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African Colonies

Volume 467: debated on Wednesday 13 July 1949

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Special Language Schools

10 and 11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) in view of the undesirability of Kenya and Northern Rhodesia becoming Afrikaans-speaking colonies, whether he will discourage the official provision of special language schools for the children of South African settlers of Dutch descent;

(2) in how many cases special provision is being made from public funds for the maintenance of Afrikaans-language private schools in Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Tanganyika and Kenya.

Grants-in-aid are provided for one Afrikaans-language private school in Tanganyika and one in Nyasaland. The official provision of special language schools is where possible avoided and my right hon. Friend sees no necessity for the action suggested by my hon. Friend.

Will the Minister take active steps to discourage any departure from the position of English being the normal channel of language communication in British colonies?

I do not think that there is any need for discouragement. This is the accepted standard.

Gold Coast Disturbances (Inquiry)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the changes in the 1946 Constitution and the pattern of local government recommended by the Commission of Inquiry into the disturbances in the Gold Coast during February and March, 1948, have been implemented; and what is the present position.

No, Sir. The representative Committee of Africans, which was appointed by the Governor to examine the proposals made by the Commission of Inquiry, is still in session.

Can my hon. Friend say when he hopes to make a further report on the progress made?

I am told that the Commission is nearing the end of its inquiries. I could not give any specific date for the end of them.

Alake Of Abeokuta

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what decisions have been taken in regard to the future of the Alake of Abeokuta.

The Alake, who abdicated on 31st December, 1948, is now living as a private person in Oshogbo.

Can the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Alake will be allowed to spend his declining years in peace and free from molestation?

Apart from the problems which may be associated with the individual in this case, does my hon. Friend realise that there is a problem associated with the office itself? Will he tell us whether or not, instead of restoring the autocratic powers of the paramount chief, he will consider some form of democratic control?

The present position is that the Egba Central Government have been appointed as native authority in place of the Alake. How far it can be considered a fully democratic authority, I do not know, but there is a move in that direction.

Niger River Traffic

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if there are still outstanding orders for tugs, barges, etc., to operate on the Niger River and its tributaries; what steps have been taken to place orders in British shipyards; and whether he is satisfied that the vessels now employed are capable of handling the traffic now operating.

Ten quarter-wheelers, two tugs, 24 barges and 11 small boats are still on order. All these, with the exception of one small quarter-wheeler, two barges and the small boats are being constructed in the United Kingdom. The private companies who own and operate the river craft on the Niger River and its tributaries are satisfied that they are able to handle all available British traffic, but not all upward cargo on offer for French territories.

Groundnuts

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is, in West Africa, now the total tonnage of groundnuts that have been loaded for transport to the United Kingdom; what is the tonnage left in store; and how much of this has been destroyed or damaged by insect pests.

As the answer is long, and includes a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Has there been an increase or a decrease since the last figures were given?

I do not recall, off-hand, when the last figures were given. There has been a considerable increase in the tonnage moved in the last eight months compared with that moved in the same period last year. In the first eight months of the present season, 236,000 tons were moved from Kano and in a similar period last year 162,000 tons were moved. It will be seen that there is a big change.

As the hon. Gentleman has taken quite a long time in answering the supplementary—longer than he would have taken to give the main answer—would he not now read that answer?

Is it not a fact that 10,000 acres of sunflower seeds have been ploughed back into the land? Would the hon. Gentleman consider giving fuller information to the House at the earliest possible opportunity?

I have no knowledge of any sunflower seeds being ploughed back in Nigeria. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give me the information.

On a point of Order. The Under-Secretary asked leave to give these figures, and has not been refused leave. Ought he not, therefore, to give the figures?

Occasionally I am asked that an answer should be read after Questions; twice in the last week that has been done. As a matter of fact, I agree. I think it is a very good thing, when we have a long answer, to save it until after Questions, because it may give rise to a great many supplementaries. It would be rather unfair to those hon. Members who have Questions later in the list if a long answer is given, which might mean several minutes being taken away from them. I am rather between two stools. I do not propose to go back on it.

Has not great progress been made in moving the groundnuts from the Kano area, and is not the problem largely caused by a legacy of neglect of transport facilities in the past?

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and if it is the wish of the House, could the information be given at the end of Questions?

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present position in respect of groundnut production in Nigeria; how many tons are now stacked; what percentage of this is the present crop; and whether clearance has now been substantially accelerated.

As the answer includes a number of figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would not my hon. Friend give the answer later, as he has agreed to do on the previous Question. Would not my hon. Friend agree that the same concession which he has granted to the Opposition should be granted to his hon. Friends?

Later

I will now, with permission, give the answers to Questions Nos. 21 and 24. The 1948–49 groundnut crops in the Gambia and Sierra Leone amounting to 62,000 tons and 2,500 tons, respectively, have been shipped and there are no stocks remaining. Of the current crop in the Upper Benue region of Nigeria totalling 13,000 tons only 650 tons have been transported, but stocks consist entirely of the current crop, and will be moved when the Benue river is open for traffic in the autumn. In Northern Nigeria, 213,000 tons have been railed to the coast since the opening of the 1948–49 buying season on 1st November, 1948. This leaves total stocks at Kano on 2nd July, 1949, at 264,000 tons of which all but 7,000 tons were current crop.

Damage by insect pests is confined to Northern Nigeria. The position at Kano on 2nd July was as follows:

1947 to 1948 crop, total infested, 21,771 tons; total of infested stock railed, 21,083 tons; total destroyed, 264 tons; balance of infested stock, 424 tons.

The 1948 to 1949 crop, total infested, 63,369 tons; total of infested stock railed, 14,172 tons; total destroyed, 9 tons; balance of infested stock, 49,188 tons.

Purchase of the 1948 to 1949 groundnut crop for export is now complete and totals 315,000 tons in the northern Territory, and 13,000 tons in the Upper Benue. 257,000 tons were stacked at Kano on 30th June, and the bulk of the 13,000 tons Benue crop has not yet been moved. All but a very small quantity is the current crop. Clearance from Kano for the eight months from the beginning of the present season on 1st November totals 236,000 tons as compared with 162,000 tons in the same period last year.

In view of the fact that the shortage of railway transport has been under active consideration for some years, would the Under-Secretary consult with the Minister of Food to see that the railway transport that is used in East Africa is used where the nuts are waiting to be transported?

If the hon. Member had heard my reply he would have understood that the railways stocks position is in hand.

In view of the fact that there are only four months before the new buying season starts, and as I understand that 264,000 tons are lying at Kano, is it not a certainty that there will be a very big overlap, and that by November it will be impossible to move the new crop and the old crop at the same time?

That is normally so, but it is anticipated that by the end of March or April the whole of the old crop will have been moved. However, in these circumstances it is likely that the whole of the new stock will have been cleared by 1st November. There is always an overlap.

Can we take it, therefore, that there will be a considerable acceleration of clearance now, due to new locomotives or some such reason?

Yes. I gave the figures of a very great increase over those for the same period last year.

Is not infestation of 20 per cent. of the current crop a very high proportion? What steps are being taken to get it down?

That is infestation from all causes. It is higher than we should like, but we have taken very considerable measures to deal with the position and have flown out insecticides for that purpose.

Is it not a fact that on 30th April of 180 wagons promised for delivery, only 76 had been delivered, and that of those only 10 were fit for use? Is that not the real cause of the delay in moving stocks?

There was some difficulty over wagons, recently, but much of that difficulty has been overcome. It is one of the reasons for the delay, but by no means the only one.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept the statement and the figures of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. S. Lloyd)? If so, are they not rather serious?

I cannot accept those figures without looking into them, but a number of wagons which were railed were incomplete, and it caused some dislocation.

Nigerian Railway (Rolling Stock)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how far have the requirements of the Nigerian Railway been met for locomotives and rolling stock; and if the capacity of the system is now adequate to handle the traffic by the anticipated dates.

Sixty out of 96 main line locomotives ordered for the Nigerian Railway since the war have arrived in Nigeria; 432 wagons have also been delivered and the delivery of a further 637 wagons and wagon bodies is due to be made during the year. This large quantity of new equipment should enable the railways to meet their increasing commitments.

What is the source of most of the rolling stock which has been supplied? Has it come from this country?

Almost entirely from this country. There were a few engines from Canada, but it was mainly supplied from this country.

Cocoa Trees

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the cutting down of cocoa trees in West African colonies in order to deal effectively with disease is now proving more acceptable; approximately what proportion of the diseased or threatened trees have now been destroyed; and to what extent it is estimated the production of cocoa during the next 10 years will be affected.

Yes, Sir. Roughly six million and one million trees had been cut out in the Gold Coast and Nigeria respectively by the end of May. It is not yet possible either to determine accurately the total number of diseased trees or to forecast the effect of the disease on production over the next 10 years.

Can we take it that the resistance, which was possibly due to a misunderstanding, has now considerably declined, if not vanished?

As the progress of the disease is much more rapid than the progress of cutting out, has the question of reviving compulsory cutting out been considered?

The position now is that there are more applicants for cutting out than there is force available to do the cutting out.

Constitutional Proposals, Nigeria

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress is being made respecting discussions on new constitutional proposals for Nigeria and procedure in respect of these; how many representatives have resigned; and for what reasons.

Discussions at district level have been almost completed. The Lagos and colony conferences have ended, but their reports are still awaited. Provincial conferences are being or will shortly be held. The procedure being followed is that laid down in the report of the Nigerian Select Committee. The only withdrawals known to the Nigerian Government occurred in Lagos, where 11 representatives from a conference of 54 have withdrawn following a decision by the full conference that its decisions should be recorded by resolutions taken on a majority vote.

Do I understand that these persons have resigned in Lagos merely because the decision was made that majority decisions should operate in future? If so, has anything been done to acquaint those who have resigned with the serious significance of this?

The facts are as I have stated. I hope the people of Lagos will draw their own conclusions from them.