rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will state the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to the political and economic status of natives of India in British East Africa, Tanganyika, and the Uganda Protectorate; also whether he will make a statement in regard to Native labour in these countries; and to call for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, you will observe that the Question I have on the Paper divides itself under two heads, one relating to the status of Indians in the territories named; the other to the conditions under which native labour is employed in these countries and the general policy that His Majesty's Government intends to pursue in regard to them. The subjects are distinct one from the other, and I propose, with your Lordships' indulgence, to discuss them separately. It might be considered that they should form the subject of two questions and of two debates, but I hope that my noble friend, Lord Milner, who will reply for the Government, will agree that it will save time and be to the general convenience that the two questions shall be concentrated in one debate, enabling him to make one reply to both.
As you are aware, both these subjects are of great local importance in British East Africa and the adjoining territory, and they have now become especially so on account of the adjacent territory of Tanganyika, which is to come under the mandatory system and under the direction of Great Britain. Both subjects have aroused considerable interest not to say anxiety, not only amongst those who are directly concerned, but also amongst many sections of people who are interested in the welfare of the populations in British East Africa. All of those to whom I have alluded are anxiously awaiting a statement of policy from the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
There is one aspect of the matter to which I would at once draw attention, though I am sure my noble friend, Lord Milner, is fully alive to it—namely, that whilst these subjects are of local importance in Africa, as affecting the position and the conditions of life of many of our fellow-subjects in the territories concerned, they are also of high Imperial importance, as they involve principles of wide significance, which extend far beyond those territories and affect the very foundations of our Imperial system and the methods we intend to employ in the conduct of that system in the years to come. It is to this wider aspect of the subject that I invite the noble Viscount to give his earnest attention.
Let me make a few brief remarks on the question of British Indians in British East Africa. This is no new problem. It has come before successive predecessors of the noble Viscount at the Colonial Office. For years past British Indians have been appealing to the Government to remove the legal disabilities and inequalities under which they live as compared with the European community in that country. To attain this object a deputation of British Indians visited this country this year and placed their claims before the Secretary of State. They asked for a readjustment of the conditions of inferiority under which they live. They also asked that there should be established a political and economic system in British East Africa by which the more acute forms of racial distinction and discrimination may be once and for all removed. The result of the war, the influence that it has had on all classes and races, and the fact that the adjacent country is to come under a British Mandatory system, convert what hitherto was a reasonable appeal into an urgent demand.
As your Lordships are aware there resides in British East Africa a community of British Indians of various castes and occupations who, with their predecessors, have settled in the country for, I think, at least three centuries. These Indians are computed to outnumber the European population by something like four to one. It is estimated that there are about 30,000 British Indians and 6,000 Europeans. The development of the industry and wealth of British East Africa has largely been due to these Indian traders and settlers. The interchange of trade between India and British East Africa is a large element in the prosperity of the Protectorate, and, indeed, it may be said that the Indian has been a very important contributor to the development of British East Africa. The Indian took a very important part in the construction of the Uganda Railway. It is estimated—I give it for what it is worth, as I am not officially informed—that 80 per cent. of the trade and commerce of the Protectorate is carried on by Indians. The invested capital of the country, to a large extent, is in the hands of Indians, who pay the larger proportion of the taxation. These are broadly the claims that the British Indian makes for consideration at the hands of His Majesty's Government.
Let me now say a word as to their disabilities and those which they particularly ask should be removed as soon as possible. At present the Indian is not afforded any political franchise along with his European fellow subject. After a struggle for some years between the India Office and Colonial Office the latter were eventually induced to consent to the nomination by the Governor of two members in the British East African Legislative Council which was inaugurated in the year 1909. This is the only concession that has been granted to Indians, and that after considerable opposition, whilst the Europeans enjoy an elective system. I believe I am correct in saying that Indians exercise the franchise on equal terms with Europeans in the Cape Province of South Africa and in Rhodesia, and it is reasonable to assume that in British East Africa a proportion of the seats should be allotted to the Indian community, and allotted by election. On the Executive Council there is a non-official European representation, but at present Indians are excluded. They ask for representation on that Council.
There is only one municipality, I believe, in British East Africa, and that is at Nairobi. Indians in that municipality have no franchise, though they represent the majority of the population and pay the greater proportion of the taxes. A representation of two, by official nomination, only places them in what they regard as an ineffective minority; so much so that the Indian members have declined to take their seats in that municipality. By the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1915—and this is a very serious grievance—power was given to the Governor to sell Crown lands for agricultural and building purposes to Europeans only, and he had the power to veto the purchase of those lands, by Indians. Notice of such sales in Nairobi limiting the bidding to Europeans, including British subjects, obtained the permission of the Governor in writing and appears in the Official Gazette. From 1908 to 1918 this veto was confined to agricultural land in the highlands of British East Africa, and was imposed on what was termed grounds of "administrative convenience." But by the passing of the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1918 the power of veto by the Governor
was extended to the acquisition of land in the township areas, and in the conditions of sale of these Crown lands a clause is inserted which says that no one other than a British subject of European origin is entitled to bid.
I think your Lordships will agree that this latter case especially is an instance of acute racial distinction, and it is naturally bitterly resented by the whole of the Indian community in British East Africa and in India. There is no doubt that those who have played so important a part in the whole economic position of the country should, at least, have the right to purchase land in their adopted country. In this respect I ask the noble Viscount to inform the House and the country what arrangements are to be made when German properties are disposed of in the Mandatory country of Tanganyika and whether Indians are to have equality of rights with their European British subjects in regard to purchases of land in that country.
Another point of grievance is the Segregation of Races Act, based on Professor Simpson's scheme. I cannot attempt this afternoon to deal with this extremely complicated and difficult subject, as I should occupy far too much of your Lordships' time if I did so. It is contended, however, that under this Act the interests of Indians are gravely prejudiced. They ask for its repeal. I am not competent to form an opinion on this difficult problem, and before one could come to anything in the nature of a responsible view there must be a careful examination on the spot by a detached and impartial inquiry. In regard to this particular grievance I venture to suggest that for the consideration of my noble friend.
Now, my Lords, there is a long list of claims set forth by the deputation with which, of, course, I cannot deal in detail this afternoon. They have all been before my noble friend. There is the question of immigration and the question of the appointment of Indians to various public services. And another—which is a burning one in British East Africa—to which I must allude is with regard to exchange and currency. The Colonial Office adopted a new policy with regard to currency and exchange, and did so without reference to the East African Indians, who are very intimately concerned with it, or to the India Office. It has resulted, I understand, in a serious rise in the exchange between East Africa and India, entailing a marked increase in the cost of food-stuffs; and it is alleged that this exchange works out solely in the interests of the European community, and to the disadvantage of the Indians.
When my noble friend replies, I hope that he will explain to the House in a little more elaboration the recent announcement, which has appeared in the newspapers within the last few days, in regard to the British East African Protectorate, which is now to become a colony under the name of Kenia Colony. I understand that the coastal strip, including Mombasa and part of the Zanzibar Sultanate territory, remains a Protectorate, while the remainder is now raised to the rank of a Colony. I hope that in any new arrangement which is made, and in any constitutional concession afforded, my noble friend will be able to show that the Indian community are to be secured their prosier proportion of representation, whether in the Protectorate or in the Colony. I understand that Sir Edward Northey, the Governor of British East Africa, has been ordered to make a statement in East Africa in regard to the alterations in policy. The noble Viscount will probably inform the House regarding these instructions. I would venture to say here, in regard to these matters, which I am sure the House will agree are of much more than local importance, that it would have been better if Parliament had been informed and given the opportunity of discussing them and giving its opinion, before they were decided upon and a statement made in the Colony itself.
The present policy as laid down in East Africa can, I think, only be construed as placing the Indian in a position of both civil and economic inferiority to the European section of the community. That is highly irritating to the Indian in view of the fact that Indians have played, and are playing, so important a part in the economic development of the Colony; and it compels them to ask themselves whether citizenship within the Empire has any true reality in it at all. It is of the first importance that this sense of inferiority should be removed at the earliest possible date. The continuance of it will have a disastrous effect upon the minds of Indians both in East Africa and in India. Indians on both sides of the ocean have only too much cause to suspect that the intention of the European settler in East Africa is to narrow
the field of Indian enterprise, and to restrict his status and position to the very narrowest possible limits.
If you had had an opportunity—some of you probably have—as I have, of reading the recently issued Report of the East Africa Economic Commission, presided over by a high official and composed of other officials and European settlers in that country, you would realise to the full the spirit of antipathy which exists among a certain section of the European community towards Indians in that country. I venture to say that some of the expressions which appear in that Report are deplorable. They produce disastrous effects in the minds of Indians, and really make it impossible to impress upon them the sincerity of our profession of granting equality of treatment to them within the Empire. I hope that the Secretary of State, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, will emphatically repudiate those passages in that Report. We really cannot develop an Imperial spirit of loyalty within the circle of the British Empire if we allow sections of our British subjects to be treated in the way that is suggested in that Report.
This question has lately assumed greater importance in view of the reforms that are shortly to be put into operation in India. We are about to admit the people of India to a new system of partial Constitutional Government. We have admitted the Indians of India to representation upon the Imperial Council, enjoying equal status with the other representatives from the Dominions. At these Conferences questions relating to imperial interests, and especially those which bear on the different parts of the Empire, are to be fully discussed; and it is important that the policy of our Crown Colonies where Indians reside, and have resided for a long time, should be directed towards full recognition and acceptance of those changes which are shortly to take place in Imperial organisation.
It is important to point out in addition that Indians have been told in their own country, by the Viceroy, speaking as recently as January 30 in the Legislative Council, that
"the position of the Government of India is, and always will be, that there is no justification in a Crown Colony or Protectorate for assigning to British Indians a status in any way inferior to that of any other class of His Majesty's subjects."
I hope that the Secretary of State will not only endorse this sentiment, but state the method by which it is to be faithfully observed. There is nothing more unfortunate, in my judgment, and at the present crucial juncture of Imperial policy, than that two great Departments of the State should be speaking with conflicting voices, and, still more, adopting conflicting policies. Consistency and sincerity must be a cardinal element in our future Imperial policy. I would say that it would be better, bad though it might be, to state frankly that you are going in for a reactionary policy, than to make a statement and a show of equity of action which you do not carry out.
I am not unmindful, and nobody can be, of the many difficulties which beset the Colonial Office and the Secretary of State in regard to this problem. It is clear that in these matters conflict of opinion and interest must arise, but it is of the utmost importance to reduce that conflict within the narrowest limits, and to come to some working arrangement, so that Indians in Africa and in India may realise that their position as British subjects is recognised by His Majesty's Government, and that they are to enjoy fair treatment, and can reside under just conditions, with their European fellow-subjects.
I would pass on to say a few words on the second Question, which is the future policy in regard to native labour. This matter has become urgent and has aroused great apprehension owing to a recent Circular that has been issued in Africa under the instructions of the Governor. The Circular expresses in strong terms the necessity for increased provision of labour. In regard to this Circular it may be said that it can be interpreted as merely encouraging those responsible to persuade natives to come out from their reserves and work, but it can certainly also be interpreted as an instruction to use methods to attain that object, approaching, I venture to say, perilously close to enforced labour, with all the attendant abuses resulting from enforced labour. The principle of freedom to work has for years been cherished under the British system, and anything likely to violate that principle requires examination and revision before it is adopted.
This East African Circular raises the whole question of Colonial policy in semitropical areas. There are two of these
East African Circulars, one by the Chief Native Commissioner, Mr. Ainsworth, and the other by the Governor, Sir Edward Northey, and the main features of them are as follows. They postulate for the first time, I think, so far as is known, that in British Colonies there is administrative liability to provide labour for private interest. I would like to read one or two of the more salient paragraphs in the Circulars. I will take first that of the Governor. He says—
"From some reserves plenty of good voluntary labour has been and is forthcoming; let this go chiefly to private plantations and farms. Work on large Government enterprises, such as railways and roads, is less popular; for this Government should, I believe, have the power to call out the idlers. I believe there should be an increased rate of tax on young able-bodied men. Our policy, then, I believe should be, to encourage voluntary work in the first place, but to provide power by legislation to prevent indolence."
This is signed by Sir Edward Northey, and the method to be adopted for pressing this labour is set forth in the Circular issued by Mr. Ainsworth, the Chief Native Commissioner to the various officers throughout the country.
Permit me to read one or two paragraphs to your Lordships. He says—
"All Government officials in charge of native areas must exercise every possible lawful influence to induce able-bodied male natives to go into the labour field. Where farms are situated in the vicinity of a native area, women and children should be encouraged to go out for such labour as they can perform.
"Native chiefs and elders must at all times render all possible lawful assistance on the foregoing lines. They should be repeatedly reminded that it is pant of their duty to advise and encourage all unemployed young men in the areas under their jurisdiction to go out and work on plantations. They should be encouraged to visit plantations Where their people are employed.
"District Commissioners will keep a record of the names of those chiefs and headmen who are helpful and of those who are not helpful, and will make reports to me from time to time for the information of His Excellency. The nature of these reports will be communicated to the chiefs. In cases where there is evidence that any Government headman is impervious to His Excellency's wishes the facts should be reported to me for His Excellency's information together with any recommendations you may desire to make."
I would point out in the first place that those so-called chiefs are petty servants of the Government, and are under the control of the Government, and it is no part of an administrative official's duty to act as a labour agent for private persons. It is an entire departure from our Colonial practice.
I should like to ask if this Circular, before it was issued in East Africa, was referred to the Colonial Office. This practice to which I have just referred amounts to this—that if the so-called chief does not provide labour he is told that he will be punished. That is a very dangerous method to introduce with a primitive people, and it certainly is entirely contrary to British practice. It is entirely contrary to the attitude that has always been adopted, and that was so well laid down some years ago in Egypt by Lord Cromer. I would like to quote what he said, and what he put into effect all through his distinguished administration in that country. He said—
"We reluctantly admit the necessity of compulsory labour in certain cases, and We do not stigmatise as slavery such labour when under all possible safeguards against the occurrence of abuses, it is employed for indispensable and recognised purposes of public utility. On the other hand, we regard the system when employed for private profit as wholly unjustifiable, and as synonymous with slavery."
Later on Sir Frederick Lugard makes a statement on similar lines. That is a sound policy for labour, and one that should be adhered to strictly in British East Africa, but it certainly presents a very great contrast to the Circulars from which I have just quoted.
There is one more quotation in this Circular which I should like to give, and it is in regard to the mandated areas. The Governor proposed in this Circular to obtain labour from mandated areas in Tanganyika. I suggest that such a step would imply a violation of the spirit and the letter of the League of Nations Covenant which sets forth the doctrine of trusteeship. The Circular says—
"His Excellency instructs me to state that constant endeavours will be made by this Government to obtain native labour from the adjacent conquered territory in order that the supply of native labour in this country may be augmented. The native authorities might be informed of this, and it might be pointed out to them that should any considerable numbers of natives be so introduced into this country it will probably mean less money going into our native districts."
That last paragraph looks very suspiciously as if Tanganyika is to be used as a kind of labour whip to the chiefs in British East Africa to provide labour.
In all seriousness I say to your Lordships that this Circular ought never to have been issued, and when it was issued and found its way to this country an order should have been made for its immediate withdrawal. It is a thoroughly bad Circular and, if given effect to, must lead to abuse in the case of such a primitive people. It is retrograde in the highest degree, and cannot be defended, and unless His Majesty's Government are really going to introduce a system of labour into the country which will go perilously near to forced labour it ought immediately to be withdrawn and something put in its place. British settlement in tropical areas like British East Africa must be determined by the free provision of labour supply. I am told that since the war many ex-soldiers have emigrated to that country, and I have no doubt it is due to that fact that there is a greatly increased demand for labour.
I think, however, a much wiser policy would have avoided all these difficulties and these violations of principle. We should rather encourage emigration not to these tropical countries but to our Dominions where you have white labour and thousands of square miles of fertile soil ready to be taken up. We have been attempting in East Africa the colonisation of a white population. On the other hand in West Africa we have pursued the policy of development by the native producer. The economic results in East Africa have produced, and will continue to produce, friction and competition for labour. In West Africa you have contentment and prosperity throughout the country. In the Gold Coast alone the native to-day is producing cocoa in such volume that the production is actually in excess of the demand. However, it is quite clear that you cannot reverse the policy as it has gone so far; and it is impossible, of course, to attempt to develop East Africa on the lines of West Africa. I say again, however, that, difficult though it may be, it should be no part of the duty of an Administration to force on one section of the community laws designed for another section of the community.
In South Africa and, I believe, in Southern Rhodesia, they have had their difficulties in regard to labour. Those difficulties have been largely overcome by the establishment of labour bureaus. Labour bureaus have many advantages. They exist to create a free current of labour towards the employer, and have the advantage that the cost of recruitment is greatly lessened, as is shown by the figures. In South Africa, where you had 2,337 recruiters in 1912, as the scheme and system became established in the country those recruiters had been reduced to 723 by 1918. Again, in Rhodesia—which is another illustration of finding labour by the labour bureau system—in 1903 the Secretary of State for the Colonies of that day was urged to sanction Chinese labour because there was such a shortage of labour generally. The Imperial Government refused to sanction Chinese labour, and the Chartered Company set up labour bureaus in the year 1915.
The Chief Native Commissioner has reported that the supply during the year has shown appreciable increase, and that the average number of natives in employment has at all times been sufficient for the demand. In some cases it has been in excess of it. I cannot help feeling that, if this scheme were carried out as suggested by the Circular, forced labour would result, and that is wasteful and always leads to abuse. A free current of labour is cheaper and in every way more satisfactory. If private property has to rely only on a free system of labour the employer makes it his business to see that the employment of his men is attractive, and he soon learns that the best recruiting agents are the native labourers themselves. I commend to the serious consideration of the noble Viscount the scheme in South Africa and Rhodesia in substitution for the scheme as outlined in the Circular of the Governor in British East Africa.
There is one more point with regard to the Circular on which I should like to ask the noble Viscount for information. Sir Edward Northey evidently had in his mind the intention to institute a differential taxation; because he says in his circular, "I believe there should be an increased rate of taxation upon young able-bodied men." This appears to be a very bad system. Taxation, after all, should be levied solely for administrative purposes and in accordance with ability to pay, and not based upon the physical condition of the individual. It might have very injurious political results. It is opposed to all sound principle. An increased taxation when made should have only one object—namely, that there should be a corresponding benefit to the native who pays that increased taxation. Some weeks ago I was asked to head a deputation to my noble friend at the Colonial Office in regard to these matters, and I then suggested for his consideration the appointment of a Royal Commission— properly constituted, representing all the interests and all the races, with a thoroughly detached Chairman—to go out to these countries, to examine all these various complex and difficult problems, and to report on them to His Majesty's Government.
In many vital respects uniformity of principle should be adopted over the great area which is in future to be controlled under the British Crown. Administrative methods necessary to comply with the covenant in the Tanganyika country—the Mandatory country—should not, I am sure your Lordships will agree, differ in any serious degree from the methods employed in the other countries. It would be unfortunate in the highest degree, and very invidious, to establish a higher system of civilisation in one of these countries than that established in the others. It would eventually lead to social, economic, and political difficulties. Those whom I have consulted are inclined to agree that it would be well worth while for a well-constituted Commission to visit those countries and to examine into some of those very vexed questions, to certain of which I have alluded this afternoon. I put this forward tentatively to my noble friend. I do not ask him for a positive answer this afternoon because I have not given him notice of this question; but I would like him to give it his serious consideration.
One last observation, which I would make in the form of another suggestion. I make it with very much less hesitation; indeed, I urge it in the strongest terms upon my noble friend for adoption. Lord Grey, speaking the other day at the inauguration of the British Institute of National Affairs, made the remark that one of the great, lessons of the war was that to think nationally without thinking inter-nationally leads to disaster. That is a very sound doctrine with which every one should agree. It is a doctrine which should influence the considerations of all countries if we are to avert war in the future. I would like to paraphrase that remark, because I think it is apposite to our responsibilities in the Empire. I would say that "Thinking Imperially without thinking inter-Imperially will lead, under our modern conditions, to grave trouble, if not to disaster." The British Empire consists of so many territories, of so many various races intermixed in these territories, that a true Imperial policy must take account of the interests and concerns of each, and give full consideration to the claims of all those who live under the British Crown and who expect to enjoy the privileges and the conditions of the Empire.
In East Africa the population is composed of three distinct races—the British, the Indian, and the native aboriginal—and it is difficult in the extreme to establish laws and to ensure their favourable administration, so affording justice to all of them, without introducing acute hostility front either the one or the other. The only way to secure a working system based upon justice to each would be to establish a form of administrative machinery by which its Constitution should ensure that each race and each interest should obtain a fair measure of consideration in regard to these matters.
I have had the experience of being in the India Office and in the Colonial Office, and I have given a good deal of thought to this problem. I strongly urge upon my noble friend's earnest consideration the following scheme: To establish a permanent Standing Advisory Committee composed of representatives of the Foreign Office and of the India Office, of an Indian representative from the India Council, and of a representative, nominated by the Secretary of State, who would speak on behalf of the interests of the native community. The Committee might have referred to it questions of status, the franchise of the Indian community, legislation dealing with land tenure and the country, where such affects one or the other races, questions of taxation, and all Circulars and Ordinances connected with the provision and conditions of labour. The Committee would, of course, be advisory, and not executive. It would send its reports to the Departments concerned, and it would issue annually a Report of its work, which would lie on the Table of both Houses as a public document, so that Parliament would know what was going on in those countries.
I think that the composite mind which would be brought to bear on a Committee of that character would in most instances be able to bring about a fair adjustment of many of time very difficult problems. I am emboldened to make this proposal because it has been strongly urged, and, I understand, is going to be given effect to, in regard to similar problems in India by the setting up of a Committee in this Country. I note that within the last few months, with a similar problem in South Africa, General Smuts, in introducing the Native Affairs Bill, has proposed a machinery similar in character to that which I have outlined for dealing with those vexed questions in that country, and therefore my noble friend will have a precedent for the proposal that I make. I would ask for a most earnest consideration of it.
I must make an apology for having spoken at such length, but the Question, although it is down as one, comprises, as I have already said, two Questions, and they both involve very serious subjects, which it is difficult to compress into a short speech. I beg to move for the Circular on British East Africa in regard to labour, and the correspondence upon it.
Moved, That there be laid before this House the Circular on British East Africa in regard to Labour, and the correspondence thereupon.— (Lord Islington.)
My Lords, I desire to say a few words about the second part of the subject which has been brought to your Lordships' notice in the very interesting speech of the noble Lord. It is a matter which, in its importance, ranges far beyond its local incidence. It is really an object-lesson of something which may be fraught with immense peril over a very wide and scattered area of His Majesty's Dominions, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for the way in which he has called attention to the far-reaching importance of the Circular which formed the basis of his remarks.The question is both geographically and, we may say, historically a very far-reaching one. The same problem which is dealt with in Sir Edward Northey's Circular has had to be dealt with again and again, both within the British Empire and outside it—in South Africa, in West Africa, in South-West Africa, in the Southern Seas, in the West Indies, and, as regards the Americans, in the Philippines and elsewhere. Sometimes it has been handled with singular success and effectiveness, with no wrong done to anybody, and with beneficial results to the community; in other cases—where no doubt the difficulties were greater—it has been handled, it seems to me, with far less success and far less beneficial results; I believe, so far as we can judge, that the present example is one in which the prospects of a successful handling of it are far off, and the words of the Circular referred to and the probable action taken upon it are ominous in the very highest degree. But the subject, though it is wide in its range, gives us exactly what we want in a tangible, concrete, object-lesson of the way in which the principles at stake can or cannot work in regard to our relation to child peoples, as we call them, or the simpler races with whom we are in contact. I am sure that some of your Lordships must look back, as I do, to the time some thirty years ago when that very region of Africa was the subject of acute debate in this country, when the question of our relaxing or retaining our hold upon Uganda was before the world, when Mr. Bosworth Smith wrote a series of eloquent letters to The Times, and when Lord Rosebery, in some very memorable speeches, called attention to those letters, taking as his text certain phrases which had been specially used by Mr. Bosworth Smith, particularly on what he called "the continuity of the moral policy of England." The continuity of its moral policy was the matter that had been brought out, and also the fact that it was essential to the proper effectiveness of our rule, or our relation to other races than our own, that there should be a large policy, that it should be based on sound, moral lines, and that it should be continuous. It was brought out at that time that there were three great instincts that had charactcrised our British relation to races, African and Asiatic, with whom we had had to do—I will not say as rulers, but as those who were in a position of responsibility and, in some sense, of authority—the instinct of freedom, the instinct of Empire, the instinct of philanthropy. It was shown how all of them had found their scope, and how we seemed in a special way to have been able to give effect rightly to the instinct of freedom, making the great basis the freedom of every individual; the instinct of Empire—the Empire which had grown rather by accident than by deliberate intent and purpose, or actual conquest for the sake of Empire—and throughout it all the instinct of philanthropy, which had made us care, and show peculiar power of caring, for the infant or subject races with whom we had had to do. We cannot possibly handle a local question of this kind without remembering its relations to those larger theories, those wider principles which ought to have been, and, I think, have usually been, governing principles in our action in regard to other races, especially the backward and the child races. But those principles are tested and are made clear when we get the kind of practical object lesson which has been brought before us in the present action of His Majesty's Government, or their representatives in East Africa, in regard to native labour. So far as I understand the matter, the present-day difficulties in this practical question are these. We are developing a very large territory, for the gain not only of its own people but, very markedly, that of ourselves as well. This involves doing some things which are, I would almost say, solely for our gain, but which we cannot carry out effectively without enlisting native co-operation and help in the way of labour. Over a good part of these East African regions labour is short locally unless it is imported from a great distance, and—I speak under correction, for there are others here who know the details better than I do, though I know something about it—the regions of the higher ground, particularly that which is now being developed by Englishmen in English interests, are not thickly populated with natives, and have not been, the natives preferring the hotter regions down below. But the result is that native labour is not easily procurable, or procurable by the ordinary offer of reasonable wages for those regions where we desire our development to go on. So we are told —there are plenty of documents to show it —that the need arises of helping artificially to secure labour. The offer of wages does not suffice. Is the local or central Government justified in bringing pressure to bear upon natives for the purpose of obtaining the labour, and, if so, what degree of pressure? I should be prepared to say that, while in abstract theory and ideal, we take as our watchword the fullest possible freedom for the individual—and I should never wish to lower that particular British flag—yet there have been, and there are, times when a qualification of that sentiment, expressed in that blunt form, is necessary. There are marked lessons like conscription in time of war, when we were interfering with individual liberty, or the systems existing in many countries abroad (and for a long time in our own country, especially in Scotland), of what might be called compulsory labour for the sake of the upkeep of roads for the public advantage. I think I am right in saying that it is only within quite recent years, and the memory of people now alive, that the law has been abrogated that made labour compulsory in Scotland for the upkeep of the roads. Be that as it may, we have had in our own islands and in many parts of the Empire a system of interfering with the liberty of the subject for the sake of what is obviously public necessity. I should also admit the possibility, especially perhaps amongst simple peoples, of taking in the form of labour some part of the taxes which we must necessarily levy upon them— a certain number of days in the year in lieu of a certain number of pounds or dollars or whatever it may be. Provided it is properly safeguarded, properly inspected and properly regulated by the right people, it is not a principle which we ought to feel contravenes in any vital way the large theories upon which we desire to act. But all these are, of course, for the good of the community as a whole, including the persons who are thus taxed and are giving their labour in lieu of their money, and those who are thus labouring, whether they like it or not, for the community as a whole are part of the gainers in what is being done for the common good. But the document to which attention has been called to-night especially, goes outside of that in asking for native labour for non-native farms and for private undertakings. That changes the whole of the situation and, as the whole text of it shows, develops itself on totally other lines than those which are primarily, and certainly those which are exclusively, for the public gain and good. There, to use a favourite and somewhat hackneyed expression, we are at once upon an exceedingly slippery slope, because, as in other things, so here it is not possible very markedly to draw the line. A crop is required, a portion of which belongs to the Government, or is taken by the Government as taxation. That crop has to be got in. The greater portion of its profit is going to private individuals and a certain part to the Government. Is that crop to be got in rapidly and, if so, will voluntary labour suffice, for the purpose? If not, is pressure to be brought to bear? We see at once how exceedingly difficult it is to draw the line and make the thing as clear as it ought to be. I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Islington, in his speech to-night, call attention to those weighty words contained in a passage from one of Lord Cromer's documents in which he pointed out the contrast between the necessity of labour for the public good where the gainers are the community as a whole, and the awful peril of once allowing the principle of compulsory labour for private profit to operate; because, as he puts it, it very soon becomes synonymous with slavery. That is what we are up against to-night, and that is what we have to face. It is in the hope that we may have some assurance that the expressions in the Circulars which have been published in East Africa relating to the matter, do not really represent the settled policy of His Majesty's Government, that I rejoice that this matter should have been brought forward. The perils have been described to some extent by Lord Islington in what he has already said, and the whole position is not hard to see. The white man in those regions, pleased, as I think, at the success which attended the system of the conscription of carriers for the war, feels that it ought to be a comparatively easy thing to obtain a supply of labour for other purposes in peace time, including the purpose for which he is there—namely, the augmentation of the interest which he represents, the interest of private gain. He therefore applies that principle which has worked well in war time to the conditions which prevail in time of peace, and asks that effect may be given to it, and that the Government may help him. The outstanding dangers are two. The first is the employment of agents, either the native chiefs—which is, perhaps, one of the most dangerous—or the paid middleman, whether he be white or African. You cannot trust, it is impossible to trust, the employer himself, human nature being what it is. No body of men who are anxious to become rich can be at all times trusted, as was well said the other day, to act justly towards those on whose labour their riches depend. Therefore, you are faced with considerable difficulty in regard even to the employers themselves, however much, in a large sense, they are well disposed, or however worthy their agents may be, and it is difficult to feel that they can act with impartiality in the matter. But far less can you trust the native agent, whether he be the chief with people under him, men, women and children—for they are all in this Paper—when labour may be wanted generally, or adult labour alone. I find it difficult to think that it was not almost humourously, if one might use the word in this connection, that such words were used in a document, as that pressure should be brought to bear to urge the native chiefs to use all influence, to encourage by all lawful means. "Lawful" is, no doubt, a safeguarding word upon which stress is likely to be laid, but one imagines what it is likely to mean in this case. Further, the native chief is told here that the District Commissioner will keep a record of the names of those chiefs and head-men who are helpful and those who are not, and will make reports for the information of His Excellency. In cases where any chief is impervious to His Excellency's wishes, "the fact should be reported to me for His Excellency's information" —and so on. What does that mean when you apply that to the chief of a native tribe where labour is asked for, whose interest, and money, and so on are going to depend upon there being an adequate supply of labour from amongst those for whom he is responsible. His influence is likely to take a form which we know only too well, of the sjambok and the rope, which were used by the Germans in East Africa, before the war. That was the nature of the influence which was brought to bear and the pressure that was exercised upon the native chiefs as regards the compulsory labour wanted by them prior to the war. We are really in the gravest possible danger if we adopt phrases like that, and bring pressure such as the Circulars suggest we should bring to bear upon native chiefs in that way. The next danger is the deportation to a distance of the labour which is thus enrolled. Supposing a native desires of his own free will to go a distance, to go even to regions which he likes least in order to work there, attracted by the wages which are offered, good and well. But we have to be very sure that that is what is happening. The Circulars speak quite definitely of endeavours that are going to be made by the Government to obtain native labour from the adjacent conquered territory; that is to say, from a considerable distance away; and native labour has to be obtained to go to regions to which it would not naturally flow, and that has to be done under the influence of the pressure that has been mentioned. It is a painful subject, but your Lordships know something of what happened in German East Africa before the war in regard to that; how some of the importations of native labour to one part of the country had to be stopped because of the mischiefs that had ensued, first front the conditions of disease in which the men, thus deported from their wives and families, returned, and the harm that was done in the neighbourhoods to which they came back. This furnished an awful picture of what was being brought about by deportation under little control. Then there is the question of the deserted families of those so deported, and the obvious danger of a complete lack of care and adequate consideration by native superintendents, or contractors, or agents, of the people who are deported. No doubt care will be taken to have them inspected, but we know what that likely to mean. We have seen something of that in other cases. Deportation is fraught with the gravest possible dangers and I think the Circular which Mr. Ainsworth has issued only requires to be read in order to see what perils are being run. I understand that one administrator in the conquered territory has refused to allow those over whom he is in authority to be deported. He knows the dangers and has declined to agree to any request to allow these people to be deported. He is acting in exact accordance with his duty; and perfectly rightly. We want to be secured against these perils much more firmly than the letters would lead us to suppose we are at present. I am certain that the danger of the interests of the natives being subordinated to the private interests of individuals, landowners, promoters, and purchasers of land, however admirable their intentions, is one which we cannot possibly allow to pass without the strongest possible protest. We dare not leave the matters as they stand now, and we await the assurance from the Government that these documents do not mean all that they appear to mean.
My Lords, I desire to add only a few words to what has been said in the instructive speeches of the noble Lord and the most rev. Primate. They have expressed the principles which have commended themselves to those who have followed this question for a great many years, and have the welfare of the native races at heart. I should like to express my sense of the importance of trying to draw a very sharp and clear distinction between the employment of forced labour for public purposes and its employment for private purposes. Of course, at all times it is a regrettable necessity, but it can well be argued on behalf of the employment on public labour that it is employment of benefit to the whole community and to the native himself, and that it is no more than what has been done by native chiefs in matters which were of common interest to the community. By its very nature such work is conducted always under the public eye. Any abuse of it will be known and can be corrected. That is not the case when forced labour is employed by any private person. It is perfectly certain to be abused. The native is unprotected and in many cases he labours unwatched and unseen by any public official who can judge of the treatment he receives. You cannot watch all these private employers.Your Lordships will remember that many years ago a question of this kind arose with regard to indentured coolie labour from India imported into our West Indian Colonies, and I remember a Royal Commission which sat thirty-five or forty years ago to deal with that question as it related to British Guiana. There a state of things had arisen which resembled slavery. It was necessary to have a careful investigation, to lay down elaborate rules in order to protect the coolie labourer from being practically male a sort of slave. This abuse has long since ceased, but the very fact that it existed warns us that, wherever the native is put under control, where any compulsion is placed upon his own will, the danger arises of something approaching slavery. Our experience has happily shown us that we can always trust the British official, when he is charged with any duty, to carry it out in a spirit of justice and humanity; but you cannot trust a private employer of any nation to do so. Where private interests come in they will have their sway, and, therefore, we ought to exercise the greatest possible care in putting any one under any compulsion where it is to be exercised on behalf of private gain. The true policy, as has been indicated by Lord Islington, is to make employers I understand that their business is to make employment attractive. In other words, they must pay the requisite wages and supply the proper treatment which the native labourer is entitled to expect. It has always been found if they do so that the natural current of labour supplies the employers with what he wants. The way in which improvement comes about in native faces, as it has come about in primitive races everywhere, is through the circle of the wants of the primitive man increasing. Man began with very few and simple wants, but the more civilisation increases, and the more he is brought into contact with people who live a life of greater comfort and enjoyment, the more his wants increase, and the only way he can satisfy those wants is by his labour. Thus there is a natural tendency for labour to increase, because man wants more and has only one way of getting it. This holds true of some of these races in Africa where the population has been brought below its natural level owing to the habit of constant raiding. Where British rule has introduced peace and security, where native raids are put an end to, there the population begins to recover, and with the growth of population the demand for labour naturally becomes satisfied. There is, therefore, a strong reason for believing that we might trust more to nature than to these Regulations which have an element of danger in them. I have heard of other countries where the people are even in a more savage state than those in North East Africa, but where, nevertheless, the natives are coming into labour when well-treated and good labour is offered. I refer to the races of New Guinea. I have the advantage of having had a conversation with a highly placed official who told me that the natives there are likely to come into labour when it is offered to them on proper terms. This is a case where we are bound in particular to be on our good behaviour. Your Lordships know that many questions have arisen, and further questions are likely to arise, with regard to the terms to be imposed upon nations who accept Mandates for the territories taken from Germany and which are being assigned to different European Powers under the provisions of the Covenant of The League of Nations. In the case of those Mandates questions have arisen as to what conditions ought to be imposed upon the Mandatory Power, and for what purposes ought the Mandatory Power to be allowed to impose regulations upon the natives. Is the Mandatory Power, for instance, to be permitted to raise native troops, and if so permitted, is the Mandatory Power to be permitted to use those native troops for its own purposes?—for example, to bring them to Europe in case (unlikely as it is to arise immediately, and as we hope will not arise) of a European war, or a war outside the Mandatory territory. Other questions arise with regard to the kind of treatment which the Mandatory Power is bound to apply in its care for the native population. Now we—I understand the matter has not become public, but I do not think I am saying anything which is not more or less known—we have been taking the line that every possible provision ought to be imposed in a Mandate for the benefit of the population in the territories to be administered under it. How can we effectively make that demand, and continue to press it through our representatives in the League of Nations, unless we set a good example ourselves? I may be told that the territory to which this Circular relates is not a territory which we are to receive under a Mandate, but is an East African region which we have already held. My noble friend, Lord Islington, called attention to the fact that the Circular suggests bringing in labour from Tanganyika, and so far, therefore, the Mandatory question does arise, but, even if it did not arise, would it be possible for us to insist upon the treatment to be applied to the natives in Mandatory territories, if we do not apply similar treatment in our own territory? If we were acquiescing in, or enforcing, compulsory labour for the benefit of the private employer in our own territory, could we with any face insist that a Mandatory Power should not be allowed to do something which was consistent with what we were doing in our own territory? I think the rules which we lay down in our own territory must be the measure of what we ask for in Mandatory territory, and I believe, therefore, that this question is of importance, even greater than that which belongs to it as mentioned in the Motion of my noble friend. We are here laying down a principle which will have application in a very large area of the Mandatory territories of Africa—Our own, stretching from the frontiers of Abyssinia nearly to the Zambesi in the south, and other territories which will be occupied by other Mandatory Powers, covering the bulk of Central Africa. The question, therefore, is of very serious and far-reaching importance, and on that ground alone I think is deserving of the careful attention of the Government and of the House. We are bound to go into this matter with clean hands. We have all through the war continued to insist, and we insisted in making Peace, that the prime reason for taking away from Germany her African Colonies was that she had acted in them with great harshness towards the natives, and that it was our duty, in the interests of humanity, to secure better treatment for the natives. Now we cannot, with any consistency, apply treatment in our own territory of which we disapproved when practised by the Germans. We have been claiming that we are acting in the interests of the natives. The whole principle of the Mandates, the whole principle which the covenant of the League of Nations sets forth, is that we are trustees, bound to regard and to safeguard the interests of the native population. if we make these professions we are certainly bound to live up to them.
My Lords, there are so many of your Lordships who wish to address the House in regard to this matter, that I will endeavour to condense my observations as far as possible. Two important questions were raised by Lord Islington in his interesting speech, but I wish to say just one word only in regard to the part which deals with the Indians. Any one who heard the contrast that he drew between the treatment that is being meted out to India, and the policy that is being pursued towards Indians in East Africa, must have felt that there is an utterly irreconcilable difference in them. In India a large measure of self-government is being given to the people, and only last week, in another place, the Secretary of State for India, in an impassioned speech, said this:
We are treating Indians in India as partners. We seem to be treating the Indians in British East Africa almost as pariahs. Is that the way to bind the British Empire together? I want now to say something about the Circular dealing with the natives. The policy is a new one, I believe, and utterly unprecedented, at any rate as regards our policy in recent years. It involves the extension of the corvée for government works, and it involves a plan for bringing natives into British East Africa, a doubtful and most dangerous policy, and it involves persuasion, which I think is hardly distinguishable from compulsion, for private labour for white settlers. I admit that the problem of labour in East Africa is a very difficult one. In West Africa it is a different problem. The cultivation of palm kernels and of cocoa are native industries, but the money inducement there has been so successful that quite recently, in an Inquiry into the Cocoa industry, the administrator or official chiefly concerned with the matter actually proposed prohibiting further planting, because the cocoa industry had become so widely spread in that country that there was danger of the price being reduced too much, owing to the actual success achieved. That is a very different problem from East Africa, where the tribes are largely pastoral, and in the old days were nomadic. Some of them, at any rate at the time when I was at the Colonial Office, had great wealth in cattle, and there is a fear that these tribes, being now prevented from fighting, may deteriorate in quality. At the same time the white settlers are short of labour, but I do inquire why, if that is the case, so much inducement is offered to white settlers to go there when there are other quarters more suitable for them. I think myself that in these matters the policy should be one of festina lente, rather than one of making haste. It was in these circumstances that Sir Edward Northey was sent out to East Africa. He is a distinguished soldier with South African experience, and a great deal of military experience, but he had no Colonial service training. He arrived on February 1, 1919, and was entertained at dinner immediately on his arrival at Nairobi. The principal speech was made by Major Grogan, who expressed his views in an oration extending over two hours. It was nominally a speech of welcome, but the only welcome that he offered to Sir Edward Northey was a welcome because Sir Edward had had no Colonial service experience. The rest of his speech was a violent and insolent tirade. I am making no unfair paraphrase of it if I say that the burden of such parts of it as I have been able to find reported in newspapers sent over from East Africa was that they were entitled —they, the people who were entertaining Sir Edward Northey—to know whether Sir Edward was going to be merely a telephone exchange for Downing Street, whether the Governor was going to govern—that is, I presume, govern according to Major Grogan's ideas—or be governed by the Secretariat in Downing-street, and whether he was going to impose discipline on Colonel Ainsworth and his pro-native tendencies or not. Colonel Ainsworth, the author of one of these Circulars, has always, I admit, had the reputation of being a pronative. That was the new Governor's reception. To his credit be it said, he did not dismiss Colonel Ainsworth at the request of Major Grogan, but on or about October 27, 1919, the Circular of which we have heard, with the covering letter from the Governor, was published. I will not quote any further extracts, but I must again remind your Lordships that when Government officials are told that they must exercise every possible lawful influence to induce able-bodied male natives to go into the labour field, and when native chiefs and elders are told that they must at all times "render all possible lawful assistance on the foregoing lines," and when in Section 5 of this Circular the Native Commissioner is charged by the Governor to state that endeavours will be made to obtain native labour from the adjacent conquered territory, we are making a new departure. I want to know what right Sir Edward Northey had to deal with the neighbouring territory. What right had he to make this promise? Had he communicated with the home Government? Had he communicated with anybody in authority in the conquered territory? And, if not, what right had he to make any such promise as this? I do not know what the noble Viscount is going to say, but we may hear something of what the missionaries said on this point. In regard to that matter, may I say how greatly I rejoice to have heard the speech that the most rev. Primate has made this afternoon in relation to this question? The Bishops of Uganda and Mombasa, in a letter they wrote, said, I believe, that when native chiefs are charged with the business of recruiting labour the door is flung wide open to almost any abuse. But whatever the missionaries out there have said, the Missionary Societies here, in solemn conclave, sent a grave warning to the Colonial Office with regard to this matter. I am interested in the question, from the mere point of view of method, and I must draw attention to the fact that the Colonial Office were not consulted on this matter. My noble friend asked if they were. Clearly, I think, they were not. The Secretary of State was away, I suppose, during part of the time when this matter was in controversy. I do not blame him for going away in the least, but I say that the Prime Minister cannot quite appreciate the importance of Colonial questions, particularly at this present moment, if the Secretary of State can be sent away into distant parts of the Empire, and taken right away from his office at a time like this. The Colonial Office was not consulted, because Colonel Amery, on April 26, said that at that time he had only received an unofficial copy of the Circular. Why was not that Circular sent home? Why was a new departure of this magnitude allowed without the Colonial Office being consulted? From my knowledge of the Office I cannot conceive that such a thing could ever have been done when my noble friend Lord Harcourt was at its head and I had the honour of serving under him. If such a thing had been done then an immediate order would have been given that the Circular should be withdrawn until he had had time to consider it. As far as I know there is no precedent for compulsion of labour for the purposes of white settlers in the British Empire since slavery was abolished. There are, of course, Prussian models for that kind of thing, but I had imagined that our methods were better than the Prussian methods, and were to remain better. It is directly against the principles laid down by our great Colonial administrators. Colonel Amery in another place said that both he and the Secretary of State had heard of this Circular with anxiety, but apparently their fears had been allayed by an interview with Sir Edward Northey, who told them that compulsion is not intended out there, and that no pressure would be put on the industrious, but only on the idle. If you are going to give promotion to officials and chiefs who, in actual practice, are successful in obtaining labour, what guarantee will there be that only the idle are chosen, and what guarantee will there be if the idle are chosen that they are going-to be of any use in the work to which they are sent? If a black mark is to be put against administrators who use less pressure than others, then in effect it does mean, "find labour honestly if you can, but anyway find it." It is no use saying compulsion is not intended. This Circular, in effect, means compulsion. It is the scheme of a new Governor who began his rule under the threats of which I have told your Lordships, and he evolved, apparently without the knowledge or consent of the Secretary of State, this new scheme which has made the Secretary of State most anxious. I shall be very interested indeed to know what the Secretary of State has to say about it. This is a most deplorable development. I should be less anxious were it not for other indications affecting time question, about which my noble friend Lord Bryce spoke. It seems to me that a good deal that is being done by the Colonial Office at the present time is queering the pitch of the League of Nations so far as concerns Clause 22 of the Covenant. The Colonial Office appears to be using every opportunity to suggest or force the imposition of differential export duties on the Colonies, as in the case of palm kernels. There is also the case of Nauru, in regard to which I suppose a Bill will shortly be coming before your Lordships' House. There is in that matter to be preferential treatment of purchasers, and preferential treatment not only as between the Empire and foreign countries, but as between different parts of the Empire. For the great delay in dealing with these Mandates I am quite sure the Colonial Office is not responsible, but I think it is most regrettable that the pitch should be queered by any action that they take in the meantime. I agree with my noble friend Lord Bryce that to all appearances we are setting up a new policy at a time when the old high standards of which we were so proud ought to be rigorously maintained. The intention of the writers of this Circular may be excellent, but they have to be carried out on the spot by a great variety of men. Many of them, I think, will be humane and tactful, but some may be neither humane nor tactful, and will be only too glad of an excuse to use force to "get the lazy riggers to work." These short cuts to efficiency in training natives were tried in the old days of slavery, and they were not conspicuously successful. The instruments to carry out this policy are, as I have said, men living far from home, with the pride of a superior race dealing with an inferior; and I fear that mistakes will be made. I have always taken a very keen pride in the clean record of this country in dealing with natives in the past. I rejoice in the financial success that those methods have obtained; but I look with grave suspicion on what has, to my mind, the appearance of a hark-back to Prussian ideals and Prussian methods of administration. I ask the Secretary of State to pause before he throws over the old English methods. If it is too late to ask hint to withdraw this Circular I beg to him of give the most favourable consideration to the interesting suggestion my noble friend Lord Islington has made. It is really dangerous to the future of our Empire that new and inconsistent policies on acute racial questions should be operating in different parts of the Empire. It is intolerable that new Governors, who know very little of the problems of the other portions of the Empire, should set up new policies, affecting vital imperial problems, by Circulars which cause anxiety to the Secretary of State at home. Genuine and widespread anxiety exists about this matter, and I hope that the Secretary of State will accept the reasonable proposals of my noble friend Lord Islington. Those proposals ask for a well-thought-out and co-ordinated policy as regards natives. The circumstances of our Empire to-day, with difficult new problems on every hand, seem to render such a policy urgently necessary if we are to avoid serious mistakes."Is your theory of domination or rule in India the ascendeney of one race over another, of domination and subordination, or is your theory that of partnership?"
My Lords, I wish to detain your Lordships for a short time only. I do not desire in any way to deal with the status of the natives in India and British South Africa, because amongst them are rich traders, merchants and shopkeepers, educated men, who I consider are very well able to look after their own interests, especially with an advocate such as Lord Islington, as is instanced by the excellent speech he has made on the subject. But when it comes to native labour, that is another question altogether. It has become a very serious question in East Africa, and I agree with Lord Emmott when he says that the policy should be festina lente. You must not be in a hurry to introduce new policies amongst those natives, especially at present.One thing has not been mentioned during this debate—namely, the labour procured during the war. In East Africa during the war native chiefs were given five rupees a head for each man they produced, and the carriers and labourers received food and a cloak—or, I suppose, a blanket—and nothing else. The most rev. Primate said that the Colonists were most likely encouraged by this form of forced labour to think that this sort of thing, though perhaps modified, should be continued. I think it is perfectly clear that for peace in that country it is impossible that such a state of forced labour should ever be attempted on the same lines as during wartime. It was absolutely necessary, of course, during the war. May I say that those native carriers suffered tremendously? Many of the natives fought well for us, and that should be taken into consideration. I have had this information from an officer who was three years in the country in that campaign, and I believe what he told me to be perfectly true. I have read the Circulars on forced labour of the Governor of these Provinces, and my own impression of them is that they are rather vague. But there is this about them, that a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse; and there are some very broad hints with regard to labour in those Circulars. No doubt they will be followed by Ordinances. If we had the Ordinances to deal with I could understand a great deal of the very strong observations made by noble Lords who spoke before me; but the Ordinances are not before us, and there is plenty of time to prevent their being promulgated. Although the paragraph of Sir Edward Northey's Circular of October 21, 1919, has been read out, I really must again read the end of it—
I may read that wrongly, but it may mean. "If you do not work you are going to be taxed a little more." There is some force in that, and I think it is one of the strongest points in the Circular. I should now like to ask the noble Viscount the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the labourers who are going to be employed by the Government will be paid individually or whether the chiefs are to get the money for providing them?"Work on large Government enterprises such as railways and roads is less popular; for this the Government, should, I believe, have the power to call out the idlers. I believe there should be an increased rate of tax on young able-bodied men."
That is something. I am very glad to hear that. It quite does away with what took place during the war.
With these circulars before one it is well to ask, What will be the length of the contracts; what will be the terms of the contracts; and what wages will the labourers earn? I am not talking of private labour for the Colonists but of the public works and the railways which are hinted at in Sir Edward Northey's Circular. That is very important, and I wish to say something more about it. If the Government are going to bring over from distant parts of Africa natives to work on these railways and public works, which I admit are necessary, they must allow them to bring their wives and families. If there is one thing that a native wants more than anything it is his wife and his children around him— his wife to cook his food and to live with him. You would thus do away with chances of all sorts of disease which are palpable to anyone speaking on this subject. Further, you make the native notch happier. A negro, if he is well treated, is a jolly sort of fellow. I have employed many on the other coast and, I hope, treated them well; and they have always treated me well.Another point is in regard to the amount of wages paid by the Government for public works. Those wages should certainly not be less than those paid by our Colonists to their labourers. That I should say would be a correct sort of policy. The amount should not be more, because the Colonists want labour very badly indeed. You have to develop, both on public grounds and on private grounds. As time goes on more land is taken into cultivation, more public works are begun, and more labour is required; and it is essential for everyone to know—I hope the noble Viscount will tell us this broadly and distinctly—what the policy of the Government is going to be with regard to labour in East Africa. These Circulars have made people rather suspicious and nervous. I do not suppose that the natives know anything about them; but if our policy is not known front here at headquarters there will be a great deal of trouble and unrest in that country. If there are to be recruiting agents, it is most important that they should be licensed; because if you give a native power he is able to commit great abuses, and the recruiting agents, as we all know, can get a pull and can bully. It is important that recruiting agents should be licensed by the Government of the country for which they are trying to get recruits. A word as to the Circular of the Chief Native Commissioner, issued at the instruction of the Government in East Africa. Paragraph 5, which has already been alluded to, says:
That is quite definite. It says they are going to get the labour from the adjacent conquered territory. I should like to ask the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State, whether that is a violation of the Mandatory system of the League of Nations. It seems to me that in getting labour "from the adjacent conquered territory" we are rather encroaching on Tom Tiddler's ground, picking up gold and silver, because it is hinted, and even clearly stated, to the chiefs in our own territory that, if more labour comes in from the conquered territory, then there will be less money for them. That is coming very near to forcing them into a very disagreeable position, because if they do not provide the labour it will be brought over from the other side, and they will suffer. If there is to be forced labour of any sort, which should only be exacted when absolutely necessary, and with the greatest reluctance, it should be administered under the strictest safeguards, which means that the natives should be made as comfortable as possible when you have got them there to work on your public works. They should not continue to be administered by the Government in South Africa, but the policy should be the total supersession, by degrees, of forced labour. It might last for a certain time under certain conditions, but it ought to end, and I hope the noble Viscount will tell us that there is not the smallest chance of labour being forced, as is hinted by the Circular."His Excellency instructs me to state that constant endeavours will be made by this Government to obtain native labour from the adjacent conquered territory."
My Lords, I wish to emphasise the first point brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Islington—namely the position and treatment of Indians in East Africa. I feel sure there can be no doubt in the mind of anybody present as to the importance of this question. It is urgently necessary at such a time as this, when public opinion and feeling in India is what it is to-day, that satisfactory assurances should be given in reference to the treatment of Indian residents in places outside India. It is a commonplace that the war has added immensely to our Imperial responsibilities, and we are face to face to-day with an acute and urgent Indian question at many points. We have, this afternoon, to deal particularly with the problem of Indians outside their own country.There is one point to which I should like to call special attention. It is an expression of my own opinion merely, but I think it is historically correct. There is no danger of a rush of the Indian population out of India at any time to other regions under the British flag, and, in that way, of the other British interests in those regions being dominated by the Indian population, The Indian does not like to leave his own shores. It will be found, historically, that the existence of a large number of Indians at many points of the Empire is due in the main to indentured labour. I will not attempt to reiterate the Points of grievance to which Lord Islington called attention—the questions of the franchise, of the land, of currency, and other very important questions. But I hope that the Secretary of State for the Colonies will be able in his reply at all events to set at rest many doubts which are agitating our minds at the present time upon these points and—what is quite as important, if not more important—that what he may say may have the effect also of easing the situation in India and of showing that many of the fears entertained in regard to these matters in East Africa, affecting the Indian population there, have no substance in fact. I should like to emphasise the Indian standpoint. I have before me a copy of certain resolutions which were passed on June 20 in India by the Council of the Indian National Liberal Federation, which is a body that voices what I may term moderate Indian opinion. There are one or two words in these resolutions which, I think, set out the case very clearly from the Indian standpoint. The Council strongly protests against the anti-Indian agitation of the European residents in the Protectorate of East Africa, and against the political and economic disabilities imposed upon Indians by the Government of the Protectorate. They urge that there is no justification for the policy of racial discrimination as against the Indian subjects of His Majesty in a part of the British Empire the internal administration of which is under the control of the Government. They demand, in particular, that restrictions on the allotment of land to Indians should be abolished, and that the political and municipal franchise should be extended to them. The Council earnestly request the Government of India to press with all their power the Indian claims for justice and equality. That, I think, sets out very distinctly what is in the mind of the great majority of the people of India with reference to the particular points that occupy our attention this afternoon. I have for some time been convinced that something beyond the existing machinery is required for dealing adequately and efficiently with the responsibilities of our Imperial administration. I have the greatest regard and admiration for all our great State Departments. As we all know the Colonial Office is manned by able, honourable, and devoted public servants, but with all the changes which have been brought about by the war and the added responsibilities of the present time, I believe that something beyond the existing system of administration from Whitehall is required, in the interests of the Empire and of the nation. We all hope, my Lords, that at no distant date certain changes may be brought about in our Parliamentary constitution, which will enable Parliament to give a much greater and closer attention to foreign and Imperial affairs than has been the case in the past. There is only one observation which I should like to make in connection with the suggestion put forward by my noble friend, Lord Islington, as to a Standing Committee. I hope it may be found possible to carry that suggestion into effect; but, in my judgment, something more is required as a permanent solution in view of present conditions; some procedure by which it may be found possible for the mind of both Houses of Parliament to be given to Imperial affairs; something, perhaps, in the shape of a Joint Parliamentary Committee, charged with the responsibility of watching the interests of our Imperial administration. However that may be, I feel very glad that my noble friend, Lord Islington, has had this opportunity of bringing forward this Question and, being specially interested in the Indian side of the problem, I do earnestly trust that the noble Viscount, in his reply, will be able to give your Lordships a satisfactory assurance upon these points.
My Lords, I am afraid it will be impossible for me, with any regard to your Lordships' time and patience, to deal with all the points which have been raised during the course of this long and very interesting debate, but I trust I shall be able to say enough to reassure your Lordships on some of the matters which, as the last speaker said, are causing disquiet in the minds of many members of this House. It was not, of course, possible to foresee the particular matters on which my noble friend who asked the Question, and other speakers, might touch. I have come down here armed with a very large number of official documents, rather more than I may be able to find my way through, and yet it so happens that I have not got all the documents bearing on all the points which have been raised in the course of the debate. Nevertheless, I think I may be able to deal with the main points.I was not able to foresee quite the line which my noble friend was going to take, although I am bound to say that I had some indication of it from the fact that he wrote me a letter some days ago (for which I thank him), giving particulars of the proposal to which he intended his remarks to lead—the proposal, that is to say, of a Committee composed of representatives of the Colonial Office, the Foreign Office, the India Office, an Indian member of the Indian Council, and of some representative of native interests nominated by the Colonial Office, to which should be submitted all questions of importance affecting the administration of our East African possessions, and which should report to Parliament. If I have time before I finish I shall have a word to say regarding this proposal, but, at the present moment, I will only make one observation upon it, because it touches the very heart of the matter under discussion. I observe that though native interests and Indian interests are to be specially represented in this Committee, there is to be no representative of the European settlers. That, no doubt, is because it is supposed that the Colonial Office takes sufficient account of the interests of the European settlers, while the Indians and the natives are in need of special protection. I am afraid I must demur to the point of view, which seems to underline the whole of my noble friend's arguments and some of the speeches which have been delivered in the course of this debate. I mean, the view that the interests of the Indian and the native communities of East Africa do not receive sufficient consideration under existing conditions. Let me say at once that if this were indeed the case, it would be evidence of failure on the part of those who are responsible for the administration of these territories. In East Africa, as in other countries under the administration of the Colonial Office, it has been the avowed principle, and it is the definite intention, of the British authorities to mete out even-handed justice between the different races inhabiting those territories. They regard themselves as equally responsible for the interests of all sections of the population, of whatever race or colour. And I, for one, do not admit that in East Africa or elsewhere, difficult as it may often be, and undoubtedly is, to reconcile divergent and sometimes conflicting interests of the different sections of the population, the principle has ever been deliberately departed from. Now let me say a few words on the question of the natives. The natives form the overwhelming majority of the population of our East African possessions. They are, moreover, the most backward and the most helpless part of the population, and any policy which was not deliberately directed to their protection and advancement would undoubtedly be unhesitatingly condemned by British opinion and would find few or no supporters in your Lordships' House. I will not make the obvious remark that, whatever may be the defects of their present condition, it is a condition as widely different as light from darkness compared with that in which we found them —a condition of barbarism, constant slaveraiding, of desperate and devastating internecine conflict. Let this never be forgotten when the shortcomings, which I do not attempt to deny, of past or present administrations are dwelt upon and perhaps somewhat exaggerated. This is a great deal to be able to say, but I fully admit that it is not enough to say if it can still be contended with any show of reason that the natives are to-day being exploited in the interests of European settlers. That is the gravamen of the charge which is brought against us, openly expressed by some speakers, and hinted at by almost all. The one idea which seems to haunt the mind of certain noble Lords is the fear that we are introducing, or are about to introduce, a system of compulsory labour. Attention has been called to this subject latterly by the Circular of October 23, 1919, of the Chief Native Commissioner, to which such constant reference has been made in the course of this debate. Mention has also been made of the protest, a very temperate and well-balanced protest, against that circular by a number of High Church authorities, several bishops of the English Church. and I think, the head of the Scottish Mission in East Africa, and others. I need not say that both the Circular and the criticism of it have received very careful and repeated consideration on the part of the Office over which I have the honour to preside. I cannot admit that the Circular deserves the severe criticisms which have been passed upon it or that it justly bears the interpretation which has been put upon it here to-day —an interpretation which certainly was not the intention of its writer. I could not help being rather amused by the reference which one of the speakers made to the view which is taken of the supposed oppressor of natives—the author of this Circular—by the representatives of the settlers community. Noble Lords may think that Mr. Ainsworth has not been sufficiently careful of the interests of the natives, but the view which is taken of him by a portion of the European community in South Africa is that he is an extreme upholder of native rights. I am quite certain that anything like what may be called Prussian methods of native administration, anything like the employment of force or ill-treatment, in order to obtain native labour for public works, or for any other purpose, would have no stronger opponent than he. In view of the great amount of attention which has been directed to this Circular, and to the protest against it, I had several discussions with Sir Edward Northey, the Governor of the East African Protectorate, or, as we must now learn to call it, the Kenya Colony, when he was over here a little while ago, and as a result of these discussions I came to the conclusion that the Circular had led to misunderstanding and was capable of misinterpretation. Therefore, with my full concurrence, Sir Edward Northey proposes on his return to his colony to issue an explanatory Circular which, I think, will put at rest all doubts as to the meaning of the original documents.
Will these be withdrawn?
There is only one Circular and that is the one to which I have referred. It is not withdrawn, but another Circular is to be issued which will deal particularly with the points in which, as I think, the original Circular has been misinterpreted. I hope, at no very distant time, that all the correspondence on the subject, which is not yet entirely completed, may be laid on the Table of the House. The difficulty in this question of native labour is to steer a middle course between allowing the natives to live in idleness and vice and using improper means to get them to work and permitting them to be engaged on unfair terms or to be improperly cared for when they are in the employment of their white masters. It is not an easy course to steer and I should be the last to say that we always find the true via media. But this I will say—that the efforts of the authorities are constantly directed to finding that middle course, and that both legislatively and administratively immense pains have been, and are being, taken to secure the end.As to the importance—not primarily in the interests of the white settlers, but in the interests of the natives themselves—of encouraging them in the habits of steady industry, there is, I venture to say, absolutely no difference of opinion between any persons who have practical acquaintance with native conditions and native life in South Africa. There is no difference really between the administrators and those who have lived long in the country, and above all the missionaries, who may be regarded as the chief advocates and defenders of native rights. I say there is absolutely no difference of opinion between all these classes as to the vital importance to the natives themselves of encouraging them to more steady and continuous industry. On this subject I should like to read the words of Sir Edward Northey, and with what he says here I desire entirely, speaking from my own long experience as an African Administrator, to associate myself. I was sorry to hear some of the criticisms which were directed against Sir Edward Northey to-day. It may be true that he has had no special experience as a Colonial administrator, but he has had long and very varied experience of South Africa and of South African native conditions, and with what he says on the subject of native labour—and I may say that he is a man of extreme sincerity—I entirely agree. These are his words—
I call your Lordships' attention to the reservation—"The Imperial Government has encouraged white settlement and the production of raw materials East Africa can provide; but the idea of increased production is futile, unless we are to do all in our power to bring the native to the labour market and teach him to work. His work, under good European supervision—"
This view as to the supreme importance, in the natives' own interests, of encouraging native industry, is confirmed in the strongest terms by the bishops and other clergymen who have signed that protest to which I have already referred. Speaking of this Circular which is being so much attacked they say this—"and with proper training is many times more productive than it is when left to his own methods, and he improves, physically and mentally, more quickly with regular work and healthy exercise. Left to his own resources he does little work. He makes his women and children do it for him. Very little effort in turning up the rich soil provides him with sufficient fond. Left alone, the majority of the adult men in the native reserves live a miserable life of idleness, drunkenness and vice. Encouraged and taught to work, he soon sees the advantage of earning money, lives better, becomes more intelligent, and dresses himself more decently. For the good of the Empire, which requires our raw materials—for the good of the Protectorate, which must advance along progressive lines, and for the good of the native whom we protect, I am convinced that we must do all that is justly and legally possible to encourage and induce the native to come out and work."
Labour must be forthcoming if the country is to be developed as it should, be. The country needs it, and the native is better for it, and, therefore, it is common ground with everybody who is familiar with the circumstances, that by all legitimate and proper means the natives should be induced to come forward and work. The high authorities to whom I have just referred, all of them clergymen, all of them speaking exclusively in the interests of the natives, go so far as to advocate compulsory labour under carefully restricted conditions; that is to say, labour exacted by the Government for services under Government control, and preferably for public purposes and not for private employers."With the main purpose, the prevention of idleness and the meeting by all legitimate means of the demand for necessary labour, we are in entire accord."
Is it not "entirely" for public purposes?
No, not "entirely" for public purposes. They go further than that, and say "preferably" for public services.
Can the noble Viscount tell us who these authorities are?
They are the Bishops of Mombasa and of Uganda, the chief authority of the Scottish Church in East Africa, and a number of other clergymen, all speaking from the moral and religious point of view. How far has this compulsion actually gone? To very limited extent compulsory labour is permitted in East Africa and Uganda. Let me read the conditions of the Ordinance under which it has been permitted as an exceptional measure. This is the only Ordinance, of which I am aware, which permits anything like compulsory labour at all, and these are the conditions:
That is the limit to which compulsory labour has gone."The provision of paid porters for Government servants on tour, and for the Government Transport Department, and of paid labour for work on the construction or maintenance of railways end wherever situated in the Protectorate, and for other work of a public nature, whether of a like kind to the foregoing or not. Provided always that no person shall be required to work under the provisions of this clause (a) for a longer period than sixty days in any one year; (b) if he be fully employed in any other occupation or has been so employed during the preceding twelve months for a period of three months."
What is the date of that?
It is a fairly recent Ordinance, beginning early this year. That comes within, and observes strictly, all the conditions laid down in the document to which I have referred, which proceeds from supporters and defenders of the native cause and representatives of all the great religious bodies in East Africa. The degree to which compulsory labour has actually been allowed does not go outside the limits which they themselves recommend. But personally I am opposed to any further extension of compulsion, even for public works, and I cannot say too clearly that, except to the extent to which the position is modified by the Ordinance front which I have just quoted, it is illegal to use force to procure labour in our East African possession for any purpose whatever, even public purposes, much less for private employers, and, so far as I am concerned, it always will be illegal. That is now, as always, the policy of His Majesty's Government. Anxious as we are to induce the natives to work, important as we consider it both for the development of the country and for their own advancement that they should work, we are not prepared to go beyond influence, advice and encouragement in order to get them to do so.Then it is said—it was said over and over again in the discussion to-day—"It is all very well to talk about influence, advice and so forth coming from persons in authority; with ignorant and helpless natives that does practically amount to compulsion." Those who say that must, I think, be ignorant of the great number of safeguards which we have taken, and are taking, for the protection of the natives against the abuse of authority, either by native chiefs or officials, to bring undue pressure to bear upon the natives to go to work or for any other purpose. Let me call your Lordships' attention to some of these safeguards. Tht greatest in my opinion is one which we have lately adopted—that is that the native districts are now being placed under specially selected British officers, whose concern it will be to look after the interests of the natives, and to see that the humane policy and intentions of the Government with regard to them are carried out. These people will not be in any way under the influence of the white planters. They have nothing to do with the administration of parts of the country other than the native districts, and they have no other official duties titan those of looking after the interests of the natives and seeing that the laws for the protection of the natives are enforced. I have no doubt having regard to the character of the men so employed—carefully selected and well-trained and experienced officers—that they will be able, as they know it is the desire and intention of the Government that they should be able, to prevent irregularities in the matter of recruiting. Let me say at once that there is no question hear of pressure being brought upon the natives to serve any particular employer. We want them to work, and they know that we want them to work, but they are free to refuse, and they are free, above all, to choose their masters. What the noble Lord said is perfectly true, that the greatest, the most effective way to obtain native labour in East Africa or anywhere else is to treat the labourer well; and the influence of good treatment is allowed full play in this case. There is undoubtedly a scarcity of labour, and there is competition among employers for labour. The native is free to go and labour where he pleases, and he will naturally go where he knows that his treatment is likely to be best. When the native leaves his own district in order to go and serve under a white master, provisions are there for his protection, and for seeing that the contract which he has made with his master is fairly observed, and that he lives under decent conditions and receives good treatment. I would invite any one who is interested in this subject to study the Masters' and Servants' Ordinance of the Kenia Colony of the East African Protectorate. It was made in the time of the Protectorate, but it and the amending Ordinances apply in the case of the Colony. I do not see what more could be done by law than is done in these Ordinances to ensure that the natives should be engaged on fair terms, and that whilst employed proper provision should be made for their food, their housing, their health and their welfare generally. In order that these laws may not remain a dead letter, there are special Government officers—the Inspectors of Labour—who have very wide powers indeed to enable them to examine the contracts under which the native labourers are employed, and to supervise the conditions under which they live. And more than that. It is not only their duty to report any infringements of the Laws and Regulations for the protection of natives, or any infringement of the Masters' and Servants' Ordinance, but themselves to take action on behalf of the natives in any civil proceedings whether instituted by the natives themselves, or by a magistrate on their behalf, or called for by a magistrate—for the proper enforcement of the terms of their contracts. Further, very extensive powers are given to the medical officers of the Government to ensure the health of the natives in private employ. In the first place, a native cannot even be engaged by a private employer until he has been examined and certified fit to work by a medical officer of the Government. When he is in private employment a medical officer has power of inspection of his dwelling and of his food. He has power to condemn the food and the dwelling if they do not come up to a proper standard; and he can discharge and send back to his home—or, if he cannot be sent back home, send to a native hospital—any native who, though he may have been fit at the time of his employment, is found unfit and no longer able to work. When I look at the provisions of these Ordinances and the arrangements which have been made for carrying them out, I really do not know what more we could do to ensure that the natives— whom, as I have said, it is our policy to induce to work and not to force to work—when they do go to work should receive fair treatment and live under good conditions calculated to advance them in civilisation and not to retard their progress. I am always anxious not to overstate a case. I do not for a moment pretend—indeed, how can I know?—that the provisions of a just law or the humane intentions of the Government are always and everywhere effected. All I can say is that this is our policy. We take all the care we can in the selection of the men to carry out that policy. They are men of good education; men with good public school and university records; very often men who have rendered distinguished service in the war. Every effort, I can honestly say, is taken to ensure that the execution of laws —which I hope I have convinced your Lordships are in themselves just and humane—should be entrusted to men who are of such a character that they are likely to be willing and efficient executors of laws of that nature. We do everything we can to select them well. At the same time we shall not cease to keep a careful watch over the matter, to investigate complaints, if need be to strengthen Regulations, and to increase staffs. Let it always be remembered that the natives have in their own territories many friends, and an increasing number of friends—the missionaries and others—who arc not slow to call attention to abuses, and who, when they do call attention to abuses, will find in the supreme authorities men ready and eager to put a stop to them. In that connection I would once more quote some words of Sir Edward Northey, and they shall be my last on this branch of the subject. He says—
I turn now to another point, the position of the Indians in East Africa. There is no subject the reasonable consideration of which has bees rendered more difficult by exaggerations on both sides. On the one hand we have the Report of the Economic Commission—to which my noble friend Lord Islington referred—going, as it seems to me, quite outside the terms of reference; abusing the Indians: talking about their moral depravity; calling them carriers of disease and inciters to crime and vice; and pronouncing against all Indian immigration into any part of Africa. Such an attitude is, as Lord Islington said, purely deplorable; and it is not necessary for me once more to repudiate it in your Lordships' House. On the other hand, I must say that I read with something like indignation a letter addressed to me by one of the members of the East African Indian deputation —a man of position, and one who could not be regarded as wholly unrepresentative—in which he said, among other things and accompanying a threat, that the Indians would defy the law if it were not made in all respects to accord with their demands. He added that since the administration had been taken over by the Colonial Office, Indian rights had been ignored and trampled upon, and a deliberate policy to drive out Indians had been relentlessly pursued. it would appear that British statesmen of all Parties—the late Lord Elgin, the noble Marquess who sits opposite, my noble friend Lord Harcourt, not to mention Mr. Walter Long, Mr. Bonar Law, and myself—"Natives throughout the Protectorate now know the power of the Courts of British justice, and they would not hesitate to appeal to them, if aggrieved, with the ready assistance of firms of British solicitors. Abuse of authority will thus quickly be brought to light."
And Lord Emmott.
Yes, and my noble friend Lord Emmott—have all been concerned for fifteen years in a conspiracy to trample upon the rights of the Indians in East Africa. Such sentiments are not likely to meet with approval in your Lordships' House, and I refer to them only as a warning against the spirit of exaggeration by which this unfortunate controversy has been so much embittered. Needless to say, it is the earnest desire and determination of His Majesty's Government, disregarding these onslaughts on the one hand and, on the other, not letting themselves be deterred from pursuing a policy which they regard as equitable and as fair alike to the white settlers and to the Indians, to see that there is room for both races in the development of East Africa. There is room for both of them, I may say, without interfering with the welfare or the advancement of the natives. The great thing is to bear the cardinal fact always in mind, that there is no reason why the proper development of any of the races interested in that country should interfere with that of another.I cannot deal with all the Indian complaints which have been brought forward in this discussion, but I should like to touch upon what I believe to be the principal complaints. One of these refers to the representation of Indians on municipal councils and on the newly-created Legislative Council. I must ask your Lordships to bear in mind that representative institutions in East Africa are only in their earliest infancy. In Uganda, and necessarily in Tanganyika—where we are as yet hardly in physical possession, and not strictly in legal possession at all, though we have to carry on in the interval as best we can—there are no representative institutions, while in the late East African Protectorate, now known as Kenya Colony, it was only last year that ally elected members at all were introduced into the Legislative Council. The majority remains official. In other words the final decision in all important matters of legislation really rests with the Imperial authorities at home. And I may say at once that, having regard to the very embryonic condition of the institutions of the country, and to its very early stage of development, I think that that position will have to be maintained for a considerable time—the position, that is to say, of an official majority in the Legislative Council, leaving with the Imperial authorities at home the responsibility for the main measures of legislation adopted. In these circumstances it seems to me that the question of the number of elected representatives—seeing that they are in a minority in any case—and the method of their election, is not of the first importance. What is of vital importance is that the view of every section of the community should be adequately voiced in that Assembly. In the Legislative Council of Kenya the Indians have two nominated, not elected, representatives. That plan, I may say, was adopted because, in our belief, the interests of the Indians could be really better represented under present conditions by nominees than by elected members, and, as a matter of fact, the Indian nominated representatives in the Council are men of high standing, who do, I believe, very worthily and adequately defend the interests of the people of their race. But it appears that the fact that the Indian members of the Council are nominated, while the European members are elected, is regarded as a slight, certainly by a section of the Indian community at any rate, and that, as a question of amour propre, the Indians desire that their representatives on the Council should be elected, as the European unofficials are, and not nominated. I am bound to say that this s a point on which I do not feel very strongly, and I am perfectly open to conviction. I rather deprecate altering the composition of the Legislative Council, which is in the nature of an experiment, and which is only just set up. But if I was convinced that this was a matter on which the Indian community felt strongly and was unanimous, I should see no reason why, at the next election of the Legislative Council, the Indian members should not be elected, just as the European members are though the nature of the franchise to be conferred upon the Indians would have to be a matter of very careful consideration. And I say the same about the municipal councils. There also I think that if the Indians attach great importance to the election of their representatives, as against the system of nomination, it is not a matter about which the Imperial authorities ought to take an obstructive attitude.
Would the noble Viscount say whether the representation would be increased also in accordance with the Indian population?
I am not prepared to commit myself on that particular point at this moment. The particular point with which I am dealing is the question of election, as against nomination. I know the numbers of the Legislative Council, but I am really not aware at this moment what the proportions are in the municipal councils; therefore, I am not in a position to say whether they are fair or not. But I think that the question of proportions is more important probably in the municipal councils than it is in the Legislative Council.The other main point to which I should like to refer is what is known as race segregation. There is no question on earth about which there has been a greater amount of exaggeration and misunderstanding. One would think, from a great deal that has been said on this subject by the Indians or their advocates, that the Indians in East Africa were all compelled to live in a sort of ghettos. As a matter of fact there is no general restriction at all upon the residence of Indians. There is no law compelling them to dwell in any particular locality, or forbidding them to dwell in any other. I am speaking now of the Kenya and Uganda. With regard to Tanganyika, I really cannot speak positively at the present time. It is conceivable, though I do not think it is likely—I do not know as a matter of fact that it is so—that, for purely administrative and temporary purposes, there are restrictions upon the places of residence of Indians or of any people at the present moment in that territory. But I do not think the conditions existing in Tanganyika—a territory of which, as I say, we only recently became partly in possession—can be taken as any indication of the system to be introduced hereafter, when our authority there is fully recognised and established. I am speaking with regard to The Kenya and Uganda, because the principles that we lay down there are principles which we should seek hereafter to extend to Tanganyika, so far as it may be possible to do so under the provisions of the Mandate. The whole controversy which has arisen on this question of race segregation is due to the fact that in the disposal of Government lands we have reserved certain areas —quite limited areas, in which alone whites can live and work in health in East Africa—for white settlers, and that in the lay-out of townships, we are dividing them into European, Indian, and native quarters. Those are principles which I am prepared to defend on two conditions. One is that as we have reserved certain areas for European settlers, we should also offer other areas to Indian settlers. There is, I am assured, vacant land available of a suitable character, and I may say that I should welcome the fact if the Indian Government were willing to send out representatives to assure itself that the land offered to Indian settlers was suitable and adequate. The other condition, which, I think, ought to be observed if the policy which I have indicated is to be carried out as regards townships, is that there should be fair treatment of both races in the matter of sites. I mean to say, that you should not give all the best sites to Europeans and cram the Indians into inferior localities. If that principle is observed I cannot, for the life of me, see where the injustice or the indignity to the Indians comes in. It is very easy to create prejudice by talking about Indian locations. You might just as well talk about European locations. I think the noble Lord who asked the Question to-night is under some misapprehension with regard to the rights of Indians to acquire land. He seemed to think that the acquisition of Government land was limited to Europeans. That is not the case. It is true that in certain areas only Europeans are allowed to acquire land, but it is equally true that in other areas only Indians are allowed to acquire land. That principle may be right or wrong. but it is not a principle of inequality as between the two races. The object, of course, is to maintain a system under which the Indians, the natives, and the Europeans in the same areas—that is, the crowded and populous districts—reside in different parts of a township. You may ask, "Why make this separation? Why not let them all mix up together?" I can only say that the principle of the separation of townships into European, native, and Indian areas was adopted on sanitary grounds, and on the recommendation of a man who is, perhaps, the highest living authority on tropical sanitation, Professor W. J. Simpson. He was sent out there not with any reference to this question of Indian or European ownership or residence at all, but with the general, open commission to report on the sanitary measures necessary for the welfare of the community out there. It was from him that the suggestion proceeded that this separation should be made, which, I say, has been made, without necessarily implying inequality between the different races or indignity to any one race. The reason which he gave for it he has lately repeated in the strongest terms, and I should like to read to your Lordships what that reason was:—
It is said, on the other hand, Why cannot you deal with this matter by sanitary regulations? Is it necessary to separate the people? Cannot you have a general inspection? Let them live mixed up anyhow, but have an inspection of all their houses, and put a stop to insanitary practices in any one of them. I should like once more to quote what the same high authority says on that point:—"In considering the question of residence of Indians in the residential area set aside for Europeans, it is necessary to point out that in East Africa the Indians have been the chief carriers of plague, and it is due to them mainly that this disease has spread over the country. It is due to them also that the very insanitary conditions of the commercial quarter, and especially in that of the Indian bazaar in Nairobi, has arisen, which has rendered Nairobi an endemic area of plague and a menace to the general population. It is the same in all the bazaars of East Africa in which the Indians settle. When plague occurs among the Indians it is concealed as long as possible."
Therefore, the origin of this policy, which is described as one of race segregation—I do not like the word—the policy of the division of townships into several areas inhabited by different races, was originated on sanitary grounds; but, speaking for myself, I am not prepared to defend it on sanitary grounds alone. My own conviction is that in the interests of social comfort, social convenience, and social peace, the residence of different races in different areas—I am speaking now of the populous city areas—is desirable, and so far from stimulating it is calculated to mitigate hostility and ill-feeling. Having said that I repeat once more that while I believe in the principle of separate localities, I also believe in the principle of a fair selection of localities which will not prejudice one race to the benefit of another. In conclusion—and I really must apologise for the enormous length at which I have trespassed on your Lordships' time —I should like to say one word about the proposal with which Lord Islington ended his speech—namely, the establishment of a Committee to advise the Colonial Office in all these difficult matters. I should be grateful, for I realise their complexity and difficulty, for all the advice I could get. As a sworn foe of departmentalism, which I regard as the greatest curse of our Governmental system, I am not at all opposed in principle to constant and close communication between related offices of State. Of course, the Cabinet is the ultimate co-ordinating authority, but I am convinced that we shall be obliged to depend in an increasing degree on Cabinet Committees bringing together the heads of what I may call related Departments and enabling them to settle their differences amongst themselves, rather than adding to that fearful congestion of Cabinet work which at present threatens to bring the whole machinery to a standstill. Having said that I hope my noble friend will admit that I do not approach his proposal in an unfriendly or negative spirit; but let me add at once that I do not think I should be prepared to subscribe to the proposal exactly as it stands for a great variety of reasons. Nor do I imagine that he himself would not agree that it may be capable of improvement. For one thing it is very necessary that care should be taken, however much you multiply the opportunities for consultation and advice, that you should ultimately not have a divided responsibility. There must be in the long run some one Minister who is answerable to Parliament for the administration of these territories, and I should contemplate with something like alarm the position of a Secretary of State who had to defend himself not only against his Parliamentary critics but also against the advice of a Governmental body with which he happened to differ. If the Secretary of State, who is ultimately responsible, does not see his way to accept the advice of such a Committee, he would then have to come before Parliament and the two Government authorities—the Secretary of State and the Government Committee—would have to fight out their difference either in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. I cannot imagine that this is intended by my noble friend."Even granted that the house of the Indian built in the residential quarter of the European area would conform to the building laws relating to the area, a requirement not easily secured permanently in Indian houses, there is no guarantee that the Indian household will observe the necessary personal sanitary requirements which are essential for the safety of the European neighbours, and on which the demand for segregation rests. Such observance would involve a belief in modern etiology of diseases and willingness to act thereon in the privacy of the dwelling, neither of which can be said to exist in the Indian household. For however highly educated mid advanced the Indian owner may be, his family and dependents are swayed, and naturally so, by the customs and beliefs of their religion, and will not alter."
Neither did I suggest it.
I do not see how, under his proposal, that contingency could be altogether avoided. Still, I do not wish to go into anything like detail on the proposal. The matter is one which is well worthy of consideration. I must again apologise for the length of time I have occupied. I hope that while I have not been able to deal absolutely with all the points which have been raised in the discussion, you will at any rate acquit me of any attempt to evade a full discussion of the main principles which have been raised.
Before the Question is put may I ask the noble Viscount, as he has told us he is preparing Papers to lay before Parliament, whether they will include the amended Circular which is going to be issued, and the other document to which he referred.
Yes, I think both are to be included.
In rising to withdraw my Motion I should like to express my gratitude for the ample manner in which the noble Viscount has answered the many questions put to him, and for what was, in many respects, the satisfactory answer he has given.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.