§ 11.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I am sure the House will be gratified that it is possible for us to have another Debate on Colonial Affairs before the House finally rises. In last week's Debate there was a greater degree of unanimity between both sides of the House than in any Debate to which I have previously listened. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said in that Debate:I believe … the most important thing for this country in the next 10 or 20 years will be the development of its relationships with the Colonial Empire, and … the most important element in its success or failure will be the maintenance of some unity of purpose between the different parties in the State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1949; Vol. 467, c. 1498.]I sincerely hope that we shall maintain that degree of unanimity today. I have no doubt that in replying the Under-Secretary will say that my speech is the most disgraceful speech to which he ever listened, but he always says that and it is nothing more or less than a lead-in to his subsequent remarks.
My only comment on last week's Debate is that almost every Socialist speaker ended his speech with the most fulsome eulogies of the Colonial Secretary, from which it would appear that the Colonial Empire really started when the right hon. Gentleman went to Downing Street. We watched the right hon. Gentleman's face and we saw how embarrassed he was. Like myself, he is a very modest man. He knows that we have a tremendous amount about which to be modest. The right hon. Gentleman did not really discover Africa. Lord Lugard, Cecil Rhodes and even Prester John were there beforehand. The right hon. Gentleman did not plant all the rubber trees in Malaya or discover the copper mines of 2828 Northern Nigeria. The right hon. Gentleman was not even responsible for the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund. I should not like him to have the same embarrassment as he had last week when he had to listen to the fulsome eulogies from behind him. In case it is thought that there is any ulterior motive, I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that the right hon. Gentleman is rather tired of political appointments as governors of Colonies.
This is the last opportunity the House will have in this Parliament, I imagine, of considering the Annual Report of the Colonial Office, and the Opposition naturally regard that Annual Report in the nature of a last will and testament on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman. However, we should like to congratulate him on many aspects of it. He brought to his task two great qualities, one of sincerity and the other of a lifelong interest—a theoretical interest it is true—in colonial matters, and he has had the good fortune to have experience of many questions in which he had before taken a more academic interest.
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on some solid achievements during the past four years. There has been a gradual increase in responsible government in all parts of the Empire, and it has fallen to the lot of the right hon. Gentleman to complete the final stages of Ceylon gaining complete independence. There is also a fascinating report which has just come out on colonial research, and all parts of the House ought to be gratified at the enormous amount of progress made in almost every direction in the last four years.
Incidentally, in the past we have been far too modest about the part which this country has played in tropical research. For example, the work we did in Malaya in tackling malaria, both in its scope and in its results, has far transcended anything which the Americans have done in the Panama Canal zone, but few people know about these things. The right hon. Gentleman has also had the good fortune to set up the three university colleges. Also there have been important conferences in London of unofficials of the legislative councils of the African territories. We would congratulate him, too, on the efforts he has made to educate the British public in the meaning of the Colonial 2829 Empire and the extent to which our standard of living, quite apart from anything else, depends on our overseas territories. The Exhibition in London is something of which the right hon. Gentleman can be extremely proud, and I am glad to hear that it is going on. Whether it is possible to take it to the provinces, I do not know, but if it is, I know that we on this side of the House would support him.
There is another thing on which I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman. In the last four years there has been the appointment of a second Under-Secretary in the Colonial Office, the Minister of State. I have always felt that if there was one Government Department which would justify a second Under-Secretary, it was the Colonial Office. We also congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Under-Secretary on the frequent travels they have undertaken to different parts of the Colonial Empire.
That is on the positive side. On the other side he has had one or two disappointments and, if I may say so, there are one or two black spots as well. The right hon. Gentleman has not been able to spend as much money as he and we would have liked from the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund, and we had a short Debate on that a few weeks ago. It is an illustration of the fact that what matters is not the sums of money which this House votes but the ability of this country to produce the goods which those sums of money could buy. I have a feeling that the right hon. Gentleman on more than one occasion has been shoved to the end of the queue, and I was interested to read the report of the Director of Posts and Telegraphs Nigeria at the end of 1948 in which there is this somewhat ominous paragraph:The same excuses made year after year must appear to be wearing very thin, and it does appear incredible that apparatus placed on order for carrier telegraphy and telephony in 1944 has not yet been installed, and that post office equipment ordered in 1945 has not yet been received.That is an indication that the right hon. Gentleman has not had his rightful place in the queue. Another example is the provision of steel for the Malayan tin industry. Another disappointment has been the swollen shoot disease of cocoa and the sudden death disease of cloves in Zanzibar. I am not quite sure from what 2830 the right hon. Gentleman said last week whether he is as optimistic as he appeared to be regarding a cure or a preventative for the clove disease.
He has had some other disappointments as well, such as the failure of the new constitution in Cyprus, to which he refers in the Report, and Communist troubles in various parts of the Empire. It is a fair criticism of the Socialist Government to say that they are apt to regard this sort of thing purely as an act of God, something which has suddenly come upon them. The truth, certainly as far as Malaya is concerned and I think to a large extent the Gold Coast, is that a contributory factor has been weakness on the part of the Colonial Office and failure to realise that the first priority in Colonial administration is the maintenance of law and order.
With regard to some of what I would call the black spots, without dilating on the subject, I would suggest that the political appointments of governors have not been exactly a howling success. I must say a word about the Seychelles where the Secretary of State can take the choice of having yielded weakly to the appointment of a man to the Legislative Council whom he would not have as an official, or else admitting that the governor of a Colony has defied him. It is a squalid episode and it has finished with the Under-Secretary having been publicly rebuked by the Lord Chief Justice of the Colony for having interfered in an executive capacity in a matter which is purely judicial.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)
The matter is not yet finished, and my reply will be published in due course.
§ Mr. Gammans
I do not know quite what that means, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman will dilate on it? If it means that he is to indulge in a public controversy with the Lord Chief Justice, I suggest that the matter might be dropped, but I suggest also that the time has come when, in the interests of the Colony and of this House, this squalid affair in the Seychelles should be put right.
Then there is the other scandal—I think I can fairly call it that—the story of the amounts of groundnuts rotting in Nigeria. I do not know whether hon. 2831 Members opposite have read the account of the Debate in another place on 13th July but if not, I advise them to do so. The situation appears to be that there are today over 300,000 tons of groundnuts piled up there and gradually deteriorating, if not rotting. We are told that of the 180 wagons which were promised delivery by the beginning of this year, only 76 have arrived. Of these, only 10 were complete and the rest arrived short of couplings, buffers and even wheels.
Then there is the statement made in the Fifth Report of the Select Committee on Estimates in which we read in paragraph 90:The foregoing account makes it plain that the present accumulation of groundnuts in Northern Nigeria is due not to the shortage of engine building capacity but to a complete breakdown of the organisation in London for arranging priorities.Whether any hon. Gentleman opposite after that still have much faith in planning with a capital "P", I do not know, but just as a famous queen of this country said that when she died the words "Calais" would be found imprinted on her heart, I suggest that the word "groundnuts" may be found on the political tombstones of one or two right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The other point to which I would refer briefly does not directly concern the right hon. Gentleman but concerns right hon. Gentlemen opposite as a whole, and that is the failure to recruit and utilise a large colonial army. There is a great will to loyal service in the Colonies and we have made little use of it. If I had time, I would like to talk about broadcasting in the Colonies because of the scandals, for which the right hon. Gentleman himself is not entirely responsible, but for which this House and this country are responsibile. It is amazing that in the Colonies the Government have allowed commercial broadcasting, a thing which we are not permitted to listen to in this country.
One of the two other general matters to which I would refer is the question of Colonial students here in London, to which reference was made last week by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that the work of looking after these students is now to be done by the British Council. May we know a little more of the ar- 2832 rangements and what the British Council propose to do? Although the right hon. Gentleman has made every attempt to tackle this difficult and delicate question, it is fair to say that, on the whole, events have rather outrun him and that these young men and women have tended more and more to be "nobbled" by the Communists when they come to this country.
Another matter about which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say something is Malta. In answer to a Question two days ago, we had the news that between 1,200 and 1,300 men are to be sacked from Malta dockyard. There is, apparently, to be a reduction in the Admiralty programme, and the cut appears to be falling not on the Royal Dockyards generally, but entirely on Malta. If that is so, it certainly makes a mockery of what the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend have said on so many occasions of their desire that the people of this country and of the Colonies shall have equal treatment. That is what I might call a rough balance sheet, but perhaps the chief feature of the past—
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I should be obliged if the hon. Gentleman would elaborate a little his point about Malta. I am not clear whether he is suggesting that its unemployed should now become a charge on the British Exchequer.
§ Mr. Gammans
I was not suggesting that at all. My point was simply this, that in answer to a Question this week we were told that there are to be reductions in the staffs of the Royal Dockyards; that, so far as the home dockyards are concerned,no considerable reduction in numbers … is likely to be made in the near future.But thatAt Malta, between 1,200 and 1,300 employees will be discharged during the remainder of the current financial year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1949; Vol. 467, c. 143.]The right hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, appreciate the political implications, that if a cut has to be made in the number of personnel because of economy, it should fall entirely on Malta; and that cynics may say—people are, in fact, saying it in Malta already—that the reason why this cut has fallen on Malta is that the people in Malta have no vote so far as the general election here is concerned.
§ Mr. Gammans
If there is an answer we shall be glad to have it. I am merely saying that some explanation, if there is one, should be given of this apparent discrepancy.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
The hon. Gentleman always tries to raise the maximum amount of ill-feeling between the Government and the Colonies. I would point out that, even after the cuts, more people will be employed in the dockyard in Malta than in 1938.
§ Mr. Gammans
That may be so. The point is that a reduction is now being made and that it is falling entirely on one Royal Dockyard instead of being spread over all the Royal Dockyards. I am not trying to stir up animosity between this country and the Colonies by pointing out that if there is an explanation we should be told what it is.
Another feature of the last four years, which was referred to last week by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), is the way in which hon. Gentlemen opposite have come down to earth and realities during that period. I compliment the Colonial Secretary, for I think he has done so with both grace and agility. No one on the benches opposite wants now to give the Empire away and, so far as I know, none of them even blushes about it. But it is rather interesting to contrast the pre-war desire of the Lord President of the Council to hand over the Empire to the League of Nations with the sharp and well-deserved rap over the knuckles which the right hon. Gentleman gave to the Trustee Council of the United Nations when they criticised British administration in East Africa.
There are other directions also in which we have very much welcomed a spirit of realism on the benches opposite. I am glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman has realised that the maintenance of public order is the first essential of good colonial government in the Gold Coast and that the determination of the Government to hold on to Hong Kong has been made known. I would mention also the value of European settlement in East Africa, to which the right hon. Gentleman has now paid quite a lot of tribute, and the fact 2834 that he has used the United Africa Company for one or two of his enterprises. Those of us who remember some of his earlier speeches on this subject find a certain amount of amusement in what is happening now. My remarks so far represent a brief but very inadequate balance sheet of the last four years.
I come now to one or two specialised topics. The first is the European Colonial Service, in which I, naturally, have some interest as I was a European colonial civil servant for 14 years. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol pointed out last week, it is disturbing to know of the existence of the large number of 1,200 vacancies and, in particular, of the shortage of doctors in Malaya. Could more use be made of retired colonial civil servants, if not in the colonies themselves, on boards or in the Colonial Office here at home? Many men who have retired at the ages of 50 or 55, with great experience of the colonies, could have many years of effective work before them. Could more use be made of their services?
Has the right hon. Gentleman tried to find out the reason for the reluctance to go abroad? Is it because we as a nation are becoming feather-bedded and do not want to leave home? Is there any reason to suppose that with the rapid development of self-Government a man who enters the Colonial Service today feels he will never see his time out? If so, can any guarantees be given that if a man ceases to be able to work for the Colonial Service through no fault of his own he should be given some kind of security in other directions, in order that suitable people may not seek careers elsewhere? Are pay and conditions really satisfactory? Has the time come when some sort of Commission should be appointed to deal not only with salaries, but also with allowances?
Two useful reforms which might well be made in the Colonial Civil Service would help to promote recruitment. I suggest, first, that a colonial civil servant should be allowed to retire on proportionate pension merely by expressing his wish to do so after 10, 15 or 20 years' service. At present, except on grounds of ill-health, a civil servant has to complete his whole service, even though his family circumstances may have changed. I know of many cases amongst my friends of men 2835 who have gone out to the colonies in the hope of making their career, who have got married and discovered later that their wives could not live in the tropics. Those men had to make the terrible decision whether to leave the Service altogether or to suffer separation from their families for the rest of their careers. By granting the right of retirement after 10, 15 or 20 years, we should obviate many of the present-day refusals to join the Service.
My other suggested reform is that any colonial civil servant should earn his maximum pension at the age of 50. This was more or less the old Indian Civil Service rule. It meant that instead of a man who had reached the top of his time scale hanging on, although he knew he would never get promotion, he would decide to go and thereby make room for younger men to reach the top. These two reforms would do a tremendous amount to popularise the Colonial Civil Service. We would strongly support also the extension of the Devonshire courses, which have been a very great success and might well lead eventually to the creation of a Colonial Staff College. I hope the Colonial Secretary will remind colonial civil servants and their wives that they now have a vote in this country.
Another general thing to which I want to refer is consumer goods. The Annual Report refers to the increase in consumer goods in the colonies. I wish to give a warning, not only to the right hon. Gentleman, but to the Government generally, that a dangerous situation may soon arise in the Colonial Empire regarding the prices of goods which come from this country. In the Debate on Economic Affairs a short time ago, there seemed to be an easy assumption from the other side that it did not much matter if we could buy goods from the sterling area, as though we did not have to pay for them, and there was also the facile assumption that we could sell things to the sterling area quite irrespective of price and quality. In other words, that the sterling area would hold itself together quite irrespective of whether we were selling the goods people wanted and at prices they were willing to pay. I think the sterling area could very easily fall apart. It is no good saying of a country like Ceylon, "They have to buy 2836 our goods because we want their tea." I can see the Americans going to Ceylon with loans and the whole sterling area can evaporate much more quickly than many people seem to imagine.
I can quote a letter from Trinidad, and the same is true of other parts of the Colonial Empire. They give the differences between prices charged for the same goods from the United Kingdom and Canada and U.S.A. In the case of insecticide, D.D.T., the prices were 58 cents from the United Kingdom and 28 cents a pound from the U.S.A.; for the homely trouser buttons it was 53 cents a gross from the United Kingdom and 30 cents from Canada, and even bloaters are cheaper from Canada—2 dollars 56 cents as against 3 dollars 17 cents from this country. Throughout the whole range there is a growing disparity between the prices charged by this country and Canada and the U.S.A. I want to warn the House that that sort of thing cannot continue.
I wish to say a word in particular about Africa—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."]—Well, much of what I have said up to now refers very much to Africa, quite apart from other parts of the Empire. A lot of hon. Members opposite have just discovered Africa and, in the same way as when Christopher Columbus arrived in the West Indies and thought he had discovered the wealth of India, there are erroneous ideas among hon. Members opposite about the wealth of Africa. It is probably true to say that Africa is the poorest of the continents. There are not vast virgin, fertile, tracts awaiting development. It is a country of poor soil and uncertain rainfall and great areas of territory are being swallowed by the desert every year. It is a continent which can break men's hearts and ruin any country, however wealthy it may be. I was interested to see a report the other day which suggested that, from the food point of view, Africa in 10 years would be a deficiency continent and not one which could export a great amount of foodstuffs. This House should realise that we are not going to get foodstuffs quickly or easily from Africa.
Another thing which hon. Members opposite had better get out of their heads is the fallacy about American capital. The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) suggested the other day that 2837 the Americans would be rather honoured to be allowed to come into the groundnuts scheme. The Americans are not going to be honoured to come into it, or any other scheme of that sort. It is not only the dollar gap which is widening but the gap of sympathy and understanding of our troubles which has widened in the last few months. I hope the Government will not put this country into the humiliating position in which Americans will refuse further aid unless we put our house in order.
It is very curious to me that it is a Labour Government which has got rather bemused by these large-scale plans for the development of Africa and has not realised that the quickest, and, in many ways, the safest, method of increasing production in Africa and raising the standard of living of the Africans is to do more for the existing peasant proprietor. That is especially true of West Africa. Yesterday the Lord President of the Council seemed to think that there was some essential different between a Government monopoly and a private monopoly and that a Government monopoly had certain virtues which a private monopoly did not possess. I think a Government monopoly has all the vices of monoply and none of the virtues. It is curious that hon. Members opposite have evidently been bemused by this idea of large-scale developments of that sort.
There has arisen in the last four years a new relationship between the home Government and the Colonies which we should try to understand more fully because it can have most dangerous implications. Since we passed the Colonial Welfare and Development Act there has been the idea in the Colonies that the taxpayer in this country is a sort of milch cow and that we, by passing Acts of Parliament and voting sums of money, can raise the standard of living of the Colonies. As I have said many times, there is a limit to which we can go in raising the standard of living of a colony, however many Acts of Parliament are passed and however much money is voted. That is why I am pleased to see in the Report the words:A Dependency is no different from any other country in that in the long run its living standards must be those which it can pay for.Another danger which might arise now that the home Government has become the exploiter of colonial development and 2838 also the buyer of colonial produce was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol on more than one occasion. It is that people in the Colonies will think these schemes are primarily for the benefit of the consumer in the United Kingdom and not primarily for their own benefit. That is very true of schemes like the groundnuts scheme in East Africa and the egg raising scheme in Gambia. There is also a political danger when the State is a buyer of colonial produce that every year when the price is fixed there is bound to be an unseemly haggle as to what it should be. There are no political implications if Messrs. Tate and Lyle or the brokers of Mincing Lane are called robbers and sharks, but there are the most dangerous implications if the Colonies refer to the Colonial Secretary as a kind of Shylock. That political danger in State bulk buying has not been adequately appreciated by hon. Members opposite.
I do not want to give the impression that I am opposed to these large-scale developments in East or West Africa, or elsewhere, but I wish to make a plea for more emphasis on the existing producer. If we could raise the output of the West African peasant by 25 per cent., that would produce far more groundnuts than the East African scheme is likely to produce in five years. What could the right hon. Gentleman have done if he had had £50 million to spend on irrigation and the formation of producers' co-operatives? As hon. Members know, I was a director of the Co-operative Movement in Malaya for many years and I would give a warning at this stage. I believe it is the only method under which the peasant proprietor can get adequate finance and proper marketing facilities, but I hope the Co-operative Movement in the Colonies will not go political, as it has done in this country. Incidentally I believe that in the end that will ruin the Co-operative Movement here, but it would be a tragedy if this movement in the Colonies, started so well, should have any political implication attached to it.
Mr. Daises (East Ham, North)
The hon. Member has just said that in the long run politics will prove the downfall of the Co-operative Movement. Will he compare the progress made since it has become political?
§ Mr. Gammans
I think this would be the wrong place to dilate on that. I will merely express my opinion and we may have an opportunity of discussing privately on another occasion that the Co-operative Movement, if it has not done so already, will soon regret that it tacked itself on to any political party.
I wish to say a word about the Colonial Development Corporation. During the Debate last week the Under-Secretary, with his usual geniality, suggested that because I happened to criticise one or two features and points about the way in which it kept its accounts, I was opposed to the Colonial Development Corporation. That is not so. In many ways I think it has made an excellent start. It started off with modesty; it has not had a Cabinet Minister as public relations officer, and it has not launched out into great schemes without knowing where it stood. But there are one or two questions which the House is entitled to ask, especially in view of this short report which we have had laid before us. The first question I would ask is what is the underlying principle by which the Corporation selects the activities it is to help, and on what principle is financial assistance to be given? The Corporation's Report says:It was brought into being for the purpose of improving the standards of living of Colonial peoples by increasing their productivity and wealth."'"By increasing their productivity and wealth." Is that the primary motive behind the Gambia poultry scheme, or was the primary motive to increase the number of eggs we have in this country, with the development of the Gambia as a sort of secondary factor?
I wish to say a word or two about this scheme, because frankly, it sends shudders down my spine. I have had a good bit to do with poultry raising in my time; in fact I believe it is true to say that when the war broke out I was in charge of an organisation which produced more eggs and poultry than any other producer in this country. No one can tell me anything of the things which can happen to poultry and eggs or anything of that nature. That is why this scheme frightens me. It sounds like the prospectus of the groundnuts scheme; 200,000 head of poultry; each hen laying 100 eggs a year; abattoirs; cold 2840 storage plants; clearing 10,000 acres of bush with another 20,000 acres to follow; thousands of acres to be planted with beans and sorghuns by July. This is July; have they been planted?
Has anybody ever kept poultry in the Gambia on this scale? Is there any experience whatsoever to show that eggs brought from the United States—or from any other part of the world—can be acclimatised, as it were, to West African conditions? What is it going to cost the Corporation? Presumably someone made some estimates? Are not we entitled to know what are those estimates? I thought the main object of this Corporation was to lend money, and, if need be, give technical advice, to existing companies or enterprises, or companies which would be set up to carry out specific projects. I find that, with the one solitary exception of the British Guiana Goldfields, all the other schemes are what I might call nationalised enterprises. They are being run direct by the Corporation itself. There is this project for catching seals and sea lions—
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Before the hon. Member leaves the subject of the Gambia may I intervene. He has condemned the poultry raising scheme in that area. Would he tell the House what constructive proposals he has about the Gambia, or is he prepared to leave the area as a permanent pensioner of the Colonial Office under the West African Colonies?
§ Mr. Gammans
I am not condemning the poultry scheme in the Gambia, I am merely asking questions. I am asking whether, before setting up this very large enterprise and tying up 30,000 acres of land and bringing in 70 Europeans with all that that means, there was any experience whatever to show it is likely to succeed. I cannot imagine we are doing the Gambia any good if we start a scheme there which will prove to be a howling failure.
§ Mr. Gammans
It may be worth while spending money on something useful. 2841 It is no use spending money on a scheme which may fail; and if it does, what have we done for the Gambia? Why do not hon. Gentlemen opposite realise that every pound wasted by the Government is a pound which ought to be spent on something useful? Why are they not as keen as we are one this side of the House to avoid waste? About every £10,000 or £10 million that is wasted they ought to say, "There goes a hospital I ought to have had in my constituency, or some other project for the Colonies which I would like to see." But just defending waste, and saying that it is a way of helping the Colonies, is a proposition to which I cannot agree.
§ Mr. Gammans
I am not questioning expenditure in Malta. If expenditure has unfortunately to be reduced and men have to be sacked, I wish to know why all the men have to sacked from one dockyard—that is all.
I thought that the object of the Corporation was to help existing companies, or organisations set up for particular purposes; but with this one exception of the British Guiana Goldfields, in every case the Corporation is running a sort of nationalised industry. There is the catching of seals and sea lions in the Falkland Islands. Is no one prepared to catch seals or sea lions already without the Corporation having to do it? Then there is the question of tung oil in Nyasaland, but is it necessary for this Corporation to do that direct? I would also like to know on what principle the Corporation is acting as agent for the rebuilding of Castries, the capital of St. Lucia. I should have thought it was a job for consulting engineers and not for the Colonial Development Corporation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with those points in his reply. We know that the total capital commitment to date is £3 million, but ought we not to be told how that has been made up as between sea lion catching, egg laying, tung oil and town construction?
My last point is with regard to political and constitutional development. I think the Government have realised that we cannot solve the problems of 2842 Africa or the Colonial Empire merely by doling out copies of the British Constitution. In our experience in Burma we have learned that the premature shedding of responsibility can lead to chaos, if not to Communism. One of the problems of self-government in Africa is the artificial boundaries of some of the British territories.
Nigeria, for example. It is only a historical accident that the Mohammedans of Northern Nigeria, with a civilisation particularly their own, find themselves in the same political unit as the people in the south. Strictly speaking Northern Nigeria ought not to be called. Nigeria at all, it ought to be called Hausa-land. One result is that a noisy minority of people in a town may either intimidate or bamboozle the Government into giving self-government to the unit as a whole; which will in fact mean handing over to a minority of people the destiny of other races who have no affinity with them and whose culture is as alien to them as their culture is to ours.
There is the same difficulty, of course, in the border country between Northern Rhodesia and Tanganyika, where the boundary is purely an artificial line drawn on the map. With regard to Northern Rhodesia, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us something about the conference held between the representatives of these three territories regarding amalgamation or federation? Is that issue alive or is it dead? In connection with federations, whether in Africa or the West Indies, there is aways the difficulty in deciding whether it is better to wait until the plum is ripe, so to speak, and falls from the tree, or whether it is the duty of the home Government to try to push the thing along.
The danger of waiting, of course, is that as each territory gets a greater degree of self-government, so vested interests are created, and it is more difficult to persuade them to give up their powers. Anyone who has tried to amalgamate two urban district councils or non-county boroughs in this country will know that. I was wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman had any views on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman has recently been out to Northern Rhodesia and West Africa, and, judging from the Press reports, one or two of his speeches seemed to have given a con- 2843 siderable amount of concern. It would be of interest to know what he did say and if he can now assure us that there is no misunderstanding regarding the attitude in that part of the world.
My final point is this. We cannot judge the work of the Colonial Secretary only by welfare, by economic development, or by constitutional advances. The acid test of a good Colonial Secretary today is, apart from those things, the extent to which he has been able to keep the Empire together at a time when the very foundations of interest are threatened by Communism and other forces. Any fool can give an Empire away or allow it to be frittered away, but it requires leadership and statesmanship of a high order to maintain this unique relationship throughout the world at the present time. We deceive ourselves if we imagine that we can maintain our present standard of living or our social services in this country except as the centre of a great Empire. We are either a great Imperial Empire or nothing—just a friendless, lonely island in the North Sea, unable to feed or defend ourselves. The same thing applies to the Colonial territories as well. They have no guarantee of political security or economic betterment except in so far as this partnership between us is maintained.
We saw in the last war that, in the finality, men do not only fight for material things. It was not the promise of the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund, travelling dispensaries, or free maternity benefits which evoked that great response of loyalty from the people of the Colonial Empire. Those were not the things that brought a great Colonial Army to fight in the jungles of Burma. What brought them was loyalty to the Crown, patriotism, and the defence of a particular way of life. We ought to realise that we are not going to hold the Empire together only by development boards or imperial preferences or new constitutions. If the spirit of unity is lacking, and if we fail to make the people, say, of Nigeria, realise that they are, with us, British subjects in the full sense of the world, and unless the man from West Africa can stand up and say with the same degree of pride, "I am as much a British subject as a man who comes from the United Kingdom," then we shall 2844 fail to hold the Empire together, and it will gradually disintegrate whatever we do by way of constitutions, development boards, or anything like that.
This leads one into many by-ways, but I am certain that there can be no barriers of race or colour if we are to hold the Empire together. The King cannot have first-class and second-class subjects according to their colour; British citizenship for the colonial peoples must not mean a status of inferiority or the idea of a temporary connection. I think we can take pride in the fact that the foundations of the Empire have been well and truly laid by those who have gone before us, and it is up to us in this generation to see that neither lack of faith nor lack of courage prevents us from fulfilling what I believe is our destiny today.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I want to ask the hon. Gentleman a question. While I am quite prepared to agree with him that patriotism and loyalty to the Crown had something to do with bringing the colonial troops to our assistance in the last war, I think that the much more important factor was that the East African Rifles and the African troops had, for the first time in their lives a pair of boots, decent clothes and a smattering of education, and that they were going back as revolutionaries to alter the entire position in the colonies.
§ Mr. Davies
Is the hon. Gentleman aware, with regard to the point he made about the colonial troops coming in merely because of their loyalty, that there were other factors besides loyalty, and that to appeal to that alone is not enough in this period of transition in the colonies?
§ Mr. Gammans
If the hon. Gentleman has that low opinion of the millions of men of the Colonial Empire who fought in the last war, I cannot follow him.
§ 12.6 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Since I have been a Member of this House I have sat through every Colonial Debate, and this is the first time I have been called to speak in one. My first 2845 attempt was on a Motion for the Adjournment dealing with the Nigerian Constitution. I must confess that I was a little surprised at the time, having been in Nigeria when the Constitution was being debated, that the matter was dealt with on the Adjournment, but I have learned a lot since those days. Although I have had to wait four years for an opportunity to speak on the Colonies, I am very glad indeed to follow the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) because he represents the opposite point of view from mine. I certainly hope that in my approach to the colonial problem, I shall not show the arrogance which the hon. Gentleman showed or indulge in the half truths and clichés which he used.
He said that some of us had only just discovered Africa. It may be that some of us were not so fortunate in life as to acquire our interest in colonial affairs through membership of the Colonial Service. My interest and knowledge of the colonies was acquired the hard way, and my introduction to the Colonies was from the deck of a troopship. I served in almost every place where British troops are called upon to serve and that gave me a considerable advantage over the hon. Gentleman, because I got to know the chaps in the Colonies, not through being introduced to them in the European clubs, but by meeting them on common ground. For what it is worth, I throw back to the hon. Gentleman the arrogance contained in his statement.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have heard the hon. Gentleman speak on this and every other occasion, and as the years roll by I recognise that language such as he uses is one of the main reasons for our political difficulties in the Colonial Empire. I recently had the opportunity of talking to some Burmese gentlemen, and one of the things they said was that they never realised until they came here and met ordinary people, what the British people were like. They thought they were all haughty and arrogant. The hon. Gentleman and his Friends think they are all "wogs." Indeed, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) thinks that the "wogs" start at Calais. If one views 2846 people like the hon. Gentleman from the angle of a private soldier, one realises that to them there are black "wogs" and white "wogs." The attitude of hon. Members opposite to the black chap is not much different from the attitude of some of them towards the private soldier, and that is why the Forces have a great sympathy with the native peoples.
I hope the hon. Gentleman will get some of these half truths out of his mind. He spoke of the great contribution of the Colonial Forces during the war. I agree with him and I paid my tribute to them in my maiden speech. I did so because I had the great honour of seeing the work of both East African and West African troops and I know the great contribution they made to our common victory. But for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that these men were recruited on the same voluntary basis on which men were recruited in this country is funny. He knows it is not true. Of course, such a suggestion is quite false. I was sent out to Africa late in 1944 to discuss problems in connection with the education of African troops, and I saw what a job it was to try to teach Africans what the Japanese were like.
It was necessary to make these men aware by some means or other, where they were going, that they were going on to a ship and would be taken to another country across the sea where they would be confronted with the Japanese. They had not the least idea what they were fighting for. Nevertheless, they did a good job, and I do not think enough has been made of the job they did, particularly when I see suggestions that we should return the East African Colonies to Italy. Not half enough has been made of the fact that it was the East African and the West African troops who ran the Italians out of Abyssinia.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
We have great difficulty in hearing the hon. Member. Would he kindly speak up?
§ Mr. Wigg
I do not wish to start my speech all over again. The hon. Member can read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow. Some of the things which I have said to the hon. Member for Hornsey will apply to the hon. Member who has just interrupted, and I would not like him to miss a single word of it.
2847 I should like to pay my tribute to the work of the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) because I know that he did a great job in the Colonial Office. I also think he left a number of things undone. Let me deal with one point. In 1944 and early 1945, when it became evident that the West African troops were going to be returned and had got to be demobilised, the decision was taken that it was the Army's job to bring them back from where they happened to be serving, to a place of dispersal, and from that time onwards they were the responsibility of the Colonial Office. Absolutely nothing was done to absorb or to make any preparations for the re-absorption of those men into normal African life. That was based upon the hope that when they took their uniforms off, they would go back to their villages and stop there. It is true that arrangements were made for their transport to the villages, but they did not all go back to the villages.
One of the most important political factors in West Africa today is that there has been a drift back from the villages to the towns. Hon. Members opposite who tend to criticise my right hon. Friend for the handling of his political problems should have a look at the statistics, approximate though they may be, of the growth of the seaports and towns in West Africa, and they will see the extent of the political problem which is created by the return of youngish men who took their part in the war, who fought with distinction, who realise that they did a good job and then find themselves without a means of livelihood.
Often they have acquired techniques of which they would never have had any experience before the war. They led themselves to believe that it would be a means whereby they could increase their standard of life, but they now find that they cannot get the jobs to which they feel entitled. They discover they cannot get a living at anything like the standard of life which they enjoyed in the Army. The result is that the towns are filled with men without jobs. When trouble occurs, many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, fell into the trap of blaming it on to Communism. I have not the least objection to hon. Members doing that, 2848 but there are grave dangers in it inasmuch as it ascribes to the Communists a power which they certainly have not got.
I want to dwell for a moment on one or two important future aspects of the Gold Coast and Nigeria. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Hornsey that Nigeria is merely a name on the map. It consists clearly of three places; the culture of the north is much more akin to the culture of the Sudan than it is to the culture of the coast. Note the consequence of this. Dr. Azikwe or Dr. Zik as he is normally known, started a powerful movement in Nigeria. Nobody has ever called Dr. Azikwe a Communist. This man is a rabid Nationalist. He is certainly a political opportunist, and he makes the most of every single difficulty that he can. I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, became involved in an argument with Dr. Azikwe. Lord Milverton is a man of strong opinions and strong dislikes. I always suspected that he joined the Labour Party because he disliked the right hon. Member for West Bristol so much. When that dislike had apparently worn its way out he conceived a dislike for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and joined the Liberal Party. Lord Milverton and Dr. Azikwe got at loggerheads.
I shall not weary the House with all that happened, but note this fact: Dr. Azikwe went round the country collecting vast sums of money. He used the same kind of methods which I described to the House the other night and which are adopted by the party opposite—"You either pay or—"
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
How comes it that there are vast sums of money to be collected in that country?
§ Mr. Wigg
He collected large sums of money for that country. Having collected the money he turned up in this country. He even came to this House. He was said to have been dressed as a chief. To me his dress looked more like fancy dress. He impressed a considerable number of people in this country, including even some of my hon. Friends, that he was a "chap." He performed a very important service because while he was collecting this money he was providing an outlet for the political unrest which undoubtedly existed in 2849 Nigeria at the end of the war, and which undoubtedly continues to exist today. If I had been asked my opinion, for what it was worth, in 1945, I should have said that it was quite certain that there was going to be a political blow-up in Nigeria. I thought it would come because there are areas which are grossly over-populated, where the returned ex-Service man thinks he is not getting a square deal. Many of them could not get jabs and they were ripe for any political mischief which came along.
Had Dr. Azikwe not collected his money, had he not come to this country, and thereby provided a breathing space, we should in my judgment, have had disorders in Nigeria. In our desire for unanimity in our approach to Colonial problems, we must take into account that the extreme opinions of Zik and his followers do not find expression in this House. That is a serious matter. I am not suggesting that any hon. Member should become the voice of Dr. Azikwe or Dr. Danquah or any of these extremists in the Colonies. It is most important to point out that these men are not Communists. We mislead ourselves if we assume that political troubles are caused by Communists because, when they break out, the police subsequently discover that a couple of students mixed up with them have, when studying in this country, at some time bought some fish and chips wrapped up in the "Daily Worker" and that therefore the trouble can be blamed on the Communists.
The simple truth is that in those areas, partly as a result of the war and partly as the result of the growth of education, there is the most rabid nationalism. The way to answer it is to draw a distinction in what is normally called Communist propaganda, and point out that although part of that philosophy may be concerned with raising the standard of the people, the other part of it is nothing more or less than Pan-Slavism. If they got rid of us and the Red Army arrived they would not solve their problems overnight and the kind of treatment they would get would perhaps not be what they expect. They must learn that there is no short cut that way.
That leads me to the point that by some means or other we must find a way of strengthening and widening political 2850 education. I want to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House. But first I ask the House to face up to this fact. In his 1947 Report on the Colonies the right hon. Gentleman said the Colonies are not governed from Whitehall. But what are the facts? The right hon. Member for West Bristol once said, in the course of some remarks in this House, on 19th November, 1945:This House bears the final responsibility for the fate of 60 million people in the Colonial Empire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 160.]The House of Commons is responsible and the Secretary of State is responsible to the House for the part which is played by the Colonial Office. It is, therefore, nonsense for him to write off his responsibility and to say that they are not governed from Whitehall. Technically that may be true. I quite understand what he is trying to say—that the policy of the Colonial Office is to devolve their responsibilities to the Colonies themselves so that as soon as possible they will take charge of their own affairs. First, they have a legislative council with an official majority, later a council with an unofficial majority and finally, in the course of time, fully elected and responsible bodies. That is a long and slow process.
In the meantime, the responsibility rests with this House. There is duality of power here, because whilst the Secretary of State has the power to make constitutions and to make nominations to the legislative bodies, he has another very great power—that of the Order in Council. He also has the power to appoint the officials who go out to the Colonies. The hon. Member for Hornsey made great play about the failure of political appointments. I have one or two views about that and perhaps I may quote from the late Lord Fisher who said that when the epitaph of the British Empire came to be written, it would include the phrase, "It is Buggins' turn next." There has been an awful lot of "It is Buggins' turn next." Before the hon. Member for Hornsey so wholeheartedly condemns political appointments that we make he should remember that the appointments by "Buggins' turn next" have not always been as successful as they might have been.
My main point is this: the Secretary of State has power to appoint the officials 2851 and there are not many of them who would dispute with him; I doubt if even Lord Milverton would have had the courage to dispute with the Colonial Secretary. That being so, whilst the legislative councils are in existence—and particularly during the period when there is an official majority—if we do not want to surrender the initiative to the Ziks, it is very important indeed that confidence should grow up in that instrument.
It is obviously quite impossible, and it would be a major departure of policy, for Members of Parliament to be elected for the Colonies, but I make this suggestion very seriously: it seems to me that there is no earthly reason why the Secretary of State should not nominate hon. Members of this House to the legislative councils of the various Colonies. It would be a two-way business. When hon. Members of this House got out there they would not be quite as cowed—or at least one hopes so—by the particular Governor or even the Colonial Secretary who happened to be about. Perhaps they would not be so overawed by the Governor's garden party. Certainly most hon. Members of this House would know how to pose questions and they would tend to keep the officials on their toes.
But it would be a two-way business. Not only would they be going from this House to interpret the will of Parliament in the legislative councils, but they would gain a detailed knowledge of Colonial administration and then, perhaps, our Colonial Debates would not wander as wide, like a Cook's tour, as they sometimes do. Perhaps it would also keep the Colonial Secretary on his toes. While there may be a number of reasons why my suggestions sound a little wild, I am quite certain that some method like this must be tried because what we are trying to do is this: we are trying to cram, into about 30 years, all the slow political growth of 1,000 years in this country, where a system was worked out slowly by trial and error.
I think the hon. Member for Hornsey will agree that Africa is a difficult place to hurry along. It goes its own speed and it is going at different speeds in different places. In Nigeria, near the coast, things go very quickly, but in the Northern territories the pace is much 2852 slower. We must be very much on our guard lest we fall into the trap of trying to push Africa along the political road at a pace which is determined not by the will of the African and by his capacity to absorb and learn lessons which are necessary to make democracy work, but at a pace which is the result of political pressure in this country.
Here I want to turn to a point which I made in my maiden speech. I believe the reason why India has gone through her transition period in the way she has, and why she is perhaps closer to us today than she has been for very many years, is because we taught Indian troops English, and because we evolved a ruling class—or perhaps I should say an educated class—which makes contact with the world outside India through the medium of the English language. I believe we have to do that in the Colonies.
§ Mr. Gammans
What is the hon. Member's authority for saying that we taught the Indian Army English?
§ Mr. Wigg
I have not yet made my point. I believe that the teaching of English in India has paid a dividend. I believe that the teaching of English to African troops has also paid a dividend. I think the Colonial Secretary should come down strongly on the side of the teaching of English. In my maiden speech I went a little further and I said that, if we were going to recruit colonial forces, then, from the first time these fellows put on a pair of boots, we should begin the teaching of English.
There is no conflict on the issue of the vernacular versus English. After all, in many vernaculars there is no alphabet, and even where there is an alphabet there is certainly no access to technical information. This can only be found through English. I am sure there is no difference between myself and hon. 2853 Members opposite on this point: if we value our way of life so much that we want the Colonies to absorb it, use it and develop it in the way which suits them best, we have to go for the teaching of English.
For some reason or other inside the Colonial Office they stutter on this question. I speak from personal experience and perhaps I may trouble the House with an example. I was sent out to West Africa at one stage to deal with the problem of the adoption of English as the lingua franca by West African troops. At the outbreak of war we had out there an Inspector General, a very great soldier and a very great Christian—General Giffard—who had seen the problem that was likely to emerge if war came and we recruited outside the Hausa-speaking tribes.
The decision was taken that the lingua franca should be English, but nothing was done about it. Perhaps I may quote from the War Office files of 1944 in which there was a wonderful minute. The Treasury objected to the expense involved in teaching English. I think there was a lady who came back with a minute saying, "What is the bother all about? Why do they not teach these men African?" It was pointed out that the nearest approach to African was pigeon English, and it was pigeon English that we taught the West African troops. Over in East Africa we did the same thing, but in East Africa there were strong objections to teaching English for political reasons. But so far as the West African troops are concerned, we could not have carried out the campaign in Burma if that decision had not been taken and acted upon, to teach them English. The growth of democratic institutions, and an increased understanding of the world in which they live, the acquisition of techniques, which they must acquire if they raise their standard of living, can only be achieved if this fundamental decision is taken and we really put our backs into implementing it.
My final point is this. The right hon. Gentleman gave great service to Africa, as did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, through the setting up of the Mass Education Committee, on which my right hon. Friend served. I have always thought that its report contained one illusion. The thought behind 2854 it was that we could carry through a great programme of mass education in a comparatively short period of time—as it were, compressing a thousand years into ten. We can achieve this programme only by relatively gentle methods and by persuasion. The report discussed what bad been done in China and what had been done by the Russians. In my innocence, four or five years ago I tried to find out what the Russians had done. What they had done was through the Red Army. They had conscripted large numbers of men who were illiterate, and had taught them to read and write, and when they went to their homes they taught their neighbours.
Broadly speaking, that is what we did for the Africans who served in the Army during the war. I do not advocate that we should follow such methods now. I think it would be contrary to public opinion here and in the world generally. We must realise that our progress will be slow, and I think that a great number of the heartaches of those whose job it has been to implement the mass education report would have been avoided if we had realised that the speed at which we can go is the speed at which the Africans can take it, and that it much match and not exceed the enthusiasm that can be generated in the African. But because it is likely to be a long time and a very slow business, because we are likely to make a great number of mistakes, are not reasons why we should not get on to the right road. I think four years have been wasted. I hope my right hon. Friend will say today that, if he has not already made up his mind that the teaching of English is almost priority number one in importance, he will give that most earnest consideration, and I hope very much that this plea may be supported from the benches opposite, especially as we desire to keep our Debates on the Colonies on a non-party level.
Personally, I feel that all our efforts for agricultural development and other developments in Africa will come to nothing unless we can somehow or another induce the Africans to feel enthusiasm for our way of life, and convince them that we really mean business. One of the best ways of convincing them is to give them the thing they want, and the thing they want, astonishing as it may seem, is to be 2855 like us. A great deal of the political unrest is due to the belief that we are holding them back from the chance to base their lives on our way. They do not realise that the achievement must come from their own efforts. I am convinced that if we take this fundamental decision, and really mean what we say, we shall be making a real contribution not only to the welfare of the Colonies but to the welfare of our own people.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), whose speech we on this side of the House had some difficulty in hearing, did say towards the end, I understand, that we should conduct these Debates about the Colonial Empire in a non-party spirit. Of course, that is right, but I do not think the hon. Gentleman began his speech quite in that spirit. He drew what I thought a most curious distinction between the services rendered by British colonial administrators and visitors, in which category he included me, who approach the Colonies and deal with them in what he called "a haughty manner"; and others who, like himself, approach the colonies from the deck of a troopship and afterwards mingle with colonial soldiers in the mess room. He suggested that the first of those categories is a public menace and that the second is the only one that knows anything about the Colonies and the people. I think that is just utter nonsense. There is no truth in it at all. It is an absurd suggestion, and it does the hon. Gentleman, who obviously, knows a good deal about certain parts of Africa, an injustice, and I hope he will not do it again.
§ Mr. Wigg
If the hon. Gentleman had been here for the whole of the Debate he would have realised that I was replying to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). It was he who introduced the argument that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were recent converts and knew little or nothing about the subject, and only for personal political self-seeking were supporters of the Colonies.
§ Mr. Stewart
I heard the hon. Gentleman. To suggest that Cecil Rhodes or Sir Donald Cameron, who certainly did not approach the Colonies from the angle preferred by the hon. Gentleman, 2856 adopted a haughty air, and therefore did not do great service for the Colonies, is a travesty of the facts. These men approached this problem as, I believe, 99 per cent. of our British people do, with the single desire to do their duty by the Colonies and Empire, and nothing else. And they did and do it well.
§ Mr. Stewart
I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to get away with that. His suggestion to the House was that only by approaching the Colonies from the deck of a troopship, and, we must assume, by mingling with the soldiers from Africa in the messroom, could a proper attitude be acquired. That has no foundation in fact at all. The greatest servants of Africa, those who have contributed most to Africa, approached Africa from an entirely different background, and the proof of their worth is in what they have done. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not repeat that argument.
The hon. Gentleman said we must show we really mean business. I think that now and again this House ought to ask itself what we mean by "meaning business"? Do we mean handing Africa over to the Africans? That once was the policy of certain people in this country; but is this our policy now? There are practical obstacles to that. There are growing up, as the hon. Gentleman knows, African populations of races different altogether from the Africans themselves—Indians and others. Their numbers are multiplying at an enormous rate. Therefore, the simple proposition that used to be put, that our intention was to hand back Africa to the Africans, is now physically impossible.
Is it intended that we should come out of Africa ultimately, even in the years far ahead to which the hon. Member for Dudley referred? Is it our intention to train the Africans, the Indians, the Chinese, and whoever may be forming those communities, ultimately to take control of their own affairs and that we British as a body should walk out of Africa as we walked out of India? I 2857 doubt if that is our intention now. It certainly would not be mine. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman felt disposed to dwell a little upon this fundamental problem. As I myself view it—and I merely offer a personal point of view—I do not see the future of Africa to be the same as that which has happened to India. I do not think that it would be in Africa's good, and it certainly would not be in our good or that of any body else, that this country and its people should quit Africa. On the contrary, I cannot see Africa developing, becoming self-supporting, and developing into the great unit that it ought to be in the world, unless this great British people remains within it.
Now if that be accepted by the House, we move to the next logical step, which as I see it is this. If we are not proposing to come out we must make up our minds clearly that we can only remain in, and will only have a right to remain in, if we take the native peoples with us at every step. That would appear to be obvious, but we of course know that it is not quite what is happening in South Africa. It is not my desire to say anything about the policy now being pursued in South Africa, except to point out that the policy I have suggested is not their policy today; their policy is something quite different. I believe that our policy is, and ought to continue to be to create the closest co-operation between ourselves and the native and imported peoples in Africa.
That takes us to the stage when we consider what are the best methods of introducing democratic British institutions. I should like to have dealt a little on that, but I do not want to take up much time because I know that there are many who want to speak. I did observe in Tanganyika, when I was there a month or two ago, that they were finding great encouragement in the development of their provincial councils, the first of which they had started in the Lake Province. Now I know that principle has been adopted and is now in operation in different parts of the African Colonies. While I want to bring the native into that, it is no use pretending that the native, if brought into a council of that kind, quickly acquires the technique of dealing with the problems such a council has to consider.
2858 Today, as I was told by a great authority in Africa, probably less than 01 per cent. of the African population is educated, and even that small section finds it very difficult to fit in comfortably and to act easily within a democratic council of that kind. Therefore, it will take a very long time before we get those people to take an active part. We shall have—because nobody else is there to do it—to control, or at any rate greatly guide, the activities for a very long period ahead. It may be two, three, four or five generations yet before the great native peoples of Africa are able to look after themselves in association with us.
That leads to the interesting question raised by the hon. Member for Hornsey about federation. I had many talks in Northern and Southern Rhodesia with people in high places about the problem of federation, and one of the most prominent men in Southern Rhodesia put it to me in this way—and it relates exactly to what I was saying a moment or two ago. He said, as I of course discovered, that in Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland the natives had reached various stages of political advancement. In Nyasaland the natives can rise to more or less the highest positions—postmaster, civil servants, and so on; in Northern Rhodesia they cannot get quite so far; but in Southern Rhodesia the native Africans are held very closely in control economically. There is in Southern Rhodesia, as I thought, the most absurd trade union closed-shop system, by which our own people going out there—plumbers, joiners, carpenters, and so on—formed a closed union and prevent any African there from entering the trade. No African in Southern Rhodesia is allowed to become a plumber, a painter or a carpenter. It is an absurd situation, but there it is.
As a result of those varying degrees of advancement and freedom in those territories there is a great deal of uneasiness among the African people when they are invited to consider this problem of federation. As it was put to me, if those three territories of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, and Nyasaland, could be federated, it might be doing the natives the greatest service imaginable, although they do not all understand it. In Southern Rhodesia, for example, the place is just a patchwork of small reserved native areas.
2859 But were the three territories brought together by some means, the ambitious African in Southern Rhodesia, or Northern Rhodesia, or wherever it was, might move to, say, Nyasaland where he could take a post of considerable importance. In that way one could give the great native populations in those three territories, prospects which they do not now possess, and also get rid of this, as I think, rather absurd patchwork system. It might indeed result in the breaking down of this quite indefensible closed shop which operates in Southern Rhodesia. That is a problem which faces us, and if the right hon. Gentleman has any comments upon it I should like to hear them.
One knows of other proposed combinations, such an Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda. I have not the slightest doubt myself that if such a combination could be brought about great and lasting benefit would be brought to Africa. I am certain that beneficent results would follow. But that takes time and a great deal of education, and I am concerned, just as the hon. Member for Hornsey was, with the question: Is it the duty of us at home to encourage these things, or should we sit back waiting until they happen? I confess that I have not made up my mind about it, though I should like to think that we ought to be encouraging it, if we believe in it, as I think we do. If we do want to encourage it, what is the Secretary of State doing? In this matter it is not a question of party attitude; we are all of one mind. It is a tricky problem, but I feel that it is so important that we ought to have a statement upon it today.
I have been speaking so far on the political side. Let us look for a moment at the economic side. It is admitted all round that what the native African most wants is a better standard of living. I thought the hon. Member for Dudley was quite right about that. The men returned from the war and found no jobs open to them, and that caused a great deal of trouble, not only in Africa but here and elsewhere as well. The aim must be to improve the standard of living. Now what are we doing about that?
I found in Kenya that the Government there were taking what I thought was a very sensible step. They were just about to pass a law to provide that the Africans 2860 would be granted the use of certain plots of land for agriculture, but only on condition that they used that land efficiently. For a time that seemed to be a revolutionary idea. But it is an idea which we have adopted in this country for a long time. We adopted it at the time of the war. Today there is not a farmer in this country who can make a mess of his land without the fear of being put out of it, and I do not see why, if it is right to apply that kind of law to British farmers, it is not right to apply precisely the same kind of law to people in Africa. They have no right to destroy their land. I should be glad to know what progress the Secretary of State can report on that.
That leads to consideration of the problem of soil erosion. It is soil erosion that follows so often upon the ill-use of land by native cultivators. I have heard much talk in the House about soil erosion—speeches, Questions and answers—but if I may say so, without being the least offensive or critical, I have not heard from anyone a report on the practical measures that are being taken. I found in Africa that the loss of soil through erosion is simply enormous. I cannot tell the House what the size of the problem is, it is almost unmeasurable. Millions of acres there are being lost, and the same thing applies to other parts of the world. I was in the Transvaal, outside Pretoria, and saw the pasture experts demonstrate what is the only effective way of dealing with this problem.
Until now this country, the Colonial Empire, America and other countries have spent countless millions of pounds using bulldozers to round off hillsides, to make contours and dig great pits to hold water. These methods have proved uneconomical and ineffective, because the wells silt up and the whole job has to be started all over again. The only effective way to prevent soil erosion is by the planting of grass. I found to my amazement, in Pretoria, on the veldt there, that grass is not sown but has to be planted. There is no grass which can be sown which will grow. If the experts in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia are right in their belief that the planting of grass is the answer, then I say that the duty falling on Great Britain and upon manufacturers of agricultural machinery in this country is greater than ever we had expected.
2861 The problem of the control of soil erosion is essentially a mechanical problem; it can be only solved by mechanical means, and we must produce mechanical appliances for that purpose. I was proud at Pretoria to see a British transplanter planting a grass, which grows so rapidly that it can be cut once for silage in the first year and two or three times in the second year. This grass makes it possible to carry a considerable stock of animals—cows and fat stock—on land which could not carry them before.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry, but I have forgotten the technical name of the variety; it is an edible grass.
I suggest that the Minister should enter into consultations on this matter, not only with the great experts upon pasture, and so on, but also with the British agricultural machinery industry. Here, I must confess my interest; I am in that industry. I have just returned from a visit to Canada as part of a machinery mission, and I declare I have formed the greatest possible regard for the industry as a whole. I form only a very small part of it and I am, therefore, free to say that. This industry is one of the greatest and most important in this country, and has a vital part to play in the development of our Colonies. This is a new line of approach which I think the Minister might make.
May I refer to another machinery problem? I found in nearly every colony I visited in Africa early this year—Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda and Rhodesia—that they had great plans for economic and physical development. They all wanted a great number of tractors and heavy mechanical appliances to implement those plans. In Kenya, the requests for tractors were examined by the local government. The screened demand was for 600 tractors of large and medium size. There is a system by which Kenya acts for itself, Tanganyika and Uganda in this matter. Kenya is in touch with its offices in London and, acting through the Colonial Office and other administrative departments, gets reconditioned tractors. But the supply is so meagre at present that while I was there they got only two of the 600 they required. I am told that the 2862 total number expected this year is no more than 100.
It is absurd to expect proper development in the Colonies if the essential tools are supplied at so meagre a pace. I have put to the right hon. Gentleman's officials a way of overcoming that shortage by widening the channel of supply in this country. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are firms, other than the few with which he now deals, who could supply first class guaranteed reconditioned tractors. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) shaking his head, but I do claim, in all modesty, to know something about this matter, and I invite the right hon. Gentleman to go into the question.
This Debate on Africa is a very important occasion. In 16 years in the House I cannot recollect such a Debate on Africa alone. I hope all who speak today will be able to present helpful facts and views to the Secretary of State, because I am sure he is anxious to get contributions from all sides of the House. I have made such contribution as I can, with what authority I have, and I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman will say something about it when he comes to reply.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
It is certainly significant that we are having today a Debate purely on Africa, although in view of the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), I was rather puzzled as to whether the Debate really was about that vast continent or merely a series of characteristic pinpricks from a Member whose pins had been dipped in poison. I will not say much about the hon. Gentleman's speech, except that I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), in his criticisms of the hon. Member for Hornsey about his arrogance and thinly disguised disdain of any of us on this side who take an interest in African affairs. That does not apply to all Members of the party opposite, some of whom take a genuine, sincere and sustained interest in Colonial matters, but certainly the hon. Member for Hornsey is not to be put in that category. Because I think his speech was unworthy of this occasion, I shall say no more about it.
I am sure we all wish to spend our time by reflecting on Africa as a whole. 2863 There is today a great difference between the attitude of most Members of the House towards the vast challenge of Africa compared with the attitude of 50, 60, or 70 years ago, when it was complacently assumed that Africa existed for the purpose of being carved up for the benefit of the Great Powers of Europe. We have moved a long way since that time. That applies to all parties in this country; we do not now think about Africa as a happy hunting ground for the European Powers. It is true that some of those Powers are there, and have a function to fulfil, but we have moved, morally and ethically, a long way from the implicit assumption of the hon. Member for Hornsey that the inhabitants of Africa were inferior creatures who existed only to serve our purpose.
I should like to say this in passing: when reference is made to imperialists like Cecil Rhodes and others, we can appreciate from our own standpoint their imperialistic idealism and the services which they have rendered to this country, but there is another side to that case. Anyone who knows must about the history of Cecil Rhodes, Dr. Jameson and others will be fully aware that their motives were very mixed. Some of their motives would not be very acceptable to decent-minded people today. We have moved away from that time. I am glad to feel that the House of Commons approaches the whole question of Africa, and for that matter of the Colonial Empire and the future of the Colonies, in a very different spirit indeed.
I mention that point because we on this side are constantly being twitted with becoming more realistic since we have been in office, meaning, I suppose, that we are trying to accommodate ourselves to the traditional attitude of the Conservative Party. That is entirely false. It is true that we learn much when we are in office and have to deal with actual day-to-day affairs, but it is not true that we have really altered our original conception of what the future of our Colonies should be, or that we have departed from the original purposes that we had in mind.
We do not believe in Empire in the old sense of the word. I speak for myself and for a large number of my hon. Friends, I am sure, in saying that. We want to liquidate that archaic interpreta- 2864 tion of Empire, but we want to put in the place of the old arrogant assumption that we were for ever destined to dominate the dark-skinned peoples of the earth a new conception based upon free association among all the races who happen to be now living beneath our flag. To that extent I could say, if I wished to be provocative—but I do not wish to be provocative at all—that it is hon. Gentlemen on the other side who have altered their point of view. The truth is that the general political climate has changed. Our values have changed and our assumptions have been transformed. I would give great credit, although not exclusively, to the Labour Party for having helped to secure that transformation of values.
The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) asked whether it was still our policy to believe in Africa for the Africans. I am not quite sure what he meant by that rather rhetorical question. I would rather put it in another way. Would he agree that it is right or wrong to say "Europe for the Europeans"? Should we like to see Africans or Indians over here telling us our business? I am sure that we should not. On the other hand, when we speak of Europe we do not mean one racial type but many types, and we include some Africans who are living in our midst, or the African admixture in Spain and other places in the Mediterranean.
In the same way, by Africa we mean the geographical entity which includes many kinds of races: the Afrikaaners down south, the Hottentots, the people of German, Dutch or Indian descent, the Bantus, Zulus, Bushmen, Syrians, Abyssinians, Egyptians, Moors and Liberians, not to mention British, Belgian, French and Spanish people. That is what is meant by the phrase "Africa for the Africans". All those people are living in Africa. Surely no one can object to their running their own affairs. I therefore do not see the point of the question which was put by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I was referring to the old phrase "Africa for the Africans" and I was trying to understand it. I am not sure that I disagree very much with what the hon. Gentleman is now saying. It is merely what I was saying.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I do not think there was any point in raising that question. Of course, it is a rallying cry for many people who believe in a black Africa just as "Asia for the Asiatics" was a rallying cry for people like the Burmese and others during the war, and utilised by the Japanese. Many Africans believe, rightly or wrongly, that the European Powers are in Africa not for the benefit of the Africans but for the benefit of the Europeans. We must admit that that has been largely true in the past. We did not go to West Africa during the time of the slave trade for the good of the Africans whom we enslaved. I am not pretending for one moment that we were intrinsically worse than the Africans themselves who also engaged in slave trading, but I am pointing out that in the early days we did not go to Africa with any altruistic motive or high and noble purpose in our minds. We went there to use the Africans for our purposes, and we did so ruthlessly.
The Africans have long memories. They remember the dubious Sir Francis Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher, whom we applaud to the skies as great British heroes, ignoring the fact that there is another side to their biographies, a very sordid side, and from the standpoint of the Africans a very gruesome and scandalous side. Because Africans have long memories they imagine mistakenly that what was the attitude, amoral if not immoral, of Europeans in those days, must also be the European attitude today.
§ Sir P. Hannon
Surely the buccaneers of the Elizabethan era were not responsible for the slave trade between Africa and the Southern States of America?
§ Mr. Sorensen
I said that I attributed to the buccaneers and others like the historic figures I mentioned who went out raiding in Africa and elsewhere, the intention of utilising the Africans, and not any altruistic motive. Can there be any doubt about it? Ships tooks slaves from West Africa in circumstances which do not permit us to attribute to them any altruistic, religious or ethical motive. Obviously they raided Africa without any kind of scruple or humanitarian feeling, and purely for lucrative purposes, even though they sailed in English ships that bore names with venerated and religious associations. All I am trying to suggest is that Africans remember this history, 2866 although they do not always remember that they perpetrated equal atrocities themselves. They remember that the European Powers were exploiting Africa, and sometimes forget that Africans have exploited each other. Nevertheless, in one sense we were worse for we pretended to have higher moral standards and to be Christians who should set an example to others.
Africans now have to be persuaded to believe that times have altered and that the outlook has changed, and that we desire to enter into free association and co-operation with them. When the cry goes forth "Africa for the Africans" we have to try to appreciate the emotional content of that cry and not to despise it and cast it away. We must realise it is the crude expression in politically awakened Africans of a desire for the same freedom in their own continent as we assume we are entitled to in Europe. It is the emotional attitude that has to be dealt with. We have to realise the disadvantages of European penetration of Africa against the advantages of it, though I think on the whole the advantages are greater than the disadvantages. How could the huge area that exists there have been provided with the hospital services which it has today, meagre as they are, as well as schools and roads, if it had not been for the transference to Africa of European skill and experience? To that extent at least European penetration of Africa has been a boon.
There is something to be put on the other side of that. In spite of all we may say on purely rational grounds, it is the emotional factor that is strong. I disagree with many hon. Members, and possibly with some of my hon. Friends on this side, who attribute solely to economic factors the determination of social and political policies. I believe that behind economic factors are emotional, psychological and, in the end, ethical and moral factors. That being so, I suggest that we have to appreciate that fact when the politically conscious section of the African people in our Colonies sometimes use apparently extravagant language and seem to engage in what appears to be uncomfortable or disturbing behaviour. We have to look behind it.
I will now say something which may gain the endorsement of the Opposition. 2867 In the early days of the Labour, trade union and working class movement in this country, many extravagant and dubious things were said. In the early days of the Chartists, those pioneers of our political and economic liberty were not always well balanced and emotionally restrained and scrupulous. They sometimes engaged in what we should now condemn, but behind their apparent crudity we appreciate that they were really blazing the trail along which others pass today.
The same thing may be said of the Africans. Behind and beneath any emotional extravagance, behind the flaring rhetoric in which they sometimes engage in face of the incapacity sometimes to appreciate rational factors, is the symbol and sign of human awakening. Unless we appreciate that that is something which is sacred in essence, we shall merely become impatient with awakened Africans and fail to understand the significance of their aspirations, just as much as so many in this country failed to understand the significance of the awakening of the working class here many years ago.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Cooper (Middlesbrough, West)
I wonder if my hon. Friend's parallel is as accurate as he would lead the House to suppose. Whereas the political awakening of our people was linked with the very definite basis of economic sufficiency, the agitation of the Africans is based simply on a political aim which is not backed up with any real economic background which justifies the claim to self-government.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I do not entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Psychologically, there is the same awakening in Africa as there was in this country. A number of factors have stimulated it. In this country it was the passing of the old social order to the new industrial order. In Africa there is the disturbance of their ancient agricultural economy and the impact of a new industrial economy which we have introduced. Over and above that, the basic factor in both cases is an awakening on the part of human beings to a sense of greater personal significance. I am not a Marxist, but I believe that the real stimulus to Marxism arises from the Marxist's consciousness of outraged human personality. In 2868 Africa there is the same awakening of human beings to a sense of frustration and oppression and the denial of their significance as human personalities. That may be said to be putting it in a highfalutin' way but if we analysed it deeply enough we should find that there is a new sense of frustration, perversion and outrage against which these people are protesting.
The African peoples are in various stages of rebellion. Why is that? Mention has been made of the soldiers who were trained and well fed and transferred overseas. They came back with discontent in their hearts. If we take the African soldier from the village and give him regular and properly balanced food, decent clothes to wear, a new environment, the advantage of travel, and bring him into association with Europeans, that is bound to have such an effect. Left alone in his village, the man continues to live a more or less mentally sterile life. If he is taken out of the village, he is given a new atmosphere, new stimulus, and new provocations, and there is bound to be the awakening of latent powers. That is one factor which has caused disturbance in West Africa particularly, but it is not the only factor.
Another factor is that we have introduced hospitals and better sanitation, with the result that mortality has declined and there has been a small but certain improvement in health, and consequently more and more people have begun to clamour for medical services. In Nigeria I saw a medical auxiliary without proper training attending to three or four hundred people who were waiting patiently for hour after hour for the small service which he could render. I remember seeing in another part of Nigeria a girl of 17 who was not properly trained as a nurse but was in charge of a small maternity ward of some six or seven women. I mention these cases as a symbol of the desire of the Africans to have what they have not had but what they know the Europeans possess. There is consciousness of the contrast between their poverty and our relative affluence.
Another factor which has led to the awakening has been the bringing over here of increasing numbers of African students and giving them academic training and personal contacts, and letting them realise what European life is like. 2869 That is having a tremendous effect. They go back to Africa and in some cases become centres of discontent though in other cases they may just follow their avocation rather complacently and render no real service to their country—but such cases are few.
There is a whole series of tributaries flowing towards the same awakening. I am pleading for a sensitive, imaginative appreciation of the underlying significance of the emotional awakening of Africa towards which we seem sometimes to have an ungenerous and insensitive attitude. I have sometimes been very disturbed at what seems to be the acrimoniousness and the cantankerousness of a few individuals and groups of Africans to whom I have spoken, but I have realised that that is the froth and spray flung out by the movement of waters much deeper than simply a rational explanation can assess.
That being so, we have to take the African peoples with us, and not with an attitude of condescension and superiority. Somehow or other we must make them feel that we disbelieve in both forms of the colour bar, both our colour bar approach to them and their colour bar approach to us. We must make them feel that we want to work with them as equals, and although we must say in all honesty that they have much to learn in certain technical and similar spheres, nevertheless we want to treat them as human beings who are entitled ultimately to the full opportunity of life socially and personally which we claim for ourselves. It will be a very difficult job.
First, it will be difficult to convince the Africans of our sincerity. They ought to be convinced, but often they are not. Secondly, it will be very difficult because of the lethargy and inertia of human nature. Large numbers of people do not want to be free from economic and similar burdens. It is true that the Hausa country in Northern Nigeria is very different from the rest of Nigeria, but what is true of Hausaland is true of many parts of Africa. People do not necessarily want to be free. They like to be under an Emir or a chief. They like to transfer the responsibilities we try to exercise for ourselves to an individual or a group of individuals. That is true of many people in this country also. The task of awakening people to the necessity 2870 of accepting responsibility is a very severe one.
In this connection, I appreciate that the economic development of Africa must continue to expand parallel to whatever political development can be achieved. If we have one without the other, one becomes a mockery. What are liberty, freedom and democracy if people are still living primitive, hungry, diseased lives, as so many are? It means that they cannot understand the very words "freedom, democracy and liberty," and that is why I say they become a mockery.
Again, how shall we do this unless we get the Africans themselves to unite with us? It is a most difficult task because we have to realise what is taking place in Russia. What has been taking place there in the last 30 years is a great experiment, an attempt to compel people to accept what is assumed to be a better economic, social and political way of life. The experience of the kulaks and the other peasants arose from determination on the part of the Soviet authorities to impose collectivisation on those who were reluctant to accept the collectivisation of their farms.
In one sense it would be easier if we could say to the Africans, "You must do this for your own good. If you will not, we will compel you to do so," but it would be entirely inconsistent with all we stand for. Somehow we have to use the method of persuasion, of stimulation, of education, whether it takes a long or a short time. It is the only road to travel because, although the other way of coercion may seem at first to secure results, they are illusory. The only way we can proceed in Africa is to avoid compulsion excepting the compulsion of the law and to persuade the African peoples that we are joining with them in the attempt to liberate their country from poverty, unemployment and disease on the one hand, and from political domination or servility on the other.
I disagree with my hon. Friend who suggested that we should send British Members of Parliament out to the Colonial Legislatures. That would certainly be throwing fat in the fire. There may be some inner content in this proposal which is worth considering, but the outer form of it is dangerous. I suggest that we must look far ahead and visualise the time when we shall have to think not 2871 merely of those areas which are now our Colonies but other areas adjacent to them.
It has been said that "Nigeria" is an artificial term. When some of my African friends have demanded that we should clear out of Nigeria right away, I have said that if we did so, we would take Nigeria with us. I have hastened to explain that I was not endorsing any assertion that when British people clear out they always take the swag with them. What I meant was that we would take with us the territorial concept of Nigeria which we had made.
It strikes me as curious that the same kind of people dwell on either side of an imaginary line. We cannot expect that to continue for ever. Why should people who belong to one tribal entity be divided by one or even by two artificial lines? At some time the peoples of Africa must join together irrespective of boundaries made by Britain, France or any other country. That time may not be ripe, but we must keep it in mind. Therefore I would like to see some thought given to the ultimate federation of large areas of Africa to include not merely British Colonies but other Colonial areas as well, because, while I am not speaking of the immediate future, it would be as well for us to appreciate that the African looks upon Africa and its future in a different way from ourselves.
This may have been a rather desultory reflection on ultimate things, but I would emphasise that Africa must exist for the Africans, that is to say, those living there, whatever the colour of their skins. Meanwhile, it is our task, having inherited a certain legacy, to do the best we can. We can do that in two ways. First, by developing as far as possible the economic resources of our African territories, not merely in our own interests but in the interests of the Africans themselves. If we do not make that quite clear in fact as well as in name, there will be justifiable suspicion and resentment that once more we are utilising Africa for the sake of Europeans. I see no antithesis in this. Africa can be developed for the sake of Africans and Europeans. If we make that quite clear in name as well as in fact, we shall render a great service to that Continent.
2872 Secondly, we have to help the Africans themselves to prepare for their own self-government. In many cases they are ready for complete responsibility but in others they are being prepared. We must make it quite clear that what India has achieved we hope some day the Africans will achieve as well, though not necessarily in the same form, because the democratic principle is capable of being worked out in many patterns. I agree that due regard must be paid to differences of history, to culture or the absence of culture, economic differences, and so on. If we convince the Africans that we are working with them towards the day when they will have the same political dignity that India receives today, we shall be able to enter into that hearty, genuine co-operation where the colour bar both ways will have disappeared and in which the Africans will know that we are working for the common good of Africa, Europe and the whole world.
I believe that the present Colonial Secretary has rendered great service in that direction. In saying that, I am not casting reflections on his predecessor who, I am sure, also rendered great service. All I am asking is that we should appreciate the speed with which the right hon. Gentleman has worked, his sincerity, his wide, comprehensive grasp of affairs. It is a testimony to the fact that on this side of the House we are trying our utmost to rebuild what is called the Empire on a new foundation, on the basis of a free Commonwealth of peoples. Although it will take some time, that is our goal, and insofar as Members of any party join with us we shall not be partisan or so mean and petty as to arrogate to ourselves exclusive virtue, but will rather welcome the awakening of public opinion to a new concept of Africa and a new vision of African fulfilment.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) in his interesting historical survey and philosophic reflections. We all know his sincere interest in Africa and, indeed, one one occasion he and I co-operated to extract about £11,000 from the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) when he was Secretary for State for the Colonies. It is quite true that we should all co-operate and that is why I welcome this Debate 2873 because here, without any party feeling, the Council of State of Great Britain can discuss the problems of Africa, and either side can help the other by giving information or by making suggestions.
For a short time I propose to discuss two matters, first the Report of the Trusteeship Council and, secondly, the question of political advancement in Africa. Not enough notice has been given to this matter and I will go back to the beginning. Hon. Members remember that in January, 1946, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in America volunteered to hand over Tanganyika and our other African mandated territories to a Trusteeship Council on certain conditions. On 26th January, 1946, the Prime Minister suddenly announced this to the House. So far as I know there was no consultation—at any rate, with the countries concerned; and as things have turned out I feel very strongly that Tanganyika was traded away to the United Nations in order to obtain temporary popularity.
At the time, perhaps, some of us were not too much worried, because we remembered the old mandate system; and although at the end of the war we would far rather have put Tanganyika quite frankly into the East African Territories as part of the British Empire, we knew that the mandate system had some good points, and at that time we thought that the Trusteeship Council would be very much like the Mandate Commission. We had no idea then what would be the constitution of the Council. As it has turned out, it was fantastic and unsatisfactory.
The old Mandate Commission was composed of a few individuals who took a particular interest in colonial matters and who had knowledge of the subject. Now, the Trusteeship Council is composed of a number of people, not necessarily always the same, representing the countries of Australia, Belgium, Costa Rica, France, Iraq, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the U.S.S.R. As I have explained, this constitution is quite different to that of the Mandate Commission, which, in the old days used to sit at Geneva, received reports from the territories concerned and subsequently discussed them with either the Governor, the 2874 Chief Secretary or, perhaps, the Colonial Secretary of the day. The reports were valuable and useful and on the whole the recommendations which were made were usually helpful.
Now, we were faced with an entirely differently constituted body of people who were to deal with this subject. They showed their form when, in the Spring of 1948, the first report of the Tanganyika Government was received. The report of the discussions of the Council has to be read to be believed. It consists of a number of divergent opinions and of expressions of all kinds of ideologies. It often consisted in attack on the colonial system generally and on Great Britain in particular. Our representative on the Council, Sir Alan Burns, put up a very good fight, but he had against him the representatives of all these nations, very often small nations who knew nothing whatever about the subject and were anxious only to denigrate this country and its work in the Colonies.
Later on, the Council sent a mission to Tanganyika. It consisted of a Frenchman, who knew a great deal about colonies; an Australian, a Chinaman and a Costa Rican. They remained in the country for six weeks. They rushed from place to place and were the easy prey of anybody with a grievance to express or any self-formed association set up for that purpose. They began with a questionnaire asking, among other things, whether slavery existed in the Territory. They saw a number of associations. They made no check whatever, not even with the local government authority, on the veracity or standing of the people they interviewed. They came back, saw the Secretary of State on their way to America and got at loggerheads with him.
I should like to refer to one or two paragraphs from the reply by the Government to the Mission, from which the House will see what the Government thought of them. Here is one very short note:The administering Authority—that is, the British Government—fully realises that in the short time at their disposal the Mission could not familiarize themselves with all the problems and difficulties arising in the Territory or obtain more than a very general impression of physical conditions …2875 That fact is self-evident. The report goes on to explain that every effort was made for the mission to see as much as they could, and it says:The Administering Authority regrets to find, however, that in framing certain of their conclusions the Visiting Mission seem either to have lost sight of some of these problems and difficulties or failed to recognize their significance.It goes on:It is, however, regrettable that the Mission should at certain points in their report have quoted inaccurate or demonstrably false statements made to them as if they were of evidential value.There is a note about the meeting with the Secretary of State and on two occasions the report says:The Secretary of State has already stated that the members of the Mission must have misheard or misunderstood him.It was on their return to the United States that the mission wrote their report. They elaborated to a great extent the theories which had been put forward in the debates in the Trusteeship Council. They made all kinds of recommendations, often regardless of the facts and always regardless of what might be the cost of carrying out the recommendations. The report was inaccurate, fantastic and inexpert. Among other things, as an example of the economic effect of some of their recommendations, they suggested that European settlement in Tanganyika should be curtailed. As has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman, and as is well known to all hon. Members, if it were not for the work done by the European and, to some extent now, by the Indian population in that country, the economic state of Tanganyika would be that of a completely backward native State, without any revenue of any sort.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his reply. I have seldom read a more damning answer put in such dignified and diplomatic language. It was robust and it was unanswerable. But what is to happen now? As far as the report itself is concerned, there has been a curious result. At a recent meeting of the Trusteeship Council, Mexico, who before had been exceedingly unfriendly to this country, moved that note should be taken of the British observations and that the Government of the United Kingdom should give careful consideration to the conclusions of the Mission. 2876 The U.S.S.R. voted against the motion, but it was passed and that means that the report has been pigeon-holed and the whole matter has been dropped. But we must look further than that.
For 28 years we have been administering the country. We know that we can continue to administer it and build up a State politically and economically sound, but we cannot do so if we are to be subject to interference and irresponsible comments. I think the Government should very soon consider what line they are to take. In the interests of Africans and all races in Tanganyika the Government must inform the United Nations organisation that the present arrangement, so far from being any advantage, will actually retard the progress of the country.
I also suggest that we should make a very strong point that these irresponsible missions should cease. I hope the Government will take note of this because that is the feeling, not only in this country, but very much in the country which has suffered from this Report: and, of course, it has suffered. It has enabled people there, what I might call some of the intelligensia, who are not very well informed, to put forward cases to a mission which they thought of great importance. It has created a feeling of unrest in the Administration and, by raising the whole question of European settlement in East Africa, it has again raised the bogy that Tanganyika now, and perhaps Kenya and Uganda later, will not be a country for the European, but a country only for the African. The report is harmful and I ask the Government to say quite frankly that never again will they allow such a thing to happen.
The report referred a great deal to the political side and I wish to say a few words on the general question of political advancement in East Africa. We have had all sorts of views put forward in the last 20 years, the views of the Fabian Society, the views of the extremists in the United Nations Organisation and the views expressed by the Colonial Office over a long period. What we should do today is to consider whether we could in some way prepare a blueprint, not for self-government, but for responsibility, but when we discuss political responsibility, we at once come up against the question of economics.
2877 As I have often said in this House, it is only in the last 60 years that the African, with a huge and increasing population, has had any contact with Europeans. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for West Leyton, their foundation was the slave raiders and the tribal wars. In these 60 years we have begun to move these peoples from barbarism to civilisation. But the cost of doing so has fallen almost entirely on the British taxpayer. British capital has been poured into the country and British initiative has developed it. But, all through this period everything, from administrative orders to finance, has come from the top.
If we travel through these countries from time to time we hear the phrase, "The Government ought to do this." We have now reached the parting of the ways. These countries may just about balance their budgets. Huge amounts are being poured in under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, by the Food Corporation and by the Colonial Development Corporation. There is a great programme, but the questions raised are, can the country be self-supporting and is there labour available to carry out all this work? It is no good spending huge amounts of capital, unless at the same time a country can pay its way. In the Debate last week my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) emphasised this, in fact it was the theme running through the whole Debate.
If social services and increases in social services are wanted, they must be paid for by the Colonies themselves. It is exactly what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said during the Budget Debate the other day, when he pointed out that the social services had to be paid for by work. That is the state which is existing, perhaps in another form, in East Africa at the present moment. The real crux of the matter is whether there is labour available for work and to what extent will they work? After all, many of us who have travelled through these countries know that the African is a happy-go-lucky care-free individual. But is he prepared to work enough, either for himself or for employers, in order that these countries can grow enough commodities, or turn out enough minerals, or whatever it is, in order to support the economy of the country?
2878 I was very glad to see in this report which I hope will be widely read—this is the reply to the Trusteeship Mission—that this point was brought out by the Government. It is discussing, on page 68, the whole question of labour and efficiency of labour, and it says:As a final commentary on this part of the Mission's report it might not be out of place to quote from the recent report of the African Labour Efficiency Survey, appointed by the Secretary of State. This report states that the African worker, 'was seen on many occasions as a man who has not yet acquired the habit of disciplined work, to whom physical effort is a thing to be avoided, and responsibility a virtue not yet recorded in his roll of moral virtues. Men of this kind have not yet learned that in the wage economy there is a correlation between pay and effort. … They work together well as a team, though their own powers of co-operation needs to be fortified by strong supervision'.That is the picture, and the problem is how to compete with this huge demand for development with these slow moving and slow learning people. Somehow it has to be done, because whatever may be suggested in the shape of political development it must be based entirely on whether the countries are able to support themselves.
In the report and in the Colonial Office report issued the other day, which incidentally is a good document, a good deal is said about this question of political development. In the report reference is made to district councils, provincial councils and so on. I would say at once that it is only by the elaboration of this age-long system of devolution that people will be able to learn how to govern. After all, in this country we had the manor courts and the vestry, leading up to the parish council and then the county council. All over the world everywhere one goes—and I saw it even in Central Asia—there is exactly the same system of a village community with its organisation, then probably county communities and then provincial communities. Something of the same sort is being evolved in East Africa, as this report very clearly states, and I think especially in Kenya.
There the local native councils have moved very fast in the last few years; so much so that some councils are raising their own tax, or rate or whatever they call it, for roads, and dispensaries, for primary education, and they are so proud of what they are doing that they are competing with their neighbours. That is 2879 the right way to proceed. As was mentioned by one hon. Member, a similar council has been started in the Lake Province of Tanganyika, and I hope it may be possible for all three countries to get this system elaborated and gradually working. I would mention that what has been done in Kenya so impressed other countries—and this is another bouquet for the Colonial Office—that representatives from Nyasaland, Nigeria and Tanganyika have all gone to Kenya in order to see how this system of local native councils is being worked.
There are further problems here. Both in Tanganyika and in Kenya there are districts where not only is there a native council, but there are Europeans and possibly Indians living in the same district as well. It is absolutely essential, again looking at it from the historical point of view, that these local district councils of all nationalities should be set up and should function. Probably they do already, but this raises one difficult question which is that of financial provision by means of rates. It is no good giving power to a local or provincial council unless it has money to spend and unless it is responsible for spending it.
It is also no good handing out from the Government chunks of money to be spent by those in charge of the councils. I know that that raises a difficult question, because it involves rates on land; but if these councils are to function and to be responsible themselves they must raise their own money for matters which should be undertaken by the local councils themselves and they must not rely any more on receiving grants, anyhow in full, from the Government concerned. It all seems to be moving in the right direction. It is a great chance for a local people of whatever race to learn how to govern itself, and a wonderful training, which will in due course show itself in the administration of the country.
But in my opinion it will do more than that. In East Africa there is a problem which, so far as I can find, does not exist anywhere else. In the last few weeks I have been making a few researches to find whether anywhere in the world three different civilisations are trying to advance, and to grow up and to build up a country side by side. That is the situation in East Africa. There are the Europeans, with 2880 their 2,000 years of civilisation; there are the Indians, with their long civilisation and different religions, and the Africans with, as I have said, 50 or 60 years' contact with Europeans.
I deprecate very strongly talking about Africa for the Africans, because, so far as East Africa is concerned at any rate, I am convinced that the only hope for East Africa is to regard it as a country where Europeans, Indians and Africans are to remain together, and they must advance side by side. I think that the elaboration of these provincial councils composed of members of all races will be, as time goes on, a means whereby different races will get to know each other, will become friends and will be able to work together. I am certain that if these three races can learn to work together with harmony and understanding we need have no doubt about the future of East and Central Africa.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Cooper (Middlesbrough West)
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby), who is an authority on East Africa, because it is a part of the great African Continent to which I have never been—I went no further south, than the Sudan, during the war—but I want to follow my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). I thought that he rather expressed approval of the way in which the African was developing a political consciousness. Some people, on the other hand, are inclined to look upon this development with some alarm.
The parallel which he drew between the way in which the political consciousness of the African was being expressed and the way in which it was expressed in this country during the 19th century was not altogether apt because, after all, the workers in this country at that time were already well versed in the arts and crafts of industry. They were contributing to a strong economic position in which this country was at the time, and they felt that it was necessary, in addition to their contribution to the wealth and prosperity of the country, to partake also of the responsibility for the development in the political sphere. I believe that very fact prevents us drawing as close a parallel as did my hon. Friend in approving of the way in which the 2881 African is developing a similar political consciousness.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Would my hon. Friend not agree that the diggers, the Lollards the peasants and others were in much the same position?
§ Mr. Cooper
I appreciate the point which my hon. Friend makes, but I still do not think that the parallel is sufficiently accurately drawn. The point I am making is that if we were to give way to the political aspirations of the Africans at the present time in the way they are asking for it in their clamorous newspapers, we should find that it would be followed almost immediately by an economic collapse of the country. They would not be able to man the Services or carry on the technical operations required—for instance, to mention only one service, the railways—and I believe that that really is the gist of our problem. In a moment or two, I want to develop that a little further.
I wish to mention another point to which my hon. Friend referred. He suggested that there was a great need for co-operation between the Europeans in Africa and the natives, and that we ought to do all we could to allay any sense of suspicion. No one in this House or outside could disagree with that, but we have to face the fact that suspicion is continuously being engendered by the Africans themselves. The way in which they write in their newspapers is calculated to store up a great deal of animosity against the British who are there, and I think my hon. Friend might have suggested some way in which active steps could be taken to counter that very hostile and very unfair criticism.
§ Mr. Cooper
If my hon. Friend will allow me, I will try to touch upon it in a moment. As a Member of this House for the past few years, I have learned—perhaps in a hard way—that when an hon. Member is rather critical of Government Departments and Ministers, and is perhaps outspoken in his criticism, it is usually said that the evidence on which he bases his criticism is ill-founded, and an attempt is made to substantiate the fact that the Departments and the Ministers are entirely in the 2882 right. I could quote a number of instances during my time in this House of where it has been found, in fact—from unofficial sources, perhaps—that, after a criticism has been made, the defect to which reference was made is put right.
I hope that today my right hon. Friend will not take any exception if I am inclined to be critical of certain things that have occurred during his régime as Secretary of State for the Colonies, because I have endeavoured to obtain factual evidence. I have brought a great deal of this evidence already to the attention of officials in his Department, but I feel it necessary to speak on some of these points because all the attention which might have been given to them has not, I believe, been given. I am critical of the Colonial policy that has been followed. I believe that in certain ways it has been seriously at fault. I am referring particularly to West Africa, and it applies not only to the policies that have been followed, but to the way in which the administration has failed to carry out its job on certain occasions, and has rather badly muddled certain situations, resulting in the doing of great harm to the native people. I am referring not only to the well-known case of the Gold Coast riots; there are other instances, although that, of course, is one which will be fresh in the minds of hon. Members.
I wish, first, to mention briefly how I have obtained my evidence, and how I have endeavoured to keep in close contact with developments in the Colonies. I was fortunate to have the opportunity of going to West Africa twice during the war, and since then I have endeavoured to develop the contacts I made at that time with Colonial officials, with some of the intellectual Africans, and with those in the Forces to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) referred. For a period of time I was actually in training with the Royal Air Force alongside the first West African to become an officer and a pilot in the R.A.F., and I took the opportunity of talking with him about the problems besetting his country.
I mention these points for the simple reason that I want to indicate to my right hon. Friend that I have endeavoured to get my evidence from the people on the spot. I think it was that point which 2883 my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley had in mind when he suggested that it would be a good thing if it were possible for an hon. Member of this House to be appointed to sit on a Legislative Council in the Colonies. I think he was trying to find some way in which hon. Members of this House could be kept closely informed of the way in which development is taking place in the African Colonies. I have tried to overcome that defect by keeping in touch as closely as possible, particularly with Colonial officials.
I mention that point specifically because, when one approaches these officials, one finds a great reluctance on their part to speak their minds to Members of this House. I think that is a great pity. They seem to fear that they are doing something unethical, and that, perhaps, they might be saying things behind the backs of their Colonial Governments. I am sure that hon. Members of this House are sufficiently conscious of their responsibilities not to take advantage of information given to them in that way. Nevertheless, it is important that Members should be kept regularly informed, and I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that, rather than discourage that sort of contact, he might, in fact, issue a statement from the Colonial Office to the effect that such contact is encouraged. Colonial officials coming to this country on leave might be encouraged in some official and recognised manner to meet an all-party group of Members of this House.
§ Sir P. Hannon
As one who has travelled repeatedly through the Colonies and who has met officers associated with the administration of the Colonies, may I say that I never had the slightest difficulty in the exchange of views frankly and freely wherever I went.
§ Mr. Cooper
That is an interesting intervention from the hon. Gentleman. The question is not one of difficulty standing in the way, so much as a question of the accessibility of these officials. They themselves have a natural reluctance to speak to Members of the House of Commons, and I believe that in some cases it has been suggested that it is unwise of them to say anything which may be quoted against them. I would go further and 2884 say that in one instance an official did write to me, and unfortunately I sent my reply in an envelope bearing the crest of the House of Commons, and he said that that in itself gave rise to adverse comment in West Africa. That may be thought a trivial matter, but unfortunately it can happen and it can lead to repercussions on the official at a later stage if some information which he might give to a Member of the House of Commons, and looks adversely critical of the Colonial Government, is quoted in the House.
I have the greatest praise for these Colonial officials. They have an extremely difficult task to fulfil. They are rather like corn between the upper and nether millstones, and they often find that they are ground down. They find that they have little or no opportunity, or at least insufficient opportunity, to put forward their ideas to the senior Colonial officials at Government House. They find such difficulty, due as much, as to anything else, to the enormous amount of paper work which is perpetually coming through to them from the secretariat in Government House. They find extreme difficulty in applying their time and attention adequately to deal with the practical administration problems which are perpetually cropping up in their districts. In my contact with Government officials they have put this to me in no uncertain terms.
Perhaps I might indicate what one of these Colonial officials said. He wrote:Living conditions for Europeans are grim. At this station there are decent quarters—though, of course, no electricity, sanitation or water supply. But at many other stations there are only dilapidated mud hovels. Touring I like—but it is unnecessarily laborious and slow. There are motor roads but I can get no car. There are few rest-houses, and these miserable and unfurnished. So, not only do I have to cycle, but I have to carry all my food for the trip (in this case I shall have been out for five weeks, moving all the time), camp furniture, and tent and I am limited to the distance that carriers can go. I have been drenched at night in a leaky rest-house when everything I had was sodden but I am prepared to put up with it all if I can believe that I am doing anything useful.I suggest that that last phrase is the greatest doubt in the minds of these Colonial officials. They are trying to do a first-class job, but because they cannot fully appreciate the Colonial policies which are being implemented and because they cannot understand some of the very great 2885 number of directives and so forth that are perpetually sent out to them, they feel that they are not doing a useful job of work of helping the African to govern in his own way locally, and to do that job efficiently. He feels that he is not building up for the African a real future in which the African himself can take part. He feels that he is hanging on doing the usual routine work which does not help very much for the future.
§ Mr. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Is my hon. Friend talking about an individual or is he referring to the whole of the Service?
§ Mr. Cooper
I am glad to have that interruption, because evidently I did not make the point very clear. I quoted an example from one individual, but I tried to suggest a little earlier that I have drawn my conclusions from a considerable number of officials. I have made a point of trying to get this information from a number of sources so that it is not a one-sided approach to this problem.
One of the ways in which the officials find it difficult to understand the present policy of the Colonial Office, is expressed in what they call the fear of "Burmaisation." This, I believe, is a very real fear because the official feels that he has not got that sense of security for his own future, since he does not know how soon British support will be withdrawn from West Africa due to the clamour of West Africans for self-Government. "Burmaisation" is described as follows in a letter which I have received:Your other correspondent meant thereby the increasing hatred between the different tribes, which, if not checked, may well lead to civil war, as between the Karens and other hill tribes and the Burmans. … The trouble is basically land hunger.I stress that point because the major part of the troubles in West Africa are not political but economic. The letter goes on:The true solution to this problem would have been to improve agricultural methods elsewhere, allow the surplus Ibo population to settle in the almost uninhabited areas in the north … and to find alternative employment for as many other Ibos as possible.The Ibos are seeking particularly to assuage this land hunger.This however has not been done. The Government has tried to prevent Ibo immigration northwards—partly by ineffective and ill-de- 2886 signed legislation—and it is only in the last year or so that it has been realised that the problem is purely an economic one, and that a political solution will not work.The writer finally makes this point which is pertinent because it is a source from which a great deal of the criticism of our policy comes:Zik is perfectly correct in blaming this class hatred on the British. No doubt that tribal warfare existed before we came, and the actual fighting was stopped by us. But this is a new phenomenon, which is directly traceable to our lack of economic policy.I should like to stress to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that a great deal more notice should be taken of the problem, which has an economic basis rather than the problem which has a purely political basis.
I mentioned a little earlier that I thought it would be helpful if Colonial officials, when they had an opportunity of coming back to this country on leave, should be able to make contact with Members of this House in an official way so that they could give information at first hand to hon. Members. I understand from the Colonial Secretary that these officials are now being encouraged to broadcast and lecture in the country, and yet there seems to remain this barrier which keeps them away from Members of Parliament. I should like my hon. Friend to comment on that in his final remarks.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
As I am not making any final remarks, perhaps my hon. Friend will permit me to say that there is no barrier at all. Almost every day we see officials coming to this House and elsewhere to see hon. Members and we are happy to see them.
§ Mr. Cooper
I appreciate the fact that my hon. Friend has made that point and I believe that the very fact that he has done so will be some help towards clearing away a feeling which has been and still is in the mind of many Colonial policy is capable of being criticised is officials. I think the reason why our because it is often formulated very remote from the places where the real problems arise. It is rather a theoretical approach to the problem. What I say may be taken up by some of my hon. Friends, but it seems to me often to be like a Fabian Society approach to the problem. It is the sort of approach 2887 which tends to encourage this belief that the whole solution of the problem lies in increased political consciousness.
I suggest that the real solution is, at least first, to solve some of the major economic difficulties, and then the political difficulties will start to fall into place.
I think, in other words, that in our Colonial policy we are tending to suggest too soon and too quickly that self-government should come and that it is just around the corner. If I have seemed to over-emphasised the point perhaps hon. Members would like to see some of the papers published in West Africa. I know they are inclined to be a little overemphatic, but my hon. Friends would see that my point is made by the published views of the small minority and by the clamourous section of the West African community, at least. Their suggestion is that it is just around the corner—that it should be here tomorrow, that it should be here this year; that is the sort of request they are making.
This gives rise to a widespread feeling of concern, not only in the minds of the West Africans themselves but in the official mind, and to show how unhappy they are over the problem, I would quote from the opinions of another Colonial official. He says:The mandate has gone forth, we must beat up political opinion.If that is the sort of mandate which is going forth, if that is the sort of directive which is being given to Colonial officials at the present time, I believe we are asking for a great deal of trouble, especially if it is not countered. Perhaps my hon. Friend would care to make a note for his right hon. Friend to comment on whether this sort of thing is the intention of the Colonial Office.
The difficulty of this over-political emphasis really seems to have started in the Gold Coast. At a time when there was the greatest need for the men in charge to know Africa and to know the Africans—and this is one of my specific criticisms of my right hon. Friend—the new Governor he appointed was one whose almost entire experience was in Whitehall. He knew far more about Whitehall and his fellow Civil Servants than he knew about Africa and the 2888 Africans, and the Africans felt this sort of thing keenly, as did the Colonial officials, who say that this sort of thing is not likely to lead to the wisest implementation of the wisest policy.
§ Mr. Rees-Williams
He was the Secretary of the West African Council and had been for two or three years before he was appointed Governor.
§ Sir P. Hannon
I suggest that this part of the hon. Member's speech is scarcely likely to facilitate the administration of the Colonies.
§ Mr. Cooper
That is a question of opinion and the hon. Member is entitled to his opinion. In the Gold Coast the clamorous demand for big constitutional changes has been the largest of any in the West African Colonies. I believe that this clamour is concentrated in the hands of just a few intellectuals who own the newspapers. As I have mentioned earlier, they are asking for self-government this year, but I suggest they do not know what it is they are requesting. I think it should be disclaimed vigorously in this Debate that it is intended that anything of the sort shall happen or that the British will give self-government to the West African in the Gold Coast this year. In any case, they blame this country for what they term Colonial exploitation and yet anybody who has travelled in West Africa will have seen that as soon as the West African has accumulated a small amount of money the first thing he does is to obtain property in the native quarter and charge a rack rent from his own black brothers for a tin shanty.
Unless this sort of thing is cleared up it will show that the intelligentsia, those who are most eloquent in demanding self-government, have not yet reached that standard of morality and capacity to handle self-government effectively and efficiently which is surely necessary. I think the most appalling exploitations would take place of their own people if 2889 we were not there to see reasonably fair play. Just as an illustration, I might mention that in West Africa practically all the shops are run by Syrians, Cypriots or Indians, so the African himself has not even gained the technique of running an efficient and profitable shop for himself. They run newspapers, admittedly, but one has only to look at these papers to realise that they are not of a very good standard. It is all that sort of thing which indicates that the African is far from this dream of self-government which he perpetually harps upon.
I am inclined to believe that the riots which took place in the Gold Coast have produced a Colonial official mentality which is frightened of what it has seen and experienced. I think too great a notice is being taken of this demand for immediate self-government. It was, I think, a shock to some hon. Members when they read the Watson Committee's recommendations. The Watson Committee was set up to investigate the cause of the riots, but this Committee went very far wide of its terms of reference and started to make suggestions as to how the constitution might be changed and improved.
I think, again, it should be mentioned at this time—and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will bring this to the notice of his right hon. Friend—that this whole question of the constitution of the Gold Coast will be threshed out very carefully. Perhaps we should be given an opportunity to debate the matter in this House before anything further occurs, because we see that, at the instigation of the Governor to whom I have already referred, following the Watson Committee Report, the Coussey Committee was set up, composed entirely of natives, to investigate the whole question of a suitable constitution. I hope this committee will not go wild and go all native and suggest immediate self-government. It would be a great embarrassment, I believe, to the Colonial Secretary if they came forward with a Report demanding immediate self-government.
§ Mr. Cooper
I will explain that to my hon. Friend afterwards if he has not understood my meaning.
My final point is this. I would ask the Colonial Secretary to pay rather special 2890 regard to the way in which governors are appointed at this time, so that we may have governors who do understand some of the problems of the territories to which they are appointed. I believe it was an individual of that type, though I do not know him personally, who wrote on 24th September, 1948, a letter to the "Daily Telegraph," from which letter it would appear he had some knowledge of African affairs, saying:On 7th September the Governor of the Gold Coast put two questions to the Legislative Council, which has now an African majority. They were: (1) Was the Council in favour of a committee being appointed to go into the question of constitutional reform (the new constitution only dates from 1946)? (2) Was it in favour of the appointment at once of two Africans to supervise certain Government Departments?Showing more sense than the Governor, the Hon. Sir Tsibu Darku asked that the latter proposal be deferred.That is native appreciation of the fact that they were not yet competent and qualified to take ministerial positions on the Gold Coast.The Governor later expressed his personal disappointment that the suggestion had not been accepted. Here is a colony where vacillation and lack of firmness has borne fruit in dangerous unrest, where appeasement of extremists has fostered, as it always must do, a relaxation of authority. Nevertheless, the only policy the Government can think of is to apply further palliatives.One of those palliatives, which has aroused a considerable amount of suspicion in the minds of the natives recently was introduced by Sir Sidney Abrahams—of a scheme for developing sport on the Gold Coast. He said he had come out to organise more sport. When the natives are worried about a new constitution and so forth, to suggest that they should develop sport instead tends to make them suspicious, and this sort of palliative does more harm than good.
I believe the final point to make is, that the African himself is not, in fact, seeking for self-government at an early date. I believe that what he is seeking is good, effective; and thoroughly understanding leadership. I believe that if we think in terms of those who are appointed to high executive and administrative positions in the Colonial Service, and of the essential necessity of their having the qualifications for leadership, and of having also understanding of the native mind, we shall supply and foster that leadership, which must emanate from this 2891 country at this time and essentially from our own people. That will smooth out the way for real Colonial development. If, on the other hand, we allow currents of strong political demands from a small minority to take control of the whole West African scene I believe that that will lead inevitably to confusion, and to great harm for the Africans themselves.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
I am sorry that the Secretary of State was not able to be here for the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) because there were certain parts of it which I think were extremely courageous, although it was rather naïve on the part of the hon. Gentleman to complain about the Fabian tinge of the detailed policies of the administration of our Colonies, when he must realise that the party he supports, itself rather approves of that sort of colour. I think, however, that there were also in his speech some things with which many Members on both sides of the House would not agree.
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that access to colonial officials is difficult. Whenever I have had the good fortune to travel in our Colonies I have found the greatest courtesy and every effort on the part of the officials to assist and advise me in the problems in which I happened to be interested. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman, or with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), when they make the general point that it is desirable that hon. Members of this House should, be some means or another, get to know rather more about the Colonies than they know at the moment. I do not think the suggestion the hon. Gentleman made that we should appoint Members of this House to the legislatures of various Colonies should have been seriously made. I do not know what the citizens of Dudley would say about it if the hon. Member for Dudley, for whom they voted, presumably, to represent their interests in this House, were to go careering off to Gambia or somewhere. I very much doubt if he would be with us after the next General Election. However, every facility possible should be made to allow Members of this House to travel in the Colonies, and also to meet 2892 colonial officials when these officials return to this country.
§ Mr. Cooper
On the point the hon. Gentleman makes about having met with courtesy, and so on, in his travels in the Colonies; I do not question that for one moment. What I believe occurs, however, is that Members of this House, in particular, or officials in their travels about the Colonies, are often conducted round on a stage-managed tour, unless they are considered safe and not likely to make difficulties.
§ Mr. Hare
Safe with whom? I myself have not personally found this difficulty, as the hon. Gentleman obviously has. I may be very dumb, or I may be very innocent, but I have always imagined I have seen what I set out to see, and found out what I set out to find out.
There is no doubt that all Members of this House are intensely interested in the whole question of the political and economic development of the African continent. This is clear from, and has been repeatedly stressed in, the Debates in this House in the last few years, and also before the war. I think that this Debate so far has concentrated far too much on the political side of African development. It is on the economic side of African development that I should like to say a word or two.
We have given millions out of our capital, both in money and in goods, to Africa. Much more is still required. I believe that nothing can materialise until we have, as it were, a new body in Africa, of which the bones would be the extension of communications, schemes for increased conservation of water, and schemes for power either in the form of coal or electricity. Until we get these fundamentals properly developed and available in all those territories, we are not going to begin to get those necessities from Africa of which we have thought and talked so much. When I say "We will not get these necessities from Africa" I may, perhaps, be misleading the House, because it is quite clear that what we want first of all, is that Africa should look after itself.
What I think most people in this country do not realise is that unless we get an enormous increase in agriculture in Africa and development of mineral 2893 resources and so on thousands, even millions, of Africans will be threatened with death from starvation, because these populations are doubling themselves in periods of 15 and 20 years. I expect hon. Members have seen in the papers themselves in the last few weeks that a great agricultural country like Southern Rhodesia has to import large quantities of maize this year. In South Africa, because of drought, hundreds of thousands of coloured people are also threatened with starvation unless extra food can be brought in from other parts of the Dominion. Therefore, the first pressing need in the development of Africa is to produce enough in Africa for the Africans. I hope that out of that, when we are able to maintain and increase the standard of living of the peoples of that continent, we shall be able so to increase the productivity of Africa as a whole that she will be able to make a great contribution to the general wealth of the world, which will be for the well-being of the whole world.
In the past, this country has provided the money for the development of these territories. We have done it alone, and we have nothing to be ashamed of. When one looks back 50 years, one realises what has happened in the development of, say, the great Dominion of South Africa, with its great industrial towns of Johannesburg and Cape Town, with their enormous factories, the development of hundreds of thousands of acres of agricultural land, and then go further north and see the great towns of Salisbury and Bulawayo—all creations within the last 50 years; all creations which have resulted from the enterprise and the pioneering spirit of people who emanated from this country.
Hon. Members opposite are rather apt to use the word "rebuild" in this connection. There is no question of rebuilding the Empire. What we wish to do is to continue to build the Empire, the foundations of which are, I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite, well and truly laid. Do let us get out of our heads this theory that we have moved into a new world, that we have got to start all over again, and that we have to start rebuilding the Empire. That is not at all a right or a fair way of looking at this problem. Our problem is to find 2894 sufficient capital, either from our own sources or from other countries, to continue the process which has already been started.
I believe that we cannot as a nation now provide all the capital required. It is not our fault that we are not able to continue to do what we were able to do before the last two great wars. It must be obvious that America has assumed the rôle that we had in the world in the 19th century. It was we who in the 19th century built the railways in the Argentine and in South America as a whole; it was we who built the first railways and pioneered the development of the United States itself and of Canada. We now, for obvious reasons, have not the resources to continue alone that process of developing the uncharted areas of the world, and I believe that that rôle can in a large way be properly undertaken by our friends in the United States.
This American capital will presumably come from two sources. First, it will come from ordinary private investors. I think I am right in saying that today the American private investor has equal rights with the English private investor in investing in any Colonial territories. The second source from which the money must come is, presumably, that of Government loans, and I think it would be useful if the Secretary of State would answer four questions which I wish to put to him about E.C.A. loans to be used for developing the Colonies.
First, what proposals have been made by the E.C.A. authorities to take a greater part in Colonial development? There have been rumours in the Press, although I do not think this House has had any information on the subject. Secondly, and leading from that, I should like to know whether this House will be consulted upon any general or any specific conditions which would be attached to assistance of this nature before being finally agreed in principle or detail. I think the House would like the Secretary of State to mention that also. Thirdly, are the Americans to be the sole judges of what scheme or schemes of development to be assisted should be undertaken? Or, if they are interested in this form of investment, will they be guided by the Secretary of State? Fourthly, I should like to know whether the 2895 Colonial Governments and legislatures will be consulted upon the principle and detail of any American proposals of this kind; and would they be allowed to give their views, without any pressure from this country, on whether or not they wish to be assisted in the particular way being considered by the American authorities?
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
The hon. Gentleman is developing a most interesting argument which is exercising the minds of many of us on these benches. What assurances has he that the Americans are willing to come in; and if they do not come in, where is the money coming from?
§ Mr. Hare
I am only seeking information on this point, and if the Secretary of State is kind enough to answer some of these questions he will perhaps satisfy both his hon. Friend and myself. The hon. Gentleman's interruption may indeed be relevant. Maybe the Americans do not want to come in. Maybe they consider that the condition for the investment of their capital, either as a nation or as private individuals, is not satisfactory. I do not know. That is a theme which I think should be developed.
Last week, in the Economic Debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) laid down six conditions which should be fulfilled if foreign investment was to be encouraged, both in Europe and in the Empire and Colonies. I will not repeat those six conditions, but roughly they boiled down to this: that an investor must have a reasonable return on his capital, and must be given security in the territory in which he seeks to operate. Unless he has those two things he will not put his money there, and I do not blame him.
I should like to elaborate a little on the question of security of position. I cannot speak with any authority on West Africa, but I have some knowledge of East and Central Africa, and in many of the territories in East Africa, despite the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has recently given a number of assurances regarding the future position of the white peoples in those territories, there is still doubt in the minds of many white people about their future in their present country of adoption. Perhaps it is not surprising 2896 that that doubt remains, because there are many members of the Secretary of State's party who are not prepared to go as far as he now does; that is to say, that European settlers shall join with the Africans in any benefits of future development in the colonial territories. It would be useful if some further assurance could be given by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, because that feeling of lack of security is still there. I do not believe it is necessary, but it is still there, and it will hamper that increase of investment capital in these territories.
I was interested in what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) had to say on the question of Tanganyika. What he said links up with the general feeling of lack of security which, as I have tried to stress, exists in the minds of so many white people in Africa. The administration of Tanganyika under United Nations trusteeship has handicapped the tidy and proper development of East Africa. It is astonishing that we are today governing territories in which we wish to have foreign capital invested and invest our own money but in which, so far as I know, it is impossible to get more than a 33-year lease on any property which may be required for development. In conditions of that kind we shall not get the sort of outside monetary assistance that we require.
As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sevenoaks said so very well, the report of the visiting Commission did us untold harm. It was mischievous and irresponsible, and I hope the Government will seriously consider their whole position vis-à-vis the Trusteeship Council. If that Council is to be used purely as a propaganda instrument by the Russians and their satellites we should have no truck with it. We should watch with the greatest care the way in which this trusteeship arrangement is likely to work out in future. There is no question that our first experience of it has been a most unpleasant stab in the back.
The vision which all of us wish to have in mind is the continued development and prosperity of the Dominion of South Africa, then, further north, gradual integration with Northern Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Southern Rhodesia, as a 2897 first step, then, again further north, the linking up of Uganda, Tanganyika and Kenya.
§ Dr. Haden Guest (Islington, North)
Why does the hon. Member think that all Members will agree with that? I certainly do not.
§ Mr. Hare
I am sorry if I have taken the hon. Gentleman's name in vain. Maybe it was a wrong assumption. I think the majority of Members would agree with what I have said, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman would give us his views later in the Debate. Anyhow, my conception is, having got a central African confederation, we should work towards the creation of a Central and East African Dominion which will work closely in every economic and political way. Unless we can get the capital of which I have spoken, and provide security for white people in these territories, that dream will never be fulfilled. In answering the Debate I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to reply to some of the points I have raised today.
§ Mr. Sargood (Bermondsey, West)
The hon. Member said that the investors of capital in our Colonies ought to be guaranteed security and have some assurance that they would get a return on that capital. Is it not part of the Conservative Party's doctrine that an investor is entitled to his profits because he takes risks? If that is so, why should the hon. Gentleman urge that they should get the profits and, at the same time, have security?
§ Mr. Hare
I said nothing about a guaranteed return to the investor. I said the investor would wish to have a reasonable return on his investment. The private investor will decide whether or not conditions are stable enough to give him that return. I am not suggesting that he should have a Government guarantee.
§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare). Looking at the colonial territories of the world and the countries to which they belong, there is not the slightest doubt that the country which has managed its territories with the least 2898 trouble and strife, following the war, is Great Britain. I do not want to give credit entirely to my own party for that; I believe it is due to the innate common sense and political stability of the British people as a whole.
As yet, we have not been able to pick the fruits of the political programme of the past four years, but what some of us forget is that there is no going back to the pre-war period. In this shrinking world, across which it is possible to throw voices in a few seconds by radio, and to travel in a few hours by plane, the complexities of life are immense. It needs a great amount of stability and care on the part of the Colonial Office to steer the correct course through the present transitional period. The hon. Member for Woodbridge referred to travel in the Colonies. I am sure that statistics will show that more Members than ever before have been afforded opportunities of visiting the Colonies during the last four years. That being so, I appeal to the party opposite not to say that these visits are a waste of money, because their fruits are seen in our discussions.
I was delighted to hear the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) mention the question of racial discrimination. I believe that hon. Members on all sides of the House would wish to see its eradication. The Colonial Office and the Government should come down heavily against colour discrimination, for example, when African students come to our universities or technical colleges and find difficulty in obtaining hostels and boarding houses. Colour discrimination is a black mark not against any one political party but against the British people as a whole. I believe that it is fair to say that we do not find it supported on any side in this House.
The hon. Member made statements about the E.C.A. I have sat in this House during Question time when statements have been made on the subject. I cannot remember them offhand but I know that statements have been made about geologists and technical experts visiting Colonial areas. Only the other day we were told that three United States farm experts were to conduct a three-month survey of East, West and Central Africa, as part of the E.C.A. technical assistance programme. Therefore there 2899 has been an alertness in the Colonial Office to the possibilities of assistance under E.C.A.
The question arose whether America would invest. I am more concerned with the fact that American foreign investments have been rather capricious. The question is whether America, whatever her internal political situation, will maintain a steady level of investment. We do not want to see a repetition of what happened in the famous 1920's when millions of dollars were poured into Europe and then, at the whim of one or two political people in the United States, the stream of dollars suddenly ceased.
The real need therefore is not for a wild scheme of investment right away but agreement on a steady stream in various parts of the world which will help world stability. We all see the dangers of a sudden withdrawal of American investments about the time of the Hoover moratorium of 1929–31. We do not want to see a repetition of that in the Colonies if economic crisis should come to the United States of America. Whatever criticisms there may be about bulk buying—and I do not want to enter into a political fight about it at the moment—by its establishment in various parts of the Colonies, for example in Nigeria in the groundnut marketing board, and the cotton, timber, oil, and cocoa marketing boards, there is not the slightest doubt that the system has helped the Nigerian farmer and that it will maintain stability of progress.
The danger may come from the willy-nilly investment on the part of the Colonial farmer, who prefers to put all his money into his cash crops to the neglect of stable agriculture for the Colonies. Whatever system of investment we have, whether it is American. British or Government, we must see that we do not encourage investment in cash crops to the detriment of the nutrition of colonial people.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies if there is any possibility of stepping up transport development, for example in Nigeria. Kipling said that transport is civilisation. Last year we were enabled to send 20 locomotives to Nigeria. More important is the deterioration in Nigeria of rolling stock, in relation to the gathering of 2900 groundnut stocks. We are told of its not being possible to send more rolling stock and more railway equipment. I believe it will be worth our while to do this on a greater scale. I understand that the longer those thousands of tons of groundnuts hang around, the greater is the difficulty of the pest control officers.
I wish to make two other points in relation to the Colonies and education. Out of the provision of £63 million last year, some £41,500,000 has been allocated to Africa. Over £611,000 was allocated for soil conservation, the largest single payment in East African expenditure. Since January, 1944, both sides of the House have now spent £160,500,000 in the Colonies. Before the House goes very much further, we ought to realise the truth of the statement made by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) that Africa is a poor continent. It will be, until we can develop its water power. I believe we could apply to Africa a lesson learnt from the Japanese who took small units of power to the highways and byways of Japan. They took ribbons of asphalt in the form of roads, and they took the tractor, the motor car, the small dynamo and the electric motor. To the peasants of Africa, that is far more practical than massive capital investment schemes which will take 20 or 30 years to develop.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) spoke about education. The difficulty about education in colonial areas is that we have a double job, the education of the child and the education of the adult. The hon. Member for Dudley said that we should use the services of the Army. That would be an excellent idea, but I believe that, as in the case of medicine, too often we are waiting for—I do not know whether this is quite the right phrase—over-qualified people to take on the elementary type of education. I am sure that appeals could be made for British women to go out to the Colonies for short periods of time to teach elementary hygiene to their opposite numbers there. That would bear fruit in a short time. There ought to be more education for the women in our African, Malayan and other Colonies than at present. Too much emphasis has been placed on the men. Every hon. Member knows that we do not judge a civilisation by the might of its architecture or the 2901 size of its bridges, but by the place it gives to its women. Once again, we should emphasise that the attitude towards the women is the civilising factor in the colonial areas.
I saw a suggestion some time ago in a letter to a newspaper. In view of the shortage of doctors and technicians, could we not find displaced technicians, engineers and doctors in Europe who would be only too glad to work in the colonial areas? They would contribute not to the building of the British Empire in the old stock phrase but to the building of civilisation and stability if they could be given constructive jobs in the Colonies. I hope that the Secretary of State will bear in mind that it appears that on both sides of the House much more interest is taken in colonial affairs now than ever before in the history of Britain.
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I find myself in agreement with a great deal of what was said by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), about the colour bar in this country, especially in regard to students, and also in regard to female education. I also agree with him that it is an encouraging fact that since the war the British Colonial territories are those in which there has been least disturbance. I would link that up with an interjection which the hon. Gentleman made earlier, when he said that it was economic factors which drove Africans into our Armed Forces at the beginning of the war. I can assure the hon. Member from my own experience that what the people of East Africa saw of Fascist aggression between the years 1935 and 1939 made them determined not to put up with it and, when war came, the people came along and joined us, not to get a pair of boots, not just to fight against Fascist aggression, but to fight also for the way of life that we were doing our best to teach them.
We all welcomed the Report on the Colonial Territories which the Colonial Secretary issued some three or four weeks ago, particularly the part applying to Africa. So it is in no spirit of criticism I say that part of the impression left is that paper constitutions or certain general lines are being laid down for development and that it is now up to us to implement those fully along two main lines which 2902 hon. Members have mentioned already, first, economic development and, secondly, local government.
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that until the time comes when we feel that we can decentralise our Government and hand over authority to others in territories overseas, we should have confidence in ourselves and that the Governments of those territories should govern firmly and justly as in the past. Obviously we are in a difficult transitional period. It shows up in questions in this House; when the Colonial Secretary is trying to transfer authority to legislative councils overseas and yet has the final decision here in Whitehall. So I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to continue what I believe he is doing his best to ensure, namely firm and just Government, until we feel we can hand over the reins of authority, not just to a minority however articulate but to the great mass of people in those territories who, in my experience, are almost entirely inarticulate so far. If there was any way of finding out their feelings on this subject, I believe that most of those people overseas would support what I have been saying.
In these years of interdependence I think there is a growing realisation in these overseas territories that it is something done not for the benefit of themselves alone or for us here alone, but for our mutual benefit. After all, under the United Nations, we have been trying to persuade people to give up some of their sovereignty for the greater good of the greater number, and it seems to many of us strange that we should be, in another respect, tending to encourage people to take one hundred per cent. sovereignty and go away and work out their own salvation in a corner. I believe that it would be of considerable benefit to the people in Africa and to us in this country that we should continue to co-operate more closely than ever before.
The first point I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman is on local government. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has introduced what will prove a valuable development, that is, taking out trained local government officers from this country. I only wish that when I started in as a district officer, I had known one tenth of what I know now about local government. Few of us realise, until in 2903 our Parliamentary life we have close co-operation with the permanent officials of our local authorities, the immense value of their experience and knowledge. On those individuals probably depends—it is difficult to give an exact figure, but I should say some-80 to 90 per cent. of what politics means to an individual. What we do at the Parliamentary level in this House impinges on the individual at the level of the clerk of the rural or urban district council. It is very valuable that the Colonial Secretary has chosen such individuals to go out to make use of their knowledge and experience for the proper development of this form of local government in these territories abroad.
One sees among educated Africans a fear of tribalism. They look upon the status of tribal chiefs as something reactionary and something that will not lead to what they want to see in the future. If one studies the history of this country, one sees that a tribe may well develop into the structure of what we now call a county; thus in Africa one may equally find that the tribal heads become the elected members of county or local authorities. At the same time, the greatest immediate opportunity for educated Africans lies more in the executive authority at the level of the clerks to the rural district councils, and so on, of whom I have been speaking.
If I may say so without offence, I think that the frequent exasperation of a number of educated Africans whom I know with their tribal heads, is no greater than that of the professional civil servant with his present political chief. If it is realised that there is always that feeling amongst the professionals against the enthusiastic amateurs, it might do something to cheer them up. Both elements are of vital importance to each other, in Africa as here, and the working of the two together will give to these people the sort of future for which they are looking.
The other point I should like to make on local government is that which has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby) on the value of Europeans in provincial and district councils. Some of the experiments which have been made in Kenya are of the very 2904 greatest value. To follow up the point implied, I think, by the hon. Member for Leek that we could have individuals to advise on non-political matters such as hygiene and schools, would be of very great value to all concerned.
My next main point relates to economic development. It is difficult for private Members in this House to find out exactly what is taking place and to wade through some of the masses of figures produced from one place and another. I was sorry that the Colonial Secretary found it impossible to make available to the House, even in the Library, some of the figures which must have been available as the result of the recent Colonial Office conference on supplies. One realises that after conferences are held, it is not always possible to make all the figures available, but, as "The Times" leader of 9th June said:A partial attempt to satisfy at least the first of these requirements …that is, of obtaining a certain amount of information—had been made. I think that the tour of East Africa by the Paymaster-General was one of the first great attempts by the Colonial Office to obtain that information. I hope that the Colonial Secretary will in due course reply to this point and make information thus collected more readily available.
I feel that that tour by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Pensions, was a real attempt by the Colonial Office and the Government to obtain information, and that that and the information from the recent conference on supplies, which should be available to the Government, would be of very great value to the House. Unless information of this sort is made generally available, it is difficult for forward-looking producers in the Empire to find out exactly what is likely to happen in the future.
We are now changing from a state of world shortage in many commodities to a state of world surplus and in due course in certain commodities we shall move from an Empire shortage to an Empire surplus. I am not going to say anything about sugar, except that I believe this is one of the commodities which is likely in the next five to seven years, to go through these changes. That is why it is necessary to look ahead.
2905 I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he could give us any information of what is being done in regard to paragraph 362 of the Colonial Territories Report and what is happening to the general agreement on tariffs, it would be a good thing. It may be that this is not the moment to ask, but if he will look at the paragraph, he will see that it is not exactly clear what the position now is. I am not asking for a reply this afternoon, but possibly in due course it would be of value if he could tell us the probable effect on the colonial territories in the next two or three years. I think we have reached a stage when a final agreement could be put into effect, and would give an indication to producers of future marketing problems.
On production of cotton and tobacco can the right hon. Gentleman give us some indication of whether, in fact, there is any big-scale scheme for future development of cotton likely, for instance, in the Shire river valley in Nyasaland? Even if it were not possible to put up something as big as the Gezina cotton scheme, it would help this country if some area were put under irrigation.
When we look at the figures of imports from hard currency areas, it appears that cotton and tobacco are two of the biggest items, but they are items which the United States are over-producing. I think the surplus is three million bales of cotton this year and the tobacco is of the kind that few Americans are content to smoke because it is not of a type which they like. If there is to be this great surplus in the United States, it becomes part of the dollar problem, but it is important to know if the Colonial Secretary has any plan for the considerable development of cotton and tobacco in Africa. Looking at the cotton figures for before the war and now, one sees that production has fallen quite considerably. There are reasons for this, such as drought and, in a place like Uganda, consumer goods, which means that they have not picked all the cotton grown because they cannot buy anything with it. There has not been a steady rise as hoped for.
Again, I believe that there is nothing to shake the view put from this side of the House that the Government must define more clearly than they have done so far, where the line is to be drawn 2906 between Government development overseas and private enterprise development. I have tried to make my belief clear that it is in what I call Government utilities, particularly transport, railways and roads, that this Government development should largely lie, leaving the actual year-by-year production to those who have experience of it, whether as companies, individual farmers, or producer co-operatives. If the right hon. Gentleman would give an indication along those lines, it would give considerable encouragement to people, not only in this country, but in the hard currency areas, which are thinking of activities inside the Colonial Empire, particularly in Africa. In a speech in another place three or four days ago, Lord Brand put very clearly the conditions needed to be established before we see dollar investment in the sterling area, which, of course, includes Africa.
I wish to congratulate the Colonial Secretary on the fact that we have set up a survey of the railway link between East Africa and Rhodesia. May I draw his attention to the terms in which he referred to this in the OFFICIAL REPORT on 20th July? In the Debates last week he made certain references to the British company and the American company which are co-operating in this survey. It is in fact Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners who are the British firm, while the American firm responsible is Overseas Consultants Incorporated, made up of a group of 11 permanent American engineering firms, which has undertaken extensive surveys in Japan and Burma. This firm is acting in collaboration with Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, but is a completely independent organisation. The other point is that, in addition to technical consideration of the problem, I understand that an economic survey is also included in their terms of reference.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
While I thank the hon. Member for correcting the name, in regard to the economic survey very substantially that has been done already.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
I thank the Colonial Secretary for that point. To follow this up, I think the point has been made by Lord Rennell in another place, or on another occasion, that we should have a look at the scheme which the Italians used in the development of East Africa; 2907 that is, co-operation between the road engineers and the designers of heavy service vehicles. The Italians decided on a 10-ton diesel engine with road gradients of 1 in 25, or 4 per cent., which worked out in their case as an extremely valuable co-operative effort. I believe that at this stage we might see whether we can follow this up with some such co-operation in future road development in these parts of Central Africa.
I support what has been said from both sides of the House, that in Africa it is by the co-operation of peoples of all races, whether of European, Indian or African origin who have now made Africa their home, that the future of this great continent can be secured.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I wish to express my thanks to the Opposition for initating this Debate and I am glad that in the main discussion has been confined to some of the problems of Africa, although there are a number of points relating to other parts of the Commonwealth to which I wish to refer.
The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) said a number of gracious things in regard to myself, but there is one thing about which I should like to disillusion him. Our interest in Colonial policy is not a late discovery by the Labour Party. I have referred before, and I regret it is necessary to mention again, that great liberal tradition which came into the Labour Party in those earlier days in regard to the problems of the peoples of undeveloped areas, and particularly in regard to our colonial responsibilities.
In the last few decades I think it will be recognised that certain writers of distinction—Lord Olivier, Leonard Wolff, Buxton and J. A. Hobson, and others I could mention—have made very substantial contributions to our new approach to colonial problems. We owe something to them for the manner in which the policy is being worked out to-day, with the good will and the liberal thought and support of the British people. I emphasise—I do not want to make a party point of this—that our tradition in our regard for the well-being and the progress of the colonial peoples 2908 is as deep rooted and goes as far back as that of any other political party. There is a mountain of literature of a very authoritative kind which has been contributed by the Labour movement to these problems.
The suggestion has been made that, as the result of the responsibilities of office, I have veered quite a lot in regard to my own approach to colonial policy. I am not conscious of it myself; I feel that my views are as emphatically held as they ever were. I am guilty of the same heresies which I used to pronounce when I was on the Opposition Benches, and I should think something was wrong with me if I found that I was running away from the basic ideas and principles which have actuated the Labour movement for so long.
May I also, in the most friendly spirit, suggest to certain hon. Members opposite that it is hardly in keeping with the facts that they should gibe at us on these benches for this interest in Colonial policy. It is unfortunate that they sometimes assume a little too patronising an air when seeking to correct what they regard as the heresies of the Labour Party, and particularly of the Fabian Society. But I can assure them that we are not just newly-won converts to the principles on which we hope the Commonwealth itself is founded—principles which it develops as the years go by—but that these ideas and principles are in accord with the Labour movement and have long been held by that movement.
However, I do not want to find myself involved in party political polemics. I want, if I may, to try to reply to some of the questions which have been addressed to me during the Debate. A number of general points were raised by the hon. Member for Hornsey, and perhaps I had better deal with them first. Together with him, I would express our thanks to the British Press for the way in which they have responded to our efforts in the past month or so to stimulate interest among the British public in the work which is going on in the Colonies. There has been a magnificent response from the British public in regard to our efforts, and at the Exhibition, as we all know, no fewer than 250,000 people have been admitted.
The next point to which I wish to refer is Communist infiltration into our 2909 Colonial Territories. We are aware, of course, that the Communist Party in this country is concerned with a deliberate drive in our Colonial Territories, and a great deal of their propaganda is also directed towards colonial students who are over here. I think the Government have taken a fairly vigorous line in regard to subversive activities in our territories overseas. I indicated some of the steps taken when the House discussed this problem on the Supply Day for the Colonies, and I think I can assure the House that we are mindful of the gravity of this problem of colonial government, and the authorities in our territories are actively engaged in meeting this menace. But, as I said last Wednesday week, this menace will not be met merely by denunciation of Communist doctrine.
In some of our territories the conditions offer fertile ground for Communist propaganda, but we can only meet that propaganda effectively in so far as we raise the social standards of the people, improve the economic conditions there, and also secure the positive co-operation of the people in the responsible work of government itself. That broad line of policy we are working on, as well as the line of restricting and eliminating wherever possible the activities in which the Communists are engaged.
There is just one point, in passing, that I should like to correct. It has been said by people inside and outside the House that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary attributed the disturbances in the Gold Coast to Communist propaganda. The actual words that he used were:There was almost certainly Communist incitement in this case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 39.]That is not intended to explain what happened in the Gold Coast in February and March last year. What my hon. Friend said was definitely confirmed in the report of the Commission which investigated these problems. I am conscious, as I have said, that there is in our territories a real effort by certain Communist agents to make trouble. We shall combat it and all the necessary steps are being taken, but I should not like it thought that the troubles and difficulties in our territories are due to this cause alone.
We must recognise that there are grounds for legitimate agitation and pro- 2910 paganda by the colonial people and by organisations for the improvement of their own standards and to make the changes they want. Therefore, we must be conscious that while sometimes there may be a contributory cause in Communist incitement, a great deal of trouble may arise largely because of existing conditions which the authorities themselves may not at the time be competent themselves to handle. There will be and there must be agitation if there is to be any healthy political and social life in our territories at all.
§ Mr. Stanley
I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman says those words which are going out all over the Colonial Empire, he will explain that by "agitation" he means agitation by constitutional means, and not the kind of agitation to which reference has been made and which we have seen so often in the past.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Most certainly I am talking of agitation of a legitimate kind. I thought that the sense of my words made that perfectly clear.
I now come to the general point raised about Colonial students. Again, we are trying to work out a little further the policy of planning and creating, both in the educational world and in the social world, facilities for the many thousands of colonial students who come to this country. As I have said before, we are anxious that these students should have access to British homes and that, where possible, they should not be segregated in special hostels but that generally they should be brought within the constructive influences of our own country.
As I said a moment ago, it is true that Communist propaganda is directed against these students, and our effort has been, over a period, to open out new facilities of enjoyment, new social life, and new opportunities of educational discussion so that the life of these men and women who come here can be as helpful as possible in understanding the British values and the British way of life. The proposal has been made, and it has not yet been finalised, that the hostels which are necessary both in London and the provinces should be managed by the British Council itself. There are certain details still to be worked out, but we hope that the transfer of existing hostels can take place by the end of the year.
2911 Turning to the points raised by the hon. Member for Hornsey about the Colonial Service, I would assure him that we have no final views as to the reasons why the Colonial Service, particularly on the administrative side, is not proving as attractive as in previous years. It is, of course, quite true that there is a feeling amongst certain people that we ought to assure the colonial cadet of absolute security in his appointment for the whole of his career, but I would point out that, with the growth of political institutions in our territories overseas, there is also a widening and an expansion of functions by government, necessitating the employment of trained and competent administrative and technical people.
I cannot foresee a point, for a long time ahead anyway, when the work will come to an end because of the achievement of self-government and when the Colonial Service will be discarded. I think, with the expansion of work, there is every opportunity of employment in a wide range of activities over a very long period ahead. We are doing all we can to improve the conditions of the service and I think the House will know that, over the last few years, in every one of our territories there have been revisions of salaries and allowances and a serious effort made to open out new amenities and generally to improve the conditions of employment of the Colonial technical and administrative servants.
The hon. Member for Hornsey suggested that perhaps we should consider a scheme for earlier retirement. We have had that problem under review and there is in force at the present time, for an experimental period of three years, in West Africa, East Africa and Hong Kong, a scheme whereby officers who wish to do so may retire at the age of 45 and whereby Governments may also require officers to retire at that age. This is an experiment in a very wide area.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
It is based under the Pension Act on the number of years' service which they have done. There is, however, no concensus of opinion in regard to this method. Civil servants in the Colonies think in a variety of ways 2912 about this proposition. Some of them take the view that it is not likely recruits will be attracted to the service if the Government are in a position to enforce retirement at the end of a limited period. However, we do appreciate the point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hornsey, and I can assure him that we shall watch with very great interest how this scheme is working out, and what the opinion of the men on the spot really is.
Now I come to the problems raised in regard to Africa itself. We are conscious, of course, that there is an enormous problem in front of us in regard to both the food supply and the increase of population in many of the territories in the continent for which we are responsible. All our efforts to build up sound economies are in danger of being defeated largely because the increase of population means more mouths have to be fed; and the improved medical conditions make for longer life; and the establishment of order makes the incidence of death very much less. Alongside the problem of population is the other difficulty, which is the increasing demand by the Africans themselves that they should enjoy social services of various kinds which are expensive to maintain.
We have, therefore, this dilemma: How to expand our economic production to such a degree as will enable it to keep pace with the demand for improved social standards for the people, and the demand further that famine should be banished and that all the members of this rising population should be properly fed. It was suggested by one hon. Member that, perhaps, we ought to give a little less attention to the big schemes of development and attach a little more importance to the small producer. I shall only say this, that it is imperative, if this great problem I have mentioned is to be solved, that the attack should not be limited to one field alone. We must try to do everything we can to improve the standards of cultivation of the peasant, and to make him realise that he cannot reach and that he cannot enjoy the social standards he demands while his methods of production are as primitive as they are.
At the same time, development calls for improved roads and transport. There must be very big schemes of transport development and of power development, 2913 and of those essential public works and utilities on which the good economic life of a territory depends. Therefore, it is no good pitting one kind of development against another. The development must be over the whole field—large scale production where we can get it, where the conditions are suitable, with big public works and utilities, and, at the same time, every encouragement for the small producer, in order that he may not only feed himself but have a surplus to help feed the population generally, and so help to keep it healthy.
That brings me to another criticism made in regard to the Colonial Development and Welfare Act itself—that we take all the money which is poured, as it is said, into Africa or any other part of the Empire. I would ask hon. Members to appreciate that for every £1 which is subscribed under our funds the Colonial governments contribute at least £2, either in the way of new revenue or by loans that they themselves raise. Let me also make clear that when we are talking of the work of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act we are thinking primarily in terms of new development, and not in terms of ordinary routine work which normally goes on under the Colonial governments. That means, there is a very much bigger demand on the revenues of a territory than that indicated when I said that for every £1 that we subscribe another £2 is forthcoming from the Colonial Government. They are according to their means putting an enormous amount of their own natural resources into the development of their territories.
I now come to the points raised about the political development of Africa. Of course, none of us when speaking of self-government speak of it in quite the terms indicated by the hon. Member for Hornsey. We do not talk of self-government for Nigeria as if we were intent on setting up a Parliament modelled on Westminster. We are conscious that in a vast country like that there must be some regard to the natural divisions to which he referred, and there must be machinery of government in the region so that people of a homogeneous character can come together and, in the light of their own traditions and religion tackle their problems in their own way. It is largely for that purpose that, since the publica- 2914 tion of the Nigerian constitution, a committee has been appointed, and is sitting in Nigeria today, to discuss how far there can be devolution from the centre into the regions, and whether it is possible to conceive of a kind of federation in Nigeria in the place of a highly centralised Parliament of the kind which has probably been visualised by some of the agitators in Nigeria in days gone by.
The effort to devolve from the centre responsibility in local affairs for the management of certain local services is going on in quite a number of our African territories. The Coussey Commission, which is sitting in the Gold Coast at the present time, is engaged on a somewhat similar problem, of reconsidering the constitution in order to get an effective form of local government, and at the same time to see whether there can be built up provincial councils which can become an effective unit within the framework of the Gold Coast itself. We are trying to have regard to the variety of conditions and the local patriotisms which exist inside these territories.
Reference was also made to the correction of boundaries as between some of our territories. It is quite true that this is a very vexed problem, and many of the boundaries cannot be defended at all. Reference was made to the frontier between Tanganyika and Northern Rhodesia. Well, it would be a matter of very considerable difficulty to eliminate that frontier or to modify it, because Tanganyika is, as we well recognise, a Trust Territory. Nevertheless, I want to tell the House that from time to time we look at some of the boundary anomalies: we attempt to get them corrected in consultation with other Imperial Powers involved, and only recently some progress in that direction has been made.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
In the case of Somaliland and the Red Sea, and Kenya and Abyssinia.
A further question raised was in connection with federation in Central Africa. There was an unofficial conference at Victoria Falls. The Governments of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland were not invited to be present. That private conference reached certain broad conclusions, and appointed a committee to work on those conclusions. I gather that it has 2915 not yet met and, further, that the terms of reference of the committee have again to be considered.
There is in Central Africa a Central African Council which over the last few years has worked extremely well and done good work. It may be that in the light of the changed economic and political conditions some other method of considering the common problems in that area may have to be evolved. We wait for an appreciation of those problems as seen by the Governments in that part of the world. We were asked whether we should wait for the local governments, and whether we should not go in right away and formulate a plan. I can only say that, so far, no representation has been made to us about the unsatisfactory nature of the Central African Council; so far, there has been no substantial evidence that reorganisation of government is necessary in the form of a confederation.
That is not to say, however, that our minds are absolutely closed, but we do say, with great emphasis, that this country has definite responsibilities towards the African peoples of the Protectorates under our control. We cannot enter into any arrangement which sacrifices the solemn committments we entered into, by Treaty, with the African people in days gone by. Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland are Protectorates, and that basic fact must be borne in mind in any discussions which may ensue in future about what kind of governing organisation is essential for that part of the world. Meantime, the Central African Council continues its work and we hope that the good results which have already been forthcoming will continue. We can see no reason why they should not.
The suggestion was made that perhaps during my recent visit to Central Africa I may have discouraged European enterprise and European settlement. I repeat what I have said in reply to Questions put to me in the House: that it is obvious that the economic and social progress of Central Africa depends on the full co-operation of the European people, who have great opportunities for agricultural and industrial development in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In that development Europeans can make a very substantial contribution. There is no intention whatever of going back on 2916 the policy which has been laid down already in regard to land settlement or the basic interests of the Africans in the division of lands in either one or the other Protectorate.
It is unfortunate that a statement such as that should be regarded by some as an indication that we are looking to the time when our partnership with the African in Central Africa will be dissolved. That is a most unfortunate interpretation of words which I used. I want to stress that while we must have regard to the basic interests of the Africans that does not mean that we should attempt in any way to sacrifice the best interests of Europeans in building up that country and making their contribution to its economic life and political development.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.