I fear that Black Rod must disapprove of my speeches, because lately whenever I address the House he interrupts me. I believe part of our troubles in the Colonies during the last 20 years has been that at home there has been a loss of faith and a loss of conviction that we have a mission to fulfil and a part to play. I should like to see a new spirit in the House of Commons. I should like to see us rid ourselves of the mistrust and suspicion of our own folk and settlers overseas which have been so prevalent. That mistrust reminds me of the old South African story -of the two men who had had a great number of drinks. One suddenly noticed the hand of the other lying on the table between them, and jumped up crying out, "There is a snake on the table," and broke a bottle of whisky across his friend's hand, whereupon his friend shouted, "Hit it again, it's biting me." Some hon. Members have been seeing a great many snakes in the House, and snakes that do not exist. It is my hope that the Government in their attempt to build up an African civilisation in West Africa will foster and stimulate the efforts of "our own people and settlers in East Africa.
I believe that we can do a great deal of good by stimulating emigration after the war. I hope that the abuse and vilification which have been showered upon our own people there will cease. After all, the white settlers in East Africa have been the main dynamic and progressive force, and it is thanks to them that law courts and justice were introduced and roads, harbours and railways were built. It is they who have brought peace and prosperity to the people, brought an end to internecine feuds and stopped the Masai killing the Kikuyu and all the rest of it. No doubt the settlers have made some mistakes, but so have we all. I read the other day severe criticism in another place of what is being done in Southern Rhodesia. It has been suggested that parallel development is something to be looked upon with suspicion, and something to be sneered at. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of parallel development, at least it must be admitted that in Southern Rhodesia the standard of living, the medical and social services and the general prosperity of the natives are on a higher level than in Northern Rhodesia under the Colonial Office. As has been said to-day, the last war brought about a revolution, and when this war is over we must realise there will be demands for greater autonomy in Africa and elsewhere in the Colonial Empire. There are those who are very keen to propitiate subversive and disloyal elements in India, but you cannot promise greater self-government to the peoples of India, particularly to the disloyal elements, and at the same time withhold greater self-government from those who have contributed so much to our war effort in Rhodesia and Kenya. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of merging smaller units in larger, and that tendency is, I believe, inevitable. It is the task of the Government to ensure that it will be carried out with foresight and vision, and not too quickly. Our purpose must be to establish in East Africa and in Rhodesia the maximum local autonomy, maintaining in our own hands the responsibility for foreign affairs and defence. If we do that, history will not condemn us.
Hon. Members are labouring to-day under two disadvantages. Firstly, they have hot before them the customary annual survey of Colonial affairs, and, secondly, there is a doubt as to the degree to which the right hon. Gentleman has identified himself with the policy of the Secretary of State, or vice versa. It is perplexing, because one would like to know whether the assumptions of the right hon. Gentleman in respect of Colonial policy are the assumptions of the Secretary of State. He has given, in eloquent terms, an extremely interesting survey of the Empire, as if it were an Imperial organisation; he is conscious of its past defects, and anxious now in all haste to make substantial economic improvements. It seemed to me that he was curiously obtuse in regard to the great human problems in the Empire.
I want to strike a different note from the one that he struck in his excellent survey, because it seems to me that the time has come when he must gear our Colonial policy to meet the changes that are going on in the world, and even to anticipate them, creating a policy which stands up to the challenge of free men and withstands the disintegrating forces at work. For the hammer blows of war, and imponderable ideas disturbing men's minds everywhere, are compelling us to make a re-examination of the assumptions of our present policy. Our own ideas move, too. There is no longer vain glory in the romance of Empire. Economic and political domination over other peoples no longer enthuses any of us. Imperialism of the old order passes, toughest perhaps in its economic grips. To-day, much in our Empire moves us to pity for the suffering and distress that we see there, moves us to shame for our past neglect. Depressed areas are calling for our strength and resources in order to fight disease, ignorance and poverty.
The awakening of peoples, seen after the last war, is happening again in this. The challenge of Russia, the renaissance of China, the demand for independence by India, are all symptomatic of the ferment that is going on in the minds of men the world over. We cannot estimate the effects of the dynamic of new political ideas, economic doctrines and social creeds on the Colonial peoples to-day. The war has also added a new significance to the facts of geography, economic relationships, political groupings and social development. So that events are outstripping us, and even trusteeship must be transformed into a positive principle of co-operation of equals in the forward march of men.
The idea of trusteeship has justified many proposals. It still is the safeguard of many peoples moving forward in this troubled world. But in some respects, the word is beginning to wear, perhaps because, besides achievement, it has been associated with a certain amount of cant and failure to fulfil the hopes of the Colonial peoples. Nor has this word "trusteeship" the same meaning everywhere. It is irritating in some places, and it is unpopular in others. Lord Hailey—I need not quote what he said in another place—has admirably expressed, what some of us have been saying for a long time on this matter. Indeed, some of us want a new relationship with the Colonial peoples which conveys the idea of equality and fellowship, the idea of service and practical assistance and which expresses it in dynamic and constructive terms.
As a nation we are feeling our way towards this new relationship. The 1940 Act marked the end of an old chapter. The circular of the Secretary of State last year called for economic planning, with long and short-term programmes, and the necessity of conserving natural resources and creating a healthier balance in Colonial economies. To-day; too, we attach greater importance to labour problems and to the social services. But all this as yet is very small and indicates that we are groping at the turning point.
But there is the idea of status, the necessity of a new relationship with the Colonies which admits of no race superiority, no inherent or permanent inequality between ourselves and the peoples, and no divorce between' the Government and the peoples of the territories. It is a relationship which implies that we do everything possible to accelerate the process of self-government, that the whole process of government is geared to the supreme purpose of fitting the Colonial peoples for political responsibility. It is a relationship which means in practice that the paramount interests in all the Dependencies is the welfare and the development of the Colonial peoples, Parliament exercising a positive, active and constructive responsibility until self-government is achieved. It means, further, that there should be deliberate, economic planning and control by the Government in the public interest—control over monopolies, powerful interests and concessions, over the ownership of land and national resources and the conditions and use of labour.
I regret that the Prime Minister excluded the Colonies from the Atlantic Charter. It has created much misapprehension. I think it was not enough for him to say that the Colonies were already covered by declarations complete in themselves. I should like to suggest that the Colonial Secretary should publish a White Paper informing us what those clear-cut and deliberate declarations of the past are which will govern Colonial development in the future. But, as Lord Hailey has reminded us, the more advanced people in the Colonies may not unreasonably ask for something more explicit than they will find in the statements referred to by the Prime Minister. The Atlantic Charter became an international declaration of good faith, endorsed to the full by the United Nations. It was vitally concerned with the Colonies—access to raw materials, freedom of trade, the distribution of markets. It was concerned with standards of living, want and security. Why, then, were the Colonies excluded from that Charter?
I do not want to build up false hopes or to add to existing Colonial Papers another document which has little meaning, but I see room for an assurance— a supplementary charter—in realistic and convincing terms, pointing out the way to freedom, equality, responsibility, the reconstruction of Colonial economic and social life. Later, that policy must be worked out in concrete terms of periodic programmes so that the Colonial peoples may know how they may advance to a realisation of the principles embodied in such Charter.
This is the more necessary as the war spreads and threatens new fields. The Colonial peoples realise that the issues of the war directly concern them. If they do not, what have we been up to? We have not always identified the Colonial peoples with the causes for which we are struggling in the war, and have not associated them with the effort that is demanded for the triumph of those causes? I do not mean for a moment that we should have militarised the Colonial peoples. I still contend, in spite of the observations that have been made to-day, that the imposition of forced labour on the Africans was wrong in principle and was not justified by practical considerations. In many-colonies the Colonial peoples have given their gifts, resources and men. They have fought magnificently. But I submit that there is to-day among many of the Colonial peoples a deep sense of frustration. Often their natural leaders are ignored. There seems indifference in high places to the popular movements. Our replies to their offers are often half-hearted and disdainful. One has only to read the article in "The Times" yesterday by the West African correspondent., I have here the journal "Public Opinion," published in Jamaica, expressing again in the most recent issue that sense of frustration that they are not permitted to play their part in the great struggle in which the world in involved. There is a magnificent appeal by Mr. Manley in the journal which ought to be read by all Members of the House. The same is true in regard to the Jews in Palestine. There is that sense of frustration. We are not harnessing their good will. It is not enough that the Under Secretary should tell us of their loyal spirit. We want that loyal spirit harnessed. We want, correlated to it, a determination on our side that in the days to come the peoples shall advance to a higher standard of living and greater freedom. Let them feel that this is a war of liberation, the travail of the world for a new order. In my judgment that calls for more inspired leadership and direction from us than we have so far given, a new conception of common citizenship and ideals and a new sense of responsibility.
We may need also—I say this with considerable diffidence, conscious as I am of the great services which have been rendered by the Colonial Civil Service—to purge the hierarchy of our colonial bureaucracy. We want men in the Colonies who are not afraid of popular movements—men who are liberally minded. We want the tired men removed. We want the refreshment of young men, selected on a broader basis, given the opportunities of training and broader experience in carrying greater responsibility. We do not want civil servants frequently moving from one Colony to another. We want the colonial peoples admitted into the administrative ser-vices and, even if some cannot at this moment satisfy the high academic standard required for admittance, they should be tried out and trained in at least intermediate places in order that, by their mistakes and experience, they may learn as soon as possible to take their place in the highest positions of the Colonial Civil Service. I do not really mean that we should cast reflections on the quality and the devotion of civil servants. I feel it necessary to emphasise that because I myself have been repeatedly attacked in journals and elsewhere for from time to time criticising the policies which Colonial administrators have been pursuing. I am conscious of their devotion, but I claim the right to attack or to criticise the policies which they are called upon to administer.
Do we really mean that we stand for a common civilisation for white and black as equals in Africa? A situation of great gravity is developing, and it calls for bolder treatment than it has so far received. What are we doing to resolve the racial and economic conflicts? In South Africa those conflicts are obvious enough but they are growing apace in Kenya and Rhodesia to-day. We have seen the creation of a number of new advisory and executive committees monopolised by whites. There has been an extension of political machinery in which Africans themselves have had very little place or say. There has been an alarming increase of the conventions of the colour bar and of the practice in many of our territories of racial discrimination. We cannot much longer palm Africans off with talk about parallelism and wink at segregation and land apportionment. We must formulate a positive policy in place of a week negative one. There must be a recognition of Africans' political rights and status. There must be a big drive in social services, in education and in economic development. We must associate the Africans in the administration of local government. We should nationalise the mineral resources of those areas. We should redistribute the land and there should be planned development of smaller industries. If we do not do these things the future will be black.
I have said little about the desperate urgency of many social and economic matters in many areas, some as a result of the physical effects of the war, such as the grave problems of food in the West Indies and other places, of mal-nutrition in almost all parts of the Empire, of squalid housing which is a disgrace. And of our backwardness in education. On all these matters I have corresponded with the Colonial Minister during the past year. But what Russia has done, has spread among the educated Africans and in the West Indies. The urgent need now is for more community education, for an attack on mass-illiteracy, and for an immediate tackling of economic organisation and production so as to secure a higher standard of living. We must realise, too, the importance of planned control of economic development and exploitation of minerals. These are fundamental needs, and unless there is a new drive, a new inspiration and a new confidence I am afraid we shall prove to be too late.
No one cart see how the Empire will emerge from this war. Some new political structure arising out of the alignments, in the Far East may occur. New developments in the West Indies due to our association with America may lead to new arrangements in regard to political and economic control. The influence of the Union of South Africa will probably be-felt in future over the whole of that continent in respect of political and economic developments. It is obvious that colonial areas must be better grouped. There must be some modifications of the kind of sovereignty to which some of the smaller territories hoped to advance. We have to reconcile the claims of self-government with the wider claims of world order. The frontiers of many of our colonies are artificial and contain no unity of tradition, culture and people. The people must go forward to enjoy real local autonomy and be increasingly employed in government administration. But this war is diminishing a great deal of sovereignty. Economic and military integration has gone and outstripped political organisation and development. The world has to be integrated somehow, but we can be certain that there will be no room in it for economic advantage and political domination based on conceptions of the old Imperialism. Nor will the white races enjoy that easy assumption of superiority which this war is making a mockery of.
In West Africa a new constitutional development is taking place. It may be directed to meet the war situation rather than deal with matters arising in civil administration, but it is obvious that there must be a closer association of the British Colonies in West Africa and possibly a federation or closer union of all the regions in those parts. The problems of Africa are one. They are concerned with prevention of disease, with economic development, making of industries, cutting of Toads, conservation of land and so on. These problems cross frontiers and are one problem. They can be better tackled in these days now that distance is annihilated. There must however be more consultation with the peoples concerned in our planning. During the Under-Secretary's speech there was no reference anywhere to the fact that the peoples of the Colonies were entitled to a say. In all our planning they must be consulted. If we are to plan successfully it must be done with the peoples concerned. The Colonial services should offer the Colonial peoples bigger opportunities. Their local responsibilities should be made real, local government overhauled and the whole apparatus of government restudied. We should stop draining away the wealth of the territories and make paramount the welfare of the local peoples.
More direction in Colonial policy is needed. I do not think that that direction can come by setting up a Colonial Development Board. I cannot elaborate my objections to that now. I do not want to see the responsibilities of the Secretary of State diminished in any way. I would prefer that the committee which was promised under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act should be made real and vital in the direction of the social and economic policy.
How does the hon. Gentleman expect to have any continuity of policy without some board which can assure it, in view of the fact that we have changing Ministers?
I think it would be fatal if the responsibility of the Government were undermined by the existence of a parallel board. The Government through the Secretary of State must be responsible to this House for Colonial policy, and I do not want to see that responsibility diminished. It is important that not only should there be a committee under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, not only should the Secretary of State be advised by the series of advisory committees which have been created, not only should there be a body such as that now presided over by Lord Hailey in respect of research, but also there should be set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee which could study Colonial matters and receive reports from the Colonial Office. It would enlighten Parliament and help Parliament to discharge the responsibilities about which it is so negligent to-day.
I have spoken for my party in respect to our plans and policy. The war checks many opportunities of material advance, but at least we can in these days test the assumptions of policy in the tragedy of the present world disorder and prepare the way for that new order which will guarantee freedom from want and oppression and offer security to the weakest of the peoples of the earth.
May I start by offering my very humble but nevertheless very sincere congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on his advent to that office? I think that really it is we who should be congratulated, because with his great brain and his immense popularity we are fortunate in having him as a Minister, and the Colonial Empire will undoubtedly benefit from his great abilities. I should like to deal with an important part of our Colonial Empire, namely, the West Indies, a part of the Empire which embraces about 14,000 square miles and has a mixed population of somewhere about 3,000,000. I speak as one who is not afraid to proclaim his faith in the British Empire, who believes in the British Empire. I have an intense belief in the ideals of Empire as propounded by that great man Joseph Chamberlain. We have in the British Empire the instrument for the greatest good in all the world to-day. In helping us to obtain those things for which we are fighting, freedom and democracy, the British Empire is playing a great part, and I believe that it will be a decisive part; and in combination with the great democracy of the United States of America the British Empire will, I believe, be able to secure peace and security throughout the world. It is only through those two agencies that we shall be able to do so.
We know to-day who are our friends and who are our false friends. We know that the British Empire stands with us to-day and will always stand with us in all trials and adversities. In the past, before the war, we heard people talking about the British Empire in a rather apologetic manner, as if it were something which might give offence to other Powers. I believe that to-day that opinion holds no weight with anybody. Everybody realises that it is only by uniting the peoples in the Empire that we shall have any prospects or hopes for the future. Therefore, I am one of those who are against any idea of splitting up this great heritage of ours or handing it over to a motley group of internationalists and theorists. That is the last thing we ought to do.
We have heard a good deal during the past few years about the unsatisfactory conditions in some of the Caribbean Colonies, and without true knowledge of the facts or proper investigation of the facts certain people have jumped to the conclusion that they are the result of some sort of exploitation. A great bogy has been created in the minds of certain people and among the uninformed, the view that there is some band of extortionists in the Empire whose primary object in life is to exploit the natives, and the unsatisfactory conditions are often attributed to what are called vested interests. We have heard a good deal about vested interests from some of my hon. Friends opposite, and have also heard about vested interests from the Leader of the House. I wonder whether some of my hon. Friends know exactly what they mean by the words "vested interests." Is a de union a vested interest? It would be interesting to know from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House whether he would regard the legal profession as a vested interest. However that may be, I believe that if some of my hon. Friends opposite were asked to paint a picture of a vested interest, the nearest thing they would get to typify it would be a banker in an old school tie. If, on the other hand, vested interests mean people who have their hearts and souls in the welfare of their country, their estates, their companies or their teams, I say vested interests are a very good thing, and I should like to preserve them.
So much play has been made of vested interests that I have mentioned them in this House because I think that if that sort of thing is carried too far it undermines the co-operation between employers and employed in the Colonies and leads to a breaking down of the love and affection which exist between the Colonies and the Mother Country. It is a fact, as I am bound to admit, that until the beginning of this century very little progress had been made in the evolution of the West Indian Colonies, but during the ensuing years it will be agreed, I think, a good deal of progress has been made in many industries, particularly the sugar industry, which has always been the very backbone of the economic structure of the West Indian Colonies. If we examine the records of the industries in the West Indies, taking into account all the ups and downs of climate, the incidence of pests and diseases, the uncertainty of prices and the uncertainties of political policy, we find nothing, I think, which savours of exploitation. Rather will we marvel at the patience, the doggedness and the determination Of the British public in supporting those industries in spite of so many very lean years.
I am among the first to admit that much remains to be done towards the improvement of labour and welfare conditions in the West Indies, but that should not blind us to the fact that a great deal has been done. Few people visiting the West Indies now would fail to be impressed with what private enterprise has accomplished, in spite of economic difficulties, even to the extent of underaking work that should have been done by the Government. I refer to such matters as rehousing, sanitation, clinics, hospitals and the general improvement of medical services. Is it not time that the Colonial Governments, with the backing of the British Government should cease to evade their responsibilities, particularly in the matter of rehousing? officials change very quickly in the Colonies, and it is hardly surprising that they do little to disturb the atmosphere of inertia which exists. The most pressing of all needs in the British West Indies is housing, particularly in the rural areas. Every other welfare need pales into insignificance compared with the need of housing, for without a decent family life in decent surroundings, it is impossible to obtain any improvement. All other education is fruitless.
Recently, after several years of stalling, the Government in a certain Colony offered loans to the employers for the purpose of rehousing of labour. In my opinion that work should have been carried through by the Government, by means of planned villages. I cannot imagine a more primitive way of avoiding responsibility than that. Employers do house their own employees who work on the estates and who have to be near at hand. We feel that we have to do all we can to get them better houses, although the companies have little funds with which to do it. We have done a great deal of rehousing in that way. I think hon. Members will agree that the duty of general housing cannot be expected of employers, with the limited funds available in the industries in the Colonies to-day, beyond what I have described.
I hoped that the Controller of West Indian welfare, who has now been in the West Indies for some considerable time, would have been able to produce something by this time in regard to this all-important question of rehousing, but I regret to say that, up to the present, there is very little to show. I should like to know from the Minister—from whom we all hope so much—what is causing the delay in proceeding with this essential welfare and housing work. It is very necessary, and many points have been made about it and it has been forcibly expressed by succeeding Commissions who have visited the Colonies. I do not think the reply can be entirely the want of material. I am safe in saying that housing materials in tropical countries are available without the necessity for much transportation. Housing schemes must go forward hand in hand with much greater development, and the means of that development will be forthcoming when there is a more contented labour force and a less vaccilating attitude by local governments.
May I say a word now upon the question of trade unions? Employers in the West Indies have welcomed the advent of the trade unions, but the attempted introduction of them en bloc on the British system has been a mistake. There has never been that gradual development and evolution which are so desirable if they are to be established on healthy and sound lines, as has happened in this country. The introduction has been done rather without guidance and in a hurry, with the result that there are very many cases of irresponsible leadership. An attitude has been developed in those countries that the trade unions can provide benefit for the workers without corresponding responsibility of any kind.
What we get from trade unions in this country is in most cases an honourable undertaking, and they do their best to see that those undertakings are carried out. That is because they have behind them a mass of labour, who have ideals of fairness and justice and who will keep them to their bargains.
I would like to mention that there is a great need in the West Indies to encourage the production of food on a much greater scale for domestic consumption. It is nothing short of lamentable that, with the magnificent climate, and rich soil that exist in those countries, capable of growing almost anything, the people should be dependent so much upon imported tin fruit from America. It is only now, when the shipping position has become so acute and has forced the question upon our notice, that anything is being done about it or any remedial measures sought.
Speaking generally of the West Indies, there is a great need for increasing employment, particularly having regard to the rapid increase in population. Therefore, in my opinion, secondary industries are necessary in addition to the staple industries of sugar and cocoa etc., and must be introduced and encouraged if necessary during their development by grants. I should like to mention a temporary but outstanding exception in the case of Trinidad, which will enable me to bring out another important point. Because of the construction of the United States base in Trinidad, about 20,000 agricultural labourers were taken from the fields, with the result that cultivation in the cocoa, sugar and citrus estates was very sadly neglected. Such agricultural workers as are left behind on the estates are people who, as one of my, Friends opposite has mentioned, work for approximately five hours a day, 4½days a week, in spite of the fact that agriculture means so much to the island and so much to them and their own living. It is not only a shortage of crops this year which will be caused by this transference and the failure of those who are left to work harder; it will affect the whole of the crops for several years to come. It is a situation fraught with great danger. When the United States bases are finished and those 20,000 agricultural labourers go back to agriculture for their jobs, they will find an agriculture whose capacity to employ them has very seriously diminished.
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the labourers he is speaking about who only work 25 hours a week—it seems to me a reasonable working week—are the same people who are working on the present developments, and are they doing a normal working week now?
I do not think they are, but I will deal with that in my next point. I am speaking of agriculture; it does not apply to the factories, where they work much longer. The agricultural labourers in Trinidad are of East Indian origin, and they work just as long as is necessary to provide themselves with sustenance. All efforts to create interest in a higher standard of living achieved by working a greater number of hours have completely failed, and instead the increases which have taken place in agricultural wages—apart from those necessitated by the increase in the cost of living—have had the effect of reducing the number of hours being worked. I cannot tell the Committee what the cure for that is; it may be partly due to malnutrition, or partly that they have the idea that a certain standard is enough and if you give them more they are still satisfied with the minimum amount of money to keep them healthy and secure.
I am very much interested in this point. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how this drain away from the fields to the bases is to be stopped? I take it that the people who are going to the bases are working longer hours and receiving a bigger income than is the case of-the workers in the fields; what proposal does the hon. Gentleman put to the Government to stop this draining away?
I am afraid I cannot put any proposals to the Government; I am merely instancing the fact that agriculture there is losing its labour—and you can point the same moral over here, where there are many industries which have had to lose their workers because they have been taken away for other purposes. If there is not enough labour to go round, you cannot suddenly produce it from the clouds. I do not know what the solution is, but what I have said is an absolute fact. I was going on to say that in the West Indies we have many outstanding civil servants to whom we owe a tremendous lot, and while it is invidious to mention anyone by name, the name of Sir Arthur Richards, Governor of Jamaica, comes prominently to mind. But for the most part I think that the Colonial overseas service is clogged with precedent and bogged with red tape. I am sorry to have to say this, but I believe that to-day and in the post-war era action by Colonial Governments will require to be more speedy and positive. I think we can look forward to a better and happier future for the people of the West Indies if we can get what we all want to get, greater co-operation between employer and employee, and if at the same time there are less efforts by local Colonial Governments to avoid their great responsibilities and high duty.
I rise to take part in this Debate with a very great keenness, but I hope with a keenness which will not tempt me into too long imposing myself upon the good nature of the Committee.. I protested, at an earlier stage, about the time available for Colonial Debates being reduced by other matters, and I know that although there are not as many Members interested in this question in this House as I think there ought to be, those who are interested are very interested. If I look back over my time here, I feel qualms of conscience about the fact that after I have been in this House for 20 years the problem of the Colonial people is the same problem as it was when I entered the House. I have the feeling that when we want to start anew, in a new era, as apparently there is a desire in the House that we should, we should start in the House of Commons, by some change here at the centre, so that somewhat more frequently than once per annum or once in three years the Members of this House who are actively interested should get to grips with these problems and put into the common pool their ideas as to how they are to be handled.
I associate myself very strongly with the view put forward by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) that there should be some Standing Parliamentary Committee. I feel that there has been a resistance to that idea by all Colonial Secretaries, to whatever party they may have belonged, but if we can have a standing Public Accounts Committee and a standing Estimates Committee, I cannot see what the overwhelming arguments are against a Colonial Committee unless each successive Colonial Secretary wishes to be a little personal dictator. I want the right hon. Member, who I know is a thinker and who has a mind that is not incapable of examining a position de novo, to consider whether this attitude of his predecessors, which I rather gather is being inherited and carried on by himself, should not be departed from as the first step towards getting a new life and a new vitality into the whole of the Colonial peoples and our relationships with them. There was an assumption running through his speech, that the Colonies will continue as an integral part of the British Empire, and that they will be ready and happy, as they have always been represented to us as being, to continue under direction from Westminster. I do not know. I would be very much surprised if that were the mood in which the Colonial people emerge from this war.
I think it came as a shock to the tremendous masses of the people of this country to find that the natives of Malaya, of the Straits Settlements, and of Burma were not so completely enamoured of the glories of British rule as we had always been told they were. It was a shock to the people of Britain to discover that the native populations of these countries had not the enthusiasm for the maintenance of British rule in those parts, because the general impression of the people of this country is that while coloured peoples abroad have not got very high standards of life, they are not, after all, so badly off under the good old Union Jack, and that at any rate they all infinitely prefer to live under that domination than any other alternative they might meet. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend says "Hear, hear." I wonder if he is as easy about that to-day as he was six months ago.
Sir Patrick Harmon:
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member, but may I point out that the whole story of the attitude of the people of Burma towards the Japanese invasion has not been told, and I would suggest that he might wait until we know what the precise facts were of the attitude of these people in the struggle that has taken place?
Surely the hon. Member is not accusing me of putting the matter in too strong terms in the remarks I have made? I repeated some statements by prominent Conservative journals in this country.
I accept that, except that the essential psychological problem is apparently no different in the Colonial Dependencies from what it is in those of Dominion status. Surely in this free House I can make a very moderate suggestion as to the attitude of the populations there when important Conservative journals, with less information available to them at the time when they made the statements, indicated that both the natives of Malay and Burma refused to associate themselves with the Allied cause in this conflict in the way in which the people of this country believed they would. My hon. Friend, and I very well understand it—
Might I ask if the hon. Member has had an opportunity of speaking to any single European who has come back from Malaya? Has he had an opportunity of hearing the wonderful stories of the devotion of the Malays, the Indians, and the Chinese in the Fighting Services and the Civil Defence services, or is he merely making these statements, which are very serious, on the basis of odd references in the Press?
I am making these statements on the basis of the information that was conveyed to the population of this country by the responsible daily journals of this country on which the people of this country are accustomed, to base their conclusions. Some of them were very outspoken, and they Were not journals belonging to my party, or representing the point of view for which I stand. We have been aware of this problem for a long time, and it was not such a shock to us as it seems to have been to the editors of the Conservative newspapers of this country. We have said all along that if you keep the people on a starvation level, if you keep them in subjection, if you refuse to give them a proper citizenship status in their own lands, you cannot expect them to rally around you and to perform deeds of prodigy out of enthusiasm for the British Raj. Let me say to my hon. Friend that I have had opportunities of conversation with two persons home from Singapore; and I would not dream of repeating their statements or describing their attitude in this House—again, they were not people of my own political outlook—because if I did so I should be accused of spreading despondency and alarm. I have never been in a British dependency, except Scotland. I have been in a French African Colony; I have been in the Dominion of South Africa—I have had some opportunities of seeing the condition of South Africans in the Union of South Africa, and I have had contact with the people who represent the natives in the South African Parliament—and I have met peoples who have played an active part in the direction and development of things in the Rhodesias—one of which I think I can talk about, and the other of which I cannot talk about on this Estimate, which is another evi- dence of the difficulty of dealing with these problems. It was a terrible shock to me to see the native location on the outskirts of a town in the Union of South Africa.
I do not want to get into conflict with the Chair, but I do not think one is going far astray in attempting to get at the psychology of the native peoples, and in adducing, from things one has seen with one's own eyes, what may happen in similar conditions in places which one has not seen. When I hear of coloured agricultural workers being paid 5s. a month and a handful of mealies, and having to find their own houses, and when I meet a very old friend of mine—
Will the hon. Member please not insist on trying to put me wrong with the Chair? But I could place this well within the range of the responsibilities of the Colonial Secretary. When I meet an old fellow student of mine, now holding a responsible position in the educational service, who has experience of teaching in native schools, Eurasian schools, coloured schools, and European schools, at all grades of education, and when he tells me, after close on 40 years' experience, that he can find no differences in the qualities of mind, making allowances for environmental conditions, for indifferent nutrition, and for primitive methods of living and of birth, or in the educability of white and coloured peoples, I wonder how we dare to insist on maintaining the coloured peoples at a lower economic level, a lower social level, and entirely out of the picture so far as political levels are concerned. It is a curious thing, sitting here, as I have done to-day, listening to practically every speech, with the majority of the speakers Conservatives, and well-disposed Conservatives—because there are some Conservatives who are not well disposed—
You do not know them, but I have met them. I was going to say that I find an extraordinary similarity between their attitude to-day towards our Colonial populations and what it was about a fortnight ago towards the miners. They have a great faith in the efficacy of saying kind things. If you just say nice things to the miners, you are rallying 750,000 to your battle cry with 100 per cent. enthusiasm, and if you say nice kind things to the coloured peoples of the British Empire you will rally 50,000,000 of them to your colours. That may be true, but in my view the black-faced man in the pit and the black-faced man in the Colonies have emerged beyond the stage where they are prepared to continue as inferior creatures. Will not this House of Commons and this Government make up their minds that they are not going to create a new facade of equality, either for the workers of this country or for the mass of the people in the Colonial Empire? You have to do the real thing: to establish conditions of genuine freedom, of genuine equality; you have genuinely to accept the full rights of man. Nothing" else is going to meet the needs of the age in which we are living. I associate myself again with the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) in the view that this House can face up in a responsible way now to doing the right thing, because it is the right thing, or be compelled later on to surrender to an uprising of force, which would create a situation in this world that intelligent people do not wish to see and do not contemplate with any pleasure. But do not try to cheat yourselves and the people who have laboured under domination. Do not imagine that you will be able to keep back part of the price. You have to do the job thoroughly, genuinely and honestly and recognise these people as equal human beings with yourself.
This is a very important matter. We are all interested in the development, expansion, equality and liberty of the Colonial Empire, and will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what is the right thing to do?
I have said, as my practical proposal, that the right thing to do, to start with, is to devise ways and means by which those who are keenly interested in this affair in this House should have a day-to-day and week-to-week opportunity of getting their minds working on the problem. That is the first proposition. Hoping that such steps will be taken, I do not want to start prejudicing the position by making a 100 per cent. demand for the improvements one wants. The first thing you have to do is to restore complete freedom to all Colonial peoples, and the right to govern themselves—
—and the right for them to decide to what extent they want our aid. It is not for us to decide how much they need our aid, but for them to decide how much they want our aid. I want to say in conclusion, and the hon. Member referred to it, that during this struggle, along with the United States of America, Russia, China, the Dominions and with a number at least of Governments, of occupied European countries, I hope the British Government are not going to assume that when peace comes, as I presume it is bound to come some day, there will not be a whole lot of rearrangement and readjustment in the world and that every nation's possessions is not going to come under review. I interrupted the hon. Gentleman when he was making his speech because he seemed to suggest that the Government had already made up their minds, that, whatever territorial readjustments and reallocations of population there might be after the war, the present British Empire was going to remain the present British Empire.
If you are to re-draw the map of the world and if you are honest with your Allies, you cannot start by saying that there is to be no change in the red bits. I would like to see a United States of Africa, for instance, run and controlled by Africans, the natives of the soil, but, if the white races, are to come into it and have a say as to how the wealth of that great continent is to be developed and how the people are to be directed, I would like to see the United States of America have a part in it as well as Great Britain. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says they are in Liberia. It is true that they have an establishment in Liberia. I understand they are in Eritrea now, and on the extreme West Coast of Africa, on the invitation of the British Government, and I understand from the hon. Gentleman that they have certain key positions in the West Indies. Are we in á position to say to them that the moving day is to be Tuesday week? I do not think that that should be the relationship. I believe that America could teach us some things about the handling of Colonial peoples, and I have not the faintest doubt that we can teach the Americans some things about the handling of Colonial peoples, and I am more certain still that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics can teach both of us some things about the handling of Colonial peoples. I am certain that the great Chinese nation might have something very useful to contribute towards the future development of South Africa, and, honestly, I think that the amalgamation of British character, of Russian, Chinese and American, could produce infinitely better results for the future of the world than anything that has been done during the centuries by our Colonial Office, receiving its inspiration and impetus from this House of Commons.
The one body of people that I would like to meet are the agricultural labourers referred to by an hon. Member opposite, the men who have reached to that high pitch of intelligence when they say that "25 hours a week is our working week. We know that we could get more material things if we worked more, but we do not want more material things. We are satisfied with little, and we want our freedom for the major proportion of our working lives." My hon. Friend will realise and recollect that that was the basic philosophy of many of the greatest philosophers that the world has so far produced.
I have been interrupted on one or two occasions, and I hope it will not become the practice. I was saying that it may be that we, the civilised people of the world, who have, during the last century, acquired material possessions and built up great resources of material wealth, are on a lower level of intelligence than those whom we are inclined to regard as the more primitive and who place material possessions on their proper level and have other things as their main objectives in life.
I hope the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) will not think I was trying to cut in and I hope he will forgive me if I do not pursue the different points he has raised, because there are other matters that I want to bring to the attention of the Committee. I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary on his fine speech and on the very effective way in which he traversed the vast field of Colonial administration. At the Ministry of Supply he had occasion to think big, to deal with vast units and to view problems in a wide perspective, and, if I may say so, he seems to have brought the same technique and wide vision with him to his new post. It would not surprise me to learn that the advent of the Noble Lord who is Colonial Secretary and my right hon. Friend to the Colonial Office may have caused some flutterings in that tranquil dovecote. It has been rather like introducing a Woolworth and a Selfridge into an old-fashioned emporium in a county town and I hope the House will encourage them to persevere in effecting a transformation from nineteenth century methods to those which are more in conformity with the needs of the day and necessities of to-morrow.
It was with great satisfaction that I learned of the appointment of that outstanding personality, Lord Swinton, to a post in Central Africa analogous to that of the Minister of State in Cairo, and I want to pay my tribute to the unselfish patriotism which led him to undertake so onerous a task in these tropical regions. His primary duty, I presume, will be to co-ordinate civil and military needs and activities in that area. For example, recruitment of a large labour corps for military purposes might conflict with the development of raw materials of which the United Nations stand in vital need. In such a case it is essential that there should be someone in authority to go into things on the spot and take decisions or make representations, as the case may be. I would, however, like to ask my right hon. Friend whether Lord Swinton has been specially charged with looking into economic matters in that area, and, if so, whether he has been furnished with the requisite expert staff? I do not think it would be easy to find one locally, because I believe it is a fact that in the past, and through no fault of their own Colonial administrations have been singularly deficient in organisation for dealing with matters of commerce and trade.
To-day, Central Africa assumes enormous importance as one of the few areas left to us from which we can to some extent replace losses of raw materials sustained through the conquests of the Japanese in the Far East I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that everything possible was being done to expand the supply of such materials as tin, bauxite, hematite and vegetable oils, which are capable of great expansion. But if this expansion is to take place, the labour problem is likely to be difficult and I would like to ask my right hon. Friend to have another look at the cotton piece goods position in Central Africa, because my information is that 14 out of 15 textile firms in this country are now liable to have their labour transferred to other industries more directly connected with the war effort and he may find that when it comes to the point, and more piece goods are required, they will not be forthcoming.
The African peasant is a simple, primitive soul whose wants are relatively few. Apart from security and justice, he wants food, shelter, clothing and small luxuries and trinkets with which to delight and bedizen his womenfolk. Food is to be had in abundance. It is no great problem. A grass but can be built in an hour or two, but for clothing he-has to work and if it is not to be had, then our prestige in those areas will suffer. British prestige in these areas has been largely based on the fact that the inhabitants of our Colonies are better off than other African peoples. In time of war clothing in this region has a special significance as an incentive to Work. The hon. Member for Bridgeton expressed admiration for those who do not wish to work more than 25 hours a week. And it is a fact that the formidable climate and the great fecundity of his country make the native African indolent by nature. He does not understand ideologies, he cannot be spurred to intense physical effort either by a flaming hatred of Nazism or a passionate love for democracy. He needs a material incentive and I trust that my right hon. Friend will see that he gets that incentive in an adequate supply of cotton goods from which he can make sufficient clothing.
There is another question I would like to ask my right hon. Friend. What machinery exists here to deal with recommendations coming from Lord Swinton? With any such proposals a number of Ministries will, I am certain, be concerned. It will be quite a common event for the Foreign Office, Colonial Office, the Ministries of Production, Supply and War Transport, the War Office and the Admiralty all to be, concerned. They will all have to be consulted and their consent obtained to whatever course of action may be proposed. How long will it take them? I have direct experience of certain Government Departments in India and a slight acquaintance with Ministries at home through my flittings from one to the other in the rather nebulous capacity of Parliamentary Private Secretary, and I can state categorically that a question in which several Ministries are concerned, and which has to go through the normal channels and be minuted on by clerks and deputy assistants and so forth, is likely to be decided in months rather than weeks. That is absolutely useless for present purposes. We must speed up the tempo, we must reach decisions in hours and days rather than weeks and months. Indeed, I wish it could be hours and minutes.
I should like to call my right hon. Friend's attention to a Committee that was presided over at the start by my right hon. and gallant Friend who is now Minister of Aircraft Production. That Committee has superintended the despatch of supplies to Russia, and I believe it is agreed on all sides that it has done a remarkable job of work. It consists of representatives of the different Ministries concerned. All of them are picked men. They sit round a table, and each of them has a telephone directly connected with his Department. In this way, matters which in the normal way would take weeks to decide are decided in a few minutes. We are not living in normal times. We must get a move on. We cannot afford to go pottering along. We must try out new ideas, for otherwise the wretched position will persist in which the enemy seems always to be just one jump ahead. I know that my right hon. Friend is a "live wire." I believe he rings up his opposite numbers in the Ministries and gingers them up. I am sure that is all to the good, but it is a poor substitute for proper machinery. I hope the Noble Lord and my right hon. Friend will lose no time in making proposals designed to speed up decisions in matters relating to Central Africa, and also to bring about bold action on an appropriate scale. I make this purely war-time proposal without prejudice to the suggestion made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain Macdonald) for a Colonial Development Board, a suggestion with which I entirely agree.
To conclude, some of us who have spent the best years of life in outlying portions of the Empire sometimes feel a little sore when we hear the interpretation that is so commonly placed upon the terms "Imperialism" and "Imperialist," because we know that, as far as our own labours are concerned, those aspersions are untrue. Yesterday, I was talking to a former member of the Indian Civil Service, who retired just before the war. After the outbreak of war, he was comfortably installed in one of the new Ministries; they were glad to get him, for he was a very able man. Then he was invited to go out to West Africa, and he accepted the invitation with alacrity. He is now back, after spending two years in what was known as the White Man's Grave, and his health is shattered. He makes no complaint. He would go back again to-morrow if he could pass the doctor for he is imbued with the spirit of so many of our fellow countrymen who wherever they may be, however inhospitable their surroundings, keep on trying to create a little bit of old England, to reproduce something of the justice and freedom which we here have enjoyed so long that we sometimes forget their value and significance. We sometimes forget how hard that justice and that freedom are to win and how hard to keep. Despite apathy and prejudice, despite a lack of encouragement and inspiration from above, this spirit, the true spirit of our Empire, lives on to-day among a great many of our fellow-countrymen, and with this material to hand, and with the fresh, vigorous outlook, of which my right hon. Friend has given us a glimpse to-day, I believe our Colonial Empire will play a great and worthy part in rebuilding our shattered civilisation.
I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham) will excuse me if I do not follow the subject matter of his speech which, if I may say so without offence, did not strike a very responsive note in me. I want to ask the Minister to give us, when he replies, a little more positive information about what is being done as regards schemes of welfare and development, particularly in the West Indies. I would remind the Committee that for some years now the general position, economically, socially, and politically, in the West Indies has been one of considerable disturbance and, I will not say seething discontent, but standing discontent, dissatisfaction and frustration. I will recall briefly what happened in the years 1936, 1937 and 1938. The hon. Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle) told us, in perfect good faith, I am sure, of the efforts that have been made in the West Indian Colonies to improve the lot of the Colonial peoples. I want to pay a tribute to the great organisation with which the hon. Member is associated in the sugar industry in Jamaica. I have myself seen some of the evidence. The hon. Member's firm has done certain useful welfare work in the matter of housing, and so on. That I do not dispute. However, the fact remains that, a few years before the war began, there were throughout the whole of the West Indian Colonies widespread labour disputes, strikes, riots and disturbances. A number of people were killed, a large number injured, and many arrested and placed in custody.
I shall not now probe in any detail into the reasons, but obviously something was wrong, and in the years 1937 and 1938 that revelation of discontent in the West Indian Colonies came to us as a shock, somewhat analogous to that which we have received in the last few days in another part of the world. As a result of those disturbances, a Royal Commission was appointed, in 1939, to go to the West Indies. The Commission was a very competent and authoritative one, consisting of Members of the House and Members of another place, and representatives of the Labour and Trades Union Movement in the country. After some six months or so of inquiries, the Commission made its report, which was issued in 1940. The Report painted a picture of extreme poverty, bad housing, widespread unemployment, low wages, and discontent. The result was that the Government of the day said that some kind of remedial measures would have to be applied. In 1940, there was passed the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, which provided that a very considerable organisation should be set up, on the basis of the recommendations of the Royal Commission's Report, with a Comptroller-General at its head, an Inspector-General of Agriculture, an adequate expert staff, and an adequate clerical staff. It provided that in 1940 the Commission should get to work to find a remedy, by development and welfare work, for the problems in the West Indian Colonies. I want the Minister to tell us what has actually been done, following the Report of the Royal Commission and the passing of the Colonial Development and Welfare Act. Sir Frank Stockdale was appointed Chief Comptroller, and an annual sum of £5,500,000 was allocated for Colonial welfare and development, of which £1,000,000 per year was to be devoted to the West Indies to develop schemes to meet the situation.
I will not range over all the Colonies, but will ask the Minister to tell us what has been done in the West Indies. Do not let the Minister forget that there has been British rule for 300 years in the West Indies, and that there has been an ample opportunity to introduce all the amenities of civilisation in the Jamaican and West Indian islands. He cannot slide away from the question in the case of the West Indian islands, by saying there has not been time for the Government to find solutions for their problems. The other day I asked the Minister how many schemes had been put into operation since 1940, and I received the usual evasive reply. I was told there were 80 schemes, and, when I asked how many of them had been put into operation, I received no reply. Let hon. Members remember that two years have gone by, and that £1,000,000 per year was at the disposal of Sir Frank Stockdale and his experts. A special sum of £350,000 was provided, apart from the annual grant, and £100,000 was voted for strengthening the organisation and staff. I understand from the latest information in Jamaican newspapers that no single scheme hasyet been put into operation, and that the money has not been spent.
The total amount of money spent in the West Indian islands is rather short of £1,000,000. The further £1,000,000 which was provided has not been spent, in spite of the fact that the situation is critical. There is a food shortage in nearly all the West Indian islands. Imports have been stopped because of the war, and the prices of foodstuffs have increased. In spite of the fact that the climate and soil in Jamaica are ideal for growing almost anything, people are short of food and dissatisfied with their wages. I was interested to note that, in a rhetorical passage of the Minister's admirable speech, which was finely assembled, well-delivered and well-phrased, he said—I am paraphrasing his remarks—that the time had come not for mere statements, not for platitudes and not for decorative promises, but for action. I want the Minister to tell us what has been done in the West Indies.
I wish to add my plea to something which was said by my hon. Friend the, Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones). I hope the Minister will adopt the policy which, I think, is approved by Members on all sides of the House, of seeking to find remedies for our Colonial problems not by imposing outside control, but by using the talents and abilities of the native populations. I appeal to him, in connection with all the organisations he sets up for schemes of Colonial development and economic welfare, to look around and find people with ability on the spot. In Jamaica, Trinidad and British Guiana there are natives who have been efficiently educated and are as capable and as experienced as any Member of this House. If you go into a West Indian court, you may see a jet-black judge on the bench and a white man in the dock. That is evidence of the development that has taken place. When it comes to the official administration of the Government, coloured people are, as a rule, left out, whatever their qualifications. Nor can I recall any proposal being made that there should be a native coloured Governor.
I am not saying that such a matter should be discussed entirely from the point of view of colour, but there it is. They are barred, however able they may be. It is the same with regard to the head men in the civil administration. It is the same in the case of the new Commission, with Sir Frank Stockdale as Chief Comptroller. I understand that not a single Jamaican or West Indian has been placed on that -Commission. That is contrary to the spirit and the desire of the country and the House. There is plenty of good will in the West Indian Colonies. There is no lack of sympathy towards us. There is a general enthusiasm for the British association and connection, but, if you are to retain it and harness it, and if it is not to be discouraged, you must give to those Colonies which are ripe for it, the right of responsible self-government.
I wish to ask a question of my right hon. Friend, and I hope he will acquit me of discourtesy if I am not here when he answers it. I hope to be, but I am at the mercy of a telephone message. The other day at Question Time we had explained to us the appointment of Lord Swinton. I wish to say nothing in any way critical of Lord Swinton or of the appointment. From all that I know and guess of West African conditions the appointment is necessary and, for all I know of Lord Swinton, I have feelings of public respect and some private gratitude to him. I ask these questions purely "because I think a constitutional development is happening in respect of this appointment which is perhaps not wholly definable but which should not be allowed to happen without its being analysed, at least by question, if not by answer, in the House. The Dominions Secretary, answering a Question on 17th June, said:
His appointment is thus administrative rather than political. … no constitutional change is entailed in the four Colonies, which will remain under their own Governors, who on all normal questions of Colonial administration will continue to act under the authority of the Secretary of Sate for the Colonies… The Minister will be of Cabinet rank but will not be a member of the War Cabinet.
I do not quite know what Cabinet rank is unless it is part of a function and the function of a member of a Cabinet is to be invited to a particular sort of meeting. Therefore it appears a strange kind of paradox when we have Cabinet Ministers of whom the essential thing about the appointment of one of them is that he should stay on the banks of the Nile and of another that he should stay somewhere on the west side of tropical Africa. That is an anomaly and an illogicality which the House has already swallowed, but there is a new one added here. Besides the geographical incompatibility of the
terms used there is now a new logical and political incompatibility, because whatever else Cabinet rank or Cabinet function may mean, surely the essence of it throughout has been that although it is administratively important it is political rather than administrative. That is the difference between a Cabinet Minister and a civil servant however elevated. It is also, to a rather less degree, the difference between a Cabinet Minister and a minor Minister. The proportion of politicality, so to speak, is higher in the case of a Cabinet Minister than in any other sort of person who controls administration. There is, therefore it seems to me, an incompatibility here which if it cannot be explained should-at least be indicated. Later in the same answer the Dominions Secretary said, "He will, of course. …" That is an odd use of "of course," because how anything can happen, "of course," in a situation ex hypothesi entirely novel, is extremely difficult to conceive. However, those are the words used. The Dominions Secretary said:
He will, of course, have the right to address any Minister direct, though when he does so his normal channel of communication will be through the Colonial Office.
At this point I really begin to be baffled. We ought to inquire whether this means that the direct communications between Lord Swinton and other Ministers go in sealed packets through the Colonial Office—[Laughter.] I think that these are points of great practical importance as well as logical difficulty. If this is an attempt to co-ordinate and hasten administration, of which I entirely, approve, we must be sure that that is the probable effect. You do not necessarily make a horse go faster by putting a fifth leg on it, and if we are not to end up worse than we began, it is important that the matter should be as clear as it can be. Is Lord Swinton entitled to communicate directly with other Cabinet Ministers on matters which might, naturally, be supposed to be the business of the Colonial Secretary without his letters going through not merely the Colonial Office but the Colonial Secretary's desk and his inspection? The answer we were given the other day leaves that uncertain, and if His Majesty's Government do not know what they mean on that point they ought to make up their mind. If they do know we should be told. There were some supplementary Questions ending up with one
from the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Garro Jones), who asked:
Does not this appointment fall into a new category of Cabinet Ministers whose dutes are administrative and not legislative …
I do not think I know what the hon. Member meant, but what he meant does not matter from my point of view. The Question finished with the words:
because apparently this Minister has no political responsibility to anyone?
The Dominions Secretary replied:
I do not think so. I think the position is analogous to that of the Minister of State."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1942; cols. 1519–20, Vol. 380.]
In what does the analogy consist? The word "analogous" was chosen by the person of the highest precedence in the Government but one, and the Government ought to explain in what the analogy consists, for as the supplementary answer stands it seems to me to throw darkness rather than light on the intention.
I ventured upon the indulgence of the Committee merely to ask those questions. I hope I may be forgiven if I say one other thing. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) is no longer here, but something he said ought, in my judgment, to find some rejoinder from this side of the Committee. He talked about the war ending the territorial lines that were in lawful existence at the beginning of the war, and he even seemed to assume that the United States Government or the Russian Government, or any other entity which has been on our side in the war, would have some right at the end to decide which portions of the Colonial Empire were to continue to be de jure under the British Crown and which not. My right hon. Friend who opened the Debate, by implication, repudiated any such suggestion, but I think that this ought to be repudiated in much stronger terms and much more clearly than has yet been done. If I may say so without arrogance or impertinence, it ought to be done also in other places than this House and by persons of greater importance than my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and even than his Noble Friend. It ought to be made clear by the most important persons in the Government.
We have on the whole nothing to be ashamed of in the history of the British Empire and there has been a great deal of the most offensive rejoicings, almost, at the misfortunes which that Empire is now suffering, from a good many quarters. There has been a great deal of excessive defending of what needs no defence, but there is one thing for which no Government can be excused. The Government which fails to protect territories and populations for which it is responsible and which, having failed, sits down under that failure in any particular area and does not do everything at whatever cost, over whatever time and space, to see that that failure is reversed and repaired, can have no right to survive, and will have very little prospect of surviving. The time is long overdue to make it clear that we are conscious of our sins in that respect, that we are profoundly penitent for our failures to defend these territories and populations, and that we are absolutely determined to see that what this generation can do shall be done to ensure that such defects and deficiencies as those from which these territories have suffered shall not be a risk which any of them shall run again.
I do not propose to follow my hon. Friend in the examination which he made of the Questions and Answers in the House when Lord Swinton was appointed to his important post. He put those Questions with his usual charm. They are of great substance, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will find it convenient to enlighten the Committee when he comes to reply. It is a healthy measure of the interest which this House shows in Colonial affairs that it is necessary for the Government to suspend the Rule and allow a longer time for debate. Those of us who have been privileged to listen to the Debate from its inception can confirm the interest which is shown by Members of all parties in the problems with which my right hon. Friend has to deal. I rise particularly to address myself to some of the arguments of the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones). This day last week in a supplementary question referring to forced labour in Nigerian tin mines the hon. Gentleman, who condemned the proposal, said that "the regulations were a great shock to all progressive opinion in this country." The hon. Member dealt with that point again to-day. May I say, on behalf of my Conservative Friends, that we are not in favour of exploiting the native labour in any part of the Colonial Empire at any time, but with British citizens subject to complete regimentation I see no particular reason why the populations of our Colonies should be treated in any preferential fashion. I must congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his political agility, because it is an extraordinary thing that when he sits on the Government side of the House, privileged as he is to serve as Parliamentary Private "Secretary to the Minister of Labour, he finds himself able, and rightly so, to support his chief in any regulation which he introduces under the Essential Work Order for the compulsory transfer of labour here in Great Britain. Then after a swift flight across the House he charges the Colonial Secretary in the same Government with doing the same thing in a different way. That I think might invoke the jealousy of Mr. Spencer Tracey of America. His performance as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was nothing to be compared with the quick-change artistry of the hon. Gentleman.
There is a profound difference between industrial conscription in a Colonial territory and industrial conscription in this country, and I am amazed at the obtuseness of the hon. and gallant Member in not seeing the fundamental difference. It consists of two things. The people of this country are responsible for their Government, and they can check the activities of the Minister of Labour, who himself is responsible to a democratic assembly. A Colony, on the other hand, has an alien Government imposing its will without consultation. It cannot be checked in its activities. The second difference is that in the case of industrial conscription in this country there are certain definite guarantees to the people, and conditions are laid down. In the case of industrial conscription or slavery in the Colonial Empire the regulations usually come afterwards, and we have to press for special inspection and proper regulation of wages.
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I have never noticed that he has been inactive in bringing to the attention of this House the difficulties of native populations in the Empire when he thinks they have been wrongly treated, and in that safeguard alone we have a good measure of democracy in the Empire to-day. I do not want to spend too much time on the mental processes of the hon. Member, who is more of an authority on them than I am, but I should like to say in reply to the interruption that the Government of Malaya was blamed by Members in all parts of the House for not having at an earlier stage enrolled more men for defence and more men for production. I venture to think that we cannot blame Malaya on the one hand and in the same breath blame Nigeria for insisting on practical steps to increase the output of tin. The hon. Gentleman and the Committee as a whole know well how important tin is to our war effort in the production of munitions. In his opening speech my right hon. Friend drew our attention to the fact that we had lost 60 per cent. of the world's production of tin since war was declared, and no one will dispute that if we were deprived of that essential product in the manufacture of war materials, the prospects for us in the future would be very grim.
But, after all, from the hon. Gentleman's point of view, under Government regulations my right hon. Friend has full power to regulate the conditions of employment of these enforced workers, and, indeed, the hon. Gentleman was promised by my right hon. Friend only the other day that the Acting-Governor of Nigeria would further explore the possibilities of meeting the hon. Gentleman in his objections. I venture to suggest that it is in the interest of the workers themselves in Nigeria that there should not be any valid reason why they should not play their full part in the defence of the Empire. The hon. Gentleman referred to an article which appeared in "The Times" yesterday. Of course it was impossible for him to quote it in detail, but there is a part of that article which I think may interest the Committee, to which the hon. Gentleman did not refer:
The problem of military organisation, insistent in its impact under the stress of war, throws a revealing light on the practical clash between the concepts of trusteeship and partnership. The war has shown us the disastrous results of this attitude,"—
That is, of course, the attitude of the trusteeship policy—
The non-participation of the Malayan people in the defence of their country was due not to hostility, not even to indifference, but to
lack of military training. Where native forces had been raised and trained, as in West Africa, they have played a notable part in arduous fighting beyond the borders of their own land. The taking of a full share of responsibility for defence is implicit in the idea of partnership.
The writer of the article then asks, "What is the attitude of the West Africans to the war?". and says:
The first misconception that West Africans have to remove from their minds is that this is a 'white man's war.'",
Whatever our immediate or long-term aspirations may be, we stand little chance of translating them into deeds under any form of dictatorship.
I think that even my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley will at least agree with that. Passing to another point, I should like to deal with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary because, if I may say so in all sincerity, he displayed in that speech a realism and a refreshing breadth of thought in relation to our immediate and long-term policy that many other Government Departments would do well to follow. For far too long Governments have been prepared to let the inadequate Colonial machinery creak and groan under its own inefficiency, having had neither the courage, the imagination nor the drive to alter the state of affairs, and I think that, taken in all its broad aspects, the speech of my right hon. Friend, reflecting as it does the considered policy of his Noble Friend the Secretary of State, is a most happy augury for the future.
I was particularly glad to hear him mention what is called the Colonial pool of officials. For many years now the Colonial Empire has laboured under a most unfortunate system which has denied to the poorer parts of it, the opportunity of using the services of our most trusted, well-trained and highly-paid officials, because they have been unable to meet the cost in their budgets, under the scheme of my right hon. Friend a pool will be formed in London, as I understand it. When it is decided that it is necessary in the interests of a particular; Colony that it should have the benefit of the services of a certain official well experienced in their own particular problems, they will not be faced with a financial difficulty, because the difference between the amount of his salary as borne on the Estimates of the island or Colony and the actual rate of his salary will be paid by the Colonial Office from either a special fund or from a direct grant from the Treasury. In that way I feel that we are making a real contribution to some of their difficulties.
While I am on the question of officials, I would like to say that we must all agree that whatever the future of the British Colonial Empire after the war, it must have as its -basis political and economic considerations, and if we transfer an official, whether of a senior or lower grade, from one part of the Colonial Empire to another part without his spending some time here in London, at the heart of the Empire, at the hub of the universe, from our point of view, he will not be in a position to make that contribution to the economic and political problems of the Colony to which he is posted through being so much out of touch with current affairs. I should like to see some scheme considered by the Colonial Office under which, as far as it is possible, officers, before they are transferred from A to B, going to face problems in another part of the Empire which have no relation to those in the part of the Empire from which they have come, should spend some months at least in the Colonial Office. This would enable them to put themselves in practical touch not only with the economic and political trend of world affairs, but, indeed, with the feeling of Members of this House on political problems. Such an officer would then go out refreshed in mind and determined to see that everything possible was done for the Colony to which he had been appointed. I realise that there would be difficulties, because the number of officials under the Colonial Office in all parts of our Empire must greatly exceed the number of officials in London, and it might be necessary to have some system of duplication, but even so I am sure it would be to the interests of all concerned.
I welcomed the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham), as, to my mind, he dealt with an aspect of the present situation which is of great importance. In connection with the appointment of Lord Swinton, he was referring, as I understood him, to all that that entailed in relation to the organisation of Colonial products and war supplies here in London. He pointed out that many Government Departments have officials stationed in various parts of the Empire dealing with their own particular problems and reporting back to their opposite numbers in their own Department in London; bat there is no co-ordinating body in existence capable of dealing with the problem as a whole. The official of the Ministry of War Transport has no idea of the interest of any other Department in, for instance, a place like Freetown. If the people in London who received these reports were members of a co-ordinating board, presided over by my right hon. Friend, I am certain that a lot of unnecessary overlapping would be prevented and would give to people interested in the products and manufactures of the Colonies a clear conception of the way in which the Colonies as a whole are playing such a gallant part in our fight to-day.
I was not privileged to listen to all the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald), who advocated the setting-up of a Colonial Development Board, but in various consultations which I have been privileged to have, I have become convinced that this is a right step. Since the last war especially, a number of committees have been set up to advise the Colonial Office and the Secretary of State for the Colonies upon a diversity of problems affecting all sorts of things, but some of those matters as well as some of the committees are obsolete. Some of the committees are overlapping and have never met. If they became sub-committees, really live sub-committees dealing with live problems and were composed of energetic and experienced young men—not aged pro-consuls—if I may use the same phrase as the Under-Secretary—I think they would form the foundation stone of a Colonial policy unaffected by successive Secretaries of State or the passage of Governments; representing, as they will in the future, various political parties. There were other questions to which I desired to address myself, but at this late hour I apologise to the Committee for imposing upon their patience for so long.
I do not wish to refer to economic matters but to two other points, the first of which is the social status of the population of the Colonial Empire. Many workers in the Colonial Empire would rather work for, shall I say, 6d. a day and be treated as human beings, than for is. a day and be treated as domestic animals. We have very often been far behind other countries in our treatment of Colonial peoples, from the social aspect of the matter. I would compare our treatment with that accorded to the people in the French Empire and, above all—in spite of the laughter that may come from the other side of the House—to the people in what I might refer to as the Russian Empire. There are large numbers of people of different races in Russia and among none of those peoples is there any sense of a colour bar. All are treated as equals. If we followed their example we might do much to improve our relations with our Colonial peoples.
I would refer in particular to one class of Colonial people, those who are serving in the Forces. We have heard tributes paid to them for their valour and for the work that they are doing as Colonial troops. I hope that we may be certain in future that soldiers, sailors or airmen of coloured races will receive just as good treatment when they come to this country as is accorded to those who come from the Dominions. I am not sure that they receive that equality of treatment to-day. In-many cases they do; I know of the work that has been done in this respect particularly by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall). He did very good work and I hope that it will be continued. I am not so much concerned with what happens here, because colour prejudice, in this country is nothing like so great, fortunately, as it is in many of the Colonies themselves. I hope that the treatment afforded to the African soldiers and members of other Defence Services will be just as good in the streets of Nairobi and Colombo as in the streets of London. I hope that such African people will, in no case, be refused admission to any public place. I think it is true to say that there are public places, such as restaurants, cinemas and theatres in the capitals of the various colonies, to which natives are not admitted. I hope it is not true, and I sincerely hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that it is not true. If it is true, that people are called upon to serve their country and are paid for doing so but are refused admission to places to which white people may go, it is a slur on our Colonial Empire which should be removed as rapidly as possible. I hope that my right hon. Friend will take steps to see that it is removed.
My second point deals with the representation of natives of the Colonies in this country. The Debate to-day has shown that this House takes considerably more interest than has been usual in Colonial affairs, but we see here now and during the Debate, only a handful of Members present, although we have been discussing topics connected, not just with one industry such as we discuss so often in regard to our home affairs, but subjects connected with very many countries and with the entire life of those countries. Many of us feel it impossible to deal adequately with those subjects in such a short space of time as is available to us.
One of the ways in which we can get a better understanding of Colonial peoples, in at least the larger Colonies, would be if each of them were able to send an accredited representative to this country, as High Commissioner or under any other title it might be desired to give him. This representative' would occupy the same position as a High Commissioner from the Dominions. I know there would be constitutional difficulties and I know that the Colonial Office might dislike to have people from various Colonies putting a spoke into their wheel, as it were, but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can see his way to getting native representation in this country, at least for some of the larger Colonies, by the appointment in such cases of a High Commissioner or a gentleman of similar title. If this were done I feel that we-should have a better knowledge of native populations and what they are thinking and we should, perhaps, be less likely to be surprised, as many Members were, by the feeling that they discovered in Singapore and those other places which must not be mentioned but to which some hon. Members have referred. We found that the natives were sometimes not only apathetic but even took sides against our defending forces.
If we had adequate native representation here we should be able to avoid such sudden surprises and the realisation that native people are thinking something entirely different from what we had imagined. I hope that we may have these two reforms: First a removal of the colour bar—a real removal, not just an economic removal but if I might use the expression a spiritual removal—and, secondly, an adequate representation of the Colonies here in this country. If those two steps are taken we may and that the next time the enemy tries to invade one of our Colonies they will meet not with the kind of reception they met with in Singapore, Malaya and other places, but with the kind of reception they would meet with if they set foot on these shores.
I was interested in what was said by the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) as to the representation of Colonial interests over here. There is only one suggestion I should like to make to him. Would it not be better to make that representation of a more fundamental nature than he proposed? I believe that the Colonial Office is perhaps better informed as regards native opinion and native labour conditions than it has ever been, as a result of the appointment of labour advisers to cover different Colonies, and I myself would go far further than that and would like to see some sort of representative body looking after and representing in this country the interests of different Colonial areas. I believe that if we approach this matter from the point of view of Colonial development we shall carry along with it the welfare of the natives as well.
I, along with other hon. Members, would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what he said. It is, indeed, refreshing to feel that at last, and at very long last, this House has been given a breath of entirely fresh air on the problems of Colonial administration, and I should also like to support the appeal that has been made to him to consider something in the nature of a Colonial Development Board. I am not in the least narrow-minded as to the constitution of such a board or what its functions should be, but it seems to me that, with the history of slow development we have behind us we must look to some better form of machinery, if we want to accelerate the development which we see in front of us. It is unfortunate that it needs the manure of war to bring forward the new growth of interest in this country and in the world as regards Colonial development. It is unfortunate, but we need not regret it too much, so long as that development and the necessity for it is recognised fully in this House.
I would like to turn to one particular block of Colonial Possessions which, I think, can in fact be considered as a definite block, and which I myself believe we ought to consider in this country as a particular block—I mean the African block. It is a great advance that Lord Swinton is going out to do what he has been appointed to do; but I am not at all happy about what will happen to his proposals when they come back to this country. There is, possibly, some confusion, not only as to the channels through which he should work, but also as to exactly how those channels themselves should work. I should like to see something in the nature of an opposite number to Lord Swinton in this country, having particular regard to African interests, starting if you like with West African interests and trying to develop that to include the interests of the African block as a whole.
We have to look at this question of African development from the point of view of the immensely heavy expenditure in which we are bound to be involved. I believe that the House of Commons must blame itself very largely for the slowness of development, and that it should take fairly the criticisms which are frequently launched against the slow British development of Colonial Possessions as a whole. It is no use our turning round now and saying that Colonial administration has been so bad, that the Colonial Office has been so sleepy, or that the members of the Colonial service have not shown sufficient drive and energy, when, at the same time, we have not been prepared to go to our constituents and say, "If you want to see Colonial development, you will have to give up something which you want in this country and see that it is spent in the Colonies." I believe that that is an honest approach to the problem, and it is one which we must be prepared to make, not only in this Committee but outside in the country. By that means, we should be able to educate the people of this country in the value of the Colonial Possessions under the British flag.
When we are considering development we have always to face the very difficult problem of whether developments should be carried out by private enterprise or, as the expenditure is bound to be very heavy, under State control, centralised through some authority in this country. I believe that it would be a great mistake if we were to over-generalise on that issue. There are certain Colonies in which, so vast are the enterprises which would have to be undertaken, it would obviously be essential to use public funds, and for the State itself to undertake those enterprises. As a general principle, however, I think it will be found that, on the whole, the larger developments of production which have been undertaken by private enterprise in the Colonies have been extremely successful. Where there have been failures in the different Colonies, it has not been so much because private enterprise, or what are loosely known as vested interests, have failed, as because there has been no co-ordination whatsoever between the production and development of one Colony and of another.
Behind the entire picture of production and development lies the much more difficult problem of native labour. In the Colonies, that is the responsibility of His Majesty's Government and of this House and we must remember that fact in any criticisms we may launch against the Government in this respect. My right hon. Friend spoke of the unfortunate term "trustee" which has been used in respect of our approach to the native problem in every part of the world. I am very strongly in agreement with what he said. To my mind the very word "trustee" implies a "care and maintenance basis," which is completely foreign to any idea of development. Equally, I am not quite sure that I like the word "partner" pure and simple, unless it is coupled with the idea of parenthood. I believe that "parent-partner" is more likely to represent the true spirit in which we should approach Colonial and native problems than any other definition, because, after all, the parent should be proud that his offspring is able to take his place. He should be proud to see his offspring developing and becoming ever readier not merely to take over something and maintain it in exactly the same state as that in which he gets it, but to fake it over and eventually bring it to a higher stage than the parent himself has ever been able to achieve.
Not in the least; perhaps I was using those words in rather a loose way, but I think the Committee well understood what I meant. Again, I think that in this respect, when we are thinking of development and the native policy which must lie behind that development, we must do everything we can to avoid thinking along lines of development in the process of which too drastic changes have to occur at each stage of development. If development is to be sound, and based on good foundations, it must be steady, regular and progressive. To attempt to deal with native development by a series of jerks or unexpected leaps and bounds, as might be brought about if we had irresponsible changes of government, possibly in this country, would not only be dangerous but would do immense and long-standing damage to the whole of our prestige in all our Colonial Possessions. The basis of development of any native policy lies in education. When I say that, I do not mean, by any means, the concentration on book learning or an attempt to pump something in the nature of university education into minds which for generations have not had the background which fits them for such knowledge. We have to start from the very beginning in this question of education, and educate on the building of shelter, on the growing of food, on the fighting of pests and diseases, and the actual essentials of life, before we begin to reach the question of transmitting book knowledge to the native mind to-day. Because we begin now with Balbus, it does not imply any devaluation, of Einstein in the least, though. I think that native art has left Epstein some 200 or 300 years behind.
So far that would appear to be a comparatively simple problem. Leaving the question of primary production for which that type of education and development is eminently fitted, you have the complication of the native entering into industry. The native now, with the improved cultivation which has been taught, knows quite well that he can leave his village and go. into industry, and that his village will not starve. He therefore has an opportunity to allow free play to that sense of adventure natural to him, and his general longing to wander about the face of the earth. For him, we should remember, there are in fact' no boundaries and no frontiers, speaking in terms of Africa. Therefore we get this heavy flood of native labour wishing and desiring to go into industry either. in the mining centres or in the ordinary towns and industrial centres possibly nearer its own natural home. Here again we have to face the very hard facts. I believe that we should consider very carefully the revaluing of native labour. I do not say that for any sentimental reason whatever but for very practical reasons, because unless we can encourage the native, the African native in particular, to rise to greater degrees of skill, and let those greater degrees of skill carry with them a reasonably higher reward, we are not encouraging him to undertake growing responsibilities, which is the only method" of training him to take his part properly in any form of government, however local. We should revalue and examine our ideas as to the worth of native labour in all these degrees of skill.
Then on top of that there is another problem. Should we encourage, or should we not encourage, the native industrial population? At the present time short-term industrial employment of natives is undoubtedly having a serious effect on the structure of native life. It is, to my mind, damaging it considerably. The question is whether the prestige of chiefs or headmen, on whom we depend to convey British authority in his district—whether the authority of our agents, if I may call it that using the words crudely—is undermined by the fact that natives coming back from industry carry with them greater possessions than are in the hands of chiefs. If we are to use this system of modified and developed indirect rule or indirect control, we must make quite sure that those who are carrying out that system, such as the chiefs, carry with them that prestige and standing with which we would like to see them vested if they are to carry out their duties properly. There is no possible doubt, to my mind, that the system of indirect control and rule as it has been developed supplies the framework for practically unlimited development of the native system if it is fairly used, but I think that we have to remember that the local native government implicit in that system is the structure, and that the British and European advice and control is the scaffolding.
Every structure needs its scaffolding at different stages, and in its early stages the amount of scaffolding and the number of men on it are very considerable indeed. But those working on that scaffolding have to be responsible for seeing that the work on the structure and in the structure is sound. If unsound patches are found, the work has to be pulled down again. I believe that from our scaffolding we see that some very unsound patches of work have been done in the past, for which I do not blame any Governments. I certainly would not blame individuals in the Colonial Service. I would blame the whole of the point of view of the whole of the people of this country as regards responsibility in that matter. It is not a weakness in our make-up. I think that it is the fact that we are divided from those parts of the earth by vast distances and that it is difficult to be able to visualise the problems with which we are faced.
To sum up, I would say that the weak-nesses of our Colonial development lie under four or five heads. As a result of the employment of natives in industry we find the position that the native returning from industrial life tends to undermine local authority, on which the whole system of indirect control or rule depends, and that it is therefore necessary to revise that part of the structure of indirect control. Secondly, I should say that the failure to popularise education among African women is at the root of most of the trouble remaining in the African Colonies. Next, I would say we have to overcome the desire on the part of some people to concentrate too much on book learning in education, which, when it is coupled with a rather stagnant policy regarding the employment and earnings of African labour, has given a false value to the standing of the clerk in the life of the community. In fact, you get among the educated portion of Africans perhaps a higher percentage of clerks than it is right that there should be. It is right that we should teach the maintenance and development of the growth and export of native crops, but we have not developed a system of transport sufficiently rapidly to enable those crops to be moved between district and district in Africa.
Finally, there is the lack of effort to achieve agreement oh the progressive development of policy as between British Colonies, and also as between British Colonies and French, Belgian and Portuguese Colonial Possessions. That is responsible for some of the economic factors with which we have been faced. It seems to me most deplorable—or it has seemed most deplorable in the past; I believe me right hon. Friend is doing his best to cure it—that, as regards native policy, transport development, economic development and so on, our Colonies have had very little contact with neighbouring Colonial Possessions; not only our own but other people's. We have an immense lot to learn from others, and I believe that they have an immense lot to learn from us. Unless we are in close contact with them, we shall not learn from each other. The criticisms I put forward are made not against a background of shame for what we have done in the British Empire, but rather against a background of pride that so many men, from my own country of Scotland in particular, have been ready to spend the whole of their lives in building up this structure, frequently in unhealthy surroundings, and without one word of thanks from an ungrateful people.
I have been lucky enough to be called upon to speak, and I only hope that the want of lunch and tea will not make me unable to continue the Debate. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) and some of the previous speakers, in throwing bouquets to the Colonial Office. I propose, if possible, to speak the truth. I know that that would not increase my reputation with the Colonial Office and its officials, because anyone who criticises them in any way is always stigmatised as a Bolshevist and an extremist; it is not only Berlin and Vichy who use those disparaging terms in speaking of their opponents. But let that pass. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare spoke of trusteeship. That is a good word. To me, it implies a guardianship and supervision of people under our care until those people can stand on their own feet. In the West Indies, it implies such guardianship until the time when the West Indies, I hope, become a Federated Dominion. The hon. Member threw the blame for what has happened on the electorate. I do not believe that the electorate is to blame in any way. There has been a deliberate policy by the B.B.C., by the Press—a profit-making Press, run by vested interests—and by the Colonial Office, in support, to keep knowledge of Colonial affairs away from the British public. If the public have not the knowledge, how can they form a judgment?
I have only 15 minutes, and I have been here all day, and I really cannot stand it any longer. It is very tedious indeed. There have been some queer speeches made to-day, even on our side. One of our Members actually said that the report of the West Indies Commission had been published. It has not. Only the recommendations of the Commission have been made public—for a very good reason. When that report is made public, it will give the British people a greater shock than they had over Malaya and elsewhere; and the conditions it deals with relate not to war-time but to peace-time. It reveals deplorable, disgraceful social and economic conditions.
Take the case of venereal disease in Jamaica. I put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor asking whether it was not true that on one occasion two children of seven and eight years of age were receiving treatment for venereal disease, caused by an adult male, and whether that treatment was being given in an open dispensary, without their parents being present. I have the Question and the Answer here. It was admitted that the conditions were quite unsatisfactory, and it was stated that the late Secretary for the Colonies was communicating with the Governor. I have heard nothing since. No charge was made against the culprit, because it was pretended that nothing could be done. These children, except on the first visit, had to attend a dispensary where there was no segregation between male and female. That sort of thing makes me disgusted with the Colonial Office. It has nothing to do with politics, but only with ordinary decency. I have mentioned in a previous Debate the diseases that exist there, when you have a Colonial Development Fund which is recommended by the Royal Commission to spend £1,000,000 a year on welfare work. In spite of that, such conditions are permitted for the treatment of children who innocently have been infected in this way. Quite frankly, that ought to be stopped. When I have asked Questions about it, the right hon. Gentleman, who, no doubt, cannot know everything but who is advised by official who should know better, has always tried to give an evasive answer. I take my information from the" Colonial Office reports,
I am going to refer to the St. Kitts sugar factory, because the hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A Evans) said that he did not believe that there was exploitation of the native worker, while the hon. Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle) said he did no know what a vested interest was. One hon Gentleman has mentioned the export of textiles. On the island of Barbados they cannot prosecute mothers, under the Compulsory Education Act, for not sending children to school, because it has beer proved in evidence before the Royal Commission that the mothers were too poor to buy clothes, and that the children were running about naked. The fathers were getting only is. a day, the same wages as they got in the time of slavery, l00 years ago. I put a Question down, and the right hon. Gentleman challenged my figures. My information is taken from the Stock' Exchange Year Book, from the actual reports of the company, and from a confidential report made for the Government. It is a confidential report which was submitted to me by one of the planters and his solicitor, so that I should know the facts, but which the hon. Gentleman said he will not accept. It is a report made to the Colonial Office. He will not accept these facts. St. Kitts is a very small island on which sugar is the one product. Six thousand people are directly involved in the sugar industry, and about 16,000 out of the 18,000 people on the island are indirectly connected with it. You have the interesting spectacle of an agricultural population having to live in the city because there is no land available on the large plantations to give them housing. I am taking these facts from Government reports, and they cannot be denied. They can be found in the report on malnutrition.
Before 1910 the planters each had their small sugar mill, in which they could grind their sugar canes, but London London financiers came along. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, who does not know what a vested interest is, will be interested to know that London and local financiers got together and formed a company, which built a central sugar factory to deal with the sugar canes. This is a Colony which exports sugar and imports taxed food. The company was formed with a capital of £6,500 and issued A and B shares which have never been paid for but are regarded on the Stock Exchange as fully paid up. The A shares from the start got their share of profits, and they lent in debentures a sum of £130,000 at 5 per cent. They built a sugar factory and stipulated that its cost should be paid off in a certain number of years, and in 1925 the money was paid off, and they borrowed more money to build a railway round the island to bring the sugar cane to the factory, and the cost of that railway has already been paid. You talk about the Parisian gangsters, but this island is being sacrificed and throttled by the City financiers of this country. I do not want to get excited over this, and I want really to be peaceful. If the Colonial Office would realise the conditions which exist, they would want to do well, but they do not realise the position. Not many of the officials of the Colonial Office go out to the Colony. They do not see the conditions and talk with the local people. In 1925, when the debentures were paid off and when accumulated profits were due for distribution, the city financiers formed a holding company called the St. Kitts Sugar Factory, Ltd. They bought up all the A Is. shares and exchanged them into £2 shares, thus watering the capital 40 times. I have seen the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Since the day of the formation of the company, the A shareholders, the moneylenders to this island in order to throttle its agricultural economy, had never received less than 100 per cent. I challenge the hon. Gentleman to deny that. They have paid from 100 to 600 per cent. in a year, and, in the year in which they converted the company into a holding company, they paid 1,100 per cent., while the wages of the labourers remained at 1s. and 1s. 2d. per day.
I went into this matter thoroughly. The planters wrote to me and came to see me and said that they had seen that I had asked Questions in the House of Commons, and that they had time and time again protested against the arrange- ments and would like to see some of the profits come to them so that they would be able to pay good wages, which they could not do because the London financiers prevented it. Many of these directors are directors of sugar factories in Trinidad, Barbados, British Guiana and so on. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, who is interested in sugar and ought to know, tells me that he does not know what a vested interest is. That is a vested interest. When a trade union was formed in 1938 or 1939 its secretary was threatened that if he did not withdraw his statement that present-day wages were to be compared with those paid in the days of slavery, he would find himself brought under the Defence Regulations. What can the people do in St. Kitts, which is a small island, to change this throttling system and get out of it? Will you submit this matter to arbitration, or will you allow this devilry, this quintessence of satanic finance, to continue, thus holding down the island and preventing the people from getting a chance? I do not know what the difference will be, but they are going to coordinate the officials of the West Indian Development Fund and local Governors. Suppose the officials of the West Indian Development Fund found the Governors do not want to do certain things about health, or domestic affairs, or agricultural wages, would there not, in that case, be a clash?
The hon. Member for Bournemouth had no answer to the problem of what would happen to the labourers who left agriculture to go to the bases. I will give him the answer. If they will take their sugar estates and convert them into communal farms or run them on partnership lines, so that the workers get a decent wage, he will find that that is the answer and that they will come back to agriculture. I know that the question is a difficult one. I can pay tribute to many of the local officials and Governors. After all, I was under them. In my babyhood I had the free entrance to Government House in one of the islands. I pay tribute to men doing good work under very difficult conditions. Some are very good officials, and some are very bad. I am not blaming everybody. The responsibility is that of the Colonial Office. The Colonial Office passes the baby to the local Governors, and the local Governors pass it back to the Colonial Office. I have been out there, lived there and seen these things. I have not paid an occasional visit like some hon. Members, but I can speak of my own practical experience and knowledge. The Committee must forgive me if I get rather heated. I really love these people. I have been out there, and they asked me to go out and help them to prepare their evidence for the Royal Commission, and I regarded the invitation as their appreciation of my efforts. Let me give an instance. We are a naval nation. The West Indian Islands are very scattered. Why not federate them together? Why not have uniformity of laws and customs' and federated services, legal, medical, agricultural, economic and labour? Why keep the islands under the Imperial policy of "Divide and rule"? Why not keep them together? Why not federate some of the tinier islands? Surely that would be a good thing to do.
Take the question of the Colonial nursing service. Disease is rampant. What are the Colonial Office doing towards the proper development, co-ordination and planning of a decent West Indian Colonial nursing service? What are they doing about that in the different islands as well as arranging for training of West Indian women recruits here? We have scholarships for men in the West Indies but no scholarships for girls. The scholastic attainments of a girl can be of the best, but the only scholarships are for boys, in the West Indies, who can come to Great Britain. There is only one district nurse in Barbados Island, which has a responsible Government and a population of 200,000 people and this one district nurse was appointed only in 1939. Nothing has been planned for a Colonial nursing system by which nurses trained in one island on a standardised course can go to another island and find the same standardisation. Each island is allowed to be a law unto itself as regards nursing services. This has hit even Governors hard, because sometimes they have been treated by nurses who are incompetent.
Why is there no plan for decent training here, where there are facilities, equipment, knowledge and sister tutors? I wrote three years ago to the London County Council about such a scheme, but they never bothered. One or two hospitals have, but the L.C.C., with the necessary hospital facilities, cannot do it. Cannot the Colonial Office do that? Cannot they start devising a scheme for training nurses and bringing girls here from the West Indies? Cannot they include that in the West Indies Development Fund in order to alleviate suffering in the West Indies? Would that not be something to help West Indies nursing? At present there are local wards in many islands to which sisters from Great Britain go out as nurses. They remain as sisters, but the poor black woman, who has risen from the bottom, and has taken the responsibility of doing a sister's job, is never called "Sister." They are simply called "ward nurses." Their status depends upon their colour. Because one is a West Indian and black and the other is a European and white, one must be called a ward nurse and the other must be called a sister. I am sorry if I have been tempestuous, but I feel deeply on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman must excuse me.
Although I feel deeply, I want to emphasise that certain Colonies are doing fine work. Since the riots in 1937 Trinidad has done absolutely wonderful work in housing, water supply, sanitation and other reforms. Trinidad is the richest Colony in the British Empire in relation to its size, because of its soil, and if it was amalgamated with the West Indies its revenue would be able to help the other islands, especially if you took the Income Tax from the oil dividends which come to this country and put it back into the Colony as part of the Development Fund. If you made that rich Colony pay for certain reforms, in poorer Colonies, you would be doing some good. If I have been hitting too hard, it is not because I do not appreciate the work which has been done; it is because I see work which is undone and which ought to be done. I hope that as time goes on the Welfare Department will be developed and that the right hon. Gentleman will do all he can to see that reforms will be carried out, that competent officers, who will be able to come to decisions and face the Colonial Office, will be appointed—men who, because they are on the spot, are prepared to back their own decisions, subject, of course, to the overriding considerations of British policy. I am grateful to have had this opportunity of addressing the Committee, and I thank Members for listening to me so patiently.
I trust the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) will excuse me if I do not follow him into the subjects on which he addressed the Committee, since I lack the detailed knowledge that would qualify me to do so. He spoke with obviously detailed personal knowledge of those subjects, and this I do not claim. But I make one remark, of a personal nature. He asked for the indulgence of the Committee if he had addressed it with too much heat and passion. I do not think he-need have asked for that indulgence, or have offered his apology, although it was gracious of him to do so. I cannot think that the Committee or this House ever resents passion when a Member speaks with deep convictions and strong feelings. Indeed, I often think there is too little passion and invective in oar discussions here.
I would like to add my felicitations to those already offered to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary upon his appointment to his important office. That appointment has given me, personally, the same satisfaction that I am sure it has given to the whole Committee. I wish first to make some observations upon certain of the arguments used to-day by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones). He said, by way of general comment on my right hon. Friend's speech, that the Under-Secretary seemed to be obtuse to the human problems involved in this subject. That was not my reaction, and I doubt whether it was the reaction of the Committee as a whole to the speech of my right hon. Friend. The general economic and political questions, but particularly the general economic questions, with which my right hon. Friend dealt, bear directly upon the human problems with which the hon. Member for Shipley was concerned. My reaction to my right hon. Friend's speech was that he was conscious throughout that the human problems underlie the economic and political questions, and that he realised that the solution of the human problems lies in the answer we must find to those general economic and political questions.
The hon. Member for Shipley referred to the deep sense of frustration which, he said, the peoples of the Colonial Empire have in this war, and he said they feel that they have not been permitted to play their part in it. I think that feeling is not confined solely to the peoples of the Colonial Empire. Owing to the difficult nature of the war, and the course that it has taken, there is inevitably a sense of frustration felt by many people in the Colonial Empire, in the Dominions, and in this country, too. I do not think that this argument of the hon. Member was altogether fair, because it does not seem to me to constitute a fair criticism of Colonial administration.
The hon. Member had a good deal to say about what he suggested should be the new relationship between the peoples of the Colonies and the other peoples of the Empire. He spoke a good deal about equality, fellowship and freedom. I cannot help thinking that these general political conceptions are not the things which are now of paramount interest to the minds of the people who inhabit the Colonial Empire. To-day, those peoples are, I think, much more concerned with economic than with political questions. These general political conceptions often derive from the political ideas that were predominant in this country in the last century, and I do not think they are now the questions which are of immediate practical and paramount importance to the peoples of the Colonies. The hon. Gentleman linked up all these phrases about equality and freedom with the issues of the war, and seemed to suggest that to the Colonial peoples those are the real issues of the war. I do not believe it. What was the origin and reason of this war? Germany was' determined to break up the States of Europe, one by one, by force and fraud, so to dominate the Continent of Europe, and then to have the British Empire at her mercy. The British Empire is fighting for its very existence and its life. As a matter of historical fact, that is the origin and reason of the war: and I believe this plain and simple truth is fully understood by the peoples of the Colonial Empire. The hon. Member spoke about a war of liberation. Liberation from what? Liberation from the menace of Germany: yes; liberation from the menace of defeat and destruction by Germany; liberation from a Germany determined to have the British Empire at her mercy and then to be able to destroy it—but liberation from nothing else. What is the value of this kind of general phrases? It seems to me they have no real application to the present situation, and I think that their tendency is mischievous and dangerous.
I would like now to offer a few remarks on the economic part of this subject. The brutal necessities of war have compelled us to do the things which we ought to have done in peace. My right hon. Friend described his policy as the mobilisation of the resources of the; Colonial Empire for war purposes. The Committee, I think, entirely supports that policy. But what a pity that we did not embark upon that mobilisation of the resources of the Colonial Empire in the time of peace! What a pity we "had to wait for war before doing those things which ought to have been done long since. I suggest that the utmost development of the powers of production of the Colonial Empire should be a fundamental principle of policy. But we have not in the past pursued that principle with the determination and thoroughness that we ought. There has not been imaginative and vigorous, development of all the resources of the Empire. We have not, in a word, fully developed our estate. My right hon. Friend called upon the Committee to consider our Colonial estate as a whole, and suggested that that would be the line of policy to be pursued in the future. I entirely agree. We must consider the Colonial Empire as a whole, we must develop it as a whole, and do everything we can to secure and preserve its unity. It is not uninteresting to observe that in the past, so far as constitutional and political ideas are concerned, we have preserved the unity of the Colonial Empire. The general political and constitutional ideas which flowed forth from Whitehall and left their impress upon the Colonial Governments, naturally made not has worked against the principle of unity; in the Colonial Empire. But so far as economic ideas are concerned, this is not so. The predominant conception of laisser faire has produced the opposite result. It has worked against the principle of unity; it has produced an isolated and haphazard development of the separate British Colonies. And so, from the economic point of view, unity was lost, and it is that unity which to-day we have to recover.
The right hon. Gentleman announced that, in his understanding, the policy of development must be regarded as a coherent whole; and with that I entirely agree. It is certain, and it is not the least important part of this subject, that the policy of development upon which, I hope, we are now fully embarked, requires investment of capital in the Colonial Empire. It requires large investment of capital. Is it not a measure of the insufficiency of the view we have taken in the past of the needs of the Colonial Empire in this regard, that so lately as 1929 Parliament considered as an adequate amount, under the heading of capital investment in the Colonies, the sum of £1,000,000 in a year?
The hon. Member is quite right. That was the upper limit. What were the objects which were set forth in the Colonial Development Act of 1929? They. included provision of agricultural machinery and improvement of methods of agricultural cultivation and marketing, transport and communications, harbours, fisheries, forestry, reclamation and irrigation of land, electricity, scientific research, and other things; and for all these objects £1,000,000 in a year was considered sufficient. It is a ludicrously inadequate provision.
The Colonies are often small. They are often situated in tropical or semi-tropical latitudes; consequently they depend on one crop or a very few crops. They often lack manufacturing industry. Their economy is rudimentary. Therefore, they lack wealth. Their wealth was by no means the reason why the British acquired all their Colonies. From about the middle of the 17th century to about the beginning of the last century among the chief reasons, if not the first reason, why the British acquired their Colonies was the military one. The acquisition of Colonies, during that period in particular, was often merely an incident of the wars in which we were engaged, first with Spain, and then with France. So did Jamaica, the Windward and the Leeward Islands, Mauritius and Gibraltar, come into the British Colonial Empire. Wealth, then, was not always the reason for acquiring Colonies. To this day many remain poor, and for this reason they cannot bear the cost of necessary developments. But capital must be found. In the past it has not always been available, because the investment was not sufficiently attractive in the ordinary way.
I give an example from the Island of Cyprus. There is not, and there never has been in the island, a harbour capable of affording shelter to merchant ships in all weathers. But Cyprus needs such a harbour and always has needed it. The Government of Cyprus know this. But the harbour could not be made because, whenever the matter was agitated, the answer always given was that finance could not be provided. From the point of view of the private investor, that was a fair statement of the position. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in his treatment of this part of the subject. The large capital investment, which will be needed for the development of the Colonial Empire, may have to be provided in part by the State. But there will also be a field for the private investor. I entirely agree with the policy which the right hon. Gentleman enunciated on that part of the subject.
The Committee were very glad to hear the story, abbreviated as it had to be, that he gave of the achievements of the Colonial Empire in this war. It is a fine story indeed, and one which deserves the grateful recognition of the House and the country. The peoples of the Colonial Empire have not hesitated to offer their lives. They have not stinted their treasure. To mention one example: The Island of Jamaica instituted the idea of the Spitfire fund, which has already produced no less than £15,000,000 sterling. There is an example of the most imaginative and useful initiative. Why have the peoples of the Colonial Empire done so much? The actions which stand to their credit are not the actions of unwilling subjects.' They are the actions of men and women inspired by the highest loyalty and patriotism. They are proud to be part of the British Empire: they are proud to be subjects of the King. I remember a saying made to me, during this war, by an African chief, with whom I was discussing the position of the British Empire in war, and the British Empire itself. He said of the King-Emperor, "In him is our trust, in him alone are our trust and reverence."
That may stand as an expression of the patriotism and loyalty of the subjects of the King-Emperor. And they are determined to remain his subjects. Therefore, I was glad to hear what my right hon. Friend said on the question of trusteeship. I am not enamoured of that description of the relationship between Great Britain and the Colonial Empire. There is something dull and depressing in it. I think the conception of partnership, as interpreted by my right hon. Friend, is more attractive, and more true. The very expression "trusteeship," in itself, looks forward to the end of that relationship. But it is not to that prospect that the peoples of the Colonial Empire look forward. They desire to march forward, within the British Empire, to a more prosperous economic condition and to enjoy gradual political development. I believe that the fulfilment of that desire is contained in the methods and the policy described by my right hon. Friend in the eloquent and inspiring words which the Committee heard to-day.
It was interesting and impressive to hear from the last speaker that the real cause of the war was apparently jealousy between. Germany and the British Empire. I am certain that Mr. Maisky will be very interested in that interpretation. Whether that is the exact interpretation or not, I would remind the Committee that a previous speaker on the other side of the House stated that many natives under our dominion were not interested in ideologies one way or the other. They could not be aroused into a state of indignation against the Nazis. They were interested in more primitive and simple things. That is true of some in the. Colonial Empire but not of others. It is not true of those in West Africa or the West Indies, because there, at least, you have African people, whether by descent or actual birth, having at least sufficient appreciation of the world situation to know that Hitlerism and Nazism stand for a Herrenvolk theory which would place them in a permanent position of being outcasts or untouchables. They have actually been described as ape-men.
One can understand the more educated Africans realising, as much as many of us, that at least one aspect of this tremendous struggle is not a struggle between rival Empires—if it were merely that, many of them would take no interest in it—but a struggle between rival conceptions of life and humanity. I do not believe that the educated or intelligent African, whether in the West Indies, West Africa or elsewhere, would bother much about the present situation were it not that he believes, I think on the whole rightly, that he has a greater chance of fulfilling his real human destiny under the British flag than under the swastika. On the other hand, that has implications for ourselves. If we are glad, as we must be, that the African people perceive the iniquity of the Her-renvolk theory elaborated by the Nazis, it must follow that we ourselves must avoid falling into the same pernicious error. There have been one or two signs to-day that the assumption of the Herrenvolk theory is vicious when spoken by Hitler but quite attractive and justifiable when uttered by ourselves. Here is revealed the tremendous gulf between some in this House and others. There are those who believe that Imperialism, by its very essence, is right and true. I am sure that they are sincere and have high motives and wish to apply it beneficently. On the other hand, there are those who do not believe in the principle of Imperialism at all, who, while they recognise that it has its place, are also firmly convinced that the whole significance of human development lies in the development of man out of Imperialism to a stage, however remote it may be, of voluntary co-operation among free men.
It may be that we shall not see it achieved for -many generations, but at least the difference between some Members and others lies here. Some hold that Imperialism is by its nature fundamental and must be preserved, while others believe that it is by its nature a thing of the past, the abolition of which we must accelerate as much as possible. I stand in the latter category, while completely recognising the earnestness of those who are opposed to that position. Whichever position we take has very widespread and comprehensive implications. It means, for instance, that our attitude to the education of the African peoples is determined very largely from what we believe to be their true position in the world. If we believe that those countries must be subordinate to the British Empire, we educate them accordingly. If we believe that they are to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, we do not give them any higher education than that which fits them for that function. If we believe that they have an inherent incapacity ever to achieve the status that we have achieved, again we treat them accordingly. We treat them with kindliness, try to raise their status and give them a measure of education but never even seek to give them ultimately the same privileges which we ourselves enjoy. For instance, we deny their right to contemplate at some time complete self-government, which may even mean ultimately secession from the British Empire. One can understand why with great earnestness a Member of the House has described the war as being a struggle between rival Imperialisms for the domination of the world. In that struggle of rival Imperialisms the British Empire is much superior to the Nazis, but it does not alter the fact that many of us disagree with both forms of Imperialism and disagree with the very conception of the permanent right of one section of the human race to dominate and exploit another.
No one is so absurd as to imagine that we can jump rapidly from one stage to another. There will have to be stages of development. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to heap that endorsed on the other side. Again, there is a difference in just how far we are prepared to go along the road. Some of us say we are prepared ultimately to go right to the end of the road, while others say that they will go so far and no farther. I submit that when given the opportunity the African people, with certain exceptions, revealed in the course of a decade or two as much mental and cultural capacity as any European. That has been shown in America. When opportunity has been given to men of the calibre of Paul Robeson or the recent conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Ralph Dunbar, we find that those who are the descendants of the so-called savages of a few years ago revealed a capacity which enables them to take their stand as the equals of any white people. That is why many of us are opposed so resolutely not merely to Hitler's form of domination, but to any other form. We repudiate the idea that there is any kind of science which can support the spurious ethnology which seeks to establish one section of "the human race as permanent outcasts.
On the other hand, it is possible to have some kind of working arrangement between those with the non-Imperialist outlook and those who have the Imperialist outlook. I hope that some such arrangement can be worked out by the Secretary of State. If it can, I urge upon the Under-Secretary, first that in regard to the Colonial Development Fund we should insist that not merely that part of the meagre sum which is set aside for Colonial development should be used, but that the whole of it should be used, and that if any portion is not used in one year, it should be allocated to the following year. There are tasks to be done in war-time as part of our function of vindicating democracy and of showing to the world that we are true trustees for the so-called backward peoples of the world. My second suggestion is that we should help to fortify the friendship which undoubtedly exists between the black peoples and ourselves by drawing up comprehensive plans of educational development. Something has been done, but much more needs to be done, not merely at one end of the scale. We have paid a good deal of attention to higher education. We all know of the Achemota College at that end of the scale, and a certain amount has been done in elementary education. I should like to see drawn up an educational charter for the Africans, and West Africans in particular, and, for the matter of that, the West Indies as well. It should be a charter capable of accelerated application according to the circumstances and one which can inspire the African peoples everywhere with a confidence that we recognise their inward dignity and capacity.
Thirdly, I suggest that we should draw up a plan for a much more drastic development of our medical services. Reference has been made by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) to the decline of the services in the West Indies. I would apply the same criticism to West Africa. It is appalling that, as far as I know, not one trained woman nurse in this country has been able to secure a position of sister or matron in any of the medical establishments of West Africa. If they are capable here of serving in London hospitals, if they have passed through their training and achieved undoubted qualifications, what is there to debar them from going back and becoming women of status and authority in the hospitals of West Africa?
My fourth suggestion is this: Reference has been made to forced labour, and on some other occasion we ought to discuss it at a greater length. I am glad there was that lengthy interruption of a previous speaker by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), because there is all the difference in the world between conscription here, where we have responsible Government, and conscription in the Colonies. If enforced labour in the tin mines or farms of East or West Africa is necessary, let us see that the finest conditions that can be secured are granted to the people. Otherwise, we shall lay ourselves open to the charge that we are more eager to conscript them than to look after their well-being.
Finally, I would urge that we should seriously consider drawing up a plan of constitutional and political development, not only in the West Indies, where a beginning has been made, though an abortive one, but in West Africa as well. I see no reason why within a measurable distance of time we cannot arrange for an increased number of purely African representatives in the various Legislatures, and ultimately for the whole of the personnel on the Legislatures to be of African origin. I do not see any reason why there should not be a progressive democratisation of all those forms of indirect rule which operate in West Africa.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on occupying the position of Under-Secretary and on the very sensitive analysis of Colonial affairs that he gave. I hope he will appreciate throughout his term of office that while there are those in the House who endorse his enlightened Imperialism, there are those who do not accept the Imperialist principle, but who recognise nevertheless the difficulties under which we must work in the interim period. They want to raise the status of the Colonial natives everywhere so that when they become completely free they shall appreciate that whatever might have been our designs on them in the past—and they have not been entirely shameless—our designs now are to enable them to be raised higher in the social and economic level so that they may become nearer and nearer to their true destiny of equality with ourselves and others.
I am afraid that I cannot follow tile hon. Member in many of the sentiments to which he has given utterance in such a moderate manner. The Committee owes a debt of gratitude to the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald), to whose efforts is largely due the fact that the Government were able to find time for this Debate, which is long overdue. If my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can bear one more bouquet, may I offer it to him with my compliments? I do not think he has any reason to be ashamed of the course that the Debate has taken or by his contribution to it. I have been doubtful whether in his previous positions he had found his true anchorage. I think he has now, and I hope that in due course he will become Colonial Secretary, because the whole of the Colonial Empire would be indebted to him for the work he would do in that position. As the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) admitted, my right hon. Friend has shown and is showing an enlightened Imperialism of the best sort. I do not believe there are many Members in the Conservative party who would disagree with him in the views he has expressed and the general policy he proposes to carry out.
I think it is admirable that there is in this country now a growing realisation of and interest in the Colonial Empire. For a long time far too few people took, an interest in Imperial affairs. That interest was largely confined to certain Members of Parliament, all too few of them, to the Colonial Services, of course, and to a number of people who had lived or were living in various Colonial territories. I believe that now, when we have lost, only temporarily, part of that Colonial Empire the people of this country are beginning to realise more and more not only the value of those Colonies as a part of the Empire but their economic value to us as well, and that sentiment and that interest must be fostered by every means in our power. Adversity very often brings understanding.
I also think that party politics have done considerable harm to the development of our Colonial Empire. In previous days there were certain hon. Members of this House who held what were known as Little England views, and I am afraid that Imperial development was largely retarded by some of those who felt that it was almost indecent to be the parent country in a great Empire. Then, we have chopped and changed far too much in our broad lines of policy. In the old days, when we first either conquered or overran certain portions of the globe which subsequently became Colonies, there was too much tendency to treat them as farms and exploit them for what we could get out of them. There was another tendency, which went too far in another direction, vestiges of which we see now, in favour of methods of trusteeship which carried with it the conception that working undeveloped country in a colony with perhaps poor natural resources was a bad job anyhow and we had to let things go, pay up and look pleasant. My right hon. Friend has, I think, taken a balanced view between those two rather vicious extremes, and I hope the continuity policy will be maintained.
Various hon. Members have referred to the education of the African and other peoples, and I think there is a rather regrettable tendency to look upon a curriculum which is suitable to, shall we say Bradford, as being equally suitable for Bo, in Nigeria. As my hon. Friend the Member for Weston (Mr. Orr-Ewing) pointed out, what is needed is far more technical education, far more education in relation to pursuits on the land, to farming and so on, rather than that we should try to stuff people with a whole lot of book knowledge which at present they are often not capable of bearing. The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) advocated or envisaged the immediate granting of full independence to a number of these Colonies regardless of the fact that it has taken 1,000 years to build up a political sense in this country. One cannot do that except over a very long period and by building up very slowly from the bottom.
It is not necessarily a particularly good form of Government, but that is a question of the point of view. It has some good features. All the same, I think it will be a very long time before they have achieved what some of us look upon as a balanced view. Looking round Europe, one can see countries such as Germany and Italy which with their education and culture over a. period of many centuries should by all the canons be now politically capable of looking after their own affairs but which are in no wise capable of doing so.
I think the policy there is one which remains to be proved. I am not at all sure that they have not gone rather too far there, as we should if we went as far as some of the hon. Members of the Committee wish us to go. I am not trying to be contentious, but I think we must go very cautiously in these matters. There are a number of points which I am going to leave out in order to get on to what I regard as more important matters. My hon. Friend the Member for Weston—I think it was he—referred to the value of the interchange of members of the Colonial Services and the Colonial Office. I do not feel wholly qualified to speak on that point, but there is much to be said for working along the lines of the Foreign Office since the war. The Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service have been merged, and there is an interchange of officials from the Foreign Office and those from the various capitals of the world. I know there are difficulties in the case of the Colonial Services and the Colonial Office, because one Service is pensionable and the other is, in the main, not. It would, no doubt, arouse difficulties between the Colonial Office and the various home Departments on the point of finance, but I believe much can be done in that direction, and I hope that it may be possible to merge the two organisations.
I would make a brief reference to the appointment of Lord Swinton as Minister-in-Residence in West Africa. I am doubtful, certainly in peace-time, about having this system of perambulating proconsuls because you never quite know what the functions of such people are. They are not responsible to the House of Commons, although they may be members of the Cabinet. We shall have to be very careful after the war to see that the practice is not carried on. None the less, I can see the advantage at the present time of the appointment in this case of Lord Swinton, for whom I have the highest respect. So many Departments are involved in West Africa "that a clear-minded man who has had Government experience in high offices in the State might be able to get a lot done very quickly which could not be done through the ordinary channels.
In the Dominions there is even less realisation and interest in the Colonial Empire than there is in Great Britain. I can see and appreciate the difficulties which have been put forward in the Dominions against the idea of setting up an Empire Parliament to deal with certain important affairs, but progress might be made in that direction. I can envisage the British Empire after the war as a great constellation of nations banded together, small and great, both for defence and for; work during times of peace, with a common strategy, a common foreign policy and, let us hope, a common economic policy—which is perhaps more difficult to obtain. It would be out of Order to do more than to refer in a passing sentence to the possibility of setting up after the war a combined strategical general staff and secretariat to deal with strategical affairs and a similar body in order to obtain a common policy in foreign affairs. I can refer to the advisability of setting up after the war something more than a Colonial Development Council which would deal entirely with economic affairs, an Imperial Colonial Council on which the Dominions, and ultimately the Colonies themselves, would be represented, in order to widen responsibility for the conduct of our Colonial affairs from Great Britain to. the Dominions and ultimately to the Colonies. I will not go into details, but I hope that the Government will consider the point. I do not wish for a reply now. I congratulate once again my right hon. Friend. I shall be most interested to hear his reply, and I hope that the policy which he has adumbrated to-day will, over a period of time, be brought to fruition.
I have felt all along that there was a lack of reality about this Debate. The note of being out of touch with realities was struck very forcibly indeed by the Under-Secretary when he opened the Debate. It reminded me of the story told me by a Colonial Governor on one of his periodical leaves. He came to London and had, of course, to report to one of the Departmental heads at the Colonial Office. He said that the conversation ranged for about ten minutes over matters connected with his duties, and, then the gentleman whom he was interviewing said, "Well, So-and-So "—he mentioned his name, but I will not give it, because he is a very well-known Governor indeed—" we are having awfully wet weather, aren't we?" And that was the only conversation he had with the Colonial Office on the administration of one of the greatest Colonies in the whole of the British Empire.
The right hon. Gentleman told us—and we sympathise with him—that he was handicapped by having had a very short tenure of office, We know, of course, that Colonial affairs are not a matter in which he has specialised, and therefore he was obliged to take a brief from the Colonial Office. We sympathise with him for having been given what is, in fact, a very bad brief, I would like to ask, because I want to make this Debate practical, what effect his speech is likely to have in the Colonies. What practical matters does it deal with? In the course of his statement the right hon. Gentleman said something about the Colonies being partners. I was very interested to hear that, because so far as I know it has not yet been the policy of the Government to admit the Colonies on terms of equal partnership. As soon as I got up and asked him what he meant, he replied that I had no doubt heard of partners and junior partners. I should like to know exactly what the right hon. Gentleman does mean. Is it now the policy of the Government, and is he proclaiming it here to-day, that the Colonies are in fact to be taken into equal partnership, or is it just a form of words, soft soap or soothing syrup, which means nothing? What does "partnership" mean? It either means a share in control, economic and political—and I hold that the Colonies ought to have an equal share—or it means nothing at all and is just a form of words.
Then I should like to get down to the war situation, from which, if I may say so, this Debate has been singularly remote. References have been made to Malaya, Singapore and Burma. I should like to ask a question with reference to Africa—East Africa, Central Africa and West Africa. We know as a matter of fact that the people of Malaya were not intensely and passionately interested in the conflict between our Forces and those of the Japanese. "The Times" and other papers drew attention to that at the moment, and in fact I think the article in "The Times" dealing with that question will in future become a classic exposure of the failure of our Imperialist policy and, from the point of view of the historian, will be a very valuable document, because undoubtedly the indigenous population of Malaya sat on the sidelines during this fight and did not participate. They did so because they had not been approached; because we had not our roots in the country—I think that was the phrase used in "The Times"—and because we had been using the place merely to exploit its natural resources, to get enormous sums of money out of it for people in this country, a very small proportion of which was ever returned to Malaya itself.
In the light of that very severe lesson—and it is not the only lesson we have had in the conduct of Imperial affairs during the war—I want to ask what attempt is being made at the present time to get into contact with the different peoples in East, Central and West Africa in order to explain to them that we really are fighting for democracy and freedom for them; that we really are, if what the right hon. Gentleman said is true and if he backs it up in his reply to me, fighting to give them a partnership in the British Empire. What steps have been or are being taken to get into touch with these people, to see that they understand what the war is about and to ensure that, if there is an invasion of those parts of the world by German or Italian forces—as there may be—they will not stand indifferent on the sidelines but will take part on our side? [An HON. MEMBER: "They have already."] They have already, of course, to a limited extent. I am very well aware of that. But I am assured of this by Africans who have come from Africa only recently, one of whom is a man doing some very excellent work at Nuffield College. He said, "Do not blame my people if they do not take any part on the side of the British if there is an invasion. They do not know anything about it at all." Why should they know? They have not been approached.
I confess that I am by no means filled with enthusiasm with regard to the appointment of Lord Swinton. In fact, I cannot understand at all why he was appointed, I cannot see how, in his experience or personality, he is the man to do the job. In fact, and I am making a concrete suggestion, why was the Governor of Nigeria, Sir Bernard Bourdillon, who has been Chairman of the Governors' Conference of West Africa, not asked to be our representative in West Africa? He is a man of enormous experience and gets on extremely well with the African people, but above all he knows and understands the situation, of which Lord Swinton has no knowledge at all. The fact that Lord Swinton is wealthy and a friend of the Prime Minister may recommend him to official sources, but it does not recommend him to this side of the House, and I doubt whether it will recommend him to the country. I think that the appointment of Lord Swinton requires explanation and justification. I do not think he is at all a suitable man for the job. I do not think there is any doubt about the meaning of my words. I mean exactly what they imply.
I wish to ask another question with regard to the approach to the African people, about which not a word—and it is an important and practical matter—came from the right hon. Gentleman in that extremely academic and old-fashioned statement that he made.
Academic in the bad sense. I agree that I ought not to abuse the word. I withdraw it. I will say that his extremely old-fashioned statement did not really deal with any actualities. For instance, how far is broadcasting being used to convey information to the African peoples? I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman knows—his Department may not have informed him—that in the Gold Coast colony there is a system of relay broadcasting that goes all over the Colony which is extremely valuable. How far is that being used to give information to the African people, and how far is it being imitated in other parts of West Africa? I am speaking chiefly about West Africa, because I spent some four months of investigation in that area just before the war, and I feel that I know something about it from a fairly intimate contact in that way. Lord Swinton has been appointed as a representative of the purely financial and Imperial interest of the old-fashioned type. Why has there not been any appointment since this war of any Governor belonging to the Labour party, or anyone belonging to more than the most obscure part of the Conservative party? There are men on these benches who take, and have, over a long period, taken, an intense interest in the welfare of the inhabitants of the Colonial Empire. Why should not some of those have been appointed as Governors? It is true they are Socialists, but I hope that at this stage in the war and in coalition government we are not to have objection taken to a man because of his Socialist opinions.
With regard to the maladministration of the Colonies so far as it exists, I do not blame the Colonial Civil Service. I believe that they are men, those I have met in West Africa and many other parts of the world, of an extremely high type. What is wrong is the direction of their administration from the Colonial Office at the top by some high and dry officials over here who have probably not been out of this country, and some of the holders of the Government office who, like the right hon. Gentleman, are put into these appointments without any adequate preparation or understanding of the important nature of the work they have to do.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about preparing plans for after the war. What are they? The only one he mentioned which I was able to get down was for Africans and other Colonial peoples to be moved very rapidly over the gulf from their present position—sometimes that of a subsistence level—to a new condition, which, if I understood him aright, was industrialisation. That is an extremely dangerous programme unless the movement is to be under the direction of people whose primary care is for the welfare of the Colonial peoples themselves, and not for what is sometimes called development, and what is really the exploitation of the country under alien capitalists. The right hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the Imperialism of Joseph Chamberlain. Joseph Chamberlain himself described his Imperialism as "commercial Imperialism." I was unable to find in the right hon. Gentleman's speech any ideas which might not be attributed to commercial Imperialism, which is at least two generations out of date. Joseph Chamberlain was a man for whose work I had, in his own time, the greatest admiration, because he had to break ground, and he had to speak in the language and to live in the circumstances of his day. I am convinced that if he were here to-day, he would not be found giving utterances to such platitudes as those with which the right hon. Gentleman has kept the attention of the Committee.
It is true that development of the Colonial areas of the world is required; but from what point of view? Development is required for the benefit of the Colonial areas themselves. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the poverty of the Colonial areas; but he forgot to include in their resources the gold mines, the diamond mines, and the other mines, for which concessions have been given to investors, and out of which nearly the whole of the wealth is drained from the Colonies in which the mines are situated, as dividends and as taxation in this country on those dividends. If the mines and the other natural resources of these Colonial areas were developed and used for the benefit of the people living in those areas, and for the benefit of the Colonies in general, and for the world community in general—I do not hesitate to use those words—it would make this difference: that, instead of describing those areas as poor, the right hon. Gentleman would find that those areas had all the resources which were necessary for developing themselves further, on the line of industrialisation, which he speaks of as being desirable, and which is desirable, if done with regard for the welfare of the people. It would also provide education and health and other social services, which every kind of civilisation requires.
I am very disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman's statement. We are at a very critical stage of the war, when it is more than ever necessary to attract to our banner all those who will fight on our side. The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech which, wherever it goes in the Colonies, may excite faint interest—even a lively interest among those with capital to invest—but which cannot attract the broad masses of the Colonial populations to rise up and fight at our side. You are offering nothing but a vague participation in a financial arrangement out of which those people will get perhaps one-twentieth per cent.,' while the investors whom your policy will favour will get the balance. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald), who spoke about the Colonial Development Board, was very interesting as an example of that type of thought. There was no mention in his speech of the peoples themselves. He made no mention—
The hon. and gallant Member had better wait until I complete my sentence. He made no mention of the representation of the Colonial peoples on this Colonial Development Board. He mentioned all kinds of experts and people to impose the will of this country and that of the financial corporations on the Colonial peoples, but not one word of any representative of the Colonies.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to misrepresent me. I made allowance for subcommittees on which the Development Board could draft anybody they liked, whether natives or not.
Because it is used in an offensive sense and is resented by the people who live in Africa and India. It is a most offensive expression. I suggest that it is necessary in the interests of the African people themselves and other Colonial areas that these areas should be developed primarily for the people themselves by a council set up on which the peoples of these Colonies are represented, and that the sub-committees should be sub-committees of the experts. The hon. Gentleman should have spoken of putting the experts on sub-committees and not the natives. The point is that most of the Members opposite have been talking in a phraseology of ideas which are completely dead and gone. The old ideas of the British Empire were finished with when our maladministration, and the defects of our Government control lost us Malaya, Burma and other places. The old British Empire is certainly completely dead. We' have to look forward into the future to a new organisation in which the Colonies will be on a footing of equality with ourselves and in which they will have an equality of Empire citizenship, if the Empire is to remain in form at all as part of a large aggregation with ourselves in which the Colonies themselves will lose their Colonial status and become States having representation on an Empire Commonwealth Council. I may say that the policy which I am suggesting now was one that was accepted by the last conference of the Labour party, although I regret to say that nothing like it has been accepted by the Prime Minister. He said the Colonies were excluded from the Atlantic Charter so far as the conception of their freedom and cooperation in the future was concerned. Fortunately, this conception has not been agreed to by the President of the United States, who went out of his way the other day specifically to include men of all races, classes and colours within the scope of the Atlantic Charter, and by the Vice-President of the United States—
I do not want to come into conflict with you. Colonel Clifton Brown, but this was a case where the President and the Vice-President of America, and the American Ambassador in this country, who spoke at a meeting in Durham, all referred to the status of Colonies as affected by the Atlantic Charter—
Well, I will not pursue that, but it is most regrettable that the right hon. Gentleman did not take this opportunity of making a declaration, on behalf of the Government, which would be related to bringing the Colonial peoples of the world, and not only those inside the British Empire, to our side instead of making a statement which, although interesting in a certain way and interesting as a historical document of the future as indicating the stage of evolution of the mind of the British Government at this time, does nothing for the Colonies of the new world. I believe the Government, through the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman, should have laid the foundations of a world charter of freedom, although I see the hon. Gentleman opposite jibes at it—
Since the hon. Gentleman refers to me as appearing to jibe, my jibe was at the thought that laying foundation stones through mouths would be a very awkward process.
I accept the academic correction of the hon. Member, but in this case the words were correctly used. As I was saying, I think it would Be better if the right hon. Gentleman, instead of giving us his brief from the Colonial Office, had given us a statement as to foundations of Colonial freedom and some view of what has been spoken of in other countries—to which I cannot refer—as a contribution to the world in the future. Unless we can look forward to a world in the future in which there are greater ideas than those expressed by the right hon. Gentleman, then we are fighting for something in vain, and we shall not succeed.
I think the Committee will feel that the day has not been wasted, that this Debate has been one of considerable interest, and that a great number of topics have been raised on which speeches have been made which will be of great value to the Government and the country in studying these problems. It is always a difficult task for a Minister to reply to a Debate of this kind, covering so very wide a field. I wish to thank Members, who have spoken from all parts of the Committee, and who have been good enough to express some interest in and sometimes approbation of my opening observations. The hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Haden Guest), however, does not appear to like me, or Lord Swinton. Judging from the speech he has made there are very few people whom the hon. Member does like. He was choleric, as he always is, he criticised freely and he made many statements which were completely incorrect. He said my speech was removed from the war. Well, I thought I had devoted nearly two-thirds of my speech to the war and only to the war. I had to decide whether to devote my speech to war problems, as I thought would be expected by the Committee, or allow myself to be tempted into the wider field into which I tried to go, in some small way, towards the end.
I would like to thank my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald), who opened the Debate, first for having to some extent enabled us to have the Debate by putting this Motion on the Order Paper and asking for a day for its discussion, and secondly, for the very constructive and valuable speech he made. He was critical, and he is entitled to be critical, for he has a long record of interest in and knowledge of the Colonial Empire. He has spent a great deal of time in studying different Colonial territories, and, as he told us, there is hardly any one of them to which he has not been. Any hon. Member who has served the House so well is entitled to respect for his views, whether they are agreed with or not, because that is one of the most valuable services which Private Members can, when opportunity offers, give in the service of the Colonies.
As to the chief proposal with which my hon. and gallant Friend was associated, the formation of a Colonial Development Board, I know that he will not expect me to make any pronouncement now. I would like to study very carefully what he said, and I am sure my Noble Friend will do the same. If I may say so, it seems to me that there would be some danger of the type of organisation which my hon. and gallant Friend described becoming, in fact, the Colonial Office. It would cover so wide a field that it would be, as it were, just another name for the instrument of Government itself. But the functions which he wanted to be performed, whether in the particular organisation which he requires or in what commended itself to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), are functions on which we are all agreed. They include the study and research upon which policy must be founded; the instruments for carrying out and forming plans; and the preservation of some continuity of policy in capital development in the future. If we can obtain the objects which we have in view, the exact method of organisation would, perhaps, not be of the greatest importance. The important thing is to get the job done.
My hon. Friend the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) was kind enough to make very friendly references to my speech, and I want also to thank him for the broad way in which he treated the whole object. I feel that I must, in justice to a friend and a chief whom I served, if only for a few weeks, make some reference to the hon. Gentleman's observations about Lord Moyne's speech in the House of Lords, a speech on which he reprimanded my hon. Friend. Of course, the hon. Gentleman knows that nowadays Peers have become very reckless people. Sometimes, for instance, friends of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely make rather curious speeches in another place on the subject of Palestine. I am bound to say that I could not see anything in Lord Moyne's speech that could do any harm, and indeed, it seemed to me to be a very proper speech for him to make. At any rate, I do not think it was deserving of that degree of reprobation which the hon. Member expressed, and it would be disloyal and improper of me not to support what Lord Moyne said. I do not necessarily associate myself with everything he said, but I think there was far too much hostility in the attack which the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely made. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Squadron-Leader Donner) made a valuable contribution to the Debate. He has a very great knowledge of the Empire and a very great interest in it. I will have looked into further the specific point which he made about the development of rubber. As far as I know, as I told the Committee, we are making every possible effort to find every source of rubber, plantation and wild, which can be grasped into the till for our immediate use. We are making use, where their particular kind of knowledge is useful, of the Malayan planters to help us in Ceylon and Africa.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley did me a great service. He made a speech with almost all of which I found myself in agreement. The spirit that lay behind the hon. Member's speech, and his enthusiasim, have long been well known. There are one or two points which, perhaps, he will allow me to deal with later in my speech, when I come to make some general observations. His only mistake—and this is where I find myself differing from him—is his great desire to force open doors and attack things which do not exist; they may have existed, but they do not exist now. He forces his way through revolving doors so rapidly that I am afraid one day he will find himself prone upon the ground. He apologised for saying—I enjoyed it very much, because I knew it would be enjoyed elsewhere—that we must bring refreshments into the Colonial Office. I agree with that. He also told us that we must purge the hierarchy of our Colonial bureaucracy. I call that "jogging on the boys," which is very much the same thing. I agree that the results we want are enthusiasm, enterprise and team spirit on the part of those engaged in this great task.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth (Sir L. Lyle), who has a great knowledge of the sugar industry and of the West Indies, made a very valuable speech, and I wish I could give an answer to satisfy him. There are, of course, as he knows well, and as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) knows, great difficulties in making substantial advances in time of war in regard to housing and the conditions of the people, but I will study what they have said, and see whether we can make any further advances. The hon. Member for Bournemouth referred to the development of a sound trade union system in the West Indies and in other Colonies as a matter of great importance. It is for that reason we have formed the Labour Advisory Committee. I have made reference already to the fact that we are recruiting men with trade union experience and sending them out to help to see that the trade union movement is put upon sound, healthy and progressive lines, where it can best serve the interests of the people it is intended to serve—the working classes in each locality.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who was kind enough to let me know he would not be able to stay to hear my reply, made, as he always does, a very engaging speech. I have always enjoyed, in the years I have been in the House of Commons, the speeches of the hon. Member. He told us at one point, referring to the company in which he finds himself on the Front Bench below the Gangway, that there are some disadvantages in sitting in a mixed political group. I sit in one too, and I can assure him there are some advantages in sitting in a mixed political group. Indeed, there are great advantages, because great things can be done; great progress can be made by a pooling of interests, such as this Government represents. I therefore take up those words of his with enthusiasm. My hon. Friend went oh, as he often does, to give a philosophical account of the future—how the people of the Colonies do not really like us, and what failures there have been in Malaya—which is quite incorrect. The hon. Member for Bridgeton does not seem to realise that we do not own the whole of Malaya; they are not even Colonies, and many of them are Federated States which were in alliance with us. He over-simplifies the problem, but then, of course, he always does. He always analyses a problem and makes it look very simple. I have heard him do that on every problem, economic or political, throughout the years. Here he produced the most ridiculous mouse that I ever heard of, from him, because, when pressed to say what was the solution, what was the one thing which could cure all these ills, he said the first thing was the appointment of a Committee of the House of Commons. I have the greatest regard and affection for the House of Commons—I have been a Member of it for many years—but I do not believe that all these great philosophic problems covering this vast field can be automatically solved by the appointment of a Committee of the House.
The hon. and gallant Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham) asked me three questions. The first was about cotton piece goods. Were we going to get enough? Were we going to get all we could? We are going to get perhaps a little more than we ought to have. We are going to try very hard. There are alleviations for our disasters coming to us, because the loss of certain markets in the Far East will make a little easier during the coming quarter and next year this problem of getting allocations for West Africa. My hon. and gallant Friend asked whether an expert staff would go out to Lord Swinton. A staff has been selected and I think it will be an expert staff. If it is not the staff that Lord Swinton wants, as soon as it gets there he will make us send more people to suit his needs. I have no hesitation or fear about that. My hon. and gallant Friend asked whether there would be, in London, machinery similar to the Allied Supplies Committee in the case of Russia which could implement or deal rapidly with the departmental questions which might arise from Lord Swinton's recommendations. I cannot give the exact reply now, but machinery will be devised. I remember very well the machinery to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred. Lord Beaverbrook rang up the people on it, morning, noon and night and it moved very rapidly. I do not know whether we shall achieve such rapidity of movement, but we shall try. The point will not be overlooked but I cannot say at the moment what has been decided.
The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) has great knowledge of the West Indies and great sympathy with their problems. I will answer his question as to what has actually been done by the Development Commission. He said they had had two years and could have had £2,000,000. He asked has that amount been spent, and what schemes are in operation. By a scheme being "in operation" I mean work being done upon it. A scheme may be something which is not in full operation until it is completed. Up to now, about £860,000 has been spent. We must not fall into his academic, old-fashioned view of thinking that the mere spending of money is the problem. The problem is to get things. You may vote £20,000,000, but you could not proceed any more readily on these schemes, because they depend on getting the actual machinery that we need. We will press on as hard and fast as we can, having regard to that fact.
I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) about Lord Swinton. He was good enough to preface his questions by saying that he did not expect an answer. I was grateful to him for that, because they raised rather difficult questions of constitutional law and so on. Before I gave a precise answer it would be wise to obtain that brief on which I always rely in order not to make the slightest deviation from accuracy and truth. On this occasion perhaps he will allow me to do that. It is important to discover the answer to his riddle, "When is a Cabinet Minister not a Cabinet Minister?" I know the difference between a junior Minister and a Cabinet Minister. My banker knows, and so do others. I will try to get a precise reply. The arrangement will work—that is the most important test. It is more important that it should work than that it should be defined. Then it is a war measure and is not intended to be in operation upon much wider fields. The machinery to make it work at home will be devised, and my hon. Friend can rely upon that. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Colonel A. Evans) pressed for a Colonial Council, on which I have spoken. His speech was, as his speeches usually are, both constructive and generous, and had a refreshing point of view which he always puts before us.
My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Orr-Ewing) made a speech to which I find it difficult to make an answer, but I enjoyed listening to it. It was a philosophy for the future and raised a lot of deep and important questions to which he would not expect me at the end of the Debate to answer in detail. It raised the question of how far it is desirable to rely entirely on the tribal life of Africa, how far desirable to move the natives of Africa into new economic fields and change the character of the African inhabitants. These are big problems, to answer which would require almost a speech. It was nevertheless of the greatest value that they should be raised, because on their right solution depends the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) is the most disarming of critics I have ever listened to. He is so enthusiastic, he attacks us so bitterly, he says such dreadful things, and then he apologises so charmingly. I like his enthusiasm, his letters and his questions. They stimulate us. They are good for us. He serves a proper and useful function, and long may he do it. I have not the omniscience that Ministers are supposed to have, and I cannot give him offhand the precise financial history of the St. Kitts sugar factory. He says it must be true because it is in the Stock Exchange Year Book.
The hon. Gentleman could not expect me to know that. I will certainly look into it and read it with interest and try to find out where lies the truth. I have a feeling that my hon. Friend does not always distinguish between loan capital and share capital, and realise that it is possible to operate companies with comparatively small amounts of or only nominal share capital and a large loan capital. One such company was S.A.R.A., which was run by the Government and had practically no share capital but a large amount of loan capital. With regard to the Federation of the West Indies, he knows as well as I do that in all these questions of regional growth which my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley mentioned, there are a number of problems involved. Perhaps a little naively he said that some places were rich and others not so rich, but that, of course, has also occurred to the inhabitants of the richer places, and I have no doubt they have some views of their own on those matters, but those problems are not easily solved. I think we should study what has been said, we should bear all those things in mind, and the regional development which the impact of war has to some extent assisted may proceed further as the result.
Finally, I should like to say that I am very grateful to the Committee for the reception they have given to the work which my colleagues have tried to do at the Colonial Office, work for the development of our maximum power and resources. That everybody agrees with, I think, and I hope that I have been able to present a picture showing that that is being pursued with energy and zeal. Looking forward into the future necessarily raises more difficult questions. I think that, curiously enough, we are all a little in danger, perhaps, of being tripped up or misled by words. I never used—I carefully avoided using—the word "trusteeship" at any point in my speech. It was attributed to me by other speakers. There is a danger, of course, of being misled by words. One cannot tie oneself up with words, phrases and dogmas instead of getting on with the job.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the speech of the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen). As far as I could understand, he and I and the Committee in general were in more or less agreement about jumping fairly fast and fairly far—somewhere. But we were, perhaps, not quite in agreement as to where we should ultimately land. Let us go on jumping, let us go forward along this very long path as far as we can continue together. Need we really enter into theological discussions on words? What I tried to show
was the kind of spirit in which we were to move forward, and that I think has had very general recognition. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington says that it is 50 years out of date. Other critics have told me that I am in danger of wrecking the Government by putting forward a most advanced and revolutionary plan. Perhaps the truth is that I have taken a course reasonably in the middle between these two extremes. I am content to rest on this, that we are working towards a goal. By partnership I meant an association which would continue. I merely meant to emphasise, and I do not think any Minister, certainly a Minister of the Colonial Office, can be said to have done wrong to have emphasised, that we had no intention of putting this affair into liquidation. Whatever may be said of us as trustees we are not liquidators. We are going on wit' the job. We shall try to make a success of it, and I think there is general agreement, when we get away from phrases, as to the line on which all in this Committee want to go forward. I, at any rate, rest content with the definition which the Prime Minister himself has given of what was intended by the Joint Declaration:
The Joint Declaration does not qualify in any way the various declarations of policy which have been made from time to time in regard to such matters as the constitutional development of India or Burma or other parts of the British Empire. The restoration of soveignty, self-government, and national life at the earliest opportunity to the peoples of Europe now under the heel of Nazi tyranny is clearly a separate problem from the progressive evolution of self-governing institutions in the form most appropriate to the countries and peoples which owe allegiance to the British Crown. We have made declarations on these matters which are complete in themselves, free from ambiguity and related to the conditions and circumstances of the territories and peoples affected. They will be found to be entirely in harmony with the high conceptions of liberty and justice which have inspired the Joint Declaration.
On that I rest.
Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with one point which he alluded to humourously in referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)? A number of Members have suggested on this occasion and on previous occasions some form of Parliamentary Committee, either a Joint Committee of both Houses or a Committee of this House, which might keep us in more continuous touch with the work of the Colonial Office, even if only in an advisory capacity. Will he say something about that? I hope that he will be able at least to promise serious consideration to this proposal.
I had hoped to evade this question, but my hon. Friend has been too quick for me. I must therefore accept the very kind way in which he has suggested I should answer it. It will certainly receive careful consideration.