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Colonial Empire

Volume 521: debated on Wednesday 9 December 1953

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Blind Persons (Treatment)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of the increase in the number of blind persons in the Colonies and the fact that most of this blindness could have been prevented by early treatment, what action is to be taken to deal with this problem


I cannot agree that the incidence of blindness is increasing in Colonial Territories. As a result of the joint survey by the Colonial Office and the National Institute for the Blind from 1945 onwards, the British Empire Society for the Blind has been formed and is now conducting, in conjunction with Colonial Governments, an energetic campaign for the detection, treatment and prevention of blindness. I would invite reference to the recently published report of the Society, and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to their admirable work.

Colonial Development Corporation (Schemes)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what proposals he has in mind to enable the Colonial Development Corporation to fulfil its terms of reference, laid down in the Overseas Resources Development Act, 1948, and thus to become a more effective instrument for Colonial development instead of merely a financing agency


:The responsibility for carrying out its terms of reference as set out in Section 1 (1) of the Overseas Resources Development Act rests with the Corporation. I am not aware of any obstacles preventing the Corporation from fulfilling these terms of reference.

:Will the Secretary of State confirm that under the Acts it is the duty of the Corporation itself to initiate and carry out development schemes as well as to lend money to private enterprise? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during the last two years of his—shall we say?—overlordship no new development schemes have been initiated?

I do not think that is accurate. In any case, a large part of the time of the Colonial Development Corporation in the last two years has been devoted to clearing up the inheritance from the previous management.

Will my right hon. Friend agree that capital is limited, and that as a consequence of what has happened in the past it should be spent only after careful thought?

Would the right hon. Gentleman like the Colonial Development Corporation to succeed? Does he think it is likely to be a success? We would like to know definitely the right hon. Gentleman's views.

:The right hon. Gentleman may be assured that, in so far as I and the present Chairman can, we will do our very best to make the Colonial Development Corporation a success. In fact, we have devoted a great deal of time to the subject during the last two years. I forget what the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's question was.

It was whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks the Corporation will succeed.

I have often asked hon. Members not to try to translate me from politician—or statesmen, just as they think—into the realm of prophet.

Can the Minister deny that in the last two years no new development schemes have been begun? Can he give us an assurance that there will be, and that it is his intention that there shall be, new development schemes begun?

:Certainly. If development schemes present themselves which will satisfy the criterion which has to be applied, the answer is emphatically in the affirmative.

Labour Conditions


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will have reprinted Command Paper No. 6070, Labour Conditions in the West Indies; and state what action has been taken and what are the present conditions under each heading and paragraph


:No, Sir. Information on current labour conditions in the West Indies is already available in existing publications.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that at the time of the publication of these Command Papers they were looked upon by the whole trade union movement as being a black indictment of our colonial administration? Is he further aware that Sir Walter Citrine, who was a member of the Commission, and Ernest Bevin came to this House and addressed a few of us and asked us to watch out and take action on these lines? Has not that time arrived?

:I think that a great advance has been made in the matter since the original Report was published. The information on current labour conditions in the West Indies is very massive, but, if the hon. Gentleman is short of some particular information, I shall be only too happy to help him where I can.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission, with powers to visit any Colony it desires, to investigate and report on labour conditions and other allied subjects


:No, Sir. Labour administration is the responsibility of Colonial Governments and a general Commission of the sort suggested is neither called for nor compatible with the trend of colonial constitutional development.

In view of the increasing interest in this among organised workers throughout the world, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept this constructive suggestion, will he consider his reply with a view to taking other action?

I should like to give the hon. Member as sympathetic an answer as I can, but my present view on these matters is that where help is necessary over any of these labour matters in the Colonies, we should deal with each case as it arises. I take this opportunity of saying that the T.U.C. has given us the greatest help in these matters.

Will the Minister give consideration to the appointment of a committee for each Colony representing all sides of this House to go into conditions in each of them so that they can give consideration to the circumstances and the problems of each Colony? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a committee of this calibre would help him, this House, and the Colonies?

No, Sir. I am afraid I cannot accept the suggestion of setting up 36 committees of this House. I should regard that as an entirely unjustified abrogation of my responsibilities.

States Of Emergency


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies in how many Colonies has a state of emergency been declared; and in how many Colonies have additional British troops been required in the period since he took office.

Since October, 1951, states of emergency have been declared in Kenya, British Guiana, the Buganda province of Uganda, the Northern Region of Nigeria and in the First Division of Sarawak. Additional British troops have been sent to Kenya and British Guiana. The states of emergency in Nigeria and Sarawak have ended

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that millions of people in this country are deeply disturbed about this trend of affairs, because they believe that we should offer the Colonies something better than military measures? Is it not high time that the Government now produced some constructive proposals to deal with the situation?

:States of emergency are declared in order to restore public law and order, which is the first duty of the Government.

:Will my right hon. Friend say on how many occasions states of emergency in defence of Colonial Territories were declared during the period of office of the previous Administration?

:Yes, Sir. Between 1946 and 1951, states of emergency—in addition to the Federation of Malaya and Singapore—were declared 'in Aden in 1947 and 1948, in the Gold Coast in 1948 and 1950, in Grenada in 1951, in Jamaica in 1946, in Nigeria in 1949, in Trinidad in 1947, and in Uganda in 1949.

:Can the Colonial Secretary find some corner of the Colonial Empire where the coloured people have not been driven to terrorism by despair, and will he carry out an enlightened policy which attends to their basic needs of food, shelter and a job?

I can only describe the hon. Lady's supplementary as a gesture of suggestio falsi and suppressio vera.

Breaches Of Contract (Penal Sanctions)


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what steps the Government are taking to implement the Penal Sanctions (Indigenous Workers) Convention of 1939 which was ratified by the United Kingdom providing for the abolition of penal sanctions for breach of contract.

:The Convention laid down that the penal sanctions covered by it should be abolished progressively, and action has been taken accordingly. In most Colonial Territories they have been completely abolished. In the few Territories in which certain penal sanctions remain discussions are taking place in preparation for the next Session of the International Conference in June, 1954.

Am I right in thinking that by the date mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman we shall have a full report? Is he satisfied that by that time we shall be able to say that we have fulfilled our obligations?

I think so. The obligation is to get rid of these things progressively, and I think we can say that we have done that.