§ 3.38 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
The Debate today follows a number of discussions in this House this week intimately concerned with colonial affairs. The place of American Aid in regard to colonial development and the status of colonial subjects under the new Nationality Bill have been discussed. The Committee have before them today a number of reports which set out the work which has been done in our Colonies during the past year and an account of the activities of the Colonial Office itself. There is a report on the administration of the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts of 1940 and 1945, and during the year a number of White Papers have been issued dealing with various aspects of colonial policy and certain problems in various colonial areas. I feel, in view of the fact that these reports are in the hands of hon. Members, that it is scarcely necessary I should go into much detail in regard to the respective fields covered by these reports and statements.
It has been a crowded year of activity, both in the Colonies and in the Colonial Office. The work has been done in a world settling down from the repercussions of war—territories full of economic 590 uncertainties, sometimes of great disturbance, and Colonies where a great deal of rehabilitation and reconstruction work was imperative. As we all recognise, the range of interest of the House extends not only to the considerable territories in the Continent of Africa but to the more far-flung territories as well—the West Indies and the Far East. It is the responsibility of the Colonial Office to concern itself, too, with such small Colonies as the Falklands and their dependencies, the Seychelles, small groups in the Pacific, St. Helena, Turks Island in the West Indies. The smaller territories, of course, claim almost as much attention as some of the larger ones in the Continent of Africa.
I will not this afternoon review the past year, except to say that it was a notable year for a number of reasons. That year has seen important constitutional changes; the recognition of full self-government in Ceylon, the granting of internal self-government to Malta, and the ending of the Mandate in Palestine and the independence of that country. In addition, a federation has been created of the Malay States and the settlements in the Peninsula, a move has been made towards federation in the West Indies, and in East Africa an inter-territorial organisation has been created in order that the common economic interests of Tanganyika, Uganda and Kenya can be better served.
We have, of course, had a great deal of trouble in certain parts of the Empire. I shall have something to say in a few minutes about the present difficulties in Malaya. The House has discussed the problems, the disturbances, the outrages which occurred in Palestine. There has also been trouble in the Gold Coast. I regret that it was not possible for the report of the Commission on the disturbances in the Gold Coast to be available in time for the Debate today, but I hope that report will be available to hon. Members by the end of the month, together with a statement of Government policy in regard to the recommendations made by the Commission.
During the year, too, the Colonial Development Corporation has been established, and a large number of bold economic projects have been originated and many new arrangements made in regard to orderly marketing arrangements for colonial products. At the same time, there have been substantial developments 591 in social policy. In the field of higher education, a policy initiated by the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), universities are coming into being in the West Indies, in West Africa and in Malaya, and a change in Makerere to the status of a university college is being brought about.
There have been developments in the field of mass education and labour legislation; campaigns have been conducted with great success against pests and locusts in Africa; there have been campaigns against diseases of all kinds; the working unit in Gambia has been doing very good work in the field of nutrition; a panel has been set up for improving the medical services by the sending of consultants from this country to examine medical arrangements and work in conjunction with the medical services in Africa—all these things have been done, besides a vigorous housing policy and welfare policy pursued in the various territories of the Empire. Therefore, I submit there is, as revealed in the report before the Committee, a considerable record of work, and I should like to pay tribute to the servants of the Colonial Governments as well as the Colonial Office itself, the Civil Service there, for the considerable work they have accomplished and the devotion which they have shown in the discharge of their duties.
Before dealing with certain broad aspects of policy, I should like to make a passing reference to one or two matters of some interest in the problems concerned with the Colonies. We have during the last two and a half years recruited for the Colonial Service no fewer than 3,300 men and women, which has meant an enormous task in examining applicants, sorting them according to qualifications and experience, and in drawing on a very wide range of experience as well. On the administrative side of the Colonial Services, the number of persons taken during the last two years represents no fewer than 11 years' normal intake. There are still large numbers of vacancies in the respective services to be filled, and it is one of our difficulties in the technical service to find men available to undertake these important responsibilities in the Colonies.
592 I should like to say what excellent reports we have received as to the quality of the men and women who have been recruited during the past few years. They have been undergoing training in the universities, the tutors there have had the opportunity of discovering their quality, and those men going through the first and second courses are reported as of excellent calibre, men who will undoubtedly do well in the Services to which they go. I should at the same time like to thank the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and elsewhere for the magnificent co-operation they have given us in the training of the men for the Colonial Services.
It should be remembered that no fewer than 96 per cent. of the men recruited for the Colonial Services throughout the Colonial Empire do not come from this country or the Dominions. They are recruited locally and form part of the local services. We are now trying to create new facilities for training some of these men who are recruited locally for higher responsibility and the more qualified positions. Some of them have already come to this country and we set aside £ million for such training. Meantime, the principles and recommendations propounded in the Colonial Office Paper (197) on the organisation of the Colonial Service are being applied. There has also been an effort to improve the amenities of the Colonial Services, to improve salaries and allowances and generally to ease the hardships which many of its servants suffer because of their complete isolation from this country and their sometimes serving in very unhealthy climates.
New facilities have been created for these men to enjoy refresher opportunities, so that they can come together after a period of service to learn more of their own particular profession or skill. We are also trying to organise a series of conferences so that the men may get a wider view of the responsibilities they are discharging in their territories. In this work of refreshing, developing and building up the post-war Colonial Services we have had, as the Committee well knows, the assistance of Sir Ralph Furse. As he leaves our service as a full-time permanent official, I should like to pay tribute to him for the enormous work and considerable achievement which the Colonial 593 Service at present represents as a result of his endeavours.
Last Autumn we held a conference of African Governors. It was singularly successful in the sense that we were able to bring into review the pressing problems of African administration—the relation of local governments to the home Government, the position of the Colonial Office in relation to the local administrations, and the larger constitutional and economic problems which are developing over that Continent. We have arranged for September of this year a further conference of unofficial representatives of the legislative councils of Africa. That conference will again bring into review the large questions of economic, constitutional and local government development. Above all, the conference will serve the great purpose of building up regional views in Africa in regard to colonial problems and the even greater purpose of binding the representatives who come here in loyalty to this country.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
Will that conference consider the application of American capital and capital projects to our Colonies?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
There is very little which the conference will not consider. Certainly the whole problem of economic developments in the Colonial territories in Africa will be on the agenda. One of the great advantages of such a conference is the building up of close contacts between these representatives from Africa and the people of this country and assisting to a better understanding and closer friendship.
It was suggested that I should say a word about the colonial persons who are in London for study and for work. There are some 3,000 students and, as the Committee knows, the Welfare Department of the Colonial Office is very attentive to the welfare requirements of these men and women. That department is responsible for hostels and a reasonably good life for these people when they are in our country; if necessary, the finding of work for them; helping them to find places in technical colleges and universities; and bringing them, as far as possible, into touch with constructive influences in this country. The universities are anxious that in their hostels the colonial students should mix freely with 594 people who attend the universities from this country and that every facility should be opened out so that the students shall see something of British social life and get, as far as can be arranged, into the homes of our people.
I now come to certain general considerations regarding Colonial policy. The aim of British policy is set out in the report which is before the Committee. It cannot be too often repeated, for the information of our critics abroad as well as of the peoples in the Colonial Empire, that we are in these territories to guide them as quickly as circumstances permit to responsible government within the Commonwealth, in conditions that ensure to the peoples fair standards of living and freedom from oppression from any quarter.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
In regard to political developments, I would repeat what I said last year on this subject. I said then:I am convinced that in this modern age, with its forces of nationalism and freedom, its economic changes, its spread of education, and the political and social awakening which is going on, we must adjust ourselves to a much quicker tempo of constitutional development than would have seemed practicable a few years ago. We have to experiment boldly, though not necessarily rashly, and to recognise that while the transfer of power to people not fully trained or with adequate experience or traditions to exercise it will lead to mistakes being made, it is only through actual experience in the exercise of responsibility that people can acquire a sense of duty and of service. The process may be a painful one, but the alternative of increasing bitterness and tension in the relationship of the people to the Government would be disastrous."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1947; Vol. 441, c. 266–7.]In pursuit of these broad purposes in constitutional and political change, we have overhauled a number of constitutions or territories in the past year; we have improved the basis of representation to the legislative councils and on the executive councils of the governors; we have increased responsibility by the people in their own affairs; in some cases we have introduced the Ministerial system; we have proceeded a long way in various territories towards reorganising local governments, and we have brought about groupings of territories for regional needs.
But obviously it is not easy in a brief period to transfer political institutions 595 which have grown up under the conditions of Western Europe into territories where social development is not nearly so forward. It is increasingly obvious that we must pay perhaps less attention to the problems of central government in those territories and much more attention to aspects of local government. That means that we must examine afresh some of the problems of indirect rule in the case of Africa. We must be more forthcoming in the creation of municipalities in other parts of the Empire and try to build up responsibility in government amongst all classes in all neighbourhoods if later responsibility is to be wisely exercised at the centre of government.
With that in mind, during the past year we have given much attention to this problem of local government. Lord Hailey has visited both East and West Africa and has examined again the problems of native administration and the steps which can be taken to secure a stronger system of representation and local government. Last year, we summoned a conference to this country of members of administrative staffs engaged very largely in work alongside native administrations. That conference formulated certain recommendations which we were able to make the basis of discussion with the African Governors when they were here last Autumn. It is clear that much more attention must be given to the growth of responsibility in local government.
We are improving and extending municipal powers, we are training local people for service under the local authorities, some scholarship holders are in this country at present, and we are also modernising native administration wherever possible and introducing more younger and educated men for service on the native councils. We are increasing their powers in respect of finance and the care of certain services such as sanitation, health, roads and education and completing the process of breaking away the judiciary from these councils and also giving them separate financial responsibilities.
It is also important that we should do everything in our power to create a sense of personal responsibility for social needs by encouraging the creation of voluntary organisations, by stimulating the work of 596 voluntary societies and helping the people to form organisations which do not necessarily need Government support, but which, in the field of welfare and co-operation, can make their contribution to the common social life. Accordingly, we are extending our interest and activities in the fields of welfare, co-operation and trade unionism, as well as in local government in order that the spirit of self-help can be fostered and greater opportunities afforded for social responsibility.
The past year has seen an enormous drive forward in economic organisation in the territories overseas. The idea of economic development is, of course, not new. It did not arise because of the shortages experienced in this country, or because of the conditions of Western Europe, or because of our difficulties in regard to dollars. The 1945 Colonial Development and Welfare Act was very much concerned with economic as well as social growth. Accordingly, in the 10-year programmes which have been submitted to us by the respective Governments of the Empire considerable provision was made for agricultural development, for roads, public works and utilities of various kinds which are basic in the growth of any community.
During the past few years there has been a remarkable advance in the provision of public works and utilities which are essential for the other economic activities of a growing society and for good social living. I emphasise this, because too often it is assumed that at long last we are waking up to the imperative importance of developing the Empire. The truth is that under both the 1940 and 1945 Acts certain of the economic requirements of colonial development were foreseen and plans were laid accordingly.
The Colonial Development Council has come into being largely for the purposes of seeing that social and economic planning is soundly conceived, that expenditure is wisely incurred, that sound principles of development are adopted in the Colonies and that there is a wise balance as between social and economic expenditure. As will be seen from the White Paper on the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts published recently that Council has had before it in the past year a number of important 10-year programmes which 597 have come forward from the territories themselves.
There has also been created the two Corporations concerned with enterprise in territories overseas. There is the Colonial Development Corporation, which is now getting down to its work, as well as the Overseas Food Corporation, which comes under the Ministry of Food. The primary purpose of the Colonial Development Corporation is to encourage public and private enterprise in our territories in order to buttress the economies of those territories, increase economic activities and strengthen the economic foundations on which the whole of the social life of the peoples of those territories depends.
We have set out in paragraph 13 of the report some account of the principal developments of the past year, and again in chapter IV of part II of that report further evidence is given of the work going forward. The Colonial Development Corporation has now finished planning its London machine and its overseas machine. It has gathered together a number of experts in order that the work may be wisely and suitably developed. It has been in touch with all the Colonial Governments and it is now engaged in discussing various projects, some of which it hopes to launch very shortly indeed. The responsibility of the Colonial Office is not to interfere with the day to day management of the Corporation but to facilitate its work, to see that it can obtain the supplies that are necessary and to help to maintain the liaison with the Colonial Governments. It brings under review the various schemes that are adopted and the principles on which the projects are based and it generally assists in securing the necessary priorities for the proper implementation of the schemes.
The Corporation has received from the Colonial Governments and from commercial sources a total of approximately Too projects in various stages of preparation. These emanate from almost every part of the Colonial Empire. There is a considerable number of proposals for small or medium size secondary industries and a small number of much larger projects dealing with primary products. Some of them are being investigated by the Corporation in association with commercial firms. The Chairman informs me that he is gratified by the spirit of co-operation and enterprise 598 shown by the majority of commercial concerns in the Colonies. The Corporation intends to devolve upon a number of subsidiary regional companies large powers of management of the projects within their territories. They will receive policy guidance and technical guidance and be provided with common services from a headquarters organisation.
I regret that it has not been possible to make all the progress one had wished in regard to some of the schemes adopted under the 10-year programmes. There continues, of course, to be the difficulty of obtaining the necessary capital goods and steel, the difficulty of finding the right personnel for some of these projects, and incidentally the difficulty of providing suitable incentives to African or other Colonial labour because of the shortage of consumer goods.
I should like to make one or two points in regard to economic policy generally. We must recognise that the results of all this work of the past year cannot be unduly hurried, that we must not expect any big dramatic results as the result of our efforts in this field. The physical conditions of the world do not permit of such dramatic results. It must also be remembered that in the expansion of crops it often takes some years before those crops reached yielding point. Further, it is important to keep in mind that we cannot hope for any vigorous colonial development unless we are able to associate the peoples of the Colonies with the projects which we hope can be established in their midst. Too often, in talking of colonial development we forget this essential requirement of understanding and co-operation from the colonial peoples themselves. It must be made clear to the colonial peoples that these development plans are primarily concerned with the improvement of their trade and economic status and with the strengthening of the economies of their territories.
Many of the schemes are concerned with improving their economic life in such a way that their own demands for food can be met and their demands for better social living in the way of education and health can also be supplied. Unless that economic basis is sound the various territories will not be able to sustain the standards of social living which the people are today demanding. Therefore, there is a considerable 599 advantage to the colonial peoples themselves from the schemes which are being launched, and it is hoped that in this very bold effort we shall obtain the good will of the local governments and the co-operation of the colonial peoples. Unless it is freely given I fear that colonial development will not go far.
The third point I desire to make in this connection is that during the past year we have also tried to secure a genuine measure of international co-operation in wide areas in regard to some of the problems which we seek to solve. We have had a series of conferences with the French, Belgian and Portugese Governments, and in all cases we have found a very willing and co-operative response from those Powers. They have their responsibilities overseas and also have the task of solving many of the difficulties which we experience in our own territories. A series of technical conferences has already taken place and many more are planned on problems of technical development, communications, health, etc. We have also entered into discussions with the French Government and the other associated Governments as to the possibilities of further co-operation in regard to development schemes. It is obvious that in vast areas such as West Africa and Central Africa the greater the degree of co-operation between the Powers that can be achieved in tackling these fundamental problems of colonial development the greater will be the result. I am glad to say that that co-operation has been willingly forthcoming and the three or four Governments concerned are working in a most friendly spirit on the problems that confront them in various parts of the world.
I wish now to say a few words about certain geographical areas of the Empire because recently those areas have attracted a great deal of attention. First I would refer to the West Indies. The arrival the other day of some hundreds of men, some from Jamaica, some from Trinidad, attracted considerable public attention as to the conditions operating in the territories from which those men came. The story of the economic difficulties of the West Indies is one with which this House is familiar. Over a long period Commission after Commission has gone to the West Indies to examine and to investigate the problems with a view to making 600 sound recommendations for the social and economic development of those islands. But it must be confessed that, in spite of the recommendations which have been made and the actions of the Government which have followed on those recommendations, many of the human problems of the West Indies still remain. The difficulties associated with disease, squalor, unemployment and poverty are there.
We must reckon, of course, with the fact that agriculture remains the basis of the economy of the West Indies. There is oil in Trinidad and bauxite and possibly other minerals in British Guiana, but broadly speaking the whole economic structure of the majority of the territories in the West Indies must be built up on agriculture. A great deal has been done in the past two years to expand and to improve the quality of production, to find new markets and to secure, by fair contracts, reasonable prices for the products which are grown there. As is well known, in the case of Jamaica there has been the disease of bananas which has occasioned considerable distress and considerably reduced the production of that fruit in Jamaica.
An economic adviser to the Government has been at work now over a period of some years. There has been a series of conferences on trade and agricultural development, but I confess that, as yet, our fundamental economic problems remain unsolved. The problem is complicated by the fact that there is an increasing population for which there is no satisfactory outlet outside the West Indies themselves. Several outlets formerly available are now closed to West Indian labour, and it is sometimes difficult to come to arrangements with the United States in regard to the use of some of that surplus labour. Consequently, we have a festering problem of unemployment and under-employment in many of the West Indian Islands.
We have also tried to foster a number of new small industries. We have met with a great deal of difficulty because of shortages of the necessary raw materials, but the problem of founding new industries is one which is receiving our active consideration as well as that of the local governments themselves. The Caribbean Commission has conducted an economic survey of the whole of the islands, not only 601 the British, but all the islands and the whole of the Caribbean territories, and we hope to have before us in the next few months a considered view on the possibilities of industrial development as well as other forms of economic development.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
That Commission came back last January. Is its report not yet available to the Ministry?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I am talking of the economic report which has been prepared by the Caribbean Commission. I think the hon. Member is confusing the Caribbean Commission with the Commission which was sent to British Guiana and British Honduras, and about which I shall have a word to say in a moment. I stress now the great difficulty that confronts us in regard to finding new avenues of employment for the surplus population, the underemployed and unemployed workers of most of the territories in the West Indies.
We sent a Commission to British Guiana and British Honduras last year for the purpose of examining the possibilities of those territories, whether new settlement was possible, whether certain lands could be opened up and whether new projects in regard to mining and industries could be established. The report of the Commission on British Guiana, has now been delivered to the Colonial Office, but we still await the report on British Honduras. Immediately that report comes to hand it is hoped that the two reports can be published together. The recommendations of the Commission in regard to British Guiana are already being studied in the Colonial Office and by the local Colonial Government and no time is being lost in the implementation of certain of the recommendations I hope that a full report may be made available to the House within a month or so.
I now turn to Malaya. The nation has lost a great and distinguished public servant by the tragic death of Sir Edward Gent on his journey to consult with me on Malayan affairs. No man in recent years has contributed more generously and devotedly to the rehabilitation and the reconstruction of Malaya, to its political settlement and operations for its progressive advance. He had a distinguished record, both at home and overseas, in war and in peace. He possessed not only courage and high integrity, but 602 also rare administrative qualities and a deep sense of disinterested service. The Committee will not expect me to be in a position today to announce his successor We are confronted with a difficult and grave situation in Malaya which the Government do not minimise. I can add little today to the statements which have been made in this House by the Under-Secretary and by myself, or to the broadcast and other speeches made by the Governor-General. We are mobilising in all possible ways to defeat and to destroy this menace in Malaya, and I think that we are acting with firmness, with decision and with sternness. This is an attempt by murder and violence to destroy authority and order in Malaya, to reduce the economic life of that country to chaos by murder of the managements on the estates, both European and Chinese, and to impede Malayan recovery and create some other control over Malaya. In the past few years, we have tried in that country to overcome the difficulties which the war left us, to prevent famine, to remove the economic uncertainties and to rehabilitate the common life of the people.
It has been not an easy task to get some measure of economic stability in that territory and to obtain something like a settled economic order. It was on that background of uncertainty and of food shortage that a great deal of the present disorder developed. During the past few years we have tried to create political institutions and government based in the consent of the people of Malaya, to create a good public service, an effective police force and also to encourage sound trade unionism. We have sought to secure the conditions of orderly life by clearing up the arms dumps, or attempting to, and by stopping wherever was possible recourse to violence, intimidation and extortion.
The figures will show that in our efforts to secure the conditions of good order in that territory the courts have not been lenient in the administration of the law. There have been a considerable number of deportations of persons who have been guilty of stirring up trouble and encouraging violence. It is worth while putting on record that Malaya, after all, is the only colonial area in South-East Asia where no genuinely anti-European movement has emerged since the 603 war. Today in the Peninsula the three Asiatic peoples are themselves behind the Government in their effort to establish orderly life and to secure the progressive recovery of the country. Figures of violence, of murder, robbery and gang robberies have already been given. I can assure the Committee that the local government in consultation with ourselves are acting with full vigour and already have been able to effect a considerable number of arrests of those who appear guilty of instigating the disorders and attacks on human life.
I would say emphatically, particularly in view of the vilification of Britain—the wilful lies in regard to the Malayan situation which have been put across from Moscow—that we have not here at all the emergence of a nationalist movement which Britain is engaged in putting down. This is not a movement of the people in Malaya. It is the conduct of gangsters who are out to destroy the very foundations of human society—orderly life. We have no desire to create in Malaya a police state, nor are we doing so. What we are doing is to arm the necessary authorities with the requisite powers in order to cope with this situation of violence which has become too formidable a feature in the life of that territory.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Can my right hon. Friend say if there is any reproduction in Malaya of the political strife in China.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
It is true that you see in Malaya today a conflict which is not unlike the conflict which is going on in China. It would appear that the same kind of interests are involved as in China itself. I think that one can say that the strong action taken by the Government has increased and fortified public confidence. In the actions of the local government, the Services are co-operating to the full in the work which is necessary to squash this menace.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Can my right hon. Friend define the extent to which the local government have liberty of action?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
The local government may proceed under certain ordinances and emergency powers. As I shall show, certain of these ordinances 604 have been amended and certain powers have been increased after consultation with the Colonial Office; but there is the fullest consultation with the Colonial Office in regard to all new developments and the demand for new powers, and there is the closest association with the Services as well.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am extremely interested in this matter. My right hon. Friend in his speech constantly says, "we." He gives the impression that the local government and the Colonial Office are working in the closest possible association, but one feels that, should a sudden emergency arise, the local government must refer back to the Colonial Office. It is on that point that I want to get an answer.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
The local government are armed with the fullest powers to cope with any emergency now. There has been no withholding—
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
The right hon. Gentleman says, "now." By that "now" does he mean only ordinances recently introduced, or does he mean that they can do it on the spot by immediate action? That is rather important.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Recently certain ordinances have been amended as a result of consultation with the Colonial Office, but already before that consultation the local government enjoyed very considerable powers indeed. It was in cases where they were asking for certain exceptional powers that consultation with the Colonial Office and myself became necessary.
The Committee already know that we have strengthened the deportation and detention ordinances. We have tried to check the carrying of arms and to increase the facilities of search. We have powers to control the movement of vehicles and persons, to check seditious propaganda and subversive agitation, and we have adjusted the trade union regulations in order that the trade unions shall be protected from certain subversive influences from outside. The police, too, have been strengthened, and special constabulary organised. We have sent out a fair amount 605 of the equipment demanded, and in every way possible we have acted to help the local government. I would say again to the Committee that we do not take this challenge lightly. We are determined that this evil in Malaya shall be eradicated, and every step possible will be taken to destroy the gangsters and discover their sources of supply.
I conclude by saying again that, in presenting this review of our colonial territories and of the work of the past year, none of us are self-satisfied as to the quality and character of the work we have done. We are conscious of our limitations, the difficulties in our way, but I do want to say emphatically that Britain has nothing for which to apologise in respect of her colonial policy and her activities overseas in this connection. The effort made has been a very considerable one, and I have already paid tribute to the staffs of the Colonial Governments and of the Colonial Office. I feel that I should add that it has seldom been the privilege of a Secretary of State to place on record such a volume of change and achievement. I am the vehicle for carrying through certain changes at the wish of this House, and a great opportunity has been given us to carry through vast reforms and projects.
I am conscious that, in the furthering of this policy, all parties in the House are determined that this work shall be done. I, therefore, submit this report with every confidence that we are proceeding along the right lines, that our policy is soundly conceived and that our work is already achieving considerable results, and I believe, too, that we are gaining increasingly the confidence and good will of the peoples with whom we have to work. I repeat that it is of fundamental importance that, in all our tasks we have the full co-operation and understanding of the colonial peoples.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down and for the information of the Committee, will he give us a little information, first, as to the present number of unemployed in Jamaica, what proportion it bears to the total working population in Jamaica; and, secondly, when we can expect to receive the report of the committee which went out there last year and surveyed the situation in Jamaica, Trinidad, British Guiana and Ceylon? That report ought to have been 606 available a long time ago. The committee came back in January, and it is time that we knew something of what they have to say.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
It must be admitted that the report has been a long time coming, but the British Guiana report was submitted, as I said earlier, a month or so ago, and is already being worked upon. Immediately the report on British Honduras comes to hand, it will be made available for the information of the House. Delay has occurred owing to the illness of one of the members of the Commission, but I can assure the Committee that, immediately the report comes to hand, it will be published, probably during the Recess. In regard to the volume of unemployment in Jamaica, I should say that there are no reliable statistics on which one can base a firm judgment, but it is probably in the neighbourhod of 30,000, and that would probably include a large number of seasonal workers and a large number of under-employed workers.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Africa, in passing, only once in this speech. Has the right hon. Gentleman arranged with the Lord President of the Council that we should have a day devoted entirely to Africa or will African questions form part of today's discussion?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Africa is obviously within the terms of the Vote before the Committee this afternoon. When one talks about colonial policy, too often one talks about Africa and nowhere else. I personally feel some regret that we have in the past devoted most of our attention to the affairs of Africa, and not sufficient to the affairs of other parts of the Colonial Empire.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
The Colonial Secretary covered a great many subjects in the course of his speech, and I should like to refer to some of them. I think my main criticism of his speech would be that he devoted a very large part of it to what I would call the machinery of government and did not say very much about actual events or human beings.
I hope we shall agree on one thing, and that is that we spend far too little time in this House in discussing colonial matters. During the past year, apart from the 607 Ceylon Independence Bill and the Overseas Resources Bill, which also dealt with the food supplies of this country, we have spent only seven hours in discussing the affairs of 60 millions of our fellow British subjects. When it is remembered that this House spent 95 hours over the Representation of the People Bill, which, incidentally, took away the university representation of colonial graduates, and 111 hours in discussing the Town and Country Planning Bill, I do seriously and earnestly suggest that there is something wrong in our sense of proportion and in our sense of responsibility.
I hope that whoever winds up the Debate for the Government will give us an assurance, for which my hon. Friend behind me has asked, that next year we shall have more than one day to discuss colonial matters, and that we shall be able to devote a single day to discussing either a particular part of the world, like Africa, the West Indies or the Far East, or else deal with some specific subject, like education, health, economic development and so on. In the space of time between now and 10 o'clock tonight, we have to roam all over the world and will be able to deal with nothing adequately.
I want to discuss four particular subjects this afternoon, though there are many other matters which I should have liked to raise if I had had more time. I would have liked to comment in more detail on what the right hon. Gentleman said about the West Indies. I would have liked to ask him why he did not say something about the recent strikes in British Guiana, and I would certainly have challenged his diagnosis of the unemployment situation in Jamaica. To my mind, the primary reason for unemployment in the West Indies is overpopulation. When we consider that, in Barbadoes, we have an island only the size of the Isle of Wight but with twice the number of people, we have an indication of the importance of the population problem. I should have liked to hear more about the Colonial Development Council, how often it has met and whether it publishes reports. I would have liked to ask why it is that so many of the members with actual knowledge and experience of economic and financial problems appear to have left it. I notice that, apart from the technical and official 608 members, almost all the rest of the Council are people with Left Wing views and members of the Fabian Society. There is not a single Member of the opposite political party on the Council. Surely it is not necessary to take this principle of "jobs for the boys," and in this case "for the girls" as well—and unpaid jobs, too—quite so far.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
The reason why there are no representatives from the other side on this body is that the hon. Member who would, in our view, be very well suited to be a member of it, refused to take a seat on it. His reason was that it might inconvenience him in any criticism he might have to make of our policy.
§ Mr. Stanley
On a point of Order, Major Milner. I do not know whether it is usual for hon. Gentlemen to disclose what apparently were confidential communications, without asking the permission of the Member referred to. If that is going to be the practice, it certainly makes any confidential communication between Members of our party and Ministers extremely difficult. Secondly, I suggest that if these confidences are to be broken without prior communication, then it follows that the full terms of any communication should be given to the Committee. This document now having been referred to, should I be in Order in asking for it to be laid on the Table?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
In the first place, I was rebutting an attack by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) who said that there was only one side of the House represented on the Council. That, surely, was perfectly in Order, and I take it that one is entitled, even if he is a Member of the Government, to defend himself.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I was not aware that any confidential information had been given to me. It was given personally, and I took it that that reason—there was nothing disgraceful about it—was given to me under no seal of confidence. I do not see at all why I should be precluded from giving the reason.
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
The Rule is that if a State document is quoted, it 609 must be laid. I gather, however, that this was not such a document, and, therefore, the Rule does not apply.
§ Mr. Gammans
I do not wish to spend too much time arguing about this point. All I suggest is that hon. Members should look at paragraph 302 of this Report, see who is on that Council, and ask themselves whether there is any unofficial member there who has not got Left Wing views.
The other point I wish to raise concerns the very unsatisfactory and potentially dangerous situation which is developing in the Seychelles, where a pocket Hitler seems to be working out his colour prejudice. I want to know whether the Government propose to send a Parliamentary mission or any other sort of mission to investigate the conditions in this very seldom-visited island.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Would the hon. Member be a little more explicit? When he refers to some pocket Hitler, against whom is his charge directed?
§ Mr. Gammans
I am referring to the Attorney-General, Mr. Collet, whose conduct would bear closer investigation than the Colonial Office appear to have given to it.
I was hoping the right hon. Gentleman would have said something more about the progress of getting a common currency for these Colonies which are linked on a fixed parity with sterling. There is nothing to be proud of in the fact that we have got this vast jumble of dollars, local pounds, rupees and piastres. I am hoping that one day we may have some time to discuss the Co-operative Movement. It is a part of the Colonial administration in which I am particularly interested, as for seven years I was Registrar of Co-operative Societies.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned those interesting discussions which have been going on with the other European Colonial Powers. I think these discussions are desirable on public health grounds, because after all the tsetse fly and the malaria mosquito do not recognise frontiers. I think, too, that if we are hoping to get any sort of economic co-operation in Europe, we must equally aim at co-operation in the Colonies of European Powers. There is another direction in which the Colonial Powers might with advantage co-operate, and that is in defending themselves against the malicious 610 attacks which have been made on Colonial development in different parts of the world. The only other general question to which I want to refer briefly concerns broadcasting. I am glad to see in this Report that the Government are now allowing commercial broadcasting in different Colonies, but there is a vast leeway to be made up if this most useful medium of instruction is to be made available to the Colonial Empire as a whole.
The first important topic with which I want to deal is with regard to Malaya, and—I will be quite frank—I am not in the least satisfied with what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon. He does not seem to realise that both the Colonial Office and the Malayan Administration are under a grave charge of dereliction of duty, and he has got to put up a better defence than that which he has already made if he is to satisfy public opinion here and in Malaya. I would like to associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the late Sir Edward Gent. He was a personal friend of mine for nearly 30 years, and the Colonial Empire has certainly never had a more able or devoted servant, nor has Malaya ever had a more faithful friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I am extremely glad that the right hon. Gentleman put these events in their right perspective and made it perfectly clear that this is not a nationalistic uprising in any sense of the word. It is not a claim for a greater degree of self-government; it is primarily a terrorist organisation, Moscow-inspired, Communist in origin, and I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should not say so, considering that Mr. Malcolm MacDonald has said it. This is part of a worldwide attack against Great Britain, of which another part is what is going on in Berlin at this moment. The murders are not only of Europeans; they are of Chinese as well, and I think the main object is to try to disrupt the production of tin and rubber which are, of course, the main dollar earners of the sterling area.
I would like to ask the Government a few questions, and I shall be quite happy to give way as I go along if the right hon. Gentleman would like to answer them. The first is: did not the Government know from their military and police intelligence of the possibilities of 611 an outbreak of this order? On page 31 of this Report we find this statement, which sounds rather hollow at the moment:Despite some particularly brutal outrages in the Autumn of 1947, the country continues its steady return to the peaceful and secure conditions which obtained before the war.What is the meaning of that in a Report which only came out a few days ago? I suggest that the first charge which the Government have got to answer is that they were caught completely napping. If they had any sort of police or military intelligence, they would have known that this was going to happen.
The next question is: can they satisfy this Committee that the local administration has been really energetic in searching for arms during the past year? Have the police been given sufficient military weapons? If so, why was it that I heard on the news two days ago that radio equipment and arms were being flown out to Malaya? Is it true that the training battalion of the police in Malaya have no weapons at all? Why were not the reserves of the Malaya Regiment, which were called up yesterday, called up two months ago? These are the men who have jungle knowledge and experience. Is it true that the planters were told to form groups to defend themselves and were told that they must provide their arms at their own expense? Why was it that the special constables were not mobilised at least two months ago?
These are the questions which the right hon. Gentleman has got to answer, and I do not think he will get away with the string of platitudes to which we listened earlier this afternoon. What steps took place in regard to enforcing the banishment of gangsters? Why was Singapore allowed to banish gangsters several weeks before the Mayalan Federation? What steps have been taken to recruit more police personnel—in the case of officers from the disbanded Palestine police, and in the case of other ranks from Malays? These are charges which are being made against the Government both in Malaya and by people here who know the local situation. When the Under-Secretary replies, I hope he will deal with those specific points and try to give the Committee a better answer than did his right hon. Friend just now.
612 The second point with which I want to deal is one to which the right hon. Gentleman has already referred—the Colonial Service, in which I personally spent 14 very happy years of my life. I am very distressed to read in the Annual Report that the number of outstanding vacancies today is larger than it was a year ago. A curious expression is used, "The recruitment drive goes on." That is odd jargon to use about the Colonial Empire. I sincerely hope it does not mean that one of the most interesting and responsible services of the Crown no longer attracts the best of the British race. If that is what it means, it is a sad day for the British Empire. In the old days we Cid not have to talk about recruiting drives for the Colonial Service.
§ Mr. Gammans
There are one or two points which I should like to raise about the Colonial Service, and the first is whether the Colonial Secretary is satisfied that the rate of salary being offered is adequate to attract and keep really good people? We must remember that in most of our Colonies the European Civil Service is the steel framework upon which the whole administration is built. What we want is not quantities of people but people of first-class quality. I think that some of the Colonies tend to recruit European officers, when locally recruited officers would do equally well, but the officers which we get from this country must be first-class men and they will only be recruited by proper salaries and good conditions. I have always believed that all European officers, whether technical or administrative officers, should be compelled to learn the local language as a condition of continued employment and promotion. I am wondering whether the hon. Gentleman will tell us to what extent that is now a condition of service.
It would help recruitment, I believe, if there were better facilities for earlier retirement on a proportionate pension or gratuity at 10, 15 or 20 years' service, because there are so many cases where officers, for family reasons or may be for some other reason, feel that they must leave the tropics. They can only do so now by forfeiting their pension. It would be a very useful reform, too, if an officer earned his maximum pension after 25 years' service. There would not be the 613 same inducement and temptation by an officer to hang on when he could not expect promotion. I should also like to see the Colonial Secretary stress far more than he did what I think today is almost as important as efficiency, and that is to make it perfectly clear that promotion does not only depend on efficiency and keenness, but also on the willingness of officers to mix socially with the people of a Colony.
My last point with regard to the Colonial Service is that I am sorry that the Government have not been a bit more generous over Colonial pensioners. They are in a different category from the home Civil Service. They retire earlier and it is almost impossible for them to fit in to home economic life after 30 years in the tropics. They have to set up a home and buy their furniture, which is something the home civil servant has not to do when he retires. The shabby means test for the colonial civil servant is a poor way of treating men who have served the Crown so well.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when I protested against the application of that means test both to the home civil servant and the colonial civil servant, both sides of this House insisted on retaining it?
§ Mr. Gammans
I am very sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not more successful, and if he cares to protest again, I shall be only too glad to join him in that protest. There is one final point with regard to the Colonial Service which I should like to mention; I should like to congratulate the Government on the setting up of these training courses—I believe they are to be known as Devonshire courses—for the senior officers. I hope this is the beginning of a staff college for the Colonial Service to which people of all races in the Empire can come for study and also to meet together.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned something about colonial students, and I am not a bit happy about their condition here in London. They number some 3,000. I am hoping that the tendency more and more will be for students to take their graduate courses in their own local universities and only come here for post-graduate courses. It is a very great strain on a young man suddenly to be dropped into London at an impressionable 614 age, and there is a danger that he will not see the best of our life, but the worst.
Is it true what the right hon. Gentleman said about hostels? Are our students in London being looked after in the way they ought to be? I feel a lot more might be done not only to look after their physical welfare but also to give them the chance to see a little more of the best of our social and family life. How many students, when they come to London, see anything of England except the wastes of Bloomsbury? I remember an Indian friend of mine telling me that he lived in this country for six years and that after he left it the only person in England to whom he wrote at Christmas was the landlady of the place where he stayed. He had never seen the inside of an English home. There are many well-disposed people who would willingly welcome overseas students into their homes if only the means of introducing them to each other could be devised. Let the right hon. Gentleman be under no illusion—if the Colonial Office will not look after these students then the Communist Party will. I was interested to read in the "Daily Worker" a short time ago that so many of the West Indians who had come over on the "Empire Windrush" were already happily placed in Communist homes.
My last point is about constitutional development. I read these words in page 1 of the Annual Report:The central purpose of British colonial policy is simple. It is to guide the colonial territories to responsible self-government within the Empire.There must be another aim as well as that one, and that is to hold the Empire together as a world force. If we just talk about responsible self-government within the Empire, we are in danger merely of voicing a platitude, because self-government within the Empire—
§ Mr. Gammans
I am quite aware that that has been the aim of all political parties in this country for a long time, and I am not dissenting from it. All I am saying is that there must be another aim as well, and that is to hold the Empire together.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
The hon. Gentleman has quoted from a paragraph in the Report and if he does so correctly he will see that it says nothing about Empire but speaks about the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Gammans
Yes, it is "Commonwealth." I am sorry. However, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that responsible self-government within the Commonwealth carries with it the unchallengeable right to leave the Commonwealth, and that unless we find a better formula than that, the Empire will disappear bit by bit. What we want today is some great idea, some underlying moral force, some dynamic leadership which will hold together this great association of peoples. This particular phrase by itself is merely a dissolvent. What is wanted today is some cement.
Let us be clear about two things. The first is that Great Britain is either a great imperial Power or she is a lonely, friendless island in the North Sea, unable to feed herself and unable to defend herself. I am very glad that many of the hon. Gentlemen who sit behind the Treasury Bench have recently discovered the Colonial Empire, though I gather some of them are not particularly proud of it. They remind me rather of Robinson Crusoes fascinated for the first time by the waving of tropical palms. I also am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman did not follow what the Foreign Secretary said a short time ago in trying to pretend that all our Colonial development started under Socialism. Any hon. Member who thinks that, can very quickly be put right by the President of the Board of Trade, who will tell him that the exports of Malayan rubber alone—all of it, of course, coming from private enterprise—are greater in value than the exports of all products from this country to the United States put together. The human race may have started from monkeys, but the British Empire did not start with monkey nuts.
The other thing we must realise is that if Great Britain cannot exist without the Empire, it is equally true that the Colonies cannot exist without us. Independence without security is meaningless. Not one single Colony today in the British Empire could stand alone without the backing of the Empire and this country. The alternative to the British connection 616 is not some "airy-fairy" Utopia, but anarchy. The alternative to the Union Jack in most parts of the world today is the Hammer and Sickle. I read in yesterday's paper, as I am sure many hon. Members did, the following paragraph about Burma:Army and other communications between Rangoon and the major towns are now only by radio. Telegraph lines lie smashed by the insurgents. Railway bridges have been dynamited, and long-distance transport is practically at a standstill.
§ Mr. Gammans
I am using that quotation as an illustration of the point I am trying to make, that when the Union Jack comes down, anarchy of that sort takes place.
§ Mr. Gammans
I do not think the hon. Member would think it so hypothetical if he had been in one of the trains that was blown up. I suggest to the Government that their main aim should be not merely to grant self-government within the Commonwealth: their aim also must be to hold the Empire together. We shall not do it merely by doling out copies of the British Constitution tied up in pink ribbon; and we shall not do it merely by pandering to extremists and abandoning our friends; and we shall not do it merely by washing our hands of our responsibilities as we did in Burma.
What is it we must do? I think we have to do three things. I believe that the conception of self-government that we envisaged in the Statute of Westminster may be getting a little out of date, and that when we talk about self-government within the Commonwealth we must make it clear it is self-government on these terms, and on no other. In other words, I think we may have to face up to two limitations of self-government. The first is that no territory can leave the British Empire when by so doing, it imperils Imperial strategy and Imperial communications. I do not see why we should have any diffidence whatsoever in enunciating that as a principle. The Russians certainly have not. It is on the principle of security that they have spread half way across Europe. The Americans have held on to Panama, bases in the Philippines, and our bases in the West Indies 617 only on the ground of their security. We who are very much more vulnerable than they are, need have no hesitation whatsoever in putting that limitation to any further grant of self-government. I suggest, too, that only this Imperial Parliament should decide the pace of constitutional advance, and not a politically conscious and vocal minority avid for the spoils of office. Unless we are definite on these two points, we shall lay ourselves open to agitation and also to blackmail.
The second principle we ought to consider is that we must get away from the idea that our only conception of self-government is one necessarily based on the ballot box. The ballot box, which implies the counting of heads—and very often illiterate heads at that—is very strong vintage. We have seen democracy disappear from many countries of Europe and Central and South America, not because anything was wrong with the constitution, but simply because the very essence of democracy was not there. If we go on doling out constitutions based on universal suffrage, literate or illiterate, without any qualifications whatever, then we are not going to get democracy: we are going to get demagogy. I heard the other day of a member of one of our overseas legislatures who, when asked for his ideas about higher education, suggested putting a second floor on all the schools. We have the genius for constitutional improvisation, and I think we might start to exercise it in dealing with the constitutional problems of our own Colonies.
My last point is this. There must be a positive as well as a negative side to our constitutional developments. If membership of the British Empire is to be something really permanent it must be anchored in the hearts of the Colonial peoples. If we want it to be a permanent association and not something with a connotation of inferiority, we have to get rid of any implication of colour bars. The King cannot have two sorts of subjects, first class and second class. How are we to get a greater sense of Empire unity? It can only be done, in my opinion, through closer association, not only on the spot but here in London. Is it possible to develop an Empire defence policy? Is there any attempt being made to create some sort of council, some sort 618 of meeting here in London which will make the peoples of the Colonial Empire realise that they share with us the strategic defence of the Empire? Do we need something more by way of an economic council here in London? Our real problem, surely, is that we have to create a sense of Empire citizenship, so that a man from Nigeria will talk about his status as a British subject permanently and with pride, just as a man would who was born in Yorkshire, or in Scotland, or in any other part of Britain.
That is the task, the creative task that faces the right hon. Gentleman today. It is a task that requires more than just woolly idealism on the part of any of us, or even a kindly disposition. It requires courage and leadership. It requires a sense of imperial statesmanship which appears far too seldom. But it also demands a belief in ourselves, and a belief in our imperial destiny. If we cannot produce those qualities, we shall have to try to fight a series of constitutional rearguard actions, without enthusiasm and without hope. All our plans for education, social betterment, and better health would disappear overnight in the darkness which would follow the fall of Imperial Britain. To hold the Empire together is the real task of the Colonial Office today. If they succeed in that task, they will not only be helping to maintain the standard of living of the people of this country, but also maintaining over a large part of the earth's surface the rule of law, of justice, and the moral influence of the only league of nations which has ever worked.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
I would suggest to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), who likened Members on this side to a number of Robinson Crusoes, that that simile is also applicable to the Opposition. Some of us are terrified when we see the footprints on the sand, which the hon. Member's party have made as our predecessors in office, regarding the Colonial Empire. We accept the simile in the particular sense that we are appalled by some of the conditions which we see in our Colonies all over the world.
It is not my intention however to follow the hon. Gentleman very far in his constitutional speech. I want to direct the attention of the House 619 to the condition of Hong Kong, and its relationship not only with this country but also with China. I read in the report with considerable interest that it was the intention of the Colonial Office to impress on our administrators in Hong Kong the necessity of a clear understanding of the conditions that prevail in China. It is along those lines that I wish to speak for a few minutes.
I remember quite clearly that when we were in Hong Kong a few months ago, a considerable body of local opinion, which was shared by a good many people in this country, held the view that the only conceivable policy for the future of the Colony was that we should, as quickly as possible, reorganise that territory in the manner in which it was organised before the last war. I feel that that particular idea which is widely held both in Hong Kong and in this country, is an impossibility under the present changed circumstances. If that idea were followed through, it would increase considerably the difficulties of the Hong Kong administration and also the difficulties of our Colonial Office. I suggest to the Colonial Secretary that there are several important new factors in the picture concerning this Far Eastern country. I think that one of the first new factors that should be brought to his notice is that since the voluntary relinquishing of the extrality rights in nearly every other part of China, Hong Kong is in a far different position from what it was before the last war. The willingness to relinquish our extrality rights in other parts of China alters considerably the status of Hong Kong in the Far East.
Hong Kong today is to a considerable extent isolated in the China seas. That is an important factor in considering the future policy of the Colony. I think that this one fact alone will necessitate all the care that we can give to future planning, not only in our relationship with the island itself, but also in our relationship with Kowloon, the territory across the harbour. I have a particularly vivid recollection of an embarrassing moment when speaking in Nottingham on the need for the fullest co-operation and understanding between this country and China. I was describing the friendly regard that most of the Chinese have for us in Great Britain, and, while I was speaking a Chinese mob was almost simultaneously storming the Shameen 620 Bridge of Canton and succeeded in burning down the consulate. A few weeks before, as members of the Parliamentary Good Will Mission to China, we were sleeping in that consulate. [Laughter.] We were not sleeping there at the time of the fire, or it would have been most unpleasant.
I suggest to hon. Members opposite, who seemed rather amused by that reference, that if they followed me a little more closely they would find that I mentioned a rather serious incident in the relationship of this country and China. It was a coincidence that only a few weeks after that Good Will Mission the consulate was burned down by a mob in the Shameen territory. The disturbances were very serious. I am quite convinced that they were stimulated by certain elements in Canton who used the incident of the evacuation of the Chinese squatters from Kowloon as an excuse deliberately to attack and embitter Sino-British relations.
I suggest to the Colonial Secretary that that particular incident reflected a very serious feeling within China concerning our possession of Hong Kong and our occupation of the Kowloon mainland strip of territory. I feel that while the future of Hong Kong may not be planned at the moment, every care must be taken by the people of this country and the people in Hong Kong to recognise the strong feeling that exists among the Chinese just over the water from the Colony. Another aspect of the recent happenings in Hong Kong to which I wish to refer is the recently increased trade of the Colony, for it is a fact, according to the reports, that during the last three or four months the trade of the Colony has increased by leaps and bounds.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
Would the hon. Gentleman explain what he means when he refers to the trade of the Colony? Is he looking at Hong Kong as an entrepôt for the distribution of goods in the rest of China, or merely as a trading entity inside its own boundaries?
§ Mr. Harrison
For the moment I am looking at Hong Kong as a trading entity; and when I speak about the trade of the Colony I am speaking of the exports, imports and re-exports of the Colony, and treating it as an entity within itself. I will quote the United Kingdom trading figures for the last two years, to illustrate the 621 vastly increased trade which Hong Kong is at present enjoying. For three months in 1947, the trade of Hong Kong with the United Kingdom was £2,834,000.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but it is very important to get this clear. Is he talking about trade for local consumption in Hong Kong, or trade for distribution elsewhere?
§ Mr. Harrison
I am treating Hong Kong as a trading entity, and that trading entity has certain import and export trades, and together they constitute a good indication of the whole trade which the Colony enjoys at the present time; in other words, the whole trade that is passing through the various channels centred in the Colony.
For three months in 1947, trade with the United Kingdom amounted to £2,384,000. For the same period in 1948, trade between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong totalled £5,457,000—an increase of over 100 per cent. in a very short time. In the minds of some of us, and of the Chinese also, those figures raise a very knotty problem. The terrible conditions prevailing in China at present are, I think, well known to everybody, as is the importance of the government of China restricting and controlling, as far as they possibly can, any expenditure by the Chinese on non-essential imports. I wonder whether in this phenomenal increase in trade there is any element of trade which might have been encouraged by smuggling between Hong Kong and the mainland and up the river to Canton? I feel that for the future of Hong Kong this Government must encourage our Hong Kong officers to co-operate in every way possible to prohibit, or to restrict as far as they possibly can, smuggling between the Colony and the mainland of China. I say that because at this juncture in Chinese history it is important that there shall be as little leakage as possible in the shape of nonessential imports.
Another factor connected with the Colony itself, which will have a bearing on its future, is this: whilst we in this 622 country, and in our Colonies, desire to preserve our traditional policy of giving asylum to persecuted people, it would be advisable for our administration in Hong Kong to be very careful to avoid making the Colony a headquarters for all plotters against the authorities on the mainland. That will be a very important factor in the future of Hong Kong. They should not be suspected of offering asylum to or giving facilities for plotting by, subversive elements which arise from time to time in China.
There are aspects of these increased trading figures enjoyed by Hong Kong at the present time which should be of great comfort to the Chinese people themselves, for I believe that in the chaotic conditions existing on the mainland the facilities offered by Hong Kong would be of great benefit to the present Government in China. The Chinese themselves should recognise that the steady Hong Kong currency, and the shipping facilities of the Colony, can be used by the Government very advantageously during the present chaos on the mainland. It seems to me that that side of the trading position of Hong Kong has not been given sufficiently careful consideration by the present authorities in China. Anyone who knows anything of the position there would accept the possibility of a still greater drive towards reducing the amount of smuggling through the Colony on to the Chinese mainland.
I turn now to the position of Kowloon and the strip of territory across the water. I believe it to be true to say that it was leased to this country under the Convention of Pekin in 1898. To our Colonial Office I would point out that since that Convention was signed, there have been several revolutions in the country. However, with care on our part, and understanding on the part of the Chinese, that lease will be of credit and advantage, not only to this country but to the Chinese. Whilst the Kowloon evictions and the rioting over the eviction of the squatters reflect a feeling which has recently grown, that feeling can be overcome and a better understanding created between the two countries if care and consideration are shown to the old question of the lease of the Kowloon strip of the mainland.
As everyone knows, there has been a phenomenal rise in the population. The population figure is roughly 1,800,000, 623 and most of these people are Chinese. With this massive population in so small an area, it is right and proper that the authorities there should take every precaution to see that the present standards of hygiene are maintained. Everything must be done to persuade the Chinese Government and the Chinese within the Colony that these regulations are essential for the health of the community. If the question of the future development of Hong Kong is handled with some degree of care on both sides, I am sure that the future status of Hong Kong will not only be an asset to this country but also to the Chinese people. I believe that there is a great future for Hong Kong if only our people will do everything possible to overcome these varying irritants, which if they are not treated very carefully may mar the whole future of the Colony.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
I hope that the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Mr. Harrison) will excuse me if I do not comment on his highly individualistic presentation of a totally erroneous description of the trade of Hong Kong. I am fortified in this view by the reply given to me yesterday by the Under-Secretary of State, when I asked whether any change in status was contemplated in Hong Kong, because he replied with an emphatic, "No." As to the question of smuggling, let me suggest to the hon. Member's mind, which is not so matured as mine, because I have been a resident in China, that it is not so much that smuggling is carried on in the Colony as that a little door is being left open by the Chinese, particularly in Canton.
Last year we were asked by the Colonial Secretary not to comment on what was going on in Malaya because the new Constitution was just being instituted, and it was obviously the desire of everyone that it should be given a fair chance. Since then, on repeated occasions during the ensuing year when I have asked the Lord President of the Council whether he would give an opportunity—Government time, because this is a question of Government failure—for the Malayan question to be discussed, I have been met by him in that characteristic way of his of trying to pass over a question with almost an air of buffoonery. What is the result? 624 We now find ourselves with a first-class crisis of immense magnitude which might have been avoided had the Government acceded to that request.
The Government stand fairly and squarely condemned for their policy of too late and too little. If further proof is wanted, I invite Members to recall the Question I asked on 30th June of the Under-Secretary who is to wind up this Debate. I asked whether anything was being done to augment our police force in Malaya, and I was told thatsteps were being taken to recruit 20 additional police officers and the further expansion of the police force is being studied."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 209.]"Is being studied"—that puts the finger on the whole trouble, and it shows that the Government both here and in Malaya, are not taking this matter seriously enough and are not taking action in time. Is this the moment to talk about 20 additional police officers? This is not the time for a study, but the time for action.
I was in Malaya in the early part of last year, and I pay great tribute to Sir Edward Gent whose tragic death has deprived the country of his wonderful services. No man gave more time, thought and personality to pursuing the end he considered right. There was no finer man, and we all mourn his loss. But that does not necessarily mean I agree with everything he did, although any criticisms I have to make are not personal criticisms.
Let me give a description of what is the real problem in Malaya. What we are seeing now is not due to the Communists, although they are a large element in the situation and will certainly use it to their own purposes. It is not in essence a Communist movement, and we are throwing dust in our own eyes to use the word "Communist." I do not think I am likely to be accused of excusing the Communist Party of crimes of which they are obviously guilty, and I am certainly not qualifying to stand in the queue to become the Member for West Fife. As I was saying, we are blinding ourselves and throwing dust in our eyes if we call this a "Communist" movement. It is a manifestation of the local feeling that there is so much weakness in the centre, both here and in the Colony, that crime will pay.
625 The present set-up under the Constitution provides an opportunity for lawlessness to reign. It is not an ideological movement as yet, and it is not as yet a nationalist movement, but it is very unsafe to pretend that a nationalist movement cannot arise from it. It is the preliminary notice before we get the final notice "Quit Asia." We have had the notice to quit India, and we have done that, and in Malaya, for anyone who can read the signs, this is the beginning of a "quit Asia" movement. That is why it has to be regarded with the utmost seriousness.
This is a four-pronged attack. There is the Pan-Malayan movement from the Dutch Indies, where there is no war and yet no peace. There is the Pan-Asiatic movement playing on the Indian community, to which Pandit Nehru gave considerable impetus when he was in Malaya. Then there is the Chinese movement, which is a dual one, for the Kuomintang and the Communist are fighting out their battles in Malaya. Finally, from across the border in the north there is the Communist impulse coming almost direct from Moscow. These four elements have one thing in common. The have a common link in feeling that reprisals against them have hitherto not been of such a nature as to discourage their efforts.
In all these elements there is a proportion of bad men. We must be very careful in talking of the Chinese as being the element from which most of this lawlessness and banditry comes. Ninety-five per cent. of the Chinese are law-abiding citizens. Some have been very long established, in Malaya for 100 or 200 years, and others fit loyally into the new-citizen clause of the Constitution. In every one of these elements there is a proportion of bad men. It must be remembered that the bandits and thugs we speak of are not permanently bandits and thugs, because today a man is a rubber tapper, tomorrow, if it is a better prospect, he is a bandit, and the following day, if the game is not worth while, he returns to his ordinary avocation. That is the light in which this movement has to be regarded—organised banditry hiding under Communist cover. The quantity of arms and the number of bad people in the country have been the same since the end of the war.
626 Why, therefore, is it only recently that these manifestations of lawlessness have shown themselves? It is clearly for one reason, and one reason only: they have felt, with that great sensitiveness which they get from the bush telegraph or "grapevine," that crime would not be punished. They have felt that crime would not be punished even when it was committed for the second or third times. Once that happens, terrorism is established as a paying proposition, drawing more and more people to it, and becoming more and more dangerous to the general community. It is not murder that gets the headlines, or the spotlight; it is the terrorism, which makes daily life in huge areas of the country, in villages and towns, unlivable, that is the main trouble. We are offering the people of Malaya at present the inestimable benefits of "democracy," but one thing of which these people are certain is that they are being put under tribute in their daily lives, as the people of Chicago were in the days of Al Capone, and they want to be rid of that first. When they have seen the benefits of a strong, beneficient, just rule we may get on with the very important question of plans for introducing democracy of the utility export pattern.
There is the fatal weakness that it is only now that action is being taken. The Colonial Secretary used the word "now." This has affected police and others who are responsible for law and order. Let us put ourselves in the position of a police officer in charge of a district. What is the question that is in his mind? This holds good in every part of the Empire, in East or West Africa and the Far East. He has to take the difficult decision, on the spot, before the trouble actually starts, whether, in any action which he may take—and which may result in the deaths of innocent people; I am willing to admit that—he will receive absolute and unqualified backing. That is the root of the trouble, and that springs from something that comes from here from the Colonial Secretary. Behind all this is the feeling that the Government's system of Empire "load shedding" may well apply to Malaya and other parts of the Empire. It is load shedding and nothing else. There is this desire to get out of responsibility by introducing these manifestations of 627 democracy to immature people, to shed the load which we should have shouldered. That feeling passes from the centre out to the perimeter, and unless it is arrested, and visible authority is vested in one authority, which it is known will exercise it without fear or favour without some "fellow travellers," Left-Wingers, making a fuss because accidents have happened, we shall not get pax Britannica again in any part of the Empire.
Between the local authorities and the authorities here, we must fasten the responsibility for the present state of affairs in Malaya. It is a tragic state of affairs, and I am not yet satisfied that the means which will be used to put it right will be sufficiently powerful, or will be used sufficiently strongly. Let me say to His Majesty's Government that they will be doing a much greater service to the man in the street in Malaya, and taking a quicker step to make him fit for the next step forward in his own self-government, if they do two things: First, if they show clearly that they mean business, and that there are no strings attached to what local governments may feel they have to do to stamp out ruthlessly this daily terrorism. Second, let them examine again the working of the Constitution which they introduced. That was one of the wisest and best worked out things during the period of the Coalition Government which was carried on during the war, and in it Sir Edward Gent had a considerable hand. After the war it had to be modified, because nobody could guess the conditions in which it would be introduced; now, it has to be further modified. So long as there is no visible authority, with full executive authority, so long as there is firstly a Governor-General in Singapore, secondly a High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur and thirdly Mr. MacDonald—I cannot remember his title—with no executive authority, the set-up will not, and cannot, work, and calls for modification at once.
What will be the economic effect of the present trouble in Malaya? My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) pointed out, as I did recently, that the value of rubber exported from Malaya is fully equal to the total exports directly to the United States. Tin is equally important. It is obvious that this is a great dollar-earning arsenal of the 628 Commonwealth which is of special importance at present. We are already feeling the effects of the present situation in not getting the production of tin that we should get. The small Chinese producer will not buy the amount of machinery which he requires for surface tin work—small, but necessary, machinery—because he is in daily fear of being held to ransom, and made to pay tribute which will make his activities of no value. Until law and order are firmly established we shall lose every day a considerable amount of tin. As to rubber, we have not found a falling off yet but we shall, so long as managers of estates are living as they have to do now—half a dozen of them together in one bungalow, and having to go 40 or 50 miles to their estates. There will be the disintegration of the labour force on these estates and on the small Chinese holdings. That is the inevitable effect until law and order have been restored by visible, effective action.
One point of stability in the Far East at the moment is Malaya. Take a look around. Burma is in a chaotic condition, with tribesmen there at the mercy of the Central Government, which is no friend of theirs. India is not in a state of peace. Siam is gradually—and I say it openly—coming under strong Communist pressure. In Indonesia there is no war, but there is not peace; there is a long drawn out struggle, without arms being fired. In Indo-China the conditions are chaotic, and, again, the struggle is continuing. In China there is great chaos, both economically and racially; the anti-Communist forces are at present losing, and there is the possibility of China splitting. These are the chaotic conditions in the Pacific and the Far East. The one place to which everyone has turned, up to now, for stability has been Malaya. If we do not preserve stability, and restore law and order, we shall do the greatest possible disservice to the whole Empire. New Zealand and Australia are watching the situation most carefully. The Americans, who are giving us aid, will wonder if we are still capable of carrying out the functions we assumed in the past.
I was ashamed today when I heard the Colonial Secretary's pedestrian gallop as he took us around the Commonwealth. He spoke with no sense of the magnitude of the crisis. He showed no realisation of 629 what was at stake and what he was possibly going to throw away by weakness and inactivity. I was thinking of the people who for decades and almost centuries, have built up Malaya which, before the war, was a peaceful and prosperous area with the native population well in hand. I was wondering in my mind whether those people who spent their lives and gave of their best—those people of whom Sir Edward Gent was a typical example—will not haunt him one of these days.
Here, once again, we have an opportunity to do the right thing and to show that, by firmness and authority, we will not necessarily cut across the ideal of democratic progress but will build a firm foundation for it in the future. I say to this Committee, after many years of living in the Empire and the Commonwealth and with considerable knowledge of what has gone on locally, that the Government have brought us very close indeed to the brink not only of losing the economic advantages of Malaya but of disrupting the whole of the Far East and accepting the challenge "Quit Asia." If they do that, the unrest will not remain in Asia; it will penetrate from East to West. It will be a vital blow from sources from which it need never have come.
The Government can strike a blow at Communism, which is trying out the ground everywhere and seeing what is fertile ground for its efforts. Do not let the Government deceive themselves by saying this is Communism; it is not. This is lawlessness due to a disrespect of the law which is not being sufficiently firmly or effectively administered, and the cause of that I place fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Government. I condemn them for their dilatory methods in the past and their inability to realise the magnitude of the crisis of today. Let us hope that in the future we shall be able to withdraw that condemnation and congratulate them on taking the necessary steps, even at the last moment. They will have every support from this side of the House. Let them take their minds a little off the ideologies, and a little off democratic forms and voting, and do what is much better for the man in the street in that country—see he can live a decent orderly life without interference such as ought never to have arisen.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Macpherson (Romford)
I want to confine my remarks mainly to colonial policy in connection with food production and especially food production in Africa. The Debate has been going for 2½ hours and, apart from a facetious remark by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), there has been no mention of the groundnuts scheme at all. I want to say something about that.
I was in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, recently and I took the opportunity to fly up to Kongwa to make an inspection of the Government's groundnuts scheme. During my visit I was able to see the various stages of the work and to have discussions with the management and the executives on the spot. After the adverse criticism and forebodings which I had heard both in Africa and at home about this scheme, emanating from hon. Members opposite and particularly from the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson), I was agreeably surprised and pleased by what I saw and learned during my visit. I agree with that well-known British farmer and agriculturist, Mr. Clive Higgs, who has also been out there, that the Government's groundnuts scheme in Tanganyika was one of the greatest conceptions of all time and deserves the good wishes and support of us all. That is my view, too, after having been there myself to see what is being done.
This scheme, with the methods which have been employed there, is the only way by which the great Continent of Africa can make any substantial contribution towards providing for the food needs of her own people and the general food supply of the world. In addition to groundnuts, large quantities of other much-needed foodstuffs will be grown from the rotation crops which are a necessary adjunct to groundnut cultivation. Since I returned people have said to me, "Did you actually see any groundnuts being harvested?" Yes, I did. I saw the first fruits—the first harvest from the 7,500 acres which were being harvested while I was there. I saw these groundnuts being put into sacks and sent down to the coast. This is the forerunner of a great scheme of production for oils and fats for the people of this country and for other countries, too, which will eventually, and as soon as possible, reach an acreage of no less than 3¼ million.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
Did the hon. Member say that the groundnuts were being sent to the coast in sacks?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Was not the whole of that crop intended for use as seed next year, and not for this country?
§ Mr. Macpherson
Possibly some was being kept for seed, too. [HON. MEMBERS: "All of it."] I saw it going off, anyhow. What is more important, I saw groundnuts being harvested and I was very encouraged, because that harvest was the forerunner of the tremendous quantities which will be produced in years to come. Bearing in mind the fact that this scheme is being developed in vast tracts of tropical Africa and in virgin bush where there are no houses, buildings, roads or railways, and bearing in mind that the first tractors went into work only in July last year, I think a wonderful job has been done. The production of foodstuffs in Africa on the scale envisaged and by these new and untried methods is—
§ Sir John Barlow (Eddisbury)
Before the hon. Member leaves that point, could he tell us what is the average crop of groundnuts per acre?
§ Mr. Macpherson
Not without notice. But I should imagine it will vary from area to area. There are two different kinds of soil, as the hon. Member probably knows, and there are also different tracts of country embraced in the scheme. In every stage of the work in Tanganyika our men our there are faced with new difficulties and new problems, many of which could not be foreseen—problems of native labour, of housing, transport, of erosion and of water—and I should like to assure the House that in my view all those problems are being tackled by a keen, loyal and able body of men in the employment of the managing agent and of the Corporation in a manner which, I think, deserves the thanks and appreciation of the country.
May I remind the Committee that one of the greatest problems facing the world today is the existence of a world shortage of food? That has been said so often that 632 it has almost become a commonplace, but unless within the next few years some very extensive and new sources of supplies of food are found, and are planned to be brought into production, in my view we shall very soon have a shortage of food in this country, and in other parts of the world as well, which will be worse than anything we ever experienced during the war years. Familiarity breeds contempt, and this coming food shortage has been referred to so often that we are in danger of being complacent about it. There is more to be feared from a food famine than from the atomic bomb.
Where are these new and increased supplies of food to come from? In my opinion, after a lifetime's experience of food-producing countries and their possibilities, I doubt very much if we can expect greatly increased supplies through our normal and traditional sources of supply abroad. There are only two places where greatly increased supplies of food can be obtained. They are from this country and from our British Colonies, and particularly Africa. The great Continent of Africa with its teeming millions of native people, and its white and coloured races, is short of food now. Unless something is done about it the position will get worse. This may seem an extraordinary situation, when we think of the boundless possibilities for food production in Africa. Nevertheless it is a fact. It is a situation which, I am glad to say, is having the serious attention of the Colonial Office and of other Government Departments concerned.
Over the greater part of Africa the native population is still cultivating the soil, growing its mealies and other foods, by the same methods as were practised in Biblical times. A small patch is cultivated this year, another patch next year, and the year after, and so on. No regard is paid to impoverishment of the soil, fertilisers, crop rotation, or anything like that. Nevertheless, the African native, like people in other parts of the world, is gradually and progressively acquiring a higher standard of living. He is gradually, year by year forming the habit of eating more and better food. In addition the population is increasing. Native people, especially under British rule, are no longer decimated by war, pestilence and famine. We frequantly 633 find, as has been referred to by the Governor of Kenya in that well-known despatch of his, that the little patch of mealies and the occasional feed of meat is not sufficient today to maintain him. Outside sources have to be drawn upon.
Today, Africa cannot feed herself let alone make any substantial contribution to the general world food-supply problem. It will be within the memory of the Committee that two or three months ago the Union of South Africa appeared as applicant before the World Emergency Food Council with a request to be supplied with two million bags of wheat. That, I think, represents a shocking state of affairs. South Africa should be able to grow all the bread grains she needs, in addition to making a substantial export contribution to the needs of other countries less favourably endowed by nature. We are also open to criticism for our neglect of our Colonies and Dependencies.
It is true that the policy of the present Labour Government of support for colonial development puts previous Tory Administrations to shame, but I hope that the Government will not be content with the Tanganyika scheme. There is much more to be done, and there are tremendous possibilities for the development of production, especially in Africa. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister is arranging to have talks with Empire statesmen, and I am also glad to hear from the Colonial Secretary that he himself is arranging an important conference this Autumn. May I express the hope that the food needs of the Empire and Empire food production will occupy a prominent place on the agenda?
So far as Africa is concerned, no large-scale increase in agricultural production can take place without Government planning and help. In East Africa and Rhodesia there are matters like water supply, disease and transport, which are outside the realm of private individuals to deal with. Especially would I urge on the Minister and on the Colonial Office the importance of transport. I travelled in Africa from Cairo to the Cape. Everywhere I found the same problem. Development and progress everywhere were being hamstrung owing to lack of transport facilities by road and rail, and at the ports. It is useless to plan any large-scale Colonial development unless 634 transport facilities are planned and provided at the same time. It ought to be a condition precedent of all development in those Colonies. The most important case of all is Rhodesia, where foodstuffs of every kind can be grown in abundance and where there is mineral wealth, including coal, in great quantity. Further development is almost at a standstill for lack of outlet to the sea and suitable transport facilities.
I commend the Government's policy of making a start on these matters with the Tanganyika scheme. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Food did nothing else during his period of office he would be deserving of lasting credit for the support he has given to the project. One great point about the scheme is not only the oils and fats which will be produced for this country and Africa as well, but its great experimental value, and the lessons we shall learn there in large-scale agricultural production in tropical countries. The value of that experience cannot be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. In Africa, owing to the nature of the country, much of the agricultural development will have to be on a large scale, and all new kinds of scientific methods of production will require to be employed. As in Tanganyika, the use of machinery will be essential, but bulldozers and tractors are not enough.
These vast, undeveloped, and of ten unpopulated lands need men and women, not just between the ages of 20 and 30 as has generally, and I think wrongly, been prescribed for emigration, but men and women of all ages. Knowledge and experience in Colonial Development are just as important as youth. There are matters like land clearance and large-scale cropping to be dealt with. It will be possible, especially in the African Colonies which I visited, to maintain large quantities of cattle, sheep and pigs for milk, meat, and other processed foods. That development will not be possible without the co-operation, the technical skill and technical resources of the white man.
The part which the British people can play in the development of these vast natural resources will not only make an effective contribution to our world food supply, but, in the process of opening up these countries, equipping them for production and settling people on the land, we shall help to solve some of the major 635 economic ills which perplex us today in this country.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I should like to start by registering a strong protest against the inadequate time given to Debates on colonial affairs. It is quite impossible to cover this wide field in one day's Debate. How you, Mr. Beaumont, are able to control a Debate of this nature I do not know. More than ever it was in the past, it is necessary for the Empire and the world that our colonial territories should be given every minute of consideration we can afford. To give them only one day is at best a very poor compliment to them.
I propose to confine my remarks to East Africa. I will follow the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. T. Macpherson) in some of his points during the course of what I have to say. I do not by any means pose as an authority. All I can say is that I burned a considerable amount of midnight oil for six weeks reading all the reports I could lay my hands on and all the pamphlets that were available, and I have taken an interest in most of the Colonial Empire during the course of my service. I have motored in this part of the world from 6 o'clock in the morning until 8 o'clock at night for several weeks, and I will give my impressions of what I have seen.
As far as food is concerned, I agree with the hon. Member for Romford. One of the things that strikes one immediately, particularly when flying over that territory, is the vast areas which are given up to haphazard higgledy-piggledy cultivation on the tribal or small-holding scale of two to three acres, growing a little millet or a few bananas for the subsistence of the family but with no thought of assisting the territory economically and of adding in some way to the supplies of food which are so necessary in the world at this moment. It is very serious in cases where tribes are static, and it is even more serious in cases where they are nomadic.
I am not unmindful or ignorant of what is being done by the magnificent men in the Colonial Service. They work extremely hard, and a very high proportion of them—over 95 per cent. of those whom we met—were of the highest calibre. How- 636 ever, one is impressed by the lack of backing they get from the top. That is my chief criticism in this matter. There are the most excellent experimental farms and agricultural colleges, and the knowledge gained from them is invaluable, but one finds that that knowledge is not being disseminated down to the tribal areas or even to the local agricultural officers. Large numbers of agricultural officers had no knowledge of things we had seen 24 hours earlier at an experimental farm or an agricultural college. That is something which could be put right.
There must be better organisation and a greater feeling of urgency for getting detail down to the agricultural officers and also to the extremely intelligent African tribal leaders, who are prepared to learn anything and to try to teach their tribes, but they do not get an opportunity of learning what is being done. That is one of my chief criticisms. Until food is grown in those vast areas on more modern lines, those people will not reap the benefit which they could for themselves and the world will still be lacking a very large potential source of food.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman referring exclusively to East Africa or also to West Africa?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am confining my remarks to East Africa. I have been there recently. I have not as yet been to West Africa. One of the finest examples of what can be done in this way is the sugar plantation near Entebbe in Uganda. That was done under the stress of war but it has been carried on since and there are now 7,000 or 8,000 acres beautifully cleared and properly cultivated with satisfactory results.
Parallel with that problem—it is fundamental and it may seem elementary to say so—is the problem of the tsetse fly. One sees vast areas completely uninhabited except by game, particularly round Lake Albert. There is mile after mile of land growing most beautiful grass with little tree or bush on it, and yet there is not a soul there. There is probably a very good reason, but I should like to know why the groundnuts experimental scheme was not placed there where no bush clearing was necessary. I am informed that the climate and the rainfall are admirable for it. It seems extra- 637 ordinary. I know what is being done in regard to tsetse clearance, but there is not that sense of urgency which is necessary. The situation has changed completely since the war. This is a vital matter and if the amount of money now being spent is not adequate to produce results immediately, more money must be provided. This should be treated in the same way as the magnetic and acoustic mines were treated during the war.
Again, there is little dissemination of information. We found agricultural officers who had not heard of the I.C.I. drug. Admittedly it is in the experimental stage, but people whose job it is to study the tsetse fly should have heard of it. It is embarrassing for one to be talking to an agricultural officer and to mention the I.C.I. drug and to discover that one is talking to a blank wall because the man has no idea what one is talking about. Something must be done and it must be done very quickly. There should be greater co-ordination between the three territories in relation to this menace. One has great confidence that the new Central Assembly will see to that as one of its first jobs.
To go from food to mineral wealth, what is the position with regard to the geological survey of Tanganyika? Has it been completed? One is informed by responsible officers that there are vast potentialities of mineral wealth in Tanganyika in copper, bauxite, lead, tin, aluminium, gold and coal. What is the plan for the development of that wealth? I feel very sincerely that unless we develop it on a very big scale, we are asking for trouble. It is a temptation to somebody else to say. "All right, if they do not, we will." The initial step must be to deal with communications. If communications are improved the whole problem will be simplified. There is a shortage of steel, and on that a wide view must be taken. I believe that the problem is too big for average private capital. I should like to see something like £400 million sunk in that country. I should like to see the initial steps of communications and so on being undertaken by the Government, and the project run as a private enterprise concern on the same basis as the Sudan plantations scheme which has been such a great success.
§ Mr. Rankin
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman face up to one question? When he is dealing with that aspect, what does he think the African reaction would be to that proposition?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
If the hon. Member will bear with me in patience for a few minutes, and if I have the time, I have a few remarks to make on education which will cover that point. When, and if, there are to be any large new schemes launched, in heaven's name do not let the Government make the same mistakes as they have made in the groundnut scheme in Tanganyika. I am not one who considers that the groundnut scheme was a bad idea; I think it was a good idea and that it is the way in which the whole of those African territories can be developed; but, in order to produce a political effect in the country, it was far too rushed. There is a lot of moonshine and political ballyhoo, and the way in which it was started was not a practical proposition. It is beginning to go now, but 7,000 acres as against 120,000 acres!
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I think I had better be allowed to continue by speech for I have given way already no fewer than three times. I will point out exactly what I mean. I had experience of armour during the war and precisely the same mistakes were made in this enterprise as were made at the beginning of the war in regard to armour. There is not a single really well trained staff officer who could not have told the Government the way in which to start the scheme, and the lines on which they could have been a year ahead of where they are now. The first priority is workshops, the second priority is spare parts, and the third priority is training establishments, before one starts to pull a single tree or plough a single bit of ground. Had that been done, they would have been farther ahead than they are at the moment, and they would not have had to spend the year which they are about to spend on reconstruction.
That is my great criticism. That hon. Members opposite should go round the country boasting that this is one of the great Socialist achievements, is just sheer bunkum. The thing has been very badly handled to start with. In the 639 future it will reap dividends, but at what a cost and with what a waste of time. As an experiment, I repeat, it is a good thing it has been tried and, as the hon. Member has just said, I hope that the lessons learned will be carried into effect in any new scheme.
One word in regard to the white settler in the East African Colonies. I was horrified at the amount of ignorance that exists at both ends: on their part, of the situation in Europe and in the world and in this country; on our part, among the people of this country, what the white settler is doing in those East African territories, or what he has done in the past in the area which he populates. Will hon. Members please remember for one moment, when they talk about the "white highlands" of Kenya, that some of the best highlands are occupied by native tribes? The whole of that wonderful country east of Mount Kenya is a native reserve in the so-called "white highlands," and there is a great deal of hot air and nonsense talked about this question.
As I said at Question Time the other day, it is vital that something should be done about air mail newspapers to those countries. "The Times" air mail copy costs 3s. 4d., and nobody can afford to have it except the odd club and firm. The other daily papers are never seen at all. As to broadcasting, it was deplorable. A rehash of the B.B.C. was put out at a most inconvenient time in the evening by the local wireless station. That was all they had from which to choose, and it is not in the least surprising that they are ignorant of the state of affairs at home. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman gave a reasonably satisfactory answer to my Question, I hope he will see that in the near future something will be done about those postal arrangements.
There is this other point. I implore the right hon. Gentleman to let the white settler know in some way or other at an early date exactly where he stands for the future, because not one of the men to whom I spoke know. They are suspicious, they are worried, and they have a sense not only of frustration but a lack of security of tenure. They do not know what to do with their children, they do not know what to advise their children to do, and 640 they are desperately worried. If the intention of His Majesty's Government is to see that the white settler eventually disappears from Africa, they should say so honestly and give him a period in which to get out.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Member? If he will recollect, a reassuring statement on that aspect of policy has already been made by myself on several occasions in this House, and also in East Africa.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope I am not accusing him unjustly of anything, but is it published in the form of a pamphlet, or is it merely that one has to rely on what is said in the House being published in the newspapers in East Africa? If the latter is the case, very few people will see it, and the matter wants wide publicity in some way because there is that feeling of insecurity in the minds of a large number of the white settlers.
My third point on this is the education of their children—again, a subject which I raised at Question time one day with regard to assisted passages to England for their children. Any advantages that they may have from low Income Tax are completely nullified by the fact that they have round their necks this enormous millstone of the expense of their children's education. Apart from that, it is unhealthy for children to remain in that climate for any protracted length of time.
I must say one word about the health services. I am unable to comprehend why it is that in one area one finds a quite magnificent hospital serving a small area and a few people and, in another area, either no hospital or else a dressing station. In Mombasa there is a state of affairs which I would not have believed existed in the civilised world. The hospital was old, and so overcrowded as to be fantastic. There were two patients sleeping in every bed, with one man sleeping between each bed on the floor. I think I am right in saying that there was accommodation in the African wing of that hospital for 100. I think the figure is even lower than that, but I will put it at its maximum, and I think that the African population of Mombasa is something like 100,000.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
That is a disgraceful state of affairs, having regard to the fact that a vast amount of money has been spent on welfare centres and beer halls, together with quite excellent housing schemes. It seems to me, however, that the list of priorities has gone completely wrong somewhere. Why anybody should consider spending a large amount of money on a beer hall when the hospital is in such a condition as that is to me incredible. It may be that the beer hall shows a profit to the local rates whereas the hospital does not, but that wants looking into carefully.
I have spoken long enough and must draw my remarks to a close. But I would say that the right hon. Gentleman has one of the greatest opportunities any Colonial Secretary has ever been given. I subscribe to the idea of an Under-Secretary of State for African territories, not because I consider that the right hon. Gentleman is not capable of dealing with the whole thing, but, with the stress that there is in our colonial territories I do not think that any man could deal with it effectively and in detail—and it is in detail that it must be dealt with—unless he has somebody whose sole task it is to assist him in that matter. We want new ideas—big, vast, new ideas. Some of these old "Do not let us do it now" people, and the sort of outlook which they represent, are completely out of date as far as our colonial territories are concerned. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do everything in his power to see that some of the criticisms levelled during this Debate are looked into and that something is done about them. Then, possibly, some of our "Paget M.P.s" will not altogether have wasted their time.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
I am very glad to have the opportunity of speaking today and of following the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), who talked about East Africa. I asked him a question across the Floor because the situation in West Africa is so very different from that in East Africa and equally important, if not more so, and West Africa has a very much larger population. It would be impossible to generalise from East to West Africa or 642 vice versa—the problems are different. I admit that my experience of East Africa is confined to Northern Rhodesia, but I am told that that land is fairly typical and, like the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing. I have read all the documents.
I join with the hon. and gallant Gentleman and other hon. Members in making my protest that we are to have only one day for a Colonial Affairs Debate. There is not the slightest doubt in the world that we need two. The hon. Member who spoke with so much knowledge about Malaya tempts me to follow him, because of its very great importance. But the question of tropical Africa is of equal—and in some ways greater—importance. It is quite impossible, therefore, to cover both sides of the two main questions under discussion unless we individually confine ourselves to one or other, and not for lack of interest in the other one.
I propose to confine myself to the question of the development of tropical Africa. That is by far and away the largest problem, and I believe the biggest and the most important problem, that confronts the administration of the whole Colonial Empire. To put the position into figures, in East and Central Africa there are 46,750,000 Africans, whereas in the Eastern Dependencies—Malaya and so on—there are only 8,500,000; in the Mediterranean Dependencies the number is very small; there are only three millions in the West Indies; and in the other parts of the Colonies very small numbers indeed. It will be seen that the overwhelmingly most important numerically and as far as population is concerned, and also economically because of its natural resources, is undoubtedly that belt of tropical Africa extending from West to East, which includes parts of Central Africa and has very close liaison with South Africa and the adjoining territories belonging to Portugal, France and Belgium, with whom we are now fortunately in very good liaison because the development of all that great tropical area is bound to react from one part on to another. Every part reacts on to every other part. It really should be considered economically as one great new world, open to conquest by our new methods and new technique.
I realise that the importance of this problem is fully appreciated by the 643 Government. I would say further, and partly in answer to what the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing said about the groundnut scheme being gone into without sufficient and adequate staff work in the beginning, that one of the most efficient and most experienced men in the whole Colonial Service—Mr. Wakefield—was sent out to do the preliminary exploration for this scheme. The matter had been surveyed by Mr. Samuel of the United Africa Company, who originally thought they would carry out the development themselves on a smaller scale but found it was too big for a purely commercial enterprise and then brought it to the notice of the Government.
Since then, step after step has been taken. If the hon. and gallant Member has not already read it, I beg him to get a copy of the speech made by Mr. Wakefield on 20th April to the Royal Society of Arts, in which he gives the history and the present condition of the East and Central African groundnuts scheme, which completely refutes his idea that there was any lack of preparation. It has, in fact, been very well done. I admit that it has been quickly done, and I venture to think it is time that things in Africa were done quickly and we did not wait too long—
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I really cannot allow the hon. Member to get away with all that. What I said—a fact about which there is no supposition at all—is that there was no question of erecting workshops before any cultivation took place; there was no question of erecting schools for teaching, and, at one point, there was no water. That is what I call bad planning. Civilians may think otherwise, but I consider it extremely bad.
The whole development of Africa which is now proceeding was, in fact, referred to in the speech made by the former Colonial Secretary—now Lord Hall—in the first peace-time statement, in 1946, with regard to the development of the Colonies. He then referred to the groundnut scheme. The hon. and gallant Member may consider that that has not been a sufficiently long period of preparation, but that is because he does not understand or appreciate the really extreme urgency of getting on with the job. 644 If it had been purely a military operation, he would have understood it. This is not a military operation. I venture to think it is even more urgent than some of the military operations in which we were engaged during the war.
I must point out that the policy now being carried out is that laid down by the Colonial Secretary in 1946, when he said that it was:… to develop the Colonies and all their resources so as to enable their peoples …—and I emphasise that—speedily and substantially to improve their economic and social conditions, and, as soon as may be practicable, to attain responsible self-government.He went on to say that that policy was… wholeheartedly endorsed by the great mass of public opinion in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1946; Vol. 425, c. 238.]There was a reference to the special question of Ceylon. That has now become a Dominion. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member thinks that is too quick? We on this side do not think so. We think the world needs rapid action. There was a reference also to the investigation of the production of groundnuts and to the rehabilitation of the industries of tin and rubber in Malaya. But the Colonial Secretary emphasised that the Colonies were poor and said that the problem must be attacked mainly by improving the productivity of the Colonial people themselves.
I urge the necessity of looking at the problems from this point of view, because we need to get into the habit of taking this long-term view and of working it out, although it is necessary from time to time to take action quickly and on a very large scale. I must point out that what this policy means, and what is now being carried out, is a very large-scale improvement of road, rail, water and land transport, development of power and water resources, education of a comprehensive kind, including technical, agricultural, forestry and mining, and the establishment of new industries. I mention the establishment of new industries particularly because I believe we are proceeding into an age in the Colonial Empire, especially in tropical Africa, of industrialisation and it will revolutionise 645 that part of the world. The Colonial Secretary went on to say that our aim wasthe expanding prosperity … of the 60 million of our Colonial peoples."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1946, Vol. 425, c. 261.]which would be an advantage to the wealth of the world. In the same Debate the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) largely agreed with the Colonial Secretary, but said that in the next few years the development should be not on the political but on the economic and social side and added thatfor the vast majority of these 60 million people it means agriculture."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1946, Vol. 425, c. 269.]The progress made and the rate at which it has been made since 1946 is certainly greater than at any previous time in the Colonial Empire, and greater than many people thought possible. Probably it has been greater than the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing thinks desirable. But this will surprise members of the Labour Party less than others, because a deliberate policy of large-scale planned development of the Colonies, running parallel with increases of political freedom, has been the policy of the Labour Party for many years. At the Labour Party Conference so long ago as 1925 a detailed policy, covering the Dominions and Colonies, and stressing the need for large-scale social and economic development, was adopted. The details can be found in the annual report of the Conference for that year and they will be found to embody many of the proposals now being carried out.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd (Mid-Bedford)
As it happens, that was exactly the year when one of the present occupants of the Government Front Bench said that the best thing that could be done about the Empire was to liquidate it.
But a great many spoke differently. I do not know what the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) was saying at that date. Perhaps he was talking Fascism at that date. I do not think much good is to be got by digging too far into the past.
What one man says does not necessarily involve everyone else. I do 646 not agree with the suggestion that is sometimes made that all good things necessarily come from this side of the Committee. In the past hon. Members opposite have had a great history of interest and energy in colonial affairs. Personally I welcome that co-operation and hope that it will continue. In the Colonial Empire we have a new world of our own which we can develop and from which we can create a great deal of new wealth. If we had not made these plans we should have been compelled by the hard necessities of the economic situation and by the very great dangers that confront our economic life to carry out this development in the Colonial Empire.
Changes, political and economic, of the kind now being undertaken on so large a scale in Africa have been proceeding more slowly over a very long period of time. We are only accelerating the tempo of change. The gold mines on the Rand and diamond mines in Kimberley have been with us a very long time and have made great demands on labour forces in Africa and from the tropics. They have made consequent changes of great significance in the African economy. In recent years we have had the development of the great copper mines area of Northern Rhodesia and lately the gold development in the Orange Free State. Over the whole period of this century the demands for labour in all parts of Africa down to the Cape have exercised a profoundly disturbing influence on African life. Now all the great plans for the development of tropical Africa West and East and Central Africa will make still further demands and will further change and disturb African life. In its main aspects the process is not one to be deplored, but is a process which needs control and management, and it should be watched with care.
What is the wealth of Africa? It is not gold, copper or diamonds, forests nor even the essential fats which only the tropics can grow in abundance—not even the great secondary industries which may develop. Its greatest wealth is in the people themselves, and the plans of development now proceeding and likely to be intensified are bringing the Africans to an industrial revolution such as we had in the early days of the 19th century. I have had experience of Africa for more than 40 years and I hold the view that industrial revolution must come in Africa. For many years I 647 have seen it coming and now its coming is being rapidly speeded up. I think the Government should realise the dangers of its coming. The acceleration of development increases those dangers. I will mention one. It is probable that Africa is now on the eve of a great increase in population, an increase such as happened in this country at the time of the industrial revolution about 150 years ago and in India in the 1920's. It is the opinion of Mr. Wakefield, who was the architect of the groundnut scheme and other authorities on Africa that that great increase in population will follow there. If it occurs it will bring about many difficult problems for Africa. Mr. Wakefield goes so far as to say in the lecture he gave to the Society of Arts in April this year—and I venture to underline his words:I consider that Africa is on the verge of catastrophe.He went on to quote the opinion of the late Director of Medical Services in Kenya who spoke of the probably gigantic increase of population and the fact that under existing circumstances that population could not be fed. He said that unless great changes were made we shouldbe left with pestilence or war as remedies for over-population and starvation.Those are facts which I think should be taken into consideration. They are facts which show clearly how this industrial revolution is sweeping through Africa. Anyone who has any acquaintance with the industrial progress in various parts of Africa, which I regret to say is more often found in financial newspapers than in Government statements—and I wish it were equally found in Government statements—must realise the very great dangers which may come in its train.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
The hon. Member has used the words "industrial revolution." Will he back that up by saying what industries in Central, West or East Africa are progressing on anything like a scale which justifies that?
Certainly, I will endeavour to do that, and I think I can. As the hon. Member knows, in the Rand gold mines and Kimberley, labour has been recruited from the tropical areas of Africa very largely. In the 1930's we had the opening up of the great industry of copper mining in Northern Rhodesia. I visited the place 648 when it was opening up and there also large numbers of people were being drawn in. In West Africa there are gold mines, diamond mines, iron mines and many other kinds of mines and large industrial undertakings and railways, and this is all industrial organisation which is growing up.
§ Mr. Dumpleton (St. Albans)
Surely, when the hon. Gentleman speaks of the industrial revolution and mentions gold mines and industrial development in West Africa, he should speak of them in proportion to the whole agricultural economy. Surely, what he is saying is complete rubbish.
I am very glad to be criticised from this side of the Committee as well as the other side; it gives me a feeling of security, and I know where I stand. What is happening is that the form of native labour in Africa is being revolutionised and broken up by the demands of these great industries in different parts of Africa. They are destroying the natural and primitive communal land economy, and that is an industrial revolution which is proceeding very rapidly, whether my hon. Friend likes it or not.
If the hon. Gentleman will examine the large number of industries which are scattered about in West, East and Central Africa, and others which will undoubtedly develop as a result of this great groundnut scheme, he will see that there will be a great industrialisation. Incidentally, the groundnut scheme itself, which is intended to feed and help the Africans as well as the people in Europe, means the industrialisation of agriculture. It means departing altogether from the old primitive method of agriculture, and adopting the new method, and that is the only way in which large populations in Africa can possibly be provided for in the future, by a new form of agriculture.
§ Mr. W. Fletcher
The figure given for the employment in the groundnut scheme was 30,000 natives. I do not think that can be taken as a sign of industrial revolution. If one takes agriculture, which is the only example given by the hon. Gentleman, and subtracts that—it has 649 not attracted many more people—it makes the hon. Gentleman's argument completely wrong.
If the hon. Gentleman studies the question, he will find that I am not wrong. I am looking a few years ahead.
I am looking four, five or perhaps 10 years ahead, and I think it is highly desirable that any Government should—I am sure that this Government will—look ahead that far in order to see what changes should be brought about. I have seen in South Africa the complete demoralisation of African life created by industrial conditions. I know a certain number of hon. Members opposite laugh at this. They are insensitive to African conditions. They regard the degradation of Africans in South Africa as a matter of amusement.
Anyone who knows the conditions of the Africans, who lives in association with the towns in South Africa, as I have—I have worked in them, I have been a doctor there and I have seen what they do; the conditions are worse now than they were—will know that they are so utterly bad that they are a degradation of the whole of the African people in those areas. What we are in danger of in this development of tropical Africa if we do not take adequate steps in advance, is producing the same kind of demoralisation among the Africans in the tropics as already exists in the locations, as they are called, where the Africans live around Cape Town, Bloemfontein or in the Transvaal. Those are conditions of demoralisation, and that is the result of industrialisation in the economic sense of the word.
I hope—and I am not addressing myself to hon. Members opposite because I do not think they would sympathise—that the Government will not allow the native African in tropical Africa to be alienated from the land which, to a very large extent, is still under some form of communal ownership. I hope the Government will decide that no land at present held in communal ownership in any part of Africa shall be alienated from the people, and that they will bring back to 650 common ownership any land which they can and which has recently been alienated. I hope they will also undertake a great programme of food production by Africa on the lines of modernised and mechanically equipped agriculture wherever it is possible, because I believe that the prophecy of Mr. Wakefield, who considers that Africa is in great danger at the present time, and the prophecies of the competent medical authorities are true, and that Africa is in danger of increasing its population enormously and of having inadequate food to support that population.
We ought to keep the majority of Africans on the land, and we ought to improve their conditions and amenities and add secondary industries. We cannot get away from the fact that we shall have to add considerable secondary industries, and we shall have to proceed on this path of industrialisation. In any large-scale projects which are brought forward, I want the Government to bear in mind the necessity of making the least disturbance in the African way of life, and to exercise rigid controls over conditions in the recruitment of labour, both as to time of absence from their homes and rates and conditions of remuneration in their place of work. To make Africa safe for the Africans and avoid a disaster which some observers fear, the plan should be to bring a democratic Socialism to the Africans and build it up on the basis of of the Africans' own institutions. We should guard the common ownership of land in Africa, and vest it in the Africans, and on that structure a great civilisation can be built.
If hon. Members opposite think that I have exaggerated, I suggest that they get hold of a book which has been published recently in South Africa under the title of "When Smuts Goes." It is a book written by a lecturer of history at the Witwatersrand University. He points out what will happen when Smuts goes, which he thought would be 1952 and not 1948, when the reactionary Government came into office and they proceeded to go on with their reactionary policy—how by accentuating the present degree of debasement of the industrialisation system in South Africa and its effect on the natives, they would bring about a complete wiping out of the white civilization—
§ Dr. Morgan
On a point of Order. I would like to know whether it is really in Order for the affairs of a Dominion like South Africa to be discussed in a Colonial Debate, when so many of us are trying to get a few words in about the Colonies?
I am sorry if I have disturbed my hon. Friend about this subject longer than I should have done, but he has done the same to me in the past. I want to end by saying that bold Socialist planning now will make Africa a place of peace. If we do not have that we shall get disturbances such as are now going on in the Far East. By bold Socialist planning we can have peace and prosperity; we can make a great contribution to the stabilisation and improvement of the world and create a great deal of new wealth in the world which is urgently needed.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
In view of the exceptional number of hon. Members who obviously wish to speak in this Debate, I propose to confine myself to a single subject and to occupy only a few moments. I hope the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) will excuse me if I do not attempt to follow him in his rather unconvincing argument. All I would say about his speech is that if the bold Socialist plans such as he suggested and such as we have seen in the past few years are carried out in the future with as much calamity as they bring now, it is a bad look-out for the Colonies.
I want to speak about British Guiana, about which the Under-Secretary made a statement yesterday—or, rather, he was prevented by the Lord President from making a statement which certainly ought to have been made public to the House It is apparent from that statement, as we have seen it recorded in HANSARD today, that a serious situation still exists in that British Colony. A strike of considerable dimensions has been going on for three months, and apparently it is still continuing. Attaching to the strike, and surrounding it are very difficult and disturbing social and political features. The strike started at the end of April. From the start it was clearly a political agitation organised by Communists, fellow travellers and other good-for-nothings who 652 hang about the roads and bridges on the coast. The agitation was designed not to improve the social conditions of the workers at all, but to incite a revolutionary spirit among all those who labour on the sugar estates, and to cause chaos on those estates.
That I am right in so describing the source of the trouble is proved by the fact that even by the middle of June on the seven affected estates the great majority of workers were quite content to go on working, showing in that way that they had no sympathy with the organisers of the trouble and that they were generally satisfied with the conditions agreed upon between their own established union and the sugar estate managers. As I say, the agitation was obviously political from the start: if there is any doubt about that, the terms put forward by the representative of the agitators in the Assembly of British Guiana is proof of it. Yet, though that was so, and though it continued, with growing intimidation of the workers and with outrages in different parts of the Colony, no effective action was taken by the local government until the 16th June, nearly eight weeks after the trouble had started, when at that time the area was what is called "declared," and armed protection provided for some of the estates.
What had happened up to that time? The Communist agitators were allowed to hold meetings, and I believe are still allowed to hold meetings in the eastern part of the Colony, quite freely along the coast roads, where they incite anybody and everybody with whom they come into contact. They issue the most poisonous propaganda which I have seen—newspapers which I believe might be banned even in this country—with apparently the greatest freedom. These journals are being issued inciting people to all kinds of trouble, to withdraw their labour, to demonstrate against the estate managers and in every possible way to cause disturbance. Telephone lines were cut—I have letters and messages here from residents—lights were put out, European overseers were beaten up, often with considerable damage to their bodies and some of them may still be in hospital. Estate headquarters were threatened. Ultimately on 16th June the trouble culminated in a mass attack by a crowd armed with sticks, missiles and other 653 weapons, who sought to attack the sugar estate at Enmore. They were prevented by a small body of police, who ultimately had to fire to protect their own lives, and a number of the crowd were killed.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Member will find it all in the statement of the Under-Secretary yesterday, and that of the right hon. Gentleman on 23rd June.
It was only then, after all this trouble had been going on for eight weeks, that the area was "declared" which is to say, I suppose, that a state of emergency was proclaimed, and some armed protection was given to the estate. I must ask the Under-Secretary why did he delay, why did the local government delay for so long? They had been well warned of these dangers. Those responsible in British Guiana have time and and again approached the Governor and begged him to take the necessary protective action, and yet nothing whatever was done. Did the local Governor make contact with the Colonial Office? Did the Secretary of State know about this? Was he responsible for no action being taken, or is the local Governor responsible? We ought to know, because the lives and property of British citizens were, and still are, in peril. The hon. Member for North Islington spoke of the need for rapid action. I am asking for that. I am complaining that in this case no rapid action was taken.
I will put another question. Was the action taken on 16th June adequate? Is it adequate yet? Ten days later, on 26th June the same poisonous propaganda was still circulating. Decent workers on the estates—I have full particulars here—were so intimidated that the management had to stop operating on the estate at all. I understand that on one estate six armed policemen have been provided to look after and protect a rum store worth almost a million pounds, and on that estate five thousand people live. That cannot be described as provocation—six armed men responsible for guarding all that.
According to my latest information white women and children are in terror of their lives. I have a letter from one woman, the wife of an estate manager, 654 who writes that for ten weeks she has been unable to leave her house because of the danger of attack from this lawless element in the country. According to the statement of the Under-Secretary yesterday the strike goes on, the same strike on the same estates continues. I have been there and I saw a little of it, and I ask the Colonial Secretary seriously to consider that if this situation is not dealt with, the trouble may spread all over British Guiana. It may indeed spread to the whole of the West Indies. We know the difficult and explosive material to be found in other parts of the West Indies, particularly Trinidad and Jamaica.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman to watch what is happening. We have seen what happened in Malaya. Strong action has been taken there and I warn the right hon. Gentleman that unless strong action is taken to the same extent in British Guiana we are in for serious trouble. Apparently a commission of inquiry was set up by the local Governor, but that was three weeks ago and this is a matter of urgency. Why has the Commission not reported? The Government surely ought to know the result of that inquiry when so much hangs upon it I want to insist upon the seriousness of this matter. It is just another case and another example of the truth that is dawning on the whole country and on members of the whole Colonial Empire, that this Government is making a poor job of its responsibilities, because it is failing in its elementary duty of preserving peace and security for the peoples of the Colonies. The only thing I can hope for is that an early opportunity may be given to the British people to change this Government.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
If I do not follow the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), it is not because I do not very strongly sympathise with the case he has made. It is because I wish to lay a little fresh emphasis on a case already made, that is the case of Malaya, and what I believe to be the most urgent and most dangerous situation existing at the present time in our Colonial possessions. The situation is very serious, and that has been admitted by the right hon. Gentleman. It is not a case of sporadic disturbances but of an 655 organised system of extortion, murder and outrage. The planters and their families, especially on the remote rubber estates, go in daily fear of their lives, as also do their Malayan employees.
The perpetrators of these outrages are not Malays. That cannot be sufficiently rubbed into the people of this country. Some in this country still believe—I hope and think that no hon. Members ate among them—that these people are Malays who are in revolt against foreign occupation of their country. They are nothing of the kind. The enormous majority of them are Chinese who came to Malaya originally in order to work there and who have taken to terrorism and banditry. As we have heard, the whole system of terrorism is Communist-organised. I believe that is acknowledged, though it has never been said by the Government. It is part of the general organisation of Communism which is worldwide and very dangerous—
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
I cannot give way. I intend to be very brief. I believe what I have stated, to be the case. I need not stress the value to this country and to the Empire of Malaya, with its tin and rubber both for home supply and also as a great earner of dollars, which are so necessary for this country. That, I would say, is only a selfish reason, from our point of view, for insisting on law and order being restored and maintained in Malaya. Apart from that, I stress the duty of the Government to protect the lives, the liberties and the property of British subjects. That is their absolute duty. It cannot be shelved or put off. It is also the duty of the Government to maintain law and order throughout the country and, indeed, in the first place, to restore law and order. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher), there is the evil example before the people of Malaya of our attitude and our surrender in Burma and elsewhere. There is the evil example of lawlessness which has been condoned by their governments and which has gained the upper hand in Siam and in other parts of the East. The story has got about that we are weak and that crimes can be committed in British territories without being dealt with adequately. Weakness and indecision are 656 hopeless qualities with which to exercise government anywhere.
I was very glad indeed to see in the Press this morning the report of the broadcast by Mr. Malcolm MacDonald describing the measures taken. He said that more than 1,000 arrests had been made in the last three weeks and that the Commander-in-Chief was satisfied that, with few exceptions, the forces on the spot were adequate. I stress the words "with few exceptions." He also said that London had been advised of a possible call for more troops. I very much hope that no chances will be taken. We cannot afford to take chances. I hope that the forces will be adequate and that there will be no exceptions. If there are any exceptions, I hope that they will be made good at the earliest possible moment. It is certainly not fair either to the authorities or to the people on the spot that there should be a shortage of necessary troops.
The Government of Malaya were very slow in appreciating the seriousness of this situation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) asked, were they not caught napping? Were they not far too slow in taking strong and effective action to deal with terrorism, outrage and murder? Was that slowness to take action due to the reluctance of the Colonial Secretary and the Colonial Office to authorise the strongest measures? Is it, in fact, a repetition of the weakness and irresolution which characterised the policy of the Government over Palestine? However that may be, it is certain that the only thing that can be done now to save the situation is to take definite and very strong action, to take it at once, and to continue that action without any relaxation whatever over a period until law, order and security have been definitely re-established. I emphasise the words "without relaxation" because the cat-and-mouse business—severity and martial law for a short period followed by some relaxation, which was the policy followed in Palestine in the hope that conditions would improve—is quite hopeless and useless. In fact, it is worse than useless.
I should like to know, whether, apart from emergency laws, full effect is being given to the existing laws of Malaya. There is a banishment law which was referred to by the Minister. Is that 657 banishment, or deportation, law being made full use of and put into full effect? Even if there is no direct evidence to convict them, bad characters suspected of being involved in subversive activities should be deported. If they can be deported, the country will be very much better and safer as a result of that action. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us how many deportations have been authorised and carried out during the past year. I should like also to ask whether the police force in Malaya is sufficiently strong, and adequately trained and equipped to deal with this serious situation, bearing in mind that the force had to be entirely reconstituted and rebuilt following the Japanese occupation.
It should also be borne in mind that, as a result of the occupation, the country is full of illegal arms. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that some of these arms dumps had been cleared and others were being cleared; but very many of them were raided and the arms spread all over the country before anything was done about it. Further, it should be remembered that there are armed bands who are more than mere bandits, who during the Japanese occupation were encouraged and instructed by us to carry out guerilla warfare all over the country. These bands are now operating against us. We have to tackle not merely bandits but guerilla bands armed with automatic weapons and with more than a little training in the use of those weapons, with a knowledge, too, of the country which is fairly intimate, and with all their native Asiatic cunning and ferocity. Let us make no mistake. It is a very different nature from a European nature with which we have to contend, and it is no good thinking that what appeals to Europeans will necessarily appeal to Asiatics. It will not. They have different standards, different ideas, a different sense of right and wrong and of civilisation itself.
§ Sir G. Jeffreys
It is very difficult to compare them with Nazis, but they have very different ideas from our own. The Germans undoubtedly had different standards and different ways, but they were, possibly, of a standard to which we could make some appeal as Europeans. That standard the Asiatics most emphatically do not possess.
658 It is very necessary, in dealing with these people, that we should have not only armed forces but a very efficient, numerous and well-trained police force. I hope the hon. Gentleman who is to reply will be able to say that we have such a police force, more especially as it has been suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury that a reinforcement has been asked for by the police and that 20 men have been sent. Something very much more than that is necessary; both adequate arms and police are required. I suggest that the first duty of this Government, which has apparently realised something of the seriousness of the situation—which on the face of it they did not realise to begin with—is to impress on the local government that they must at all costs suppress terrorism, restore law and order and take strong and sustained measures to that end, and that no reference to this country and the Colonial Office is necessary before such measures are taken.
Again I urge that there should be no weakness. We are getting a reputation for weakness, and for having neither a strong policy nor a strong force behind that policy. Weakness and irresolution were stated by Lord Palmerston, towards the end of his career, to be the worst faults in a statesman, but weakness and irresolution, more than anything else, have characterised this Government's dealings with all our overseas affairs since it came to power.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
We are discussing today the affairs of some 50 Colonies, and we have only a few hours in which to do it. I join with other hon. Members in suggesting that the Colonies should receive more Parliamentary time. In each of these Colonies, there is a Government, and in that Government there are officers of very high quality who are equipped with a knowledge of the problems of those Colonies which can only come from long years of work on the spot. I do not propose to give these Colonies advice about their local administration and political problems. I prefer to make a few remarks about what can be done for them at this end. Speaking from experience, I know that, in a Crown Colony, even if there is a Legislature with certain powers, there is a bureaucratic form of government, and it is absolutely 659 essential to have at the top, as Chief Secretary or Governor, or both, as the case may be, men of outstanding ability, of tried and tested ability, and not people selected by chance. If we have these leaders at the top, they can inspire the whole administration, but if not, the whole administration may be marred.
Some hon. Members have referred to the salary scales of the staffs. I know that there is a Commission investigating salaries in the Colonial Service, but in my opinion the high standard which has been reached in the past will not be maintained without increases in salary. In this country, the cost of living has gone up enormously, but in the Colonies it has increased much more, and it is absolutely essential to get first-class men, and in order to do that the scales of salaries must be revised. I know there are difficulties, and that questions arise between the local officers and the European officers; the difficulty has to be got over by expatriation allowances or otherwise. These men have to maintain two households, if they are married, and they also have extra expenses connected with travelling and charges of abode even though their passages home are paid for them. Because of these things, a revision of the scales of salaries and also of their pensions must be undertaken.
It has been an excellent principle in British colonial administrations to go in for decentralisation as far as possible, and much more so than in the case of other colonial Powers. At the same time, the Secretary of State is responsible to Parliament. Another excellent system is that which has now been adopted on a large scale of having advisory committees here which are composed of people with great Colonial experience, or with non-Colonial experience, who can give the Secretary of State the benefit of their knowledge.
Some hon. Members have referred to various disorders in the Colonies at present. I do not propose to follow them, because I do not feel that it is a subject on which I have that complete knowledge which could only be gained on the spot after full investigation, but, if there ever was a case which showed the need for decentralisation, it is this. The people on the spot must have the necessary powers in advance for dealing with emergencies, 660 and I think that since the war they have had those powers; if not, it was a mistake. The decentralisation of power and responsibility should be placed on the people on the spot, except in matters of high policy.
Since the war, there has been an upheaval all over the world, and it has had a tremendous impact on the colonial peoples. They have seen India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon getting independence, and that has incited colonial peoples, who are human beings like ourselves, to aspire to independence. That is a constitutional subject in which the House is vitally interested, because in the last resort it is the House which decides what should be done. The policy of Britain has been the gradual extension of self-government so as to train the local people gradually in politics and administration, and the final aim has been complete self-government.
This has not been the way with other colonial Powers. We see around us at present other colonial Powers trying out some form of political union to tie up their colonies with the metropolitan country. Are they right, or are we? It is an important question to ask, because we are at the parting of the ways. In my opinion, we are absolutely right. Our policy is to give the people of the Colonies what they want, and what they want is not some sort of political union with us, but self-government in their own country. If, on the other hand, we adopted the other system of trying to build a political union between ourselves and our Colonies, we should attach 60 million people to the 50 million in these islands, and completely confuse our own politics and theirs.
In this country, we are very fortunate in having a profound unity without uniformity. It is based on an outlook on life which is common to practically all the people in this country of every class. Associated with us in the Colonies are people of totally different outlook; united with them politically that unity without uniformity could no longer exist. It is that unity which makes democracy possible in this country. I ask the Committee to consider what would happen if the political parties in this country tried to attach to themselves tens of millions of people from the Colonies. Our party system would break down, and to kill the party system is to kill democracy. I suggest that our instincts are wise—to give the colonial peoples what they want 661 and to let them develop complete self-government gradually in their own territory.
Earlier in the Debate the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) suggested that we should not have done this in the case of Burma. Then he pointed to the disorders which have since occurred there. I, for one, anticipated those disorders. I anticipated disorders in India and Pakistan, but I was 100 per cent. behind Government policy in both cases. I would have liked to ask the hon. Member, had he been here, what would have happened if we had tried to carry on ruling Burma? Would the disorders have been five times greater? Would we have been the people to be shot at? And if we had finally re-conquered Burma, and that is what it would have meant, what should we then do? Give them self-government or not?
The hon. Member for Hornsey seemed to indicate that what we should work for is a limited form of self-government, that there should be a form of self-government without the power of quitting the Commonwealth and Empire. If we wanted to exasperate colonial people politically, we could not find a better way of doing it. There is not the slightest use in keeping them in the Empire or Commonwealth unless they wish to stay. It is an old maxim of Liberalism, and a good one, that you cannot rule people except by their consent. In India and the Colonies we had for decades the tacit consent of the people, though there was no ballot box because there was no democratic form of government. We had to quit India, Burma and Pakistan when we had lost that tacit consent. I totally disagree with the views put forward by the hon. Member for Hornsey. It is necessary to criticise them because, as everyone knows, he has considerable knowledge of colonial peoples.
So far as I am concerned—and I think that I could say so far as every Member on this side of the Committee and probably so far as a great many on the other side are concerned—I wish that these Colonies were prosperous, enlightened, free. I believe that to be the view of my party. On the other hand, if my words go overseas, and words spoken in this House do get to the Colonies, I would point out—and I do so as a friend of theirs 662 who wants them to be self-governing as soon as possible—that we live in an interdependent world, and a very dangerous world at that. Sometimes in these Colonies—I have worked in several—people take a very parish-pump point of view. They think only of their Colony and they apply to it quite glibly the theories of democratic Liberalism, in the case of countries which are often not nations but plural societies, which have little political cohesion and where there is little education and oftentimes appalling illiteracy and poverty, and where those theories do not fit in with actual conditions at the moment.
Then, again, a Colony may not be very wealthy from an economic point of view but it might be valuable because of its strategic importance. Colonial peoples have to consider this and their self-defence. Even the big nations of the world today are joining together for the purpose of regional collective security. We see that in the Western Union principle, and I believe that the Colonies must realise that this idea of "ourselves alone" is simply fantastic in the modern world. For strategic reasons they have to throw in their lot with other people; otherwise they perish. Again, from the economic point of view the whole world is inter-dependent as never before. For the most part the Colonies produce, and for a long time will have to rely upon, agricultural produce. They do not need to consume it all and are able to export the products of farm, mine and forest which are surplus to their own needs. They depend for their existence on overseas markets. It is useless for them to take a parish-pump point of view. They must regard themselves as citizens of the world.
Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee talk about the enormous development needs of the Colonies. They are enormous. One hon. Member opposite said that we must have revolutionary big ideas. I entirely agree with him. We have now set aside £120 million, a very generous gift from this country to the Colonies, but it is a mere bagatelle. We have to think in terms of thousands of millions. The capital required to implement material projects alone is enormous, and that is not enough unless we can educate the people and improve their health so that they can co-operate with us as only healthy, educated citizens can. So I would again tell my colonial friends who 663 naturally, like every human being, want self-government, want the power to rule themselves, and want posts—there is nothing wrong in that—that for many years, they will need the help of European technicians and administrators.
At the present time a fight against famine is going on in the tropics. Several hon. Members have referred to it. In parts of Africa the population doubles itself in 25 years. In other parts it does so in 35 years; and the production of wealth does not keep pace with that increase of population. Since the war the population of the world has increased by about 200 million and most of that increase has taken place in the tropics The population problem in the Colonies is fundamental. It is appalling to contemplate. Those of us who have lived and worked in India and the Colonies and have seen the enormous growth of population look to the future with trepidation. The only way to meet this problem, as several hon. Members have pointed out, is development on a huge scale of the latent wealth and possibilities of the Colonies. Can we do it as regards our vast areas of Colonies? We have poured out money for many years. Long before we passed the legislation for the £120 million gift, we gave help of various kinds to the Colonies. Since the war we have also given several million pounds as food subsidies; we have even given them money to help to run their administration. That cannot go on.
In my opinion, this country cannot afford to give these gifts on this lavish scale when we are at present burdened with appalling taxation and war debts, and various other difficulties. Even if we set up wealth-producing projects in the Colonies, as we have been doing with the local development funds, even if we established social services in the Colonies and completed big projects there, a period would follow when those social services would have to be maintained. They can only be maintained, unless the British taxpayer has to provide social services indefinitely for 60 million people outside these islands, by the Colonies themselves having taxable capacity. The taxable capacity can only be there when the Colonies have been developed on an enormous scale.
664 Ceylon has been referred to in the Debate. There, when independence was granted, there was almost universal literacy, there was great trained technical ability, trained administrative officers, Ceylonese and European, were on the spot. Above all, the politicians in Ceylon had had long experience and training because of our policy of gradually expanding self-government, which is the wise system of British Governments of every political complexion. Other Colonies say, "Ceylon is independent; it is only a small place, and if it can be independent why cannot we?" I should like to give some figures in that connection. The revenue of Ceylon, an area which would not be missed if taken out of Nigeria, is bigger than the revenue of Nigeria. The revenue of Nigeria at the present time, although it has expanded since the war, is about 18s. per head, whereas the revenue of this country is £60 per head. The people in the Colonies sometimes say they want the same system of education and social services as we have in England. Can that be with an income of 18s. a head?
I ask my colonial friends to consider these things and to realise that in the Colonies political, social and educational advance must all go together. In the long run it can only be achieved by hard work. I know what this doctrine means in the tropical Colonies where the sun advises a man to go slow and not to strive. On the other hand, the rewards for well-directed hard work are enormous. It is only hard work in the Colonies which can lift the people to a stage of cultural education and comfort which only wealth can supply.
§ Mr. Rankin
Can my hon. Friend explain for my information why in the Rhodesian mines hard work on the part of the native produces an income of £5 per year, while hard work on the part of the white man produces an income of up to and over £500 a year?
§ Mr. Reid
All I can say is I do not own the Rhodesian mines. I am not responsible for the salaries paid in those mines, but what my hon. Friend says does not interfere in the least with what I am saying. We in this country say that there is no remedy for our ills except hard work, and it is the same in the Colonies unless the British taxpayer is to finance them, and I say that he will not do so in- 665 definitely. The people of this country will not allow it to happen, because we are hard pressed as it is.
South-East Asia has been referred to in this Debate. That is potentially one of the richest areas in the world, and several countries are involved. There are water and all sorts of natural resources yet it is well-known that for the next 10 years it is doubtful whether famine can be avoided and whether a toll of the population will not be taken. It is only after 10 years or so, with luck, that these countries may become free from the fear of famine. That is an appalling state of affairs. In that part of the world, as in others—for instance, the Caribbean area—there is an international organisation. I suggest that that international organisation must get busy and plan the development of South-East Asia and there must be international funds to do the job. Britain cannot find the capital and adopt the enormous risks which are involved in the development of these areas.
There are similar risks in the groundnut scheme, and when there are risks in such schemes international funds are required to do the job to which the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) referred. I have already said that Britain cannot finance such schemes and the people of this country will not allow it to be done on the huge scale on which the hon. and gallant Member and I are agreed it should be done. There must be a revolution in ideas. These Colonies cannot unaided develop their countries, to keep themselves alive and raise their standards of living in their own interests and the interests of the world. If the Colonies are to be developed, it is for the good of the Colonies and for the good of the whole world. That being so, the whole world must take the risk and find the funds for developing the Colonies properly. I throw out that suggestion, for what it is worth.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Would the hon. Gentleman be prepared to accept American capital if it were offered?
§ Mr. Reid
I was not thinking of that, but rather of State enterprises. There are various international bodies connected with the United Nations, the International Bank and so on. In dealing with the Colonies, owing to the difficulties that might arise, this kind of work should not 666 be undertaken only by one country, which would be accused of exploitation. It would be much better if it were done by an international agency which is above political suspicion.
As a final word, I want to say something about propaganda in the Colonies. We are now making a gigantic attempt to develop the Colonies. We are straining our resources to do it, but there are propagandists in the Colonies who are decrying our efforts. They are assuring their people, who are often ignorant and easily misled, that this is simply imperialistic exploitation, which is done not in the interests of the natives but in the interests of this country. There is a spate of propaganda going out in most of the Colonies. I hope my voice will carry to the friendly, decent people in the Colonics, when I urge them not to be misled by false prophets, but to take this propaganda with a grain of salt. I ask them, as far as the Colonies are concerned, to co-operate with Britain in trying to stave off famine and starvation, and to develop their own countries for their own good and for that of the rest of the world.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby (Dorset, Western)
The Committee will be interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid). He had the advantage of speaking from a personal experience of the Colonies and on both sides of the Committee Members will be found who can agree with much of what he said. He rather put his finger on the most important points as regards that part of the world about which I intend to speak, namely Africa, when he pointed out, firstly, that in some parts of Africa the native population has doubled in size in a very short time; and, secondly, that this country was no longer in the position economically to give gifts in quite the same generous way as she has been in a position hitherto to give gifts. The fact that the population is increasing so rapidly means that the old methods are no longer likely in the future to support the population, so that development by new methods to support these people, involving a lot of capital, of which we in this country are very short, must be given serious consideration.
I intend to speak about East and Central Africa. I had the good fortune to 667 go on an Empire Parliamentary Association mission to East Africa, and I went on later to Central Africa, Southern Rhodesia and the Union of South Africa where I was able to see different stages of African development. From a personal point of view I got some benefit from the contrasts between the conducted tour of the delegation and the more unrehearsed performance which I saw in the later trip down south. I found very much to admire in the colonial administration, though I did find at least three points which caused me some concern.
In the first place, I found a considerable amount of misunderstanding about our long-term policy for the future. There seemed to be no clear idea of what that policy was. In one territory it was one thing and in the next territory it seemed to be totally different, and, quite frankly, seen at a distance, the co-ordination of Whitehall was lacking. Secondly, I wondered whether some of the development projects were not proposed for the wrong places; and, thirdly, I was very disappointed at what I considered to be the failure to make use of the influx of European settlers, whose skill is so badly needed in those territories.
I formed the most favourable impression of the efficiency of the Colonial Office servants on the spot. I thought they knew their job very well and were most hard working. However, I am bound to say I thought there was considerable evidence that they were apt to be somewhat estranged from the settlers; and when I went further south, to Southern Rhodesia, a country which has secured self-government, I did not notice the same thing at all. I could not but make unfavourable comparisons of that kind.
It seems to me that there has been some failure to face up to the political future of these various territories. I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State intervene when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) was speaking, to say he had given assurances about the position of the white settlers in Kenya, because I am quite certain that what the hon. and gallant Member said is correct, and that is that there is a great deal of misunderstanding on the point amongst all races. That misunderstanding is not for the benefit of the future development of 668 those territories, if the various races are to work together harmoniously to carry out the development which is so necessary.
It is a pity, in a way, that there is not a clear distinction drawn between the contributions which are likely to be made by the various territories of East and Central Africa to this development. I referred just now to the question of how much capital Great Britain can now afford to spend. I think very few would disagree when I say that the amount of capital we have to spend on the Colonies is now somewhat limited. Wherever we spend that capital, Europeans will have to go to be the technical people responsible for carrying projects into effect. It is not very long ago since we had an Adjournment Debate on development in Africa. When the Under-Secretary of State was in East Africa he made some fine, airy statements about how European technicians would be welcome out there, and how it was desired that there should be a flow of them to East Africa. A Question was asked about it in the House, and the Secretary of State was very quick to pour cold water on the whole thing.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? On the contrary, my right hon. Friend confirmed everything I said. It may be of interest to the hon. Gentleman to know that a number of technicians are already going out as a result of my statement in East Africa.
§ Mr. Digby
I think the Secretary of State denied there was any new policy. The Under-Secretary of State implied that there was a new policy, and that was denied. If there is not a new policy I cannot see what the Under-Secretary is taking credit for—except, perhaps, for the work of his predecessors. In the Adjournment Debate the Under-Secretary of State agreed with what has been the sense of the House tonight, that that development is necessary, and he said:I am certain that we must have for East Africa a bold and imaginative plan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1948; Vol. 452, c. 215.]He went on to say that it should consist of four different features—heavy industries round Jinja; development of secondary industries, particularly in Kenya; an improvement in agriculture and animal 669 husbandry; and development of the tsetse fly areas. I should like to say a word or two about those four matters.
First, with regard to the development of heavy industries around Jinja. As hon. Members will know, there is not an awful lot there at the moment on which to found heavy industries. There is the White Nile River and the Owen Falls and the project of the barrage. That was suggested some 40 years ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill).
§ Mr. Digby
As hon. Members know, Uganda up to now has been a country where there have been few Europeans at all. There will be no suitable Europeans on the spot. It is a country in which Europeans have not owned land—or even houses—privately. If we wish to set up heavy industries there we shall have to introduce a very large European element. It is true we shall have the power from the barrage scheme. It is true that out by Mbale there is a hill which is supposed to be a mass of iron ore, but there is iron ore in Tanganyika. I can see few advantages in thus bringing many Europeans into Uganda, which at the moment, with the possible exception of Nyasaland, is the least Europeanised of those countries.
The Under-Secretary of State spoke next about secondary industries in Kenya. Does he mean development in Nairobi district? Presumably not, as he was talking of the power scheme, and that power can be transmitted only a limited distance. I should have assumed that there would be some idea of development of secondary industries at Kisumu or in the Kavirondo district where the land is so thickly populated. But I understand that nothing whatever of the kind has been projected or even thought out yet. If he is really serious about these development plans, it is about time he was able to tell us what they are, and what concrete steps have been taken to consult the people on the spot with the object of obtaining their point of view.
With regard to the next matter, improvement in agriculture and animal husbandry, I think few would disagree with the Under-Secretary of State. We have a number of agricultural officers out 670 there. I found them, on the whole, of a pretty high standard. They were overworked and there were not nearly enough of them. They were doing all they could to check erosion, which is a very serious problem in Africa. However, I do not see how the hon. Gentleman proposes suddenly to solve this problem of soil erosion. Is it proposed to appoint far more agricultural officers? Is it proposed to do what, I understand, is under contemplation further south, to take very much stronger measures against cultivators who refuse to cultivate the land properly? If he intends to go along in the present way, I do not think the results will be very considerable, either in cultivation or in the improvement of animal husbandry.
I think the hon. Gentleman ought to have mentioned forestry, too. I had an opportunity of looking over a number of forest areas out there. There, again, one came up against this tremendous problem of the shortage of staff. I thought that in the appointment of staff the standard aimed at was far too high. They were, I believe, refusing to accept Europeans for forestry work who had not university degrees. That is aiming very high. I should have thought far better results would be achieved if they were to appoint more people, and were not quite so fussy about university degrees. The same thing applies to agriculture. There are many farmers' sons in this country who know plenty about farming but who have not been to universities. Why the Colonial Office refuses to use them when so many are willing to go out there, I fail to understand.
Lastly, I come to the question of the fly areas. The Under-Secretary spoke as though he had the cure up his sleeve. I hope to goodness that he has, because I talked to a lot of people about this and have come to the conclusion that he is a very long way from reaching any satisfactory solution.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
As the hon. Member seems to be making a series of attacks on me, or on my ideas, will he kindly inform the Committee and myself what authority he has for saying that I said that I have the answer to the tsetse fly up my sleeve?
§ Mr. Digby
I did not say the Under-Secretary "had" the answer, but that I hoped he had the answer. What I do 671 say is that he spoke in a very optimistic way in his statements about the whole problem. If he was referring to bush clearance, that is a very large project indeed, when enormous areas are involved, but if he has some new kind of spray, we shall be delighted to hear about it. This is a large problem which cannot be laughed off. I am not attacking the Under-Secretary, but offering a few suggestions about these ideas of his which are on the right lines, and which I should like to see put in practice, or at any rate put into plans at a fairly early date.
It seems to me that in the whole of these territories there is still lacking a sufficient sense of the economic urgency of the position in the Mother Country. Things are very difficult here for us, as we all know, but it is not sufficiently known or realised by the officials on the spot. For example, it was two and a half weeks before we found an official in East Africa who used a British car, and this at a time when we are doing our best to sell British cars to the African Continent.
We found that an important diamond mine had been deprived of four vital miles of railway track in order, it was said, to supply them for the groundnut scheme. Again, a goldmine in Tanganyika, which was making a valuable contribution towards earning vital dollars, did not seem to be getting that co-operation from the Tanganyika Government, which I should have thought was in our interests, and was being put into a very difficult financial position. It was found, when inquiring from officials and others about the capital needs of these territories, that the replies were extraordinarily vague and varied from the "Colonial Development Fund" to the somewhat different answer of "unlimited."
I believe there are several ways in which, if the Secretary of State will really approach the problem from the economic point of view, great assistance can be given in meeting the problems of the sterling area and at the same time in helping these territories. For instance, there is the question of growing more cotton in the Lake Provinces of Tanganyika. The present output of 35,000 bales a year could, in the opinion of many experts, be increased very rapidly, thereby replacing American cotton for which 672 we are paying dollars. Similarly, could not more of the Uganda cotton which is going to India be used in Lancashire in order to save dollars? These are questions which are extremely vital to this country, and I believe it is part of the work of the Colonial Office to consider them as a matter of urgency.
Africa, it is true, has been the last Continent to be developed by man. It is also true that she has very many disadvantages. She has the disadvantages of poor soil and lack of water, and she is infested with disease. I think there is a tendency to under-estimate these difficulties, but nevertheless the possibilities are there, and I hope that the Government will address their mind to these difficulties, not only in words but in deeds, and will not think that the groundnut scheme in Tanganyika is enough for this enormous undeveloped territory. There is plenty more work to be done. It is about 2,000 years since a Roman poet—I will not attempt to quote him in Latin—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because my pronunciation might shock Old Etonians opposite. He wrote: "There is always something new from Africa." I do not see why there should not be many new things from Africa, and I hope that the Government, who have indulged in a good deal of verbiage on this subject, will now get down to it and let us have some more detailed plans.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)
I also wish to say a few words about the East African Territories. Like the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Digby), I also had the opportunity of visiting them a few months ago. I realise that that does not constitute me an expert and I cannot be dogmatic or speak with any authority, but at least I am a little less ignorant than I was before. I think I know something of the problems, and at any rate visits of this kind do arouse intense personal interest, which I think is all to the good. I only hope that there can be a much greater exchange of visitors between the Motherland and territories beyond the sea. It is sometimes said that we are living in the age of the "iron curtain," but I hope there will be no iron curtains between the Motherland and her Colonies.
673 It is very clear to me that the East African territories have reached a very important phase in their history. I believe that there will be large developments, for three reasons. First, there is the strategic importance of the territories, although this may be a subject which is mostly outside the scope of this Debate. Nevertheless, with the changed conditions in the Mediterranean it is quite clear that East Africa occupies a key position in any security arrangements. Whatever happens in the future, we cannot afford to run the appalling risks of 1939. Not even until this day is it possible to understand why the Italian army stopped on the frontier of Kenya when there was literally nothing to stop them going right through to South Africa except a few local troops and, I think, four "Hurricanes." I am not certain about these, and believe they came from South Africa, anyway. These risks cannot be taken in the future and some rapid development, for this reason alone is inevitable.
Secondly, there is the very rapid increase in the African population. Dr. Patterson, whose name has been mentioned in the Debate, has been collecting material for a good many years. He has had unique opportunities for gathering it, as he has had a most distinguished career in the African Medical Service. He estimates that in the next ten years the African population of the three main territories will double. One does not know what the African population is in these areas—a census is being taken at the present time—but it cannot be less than 10 million; therefore, the territories will have to support within the next 10 to 15 years, a population of at least 20 million, and already the food position is quite acute. Obviously, therefore, a great expansion of agricultural production is essential.
Most Members who have seen the problem at first hand will agree that it is unlikely that we can look for any substantial increase in agricultural production from the African farms. They are usually much too small and without adequate implements, and although there has been an improvement in some districts, they have not even compensated for the great amount of soil erosion which is taking place in many areas. Flying over parts of Kenya and Tanganyika, I saw large 674 areas of horrible red scars where the soil had been removed from the surface, leaving only hard rock underneath. These areas have now been lost to cultivation for all time. Little assistance, therefore, can be expected from the African farmer individually, although I hope we shall continue to expand the advice system which is working well in some areas.
As the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) said, I do not think we shall get any substantial increase either from the general European farmer. The scale of operations needed to effect a substantial improvement is usually so large as to be beyond the capital resources, at any rate, of the European. There are, however, some areas where European farming could be expanded, and I think the Colonial Secretary might investigate the possibilities of irrigation schemes in the lower courses of the Tana River. I believe, therefore, generally speaking, that large improvements in food conditions can only be secured by some form of community undertaking, financed by the Government, even though other agents are used to carry it out.
Thirdly developments are essential because the African and the European, and many others throughout the world, are hoping that we may be able to get some relief for our fats deficiency and for other shortages of raw materials. There are three immediate problems to be tackled if there is to be successful development. First, there is the health of the African. I did not know and I doubt whether it is realised here, that in East Africa the native is a sick person. We are sometimes told by the older but by no means representative settler that the African is lazy. Apart from the problem of incentives and the lack of them, and the need to induce the habit of hard work—a habit which I do not take kindly to myself—the average African is often a diseased person. I asked medical officer after medical officer what was the incidence of hookworm or other intestinal diseases, and I never got a figure lower than 90 per cent. Sometimes it was as high as 95 per cent.
Similarly, with venereal disease. It was rare to find a district in which less than 50 per cent. of the population were not afflicted by this disease, either congenitally or by contagion. There were 675 whole areas in which malaria attacks were the constant condition of a very large number of inhabitants. Although it is possible to work under these conditions for a long time, they have an enormous effect on the vigour and energy of the individual. This is a problem to which we and the African authorities must pay great attention.
I want to emphasise, in passing, that I have the highest praise for our existing health services, inadequate as they are. The European doctor, working with his bush dispensaries, is doing an excellent job, but there are not enough of them, or of medical assistants, and I hope we shall find ways and means of extending medical training at Makerere College and elsewhere, so that more assistants can be forthcoming, and so that we shall be able to extend further into the bush. Distances in this matter, as in others, are enormous, and there is no easy or quick solution.
The second problem, education, is no less fundamental. The work which has been done by many of the mission schools has been first-class, but they are the first to admit that their resources are strained to the limit, that they can take on no more, and that the community must step in with assistance. The same kind of difficulties confront the educational services as the medical services. Nearly all primary education has to be organised on boarding school lines. There is, for instance, no going home to lunch in the bush for many. I was struck by the very small proportion of girls who get any schooling at all. Many schools have no girl pupils, or perhaps one out of 400.
I personally welcomed very much the opening of the Alliance High School in March, 1948, which is the first State secondary school in Kenya for Africans. It will provide a four-year course of secondary education for girls, and although there are only nine pupils there now, a beginning has been made which might be the start of a profound social revolution. We all know of the unfortunate status of the African woman, and if something can be done to give her further opportunities we shall be doing something of the utmost value. In passing I am glad to say that I saw, in Uganda, women on two local native councils, who are playing their part very well.
676 Without criticising any of the arrangements—because I can visualise the immense difficulties in Kenya—it is true we are only touching the fringe of the problem. There are about two million children in Kenya, and only 200,000 in primary schools and 4,000 in secondary schools. If we are to see any great development of the territories we must work much faster than that. This is very true of technical education. I think it is regrettable that Italian technicians are now being brought into these territories. What I have seen convinces me that the African, if selected properly, can perform most of the skilled jobs. Both Uganda and Tanganyika have training schemes which have been open to those leaving the African Forces. They were trained in bricklaying, carpentry, tailoring and metal work. Unfortunately, the records of those who left the centres after training were disappointing. Few stuck to the job for which they had been trained. With all respect to hon. and gallant Members in the Committee, it may be that soldiers are the wrong people to train for this sort of work and that we must be more careful in selection in future.
In the railway workshops at Nairobi we saw samples of machine work, carpentry, upholstery and iron foundry work—all being performed excellently by Africans. There were also men working in engineering shops at the sisal estates. There must be the right selection of men, careful supervision and a great deal of patience. I hope much more emphasis will be given to the provision of opportunities for technical education for the African. I was struck by the fact that although the Indian community are building a number of schools in different parts of the territories, I did not see any attempt to provide any sort of technical education for them, which is regrettable.
The third great problem in the tsetse fly. In Uganda and Tanganyika two-thirds of the territory is controlled not by the Colonial Office, but by the tsetse fly. About one-third of Kenya is always subject to its domain. Recently the fly was gaining; at one time many hundreds of square miles of land were becoming unfit for cultivation and cattle rearing. It seems to me that we have been very mean in this problem. In the last 10 years the sums of money spent on a work which could clear away a menace and provide 677 millions of acres for cultivation, has been all too small. I am very glad to know that the veterinary and the tsetse services are to be united and that there will be a common attack and exchange of information in all three territories. I believe only £40,000 is to be provided even now to deal with this menace. It seems to me to be all too small and I should like to hear from the Under-Secretary whether there are any further plans in store.
There are three ways of dealing with the menace. I visited one of the forward stations in the front line of attack between Gulu and Niva in Uganda where Scott, who is a very considerable naturalist in his own right, has established his headquarters. There, by burning the bush, keeping the game within a prescribed limit and by other methods he is pushing back the tsetse menace. I asked him if he were keeping abreast of the tsetse pressure, and he said, "Oh, yes, we are slowly pushing it back." He pointed out, however, that he had been there only six months, and that is appalling. That is the type of operation which should have been carried on in our territories years ago.
Secondly, I am glad to know that the new drug 7555 is really effective as an inoculation. In the past many owners of cattle on the fringe of the tsetse area preferred to run the risk from the tsetse fly than the certainty of having their cattle killed by inoculation. I understand that this new drug is giving very satisfactory results, and if so it may be a very formidable weapon in our battle. The most satisfactory way of dealing with the menace is, of course, by settlement, and that is why I believe schemes like the groundnut scheme will be the most successful, because they mean vast settlements in the heart of tsetse areas, which provides the most effective way of dealing with it as it cleans the jungle and makes it impossible for the fly to breed.
I close with the hope that the Colonial Governments themselves will consider methods of raising additional revenue. Some Africans and some Europeans seem to regard this country as having an unlimited supply of cash for these developments. On both sides of the Committee we will do what we can to spend even larger sums and we will agree to measures even depriving our- 678 selves, for the development of these areas which is so essential. It is true, however, as the Attorney-General in the Kenya Legislative Council said when I was there and there was a debate on the crime wave, that in the past Kenya itself tried to do things on the cheap. It was pointed out that 25 years ago the foundation stone of the new police station was laid. The foundation stone is still there, but the rest of the area is occupied by a garage. That kind of attitude is not big enough. We have to be big, but so also have our colonial territories. I hope that the new constitutional arrangements for East Africa in the East African Legislative Assembly will be the prelude to an era of prosperity for the Africans, for the Europeans and indeed for the whole world.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)
The more I listen to these Colonial Debates the more I am convinced that what is needed almost is a special Session to discuss these colonial questions. If His Majesty's Government are looking for a subject for the special Session in the Autumn, I am sure that the large question of colonial affairs would fill the bill. What I am going to say at this late hour I shall telescope into a few sentences and a series of questions to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
In his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred briefly to the disturbances on the Gold Coast, nd he said that the report of the Commission of inquiry under Mr. Watson, K.C., which is now in his hands, would be published at the end of the month, and at the same time there would be a Government announcement of policy upon the findings. That is reasonable and we can wait until then. It is not my intention or desire to say anything which will interfere with those arrangements, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the position meanwhile of the six men who have been detained in connection with the Gold Coast disturbances.
As he has said, we have to wait until the end of the month before we have the Commission's Report and the statement from the right hon. Gentleman as to what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government to this whole question. But what about the arrested men? I should like to know if they are under house arrest at the present time or 679 are they under close arrest; have they been released, or where have they been removed to since first arrested? My information was that they were under socalled house arrest, which confined them completely to a building beyond which they were unable to go at all. In effect, it was a form of imprisonment. If not, can the right hon. Gentleman say where they are at the present time, and also are they able to communicate with their relatives and friends? What is the position? It seems very unsatisfactory.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) on 21st March asked the Secretary of State for the Colonieswhether an application has been made to the courts in the Gold Coast, on behalf of the six men recently arrested under the Government's Emergency Powers, for a writ of habeas corpus.The right hon. Gentleman replied,According to information received from the Governor, no application had been made to the court for a writ of habeas corpus …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1948; Vol. 448; c. 3015.]I understand that no application was made to the court, but can the Under-Secretary say whether an application was made to the registrar on the spot, and if the registrar, when the application was made, replied that under the emergency powers this was not possible, which, in fact, was what the right hon. Gentleman said on 21st March at the end of the questions addressed to him by my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset? Is this not misleading the House? I have in my hand a copy of these emergency powers and the Orders in Council issued by Sir Gerald Creasy and I find that Section I (5) says:No action, prosecution or other legal proceeding calling in question the legality of anything done under or by virtue, or in pursuance, of this regulation or any Order of direction made or issued thereunder shall be brought, instituted or maintained, or shall be entertained by any court at any time.That is a regulation far more drastic than anything we had under Regulation 18(B) in this country during the war.
This is, I think, the most formidable regulation that I have ever read. Here during the war, under Regulation 18(B), we had the Sir Norman Birkett Committee to which persons could appeal and submit their cases. Under this document 680 there is no appeal or redress for these people under these emergency powers, unless to this House. There is no legal right of appeal to the courts there or here or to any judiciary committee of any sort or kind. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman with his great record, particularly as regards civil liberties on Colonial territories, can mean that these emergency regulations shall be operated against these six men without limitation. There is no charge against them, but they are incarcerated under conditions concerning which we have no real information.
I do not want to enter into a discussion on the general policy of the Government on these Gold Coast disturbances and I am prepared to await the statement together with the reports which are to be issued at the end of the month. At the same time, I should like to ask whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to extend some kind of monopoly measure to control monopolies on the Gold Coast similar to the Bill introduced into this House at the present time; otherwise the Monopoly Bill will be absolutely supreme. I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will be good enough to give us some sort of assurance on that point.
In a very interesting speech, with which I did not agree in many respects, the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) referred to the future policy, plan or clear pattern of Empire development. I ask what has been done in regard to the area development scheme, which was first discussed and suggested by Field-Marshal Smuts. It was to be a new policy in which the Dominions were to co-operate with regard to the development economically and in relation to strategical questions, of certain Colonies on a geographical basis. A great deal was said about this matter at the time. I am convinced that we shall never be able to deal with the massive Colonial development problems which confront us—Malaya has shown us the truth of this statement—unless we decentralise and call in the Dominions to co-operate in developing the grouping or area scheme. I hope that the matter has not been lost sight of and that in a future Debate, the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what is going on and whether representations have been made to him that 681 the Dominions are prepared to come into a geographical and strategic area scheme of this sort.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Dumpleton (St. Albans)
At the outset of my speech I would echo what has been said on both sides of the Committee about the inadequacy of the time that has been given to this discussion of colonial affairs. We should all like to deal with many of the subjects which have come tinder review. Many of them have been dealt with, and we are all tempted to follow up the points which have been raised. I am conscious, as most of us are, that many other hon. Members wish to take part in the Debate and so I can only concentrate in the few minutes at my disposal on one aspect of one particular territory in the vast range of territories and places which must be covered in a Debate upon colonial affairs.
I want to deal with a subject which was touched upon by the Secretary of State in his opening speech and which has been dealt with in the Annual Report upon the Colonial Empire. Hon. Members will have read that report. The subject is the development of local government, particularly in Africa. This is a very important subject to which the Committee is right to give some attention. The development of local government organs must progress alongside economic development, about which we have been talking. The success or failure of many development schemes under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, or schemes which are envisaged in the formation of the Colonial Development Corporations, will depend to a very great extent upon the active co-operation of the African people themselves, in their own villages and towns. There can be little doubt that the most effective means of encouraging and harnessing such co-operation is through the leadership of the African local authorities.
The growth of responsible democratic local government has, therefore, become a matter of considerable importance and urgency in the African territory. I am glad that my right hon. Friend gave it that place in his opening speech and in the policy which he has been developing over the last year or two. In African territories and particularly, in my experience, in West Africa, there is an increasing 682 number of educated Africans who, by their membership of a variety of boards, committees and councils, are taking a share in creating and shaping policy for the government of their own country. There is a danger that this process will tend to produce from the educated minority a separate class of politicians preoccupied with affairs at the centre in each territory, separate from and out of real touch with the mass of their own people.
As I understand it, the development of which the Secretary of State spoke is proceeding, as it must, along two parallel lines. There is the development of local government and the formation of municipal councils in the urban areas and the bigger towns. In passing, I would say that I am glad that an end has at last been reached of the deadlock which existed for so long in regard to the municipal ordinance in Freetown. When I was in Freetown last year, I discussed this matter with some of the Africans who were interested in that municipal ordinance. I found that some of them have a conception of autonomy and freedom from control from the central Government, which went far beyond anything that a local authority in this country would claim. There did seem to be a lack of understanding of what municipal government should be.
I am glad to know that the municipal council is being set up in Port Harcourt. It is necessary to continue this development in the rural areas, of which these territories are predominantly formed. They are predominantly agricultural rural areas. It is of tremendous importance to develop rural councils on the foundation of the traditional native organisation. The democratic native system need not necessarily conflict with the traditional tribal institutions which exist in nearly all areas, in varying degrees of strength and influence.
The traditional elements have an important part to play and can be integrated with the new system provided proper representation of all elements is secured. Possibly the process of political development will best be aided by the increasing acquisition of executive power by representative elements of the various local councils, without any change necessarily taking place in the formal constitutional position of the chiefs. In many areas it is the experience that the establishment 683 of functional committees to deal with particular subjects such as health, education and finance on the English local government pattern is proving a valuable means in that direction. I hope it will be extended. It is interesting and significant to note that in the Eastern Provinces of Uganda where notable progress in the development of this system of village, district and county councils has taken place, it was at first anticipated by the British officials on the spot that there would be a good deal of opposition on the part of the chiefs to the introduction of this kind of council, but instead of opposing them and fearing that the councils might eventually supersede them, the chiefs had in almost every instance welcomed them and used them.
This policy of stimulating and guiding the growth of democratic local self-government in the British African territories—I particularly wish to underline this point—depends for its success on a number of essential requirements, the first of which is a clear recognition by all concerned that the method of democracy can most effectively be learnt by its practice. That means that even at the risk of some initial inefficiency and frequent disappointments, an increasing measure of responsibility must be entrusted to these organs of local government so that by practical experience their members may acquire those qualities which are necessary for effective and reliable administration.
Linked with that need is the need for greater attention to be given to the recruitment and training of local government staffs. The importance of attracting the best Africans to the service of their own local governing bodies requires that the rates of pay and conditions of service must be at least as good as those under the central government service of each territory. Many native administrations have hitherto been unable to offer such terms owing to lack of funds. Hence the need for placing local government bodies on a sound financial basis. At present men trained at Achimota, Makerere and other higher educational centres are proving of great worth, but their numbers are far too small.
The higher educational colleges now being developed will need to give the maximum possible attention to the needs of local government, but in the interim 684 until they are able to meet the need, special measures ought to be taken even to the extent of bringing over to this country selected individuals for periods of training with English local authorities and sending out there experienced local government personnel from this country to conduct training courses for Africans. Probably the key to the successful furtherance of the policy of developing local self-government, at any rate in the initial stages, lies in the enthusiasm and loyal response and wholehearted application of that policy by the British administrative and specialist officers in the field. They need to be helped a great deal. The Cambridge Summer School last August demonstrated the value of such conferences and courses. They need to be extended, and greater facilities are required for the circulation and exchange of information. The field is so vast and varied that every area has some experience from which others may profit.
The direction in which the field staffs most urgently need relief is in the reduction of the great volume of detailed routine duties and in the provision of better office equipment and facilities. I found this to a great extent when I was in Nigeria and the Gold Coast. To this end there should be increasing employment of sufficiently skilled and trained Africans to serve in such subsidiary positions as office managers or accountants or licensing officers. This is being tried out in Uganda, where district accountants are being appointed, and I think that is a step in the right direction.
Finally, the pace of the development of efficient Government organs in Africa, and their ability to assume increasing executive and financial responsibility, depends more than anything else, as the Governor of Uganda has very rightly said, not only upon their representative and democratic character but, in the last resort, upon the quality of the human material available. Where the human limiting factor is fundamental lack of character, it is far more serious and difficult to remedy than lack of education. The progress of Africans, as of ourselves and all other people, in local government or any other social sphere must necessarily be slow wherever there is lack of a sense of public responsibility, of social service and of standards of common honesty.
685 Something was said this afternoon about the need for developing voluntary organisations with which I fully agree. We, with our thousand years of development, have much we can give, and possibly there is much we can learn from these new, growing communities. We should avoid the mistake of attempting too rigidly to impose our own patterns of local government. We can show them the form of the democratic way of life, but it must be the African way of life, and Africans alone can make it democratic and alive.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
In the very few minutes at my disposal I should like to associate myself with other hon. Members who regret that there has been so little time given for the discussion of this all-important subject. It has really been quite impossible for us to cover a large portion of the Empire, and when people in many colonial territories read their papers tomorrow morning they will think it peculiar that in a Debate in the House of Commons so much should be left out.
§ Mr. Hare
I should like to concentrate on one or two matters affecting the development of Africa because this Debate has concentrated more on the development of the African Continent than perhaps on any other aspect of the Empire. Most hon. Members on both sides of the House are unanimous in their opinion that on the proper, efficient and rapid development of the resources of both minerals and agriculture in the African Continent depends the future welfare of the rapidly growing African population, as well as the future welfare of other large portions of the world, which cannot hope to maintain a reasonable standard of living unless the great benefits of increased production from Africa are available to them.
Therefore we must consider the main elements which are preventing and delaying the development we all want to see. Many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have suggested that we should be spending more money on our development schemes than we are now. I think that is nonsense. It is not a question of the amount of money we are prepared to spend, but of how much in the form of capital goods we are prepared to allot to 686 development in these African territories. Quite clearly, faulty communications are the first stumbling block in the way of obtaining the results which we require. We must build up a railroad system, we must build up a port system and also road systems before we can begin to get industrial or agricultural production really going strongly.
Lack of capital goods also is preventing the agricultural land already being farmed from producing the extra food we need. Members of the Committee who visit these African territories will get the universal complaint from all the farming community that, if they had another tractor, could get an extra plough, more wire, and some cement, they could increase their production. It may not be altogether our fault that we are not able to produce them, but these things must be included amongst our objectives. I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are making the best use of the capital goods available for export to these countries. I think it was the President of the Board of Trade who made a very true remark, with which I entirely agree, in the Debate on the Economic Survey; he said that we had so much to do in 1948 and so little with which to do it.
There are various indications that we are not making the best use of the capital goods available for export to the African Continent. Three examples come to my mind. I cannot believe that with good management and a proper allocation of priorities we would be faced with the fact that last year 100,000 tons of groundnuts were piled up in the interior of Nigeria. It is not right that with this harvest—a very heavy harvest, which I am told this year will fortunately amount to some 300,000 tons—should be allowed to pile up in Nigeria. I know that locomotives and railway trucks are on the way to that Colony. I am glad they are going. But, if my information is correct—and I believe it is—I feel that if there had been ten extra locomotives and 240 extra trucks last year the whole of that backlog of 100,000 tons could have been brought down to the ports. If that is true, it is something the Government should have dealt with.
My second point concerns the sisal industry. When I was in Tanganyika this year, I was assured by members of that industry that if they had been granted a 687 slightly larger allocation of labour and given twenty extra heavy tractors they would probably have produced an extra £2½ million worth of dollars by cutting extra sisal leaf which the Americans wanted. A small extra allocation would have made a great difference in reducing the dollar drain which is crippling this country.
My third example is perhaps not such a strong one. It is well known that in Northern Rhodesia the copper mines are under-producing. That is because the Northern and Southern Rhodesian railway systems are short of rolling stock and coal. In addition, there is congestion in the port of Beira. I know that this latter point is to be dealt with, but it is a serious matter when we realise that in electrolite copper last year we spent some £24 million in importing copper, of which £14 million was in the form of dollar purchases from hard currency areas. That our own sterling area should be under-producing copper, and at the same time we are having to pour forth our precious dollars in buying this commodity, indicates that this is a matter which should be urgently dealt with and put right.
The second question I would ask is how much extra assistance in the development of these Colonies, Marshall Aid will give us. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), in the final words of his speech on Tuesday of this week, made the point on which I want to question the Government: How are we going to use the four years which American generosity has given us? That is the vital question. We have four years in which to concentrate on the colonial development of Africa. Decisions have to be made now—there can be no delay. It has to be decided where the new railway systems are to be built.
There has been enough planning; action is now required. Are we to develop the railways from the Rhodesias to the West Coast of Africa or link up Central Africa with the Tanganyika and Kenya railway systems? These decisions should be made rapidly because they will take a great deal of time to implement. It is my dream that within a decade, if we really get down to the job, we can be exporting sufficient coal, copper and chrome through 688 a West Coast port in Africa to the Argentine and other South American countries to pay our total meat bill by such an operation. These dreams must be made to come true and I feel the right hon. Gentleman has a very heavy responsibility, because, unless they come true, our very standard of living and existence is drastically threatened.
§ Mr. Rankin
On a point of Order. Must this Debate terminate at 10 o'clock? If so, how can the Committee express its sense of frustration and disappointment at the completely inadequate amount of time devoted to colonial affairs?
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
The Debate, in accordance with the Standing Order, must finish at 10 o'clock. In regard to the time available, that is not a matter for the Chair, although I may remark that there have been a number of lengthy speeches whereas in Committee where many wish to speak, something of a self-denying ordinance on the part of hon. Members who do speak is required. That is the only suggestion and consolation which I can give the hon. Member.
§ Dr. Morgan
I wonder, Major Milner, whether you could make representations to the Government that they should give a further Supply Day in view of the fact that the Opposition are giving us this opportunity of having a colonial affairs Debate on their own day? Surely the Government should also give an opportunity for a Debate on Colonial affairs?
§ The Chairman
I am afraid such a course would not be in accord with the normal functions of the Chair.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
To one who, like myself, has listened in the past to a number of Debates on Colonial Estimates, the remarkable thing about the Debate today has been the number of hon. Members participating who have recently been in the areas about which they have been talking. Indeed, at one time the Committee was rather reminiscent of an East African "old home week." Among such bronzed pioneers I feel conscious of my own defects because it is now, I regret to say, three years since I have been able to visit any of the colonial territories. I frankly recognise what a handicap that is. We live in a time of rapid change 689 both in facts and, even more important, in opinions and however great may be one's interest, however much one may read, it does require personal contact really to keep in touch. I am sure the Secretary of State for the Colonies welcomes as much as I do the increased opportunities which have recently been afforded to hon. Members for visits abroad.
I must in fairness make one point on this Annual Report upon which the right hon. Gentleman hung his remarks. I criticised it last year, but this year I find it immensely improved both in form and in presentation. I have only one suggestion to make. It may be quite impossible, but from the point of view of Parliamentary procedure it would be an immense gain if we could have this report rather earlier. The difficulty is that it would be obviously absurd for the Opposition to ask for a Supply Day for the discussion of colonial questions until this report was issued and until hon. Members had time to study it. The result is that we do not even get our first day until well on to the middle of July, and that may well deprive us of opportunities which might otherwise occur of having a second day for discussion.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
The Report of the Committee on Estimates is being published tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock.
§ Mr. Stanley
I am sure we all understand the difficulties, but if the right hon. Gentleman could do something to help, it would meet a real need.
A great deal of this Debate has turned upon the question of Malaya, and not unnaturally because it is the part of the Colonial Empire which must be giving to the right hon. Gentleman, and to all of us who take an interest in it, the greatest anxiety at the moment. There have been many questions and many criticisms. I do not intend to go over ground which has already been adequately covered by people who have greater personal knowledge of that country. It is always easy for us sitting here in London to criticise the action of Governments in far parts of the Colonies, faced on the 690 spot with these dangers, but it is only fair to say that in this case, from all I learn—and I think probably from anything that hon. Members who have correspondents in Malaya have learned also—there is widespread criticism in Malaya itself of the delay on the part of the Government in taking the action which they are now taking. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to reply to the specific questions which were put to him and give us an assurance that the stern measures which we see are now to be taken will be carried through to the end.
I wish to speak about this matter on a much more general line. Malaya, and indeed also the riots in the Gold Coast, show a new danger which British administration is facing in the Colonial Empire today. The risk to security, to public order, to governmental authority, does not now depend, as it did in the past, on the feeling of political grievance or the resentment of economic conditions. It may often be, of course, that those political grievances or economic conditions are made use of, but this new movement can and does subsist independently of their existence. The old idea that a movement of this kind cannot arise without the sympathy of the population is now quite out of date. These movements can work on the local population as much by fear as by sympathy. Let us face the fact that this kind of movement cannot be met by concessions because it does not rely on grievances. It is a challenge to authority, a challenge to our whole idea of colonial progress, a challenge that has to be met and fought by the Government on the spot with the support of the Government here, and the support, which I am sure they will have, of the whole House.
What worries me both about Malaya and the Gold Coast is the fact that the Government appear to have been taken by surprise. That seems to point to the need for better information, for the need to act more promptly on that information and for the necessity of acting not only promptly but decisively. Certainly we on this side of the Committee can give the right hon. Gentleman an assurance of support when he has to act in that way.
I wish to say a few words about the West Indies. The right hon. Gentleman referred to them and said, quite rightly, that 691 West Indian problems were apt today to be forgotten in the greater interest which has been aroused in immediate African possibilities. I think that that is quite true and that there is a danger, which has been rather evidenced in this Debate, that we are beginning to think of the Colonial Empire as being African. The right hon. Gentleman did us a service by making some reference to the West Indian problem, but I wish he had been able to be a little more specific. I regard the situation in the West Indies as fraught with greater danger than the situation today in Africa.
It may well be that we cannot expect, as partners, to get as much out of the West Indies as we might get out of Africa, but, as trustees, we may find a much bigger collapse of our obligations in the West Indies than we are likely to find in Africa. In my view the position there is grave. Unemployment is growing, and I should like to have heard, not an exchange of arguments between the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) as to when some report was going to be published, but a statement that some plan was to be put into execution.
I am making no party political capital out of the West Indian problem. It is a problem which has faced all Governments in turn. A great deal has been done and a great deal of money has been spent. The problem is, of course, the increase in population in the West Indies which always outstrips the increased aid given. If the conditions of 1948 were dealing with the population of 1938, the position in the West Indies today would not look too bad. The trouble is that, by the time we reach the conditions of 1948, the population has gone right ahead of the assistance we are supplying. I feel that in our new preoccupation with Africa we must not let the grave problem of the West Indies be obscured. I hope that if there is another opportunity for a colonial discussion, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give some more detailed account of what he has in view. I should like to say one word on the political angle. The right hon. Gentleman talked about constitutional development at a greater tempo and the danger of delay. I agree that that is a side 692 that we must not forget. But also do not let us forget the other side—the danger of going too fast. At times when I was responsible, I stressed, because I thought it was the thing most to stress at the time, the danger of going too slowly. I believe we are reaching the position today when the greater danger is the danger of going too fast, when, in fact, we have extended constitutional development considerably beyond the economic and social development on which any sound constitutional advance has to be based.
I hope we are not going to think that, just in order to be progressive, we must continually be making constitutional advances. The right hon. Gentleman said that the pressure of constitutional advance is a painful thing. I do not know for whom he meant it was painful, but overhasty constitutional advance can be most painful for the people whom we are most obliged to protect. Too hurried transfer of responsibility to the intelligentsia of the Colonies may well mean a lessening of the protection now provided to the least educated and those lower in the economic scale.
I feel that the right hon. Gentleman was quite right on this matter to put emphasis on local government. I should have liked to follow the interesting speech of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton). I think we are facing here a very great problem, not the breakdown, I hope—because it is too valuable to be allowed to break down—but the great strain which in Africa is being put on the system of indirect rule. Indirect rule is a thing of which we had every reason in the past to be proud. It enabled us, when we first went into Africa, immediately to give some degree of responsibility to people to whom otherwise, it would have been very difficult to give any share of control.
It is quite clear that with the march of events, with the experience brought back from the war, with the whole process of organisation, that the strain on the traditions and conventions by which indirect rule exercised authority becomes greater and greater. The greatest problem we have to face in Africa in the next few years is not this so-called extension of power at the centre or this so-called new responsibility given to executive councils or to quasi-ministerial posts. The greatest problem is how we are to reconcile the traditional respect for the old form of 693 tribal government with a new generation which has not inherited all these traditions, which sees newer problems, and which has no effective machinery to substitute for that which in the past served us so well.
I should like to say a few words on the economic side of this question. I, in common with everybody who has spoken, only wish that I had longer in which to develop those matters in which I am interested. I thought that on this subject the right hon. Gentleman was extremely fair. He made it plain that he did not claim that economic development of the Colonial Empire had started with this Government. It did not start with them. It did not start with the Colonial Welfare and Development Acts of the war. There have been three phases. There was a phase of large-scale economic development before the war under private enterprise; a phase, started during the war, of the Colonial Welfare and Development Acts, and now the new phase initiated by the Government of further economic development by public corporations.
All those forms of development are not mutually exclusive but mutually complementary. All three have their place in the conditions which now exist. Though we hotly deny claims, made not by the right hon. Gentleman but on political platforms, that now and now only has any economic development taken place in the Colonies, we do not try to deny the Government credit for the fact that, faced with wholly new conditions and therefore with a wholly new opportunity, they have shown themselves willing to take the opportunity presented to them. But I would point out that at the moment we are talking only in terms of plans. Do not let us talk as if in fact, by some miraculous event of the last year or two, there have been some great-scale economic changes in the colonial territories. There have not. The mere fact that the Government make a plan, and today the mere fact that the Government allocate money, does not mean that development has taken place.
The most significant point the right hon. Gentleman made is the fact that the very large sums of money, which have been available for the last few years under the Colonial Welfare and Development Acts and which form part of the 10-year 694 development plan independent of these corporations, have not been spent. Why? Not because they were not available, not because people did not want to spend them, but because there were not available the capital goods, the raw materials, the labour and the skill required. Therefore, just by adding more money to the money we are already enabled to spend, does not really by itself get us anywhere.
I was impressed by the way the right hon. Gentleman told us that the Colonial Development Corporation was approaching its problems. Frankly, I thought it seemed a very great improvement on the way that the Overseas Food Corporation—or rather the Ministry of Food—have approached their side of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman warned us against having too great immediate expectations from these developments. He was quite right. Large-scale developments of this kind cannot produce immediate results. The main criticism we have about the groundnut scheme is not against the idea or against the way the people on the spot have been carrying it out. It is that the Minister of Food, in order to save face, because he raised such wholly unjustifiable immediate expectations, has been putting pressure on the people on the spot to produce results far before any ordinary sensible man could expect results to be produced. Frankly, the result is that we have had, in the groundnuts scheme, and shall still have, a great deal of waste, which is still waste even if it occurs in colonial development, and at the present time this country cannot afford waste. This is not just wasting money; no doubt, everybody in a good cause would be prepared to advocate higher taxation. It is not just money, but skill, raw materials and capital goods which we are wasting.
The only other point I should like to develop on the economic side is one which I will put shortly and with which, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman will deal in his reply. We must not, in all these ideas which the new Corporation is developing, just think of what we are going to take out of Africa. We must think of what we are going to put in, and this on the most commonplace business lines. We cannot spend in these Colonies a great deal of money, much of which goes on wages to indigenous labour, unless we are going to put in a proportionate amount of consumption goods 695 upon which that new money can be spent. Unless we are prepared to do that—and there are signs that we are not doing it adequately—we shall have inflation in these territories which will wreck the chances of the scheme succeeding and bring misery instead of benefit to the people. It is no good our thinking that we can undertake developments in the Colonies unless we are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to give them the consumption goods.
In conclusion may I say I have noted the very evident desire expressed on both sides of the Committee, for further opportunities to be provided for the discussion of these matters. Certainly, I will consult with my colleagues to see if there is any way in which such a thing can be facilitated. This is a matter on which the Committee now takes a deeper interest than it ever did before. I am not averse to controversy, and I speak in the House quite often on controversial matters—
§ Mr. Stanley
It is my hope, and I think the hope of nearly everybody in the Committee, not that we should keep colonial matters out of controversy, because controversy is the breath of progress, but that we should keep them out of party squabbles. Though, of course, we are going to disagree with a lot of things which the right hon. Gentleman does or is going to do, and we are going to be among those who criticise, just as hon. Members opposite did when I was sitting where the right hon. Gentleman now is, yet, at the same time, there is today a deep, underlying unity of purpose and a unity of method. I hope that is so.
In the possibility of putting the colonial administration above the chances—and they are great chances—of British elections, rests the only chance of a sane administration and a stable policy, something which will solve the greatest of all the problems facing this country today. That is the problem of how 40-odd million people in this country can adjust their relations with 60-odd million people spread all over the world, and pass from the original benevolent autocracy, through all those stages of greater responsibility, until there is reached finally a stage 696 where the political aspirations of the Colonies can be satisfied within the bounds of that Commonwealth to which we are attached, so that they and we can continue to work together for our benefit, for their benefit and for the benefit of the whole world.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
We have had an interesting Debate in which many speeches have been made raising various points, with some of which I shall try to deal. I sincerely regret that a large number of other speeches were not made, which I am sure would have been equally interesting, and I sympathise with those who were unable to make them. The last speech I found most interesting, and if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), as an old Parliamentarian, will permit me, as a very new one, to compliment him on it and to say how much I appreciated it and what a service it will be to the Colonial Office, I shall be grateful. The right hon. Gentleman is one to whom I always listen with pleasure, and whenever I see his name on the tape, I hurry into the Chamber to hear him. I have never heard a speech of his which I appreciated more than his speech tonight. There are other speeches which were helpful and important. I should particularly like to mention the speeches by my hon. Friends the Members- for West Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington) and St. Albans (Mr. Dumpleton), who discussed the most important subject of local government. Those speeches with which I am unable to deal tonight, and those questions which I am unable to answer because of lack of time, I will try to deal with by correspondence.
The year's work, which has been presented to the Committee both in the report which has been mentioned so many times and also in my right hon. Friend's speech, has been one of hard work. Much solid groundwork has had to be done during the year, and all who have been concerned with it realise that they would like to have done much more and gone much further with development than has been possible with the resources available.
Before I deal with the development in more detail, following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, 697 there are some points I wish to answer in various speeches. The first one is about the Seychelles. The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) described an officer, the Attorney-General of the Seychelles, as a "pocket Hitler." I feel that to be an attack on an officer of the Colonial Service which is quite unjustified, and which should never have been made in this Committee. I understand and believe it is the custom of the House that we do not attack people who are not in a position to defend themselves.
§ Mr. Gammans
Will the hon. Member arrange that I should have time in some subsequent Debate to elaborate what I said in detail, because I think the Committee would then agree with me?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
The hon. Member alleged that this officer was a pocket Hitler. I consider that to be one of the worst affronts anyone can make—when we realise that the hon. Member described him as Hitler, the man who sent the Jews to the gas chamber, the man who destroyed family life in his own country, the man who convulsed humanity and rendered most of Europe a shambles. That is the man to whom the hon. Member has likened this unfortunate officer. And what has this officer done whom he has likened to Hitler? I will tell the Committee. What he has done has been to press the landlords of the Seychelles to pay their arrears of Income Tax.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
I cannot give way. The hon. Member for Hornsey has questioned the supply of officers into the Colonial Service. I can give him the assurance that never in the whole history of the Colonial Service has there been a higher standard of cadets than we are getting today, and anyone who saw them at the schools we have set up and in the courses we run would be most impressed. My right hon. Friend and I spent some hours with them at these courses, and came away stimulated by the enthusiasm and devotion to duty of these young men. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Hornsey on this point, that we must not let that enthusiasm die. It is important that these young men, when 698 they get into the field, should not have the same experience as befell most of then predecessors—having their ideas turned down so that they became apathetic. We must see that their enthusiasm is kept at the highest possible pitch.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Cooper (Middlesbrough, West)
Other Government Departments are using a new process of selection which seems to have certain definite advantages. Can my right hon. Friend say why the Colonial Office have not used this method?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
Our people go through a proper sifting process, and we are quite satisfied with it. We have a series of post-graduate courses, refresher courses, for those who are returning from overseas territories, and who wish to rub up their knowledge in various ways. These courses are being much appreciated by those who attend them. The hon. Member for Hornsey also referred to arrangements for overseas students. While we are not entirely satisfied that everything possible is being done—we are short of hostel accommodation, which we are trying to remedy—there are associations like the Victoria League and the W.E.A. which are working in close harmony with us in trying to achieve the object of the committee.
On the question of Malaya, on which several Members have enlarged today, I wish to say this: the trouble there, as my right hon. Friend said, is, to some extent, a reflection of the trouble in China. Even during the Japanese occupation a certain amount of fighting was going on between the two opposing forces which, at that time, were quiescent in China and which, since then, have come into open conflict. There have always been some guerillas and gangsters in Malaya. In my days there I remember a man called "The Panther" who had quite a big guerilla gang, which used at times to operate on a large scale. On one occasion, in Province Wellesley, they actually raided and held up a whole town, and got away with various bank and post office deposits. There has always been some sporadic trouble in Malaya, but on nothing like the scale it is now.
During the campaign in and occupation of Malaya arms were dropped to, and hidden by, members of the resistance movement when it was presumed that we would fight a second campaign for the 699 reoccupation of Malaya. These have since come to light in the hands of these gangsters. As the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) said, these gangsters are very difficult people to catch and segregate. The rubber tapper becomes a bandit at one moment and the next he is back again as a rubber tapper, before he can be isolated or identified.
The first threat was through the trade unions. They tried to make use of the trade union movement for their own ends. The Government in Malaya fought that, and that threat was foiled. Then there was the second threat of open violence which has now occurred. In my view, it was not possible for this to be completely foreseen, because it is only lately that there has been violence on anything like the present scale. This is shown by the figures for trade in Malaya. Yesterday, I said that 100,000 tons more rubber was produced last year than in 1940. Tin also is coming back very rapidly. There have been planted since the war 156,000 acres of rice in addition to that which was under paddy in 1945 when we went back. This immense recovery could not have taken place if the whole of the country were in a state of disruption. Of course, that has not been the case. The hon. Member for Hornsey and I toured the country pretty well, and at that time there was no sign of any large-scale violence from gangsters. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol that this is an entirely new trouble which is not confined to Malaya. It has flared up in other places and it may flare up elsewhere in the future. We have to adjust ourselves to the new conditions.
As to the future, I can give the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol and the other hon. Members who raised this question of Malaya a complete assurance on behalf of His Majesty's Government that we will take every possible step to achieve stability in Malaya. We will do all we can to protect the lives of innocent and law-abiding citizens. All the necessary powers for which we have been asked have been given to the Government of Malaya. If they need any more which can be given them, we shall give them those powers and take all steps possible to support them. In fact, we will not engage in what was described by 700 one hon. Member opposite as a cat-and-mouse act. We are going right through with it, and we are going to stamp the disorder out. On our part and on the part of the Government of Malaya there will be no sheathing of the sword until we have completed our task.
Before I conclude my comments on the Malayan situation, tribute ought to be paid to the Malayan police—European, Chinese and Malay. I was particularly impressed by one report about some of the Malay police. They were surrounded by Chinese gangsters in a little police station miles away from anywhere in a Malayan village and when called upon to surrender not only by the gangsters but by one of their own N.C.Os. under duress, they refused and continued firing until all their ammunition was gone, when they rendered their weapons unusable—in fact, they threw them down the well and recovered them later—and took themselves into the jungle to be ready to fight again when the gangsters had gone. In such circumstances the police who act in that way are deserving of the highest possible commendation.
I should like to turn in the few minutes which are left to me to the last subject raised by the right hon. Member for West Bristol, and which has been touched upon by many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—the economic development of the Colonial Empire. The physical condition of most of the countries in the Empire is that of under-development, and very great work has to be done before any development can be started, farming undertaken or industries set up. This is not always realised by people in metropolitan countries, who are not used to conditions in countries in Africa or in the Far East. In Borneo, for example, there is mostly swamp and no roads are there. Very much constructional work has to be done before development can be started. Swamps have to be drained and bush cleared before roads and bridges are erected. There are one hundred and one tasks to be done of which people in metropolitan countries do not always realise the necessity. Here it is a relatively simple matter for a man to erect his factory, if he can get the necessary licence, and go ahead.
On top of the other difficulties in undeveloped places, the age-old enemies of mankind have to be destroyed. This 701 is particularly the case in Borneo, or, for example, in Africa where we have to deal with the tsetse fly. I have been asked questions about this matter by the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham. The tsetse fly occupies an area which has been computed to be 75 times the size of Great Britain. I cannot vouch for that computation, but a vast area of Africa is controlled by that pest. When it is there, neither man nor animal can live.
I was asked what success we had had against it as yet. The success is small because we are only in the planning stage. We hope to get started in September. We have a team in West Africa to try out the effect of aircraft spraying. We have certain types of spray which we hope will kill the tsetse fly. We have two aircraft available for the work, and we have ordered a helicopter which I hope will come into use some time next year. We are trying to tackle this task on a really big scale. In addition, we are trying the old methods of bush clearance, research on the type of bush that the tsetse feeds on, and other approaches. There is a new drug called 7555 which has been invented and of which we are not as yet quite confident. It is still having its field tests. I am not able to say yet whether it will be a success, but it may well be. At any rate, I hope so.
In regard to locusts, I am happy to say that we have conquered the locust menace for the time being. That menace has been very great in Africa. The last time the migratory locusts swarmed they did £20 million of damage, it is computed. This is one of those age-old enemies of mankind which at the moment we have brought completely under control, at some expense to the British taxpayer, and with international co-operation under the direction of Dr. Uvarov, who works under the direction of the Colonial Office. We have, in fact, conquered the locusts to a rather embarrassing extent. We had hoped to try out aircraft sprays on locusts in flight, but although we have searched all over Africa we cannot find any locusts in flight. That is possibly a fault on the good side.
Finally, with regard to the rinderpest virus, we believe we now have a 702 serum which will render cattle immune. The veterinary officers of the Ministry of Agriculture are not fully satisfied of that claim, so we are undertaking tests in East Africa and in Kenya which we hope will prove that we have an antidote, and that the rinderpest virus will not travel to other countries. In the semi-developed areas there is need for continual vigilance. It is perhaps a natural result of plantation growth in tea, cocoa, coffee, cloves, and many other types of tree and plant, that some killing disease attacks them sooner or later, and takes toll of them. No one seems to know why. We are doing a good deal of research into it, but it is a very worrying feature of the agricultural problem today in practically all colonial territories that the tree and plant life is subject to these killing diseases. It is just as important to try to find an antidote to the tree and plant killing diseases as it is to the animal killing pests.
§ Mr. Stanley
Is there any relationship between the different sudden deaths, such as in the case of the cocoa tree and cloves?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
No, the viruses are altogether different; there seems to be a revolt of nature, so to speak, when we introduce into a new country such as Africa a tree like the cocoa tree and develop it on a big scale. Nature begins to kill off the trees. As will be seen in the case of the Gold Coast, that is a very serious problem. We have already lost roughly 10 per cent. of the trees on the Gold Coast. Twenty-five million of these trees have gone. Unless the inhabitants of the Gold Coast will agree, which they have not as yet done, to a big cutting-out campaign, there is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of my right hon. Friend's advisers that most of the trees on the Gold Coast will go, and possibly those in Nigeria also. As more than 50 per cent. of the cocoa of the world comes from this region, one can imagine what a bar of chocolate will cost in future if that happens. We are trying to introduce the cocoa tree into Malaya, but the cocoa tree takes seven years to grow, so it will be some years before any great production can result.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol knows very well, in the Empire there are four main regions: the West Indian region, the West African region, the East African region and the 703 Malayan region. In the three regions of the West Indies, West Africa and Malaya, the pattern of development is fairly clear. Although there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, we know what we have to do when we get the machinery and other capital goods, and we know how to do it. However, in East Africa there is no pattern at all. That is the region where we must have a bold and imaginative plan based on the four main features mentioned by the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Digby). I will not repeat them because I have on a previous occasion given them to the Committee, but I would like to say, in regard to the two organisations in East Africa, how much we are indebted to the labour and enthusiasm of the people on the spot. First, our debt of gratitude is due to those workers on the groundnuts scheme who have done a most magnificent job under most trying conditions. We should be deeply indebted to them for their work. The second is to those who toil in the Empire Cotton Growers' Association Scheme in East Africa. The work they are doing will yield untold benefit to this country, and particularly to Lancashire.
What we need in the Empire, first of all, is more information. We do not know what resources we have, and therefore we are undertaking aerial and other surveys on a considerable scale. If any hon. Members would like to see the work of our survey department, I should be only too pleased to make the necessary arrangements. They can see the type of work carried out in many parts of the Empire, and the result of it, in maps and plans. It is necessary to do this because even we in the Colonial Office have very little knowledge, as I have said, of what we have got in these undeveloped lands. Some years ago a licence to develop two islands was given to a trading company.
As soon as it was announced, there was a heated protest from a foreign Government, which said that one of the islands belonged to it, and there was another caustic letter from the Royal Geographical Society to say that 20 years before it was proved conclusively that the other island had never existed. So it is necessary, as hon. Members can see, to have up-to-date knowledge of what we have got.
704 Then we must have the necessary physical resources, as the right hon. Member for West Bristol has said, both capital goods and incentive goods, and the right type of incentive goods; the type of incentive goods that the people of the particular locality need, and not incentive goods of a type for which the manufacturer of this country cannot get a market elsewhere. Then we need to have the best possible public relations in the broadest sense—I do not just mean public relations departments—so as to explain to the people of the colonial territories what we are doing and why we are doing it, so that we will carry them with us in whatever we are doing rightly and properly for their benefit.
Then, too, we need to increase the mass education projects which have only as yet started on quite a small scale. In other words, what we want are boldness and imagination in planning, and determination and energy in execution. And it is not merely His Majesty's Government, and particularly the Colonial Office, which have to show this imagination and determination; it is every Colonial Government, too, and the municipalities which, in some cases, are getting quite powerful organs of government, and the private firms and individuals. We have a young Commando colonel in East Africa doing a magnificent job for us on contract. He has taken a lot of his Commandos out with him and is doing a magnificent job under most difficult conditions. Among other things, he is surveying the Katanga River which runs from Lake Victoria to the Mountains of the Moon. The men have no comforts, they are working under tremendous difficulties, but he told me that he can get no end of people to go with him; in fact, he would have lost most of his staff in this country if he had not undertaken something of this kind because, he said, it appeals to the imagination of the young Briton of today. That is the type of man we want in East Africa.
Finally, I would say that we must have in these schemes—particularly in Africa, but in other countries as well, in Borneo, possibly, for example—international co-operation. Pests and diseases do not acknowledge or recognise frontiers, and we are continually meeting the representatives of other Powers which have African responsibilities. As yet it is 705 mostly on a technical level, dealing with pest control and so on, but eventually we shall proceed to deal not merely with matters of that kind but also with the big developments that must take place.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Does not the hon. Gentleman intend to deal with the serious situation in British Guiana to which I drew attention?
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
No, I shall not attempt to deal with it tonight. To return to what I was saying, there are, for instance, the great lakes in the centre of Africa which provide a magnificent waterway which can be used to develop a great hinterland to the benefit of both the Belgian territories and our own. And there are the Central and East African railways which, again, need to be developed, which would open up vast territories, and would enable practically all the people of that vast area to enjoy the advantages of communications, rail and road.
The hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) asked me whether our dreams would come true. Well, that is a big order. All I can say is that we in the Colonial Office, provided we get the support of the people of this country, and the full co-operation of the people of the Colonial Empire, can do a great deal to make those dreams come true.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.—[Mr. Snow.]