Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £400,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931, for sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Non-effective Services and Grants-in-Aid.
I have to ask the Committee to approve of a Supplementary Estimate for £400,000, the items of which Members have before them. The first item is for a grant in aid of the expenses of the local administrations and of unemployment relief grants for certain West Indian Colonies. The necessity for these grants arises mainly as a consequence of the serious depression in the sugar industry. The West, Indian Colonies concerned are those which depend mainly on sugar. The additional sum for Dominica, however, amounting to £14,500, is required on account of the recent hurricane which affected Dominica alone.
I do not think it will be expected that I should go once again into the question of the conditions of the sugar industry, for there is very little more of a general nature to be said than was said in March last year, when there was a full discussion on Lord Olivier's report, and on the Government's action in regard to it. Subsequent developments have been indicated in the two Command Papers 3705 and 3745 containing correspondence between the Government and the various Colonies affected, and no doubt Members who are interested in the subject have had these Papers. Although our own home position is difficult, His Majesty's Government felt that it was necessary and desirable to deal with the serious situation in the West Indies by means of measures for the substantial alleviation of distress among the population as it arose, and by such assistance to particular colonies as is possible by other methods. In pursuance of this policy, it has been found necessary to start relief work in British Guiana upon a considerable scale, and in Antigua and St. Kitts upon a relatively small scale. Full information with regard to these works has been already laid before the House in the Command Paper to which I have just referred.
As regards British Guiana in particular, details of relief work in contemplation were given in the Governor's despatch of 4th July and the Secretary of State's despatch of 12th September, which were published in Cd. 3705. The sum of £112,000 now provided as a Supplementary Estimate represents that part of the total of £125,000 referred to in the Secretary of State's despatch as estimated to be expended during the current financial year. In addition, we have felt it necessary to provide for a loan of £50,000 in aid of the ordinary Budget of the Colony. British Guiana, as many hon. Members know, has no reserves, and is heavily indebted both by way of funded debt and unfunded advances from the Crown Agents, and it has become absolutely necessary to transfer part of those advances to the Imperial Treasury from the Crown Agents, who were overburdened with them. It will be noticed that a portion of the grant of £112,000 will be in the form of a loan. This portion, which will amount, probably, to a little less than £40,000, is for the improvement of works on sugar estates mentioned in the despatch of the Secretary of State to which I have already referred. In connection with the repayment of this loan the Legislative Council of the Colony passed a resolution undertaking to impose a special form of taxation affecting the sugar industry if and when the industry is more prosperous. This taxation will take the form of an export duty, to come into force when sugar is commanding a favourable price. But it is not proposed to specify any particular price at present.
Yes. The proceeds of this tax are to be allocated as to one-half for the repayment to the Imperial Treasury of the assistance now afforded to the estates, and as to the other half for the creation of a fund to aid the industry when necessary. The Governor has expressed his thanks and those of the sugar producers for the assistance which it is intended to render in this matter, and he remarks that the special assistance should undoubtedly prove of great value to labour on the estates both now and in the future. It must be admitted that the prospect of repayment of this loan is remote, but the sugar producers have shown great readiness to accept all reasonable obligations in this matter, and the funds provided will enable part-time work to be given to a considerable number of persons who would otherwise be unemployed.
May I ask the Under-Secretary a question—it will probably avoid the necessity of my having to trouble the Committee by a speech later on—whether some of this money will be devoted for the purpose of preventing malaria on sugar estates? I understand that in a recent report it was stated that the health of the workers, especially of the Indians employed in the sugar plantations, would be greatly improved if some steps were taken in this direction. Can the Under-Secretary tell us whether anything has been done?
I should be very sorry if the satisfactory nature of my answer deprived the Committee of hearing a speech from the Noble Lord, but it is true part of the money is to be devoted to land drainage, which the Noble Earl knows is important in the prevention of malaria in these sugar plantations.
No. Passing from British Guiana to the smaller islands, Dominica, after passing through a period of some financial difficulty due to a disease of the lime trees, was rapidly getting back to a position of paying its way when it was struck by the severe hurricane of 1928, which was followed, before recovery was complete, by the equally severe hurricane in 1930. Although Dominica does not grow any sugar it has, in common with most other places, suffered from the general depression in trade. That depression has abated a little and in the absence of any further serious calamity the prospects of the island seem to be quite satisfactory. The additional grants to St. Lucia and Antigua may be regarded as entirely due to the sugar situation resulting in a serious loss of revenue which would not be met by any possible economies. As regards Antigua, while the sugar situation is the main factor the position has also been aggravated by a severe drought which lasted for nearly a year and in St. Kills by the cotton boll worm. In Antigua the sugar crop for next season is expected to be only half as much as in the year which has just finished. These figures might seem to indicate an unhopeful condition of things, but there is another side. A comprehensive development scheme for £600,000 is being undertaken in the Caribbean sugar colonies, and of that amount the Colonial Development Fund is contributing in grants and loans nearly £300,000. The possibility of new kinds of crops is being explored and research is being helped by the Empire Marketing Board; and there is good evidence of local courage and initiative so we need not be pessimistic. That is all I propose to say upon that Vote.
If the hon. Member will be good enough to wait until I have am opportunity of replying to the discussion I will give him the particulars. What I propose to do is to take a note of the various points raised in the Debate and deal with them in my reply. The next Vote is for Iraq, and comprises two items, D1 and D8 amounting to in all to £33,000. The first item, £11,000, is a purely military item and it only comes through these Estimates for technical reasons. The £11,000 is made up of two amounts, first, an item of £1,000 for the additional cost of the British forces situate in Iraq over the ordinary cost of the same forces if stationed at home. This amount is payable to the Air Ministry. In the original Estimate £30,000 was the sum allotted for capital works services, mainly, the reconditioning of buildings which are in a dilapidated state. The Air Ministry now estimate that the expenditure on these services will amount to £31,000, or £1,000 in excess of the provision made in the Estimate. That is the amount making up the first item.
The second amount, for £10,000, is the additional sum required to meet the balance of the cost of Indian troops previously employed in Iraq, and this amount is payable to the Government of India. The last Indian battalion left Iraq in 1928. It will be seen that this figure of £10,000 represents an agreement on claims which have been outstanding for some time and which have only recently been presented by the Government of India. It has no relation to any recent activities in Iraq. Those two amounts of £1,000 and £10,000 make up the first item of £11,000. The second item in sub-head D 8 is a sum of £22,000 for the acquisition of land adjoining the residency. At the moment an Arab village is situated close to the residency, dominating the ground and buildings. The existence of this densely inhabited and insanitary quarter in such close proximity constitutes a menace to the health of the persons living in the Residency buildings. The provision of £22,000 will enable the Government to acquire the land on which the Arab quarter is situated and provides for the demolition and clearance of the site. Apart from other considerations the best sanitary opinion holds that a minimum distance of 440 yards is advisable between European and native occupied dwellings if the ordinary risks of malaria and other mosquito and fly-borne diseases are to be reduced to reasonable proportions. The site with the assistance of the Iraq Government can now be acquired at a reasonable figure and, having regard to the increase in the value of property in Bagdad, it is confidently anicipated that it will increase in value during the course of the next few years.
I am sorry, but I cannot help the hon. Member on that point. I have no responsibility in the matter. It is now proposed to build a house for the Counsellor and one secretary of the High Commissioner's staff on the site. At present the staff is scattered over Bagdad; three of the secretaries live more than two miles from the Residency, which is inconvenient and undesirable. That is all I need say on that Vote.
The next Supplementary Estimate I have to put before the Committee is in respect of Palestine and Transjordan. The Supplementary Estimate is necessitated particularly by the following causes, first, the provision of additional defence forces and, secondly, the economic depression which has affected Palestine in common with other agricultural producing countries. As a result of these causes it is not possible for Palestine to balance its budget without some assistance in the way of a redistribution of the increase defence costs as between Palestine and His Majesty's Government. This Supplementary Estimate indicates the rearrangements which have been made. In order however to ensure that no undue or unnecessary burden should fall upon Imperial funds arrangements have been made by which the expenditure in Palestine is to be subject to strict scrutiny by the Treasury as well as by the Colonial Office.
It would not be in order for me in presenting and discussing this Supplementary Estimate to go into questions of policy or to deal with the White Paper or the Mandate, but I desire to say a word or two about the items themselves. First in regard to the permanent accommodation for the two battalions. His Majesty's Government have decided to retain in Palestine for the present two battalions of infantry. In addition to these, two squadrons of aircraft and four sections of armoured cars are stationed in Palestine and Transjordan, and a Royal Army Service Corps unit with suitable transport has recently been sent there with a view of avoiding the present expensive system of hiring transport. The strength of the garrison will come under review annually. The provision for the accommodation of these troops, therefore, has been made under Defence E1; to which I direct the attention of the Committee. The sum asked for under this head is £42,000, and of this sum it is estimated that £30,000 will be spent up to the 31st March, 1931, on accommodation for the two battalions, £5,000 for accommodation for the Royal Army Service Corps unit, £3,000 representing the initial charges and excess cost of this unit, and £4,000 for the purposes of the Royal Air Force at Ma'an, a total of £42,000. As a set off to the expenditure on the Royal Army Service Corps unit a saving of £16,000 per annum will be effected in the cost of hiring, so that the cost of the employment of this unit is an economic arrangement. The Palestine Government is also to contribute a further sum of £43,000 towards the cost of defence as will be seen from subhead L.
Now I turn to Sub-head E (2) under which provision to the extent of £148,000 is made as a grant in aid to Palestine funds in respect of the costs of the Transjordan Frontier Force. Prior to 1st April, 1930, five-sixths of the cost of this Force was borne by the Palestine Government and one-sixth by His Majesty's Government on behalf of Transjordan. With a view to affording Palestine some relief in the cost of defence services—and it must be borne in mind that the Palestine Government bears the whole cost of her police services, amounting in 1930 to £495,000—a re-allocation of the cost of the Transjordan Frontier Forces has been made, and from 1st April, 1930, Palestine will bear one-quarter of the recurring costs and the whole of the cost of capital works services in Palestine. His Majesty's Government will contribute three-quarters of the recurring costs and the whole of the cost of capital works services in Transjordan. In the original Estimate for 1930 provision was made for the nine months ending 31st December, 1930, on the one-sixth basis and the amount was £27,000, to suit the arrangement of a calendar year.
Reference has been made to the system of accounts which the Palestine Government have adopted. The Committee is aware that estimates in this country are framed on the financial year ending on 31st March, and it has now been decided to revert to the financial year so far as the frontier force charges are concerned. As a result, provision has to be made for the additional three months from 1st January to 31st March in this year. The total cost of this force for the 12 months ending 31st March next is estimated at £250,000, of which £200,000 represents recurrent costs and £50,000 represents costs of capital works. On the revised basis Palestine will bear one-quarter of the recurrent cost, namely, £50,000 and the cost of works service in Palestine, amounting to £25,000, or a total sum of £75,000. His Majesty's Government will bear three-quarters of the recurrent cost, namely, £150,000, plus the cost of works service in Transjordan estimated at £25,000, or a total sum of £175,000. As £27,000 has already been voted for this service I have therefore to ask the House to vote a further sum of £148,000 under this Sub-head.
I think my hon. and gallant Friend is aware that the Transjordan Government is unable to make any payment, but the share allotted to it has been in the past one-sixth, and that has been paid by His Majesty's Government on behalf of Transjordan. Sub-head E.3 deals with the Grant-in-Aid of the Transjordan Administration, and the amount shown in the Supplementary Estimate for this service is £24,000. In the original Estimates a contribution of £60,000 was provided. The revised Estimates indicate that a contribution of £84,000 will be required for the year. This is due to three causes: First a drop in revenue due to difficulty in the collection of taxes in certain areas owing to damage to crops by locusts, estimated at £12,000; secondly, increased expenditure on measures to combat the locust invasion amounting to £4,000; and, thirdly, tribal control measures costing approximately £8,000.
Then I come to Sub-head L, Appropriations-in-Aid. Under this sub-head is shown the sum of £43,000. As I have previously said, this sum is an additional contribution from the Palestine Government towards the cost of defence. In the original Estimate the sum of £32,000 was included as Palestine's defence contribution, so that we are now receiving in cash a total sum of £75,000. In addition, the Palestine Government is charging to its own account the cost of certain local services, such as lighting, heating, water, etc., provided for the two battalions amounting in 1929 to approximately £30,000, and in 1930 to £40,000 up to September; and they will also charge to their own account the difference between public rates and the preferential rates for the Royal Air Force and military units on the Palestine Railway. I think it will be generally agreed that these various items are in themselves not controversial, and I hope that the Committee will find no difficulty in passing these Votes.
The Committee is obliged to the Under-Secretary for a very fair and lucid statement, and if I rise it is not so much to controvert that statement as to draw attention to one or two points in it. I shall begin in the order in which the Under-Secretary finished. With regard to Transjordan he mentioned that part of the additional expenditure is due to expenditure in connection with frontier control. I would like him to say how far that means that the Government of Transjordan is now effectively administering the whole of the vast territory on the map, up to the borders of the Kingdom of Hedjaz and down to the Red Sea, which is, to a large extent nominally in the past, included in Transjordan. From that I pass to the Supplementary Estimates which are connected with the Palestine and Transjordan defence forces. I quite realise, Mr. Chairman, that I should risk your displeasure if I ventured to make this an opportunity for discussing the general question of Palestine policy, and I shall not attempt to do so. But I presume that I may say this—that, whatever our policy in Palestine may be, all parties in the Committee will agree that we should be in a position to maintain effective order, and that whatever policy is carried out should be a policy inspired by the considered opinion of the Government and not influenced by local disturbances.
From that point of view, whether the late Government reduced the defence provision unwisely or not—as the Member most responsible for that matter I shall not embark on any defence of the reasons which led us to believe that we could deal with it on the scale on which we decided—I think that the Committee will be agreed to-day that we are wise to err, if anything, on the side of caution, and to maintain an adequate force in that country. If so, two questions arise: One is the share of that expense which should be borne by Palestine, and the other is how far that affects the share of the expense of the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force which has hitherto been borne by us.
In the time of the late Government, when the only defence force for Palestine, outside the Air Squadron, was the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force, and when Palestine was still economically in a reasonably prosperous condition, it was assumed that it was not unreasonable to ask Palestine to pay five-sixths of the cost of a force which was actually stationed outside its boundaries though within the boundary of what is, from the point of view of Geneva, a single mandated area. I fully realised that that payment from Palestine could not be sustained if the economic situation of that country seriously changed for the worse, and I also realise that if at this moment Palestine is called upon to bear any charges for defence it is more natural that she should pay the excess cost of the units actually stationed in Palestine than pay for forces stationed in Trans-Jordan. If I understand rightly the whole essence of what the Under-Secretary has been explaining to us, it is that two things have taken place: Palestine has been relieved to the extent of something like £148,000 of the burden previously imposed upon her, and that what she does pay is now paid only to the extent of one-quarter towards Trans-Jordan, and otherwise is paid towards the Defence Force, i.e., British units stationed in Palestine. I cannot say that in that there is anything with which we need quarrel.
With regard to the Residency in Baghdad, we all know that during the War and immediately afterwards a great deal of money was spent, and that if everything could have been foreseen it would no doubt have been more economical to have built a finer Residency at less cost outside Baghdad. But the Residency being where it is, and the cost of any new Residency being obviously out of the question in these days, I have no doubt that it is right to surround it by rather more space and to separate it from the rather slummy quarter which has hitherto immediately adjoined it. Therefore, I do not know that I would quarrel with that item.
As regards the item for additional Air Force expenditure, there is one point to which I feel bound to draw attention, and that is this: Under the Treaty with Iraq, which has, I believe, been ratified by the Iraq Parliament and will no doubt shortly be ratified by Parliament here, the amount of administrative supervision—I do not say control—which the High Commissioner has been able to exercise in every district of Iraq will, I imagine, be very considerably reduced. At the same time the continued presence of the Air Force in Iraq under the conditions of the Treaty may frequently create a situation in which the Air Force may be called upon to act in support of the Iraq Government's civil and military authorities. It seems to me very essential that we should not be put into the position in which we take action in support of a policy when we have no effective means of knowing how far that policy is justified. We may be called upon, for instance, to bomb Kurdish villages. It may be a perfectly justifiable step to take, from the broad point of view, a true economy of life to do so. But do not let us be put into the position that we shall bomb villages and afterwards find out that the local Iraq officials have really themselves given serious provocation to disturbance or have called upon the Air arm to exercise force when possibly further diplomacy might have avoided the use of force altogether.
I hope we may be assured that, whatever takes place under the Treaty, there will be at any rate such provision as will enable the High Commissioner to have information on the strength of which he can know whether he can justifiably offer the services of the Air Force to the Iraq authorities, or whether he would be justified in giving a warning and saying that under certain conditions he would not sanction that assistance. It is a very important point in a situation where we give and generously desire to give the fullest measure of independence to a Government which is to-day a sovereign Government in alliance with us, but at the same time if under that alliance our forces are available for the service of that Government, we must not be exposed to any possibility of an undesirable use of those services.
From those matters let me turn to what is perhaps the most critical and urgent aspect of the Votes before us. I refer to the position in the West Indies. The hon. Gentleman skated very lightly over the subject of what he referred to as the sugar depression. After all, his own Government sent out a commissioner to report on the situation, and that commissioner brought out one or two salient dominant facts of the situation. The first was that the depression was not due in any sense to mere inefficiency on the part of the sugar industry in the West Indies, but rather was the result of the deliberate fiscal policy of certain other countries, forcing a surplus of sugar on to a far narrower world market—so called, but really only the residual or dumping market—and that that was a situation which, he pointed out in the second place, brought terrible danger to the whole structure of society in those Colonies and indeed to their relations with the mother country. The hon. Gentleman has brushed all that aside by saying that the Olivier Report and the Government's action upon it had been previously discussed. Action is not quite the right word to use in that connection. It is the Government's inaction that is the serious aspect of the situation.
The Government, at first, at any rate made a pretence of having an alternative scheme to the two schemes, one Socialist and one preferential, which Lord Olivier put forward. The hon. Gentleman has mentioned nothing to-day of the fact that the Government's first alternative scheme was brushed aside as practically an insult, by all the Colonies concerned, and that nothing more has been heard of it. What he tells us now is that certain things are to be done for the alleviation of distress as it occurs. Is not that a terrible confession of failure? Is it not far better to take comprehensive measures to prevent distress occurring than, item by item, through little driblets and successive Supplementary Estimates year after year, to dole out charity, to feed people while, at the same time, probably reducing their economic efficiency and in the end leaving the situation worse than it was at the beginning? It seems to me a pity that the dole should now become an export, as well as a domestic policy, and I cannot help feeling that, with regard to the West Indies, the Government are faced with the problem of what they ought to do, on a broad economic scale, to help those Colonies and to help the great British trade interests connected with them. This is not the occasion to enter upon a discussion of preferential policy, but it seems to me that, at any rate, there is this to be said—that such a policy could be carried out, if necessary, not with loss, but indeed with gain to the revenue of the country.
The whole policy announced by the Under-Secretary is obviously a policy for the moment, and not a policy which faces the future at all. We have this extraordinary loan or grant to British Guiana. The hon. Gentleman told us that British Guiana has no resources and is hopelessly in debt, but this £50,000 is still called a loan. It is a loan with no date of repayment indicated; its repayment depends on some share of a hypothetical export duty, which may be imposed some day, when sugar yields a rather higher price than it does at present, and, presumably, also, if at that same date, British Guiana is in a very different position from its present position. I doubt if, from the point of view of the Treasury of this country, it is wise to hang these indeterminate second and third charges round the neck of a struggling Colony. I should have thought that, as in the case of the reconstruction of a company which is in difficulties, it would be far better to make a clean cut. Let the Treasury in this instance make a grant and, later on, when British Guiana is in a better situation, let the Treasury be stiffer in the terms of any assistance given. At this moment the proposal seems to me wholly inadequate and the fact that it is given as a loan, and that it is an indefinite obligation on British Guiana, tends to retard and not to encourage the progress of that unfortunate Colony towards recovery. I am not suggesting that we should divide against this item, inadequate and indeed derisory in some respects as it is, compared with the gravity of the situation, but I feel it essential that we on this side of the House should voice our profound dissatisfaction at the ineffective handling of the grave crisis in the West Indies by His Majesty's Government.
The matter to which I desire to refer falls under the item on the Supplementary Estimate
for a grant-in-aid of the expenses of administration in Dominica and arises out of recent unfortunate events in the Carib reserve in Dominica. These events were first brought to the notice of the House of Commons by an answer of the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to a question put by the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. Graham White). The hon. Member asked:
Whether seeing that disturbances had taken place in Dominica in which a certain number of Caribs have either lost their lives or have been injured, he can make any statement as to the causes of these disturbances and the action taken in the matter.
I may state that the Caribs in Dominica are the few remaining representatives of the ancient race found on the island when it was discovered by Columbus. There are only about 100 pure Caribs to-day and between 400 and 500 halfcastes—between Carib and native African. The answer given to that question was as follows:
The disturbance in Dominica to which the hon. Member refers arose from the smuggling into the Carib quarter of contraband rum and tobacco from the French islands.
The answer continues:
Resistance was offered to the local police who endeavoured to seize the smuggled goods and to arrest offenders. The police were attacked by the Caribs with sticks, stones and firearms and were ultimately compelled to fire on their attackers in self defence. Three policemen were shot and others injured. Five Caribs were wounded, two of whom died of their wounds. The police were forced to withdraw, but, eventually, with the assistance of a party a marines landed from His Majesty's ship 'Delhi,' succeeded in effecting arrests. Legal proceedings have been instituted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1930; cols. 1688–1689, Vol. 244.]
These legal proceedings have now terminated and the result has been to show that the police, without proper warrant, entered the Carib reserve; that it was their action entirely which led to the fracas; that the Caribs drove them out of the reserve, although the police were firing at them; that two Caribs were killed and four others injured, and that the injuries received by the police were of a minor character. After a landing force of bluejackets and marines from
His Majesty's ship "Delhi" had gone into the reserve, 16 of these unfortunate people were arrested and a number of them were committed for trial. Eventually, owing possibly to the fact that a prominent gentleman in the island engaged counsel on their behalf, their case was properly gone into and they were all acquitted by the judge, who was evidently under the impression that they had acted entirely in self-defence. It seems unfortunate, not only that His Majesty's Navy should be called into a fracas of this sort, but that in order to frighten these poor, unfortunate people who are by nature extremely timid and retiring, His Majesty's ship "Delhi" should have gone to the sea borders of the reserve and fired detonators and Verey lights, and frightened these people, so that they all took to the woods.
As the judicial inquiry has come to an end, I now ask that there should be a full inquiry into the whole matter. I understand that some move has been made in that direction and that some promise has been given of a local inquiry, but I ask that this should not be merely an inquiry by the local administration. This matter concerns the action of the police and the action of the administrator in calling on the services of His Majesty's Navy in a matter of this kind. These are exceedingly serious questions, and if an inquiry is granted, it should be an independent authoritative inquiry appointed from outside and not inside the island. I ask the Under-Secretary if such an inquiry can be granted, that certain matters should be gone into, one of these being the status of the Carib reserve and the Carib tribe with a view to the statutory protection of their customary rights and privileges. It has always been understood that the Caribs have enjoyed certain privileges, or exemptions from direct taxation, and that the Carib chief has held a certain independent position, but it has all been very vague in the past, and it would be extremely satisfactory if this could be put on a definite footing for the future.
At the same time I would ask that inquiry should be made into the economic condition of the tribe, as the reserve in which they live is poor, barren land, and I am afraid their economic condition is by no means satisfactory. I think the action of the police in entering the reserve with blank warrants filled in by themselves—it is rather doubtful what they were going to search for—calls for serious inquiry as well as the action of the administrator in calling in His Majesty's Navy to deal with such a petty matter, because these are people to whom he ought to have given the most care and the most sympathetic attention, seeing that they are a poor, timid race living under very unhappy conditions. I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give me some assurance on the lines I have indicated.
I am sure that the Under-Secretary will be grateful to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) for bringing this matter to his attention. We have a far-flung Empire, and incidents of this kind are liable to happen occasionally, but I think that Parliament is always jealous of the rights of people of this kind when such a matter is brought to its notice, and I am certain that the Under-Secretary will be able to satisfy the hon. Member, if not to-day, at any rate later on, on the points he has mentioned. I myself, I may say, knew nothing of the incidents referred to by the hon. Member until he raised the question just now. I join with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in congratulating the Under-Secretary on the very lucid and very helpful manner in which he presented these complicated Estimates. I am sure he will be able to answer the few simple and friendly questions which I intend to address to him. With regard to the Iraq Vote and the question of defence, I think this Committee should be most grateful that we have not to find more money. The reason, of course, is the extraordinary success that has attended the establishment of air control in those vast and regions. The lowest estimate, I understand, which was put down for the Middle East when the military had control was something like £40,000,000 a year; now it costs very little indeed, simply because those regions are very suitable for the use of aeroplanes. The extreme mobility of the air-arm enables huge territories to be controlled and, furthermore, the air-arm has not the same effect of irritating the local people as permanent military occupation has. The mere drone of the aeroplane is enough to restore order, and it has proved a most humane weapon. I was in this region last year, and I visited one of the outlying air stations which was engaged in dealing with a rebellion. Bedouin tribes were brought to surrender without a single casualty simply by the combined action of aeroplanes and armoured cars. The reason I draw attention to this small item is to urge that air control shall be extended to other parts of the Dominions and Colonies.
With regard to the item of £22,000 for removing the Arab village, I must ask my hon. Friend whether these poorer Arabs are being offered other land. Are they willing to remove, or is there some Local Emergency Powers Act being brought to bear? Have they been asked whether they are willing to sell their land, or has it been sold over their heads? I am all in favour of adding to the amenities of the Residency, but I am very jealous indeed for the rights of those poor Arab villagers, the representatives of an ancient civilisation which has a great future before it—a future great Arab federation which will stretch right across the Middle East and be a bulwark of the British Empire so long as these people are properly treated.
I was not aware that the Transjordan Government is providing no part of the cost of the defence force. I am not asking this question of the Under-Secretary to embarrass him. The Committee is being asked every year to find very considerable sums for the upkeep of this force in Transjordan. The echoes of the speech which was delivered on Wednesday of last week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer must not be allowed to die away. In this House we must look twice at every item of expenditure, and this expenditure gives no employment in this country. What is being done to enable the Transjordan Government to balance its budget? This part of the country, where I was twice last year, used to be one of the wealthiest parts of the Roman Empire. It was then a great granary. To-day, it is capable of great development. It is sparsely populated by wandering Bedouin tribes and comparatively few settled Arabs. I understand it has been said that locusts have been responsible for the failure to gather the taxes, and before it was said that it was the turbulence of the inhabitants.
This part of the country only wants diligent cultivators with knowledge and modern methods to make it very wealthy and prosperous, but I am told that no one is allowed to cross the Jordan without special permit and no outside colonists are allowed to go there. There is no question here of evicting ancient settlements of thickly populated agricultural tribes and cultivators of the soil; there are vast empty lands crying out for people to go into them. The immigrants who go there ought to be allowed to have arms for their defence. If citizens of Leeds or Whitechapel or Dundee or Hull went out to Kenya, they would be permitted to have rifles and other arms for self-defence, and the colonists who ought to he encouraged to go to Transjordan and make it self-supporting, would naturally expect to be armed and that the younger men among them would be invited to join the police force. This police force was not able to be used in the disturbances, for political and religious and racial reasons. It could be used only for collecting taxes from the present inhabitants or preventing incursions from semi-settled tribes. But those risks of incursions from the desert are diminishing. This force, for which Palestine pays one-sixth, cannot be used for maintaining and restoring order in Palestine, and therefore I suggest dilution. You should be able to get the younger sons of families to cross over the Jordan. Every year this House is asked to vote those large sums for the defence of this territory. It is a potentially rich territory, with great resources, and it should be settled and developed. Otherwise, this liability will go on for ever. We pay for the native levies, we pay the cost of the British force there and for the British-commanded force, which is a very efficient force from what I saw of it.
Lieut. - Commander KENWO RTHY:
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is always ready to speak up for his own country. The officers of His Majesty's Regular Army are commanding the Transjordan Defence Force. The so-called ex-"Black and Tans" are or were in the Palestine Police Force. I am not talking about the Palestine Police Force, but about the Transjordan Defence Force. I do not want to touch on questions of policy. I am dealing only with practical proposals. I understand there is to come before the House a suggestion for a large loan for the improvement and cultivation of Palestine. I should like to ask whether any part of this loan is to be expended on the improvement and cultivation of the other side of the Jordan, as it is all one mandated territory. Is a part of that loan to be used for the development of Transjordan? If that is the case, is Transjordan going to be open to immigrants? There is Palestine overcrowded, there is scrambling for land and complaints of eviction and so on, while Transjordan, potentially rich and fertile, is wanting people.
I do not want to go into a discussion on policy. There are potential emigrants who would be anxious to go if they were allowed to go in sufficient numbers and were given a sense of security and had their own quota of young men in the police force. There are plenty of people who would be willing to go, and any amount of money is available to support the colonising of that country. Do not let us be put off this constructive policy in a part of the world for which we are responsible by fears or prejudices. Here is a case for a bold and constructive policy, and I commend it to my hon. Friend.
In the course of the very informative and full description, giving much information on his travels, which we have had from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), I could not help feeling that there was but one more river for him to cross, and that was the River Jordan, before he reached the Promised Land. I took down one or two of the things for which he pleaded. The people are to be given modern knowledge, capital, land, houses, money and motor cars. What a delightful life, if I go to Transjordan! If only someone would give them to us here, what a happy land ours would be! Why give them to Transjordan?
With regard to the item of £1,000 additional cost of the British Force stationed in Iraq, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) dealt with the possibility of the Royal Air Force under the future Treaty arrangement being placed at the disposal of the Iraqi authorities by the High Commissioner. Possibly such placing at the disposal of the Iraqi Government would, under the circumstances outlined by the right hon. Gentleman, be unjustified and possibly in every case premature. Where will the line of demarcation come between the Royal Air Force of the British Empire, and the Air Force projected by the Iraqi Government? An officer of the Royal Air Office seconded to the Iraqi Government is in this country for the purpose of purchasing aircraft for the Iraq Air Force. There will presumably have to be a very close liaison between the two Air Forces in order materially to affect the expenditure, for which this House is asked, on the British Air Force in Iraq. I trust that we can have some light on the new development, particularly in its bearing on our expenditure.
I should also like some light thrown on the question of the Residency. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull with regard to the poor Arabs. Is there any form of restriction on their being turned out of their existing habitations? Are they being offered alternative accommodation, and will it be at a higher rental than their old and as satisfactory as their present accommodation? Why should the poor Iraqis have to move 400 yards away? It is some years since I was in the Residency in Bagdad, but then there was clear ground all round it, and I should have thought that between that time and now we could have attempted to consolidate our claims for sufficient cubic space to enable the High Commissioner to breathe in safety and comfort. As our time in Iraq is getting shorter, the expenditure on amenities and comforts is getting greater. Why should not the Iraqi village be rebuilt? Why not spend the money on working the people up to that state of civilisation and sanitation which the hon. and gallant Gentleman and hon. Members on all sides are so anxious should be attained in the outlying parts of the Empire?
It is a contradictory policy to move these gentlemen away and let them live on in unsanitary conditions. Why not let them be educated and have their village rebuilt in such a state that the High Commissioner can live adjacent to them without detriment to himself? One can appreciate the advantage of emancipated areas, but for a Minister representing a Socialist Government to agree to have the indigenous inhabitants moved away, is not likely to make for peace and goodwill. I hope that we shall have a little explanation of the very curious reversal of policy which the Socialist Government have allowed the High Commissioner to bring about in removing the indigenous inhabitants away from him rather than getting into closer and better touch and understanding with them.
Will the Under-Secretary tell us a little more with regard to the grant for expenditure in relief of unemployment in Antigua and St. Kitts-Nevis? Will he also explain the item on the top of page 5 of the Supplementary Estimate, "Grant-in-Aid of expenses of administration, etc., £5,000"? Does the Budget for the year of the expenditure in Antigua show any reduction that will not cause hardship? Have any economies been made in such items as the allowance to the Governor in connection with official entertainments, and so on? I am not anxious to oppose the grant for the relief of the distress that exists in these two islands, but I should like to be assured that every reasonable economy is being practised before they are given more money from the British Treasury. Will the Under-Secretary say, in connection with the employment on the relief work, whether the hired labourer and the small planter are treated on terms of equality? Has the small planter, who has been ruined by the sugar depression, and who is in exactly the same position as the hired labourer, equality in connection with the relief schemes?
I should like to ask why the expenditure on Palestine and Transjordan is not divided. The expenditure on Palestine should form a separate item. Is the Secretary of State for War satisfied that the extra troops, which are now stationed in Palestine, have proper barrack accommodation? I was there a year ago, and the situation was not satisfactory. Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the extra troops required for police duties are satisfactorily housed?
In the Estimates for Palestine and Transjordan the items are put very close together, and I think they might be separated more clearly. On page 6, reference is made to
the capital cost of works services in Palestine for both Forces.
I was under the impression that the money which has been spent in Palestine is partly paid by the Palestine Government, but I do not gather that the money which is spent in Transjordan is in any way a charge on the Palestine Government. I do not think that that is quite clear.
I support the strong plea made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) with regard to Transjordan. Anyone who has been to that country knows, even by looking at the soil, that it has great possibilities. It is to be hoped that something will be done to encourage people to go there, so that the Government of the country will be able to have money and at least a balanced budget. The sum of £200,000 which is down for the defence of the country is very large indeed, but I presume that it is large because the force consists of cavalry. Has any account been taken of the question of replacing the cavalry by mechanised transport, by whippets and that sort of thing? I fought in that part of the country, and it is the kind of country where mechanised devices of that kind can be used to advantage and with a considerable saving on the accounts. With regard to the position of the defence force in Palestine, it is clear that the battalions of British soldiers could very well look after the towns. The only people who need defence are those who live in Jewish colonies.
When the late Lord Plumer was in Palestine, he allowed each of the Jewish colonies to have arms which were kept under lock and key under the control of a responsible man in the country. How far has this system been allowed to go on or extended? This defence force would be very valuable for the people in the colonies. Many of the colonists are ex-soldiers, and in all the events of last year not one Arab village was attacked by the Jews. The whole of the defence lies with the colonists themselves, and I would ask that, if possible, this means of defence should be extended. I am certain no one in the Committee would suggest that the Jewish colonists would do anything at all to abuse the privilege which I hope my hon. Friend will be able to give to them.
All who have had any association with the West Indies will appreciate the very depressing condition in which they now are, and no one will desire to withhold from them an expression of sympathy in the difficulties through which they are passing, and which have arisen from causes almost entirely beyond their control. We know something of the heroic way in which a comparatively small body of men in the British West Indies are maintaining an industrial position of extreme difficulty, upon the maintenance of which depends the livelihood and welfare of a vast population. In spite of all temptations, and we know there have been many temptations offered to them, they wish to remain within the British Empire. When speaking of the loans to British Guiana the Under-Secretary said the prospect of repayment is remote. I hope he will tell us what are the Treasury terms attached to those loans, and also what ameliorative measures His Majesty's Government have in contemplation instead of loans and mere relief works.
The main market for the sugar crop of British Guiana is in Canada, and I should like to know whether the British Government is taking any steps in conjunction with the Canadian Government to devise a better market, and better marketing, for the sugar crop. The Under-Secretary knows what a keen and practical interest Canada is now taking in that as well as in the other British West Indian islands, and it would be a really substantial measure of progress in Imperial policy if we could find a basis of co-operative action between ourselves and Canada in helping the British West Indies on to their feet again. One of the items in the Estimate relates to loans in aid of expenses of administration in British Guiana. In recent times interesting investigations have been carried on at the expense of the local administration to see whether the class of rice produced, the methods of producing it, and the marketing of it, cannot be improved. I do not know whether any part of this item now before us relates to that branch of expenditure, but if it does I hope the Under-Secretary will tell us something of the prospects of improving rice cultivation in that colony.
I do not know, also, whether the administrative expenses in regard to roads come under this item. At home we are talking of lavish road development, and I wonder whether the Under-Secretary can add anything to what he was good enough to tell me yesterday in regard to British-Canadian proposals which have been before his Department for road developments in the hinterland of British Guiana, where there are large, almost illimitable, richnesses of timber. If it is possible to encourage British-Canadian industrial co-operation to develop the hinterland we shall do a great deal to relieve future Votes of these grants-in-aid of administration and relief.
As the late Secretary of State for the Colonies indicated, the time is ripe for a far bolder attack on the whole question of Empire development than we are pursuing. Unfortunately, this question has been intermingled with party politics in a curious way, and we are losing the larger vision. There are illimitable opportunities for development and administration on these lines; and I wish we in this House could realise that these West Indian Islands, like other parts of the Empire, are not hungering for doles. They are tired of doles, they do not want charity, but they do ask for statesmanship, and I hope the day is soon coming when we shall get it.
I notice in the Estimates that grants amounting to £112,000 have been made to British Guiana for the relief of unemployment arising from the crisis in the sugar industry, and I would ask the Under-Secretary to tell us something about the conditions to which those grants are subject. We in this House can have nothing but a feeling of sympathy for the tragedy that has befallen these islands. They are the victims of a world policy of dumping which is one of the most difficult of all our modern economic problems when it comes to devising adequate remedies. The inhabitants of the West Indian Islands are much more handicapped than we are, in the sense that they have entrusted their fortunes very largely to a single industry, and I would like to know whether the Under-Secretary is satisfied that in what we are doing for those unfortunate fellow subjects we are making the most of our Labour party policy of work first and maintenance afterwards. Is he satisfied that the economic policy of the island has been devised in such a way as to throw up alternative methods of permanent employment as distinct from relief works, and that this grant of £112,000 is likely to help in that direction? Members on all sides of the House will agree that we have a common duty as citizens to stand by the people in the West Indian Islands, and it is of the greatest importance that we should take a long view and ask ourselves whether the money will help in getting a better economic policy for these people, who are about as unfortunately situated as people in any part of the British Empire.
This Estimate discloses a really desperate state of affairs so far as the West Indies and British South America are concerned. It has been a commonplace for many years that the financial condition of the West Indian Islands and British Guiana has been anything but what one could wish. In past days it did not matter so much, because they had only to come here for a loan or financial assistance of some kind; but to-day, faced as we are at home with a possible Budget deficit estimated at anything from £20,000,000 to £50,000,000, the time is shortly coming when we shall not be able to give them that assistance for which they have looked, and not looked in vain, for such a long time. A large part of this money is to be used in aid of administration and expenditure. We see the headings:
Grant-in-Aid of expenses of administration.
Additional Grant-in-Aid of expenses of administration.
Grant-in-Aid of expenses of administration.
Loan, on terms to be prescribed by the Treasury, in aid of expenses of administration.
Is it not possible to convey to these Colonies that the time has come when they must cut their coat according to their cloth? They will probably say that their unsatisfactory financial position is due to the slump in the sugar trade—that is true—and that when the sugar trade improves their prosperity will grow with it; but what chance is there of the sugar trade improving? There was a time, a great many years ago, when the West Indies were the great sugar-producing centre of the world, but that centre has shifted far during the last two generations, and the sugar beet industry of Europe and of this country has not only competed with but has to all intents and purposes killed the sugar industry of the West Indies. Remarkable progress has been made in the cultivation of sugar beet in Europe during late years. The root has been developed to such an extent that the sugar content is in many cases anything from 20 to 25 per cent., and I think I am right in saying that there is only one type of sugar cane which equals, or exceeds, the sugar content of good European sugar beet. I would like to know whether that particular type of sugar cane is being experimented with, not only in the West Indian islands but also in British Guiana.
Sooner or later something will have to be done to develop the great potentialities of British Guiana. The country is almost illimitable in its possibilities. First of all there is the low, flat coastal land, alluvial soil, which was formerly below the sea. At some pre-historic period it was raised above the sea level—but only just above; so that in many cases it requires both protection from erosion and drainage. That is the great sugar producing belt of British Guiana. The position of the sugar trade being what it is, what is being done to develop and to encourage alternative crops in that rich area As far as I am aware, all that has been attempted is to develop the cultivation of rice, and up to the present the rice grown there cannot com- pete in quality or in price with the rice grown in Burma—at least, I believe I am right in saying so; and as far as this country is concerned British Guiana rice is almost unknown. What are the possibilities of growing fruit there for the American market? Is it impossible to grow it or do the American tariffs make the trade an impossibility?
At present the principal fruit trade of British Guiana is done with Canada. Surely it is possible to develop that trade with Canada. It seems a disastrous pity that all this money, small though the amounts be, should be used to meet the expenses of administration. Surely it would be better to grant a larger sum and use it for development. The possibilities of British Guiana, and the Hinterland have been practically untouched, owing to the lack of transport facilities. The river traffic has not been developed, and for the last few years the rivers have been used by a very small number of obsolete steamers. I want to know if anything is going to be done to improve that service, and what is being done to develop the Hinterland with its magnificent wealth of timber. Beyond that we have the open plains extending beyond the Brazilian border which are practically untouched. What is being done to provide facilities to tap that source?
We have heard some talk of a road being made through the forest belt towards the Venezuelan frontier, and I would like to know to what extent those roads have been constructed. Have the authorities there considered whether it is possible to build a railway? I agree that a road is easier and cheaper to construct on account of the steep gradients which can be more easily overcome by road transport. It is quite a commonplace to say that gradients to reach the Hinterland must be of a very steep character. The objection I have to this item, as far as this part of the world is concerned, is that this money is not being used for that purpose. Some of this expenditure ought to be curtailed, and larger sums granted to develop the potential wealth of these islands.
With regard to the sugar trade of the West Indies, I should like to know whether the special type of sugar cane which is being grown in Cuba and the Philippines is being experimented with in the British Colonies. It seems to me that that is the only chance we have of rehabilitating the sugar trade in the West Indies. The Americans are very largely supplied with sugar from Cuba and the Philippines. The European market is more self-supporting, but the Canadian market is still open. If we can develop the same type of sugar cane, and if by scientific experiments we can improve the sugar content to anything like the extent to which the content of sugar beet has improved, there is a prospect that the trade of British Guiana may be improved.
I want to deal for a few moments with the question which was raised by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton)—whom I regret not to see in his place—relating to the Caribs. It has been stated that an unjustifiable attack was made upon them by the captain of a British ship, H.M.S. "Delhi," the name of which I do not remember. It is said that the Caribs are a very shy and primitive people. That may be so, but I think there is a limit to their shyness, and they beat up the police, and, if I may use such a phrase for such a people, they beat them if good. What is the complaint made against the captain of the British ship? It must be remembered that the captain was urged to go to the assistance of the local authorities. We have been told that the police got the worst of it in the disturbance. The captain of the ship let off some fireworks, but he did not injure these primitive people either in their property or their persons. Although the use of fireworks may have an alarming effect in this case, the display did not do any permanent harm to the nerves of these people. I think the course adopted by the captain was a proper one, because it is much better to do this kind of thing by a demonstration than taking steps which would excite the people and do damage to their property as well. I should be the last person to suggest that these primitive people should be harshly treated, but we must remember that they have considerable privileges which we may envy them and are not subject to any direct taxation.
I pass from this question to the Middle Eastern services to other items in this Vote. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has raised the question of the control of the Air Force in Iraq, and I wish to go into the question in greater detail. The Iraq Government maintain their own force, while there is a certain part of the Air Force which we have to maintain. I would like to ask the hon. Member who is now responsible for safeguarding and protecting the aerodromes of the Air Force in Palestine a question as to the control of that force. There are two main areas in which trouble may occur. There is the Mosul area. There in Kurdistan it must always be possible that a force may be used for a purpose which, if we had complete control, we should not permit. I understand that the Government of Iraq might call upon the Air Force in a manner which might lead to incidents which we might regret. When we remember the large desert front which has to be protected, the situation is very different owing to the possibility of raids by desert tribes which might require instant action by the Air Force if the local tribes are to be properly protected. We are aware of the pretensions of the Air Force in dealing with naval affairs. But this success over the camel, the ship of the desert, is all that they can claim up to the present. We all agree that there is no force better suited for that purpose than the Air Force, and arrangements should be made whereby it will be possible for them to act as soon as an alarm is raised.
I would like to raise a point in connection with the Transjordan Frontier Force. On the question of defence, the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies has told us that, two battalions are now being quartered permanently in Palestine. Anyone who has taken an interest in this matter, must welcome the announcement that a considerable force of Crown troops have been quartered in Palestine, and that this task of keeping law and order has not been handed over to any other force. I would like to ask which troops have been despatched. Are they two battalions from the Regular Army and where have they been taken from? Will the sending of these two battalions necessitate the embodiment of two more battalions which have been disbanded? As far as I understand the position, the regular battalions are now fully occu- pied. It is notorious that the Government have made a reduction in the number of our battalions since the War, and I am wondering how it will be possible to raise two battalions for this purpose. Where will they come from, and will it involve any additional Army Estimates or the raising of any fresh troops?
I was very much surprised by the tone of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) in dealing with the point which he raised with regard to the disturbances in Dominica. I really do not think that, in bringing forward this point, which to my mind is an important one to bring before the House of Commons, the hon. Gentleman appreciated what the situation must have been. Dominica is an extremely mountainous island, very sparsely inhabited, where it is extremely difficult to get any real economic advance, because the climatic and geological conditions are unique even in the West Indies and are almost baffling to mankind. Probably Dominica will always be the most beautiful to look at, but the least productive, of all the Lesser Antilles. It is, perhaps, for this reason that, in the remote parts of that island, there remain the last remnants of the aborigines of the West Indies. The vast bulk of the population are negroes, and there are just these comparatively few families of Caribs.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland made very heavy weather in regard to the timidity and the retiring nature of these people, but certainly that is not my experience. When I went into the interior of Dominica, they seemed to be anything but timid or retiring. Physically, they were an extremely lusty-looking people, and, so far from being the sort of people who would be in the least frightened by anything, I think the circumstantial evidence that we heard from the hon. Member regarding their handling of the negro police bears out what I am saying. I am confident that, so far from there being grounds for regretting that, when a conflict takes place between the negro police in Dominica and the Caribs, His Majesty's Navy should land men to intervene, I think that that is probably by far the best thing that could be done. I remember, during my time at the Colonial Office, more than one incident, in the South Sea Islands, I think, in particular, which showed what delicate situations may arise when the native police, in the ordinary execution of their police duties, come up against some other tribe or race in these out-of-the-way places. In such cases there is nearly always trouble, but I say quite frankly that there is very much less trouble if a white man, a representative of the British Government and the British authorities, can go and settle matters, rather than that more police of the same kind should be sent. I think that the Administrator was absolutely right in asking the naval cruiser, or whatever it was, to send a party to clear up this trouble which had occurred, and, so far from regretting the methods adopted by the naval officer in approaching the Caribs, I believe, from the account given by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, that they were absolutely right, and that that was just the way in which things of this sort ought to be dealt with.
If a lot of people are making a disturbance, and you start to attack them, there will immediately be casualties, and even if you start firing shots over people's heads, undoubtedly anything may happen; but if, when you arrive, you make a certain amount of noise, run up flags, and so on, they know that there is something special happening, the head man usually comes out, and the British officer can immediately hear the complaints against the police and see that justice is done. It is quite obvious that, where a disturbance of that kind has taken plane, what was referred to by the hon. Member as the arrest of the leading people in the Carib reserve must, I should have thought, take place. The matter must be cleared up, and it is not a very serious matter in the tropics to put them on to a cruiser, run them round, and clear the matter up on the spot. We think of these matters in terms of all the forms of a highly complex civilisation such as we have here, and, when things like this happen, in the tropics, we imagine a good deal, and read into the accounts much more than there really is in them from the point of view of the people who actually live under those conditions.
I want next to refer to the fact that the main headings of the West Indian items in this Estimate are all grants in aid of administration. What does that mean? It means that there has been a collapse of the revenues of the sugar-growing islands, owing, of course, to the refusal of the Government to put into operation any of the recommendations of Lord Olivier's Commission. I will not, however, labour that point. I have laboured it often before, and shall do so again at the appropriate time; but I realise that in this matter the Chancellor of the Exchequer, more particularly, is quite obdurate, and, as he has raised objections to doing anything that Lord Olivier suggests, it seems to me that the only other course that can be adopted is to do what, is possible to reduce, and I should say permanently to reduce, the cost of administration in these small islands.
I want to ask the hon. Gentleman what attitude is being adopted in this connection by the Colonial Office in the face of these demands for grants in aid of administration in the case of this chain of islands in the Lesser Antilles—whether they contemplate doing what I believe ought to be done, and what has now become a really urgent matter of practical policy, namely, doing away with at least two governorships—those of the Leeward Islands and of the Windward Islands—and only having one Governor in Trinidad, with just a skeleton administration in the other Antilles? At present each of them has its own legislative council, and administers the whole panoply of government, with a complex federation, particularly in the case of the Leeward Islands; and the overhead charges of government are greater than the economic resources of these islands are, or in my view are ever likely to be, unless great changes in world sugar prices occur, able to afford again. Therefore, I think that this question, which is sometimes called "West Indian Federation," must be taken up as an immediate practical issue, and something must be done before further demands are made upon this House for grants in aid of administration such as these.
I quite realise the great difficulties that are in the way. It means, probably, superseding or, at any rate, reducing the powers of, a certain number of these elective or semi-elective bodies. There are all the little historical differences in status and form between the islands, the tradition that Antigua has been the centre of governorship, and all the rest of it, and, inevitably, the conservative and traditional forces of that kind have to be considered. I do think, however, that the time has come when the policy—Barbados will have to be left out—of having just one Governor at Trinidad, paying, quite frankly, very occasional visits up and down the islands, and having merely administrators in charge of them, with no elaborate legislative federation, but treating them all as, so to speak, dependencies of Trinidad, is probably the policy that will have to be pursued. I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman can give me any information as to whether any move is being made by his Noble Friend in that direction, because I feel that the time has come when that question has to be brought out and faced anew.
I see that by far the largest single item of the West Indian section of this Estimate, amounting to more than a quarter of the total, is for unemployment relief grants in British Guiana. British Guiana, on the mainland of South America, is a large country, which, again, is rather like Dominica. It is, perhaps, not quite so bad as Dominica, but it is a country which has hitherto baffled the efforts, first of the Dutch, and then of ourselves, really to harness its potential resources. The population is very small, and is mainly confined to that narrow coastal strip which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North West Hull (Sir A. Lambert Ward) described as having been pushed up ages ago, while a great part of it has been within historical times reclaimed from the Atlantic. A considerable proportion of the population of British Guiana has lived, and is living, below sea level, or, at any rate, below high water mark, and the sugar and rice plantations and fields are largely in a very narrow strip of land close to the sea. I would ask the hon. Gentleman whether this £112,000 of unemployment relief grants is being expended literally as doles to the unemployed, to the Indian and negro labourers who have been thrown out of work by the collapse of the sugar industry; or whether it is being used for financing public works, and, if so, of what kind. British Guiana has already spent literally millions upon sea defences, and upon drainage, dykes and the rest of it, and it is a perpetual problem to keep this work going at all.
There is a matter which was raised by my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in this connection, and on which he has asked me to put on his behalf a few questions to the Under-Secretary. My Noble Friend is anxious to know whether any of this money is being spent in special anti-malaria work. Admittedly a Colony in a warm climate, which needs opening up by means of land settlement with labourers, must have a good name, and undoubtedly, for some reason or other, particularly in India, British Guiana has the reputation of being particularly malarious and unhealthy. I am not sure that it is really any more malarious than any other part of the tropics with a high rainfall. Wherever in the tropics there is a high rainfall—and the climate in British Guiana is often very wet—you have a certain amount of malaria. The question that my Noble Friend wants me to ask is whether any of this money is being earmarked especially for anti-malaria work. It is true that in the old days, when the Dutch fashion of building and town planning still prevailed, there were stagnant canals in practically every urban settlement, but those days have gone by, such canals as are left are oiled, and the malaria problem is really the problem of that extensive anti-malaria work which has to go on in tropical countries, like West Africa for example, where it is not so much a matter of specific work as of constant propaganda to all householders urging them to keep down the number of mosquitos, to use mosquito nets, and to take quinine regularly.
I want to know, in connection with British Guiana expenditure, whether any of this money is being expended upon endeavouring to settle the wage-earning population that has been turned off the closed-down sugar estates on holdings in the North-Western part of the country. One has heard from year to year in connection with British Guiana that, away from the old settlements around Demerara and Berbice, there is what is called the Corentyne coast, an admirable land, not under high forest, which would be easily harnessed and brought under cultivation if only some population could be got to go and live there. I am not at all sure, looking to the future of British Guiana, whether peasant settlement of that kind had not better be started with people who have been born and bred in the country, rather than by elaborately worked out settlement schemes for inducing new colonists to come from other parts of the West Indies, and even from India, to take up this vacant land on the Corentyne coast. I wonder if any of this grant is being spent in that direction, because we want an effective experiment to see whether it will succeed.
My hon. Friend talked about alternative crops. It ice has been produced very largely as an alternative crop to sugar and I understand, although the rice industry is comparatively young, that it is steadily gaining ground and improving in quality and yield. The British Guiana Commission proposed the introduction of the ground nut. I believe it has been tried but I have heard various accounts. Certainly the soil, such as one sees, is not very rich. As a matter of fact, a great deal of it looks just the sort of rather sandy soil in which one sees the ground nut growing in West Africa. I understand there have been great difficulties in introducing the ground nut in British Guiana and, if the hon. Gentleman could give me any information on the point, I should be extremely grateful. The difficulty I can imagine is whether you get a dry time at the right time for harvesting the nuts. That, of course, is absolutely essential, and the rainfall there is capricious. Could the hon. Gentleman tell me whether the bulk of the unemployed are East Indians or negroes? Because, again looking to the future, it is all important that public opinion in India should know what is being done for the East Indians who are permanently settled there. If any more are to be induced to go from Madras—and the Madras population is singularly suitable to the conditions there—it is all important that they should know exactly what is being done for their fellow—countrymen who are now settled there.
The whole of this Vote arises from sugar, with the exception of the hurricane in Dominica. The outlook for sugar is still pretty black from the British producers' point of view. We must remember the basic fact that every acre of beet sugar, not only in this country but in the world, is grown at an uneconomic price and would never be grown at all if it was not for subsidies and tariffs. You cannot, even with the remarkable improvements that have been made as the result of scientific development, grow beet sugar and produce it per ton as cheaply as you can cane sugar in the tropics. Of course, you can produce cane sugar per ton in Java cheaper than in any country in the world owing to its peculiar advantages of soil and climate, and probably Cuba comes next. The peculiar problem of the West Indies is not that they cannot produce sugar much cheaper than we can produce good beet sugar in this country. Their costs of production are certainly slightly higher than in Java and Cuba. The reason is that you have not in the British West Indies the same vast area under sugar than you have in Cuba and Java. Cuba has produced 5,000,000 in a year and Java 3,000,000 tons. I suppose the maximum production of the highest producer of the British West Indies, British Guiana, has been 250,000 tons. The scale of operations in Cuba and Java has enabled them to have science and a staff of scientists and to afford a scale of operations, a scale of factories and a scale of labour organisation which is extremely difficult in these comparatively small British Colonies, with small capital resources, small revenues and a small population. In Java you have 42,000,000 people. On the research station in Java alone the sugar industry spends £100,000 a year, more than the total revenues of more than one of these British sugar Colonies.
The problem of scientific advance in the British sugar Colonies is one of the most baffling that has ever been before the Colonial Office. My hon. Friend alluded to the breeding of sugar canes. No sooner is one cane brought into cultivation in Java and Cuba than it is already regarded as obsolete, and they breed better and better. They breed for higher yields. The cane introduced in Java in the year I was there—a real example of rationalisation—put on between 15 and 20 per cent. to the yield in one year over the previous variety, and the scientists said it would be com- pletely obsolete in five years. Therefore, it is not a question of introducing these canes from Cuba or from Java. As a matter of fact, nearly all the cane breeding work has to be done to fit particular local conditions. The Java cane, for instance, has in its family tree a particular reed, which is not sugar cane at all, which is desired to make it resistant to a particular local insect which is only found there, and there are all kinds of refinements of that kind. Each of these Colonies has to breed its own cane. The cane that will succeed in Barbados will not do in British Guiana and vice versa. The whole problem of sugar cane breeding is one of the great scientific problems and, admittedly, the British Empire has been behindhand in the matter. This is not the first grant there has been from the Imperial Parliament for haling out West Indian sugar. The cause of these periodic crashes in the West Indian revenues, periodic doles to the West Indian workers, periodic loss of capital and exodus of the European population which has been going on for many years, is that, owing to the fiscal system of this country, they have been at a grave disadvantage compared with their competitors, who are all linked up into subsidy and tariff arrangements which they do not share. The French Colonies are treated as part of France, having a scale of preference incredibly above anything we have ever given to our Colonies. Cuba is specially favoured by the United States and our sugar is shut out. The Danish West Indies are developing a great protected sugar industry, the envy of our people, because they have advantages which our Colonies do not get from us.
I want to make one remark in regard to the latter item in the Estimate. I was very much interested to hear the reasons given by the Under-Secretary for the purchase of Naboth's Vineyard in Baghdad. Apparently, it is on high medical advice and sanitary recommendation that the Arab squatter is to be removed to a distance of at least 400 yards from the British Residency. That is probably a good thing for both parties and I am sure that the Arab will be given a square deal for a transaction which is going to cost us £22,000. But I am not afraid that the Colonial Office will do an injustice to these gentlemen. I am interested that the hon. Gentleman should have given the reason that he has, and I hope it will be quoted in future when we come to this vexed problem of what is called segregation in townships. One of the great grievances of the Indian community in Kenya, for example, is that their bazaar is removed so far from the centre of the European quarter, and they emphatically object to any segregation at all. I am rather glad the hon. Gentleman has given this reason, that in these countries it is desirable that the races should not be huddled up together. It cuts both ways.
We in Europe have become acclimatised to certain types of complaint. From pulmonary complaints we get bronchitis, and we are used to it. If a native or a non-European inhabitant catches this complaint, he has it very much worse than we do. He has none of our inherited and acquired immunity. Similarly, in West Africa, there are considerable numbers of natives who are carriers of yellow fever, but are hardly affected by it. They have a certain degree of immunity from its effects. But, if a mosquito bites an immune native who is a carrier of yellow fever and then bites a European, that European is probably dead. It is desirable in places of this kind that these matters should not be dealt with on the basis of political idealism and the cry of racial equality and freedom and the like but should be settled upon sound scientific principles, which certainly dictate that in townships in tropical and Oriental countries it is in the interests of all races that they should not live huddled together, but that there should be segregation in their town planning. Although it is extremely unpopular to say it, I am glad there is an item in this Supplementary Estimate which bears that out, and it is justified on that ground alone.
I want to say only a few words on one question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), I think for the first time in these Debates, showed some democratic feeling. He has made speech after speech in the House, especially on the Colonies and the West Indian Colonies, and I have looked in vain until to-day for any speck of anything ap- proaching a democratic instinct. I agree with him in several of the views which he has expressed to-day, but I must say he got rather hazy when he started to discuss the questions of malaria, of germs and immunities. As a medical man, I can excuse that because it is a very difficult problem to the medical profession, and if it is difficult for those who are qualified, it is still more difficult for the layman.
I want to confine myself particularly to the administration in the West Indian islands. I would respectfully remind the Committee that in these islands officialdom is paramount all the time. In most islands the people have absolutely no chance of expressing their views at all, and in those islands in which there is a chance of expressing their views, the franchise is restricted to a few so that practically the bulk of the population are shut out. Reference is made to the question of reducing the costs of administration. I agree with the remark that was made that the Governorships of the Windward and Leeward islands should be abolished. That would save at least £7,000. I do not think that this Committee realise how year after year grants have to be made by the Imperial Government to those islands, many of which have a lower public debt than we have in this country. Year after year, for example, Dominica has been getting grants; in 1925–26 an Imperial grant of £30,000, in 1926–27 an Imperial grant of £24,500; in 1927–28 an Imperial grant of £8,500; and so on.
All this money could be saved if only the local people had a chance, by the extension of democratic government, to govern themselves. The time has now come when the West Indian Colonies should have a chance of being able to have some say in the matter of the cost of the administration. Money could be saved in many ways. It could be saved, for example, by having a democratic system such as has been advocated by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies with regard to Ceylon. Money would be saved in various ways by making it possible for people to have a say in the matter. It would save groups of salaries. In most of these islands, many of which are only 12 miles broad by 16 miles long, there is a Chief Justice, at a salary of £1,000, an Attorney-General, a Treasurer, a Colonial Secretary and so on, all drawing salaries. It has been urged time and time again by the West Indians themselves that they are being asked to bear a cost of administration which cannot possibly be justified in any possible way, either by the resources of the Colony, by population, or in any other way.
All that I want to do is to put in a plea for these people and to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether, in his reply with regard to this matter, he will give some hope to these people who are constantly asking the Colonial Office for an extension of democratic government in order that they may save money by way of taxation, and by way of reducing administrative costs and things of that kind. I hope that he will be able to do something, and give these people some hope in the near future that the Labour Government are going to do something in that direction. The Labour Government have appointed many Commissions, and, therefore, one more Commission would not make very much difference. These islands can bear the cost of a Commission. A Commission has been promised on the question of education. Why stop at education? Why not send out a Commission to investigate the whole question of the costs of administration in these Colonies and the abolition of governorships.
I am sorry, Mr. Dunnico, but I am only dealing with the question of administration. I am culy asking that the request made by these Colonies that the cost of their administration should be reduced should be looked at in a democratic way and considered favourably by the Colonial Office. That is all I am asking to-night. I could say a lot upon the sugar question, I could deal with the question of fiscal policy—the fiscal policy of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is all wrong—and I could deal with the question of how saving could be effected and the question of tariffs, but I want to ask my hon. Friend in his reply to-night to hold out some hope to these Colonies that the cost of administration will be reduced. It would also do good to the taxpayers in this country if these continual grants to these Colonies could be avoided in the future.
In the course of the discussion of these Estimates, the one fact which has emerged this afternoon is that there seems to be a unanimous feeling on both sides of the Committee as to whether something cannot be done to reduce the cost of administration in the West Indies. I rise to ask the Minister if he can give us a further explanation about the manner in which these Estimates are presented. In a general way, I understand that the grants-in-aid of local revenues are in the main grants given to these various islands to cover deficiencies in the local administration, and that, on the other hand, special grants for certain West Indian islands arise more especially out of the state of emergency which has recently arisen in the islands. In dealing with the accounts, the two classes seem to be somewhat strangely mixed up. In the case of St. Lucia, which is under the heading "Grants-in-Aid of Local Revenues," there is a special note to the effect that this extra sum is required for, and is entirely due to, what I may call the present emergency. That is to say, loss of revenue through sugar. When you come to the second heading, there are Antigua and British Guiana. They appear in both categories. They are getting grants in aid of local administration, and also grants on account of the present emergency. Coming to the second category—special grants to certain West Indian Colonies—there is one island—St. Kitts—Nevis, which has had a special grant on account of the emergency, but it does not appear by these accounts to have any need, or to have had any need, for a grant-in-aid for administration. Could the Minister, in his reply, tell us something about that matter? How is it that this particular island, which suffered as much as other islands, is, apparently, not to be provided for by way of an extra grant in administration? It seems to me that these different accounts should be kept quite separate. It is desirable that one should be able to see over a period of years what money these different islands have received by way of administration grants pure and simple, and also what moneys they have received as special grants.
There is another question I wish to ask the Minister. It is in connection with what he terms the special loan of £50,000 to British Guiana. Will he explain how that sum is treated in the accounts? In the Supplementary Estimate it is put down as a loan, but, as I understand it, it is, nevertheless, to be treated in the Estimates of this country as an expenditure. I do not understand how a thing can be treated in one account as a loan and in another account as current expenditure. If it is to be treated in these Estimates as a loan, there ought to be some other way of providing for it in our own Estimates. The hon. Gentleman, in his opening speech, said something about transferring a sum of £50,000—I take it that it was the same £50,000—from the Crown Agents to the Treasury Account. Can he give some explanation of that? If it is, in fact, a loan as far as British Guiana is concerned, will it not be the first time that a loan actually debited to a British Colony has been transferred from the Crown Agents' account and debited to the Treasury?
While we are on these Estimates, I desire to say a word or two in reference to one item which appears on page 5 and deals with the Transjordan Frontier Force. As the Committee may remember I was one of the members of the Commission who went out in the autumn before last to inquire into the disturbances of August, 1929. I am quite certain that I speak both for the hon. Member for East Woolwich (Mr. Snell) and also for the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Morris), when I say that that country and this country owe a very great debt of gratitude to the action of the Transjordan Frontier Force during those disturbances. May I in a word or two state, first of all, what their constitution is and what they did? As the Committee may know, there are in the Transjordan Frontier Force four companies. I am not at all sure whether one of them is mechanised. At that time there were three horse companies and one camel company, and at the time of the outbreak three out of the four companies were at Zerka which is their headquarters away in the desert about 100 miles east of Jerusalem. The force consisted, and does now, as far as I know, of 630 or 640 men, and is commanded by a British officer of great distinction in Colonel Shute, being recruited partly from Moslem Arabs, Christian Arabs, Sudanese and Jews. I was very much struck by the successful effort of the commanding officer of that force to foster a spirit of esprit de corps in the regiment, and to impress upon them that they are a military force owing allegiance to His Majesty the King, and that it is no business or concern of theirs to have anything to do with local politics.
How successful that training has been was shown by what happened during the disturbances of August, 1929. So far as I recollect—I have not had time to refresh my memory as to the details—a message came to them about 4.30 on 23rd August that disturbances had broken out. That evening the camel company set off for Jericho and reached Jericho next afternoon, performing the astonishing feat of marching 90 kilometres in 18 hours, the temperature at the time being 115 in the shade. The horse company, I think it was "C" company, was sent out to a place called Jisz-Mejamieh, which is higher up the Jordan, for the purpose, in part, of protecting the great Ruttenberg works. One detachment of that company was sent to Bersan and another detachment of the company was sent up to Safed, places where disturbances were apprehended. Both detachments were for a considerable time under the command of local officers, and those local officers in command of small detachments, by their action, undoubtedly prevented the outbreaks from assuming far greater proportions than they did. Nothing gave me more satisfaction than the fact that there was put in evidence before us at the Commission the appreciation of the Jews of the services which the Transjordan Frontier Force had rendered. I have in my hand a copy of a Memorandum which Mr. Bensvi, on behalf of the General Council of the Jewish community, dated 13th September, 1929, put before us. This is the last paragraph:
We should like particularly to thank the British troops, the British police and all those officers of the Civil Service who have volunteered as special constables and who have devoted time and energy and risked their lives for the lofty objective and
have thereby contributed to the restoration of quiet, to our guests, the Oxford students, who have cared neither for their energy nor for their lives and have brought dear sacrifices, and to the Transjordan Frontier Force whose British officers and Whose men have distinguished themselves in the maintenance of order in the northern district.
A second note that I have is signed on behalf of the Workers' Federation of Mutual Colonies:
We certify that the officer, Amin Bek
he was one of the local officers in charge of one of the detachments of the horse company which was sent to Jisz-Mejamieh—
who was here from the 26th up till now, has suppressed two attacks on us by Arabs of the vicinity. We express our thanks to this officer and to the whole troop for their fine behaviour and devoted work in defending our colony and in restoring the good order.
The place from which that note was written is Beit Alfa. One of the detachments of which I spoke was sent to Beit Alfa to protect that colony, which was threatened with attack. The colony was, indeed, very seriously attacked, and it is a matter of great congratulation that while this detachment of the Frontier Force was there—I think I am right in what I say—not a Jew was either wounded or killed.
This force, and its constitution and its action, may not be as well known in this country and in this House as they ought to be, and on that account I wish to make this recognition of the work they did, because I feel the Committee would like to know it. I did not see the camel company, but I saw the other three companies on many occasions, and no one who saw them could fail to be impressed by the appearance, general turn-out and behaviour of the troops. I am certain that they are a very fine force, of which the officers, and particularly Colonel Shute, may be extremely proud, and of which this House and this country should be proud also.
It is true that, generally speaking,
East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet
but they do meet on page 5 of this Supplementary Estimate. I do not apologise, even after the eloquent description of the Iraq defence force to which we have just listened, for bringing back the Debate for a short time to the question of the
West Indian colonies. My interest and my limited knowledge are confined more to that part of the globe than to the Middle or the Far East. In reading through the Supplementary Estimate, I am appalled by the proof of how entirely inadequate a grasp His Majesty's Government have of the problem that is arising in that old colony of ours, the West Indies. It seems as if it is being treated rather on the same lines that we have tried to treat a similar problem here at home. When I see in this Estimate that we are giving a grant-in-aid of the expenses of administration necessitated by a fall in revenue owing to the sugar crisis, and that a little later on I find that there is provision for expenditure for the relief of unemployment due to the present crisis, I ask myself what is the use of frittering away the taxpayers' money of this country on that kind of thing, tinkering with the mere fringe of the problem and not approaching a solution of the real problem.
On previous occasions the attention of whatever Government has been in office has been called to the world crisis in the commodity of sugar, which has such a menacing outlook in the West Indies. His Majesty's present Government sent out the Olivier Commission to investigate the situation there, and they paid very scant attention to the very urgent report of the Commission. The method of approach to the problem in the Supplementary Estimate is trifling, because it does not envisage the situation. Even if we admit that the amount of expenditure in the Supplementary Estimate is trivial, it is waste when directed in this particular way. What is the policy of the Government on the broad issue involved? It is not as if the West Indian Colonies were merely a part of our Colonial Empire which happens to have been struck by one isolated episode, whether geographical, industrial or financial. There is provision for making good the results of hurricane damage. To that I take no exception, but if we are going to give a grant-in-aid of the unemployment crisis and we are not to consider the causes that are producing that crisis, and if we are not going to deal with it except by handing across the water a bit of dough, it is a very inadequate way of trying to deal with the problem.
I should like to get from a representative of the Government some idea of what His Majesty's Government's attitude is towards the Chadbourne scheme in connection with the sugar industry. I take it that hon. Members are familiar to some extent with that proposal. It is one of the methods of control reduction and regulation of output, but it is something more than that. It seeks to deal with the enormous glut that there is in the world to-day, to take that off the immediate market and to spread it over a series of years. The West Indies being chiefly concerned with the sugar industry are, of course, very properly concerned in whatever the solution of the problem is to be. The validity of the assistance that we are proposing to give in this Estimate depends a good deal on a much wider view. To what extent, for example, are the West Indies to be included in the proposals of that undertaking? It is an international matter and the Government must know something about it and must have made up their minds in connection with it. It purposes to deal with all sugar exporting countries and the West Indies are a sugar exporting country—they are concerned very vitally.
That brings me to my second point, and that is that we have in the West Indies a portion of our colonial empire which is under the handicap that its industry is practically on one leg. It has always been a bad thing to put all your eggs into one basket. The sugar industry in the West Indies was developed many decades ago. It is true that in certain of the islands attempts have been made successfully to establish alternate industries, such as bananas and fruits of various sorts, but very many fruits except the citrons fruits, are difficult to transport in a good condition. Sugar is a commodity that can always be transported and therefore it is eminently suited for countries situated in the tropical belt. If these countries are confined mainly to one industry, it becomes in one respect a simple matter and in another a very difficult matter. The Government ought to take up a very definite action in their relationship to this particular industry and the proposals that they have to make should not be merely confined to giving a grant and saying: "Here is something which will help you to deal with your people who are out of work this year." A much bigger question is involved.
What is to be the policy of the future in view of the world price and the world glut of sugar? We have a very special responsibility, not only towards the industry from the point of view of the capital that is engaged in it, but from the point of view, which is equally important to hon. Members opposite, the occupation which is given to the population by this industry. The population is one for whom we have a very special responsibility. It has not merely "rowed," like Topsy, but has been artificially created by legislation—whether wise or foolish matters not—in the past. We have developed those islands to some extent with a non-indigenous population, and we have a responsibility for them which is greater from a moral point of view than in many other parts of the Empire. There is another equally important point to remember in regard to our present relationship to these colonies in their present distress. The United States has established, as an unshakeable foreign doctrine, what we know as the Monroe Doctrine, and it is well known that, only that the West Indies and other parts of our Empire were already under the British flag, the Monroe Doctrine would have prevented a lung stretch of coast,—
I am sorry that my views of what is in order do not coincide with yours, because I thought that was very vital in developing the geographical importance of these colonies, but, in view of your Ruling, I shall not proceed with that point. I do want, however, to impress on the Under-Secretary that we have a very special problem which this Supplementary Estimate apparently ignores. Our responsibility is to realise that, during our relationship to the West Indian colonies, we should be a party to any legislation taken by international action which seeks to benefit—
I feel sure that the Members of the Committee will agree that we have had a very interesting discussion on these Supplementary Estimates. Many important points have been brought forward in a helpful spirit and the Debate has been wonderfully free—especially considering certain of the problems involved—from purely party criticisms. I have taken a great many notes, and I shall try to deal with as many of the points made as possible, but if any hon. Members find I have not answered them, I hope they will realise that my omission was not intentional. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) raised a number of points. He spoke about Transjordan and put a point about the tribal control item which is costing £8,000. He expressed the hope that the Transjordan administration would be better able to preserve peace and order in the borders of that scattered territory. There has been certainly great difficulty in dealing with raids and counter-raids which have been traditional there, especially in the neighbourhood of the Southern frontier, but with a more mobile force and better intelligence service, it is hoped to secure better control of this disturbing element. Under present conditions there is always a danger of the relations with neighbouring territories being endangered. And there is no doubt of the discontent and unsettlement caused in Transjordan itself. Other Members have spoken of the importance of the progressive development of Transjordan. The Committee will agree that if the country's borders are more peaceful as a result of freedom from this raiding irritation, there will be more opportunity for the proper settlement and development of Transjordan. I can assure the right hon. Member that that point is well before us.
He also spoke about the Air Force in Iraq and of the relations between the Iraq Government and our Air Force in the future. The Treaty does not come into force until Iraq has become a member of the League of Nations and certainly not before 1932. Iraq is preparing for an Air Force of her own and two of our Air Force officers are training some of her people. She has not, however, at the present time got an independent Air Force of her own. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the care we must exercise that our forces are not compelled to intervene in case of internal disturbances in any way that would offend the susceptibilities of our people and make them feel that these forces were not being used in a proper way. I can assure them that this will be kept in mind.
The right hon. Gentleman then became a little controversial and suggested that the Government have not done the best they might have done in regard to the West Indies. There seemed to be some little agreement with those sentiments from the other side of the Committee. I have noticed, however, on several occasions on which this subject has been raised that there has been a very great reluctance to come to grips with it, and to say which part of Lord Olivier's report should have been adopted by the Government. Should it have adopted the extra preference on sugar which the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to give a year before, when, although not quite so advanced, the position the previous year was substantially the same?
Yes; but it was merely a stage of an obviously developing process, and would have been more easily dealt with at that time than it was for us at a later time. It cannot be denied that the Conservative Government at that time found themselves unable to do that which they reproached us later for not doing. With regard again to the question of an import board which naturally attracts many of my hon. Friends—I do not know if it attracts hon. Members opposite or not but I imagine not—we were faced with the fact that we could not have adopted that recommendation without adding to the cost to the consumer in this country of a staple article of diet. While therefore it is easy to reproach the Government, it was really a very difficult problem. Especially in view of later developments in our own country and the position in which we find ourselves to-day, it will, I think, be generally agreed that our action or inaction at that time was wise.
The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the assistance which we were giving to British Guiana, and about the very difficult position of that country. He said he hoped that in the assistance we were giving we were not making conditions which would make it difficult for that country to emerge from its present position. The fact that out of a total of £162,000 to British Guiana nearly half is in the form of a free grant, shows that we are keeping that consideration in mind, while in regard to the other two loan items which make up the balance, the terms are extremely favourable. In the case of the loan for administrative expenses, although the final conditions are not determined, at least there will be no interest charge for five years, while, with regard to the works loan to the sugar industry, I have explained at the beginning that the terms on which that will be repaid are entirely conditional on the increasing prosperity of the sugar industry. The right hon. Gentleman will see that we have had these very important considerations he advanced in mind.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) brought up the question of the disturbances among the Caribs that took place in Dominica. I would like to express my appreciation of the fact that he took up the case of these people and brought it to our notice. These Caribs are an unfortunate remnant of an unfortunate people who, I am afraid, were not fairly dealt with by our own ancestors and the ancestors of certain other European nations. The dreadful destruction of life among them in earlier centuries is one of the tragedies of history. We agree that everything should be done to give these people not only a decent standard of life but to see that they have an opportunity for any development possible for them. At the same time the right hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) was right in saying, that while we must have every sympathy with them, they are a little difficult. They are not always easy to deal with as I think the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland would probably agree.
He has told us of the result of the legal proceedings. We sent word to the Governor that we wished to have a full account of these, and when it arrives my Noble Friend will certainly look into the matter carefully. He will bear what the hon. Member has said in mind, and if he thinks a further inquiry is necessary he will remember what the hon. Member has said about the desirability of not making it a purely local administrative inquiry. I do not think the hon. Member was present when the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) took exception to his criticism of the naval method of propaganda or intimidation or whatever the hon. Member thought it was. I thought myself that the hon. Member was a little unjust to the Commander. I have read the report of the Commander of the "Delhi" and also that of the leader of the landing party, and so far as I can judge, the expedition and naval co-operation were conducted with great tact and skill.
I regret that I was not in my place when the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) spoke, but I had no desire to reflect on the way in which the landing party carried out their duties. My reflections were on the administrator in calling for a landing party.
I have no doubt that they got some compensation in excitement which they would not get normally. At any rate, it was a very unfortunate occurrence. I hope we shall get it cleared up satisfactorily, and also that we shall be able to devise some method of bettering the conditions of the Caribs.
Can we have a statement from the Under-Secretary as to whether the Government think the administrator was or was not to blame on the facts before him in calling for a landing party rather than in sending more police?
I am not giving a Government decision, but, as far as I am personally concerned, I think the action was justified and that it was probably a wise thing to do in the circumstances. It was one of those matters on which it is difficult to decide, and I can give no official verdict upon it.
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) drew attention to the efficiency of the Air Force in Iraq and the great saving in money which has resulted from using that Force rather than ground troops. We are glad to have his testimony. He indulged in a great deal of sympathy, obviously very sincere sympathy for the unfortunate Arabs who have been cleared away in order to increase the amenities of the Residency in Bagdad. I enjoyed his pleasantries and his thinly disguised allusions. The same subject was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Stafford. As a matter of fact the Iraq Government have undertaken to see that these villagers are taken to a happier and better place, and that they will not suffer for the advantages accruing to the Residency by their absence. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull had a good deal to say about Transjordan and what should be done there. I listened with great respect to his suggestions, but I think he exaggerated the fertility of the country. He was wrong in saying that the Transjordan Frontier Force could not be used in Palestine. My reply on this point was anticipated by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir H. Betterton) who paid a well-deserved tribute to the Transjordan Frontier Force especially for the work it did during the disturbances. It is well to note that it proved that it is a Force which can be used in such a case, where, obviously, it was faced with much difficulty. As a matter of fart the effective work of the Transjordan Frontier Force probably saved many lives.
I am sorry if I made that mistake and I can quite see how it occurred. It was some of the Palestine Police who were not reliable and if I made any reflection on a very fine force I am glad to withdraw.
The hon. and gallant Member did make it clear that he admired the Force and thought a great deal of its efficiency and smartness. In spite of the racial composition of a great bulk of the Force it has been tried and not found wanting. My hon. and learned Friend also asked me a question about the Development Loan. I am sorry that I am not in a position to say anything about the conditions of that loan. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Captain Balfour) made one point in regard to the Residency in Bagdad to which I must reply. He said that as we are going to be only a short time in Iraq why bother about spending this money in making the place agreeable? It is surely obvious that if Iraq in 1932 does enter the League of Nations our High Commissioner there will become our diplomatic representative and will require a residence. I am sure we all desire that it should be worthy of our representative. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taylor) referred to Antigua and St. Kitts and the workers and their conditions in these Islands I am glad to be able to assure my hon. Friend that the distressed smallholder is as readily accepted for the relief work as the labourer and that in fact many of those employed are of the former class. Some complaint has been made by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Albery) as to the form in which the Estimates are presented but I am not quite clear exactly what is the nature of the complaint. I have tried to go carefully over every item and make it quite clear what each means, and I hope I have largely succeeded.
The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) spoke about mechanical transport in connection with the Forces in Palestine. It is true that there has been added to the Transjordan Frontier Force one mechanised company making five companies in all, and the Air Force also has mechanical transport. He also asked about the defence of the Jewish Colonies. One of our first actions after receiving the Shaw report was to send Inspector - General Dowbiggin from Ceylon to Palestine to go over the whole of the police organisation and inter alia to recommend any increase in the number of sealed armouries if he thought it necessary. His recommendations have been carried out and there is a larger number of sealed armouries now than there was previously. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd) paid a tribute to the West Indian people and the way they are facing their difficulties at the present time. We all agree. He spoke about Canada and the closer commercial relations which are developing between Canada and the West Indies, a process which we hope will be still more active in the future. He also referred to British Guiana. One of the unfortunate things about British Guiana is that we are not able to develop alternative industries as we have been able to do in some of the islands of the West Indies. We nave tried to develop the rice growing but any other crop seems to be difficult to establish. It is true that the country has great timber reserves, but as far as I understand the timber is of the heavy variety which is not now so fashionable, as it used to be and for which the market is small.
That is one of the reasons why it is difficult to do what seems to be the obvious thing in a country with a great forest belt behind it, that is to make roads and open up the country and get a big revenue from the timber. We are, however, paying great attention to the question of rice. A rice expert has been sent out by the Empire Marketing Board and has been of very great help. The hon. Member also spoke about commercial proposals for roads in British Guiana. Negotiations were entered into with a company but I understand that the conditions were so onerous financially that British Guiana could not accept them. While we are very anxious that roads should be constructed to develop the Colony we would require to have them made on more favourable terms than were available in recent negotiations.
The hon. and gallant Member for North West Hull (Sir L. Ward) spoke of the expenses of administration, and took the very obvious point that in some of the islands we are giving loans to assist in administration expenses. He asked why, if their revenue is down, they do not economise? It has to be remembered, however, that in some of the sugar colonies a substantial part of the revenue comes from export duties on sugar, and now in order to help their planters they have had to remove the export duties. It is because of this loss of revenue as well as that of import duties that we give these grants of assistance, not so much to assist administrative charges as to make up a source of income which has disappeared. The hon. and gallant Member spoke some very interesting words about the future of the sugar industry, and so did the right hon. Member for Stafford, who has taken a great interest in this subject. I do not need to emphasise all that they have said. It is a very difficult problem, and in the application of science, as the right hon. Gentleman said, we have been somewhat behindhand compared with other countries. But the increased application of science and research, unless something else is done, will intensify our problem. Some method of reorganisation of the whole industry will be necessary. There have been unofficial efforts made to bring this about, and I shall certainly look with interest to see if something of this kind can be made successful.
The development of fruit growing as an alternative is one of the greatest hopes in many of these islands. Reference was also made to the importance of communications. There has been a great improvement in that connection in the West Indies. There has been considerable air development, and no doubt if that could be further advanced it would be of great advantage to the islands. The hon. Member for Londonderry said that there were two new British battalions in Palestine, and he asked where they came from. I am sorry I cannot tell him. The right hon. Member for Stafford brought up another interesting subject, the question of the federation of groups of islands in the West Indies, and he spoke of the saving that might be effected by reducing the number of governors and by co-ordinating the administration. I do not know whether there is a great saving to be effected in that way. It certainly looks promising, but the distances between the islands are considerable, and it is always necessary to have agents of Government in the islands. But certainly it is a subject which is now being considered. My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Dr. Morgan) also spoke on this subject. We have also had representations, unofficial and official, from the West Indies, calling attention to it and asking that it be considered. I certainly can say that it is being gone into, and that efforts are being made to ascertain local opinion in the West Indies more fully than we have been able to do up to the present time.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the interest of the Noble Earl the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in British Guiana and about his anxiety as to whether some of the money to be spent in British Guiana is to help in solving the malaria problem. He put a further question by asking what is to be done with the money to be spent in British Guiana. The money is to be expended under the following heads: (1) Housing and sanitation; (2) pure water supply; (3) construction of light railways; (4) reclamation of land; (5) drainage improvements (6) irrigation improvements. That is a great variety of subjects, all good in themselves, and some have special reference to malaria. I do not know whether there is any money to be spent in the settlement of smallholders. That is a point of which I will take note. The right hon. Member for Stafford seemed to think that in addition to rice we might develop ground nuts in British Guiana. I am not in a position to speak about that, but I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman raise the subject and we shall take it into consideration.
The hon. Member for Gravesend spoke about the form of the accounts. I am sorry I did not quite grasp what was his complaint. He spoke of grants-in-aid of administration being given in the case of some Colonies and not in others. As I explained before, it is the sugar Colonies, depending largely for revenue on the export duty on sugar, which required this assistance. Others like St. Lucia, which is not a sugar Colony, do not require the same assistance.
There are differences in different Colonies. The differences arise mainly where they are sugar Colonies unless they have substantial industries of another kind. The hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Major Davies) spoke of the relation of the sugar industry in the West Indies to world conditions. I agree with a good deal of what he said, but as he ultimately got out of order I am sorry that I cannot follow him. I have tried to explain the various points on which I have been asked questions. I hope the Committee will agree that I have been able to give sufficient reasons to justify the passing of the Votes.
I tried to make myself clear, but the Under-Secretary and another hon. Member were engaged in conversation at the time. What I drew attention to was this: In the Estimates are grants for expenditure in relief of unemployment due to the crisis in the sugar industry in the West Indies. You have granted £7,000 to St. Kitts and Nevis. I asked the Under-Secretary to explain to the Committee how it is that that island had to be granted £7,000 on account of the sugar crisis and does not appear to be having a grant-in-aid of administration. How is it that some islands need a grant on account of sugar and not for administration?
I am sorry that I did not understand. The hon. Member has made his point clear now. The reason in the particular case of St. Kitts was that there was an unexpended balance which could be used for administration, but was not available in other colonies.