important still, the growing tendency of movements of population to create in themselves new problems of de-tribalisation. We must also realise, with the discovery of this new drug antrycide, that once its adoption is generally accepted it will create new problems of pasturage, of feeding, of cattle breeding and so forth. I should like to stress that, while lending the fullest encouragement to development and research, we should take care that research proceeds in various directions simultaneously with research in any one particular sphere. It is to be hoped that, with this increased amount for research which the Bill embodies, research work will embrace all aspects of Colonial development. Several hon. Members have spoken about an order of priority. The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) said that in the Belgian Congo the scheme generally adopted was first to devote research work to health, then to education and then to housing; but surely, again, this acceptance of priorities, I submit, is a fundamental ignoring of the basic elements of the whole problem of Colonial development. To my mind this is the real significance of the vast new groundnut scheme undertaken in East Africa. There we have seen pioneer work being conducted in parallel research in all forms of economic and cultural activities. I certainly hope that my right hon. Friend will heed neither the criticisms nor the blandishments of hon. Members opposite when they try to urge upon him the need to slow down the progress of the groundnut scheme, and especially when they say it is far more advisable to concentrate upon groundnuts development in Nigeria because there it will be more productive. They simply bring us back to the balance-sheet approach to these vast Colonial enterprises, that same point which the hon. Member for Hornsey could not help revealing, as the true philosophy behind Tory Colonial development when he made his interjection in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Wolverhampton. That reveals the fundamental cleavage in approach to these problems which cuts hon. Members on this side of the House from the old Tory conception of Colonial development.
If the hon. Member will give way again, perhaps I may have another smack at him. Would he not agree that any Government must have a balance-sheet approach towards any project? Their funds are strictly limited and a balance-sheet approach merely means seeing that they spend these limited funds to the maximum advantage of everybody concerned. To pretend otherwise at a time like this, when we are short of capital, is fatuous in the extreme. Of course, there is a balance sheet and I am quite unrepentant about it.
There again, I willingly gave way to the hon. Member for Hornsey, but he has only served to give his case away more completely. No one takes exception to a balance sheet, but to say that that should be the fundamental approach towards tackling our Colonial problems is, I say again, just emphasing the cleavage which exists between this side of the House and the opposite side. There are factors in colonial development, such as the factor with which we are now dealing—the provision of research—which cannot be stated in a balance sheet. They pay dividends which cannot be expressed in pounds, shillings and pence.Whereas the House today will willingly grant an increase in the amount for Colonial research, we cannot deal with this by the same method of a balance-sheet approach. I believe that if we insist on showing a complete balance sheet of income as against expenditure in Colonial research, in the long run we shall forfeit our rights as a Colonial Power. We have certain duties to carry out and certain responsibilities towards people who lean upon us for their health and their development. That is why I think this Bill will be welcomed, particularly on this side of the House. I should like to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that he will not slacken in his efforts to see that the research work which is now being carried out will not be carried out primarily in the interests of the ultimate balance sheet which will be drawn up. Mention has also been made during the Debate of the training of personnel for research work. I believe that no tribute can be too high for those visiting technical experts who have devoted a large amount of their skill, time and energy in carrying out this research work, but I should like the Under-Secretary to make some reference to the possibilities of recruiting for research work the settlers in our Colonial territories. I believe that if they have themselves a very real stake in the soil, they will not only give of their best but feel a certain satisfaction in remaining in those territories to see the fruits of their efforts. In this connection, any visitor to the Cameroons cannot fail to be impressed by the immense amount of very valuable development work which was carried out by the German settlers, not only in the years before the First World War but in the years subsequently. When the Cameroons were placed under the League of Nations Mandate we were glad to enlist the services of German settlers, who came back to the Cameroons to assist in the development of that territory, and we have been able to learn a great deal from the work they have done there. I think that also in this vast new development going on now in East Africa, particularly in Tanganyika, some special provision ought to be made for research work to be carried out by the settlers on the soil, and that an actual movement ought to be encouraged, not only to settle Italian emigrés, but even to re-settle German deportees who have done very valuable work in that territory, who feel themselves tied to it by love of the soil, and by the energy that they have already put into those areas, and who have really acquired, by living in some of those parts of East Africa, a genuine sense that that land is their homeland. I realise that these problems of the resettlement of the German people are bound up with the peace treaties, but this is a point which should not be overlooked, and I hope that the Colonial Secretary will bear it in mind when he envisages the long-scale research and development in connection with the new enterprises that are now being undertaken in East Africa. Finally, I should like to say how very heartily I welcome this Bill. I feel confident that the Colonial Secretary will see that the extra money which is now being granted to him will be spent wisely and well.
The hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) has had a good deal to say about balance-sheet approaches. If he will wait a few more moments in the House, I shall come to that in a moment. I am sorry that the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) is not here now because I want to thank him for two things, I want to thank him, first, for his firm stand on the point that, as we have so few Debates in this House on Colonial affairs, we should take advantage of the Bill to speak as widely on those affairs as the Rules of Order permit. I also want to thank him for introducing a comic touch into what has been a rather serious discussion up to now by reading that letter from a gentleman in West Africa who said he was so pleased to see the Front Bench filled with "labouring men." The next time the Front Bench is filled, we together will count the number of labouring men who nowadays adorn it.
Far more than on the hon. Gentleman's side.
The West African gentleman's talent should not be lost, and Mr. Morgan Phillips might invite him to join the staff at Transport House. However, this Debate does reveal in hon. Gentlemen opposite an extraordinary mentality that I do hope we shall soon get rid of, and it is the idea that the Colonial Empire only really started when they came into power, and that development began when the present occupant of the office of the Secretary of State went to that office. I suppose that soon they will begin to re-write the history of the Colonial Empire, and we shall have the story of how General Creech-Wolfe stormed the heights of Abraham, and how Sir Creech-Raffles founded Singapore, and how Dr. Creech-Livingstone explored darkest Africa. It is an amusing story, and one of these days one hon. Gentleman may write it.
There is no need to rewrite the Colonial history of this country. The facts stand quite plainly for everyone to see, but I hope that in the future the development of the Colonies will be conducted on lines rather different from those followed in the past.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman says all that from any knowledge of the Colonies. I did not want to make a party speech on this subject, and I am not going to, but do hon. Gentlemen opposite really think there was very much wrong with a Colonial Empire that produced the loyalty that we saw in two great world wars? There cannot be much wrong with a conception of Empire that induced men from every part of it to fight by our side when the rest of the world thought we were being defeated.
Then what is the need to re-write the story?
It is the hon. Gentleman who is trying to pretend that it was only when the present Colonial Secretary went to the Colonial Office that anything started to happen.
Nothing of the sort.
In due course—perhaps much earlier than hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think—we will give due credit for all that has been done for the Colonial Empire by the present Secretary of State, who has done a lot, I am prepared to admit; and he has set a good example by travelling all over the Colonial Empire. So has the Under-Secretary of State. However, it is a stupid and childish idea to bring into the consideration of Colonial affairs that it is only now that the British Government have cared for the welfare of the Colonial peoples.The hon. Member for West Wolverhampton claimed that I am a convert—apparently, a sudden convert—to bulk buying. I do not want to go into the question of bulk buying now. We had it all yesterday. However, I must say that the main difference, I think, between the two parties on that question is quite simple. Hon. Gentlemen opposite regard it as an article of faith and one which, to their minds, suits every conceivable situation. We regard it as one of the methods—not necessarily the best, and certainly not the only method—which can be used in order to see that the Colonial producer gets a fair and reasonable price for his products.
That is not the attitude taken, as I remember it, yesterday by the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who condemns bulk purchasing, root and branch, as I understand him.
My right hon. Friend, I think, was condemning State purchasing and the conditions under which it was at present operating, but as many of these original deals were started by my right hon. Friends it is perfectly obvious that we as a party have no objection to this as a principle in the sense in which the devil is supposed to hate holy water.
Are we to understand—and it is very important for us to know—that the hon. Gentleman is now saying that the Conservative Party in this House do not support the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot in what he said yesterday.
Nothing of the sort. The attitude of the Conservative Party, so far as the purchase of Colonial products is concerned, was set out perfectly plainly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) a few weeks ago, and the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton congratulated us on what he regarded as our conversion.Without having a party wrangle about it, I would set out two of the difficulties that I foresee are likely to arise in the very near future. The first, surely, is this, that there has got to be annual revision of prices. What will happen on a falling market? I do not envy the Colonial Secretary, because every year he will find himself engaged in a most unseemly wrangle with the Colonial producers who, if they do not get the price they think they ought to get, will not blame the merchants, as they did in the past, but will blame the right hon. Gentleman and the Colonial Office. Every year we may find ourselves in a most unfortunate political quarrel. Now, that is one of the snags which has not arisen up till now, because we have had either rising prices or shortage of goods; but it will arise, and I certainly do not envy the Colonial Secretary his position when it does. The other thing we must remember is that there will be a most difficult triangular duel once a year when, for example, the price to be paid for sugar is argued about. There is the Minister of Food, whose function and duty it is to get the cheapest possible food for the people of this country; and he will be reinforced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose job it is to see that what is bought for this country is bought at the cheapest possible price. Against these two stalwarts will be ranged the Colonial Secretary, whose primary duty is to see that the Colonial producer gets the highest possible price. That is odds of two to one, and the dice will be loaded very heavily against the Colonial Secretary. Speaking on behalf of the Colonial producers, I hope he wins, but he will not necessarily win, when there is, as there is today, a demand on the part of the working class of this country for a reduction in the cost of living. These are difficulties which we on this side see over bulk buying, and that is why we are not prepared——
We cannot now debate bulk buying. This Bill is devoted to providing more money for the purpose of research and inquiry in the Colonial Empire.
I am sorry to have been out of Order, and I will finish discussing that subject. As it was raised specifically from the other side, I felt that I must give our point of view.Let me now turn to the Bill itself. We find the necessity for the Bill rather disturbing. The inability to spend money is distressing for two reasons, the first being that we are behind with our programme. Many projects that many of us hoped to see started, and even finished by this time, have not been started, and that is disappointing, to say the least. But what is even more disturbing is that it raises a doubt as to whether or not we shall be able to carry out this programme at all in any foreseeable period of time, because one of the things we have learned in the last few years is that just voting money is not enough; money itself means nothing at all. The question is: Are we producing capital goods in this country fast enough first to meet our own needs, and second to meet the needs of the essential export market to the dollar area, and then to have enough left over for the Colonies? Money does not matter. It is things like steel, cement and machinery that matter. What I think—and this is where I come to the hon. Gentleman and his balance-sheet approach to life—is that the first thing we must do, on all sides of the House, is to see that the priorities are right, having regard to what we can spend in capital goods, men and equipment. If we waste something, if we get our priorities wrong, then something essential will not get the money and something that does not matter very much, will get it. If the hon. Gentleman calls that a balance-sheet approach, then I am quite unrepentant. If he does not believe in a balance-sheet approach he ought not to believe in a Budget, because the whole idea of a Budget is to set out our resources and decide on the priorities on which they should be spent.
I submit that there is no parallel between the Budget that has to be drawn up in this country and the costs of our pioneer enterprise work being conducted in East Africa. There is in East Africa, work growing up parallel with all the development of the groundnut scheme—health work, educational work and resettlement work—which cannot be assessed in pounds, shillings and pence. To my mind that is pioneer work which we are carrying out in Africa, which deserves warm support and encouragement from both sides of the House, and which cannot be fully assessed in terms of the dividend it will produce in pounds, shillings and pence.
That, if I may say so, is quite different from what the hon. Gentleman indicated to the House just now. If he says that we ought to spend our very limited and diminishing resources without the slightest regard to the priorities, then I entirely disagree with him. That is what I understood him to mean by the balance-sheet approach, and he chided us because, in his opinion, we had no regard whatever for long-term development, or what he would call the humanites.
I think the hon. Gentleman is hardly being fair. What I tried to emphasise was that this is work we have to carry out as part of our responsibility as a Colonial Power; it is work which is cultural and intellectual, and not fundamentally material in its approach, and which consequently will not show its full dividend in terms of a balance sheet.
We will not wrangle about all this. If tomorrow we look in the OFFICIAL REPORT at what we have both said, we may find that we agree or disagree. I do not think we will bore the House by continuing this duel any longer.I am extremely worried about whether or not we can carry out this programme, when we consider our commitments for the re-equipment of home industry, what we have to send to the dollar area in order to balance our trade, and so on. Therefore, it is surely essential to get our priorities right, not merely within this budget but within what I might call the national budget as a whole. Let me give two analogies. If we waste money on civil aviation when that money need not be wasted, then we have less to spend on the Colonies. For example—and again I use this only as an example—last week we on this side upbraided the Government for spending £15 million on Government advertising, and the next day we read that the health budget had to be cut by £9½ million. Those two things are related in the sense that if we waste in one direction, we cannot have it to spend in the other. The reason we have criticised the right hon. Gentleman over the groundnut scheme is, not because we disapprove of it in principle, but because we believe that money has been wasted, and we feel that if it has been wasted it means that some part of West Africa will not get its hospital, or that some island in the West Indies will not get its water supply. So long as there is a budget, and so long as there are limited resources, that must inevitably happen. I hope that in future, not only on Colonial affairs but on home affairs, we shall get the support of hon. Gentlemen opposite in insisting, first that the priorities are right, and second that we get value for our money. I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to join with us every time we see waste in a Government Department and say, "They have wasted that. There go three beds in my hospital. There goes some project for my constituency which has been turned down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer," instead of having this profligate attitude towards expenditure. It is with that approach that we shall raise the level of living not only in the Colonies but here at home. All I ask on that general point is whether the right hon. Gentleman has considered what may happen to the money voted under this Bill when Marshall Aid comes to an end. He may ask: "How does Marshall Aid affect this?" It surely affects it in this way, that an even greater percentage of our national capital resources will have to be exported to dollar areas and will not be made available for Colonial development. It seems to me that, unless we can follow the advice given by the Chancellor, not recently but three months ago, and raise our production, we may find this capital expenditure quite unattainable, simply because the surplus is not there. Now I would like to say a word about research—not in its narrow sense. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can tell us whether he feels that the programme of research could go forward more quickly than the capital programme. Here we are dealing only with individuals, whereas in the capital programme we are dealing with individuals plus capital goods. Research is needed more in the Colonial Empire than anywhere else. We have the ordinary geological research, which is nevertheless terribly behind and in regard to which we have no reason to be proud. There are great resources in the Colonial Empire about which we know nothing. No one can say today what the resources of the Colonial Empire may be. Let us take one point for illustration, the East African groundnut scheme. The right hon. Gentleman would have been in a very much happier position if we had had more research into the rainfall in the Kongwa and the problems to be solved in clearing the African bush. I want to deal with research of another sort. I hope that something can be done pretty soon about research into broadcasting. Our record of broadcasting in the Colonial Empire is deplorable. If the hon. Gentleman gets any satisfaction in saying that that is due partly to the Tories, I will agree with him. I would only point out that his Friends have not done very much better. This great invention, with all its possibilities of education, has been neglected all over the Empire. In places like the Caribbeans and Jamaica, if we turn on a radio set we shall hear Spanish-speaking stations and stations from the United States all around them, and practically nothing from the British islands themselves. What are we going to do about it? There is a terrible jumble of different systems. The Select Committee on Estimates tell a most frightful story about it. They say that the following Colonies have no broadcasting whatever: Aden, British Honduras, Cyprus, Gambia, Gibraltar, The Leewards, North Borneo, Sarawak, the Seychelles, Tanganyika, Uganda, the Windward Islands and Zanzibar. What a shocking list that is. With regard to Cyprus, where there is the problem of union with Greece, the only broadcasting pumped out is from Greece and Russia. The curious thing that has happened in the Colonial Empire over broadcasting is that the right hon. Gentleman, who may be a good Socialist at home, is a very strong private enterprise right-wing Tory abroad. He has allowed, and even encouraged, commercial broadcasting. We have commercial broadcasting in many parts of the Colonial Empire. I am sure that the only reason is that the right hon. Gentleman has realised that the Government could never do anything at all over broadcasting, and therefore he must allow commercial broadcasting. I do not mind saying that I believe in commercial broadcasting. I look forward to the day when we shall have it here, not in place of the B.B.C. but together with the B.B.C. The system has just been brought in by the very orthodox Socialist Governments in Australia and New Zealand, and it has also been introduced into Canada. Some research ought now to take place to discover how it is working out in the Colonial Empire. Is it satisfactory? Ought we to encourage more commercial broadcasting? Are we to go on as we are now, slipping it in at the back door, so to speak? I am sure that many of the Friends of the right hon. Gentleman behind him did not know what is happening.
The Under-Secretary did not know what is happening either. Can the hon. Gentleman give us proof that my right hon. Friend is encouraging—that is the word which the hon. Gentleman used—private broadcasting?
He has encouraged it in the sense that when people come to him with propositions he does not say "No." When that happens, one can regard it as having his encouragement. He does not prevent it and in the case of Jamaica he has encouraged it.
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, there is a Legislative Council in Jamaica, with Ministers who have something to say about policy.
I am aware of that, but the right hon. Gentleman did not object to it. If he will look through the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates, he will see quite a number of Colonies over which he has much more intimate control than he has over Jamaica, and where there is commercial broadcasting. I am not arguing whether commercial broadcasting is good or bad. I am merely suggesting that the time has come when useful research should go on to find out whether it is desirable or not. We could find out, too, answers to some of the technical questions. One is how we are to get cheap and efficient village listening stations. Another is whether the sort of stuff that the B.B.C. are sending out is the right sort of programme. When I was in Hong Kong the other day, I tried to listen to the B.B.C., but the level of talks would have defeated even the Third Programme here at home. I am sure that the programme left the English-speaking Chinese in that Colony extremely cold.Another development in which research will not cost much in the way of money or manpower is in the direction of films. I am not thinking of commercial films for the cinema. We should not need much research to discover that many of them are bad. We should inquire more into the use of films for educational purposes. Perhaps I might tell the House a piece of my own past. I had a good bit to do in the early days with making films in connection with the work of co-operative societies. I do not think many hon. Gentlemen opposite have ever regarded me as a great supporter of the Co-operative movement, but in point of fact I am. I was one of the earlier registrars of co-operative societies in the Colonial Service. I remember that, having gone round the world to study rural co-operation, I came back to Malaya bursting with good ideas and fine intentions to start up a Co-operative movement, for example with banks, and to start marketing boards. At the end of four years I had to admit almost complete failure because I was trying to put Western wine into Eastern bottles. I was assuming that the conditions which prevailed in, say, Denmark, equally prevailed in the Malayan village. We had to reconsider the matter and start all over again. We started with films. We sent films round into the villages, showing the work of the co-operative societies. They failed, and we had to come to something more indigenous. What we adopted then was films made on the spot. They were dramatised and they always told the same story in different forms: the man who listened to the wise words and finished up in a halo of glory, and the rake's progress, in which the rake always finished up in the ditch. One had to be careful, because the Malayans have a sense of humour. Although the rake finished up in the ditch, he had a good time on the way. We showed those films to hundreds of thousands of people. I discovered that I had a talent for writing lurid scenarios. We showed the films on the village greens in the months when the moon did not prevent us. We exhibited them up and down the river in rafts and boats, showing them on both sides of the river. It was a success. I remember that East Africa came along and very largely copied what we were doing. They were pioneering days. I can still remember myself turning the handle in the Malayan villages as I took those lurid dramas. Much has happened since then and there has been great improvement in technique. I should like to know whether that sort of thing can be extended and whether we could perhaps do more in this direction. I make a plea for that sort of research and I hope that we shall be able to do more than we have done up to now.
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the present troubles in Malaya may have been due to the efforts he has just been depicting?
That is possible. All I can plead in extenuation is that the Japanese have been there since and my terrifying efforts have, I trust, been forgotten.I make a last plea in the field of education. In no field have we as a country fumbled more and guessed more incorrectly. What we have largely done has been to transplant from this country our own system of education—a Victorian one at that—to conditions which were not in the least suitable, and a lot of harm has been done. In many parts of the Colonial Empire we have destroyed ancient cultures without putting anything in their place except Hollywood standards of conduct and of values. We have taken people who were born agriculturists and instead of their becoming better agriculturists as a result of education, they have deserted the country for the town. It is perhaps late in the day to retrace our steps but it is not too late for us to try to see what has been the effect of that education. We have just left India. A fine record we have left behind but we have also left Mr. Pundit Nehru a terrible legacy in the "failed B.A.s" who are the product of our educational system in India. We must not make the same mistake in the Colonial Empire, especially in Africa, where very largely we still have the field open before us. I should like to see research carried on—it would take time—by first-class men from this country into the impact of a Western education on a primitive society and to see to what extent even now we can improve our principles and methods. Does the right hon. Gentleman think he can do more to make known the object of the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund? He has a Colonial Exhibition coming along. I congratulate him upon it, and I sincerely hope it will be a success. I can assure him that if we on this side can do anything to make it a success, he has merely to ask for our help. I hope this exhibition will encourage him to have similar exhibitions in all parts of the country. I hope that he will be able to do something to make known the meaning and the spirit of the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund, not only among the people of this country but in the Dominions and also in the United States. One of the most distressing things for those of us who believe in the Empire and all that it stands for is to go to Canada and to realise how little the people of Canada know of the Colonial Empire, how little sympathy there is with our plans and aspirations and the appalling ignorance of what we are doing. New York is even worse. A lot of Americans still believe that Canada pays something into the British Exchequer and that we take the whole of the income of the Colonial Empire. However, surely in the Dominions and throughout the world we can do more. The Colonial Welfare and Development Fund started at a moment when we were doubtful of our own future. We are proud of it and proud of what we have done. We wish we could do more. We should try to make the world realise that it is not merely a payment of money which lies behind this Measure, but a determination to do our duty by the Colonial peoples.
All will agree that this Second Reading Debate has given rise to some very interesting contributions from all sides of the House. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) was at pains to point out that colonial welfare schemes did not start with this Government. He also made some references to the broadsides of the Fabian Society. It ought to be placed on record that the work done by the Colonial Bureau of the Fabian Society did create very great interest both inside and outside the House in Colonial conditions and helped to form the public opinion which made possible the Bill in 1940 granting the first small sum for welfare. He was a little less than generous in not commenting on the fact that one of the early acts of this Government was to provide £120 million for welfare and development in the Colonies.While we need not spend too much time claiming credit as to which Government has done the best for the Colonies, it should be known that many people in the colonies do realise what has been done since the war. In Kenya, Major Cavendish-Bentinck, whose position and prestige in the Colony are known to many hon. Members, said in my presence that more had been done in Kenya in the last two and a half years—he was speaking last year—than in the previous 25. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford might have been a little more generous about what has been done since the war by this Government. The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) seemed to be putting up a kind of unconscious defence for the lack of Government action between the two wars. He said that if we had had a groundnuts project then, there would have been no market for it. There are two points on that. First, we were buying our groundnuts largely from India. There were in India at that time millions of people who were under-nourished. We could have begun development in East Africa and seen that distribution in India was better carried out. We must also face the fact that malignant malnutrition is not something which has just started in East Africa since the war. It has existed for the last 40 or 50 years. Something not yet properly understood has happened in the general development of society in Africa. There was undoubtedly a period when Africans were in a much better condition than they are now. It has nothing to do with European colonisation. The fact remains, however, that malnutrition in Africa is not a new problem and we ought to have faced up to it between the wars and more could have been done by Conservative Governments. One of the things which astonished me most when I went to East Africa was the general health of the indigenous population. I had always imagined that the African was a strong virile personality capable of extraordinary muscular efforts and achievement. There are some, fortunately, who measure up to that standard, but by and large the African people are a sick people. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) mentioned hookworm. When I was in Africa last year I asked in every district what was the incidence of hookworm among the population, and I did not encounter a single community where less than 90 per cent. of the men, women and children were suffering from hookworm. That can be cured. It is not dangerous in the sense that death follows, but the effect on decreasing normal vitality is a very important factor. It is not only a question, as was suggested, of getting people to wear shoes; it is also a question of having some elementary sanitary arrangements which will help to clean up the disease. People must get the habit of using latrines. In some of the settlements on the sisal estates, where great efforts have been made in this direction, hookworm has very largely been eradicated. This disease is not incurable, but we must devote much attention to it for it ruins the lives of countless thousands. There are also such things as V.D. In many areas of East Africa 50 per cent. of the population, men, women and children, are suffering from it. That is a subject to which I hope will be devoted some of the money we are voting today. I should have thought that even at this time, with all our difficulties, we could have done a great deal more about hospital services. I want to pay a personal tribute to many of the European doctors working particularly in East Africa—I do not know about other parts of the Colonial territories—with their African medical assistants. There are far too few of them, but they are doing a magnificent job. However one gets a tremendous shock if one goes into some of the African hospitals. Take the hospital in a rich port like Mombasa where there are about 110 beds for the African population of something like 100,000. No one can defend that in a port which has been developed over the last 40 years. At the time I visited the hospital there were two Africans in every bed and others sleeping on the floor between the beds. I am not complaining about that; it is better that they were in hospital than outside; but to pretend that a hospital of 110 beds in that great, rich port is adequate is a mistake, and I hope that none of us will rest until we alter such conditions. With regard to education, the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks suggested that there was probably a population of 400,000 children in Kenya needing education. I think that was an under-estimate and that the number is more like 1½ million. I realise the tremendous difficulties in the way of providing education in these territories, particularly in the country districts where even the primary schooling has to be on a boarding school basis because, on account of the great distances, and scattered population children cannot be sent home to dinner. We must do a great deal more if we are to see the development of these Colonies, particularly in the way of technical education. All the schemes of development envisaged under the Colonial Welfare Development Fund depend on having more skilled indigenous people to do the jobs. Whether we look upon this as a mere matter of profit and loss or of national responsibility, if we do not get more skilled people in the territories concerned, none of these schemes can be worked successfully. I am sure many people over-estimate the difficulties of training Africans. In the railway workshops in Nairobi I have seen Africans carrying out highly skilled engineering work of all kinds in the shops, forging, upholstery work and carpentry. On the more progressive sisal estates Africans are trained to do all the electrical and engineering jobs. If we make the effort, we can get in time the professional and skilled assistance we want from the Africans. It will be impossible to raise African standards without. In this Debate we have been talking about priorities for research, and the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) referred to the lack of knowledge of geological possibilities. That is absolutely true. In Kenya only 1 per cent. of the territory is yet mapped on a one inch scale. All the levels of the ordinary maps are incorrect, and this in a country where one must know about water flow. It means that in the case of any new development the R.A.F. must be called in to map the territory. I believe that matter is being put right but it indicates what must be done. The hon. Member for Buckingham mentioned soil erosion, on which we had an Adjournment Debate some time ago. This is of prime importance for Africa. The African continent is the most susceptible in the world to soil erosion at present, both as a result of bad methods of cultivation and because of its geographical position. We cannot do much about the latter, but there is to be a conference in Nigeria this year between the governors of the territories. Excellent work is being done about soil erosion on a piecemeal scale in individual territories, but we must have a general master plan, otherwise the difficulty which now exists of thousands of acres of excellent African soil being lost every day will continue. I hope that the funds we are providing in this Bill will help to speed up these vital works.
My right hon. Friend and I are grateful to the many hon. Members on both sides of the House who have contributed interesting and valuable speeches to the Debate. Although it will not be possible for me to answer all the questions without weary-the House, those hon. Members whose questions I do not answer can rest assured that we shall look carefully into the points they have raised.My right hon. Friend has stated the various allocations that are made under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. The three main headings under which we operate are the broad general allocation for development and welfare purposes, the central fund, and the research grant. In an interjection I pointed out the distinction between the Colonial Development and Welfare Act and the Colonial Development Corporation. Whereas the former deals with matters of a non-commercial nature, broadly speaking, the latter deals with matters of a commercial nature, and the two are complementary. This, as the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) said, is a matter of some confusion in the minds of the public, who often do not understand the distinction between the two, and often in the Colonies as well as in this country we are blamed for not doing under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act what can be done only by the Colonial Development Corporation. We believe that the territories, with the assistance of the Act, should be developed primarily along the existing resources of those territories; that is to say, along existing lines. One cannot expect any entirely new developments. If the territory concerned provides mainly one or more agricultural products, then the best way of development is along that line, at the same time trying to infuse new elements as and when opportunity permits. Working on the lines of the state farm system, we are much interested in group holdings and also in mixed farming. We believe there is a great opportunity everywhere for mixed farms. I say "everywhere" because we are already trying them out in British Honduras and they will be tried out in Malaya and elsewhere. We think that the people in all the Colonial territories lack the proteins which can come from meat and also from milk. We are trying to provide farmers with new cash crops, or better ones than they have already, and also with alternative crops of a type which the world needs. In the last resort, if they cannot sell all of them, they can consume them. The hon. Member for Hornsey and I were living in Malaya at a time when the two great products of the country could neither be sold in any considerable quantities nor could they be eaten. That period has impressed itself deeply on my mind, and with the consent of my right hon. Friend who feels as I do, I always try to induce Colonial territories to produce things which in the last resort can be consumed locally and which will not be a drug on the world's markets. As the House knows, we have developed the system started by the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) as a war measure. Not only have we bulk buying but we also have bulk selling and marketing arrangements which provide for research and for reserves against a rainy day so far as the producer is concerned. Those reserves now stand at something like £81 million as a cushion for the producer when prices fall severely. I have been asked to keep an eye on development plans. The 10-year plans have been prepared in the Colonies by the Colonial Governments. There is constant criticism—I think quite misguided criticism — in the Colonies about these plans, because in every case they have been prepared by committees of the Legislative Councils, and the people of the territories have had full opportunity of considering them before they are sent for approval to my right hon. Friend. After they come to him they go before the Colonial Economic and Development Council. This is representative of the various points of view of people who are interested in Colonial matters who look at the plans carefully and try to preserve a balance between economic expenditure and expenditure on social and medical services. With regard to research expenditure, this is looked at by the Colonial Research Council. Apart from the chairman, who is not appointed for knowledge of research, all the members of the Research Council are distinguished men who have had many years' connection with science. They look at the whole problem from that point of view. One element has not been stressed and must be stressed. In considering the whole question of Colonial development and welfare, whether in research or otherwise, it is absolutely essential to get the co-operation of the people themselves. Both we ourselves and Colonial governments are continually directing our attention to this matter. We must get their wholehearted co-operation, otherwise we shall never get from these various estimable projects the results we wish to obtain. It is not easy to make people enthusiastic about what are sometimes considered rather dull subjects, but somehow or other we have to break down the mass of inertia or ignorance which persists. The way in which we can do so is to have a few circuses with the bread and bring a little colour into the subject, and we are going into the matter from that point of view. We have been asked about the difference in the amount spent on agriculture and various economic projects and that spent on social service projects. I indicated in an interjection that the amounts are enhanced and exaggerated to some extent in agriculture because in agriculture, particularly, most of the expenditure has to be on the purchase of land, breaking down land and so forth. In medical and social service research the expenditure means the salary of the research worker, and this is not nearly so great an expense as in agricultural research or agricultural development. We are closely linked with the United Kingdom research institutes so that we get the benefit of their advice and assistance, and a new research service is to start in the immediate future wherein there will be interchangeability between research workers in this country and in the Colonies and also those employed in universities. One of the great difficulties about the recruitment of research workers in the past will be overcome in this new Empire research service. The Report of the Colonial Research Council should be available in the very near future and I ask hon. Members to study it, because they will find it extremely interesting and it will show the work done last year. I wish to answer a few of the main points put 12y hon. Members which show that they appreciate the great necessity for the increase in the research ceiling and that proper development cannot take place unless there is careful research beforehand. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) asked if there was any change of policy. There is no change in policy, but a change in emphasis. We have found that it is even more essential than we thought for research to be done before large projects are undertaken. The hon. Member also twitted us with the fact that small sums were spent in the first three years. That was partly due to the fact that it was difficult to get supplies and services in the first three years and also because the 10-year plans were being prepared and it was not very easy to get on with the schemes until the plans had come in. The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) pointed out how essential it was to have these 10-year plans. Otherwise one governor would perhaps come along and scrap half the things which his predecessor had done. Twenty-one Colonies have now had their development plans approved, involving expenditure, as my right hon. Friend has said, of approximately £200 million. Hon. Members can, therefore, see that we have been getting ahead pretty fast. So far as research is concerned, I must contest the argument of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford because for the year just completed we spent £750,000 and for 1949–50 it is estimated that we shall spend, if this Measure passes through Parliament, £1,650,000, so that the amount is going up by leaps and bounds. He asked me what was the position in regard to capital goods and priorities. I have some figures about capital goods in which he may be interested. So far as steel from the United Kingdom is concerned, there is an improvement for this year over last year of something like 100 per cent. in the allocation. That will mean that they will get 80,000 to 100,000 tons more, because last year they got from unallocated sources more steel than they will get this year. From all sources there will be an improvement of 50 per cent. in steel supplies compared with the amount, allocated and unallocated, last year. As regards cement allocations, at the present moment the rate is more than double that which was exported in 1947. In regard to fertilisers, we are still rather below our needs, but we are hoping that we shall be able to get more as time goes on. There is no difficulty about certain types of fertilisers, but there is with nitrogenous fertilisers. We are rapidly overcoming the shortage of cotton textiles. In 1949, the Colonies should get 200 million yards more than they got in 1947, that is 800 million yards as against 600 million yards. As hon. Members can see, we are rapidly overcoming the difficulties of the first few years of this Government's life.
Could the hon. Gentleman say which Colonies are benefiting from this greater allocation of steel, or whether it only means that the groundnut scheme is absorbing the greater part of the steel so allocated?
No; that is not so. We have a priority list in which the main priority projects of every Colonial territory are included. These priority projects receive careful treatment in relation to supplies of steel. It is not by any means the case that the steel is going only to the groundnut area; every Colony is getting its fair share of steel. In fact, Kenya in particular has done extremely well not only in regard to steel but in products such as tractors and the like.We do not want to tie the Colonies too closely in any priority allocation scheme. We proceed as far as possible in a rather loose way with the goodwill of the manufacturers. We do not wish to tie the Colonies too closely to any priority allocation scheme because we think it would only create a vast governmental machine with a horde of civil servants. As we on this side of the House are always anxious that everyone should be as free as possible, and are anxious to cut down expenditure, we think it desirable to do what is needed by goodwill rather than by a tight system which would not give any freedom of choice. The Economic Department of the Colonial Office has been almost entirely overhauled and reorganised, and is now working very smoothly. We have four economic liaison officers, one for each quarter of the globe as it were, that is, one for each quarter of the Colonial Empire. Their duty is to keep the territories constantly in touch with what we are thinking and to bring back to us the views and opinions of the Colonial territories, and, where need be, seek out manufactured goods in short supply which the Colonies need. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Crawley) asked about hookworm and the desirability of people wearing shoes. We agree that it is urgently desirable that people should wear shoes. We are doing a great deal of propaganda work on the matter, but one has very often to deal with the customs and traditions of the people. It is a fact that in some places the punishment for the police, for instance, is that they have to wear boots, and as hon. Members know, one frequently sees policemen walking along the road with their boots slung round their necks. It is not easy to break down old habits and customs, but by propaganda and education we are trying to do that. I was also asked by the hon. Member for Buckingham about swollen shoot in the Gold Coast. This is a very serious problem, and I am happy to say that applications from farmers who wish their trees to be cut out are now greater than the available resources of the Government to cut them out, so that it is now a question of recruiting people to do this work. It is going on as quickly as possible in existing circumstances and we are in constant communication with the Gold Coast Government on this point. The hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks asked a number of questions about grants in various places for water supplies and the like. As he is not present, I will let him have full details of the various allocations for water supplies, irrigation, soil conservation and so on, in a letter. He will see that we have done extremely well in regard to the various important matters which he mentioned. The hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) was alarmed at the difficulties arising from shortages of capital goods and suggested that there was no need to hold up schemes when labour and materials are available in the Colonies. That is perfectly true and we do not hold up schemes for that reason. The hold-up is because of labour and materials and technicians not being available in the Colonies. The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) asked a question about West Indies sugar. As he knows perfectly well, we are going carefully into the question of the prices, how long ahead they can be fixed and the like. It is a very big question, and the industry is being consulted so as to obtain its views on the whole matter. I was also asked by the hon. Member for Banbury about the interchange of information. Professor Debenham has recently been out to Central and East Africa for us and has made a most interesting report—which is available to Members—dealing with the whole question of water supplies in Africa. He is soon going out again to lead a team in further research. The whole matter of soil conservation and the proper use of land will be discussed at the Jos Conference in Nigeria when the Governments of all British Dependencies in Africa will be represented and observers will be present from other countries. My right hon. Friend and I feel it is most important that this conference should take place. With the new methods available for the conquest of the tsetse fly, it may be that new areas will be opened up, and we must know how we are to use them. We are discussing with the American officials concerned various matters arising under President Truman's fourth point and we have in Washington a Colonial attaché who is constantly in touch with American progress. There are not many questions which I need to answer, except perhaps by way of correspondence, but I wish to say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey. What he said in the latter part of his speech was commonsense, but some of what he said in the former part was obviously taken from the "Daily Express," and I need not deal with that. In the latter part of his speech, the hon. Gentleman talked about broadcasting. We quite agree with him, and we are in fact spending at least £1 million, and probably more, on broadcasting in the Colonies. Furthermore, the Governor of Nigeria has, for the first time in history, recently broadcast to the whole of Nigeria. I do not know how he did it, because when I was there a few months ago it was quite impossible, but he has done it, and it is a very favourable augury for the future. We have some samples of village listening sets which I shall be pleased to show to the hon. Member, who can see the various types, one of which has been particularly successful. It is made out of saucepans which were available in large quantities and were of a type which did not go down very well with the British housewife, and which have now been turned into radio sets for the African villager. I shall also be pleased to show the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, our films which have been prepared by the Colonial Film Unit, both in colour and in black and white. In this matter, I know the hon. Member for Hornsey is an expert, because he once took a film in which I was somewhat of a star, and he is the only person who has ever made me look a bit photogenic. I know he is an expert on photography, and I shall therefore be very glad to have his advice and also his comments on the films. Most people think they are good for their particular purpose. Lastly, the hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington) asked me about mapping, I quite agree that this is urgently desirable, but we have already in a period of two years mapped an area four times the size of the United Kingdom; at least, we have photographed it and are reducing it to mapping. It is necessary to do this because we have found grave faults in the maps already available. I am told, for instance, that Bathurst is some miles out of the position shown on the maps, and that for many years past the line followed by the various ships going to Bathurst was so drawn that, according to the new map, the ships must have been sailing up the main street. All these matters are being carefully dealt with, and I think we shall be able to show in the Debate which will soon take place, when our Annual Report is discussed, that we have a very good story to tell. I therefore ask the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time. Committed to a Committee of the whole House for Monday next.—[ Mr. George Wallace.]
Colonial Development And Welfare 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 increase the amounts payable in any financial year out of moneys provided by Parliament for the purposes of schemes under section one of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, 1940, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys so provided of any increase attributable to the said Act of the present Session in the amounts so payable."—[Mr. Creech Jones.]
Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.
Merchant Shipping (Safety Convention) Bill
As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."In moving the Third Reading of this Bill, I think the first obligation that rests upon me is to express my appreciation of the support that I have received from all quarters of the House which has enabled this Bill to pass so rapidly through all its stages. Our time is limited and I am confident that if other hon. Members wish to make any final comments on the Bill, I can count on their co-operation to conclude our proceedings before the vital hour of 4 o'clock. During the Committee stage I undertook to reconsider an Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) to Clause 24. When this matter was under discussion in the Committee, some anxiety was expressed with regard to the protection that it would afford to an owner who had taken all the necessary and reasonable precautions in the loading of his ship. I stated that it was not introducing any innovation, and, on examination, I am quite satisfied that although there was a provision along these lines in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, there is no reason to assume that a court would not in fact afford to an owner the protection which the Amendments moved in Committee sought to give. Therefore, I did not consider it necessary to promote an Amendment on the Report stage of the Bill. I think that the hon. and gallant Member can rest content with that explanation. When the present Bill becomes law, the Minister of Transport will have powers to implement the provisions of the Safety at Sea Convention, 1948, and, in certain respects, to go beyond those provisions. I gave an assurance on Second Reading that before attempting to apply to British shipping any rules or regulations which in their scope or extent went beyond the provisions of the 1948 Convention, I would have the fullest consultation with all sections of the shipping industry—owners, officers and men. I now wish to supplement that assurance by another. The question has been raised, particularly in regard to the construction of passenger ships: what will be the position of foreign ships coming to this country; will they be subject to the same rules and regulations as apply to British shipping? The answer to this question is that ships to which the Convention applies, belonging to countries which have accepted the Convention, will be entitled when in our ports to all the privileges of the Convention's ships, provided, of course, that they produce satisfactory evidence that they comply with the provisions of the Convention. Under the Convention, we are bound to give clearance to foreign Convention ships producing adequate evidence of compliance with the Convention. We cannot require or expect such ships to comply with any higher standards which may be in force for British ships. So far as other foreign ships are concerned, the Bill, read in conjunction with the Merchant Shipping Acts, gives me wide powers for securing their compliance with all reasonable and practical safety standards within our ports, and I certainly intend to avail myself of those powers. As I said on Second Reading, the Bill can be interpreted as showing a desire on the part of His Majesty's Government to take the lead—as I think all maritime nations expect this country to take the lead—in maintaining and improving the standard of safety rules and regulations applied to the sea. At the same time, I think it pays the debt which the nation owes to our Merchant Fleet for the work they did during the war and for the efforts they are making today in our economic recovery. It is in that spirit that I feel that I should thank hon. Members in all quarters of the House for their co-operation. In fact, I must include the owners, officers and men as well, because in view of the complexities of this problem, and the size, dimension and far-reaching purposes of this Act, it would have been impossible for me to have got it drafted and submitted to this House in a watertight way so that we should get through the Committee stage with such expedition, unless it had represented the maximum amount of co-operation. In asking the House to give this Bill a Third Reading, I am confident that before long it will be on the Statute Book, and I shall then have the powers to embody the provisions of the Convention in the necessary rules and regulations.
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, this Bill is a shining example of the rapidity with which the House of Commons can function when we have a common objective. I would particularly endorse what he has just said about the manner in which all concerned have been able to co-operate and agree on the wording. It was no small achievement that a Measure of this importance, containing as it does 37 Clauses, was disposed of in a little more than an hour in the Standing Committee upstairs. If I may say so, the conciliatory attitude of the right hon. Gentleman had a good deal to do with that.As the only disputation which occurred in Committee came from an attempt which I made to insert a new subsection into Clause 24, perhaps I might just say a word about the situation which has developed since then. What I endeavoured to do was to insert in Clause 24, which deals with the carriage of grain, a provision similar to that already contained in Section 452 (2) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, to which the Minister referred a few minutes ago. This would have the effect of affording the owner of a grain ship protection against offences committed in loading where it could be shown that he was in no way privy to the offence and had taken all reasonable precautions. What I had in mind then, as had my hon. Friends, were circumstances where a ship can be loaded thousands of miles away on the opposite side of the globe, whereas the owner in London or Liverpool would have no knowledge of those circumstances. However, the subsequent discussion revealed some anxiety among hon. Members, Government supporters as well as my hon. Friends, lest this Amendment would have had the effect of relieving the shipowner of his responsibility. It was also suggested that if it were desirable to afford protection of that kind, the present right of the owner of the grain ship contained in that Statute of 1894 to be absolved from blame should similarly operate in the case of the master and the agent. It was upon those considerations that I withdrew the Amendment, and the right hon. Gentleman gave an undertaking that he would consult the various interests affected and give the matter consideration before the Bill came to the Floor of the House. We understand now from the right hon. Gentleman that those consultations have taken place, with the result that the Amendment is regarded as unnecessary, and if we leave Clause 24 in its original form, the object which I and my hon. Friends had in mind will in fact be met. That, I think, is a very satisfactory way in which to leave the matter. May I say in conclusion that I think this is a remarkable Bill, being as it is an instrument of ratification of an international convention on which 30 nations, I think, sat for seven weeks and achieved agreement. In the year 1949, that is something.
To have a Bill before us in the year 1949 representing agreement about anything between 30 nations is something, and I think it is an event at least worthy of comment.I very much hope that when the Bill is on the Statute Book no difficulties will arise here and there in its operation. It depends on the good will of very large numbers of people. The fact that the various shipping interests in this country are united upon it is a good omen, I think, because as the right hon. Gentleman rightly said, people ail over the world look to this country and to our conduct of our mercantile marine for a lead. I am indeed glad that this Bill goes forward as an agreed Measure. I think it counts for something that there was no Division called at all during the whole of its passage, and that it is a House of Commons Measure in every sense of the word. With the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that it will reach the Statute Book without delay. I think we can be proud on all sides of the House that we have been able to participate in this important Measure on improving the arrangements for safety at sea.
I join with the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut. - Commander Braithwaite) in congratulating the Minister not only on the excellence of this Bill but also upon the rapidity with which it has passed through this House. It was printed on 12th May and within about a fortnight we find ourselves at the Third Reading stage. That is as it should be, because this Bill is part of the struggle which will never end between the hazards of the sea, on the one hand, and the work of science on the other hand, in its efforts to give to seamen some of the securities which have been long enjoyed by workers ashore. Seamen can never wholly have that security by the very nature of things, because the sea is unpredictable; her moods are ever changing and her dangers are unconquerable.Great men and great organisations have contributed to diminishing those dangers, and I think this is an occasion when we should remember those who have taken their part in diminishing the dangers of the sea. Notably, there is the National Union of Seamen, but there is also the Merchant Officers' Federation and the Navigator and Engineer Officers' Union. They played their part and they have produced great and steadfast public servants, notably the late Mr. Charles Jarman, who took a prominent part in the conference from which this Convention resulted, and his successor today, Mr. Tom Yates, the Secretary of the National Union of Seamen, who is continuing the good work. I think it is appropriate that their names should be remembered today, because, although this Bill may not be the end, it is perhaps the terminal point for the moment of a series of Bills which have been designed to improve the conditions of seamen. Although a small Bill, it is a most useful Bill. It is sad to reflect that the progress of the merchant seamen has been so slow, but it is not surprising because they are scattered and they do not combine easily. Here again, the National Union of Seamen played its part in acting for them ashore while they were scattered abroad on the seven seas of the world. A period of 100 years has seen a series of statutes which are but stepping stones in the progress of these men, and the large number of these statutes shows how small were the stepping stones and how great was the struggle to bring to these men some of the amenities of life which workers ashore have enjoyed. This Bill is the latest but I hope not the last, because science will keep marching ahead. Science will continue to offer new benefits and amenities to the men afloat, and science, as it marches forward, will make Bills of this kind continue to be necessary. This is a most beneficent Bill, and while I welcome it, with its rules for life-saving appliances and radio, and rules for direction finders, and so on, I hope this country will continue, not only to lead in science of this kind but in legislation of this kind, which will make the conditions afloat even better than they were in preceding years. I welcome this Bill.
I do not wish to detain the House long at this stage, but I should like to join in the general welcome given to this Bill from all sides of the House. I was not, unfortunately, able to take part in the Debate on Second Reading as I returned only that very morning from a rather long journey with my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), I was, however, a Member of the Committee which considered this Bill, and, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite) has just said, it was very good to see the general agreement there was on the points that were considered, and, the way the Minister received all suggestions with the assurance that all points would be gone into most fully. We are all very glad to see the long list of important matters that are brought into this Bill. For example, certain life-saving appliances and fire appliances are made compulsory, and there are rules with regard to equipment—radio telegraphy and radio telephony, and direction finding, and other navigational aids.However, I think for one moment we should look at the other side of the picture and remember that a great deal does depend on two things. First there is the material. We make it compulsory for this equipment to be fitted, and, therefore, a great deal does depend on the equipment that is fitted, and on its use and maintenance. The second is the men who are to use that equipment. They have to be highly skilled in its use and maintenance, otherwise there is not really very much good in insisting that this equipment should be carried. I should like to quote a short extract from a poem by Admiral Hopwood, whose works are probably well known to hon. Members of this House. It runs:
"In this age of swift invention it is frequently believed,
That the pressing of a button is as good as work achieved,
But the optimistic inventor should remember, if he can,
Of course, as he says in the last line, we all hope that what he called the instruments will be perfect, but let us remember that if anything should go wrong with the instruments, the older methods of doing things have to be relied upon. Let us not forget that the elements and the dangers of the sea have not changed at all, even it some of the ways of dealing with them have. I think we have had a rather notable example of that recently. I am sure we are all very glad that this Bill makes things easier and safer not only for those who work at sea but for those who travel by sea, and I am glad to wish this Bill good luck on its voyage.Though the instrument be perfect there are limits to the man."
I wish to add my welcome to this Bill, which has had unanimous support from both sides of the House, and I am glad that additional power is given to the Minister in respect of safety in ships at sea. This legislation will reduce the number of coffin ships that go to sea and never return. The Bill deals not only with the safety of ships but the safety of crews and passengers. What is all-important is, that it also includes for the first time ships between 1,600 tons and 5,000 tons, which hitherto have not come within this legislation.Opposition speakers on Second Reading argued that we should not go too far ahead too fast because the increased expense would reduce shipowners' profits, and so prevent them from competing in the world markets. On the other hand, they argued the contrary, that in these matters British ships are ahead of foreign ships. I do not deny that that is so with certain ships; but, as they all know, it is not so in other cases. Where our ships are ahead there will be no question of large increases in expenditure, so the Opposition cannot have the argument both ways in the case of those ships. Where our ships do not come up to the standard of the higher standard ships steps should be taken to bring them, as far as possible, up to that high standard. Profits should not be made at the expense of human lives. We look forward in due course to a new Merchant Shipping Act, to which this Bill is but another step. I conclude by saying that I hope the Minister will make full use of his powers to ensure that every possible precaution is taken, not only for the safety of the ships but also for the safety of the gallant officers and men, to whom tribute has been paid on both sides of the House, who are second to none in the world, by whatever standard they may be judged
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull——
I shall withdraw that part of my remarks, but I shall not withdraw what I shall say next. The hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) has succeeded, even on this Bill, in importing a slightly unpleasant element into the discussion. I shall not put it stronger than that. If he will look at the Second Reading Debate he will see that hon. Members on this side of the House made out no such case as he has attempted to impute to them, about profits being the determining motive. It may have been pointed out that there were dangers to the British merchant marine as a whole, and to the men who work in and for the British merchant marine, if we try to push ahead our standard of practice so far in advance of other nations that we put ourselves clean out of the market by doing so. But that is a very different thing from talking about profits in relation to safety.Of course safety is the only thing that matters in relation to ships going to sea, and that has always been the proud tradition of British shipowners and British shipping throughout the centuries. I was sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman introduced that element, because I do not think it was necessary; nor do I think that he will find a word in the Second Reading Debate to justify what he has just said.
I am content to leave it to HANSARD.
We will sit down together with a copy of HANSARD and go through it. Perhaps then, if he finds he is quite wrong, he will take some means of withdrawing his remarks.
Well, I hope he will at any rate follow me in that; he must surely at least agree to do that. I do not think we ought to continue further on this note on a Bill throughout the proceedings on which we have had another of those surprising demonstrations of harmony which, as my hon. and gallant Friend has said, do not come too often in these days.The hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) quite rightly referred to certain names which should be remembered on an occasion such as this—the great leaders of the seamen's unions, who have worked throughout in the closest co-operation with the British owners, during latter years chiefly through the aegis of the National Maritime Board. I think it was right that their names should have been mentioned. It has been one of the great things about British shipping that for a great many years, there has always been close co-operation between all sides of the industry to try to achieve the best results for the British merchant marine and to put it in the forefront of maritime practice throughout the world. I hope that the example in this House of Commons of the rapid passage of this Bill, will be reflected in equally rapid action in the legislatures of various other nations who are signatories to the Convention, because if they will only follow our example, it will be to the benefit of everybody concerned. I welcome particularly the declaration of the Minister on non-Convention passenger ships. I am certain that declaration will be appreciated by all those concerned in British shipping. When we have a very wide Convention such as this, with 30 nations in it, it is obviously extremely important that there should not be one or two nations running quite contrary to the general standards of safety set up by this very wide Convention, and we welcome what the Minister said in that respect. I have only one other point to mention. During the Committee stage, one or two minor alterations were made in the Bill to avoid any risk of setting up a monopoly in improvements such as radio stations and direction finders. Those alterations made it clear that no special type of equipment should be specified which would set up a monopoly. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give an assurance that when it comes to making orders under the Bill which might possibly produce a similar danger of setting up a monoply in one particular type of appliance, in lifeboats or whatever it might be, great care will be taken in the drafting of those orders to see that that danger is avoided. I am sure that it is the intention of the Minister to make certain when any order is made that it is carefully checked in case the wording is such that it produces a monopoly which would not be in the interests of the service. I would finish by observing that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness (Lieut. - Commander Braithwaite) put our position very clearly and well and that I join with him in welcoming the Bill.
As I have followed the Bill from its beginning, I should like to say a word of appreciation and approval. I thought that the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) was a little bit off the proper track in his remarks about it, much as I admired and agreed with them. This is not a Bill for the amenities of the merchant shipping service or for better conditions in merchant ships, but for the safety of life. That may be a very nice amenity indeed but it is not an amenity that concerns life on board a ship. The Bill concerns regulations internationally agreed upon for safety of life.It is interesting to note that in practically every case the shipowners of this country are far ahead of all the conventions laid down and agreed upon. It is one of the advantages of private enterprise that owners can go ahead without any legal restrictions, while there is a legal minimum below which they cannot go. Indeed, the whole arrangement at present illustrates the right attitude that the Government should take towards any enterprise undertaken by individuals. I shall not go into the details of the Bill. I am glad that the Minister has great power to give orders for equipment and for arrangements in a ship, especially as regards boats. I would draw his attention to one point. I should like him to try to develop some form of apparatus for condensing sea water into fresh water. When crews are turned away from a sinking ship and have to exist in boats, water is the most important thing for them. We can live on water for a long while and food does not matter quite so much. If there is any invention which is absolutely up to date and foolproof, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will concentrate upon encouraging it and improving it in order to save the lives of those who are cast adrift in boats. We have had an interesting Debate, mostly from the accustomed quarters. We are agreed upon a common object. In international affairs we shall find that seamen of all countries agree among themselves. It is not surprising that in a seafaring nation matters of this sort should be agreed upon by all sides. I hope that the Bill be soon be law for the benefit of the seafaring community.
This is becoming like the last night of a very successful play. The Minister of Transport has taken many curtain calls and is weighed down by bouquets. I hope that a final one from me will not obliterate him. As I was unable to take part in the Committee stage—I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) for taking my place—I should like to seize this opportunity of giving a final blessing from these benches to this very useful and very necessary Bill. I read the Committee stage proceedings with great interest, and, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite), I accept the Minister's assurances and I echo the tributes he paid for the help given to him and the co-operation he received from the very many interests concerned. As the Parliamentary Secretary will want to wind up now, I can do no more than wish the Bill good luck. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Holderness said, it is a remarkable example of international agreement in this year of grace, and we send the Bill forth to become an Act in the full assurance that it will be of the greatest benefit to this most gallant service.
I assure the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) that we missed him on the Committee stage, but his deputies, the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness (Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite), served in very good stead. We agree with what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Holderness about the carriage of grain. I believe that owners are adequately covered by the provisions of the Bill and it was probably right not to press for the inclusion of the Amendment any further than was done. It was a good idea to have it discussed in Committee.The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Commander Noble) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) both referred to the need for the quality of the men to be high. I have had the opportunity recently of inspecting some of the training schools of the Shipping Federation and also other training facilities which exist. I want to express my personal view, for what it is worth, that the quality of the men now entering the Merchant Navy is as high as, if not higher than, it has ever been. It is a splendid sign of the health of the Merchant Navy that there is such keen competition for entry. Anyone who knows how difficult it is to get a boy into one of the training schools will realise that competition of that sort means that our Merchant Navy still has a good name. We all desire to see that.
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he did not think that I suggested in any way that the entry was not as it had been in the past. I was only emphasising the point that one must not put too much trust always in machines.
I know the hon. and gallant Gentleman's background. He was an executive officer in the Royal Navy, and executive officers in the Royal Navy always have something to say about the specialist. I agree entirely with what he says about the need for having the highest quality of personnel and I know he intended it in that way. The specialists in the Royal Navy who were formerly his colleagues may have some marginal comments on what he had to say, but I will not give them at this stage.The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) referred to the necessity for early acceptance by other countries. We certainly hope that that will be the case. We have given the lead to other nations by passing this legislation at this early stage. It can come into force on 1st January, 1951, if we get sufficient acceptances by the other nations who have merchant fleets, provided that we get 15, including seven of the countries which have at least one million tons gross of shipping. I can reassure the hon. Gentle man that it would not be the intention of the Minister in relation to orders made about the manufacture of life-saving appliances in any way to seem to favour one firm or plant. The only purpose we seek to serve is to get the best type of appliance for the use for which it is needed. I want to express my right hon. Friend's appreciation of the services which have been rendered to this cause by both sides of the industry, by the owners on the one side and the unions on the other, the National Union of Seamen and the Merchant Navy Officers' Federation. Clause 2 (1, p), which deals with rope ladders, can almost be described as the Coombs' Clause. Captain Coombs did a good deal of work in connection with that. Other sections of the Bill owe their origin to the interest of certain people on both sides of the industry. It has been an agreed Measure and now the voyage has come to an end. My right hon. Friend on the bridge has lifted the flag on the fo'c'sle. It remains only for me to let go the anchor. It has been such a calm voyage, and we have come up to our moorings so well, that we have not even to send a man overboard on the buoy. In the result I think we can congratulate ourselves on having taken another step forward which will add to the good name of our Merchant Navy, and will provide for the greater safety of our ships and of those who sail them.
Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read the Third time, and passed.
Village Post Offices
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. Snow.]
After the wide range of subject matter of the two discussions we have had today, the topic I am raising, which is that of village post offices, seems rather modest. However, I hope the House will not feel that I am taking up time unduly because there are points to which attention ought to be drawn in relation to this subject.In the recent local government elections a constituent of mine in Norfolk regained his seat on the county council. On the following morning he received this letter from one of his supporters:
I received at almost the same time a letter from an old age pensioner in the village of Swannington. She said:"Congratulations. Now we expect a post office in the village. Otherwise, out you go again."
That is another example of what is possibly happening on an increasing scale. I am anxious not to exaggerate the extent of this problem. I am not suggesting that sub-post offices are closing down all over the country, but a certain number have been closed down in recent years and it may be that this is a symptom of some trouble which may grow unless it is tackled at an early stage. At this point I would say that as soon as the case of Swannington was brought to the notice of the Post Office, the Postmaster-General acted with great promptitude and made arrangements under which a clerk attends from Norwich on one day a week to transact the more urgent business, such as the payment of pensions and allowances, but that can be little more than a palliative, and it does not make up for the loss of the village post office. Following upon the intimation of those cases, I made other inquiries and the Postmaster-General told me, in reply to a Question, that in the County of Norfolk there are 19 villages where sub-post offices have been closed down in recent years and not re-opened. They include Burlingham, Great Fransham, Weston, Upper Sheringham, White Horse Common and Old Walsingham. The names of those villages alone are such that they deserve more attention than they are now getting. I believe Norfolk is not exceptional in this matter. I understand that three sub-post offices were closed in the County of Dorset last year."The village post office is being given up. There are more than 30 old age pensioners, some of them more than 80 years, and we have now had the order to go to Attlebridge. The vacancy was offered to a resident but, as he is a disabled ex-Serviceman, he would have had to employ someone to deliver the telegrams, but the General Post Office will not pay sufficient money."
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.]
The post office at Rainton, near Thirsk, in Scotland, is being closed, I understand that, nearer London, there has not been a post office at Fortis Green in North London since the old one was bombed during the war and that an important sub-postoffice in the district of Hendon may also close at the end of this year. I give these instances as illustrations that there is a problem which ought to be looked into.I think the time is ripe for a little fresh thinking as to the true basis on which sub-post offices should operate. When they first came into being, their duties were limited to the receipt and despatch of letters and the sale of postage stamps. It was quite proper and a very commonsense, homely, arrangement that the post office should be run as an adjunct to the village grocery shop, or newsagent's store. But the situation has vastly changed over the last half century and the village post office, as is the case with all kinds of post offices, has become a very important place in the life of the community. The wide range of pensions and allowances that now pass through post offices speaks for itself. There is the Savings Bank work, the despatch and collection of telegrams, the issue of dog licences, driving licences and tobacco tokens, the great volume of registered letters and parcels and the issue of postal orders, even though many of these are associated with football pool interests. Last, but by no means least, the post office has become a very important centre of information. A vast amount of knowledge has to be communicated to the members of the public these days and the post office is a most valuable place for that. It is a great deprivation in remote villages if that centre of information is closed to them. In the cases which have been brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General, he has done his best to meet the difficulty, but in some cases he has only been able to do so by referring villagers to facilities available in the next village. I cannot too strongly emphasise that in the country, apart from all questions of mileage, the next village is always a long way off. There is a great deal of what I might call civic pride or affection for the village in which one lives, and it is not good enough to suggest that important facilities can be obtained from a village several miles, or even a mile or two, away. The village has its own church, its own cricket team and its own facilities of one kind and another and villagers like to have their own post office. In some of the cases brought to my notice I understand that the difficulty with which the Post Office are faced is that of finding what they call suitable candidates for the work of carrying on the sub-post office. Perhaps "suitable" is not the right word; the difficulty is to find willing candidates. I believe that there are numbers of people available, but they are not always willing to work under existing conditions. One is entitled to ask whether the remuneration now payable to sub-postmasters—and sub-postmistresses, who are included in this matter in a very special way—is sufficient, and whether the general conditions under which our sub-post offices operate are such as to attract people to operate them. I believe I am right in saying that in the rural areas the vast majority of post offices are what are known as scale payment offices, that is the sub-postmaster or sub-postmistress depends entirely on the turnover for his or her remuneration. We should not dream of paying a policeman by the number of arrests he makes, or a stationmaster in accordance with the number of passengers who pass through his station. Although, as I said just now, these arrangements may have been all right in the early stages, I venture to suggest that the sub-postmaster, because of the extra burdens and responsibilities which we have put upon him, has now become an official of some importance, and that the time has arrived when we ought to give consideration to remunerating him by a fixed salary plus some increment dependent upon his turnover. I agree that this is not an easy matter with which to deal. There are some 23,000 sub-post offices in the country, and the moment one is dealing with a figure like that, the expense becomes considerable. Even if we were only to suggest increasing the remuneration of each sub-postmaster by £1 a week—I give that figure merely as an illustration—it would cost over £1 million a year, and our habit of thinking in terms of millions is one which may lead us into difficulties if we do not hold it in check. I wish at this stage to give an illustration which I think has been widely read, which it is not unfair to mention on this subject. I refer to a letter which appeared in the "Western Mail" on 12th February in relation to a sub-post office in Pembrokeshire where this trouble has arisen of a closing down and an inability to find some one to take the place of the retiring officer. There, the remuneration works out at £159 per annum, and for this, the letter goes on to say:
The last is an advantage of doubtful value. I realise that this is not a good moment to advocate anything substantial in the way of increased remuneration. We are all conscious of the importance of trying to stabilise wages, but we are here dealing with an important public service, and if it is the case that these signs show that there is likely to be a further falling away in the number of village post offices, some increased remuneration is justified in order to maintain a flow of people willing to maintain this service. I understand that there are others who may wish to say a word on this matter and therefore I shall summarise the remainder of my remarks. I wish to quote what was said by one trader in the Hendon district who was approached with a view to his operating a local sub-post office. He said:"the sub-postmaster must provide suitable premises and pay full rent and rates for same. He must provide heating, lighting and cleaning and in addition, ink, pens and blotting paper for the use of the public … He must make good all counter losses. His hours of duty are: weekdays, 9 am. to 7 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 10.30 a.m.; Bank Holidays 8.45 a.m. to 10.45 a.m. He can close his private business whenever he likes but the post office must go on during the hours laid down. There is perhaps one good point. He keeps what is left of his pay because he is so tied up that he is unable to get out to spend it."
I would suggest that the Post Office should consider, not necessarily for immediate action—because one appreciates it cannot possibly come about overnight—but in due course the possibility of providing the accommodation needed for these sub-post offices, together with the cost of heating and lighting. There should be a minimum salary, together with additional amounts based on unit turnover. I would suggest also that every sub-post office should be provided with a telephone. I understand that if there is a telephone installed at present, the Postmaster-General pays a quarter of the cost of the rent. It would be a great advantage if in due time every sub-post office could be put on the telephone. I do not think it is always realised how cut off are many country villages. There is often no police station available, and many times it would be a great help to people, on occasions of illness or bereavement, to be able to have that extra contact with the friendly voice in the post office. I also hope the time will soon come when every village post office will have an automatic stamp machine, and above all a stamp machine that will always have stamps in it. I do not think this is a matter about which there is any serious controversy. I would pay a tribute to the work done by the sub-postmasters and postmistresses throughout the country. They do a great deal outside the ordinary duties of their office. They are the source not only of information, but very often of guidance and counsel to the people of the village. They help to provide, with the backing of the Postmaster-General, a service of which we can well be proud. But there are gaps, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will be able to fill those gaps in the not too distant future."The remuneration hardly makes it worth while to do such work. The responsibility and the huge amount of form filling done in post offices these days would give any ordinary shopkeeper a perpetual headache. As it is, after closing time we have enough forms of our own to deal with."
The House will agree that the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk (Brigadier Medlicott) has made a number of very valuable suggestions with regard to rural sub-post offices. They have become a national institution and have served the country very well. But this subject is one which is of concern not merely to those who represent rural areas, but also to those who, like myself, represent urban areas.I have had a substantial amount of correspondence with regard to post office facilities in Islington and I wish to take this opportunity of asking the Postmaster-General what is his policy with regard to the substitution of Crown post offices for sub-post offices in London. Whether it is right or wrong I am not disputing at the moment, but a fear exists that it is the policy of the Postmaster-General to substitute Crown post offices for all the existing sub-post offices in the London area over the course of time. Will he please tell the House whether that is so? The House may not realise that even in a congested area like London there are far more sub-post offices than Crown post offices. For example, in Islington, we have 45 sub-post offices, but only five or six Crown post offices. I think we want more Crown post offices in London, but I am also concerned to know how that will effect people who use the facilities at the existing sub-post offices. I hope the Postmaster-General will agree that the overriding consideration must be the convenience of the public, and that, in an area like London, it is necessary, as it is in the rural areas, that there should be a post office, if not literally round the corner, at any rate within very easy access, because of the frequency with which old people and disabled people have to visit them. In present circumstances, with a large number of sub-post offices, it is only here and there that complaints arise, but I hope the Minister will be able to tell us that, if it is his policy to eliminate a number of sub-post offices and substitute a fewer number of Crown post offices, they will still be placed in such a way that all members of the community are within a radius of a quarter of a mile, or whatever it may be, of the nearest post office.
I am sure the House is grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk Brigadier Medlicott) for raising this important subject, which concerns not only those hon. Members who sit for wholly or partially rural areas, but those who sit for other areas as well. I sent the Postmaster-General not long ago a letter I had received from the Berkshire branch of the Rural District Councils' Association dealing with substantially the same points as those raised by the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk, and I do not need to repeat the arguments which he has used.The Assistant Postmaster-General will be aware that today the post office plays an increasingly important part in the life of any rural community, and where the nearest post office is a matter of four or five miles away, which might entail a round journey of 10 miles for an old age pensioner or crippled individual, real hardship is caused to those people. Where those who are more able-bodied are concerned, it is not so much a question of hardship as of substantial inconvenience, if much time is to be wasted and long journeys undertaken before some quite simple but none the less necessary operation, such as the cashing of a postal order, dealing with a pension book or buying stamps, can be conducted. I hope the hon. Gentleman who is to reply will be frank with the House and will tell us exactly what the difficulties are, and why it is impossible to re-open those sub-post offices which have recently been closed, and why in some areas, where the need is very urgent, it has not yet been found possible to open new sub-post offices. Is it a difficulty of manpower, of accommodation, of materials, or what? We all sympathise with the Minister in his task, but if he can address himself to these problems which are of some urgency and can use some ingenuity towards their solution, he will earn the gratitude of hon. Members on all sides in dealing with the problem which is a genuinely urgent one.
I welcome this opportunity of dealing with this problem—the problem of the sub-post offices. I want to thank the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk (Brigadier Medlicott) for his letter, in which he stated very precisely the points which he intended to raise in the discussion. I hope I am in a position to answer them, and, if I cannot, it means that I have not been attending to my duties in the manner which is expected of me. I notice that the hon. and gallant Gentleman said that there had been an election fought on the question of the opening of a sub-post office. I do not know whether to congratulate the successful candidate or not, because the hon. and gallant Member was very careful not to say to which party he belonged. It is all very well to fight an election on the opening or closing of a sub-post office, but our difficulty is that of getting a sub-postmaster, and that brings me to the first point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.As far as Swannington is concerned, that sub-post office closed because the sub-postmaster resigned. We made every endeavour to get another person to take the position, and I am very happy to say we have at last succeeded. But during the period that office has been closed, there has been no question of the Post Office just allowing the position to rest. We sent down a clerk on Fridays, from 9.30 to 11 a.m., to deal with old age pensioners. I think that shows that the regional officers, the people dealing with the matter on the spot, are aware of the problems arising, and have no desire to cause people any inconvenience whatever. In the case of Earsham, that sub-post office has been closed since 1944, and we are endeavouring to get an applicant for the position of sub-postmaster. It is true that 19 sub-post offices have been closed in Norfolk. There have been 4 per cent. more closures in Norfolk than in any other part of the country, and I think that is a reflection of Norfolk's prosperity. It is not so easy to get people for these jobs these days for reasons with which I will deal. Out of the 19 sub-post offices that have been closed in the county, there are five where a restricted service of two to three hours a week is maintained. I do not wish to enumerate them, but we are dealing with the problem. To come to the question of our difficulties, I think that, in the first place, it is the problem of the rural areas, and that the present position is a justification of the Government's policy with regard to agriculture. The fact is that there is full employment and that for the first time in history, the agricultural workers are today enjoying prosperity and higher wages. Before the war, the proposition of having a sub-post office was an attractive one. I do not think hours have much to do with it at all, because the hours for sub-post offices are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with one hour's break and one half day off a week. As to the case of the office quoted by the hon. and gallant Member, that would probably be one where telegraph work is done or where postal deliveries are actually sent out from the office. Of course, I need hardly add that in that case, more remuneration would be paid to the holder of the office of sub-postmaster. As regards the difficulty of getting acommodation, I agree that that difficulty exists, but it is not only a difficulty in the rural areas of Norfolk; it is common to the whole country, arising out of conditions which are not relevant to this discussion. The local and regional officials of the Post Office do everything they can to assist people who want to open a sub-post office to acquire the necessary accommodation and it is only fair to say that in some cases we have had the co-operation, which we welcome, of the various local authorities. Now I come to the vexed question of remuneration. This agency system of sub-post offices is no new thing; indeed, it has been in existence since the end of the 18th century. Certain recommendations of the Hobhouse Committee of 1908 were endorsed, and it was never intended that the agency of the sub-post office should be the sole means of livelihood for the person occupying the post of sub-postmaster. But, so far as the conditions of sub-postmasters are concerned, I want to say at once that they are very well looked after by the National Federation of Sub-postmasters, and that we are on very cordial terms with that organisation. I do not think it would be amiss if I said that there has been a complete overhaul of the pay of sub-postmasters since the war. Here I want to make it perfectly clear, so that there can be no doubt about it, that there is a minimum salary of £85 a year irrespective of the work that is done in the office, even in the case of a small sub-post office in a hamlet where the work may involve only a few shillings turnover a day. As to the total number of offices in the country, there are 6,000 where the salary is between £85 and £130 a year. There are, of course, large variations in the pay. At a sub-post office in London, particularly in a bombed area in the East End, where we have not yet been able to build a Crown post office, the salary might run to between £500 and £600. The increases in the last revision of payment to sub-postmasters cost the Post Office £1,100,000 a year and the annual remuneration of sub-postmasters at the present time is just over £8 million compared with £3 million in the years 1938 and 1939. I agree that much of the counter work at post offices—I think the figure of 40 per cent, was mentioned—is on behalf of various services for other Government Departments. It is certainly on behalf of organisations other than the Post Office. If we allow for increased work amounting to £1,800,000, the sum total of improvements in sub-postmasters' pay since 1938–39 amounts to £3,200,000, or an increase of 67 per cent., which, when compared with other industries, is very fair and reasonable and shows that we deal with those people who contract to do service with the Post Office with fairness and perhaps, on certain occasions, with generosity. A question was raised about Fortis Green. I know nothing of that, but if the hon. and gallant Member will send me details I will look into it. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) what was the policy of the Postmaster-General with regard to Crown offices. Let me give this categorical assurance. It is not the intention of my right hon. Friend to close down every sub-post office in the country and replace it by a Crown office. That would be totally impracticable. It would be costly and, in any case, there are not the capital investments or the raw materials available. Our general policy is precisely the same as has been carried out since before the war by previous Governments. It is, that when the annual turnover of an office reaches a certain figure, we say that there is a prima facie case for the establishment of a Crown office. Obviously, there are advantages to the public in having a Crown office as opposed to a sub-post office, but I should not like it to go forth—and I know that there seems to be a tendency in certain quarters to spread the canard—that it is the intention of my right hon. Friend to close down all sub-post offices. I take this opportunity of denying that suggestion categorically. The question of telephones was also raised. We endeavour to place kiosks outside post offices in the rural areas wherever possible. There again, the extent to which we can do so is limited by circumstances which are not within the control of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General. As to stamps and stamp machines, that is an old complaint which keeps coming up from time to time. But we are not quite as inefficient as all that. I know the machines do run out of stamps occasionally. Automatic machines other than those used by the Post Office are occasionally empty. I cannot accept these wild allegations of inefficiency in the Post Office. If there is a case where there has been some slight slackness in a particular area, let us have the details and we shall deal with it promptly, because it is the intention of my right hon. Friend, of the regional directors and the Director of Postal Services that we should be efficient, and we do not want any slackening. I have endeavoured in the few minutes that were at my disposal to answer the points that have been raised very fairly by the hon. and gallant Member for East Norfolk and the hon. Member for East Islington. As for the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe), I appreciate the difficulties, and I think he will agree that my remarks have been——
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,
Adjourned at Half-past Four o'Clock.